Back to school week. It’s a little different for everyone on the emotional scale. Some mothers are sending their little ones off for the first time through tears. Others are popping a bottle of champagne in the middle of the street as the school bus drives off. And then there’s the Bill Murrays waking up to their Groundhog Day. Another day. Another year. Another tick mark on the calendar.
Yesterday, I felt unsettled. All day. Deep down, I craved drastic change. And I couldn’t figure out why. This morning, I woke up to social media feeds full of backpacks and smiles and first day of school outfits meticulously selected. And it suddenly began to make sense.
When we first moved here, I hosted 22 women every night for eleven Tuesdays as we dug through Treasures of Darkness together. We had only been in this pocket of the Pacific for a few months and it was the beginning of my first fall without a noticeable change in the weather. That first night, I sat in my tank top and slippers and talked with one of the women next to me. “Living on Maui is like living in Never Never Land,” she said. “The seasons never change, every day is the same, and you forget that you’re getting older.”
She was right. Here we are in September already. Outside my window, the banana leaves are still as richly green as the day we moved in 15 months ago. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and it’s truly another day in Paradise. That’s why this morning’s sadness (and yesterday’s emotional instability) caught me off-guard. I was without the familiar triggers. I didn’t prepare myself in a private, unspoken countdown. In nearly every way, that’s healthy. But no matter how much scenery I change, back to school week will always be jabbing a pointy finger on a very sensitive bruise.
Four months ago, I found myself crying on the phone to my best brunette friend. After some time, she gently reminded me: “Yesterday was Shawna’s birthday. Of course you’re going to be weepy right now.” But it had been over two years, I protested. Surely that’s not it.
When we were 22, Selena’s little brother died suddenly in a car accident. She had been navigating the grieving waters for 13 years and knew a thing or two about the rapids. “Even if you aren’t thinking about it,” she said, “your body just knows.” If there’s a biological clock ticking somewhere inside of us, then it makes sense that there’s also an emotional one. The trick is to be aware of it.
Yesterday, I was ready to pack up and move to New York. To chase career opportunities and the big-girl house and trade island life for fast-paced city life. Today, I had to reign in the crazy train and remind myself that the two seemingly separate mornings are tied more tightly together than I realize. And I had to get pen moving on paper to sort it all out. To pray it all out. And to get back to the contentment of the here and now. Contentment with the career I’ve spent nearly eight years building up for myself. Contentment with the calling He’s placed on our lives to watch and to wait. And contentment with the drastic change we just made a year ago. I picked up an unfinished book I had set aside months ago, and He picked up the conversation right where we had left off:
If we haven’t chosen what we’re living for, we’re living life by default, acting out the scripts handed to us by family, other people’s agendas, and the pressures of circumstances. This is not living as a woman who know the meaning and purpose of life. (Calm My Anxious Heart, pg. 110).
I have to remember my purpose. My calling. And my gift. Especially now. On the days that I suddenly want to chase other things… oh, LORD, help me to chase Your glory! Because if I get into the habit of chasing His glory now, it will make things much easier in ten years when I’m the one sending the kids off to school. And I’m suddenly left with free time on my hands. I’ll know my purpose then, as I know my purpose now. To bring Him glory.