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Oh. So, you know our group.

September 29, 2018

This semester I am juggling more than I have in quite a while.  When I accepted my new teaching positions, I knew that something would have to go. I am incredibly passionate about all the things in which I participate; thus, deciding which thing to let go was an agonizing decision for me.  After spending time in prayer, I knew that my season on the church board was coming to an end and most likely so too was much of my time ministering to others. I cannot fathom a life not lived in service, and the decision to step away from the primary place of ministry for me was heartbreaking.

At the same time, I wholeheartedly believe that it doesn’t matter where I am. God will open opportunities for me to love and serve others.  When I announced I was stepping down, I had no idea how God would show me that lesson in the oddest of places.

Currently I am balancing the demands of teaching on two campuses, finishing my doctoral studies, and completing obligatory travel for my newest position all while still being a mom, wife, and author/speaker.  Just typing that sentence I am exhausted.  With all the teaching and learning demands, I have decided to also make a serious commitment to my health and fitness.  Among other changes, I chose to start up my triathlon training again.

Before anyone gets any wrong idea, I am not stellar athlete. I am not a runner.  My friends tease me about a line in my book where I proclaim I don’t run . . . even if it is a really good sale.  Turns out there is truth to the old adage it’s like riding a bike.  The biking portion is my only saving grace.  I can ride bike.  Maybe not fast, but at least I possess that talent.  Only the swimming portion remains, and while I can swim great distances, I have never perfected the ability to swim without a snorkel.  My snorkel and I pound out the laps, which is allowed in the rules of “Mom’s Triathlon”.

What does this all this have to do with learning a lesson about serving others?  I’m getting there.  I promise.

Pool-Lanes_3

iStock

Last week, I was swimming merrily along kind of like a mermaid, if a mermaid needed some breathing assistance.  At one point, I noticed a blue floral swimsuit awfully close to my lane.  Knowing the water aerobics class was taking place, I didn’t think much of it.  But on the next three laps, I noticed legs and flash of blue diving out of my way on every pass.  Eventually, I realize someone is in the lane.  Since the policy at my Y is all swimmers must share one lane during the aerobics class, I didn’t think much of it until I realized the legs and floral suit were always in the same spot.

I must have scared the poor lady to death as I popped up out of the water and tried to communicate with a snorkel and mask that I only had 5 laps left to finish my half mile swim.  Looking like Scuba Steve was bad enough, the fact that English is her second language only complicated matters further.  On the next pass by, she was gone.  I finished out the half-mile swim feeling like I was dragging the albatross and wearing the cone of shame because in front of the entirely crowded pool I was the jerk who kicked someone out of the swimming lane.

After I finished up, I found her in the crowd and profusely apologized.  In her broken English and my contrite heart, I learned that my new friend was just learning to swim so that is why she didn’t stray far from the side of the pool.  She asked about my snorkel.  I happened to have an extra one in my swim bag; so, I let her try it out and our conversation carried into the locker room.  Really God?  I am brokenhearted over giving up devoted time to service, and you use the lap lane to teach me a lesson about blooming where I am planted . . . or floating.

A few days later I was holed up in a hotel between visits of high schools for the dual enrollment courses I am mentoring.  I was homesick and missing my family.  I had been on the road twelve out of the last fourteen days and ready to be finishing up.  The school I need to visit that day was about 25 miles away, but class started at 2:25 and check-out at the hotel was noon.  There really wasn’t much to do in between besides homework.

I drug my feet until the last second on checkout, popping my leftovers in microwave to take and eat in the breakfast area.  I was expecting to be eating alone, and was shocked when I walked into a packed room with cleaning staff, many of whom were individuals with intellectual disabilities.  As soon as I sat down, one was flipping the channels between FIFA and boxing, several where having a lively chat, and one decided to chat away with me.

One of the supervisors quickly apologized and said, “Oh please don’t let our group bother you.” I hastily explained that they were no bother and that I was a teacher traveling through.  Immediately the chief supervisor retorted with an understanding nod, “Oh. So, you know our group.” The lunch was delightful and after eating, I packed up to go, wishing everyone a great day.

Many in the group were waiting for the bus as I loaded into the van, and one sweet guy stopped me.

“Make sure you drive safe.  Have a great day,” he said, before returning to scrolling through his phone.

His kindness caught me off-guard.  I smiled and nodded, because I couldn’t get the words of gratitude out.  As soon as I sat down in the driver’s seat, the tears started to flow.  They weren’t salty drops of sadness, but heartfelt tears of gratitude recognizing the lesson God had wanted to teach me.

Through my tears, I poured out my heart.  Thank you, God, for the best lunch ever!  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to dine with some of your most amazing creations!  Thank you for showing me that sometimes service just means being present in the moment to love others.  Thank you for using a sweet guy at a hotel to minister to me, the least of these.  Thank you for his example of service and the power of a few kind words.

Wherever you are today, may you both be blessed and be a blessing.  You never know who or what God will put in your path, breakfast nook or lane.

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