Last August I admitted the words I’ve denied all throughout college: I want to be a teacher. And just two weeks after graduating college, I began training to become a teacher of English as a second language.
I began a summer intensive course at the beginning of June. During the last year, the possibility of this course has entered my circles during the most unexpected moments. I’ve gotten connected with the friend of a friend who went through this same course. I’ve met the friend of the mom I babysit for when she arrived unplanned at the front door on a night when I normally don’t babysit. There have been undeniable moments of affirmation. I knew it was where I needed to go—my calling, if you will—but I had a hard time stomaching that.
Seriously, God? You want me to give up an entire month of full time work? And you want me to pay the money I won’t be earning in order to take a class? Even though I just finished college? And you still want me to marry Travis, because you know that requires lots of money, right? Can you even do math? Are you sure this is it?
I argued. Not because I didn’t want to do it, but because it made no sense. By the standards of the world and the math equations, it made no sense for me to commit to it.
They asked me,
So you just finished school, and you’re going back?
And you’re planning a wedding and aren’t even working right now?
But wait, you seriously just graduated college and don’t have a real job?
I bet you have a lot of debt though, huh?
“Yup, that’s it. You got it,” I’d respond in a poetic, long-winded way. The longer my rambling responses became the weaker my confidence became and the louder my doubt spoke. I grew frustrated at my inability to predict my future and discouraged by the feeling that everyone was disappointed in me because of that.
I’ve come away from those conversations a little bruised and a little timid at the magnitude of everything I’m getting myself into. Something about 22 makes everyone think you’re supposed to have your life figured out. They assume you’re young and invincible. You’re bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. You don’t have kids or a mortgage yet. But, you do have that college degree on your résumé and the engagement ring on your finger. Surely that means you have it figured out, right?
My future sister-in-law asked me, “Did you ask them if they had it figured out at your age? You’re in a different place and that’s fine. You do you. You know what you want and you are working to get there. Whether it’s a year from now or 10 years from now when you arrive at that place, it’ll be worth it.”
:: :: ::
I’ve found there are many things I don’t have—a specific plan that leads me to six-figures, a job opportunity that will land me full-time and benefits immediately, enough money to pay off all my student loan debt and pay for a wedding in the next 5 months. I’m lacking and in some spheres, I’m just plain empty.
But the things I do have far outweigh what I don’t have. Things like faith in a God who calls, leads, and sustains. I have a collection of moments that look something like miracles. I have faith in a God who sees the big picture, and reminds me that my perspective is not His.
He’s in the business of taking us to places during seasons that don’t make sense. They can’t be explained by worldly standards. No matter how many times you work that math problem, you still come up short. He doesn’t stop though—instead, He boldly calls the weak to places that require us to lean on His strength.
“You can’t fathom the countless ways I’ve guarded you when you didn’t even realize it. Your very breath is sustained by Me,” He promises.
I talk about leaning into His grace as if it’s easy for me. But this is the dirt on leaning: it’s about trusting, obeying, and following. Even when it looks impossible.
:: :: ::
Two weeks ago:
I observed an ESL classroom. The teacher gave me the names of 6 students before the class began, and only 3 of them showed up. I watched. Observed. Made notes. Prayed I’d be prepared to do this in a just a few days, and wondered if it’ll be too late to jump ship if I’m not.
I taught the class for the first time. I gathered materials for 5 students, which felt like a hopeful number, and worried that no one would come. Imagine my disbelief when 10 students showed up. My partner teacher and I rearranged the table and chairs, and quickly made extra copies. I observed his teaching before delivering my own 1.5 hour planned lesson to the class. After the students left the classroom later, our trainer immediately applauded us.
“Well done. You’re naturals. You got through that first class well. I’m very impressed,” she said.
I couldn’t shake the thought: we’re meant to be here. My like-minded partner teacher and I were called by God to be here, and it is by His grace that we not only survived this first class, but even thrived. That was the first day my prayer was genuine when I said, “Give me more. So much more.”
I planned for 10 students to come, but thought that surely no more than 8 would return this week. As always, I was wrong. All 10 students returned to class. And this week, we laughed a little more. I learned a few more things about them. I asked a few more intentional questions. I delivered a lesson that was way more fun to prepare for and plan. Afterwards, I watched my partner teacher deliver his half of the lesson. And again, at the end of it, our trainer applauded our work.
We talked about the nit-picky things we need to fix, and she commended us again, “You’re naturals. I don’t say that lightly.” I had that same thought again—the one about grace, and God calling the unlikely. Before she left, she sent my A+ lesson plan with her remarks back to me, and commented, “This is your beautiful lesson. I’m so proud of your work.”
Left alone to my thoughts, I texted Travis, “This is such a fulfilling work. This is what I want to do.” Something deeper worked in me as I typed that text.
He replied, “I’m so happy you found your place, Bri.”
I rested in that. And then I grabbed a cold brew and showed up to this Word Document to testify, just because I like the way it sounds: this is fulfilling work. This is what I want to do.
:: :: ::
I believe that the English Second Language classroom is worth it because the students I work with are worth it.
They represent Ukraine, Mexico, China, El Salvador, Venezuela, Sri Lanka. They are mothers to small toddlers and middle schoolers, they are high schoolers with dreams to attend private university, they are 20-somethings just trying to put it all together. They volunteer at hospitals, drive to Mississippi during the middle of the work week for a funeral, give me advice on how to get over a cold, wake up at 5:30 just to play with their little ones. They get nervous about flying on airplanes because they hear the news and worry about their plane falling out of the sky. But, they also love the window seats in an airplane because they love to see the clouds from the sky, and to look down at the beautiful world below.
They come to a 3 hour English class on Saturday mornings, where I encourage them but also correct them. I’ll call them out in front of the whole class because I’m so eager to hear them pronounce the word correctly. And then I’ll do the same with their neighbor just so I can show them that we’re all in this together.
I believe in them. I know they have lives outside of English class. Some work full-time jobs, some are full-time students. They have families to care for, and dreams for their life. And somewhere in the middle of it all, they found a desire to show up for an English class on a weekend morning—whether it’s their one day off work, or they’re going to work right after. They came and I got to meet them there.
That’s worth it. That level of dedication and commitment is worth it. I advocate for this diversity because it is the closest earthly image I can grasp of my Heavenly Father. And I prayed again, with so much more certainty than last week, “Give me more, so much more of this.”
:: :: ::
I received a beautiful, colorful mug that reads, “Oh, the places you’ll go!” at my graduation party last month. My coffee is black, and I spend many mornings over that mug quietly asking God to show me those places. Because I, like you, believe that dream. I believe that dream that we are going to places far beyond our wildest imagination. I believe we’re made to go places we never thought we’d reach, and live a life straight out of a novel.
I also believe those places are so big and transformational. And, it’s of God’s grace that He takes us there one season at a time. If He showed every idea for us all at once, we’d back out and count every inadequacy solidifying our decision to stay put in the safe zone. Like, if we sat down and He read the story of my life to me in His beautiful, holy God voice, I’d lose it. I’d lose every ounce of courage at the magnitude of what I knew He was asking me to do.
You want me to go there? Do that? Invest in those people? You really think I’m designed to do that? No way, God. I’m not that girl. There’s someone else who can play that better than me. Choose her. Not me. I’m out.
I get so caught up in the plan and the end of it, that I miss out on the sheer joy of the discovery during its unfolding. I expect to understand all the little workings of His plans, and when my small humanness can only live a day of it at a time, I’m tempted to look at Him and tell Him I don’t believe Him—as if my inadequacies are His too.
:: :: ::
I babysat last night after I finished teaching. I hung out with these boys every Tuesday and Thursday last semester, and it was so good to see them for the first time in a couple weeks. Afterwards, I talked with their mom– as we have so many times before– and she promised me there is always a place for me to come back to their home. Since I haven’t been able to do more than 8 hours of weekly paid work this month, you can imagine the awe I felt toward God’s provisions at that offer.
These are His provisions. This is Him taking care of me– taking care of the very breath in my lungs.
She was one of my biggest encouragers to take this step, and is continuing to encourage me as any good, good mother does. It’s no coincidence that I’ve crossed path with people like this. Driving home, I reveled in the awesome opportunities He’s handing me. I came to two thoughts.
First thing: I don’t know where I’m going.
A weight is coming off my shoulders just typing that. I don’t know what’s coming next. I’m catching glimpses of what I could do—drive a mobile classroom to teach refugees, take on some classes at the Institute in Metro Center, start my own teaching groups. I think I have some job opportunities ahead, but who can really know until I’m there? The possibilities are endless. And thank God it’s not up to me to know the end of them right now. Thank God all I have to do is be faithful to show up, and He will lead me to the places I don’t even know are an option right now.
Second thing: I’m finally getting comfortable with that.
A World Relief coworker prayed over me back in April. He asked God to help me discover His plans with joy and wonder. I smiled when he said it and wrote that prayer down in my notebook. That prayer means so much more to me now than it did even just a few months ago. I hope my friend believed that prayer when he spoke it, because I am clinging to it daily in a season that is full of change, change, change.
This story was never mine to write from cover to cover. I only have enough in my pockets to know about today. The first part of change was knowing when to say goodbye, even when it hurts. And the second part of change is having the courage to keep walking to new places, even when it doesn’t make sense.
No, I don’t have the answers. No, I’m not wealthy. No, I can’t tell you what life will look like when I graduate with my TESL Certificate in 2 weeks. But to realize that the shackles of authoring my life and perfecting every line have been ruined, I can honestly tell you without doubt or shame: I don’t know what’s coming next and I’m okay with that.
I’m free, I’m free.