My Christmas Miracle

“You take 2 steps forward and 3 steps back on a journey of a 1,000 miles, you cry and you pray but you know at this pace you never will arrive…” Steven Curtis Chapman’s Finish What He Started

 That has so been my journey since June, for complicated and complex reasons I was again looking for a job and I had just received my test results for the math section of the CBEST and I had failed again which meant my CA Credential was now on hold until I passed it. So to teach English which I have been doing for almost 30 years I have to slay the math dragon. I have never slayed this dragon I have pretty much whimpered in the corner asking it to leave me alone. So with only a part time job between us and not sure what the next step would be we just started looking at all the possibilities and as the summer dragged on it just felt impossible.  If you read my blog piece The Swell that is the hopelessness that I referred to in the piece that crashed the website. That piece swelled to over 600 hits and my son had to build a website for my blog and then attach it to the family site. I guess it struck a nerve.

Tim’s school graciously made a place for him to work full time, but as you know a family of any size cannot live even in an apartment on a Christian school teacher’s salary, I started looking on Edjoin for  an aide or paraprofessional jobs. And was given a part time position at a Charter School, this school has 2 campuses and they had just hired brand new principals. It wasn’t enough hours for us to really make the budget work but God provided for us in amazing and miraculous ways. Tim was asked to coach Volleyball which he enjoyed so much and was given a generous stipend, ministry opportunities for both of us that fed our spirits, healed our hearts and supplied our pocketbooks enough to keep our heads above water.

But my spirit was losing the battle to stay hopeful, I could see that the principal that started with me was in an incredibly difficult situation not one of her own making and not one that she was told about ahead of time and my heart broke for her, so I stepped into support her and the Lord gave me opportunities to speak grace and strength to her without compromising her role. I loved working with kids one-on-one but honestly I was so bored and that left a lot of room for pondering questions like, how are we going to continue to make it and looking at the future with nothing but cynicism. And it doesn’t help that cynicism when you are watching an innocent person be crucified before your eyes, to see their integrity and how they continue to do their job with grace and dignity when you are privy to all the back door politics going on and it was hard not to fight the waves of sadness and that little ribbon of thought…does evil always win? Because from this vantage point it sure looks like it to me, but I just continued to encourage her and do my crazy job.

On a day in late October when I just couldn’t hold my head up anymore I called my sister on the way home from work. My husband is my true north and the person with whom I am the most honest and ugly. My sister is the only other person I allow access to that place, because she is safe and we share life history together. She gets into places no other friend can. She is loyal and always on my side no matter what! So I poured out all my feelings to her and even though she heard them a million times she listened again. But while she listened and encouraged me she searched her computer  and she told me about a job in Lodi that was accepting educational interns. She told me that would open the door for me and that I should go on Edjoin and fill out the application and then send an email to the Human Resources Department and explain my situation.

My Dad had paid for me to take a professional class on passing the math portion of the CBEST and I had just completed that class and was going to take the dreaded test again in January. I mumbled something about not wanting to be rejected again, so my sister hung up the phone and did a reconnaissance mission pretending to be me and called the school to get the inside scoop. She has been married to an army soldier for many years now and I think perhaps it has rubbed off on her. What she told me gave me enough hope to at least fill out the application and send an email.

Things were getting uglier at work for my principal and I just wanted Thanksgiving break to get here so I could enjoy all my 20 Something’s and be away from the difficult at work and the scary hard questions in my head. During all of the joyous and wonderful moments with the kids I got a phone call asking me if I would like to apply for and ELL Aide position at a school in Stockton? There were 2 problems with that question…STOCKTON! … and I don’t have Ell authorization. I said the second part to the gal on the phone and she said she would talk to the district office and get back to me. I figured it would go nowhere but 2 hours later she called back and said they wanted to see me anyway. So the next Monday I drove down to Stockton, I was pretty sure this was an exercise in futility but I had committed to the Lord to walk through every open door, the school is only 30 minutes from my apartment and in a really nice neighborhood. Christa McCauliffe Middle School and I noticed that the teachers who were leaving for the day seemed to be close to my age.

What happened next I am not sure I will ever fully understand but I know this only GOD could do it!

The Principal Mr. Maldano greeted me he was both warm and professional, escorted me back to his office where one of the VP’s, the English Dept Chair and another English teacher were waiting for me. I shook hands with all of them as they were being introduced and inside my head I was thinking this is not an interview for an aide position and I was right.  I was told that it was for 8th grade English, and that the position had been open since the beginning of school. He said that this school was part of the Lodi Unified School District even though it was in Stockton. I was wondering how they knew about me and was so confused about being there and I knew that as soon as they knew about my credential it would be all over.

So I just relaxed and enjoyed my time with these nice people and in 20 minutes it was done and I shared with them when they asked if I had any questions that I didn’t know I was coming in for a teaching position interview that if my answers were a little less structured than they should be I was sorry. Mr. Maldano apologized that I had been given the wrong information but he had looked over my resume extensively and said I was far to qualified to be an aide.

We shook hands and he escorted me out. I got in the car and called my sister and asked her “What just happened?” She got on the computer and told me that this was the same school I had sent the email and application to and that I just hadn’t realized it because of the Lodi/Stockton mix up. It is a good thing my sister is a lot smarter than I am.

A small, very small flicker of hope began to grow in my heart.

The next day at work I got a call from the Lodi Unified School District, I listened to the message and when I heard it was the Certificated Specialist and not the principal, I didn’t think I got the job, so I just waited until I was on my way home to return the call. When I dialed the number I braced myself for rejection and held my breath. Then in a voice filled with excitement Amber informed that I was being offered the job and was I ready to accept it? WHAT? Really?!

I asked her if she knew what the pay scale was, she said no but that she would direct me to the gal who did. I gave her the necessary info and when she gave me the number, I couldn’t believe her words, of course everything has to be verified and there maybe some adjustments but even worse case scenario it was way beyond what I could imagine. I asked her to send me back to Amber and said I would take the job!  It is imperative that you understand I got a public school job with a credential that is on hold, I don’t even know how to communicate just how miraculous this is but it is pretty much in the parting of the Red Sea category!

But I have grown accustomed to the shoe dropping so I only told my very closest inner circle. The next day I went to work and told my boss and that I was sad to leave her and she told me that she didn’t think she was staying either. This opened the door for a much longer conversation the next day. It was a divine appointment of the highest order and I wish I could share with you all the details but I must honor private conversations but when I finished that conversation I knew GOD had sent me to this charter school for this precious one. That day was her last day and mine. Does God love one person so much that He will send you out of the way to minister to that one while He orders your next step…YES He does. Read the New Testament it was Jesus’ signature move. What I thought was a dead end road was really a divine errand, an opportunity to unite with the Holy Spirit to seek that which is lost. I wasn’t meandering, I was on a strategic mission. I am so grateful I stepped into the moments with her that God ordained and created for me. You just never know when you are on a Holy mission.

Yesterday was my first day of work. I was there to observe the students on the last day before Christmas vacation. To work with the sub who had been their teacher for the last few weeks, she filled in the details. The original teacher left 3 days before school started and a temporary sub took the job, she had no teaching experience and so it has been pretty chaotic in the classroom, the second sub a very smart young woman had tried to bring order but they just rebelled because they knew she was just a sub also.

Then  she told me that there had been several rounds of interviews and they just could not find the right person, not content to settle for just  anyone. Then she told me after they had interviewed me the principal told her, ”We found her, the one we have been waiting for!” He said the same thing to me that morning. Later the VP for 8th grade came into meet me, a lovely older African American gentleman. He said “Mrs. Clements I was the person who talked to your references, you come highly recommended and you have been highly valued in your previous places of service and we feel fortunate and grateful to have you join our team.”

Everything about it feels a little like home.

It’s a mess, the classroom, the kids but it is filled with incredible potential. When I greeted the students and gave them my expectations for respectful listening to instruction they responded immediately. Kids always  recognize someone who knows their stuff and they usually come around pretty quickly even in the most difficult circumstances.  At the end of the day the sub said to me “Mrs. Clements, you are just what these kids need.”

And they are just what I need to…

Two years ago our lives were turned inside out and it has been a very hard road but it has been filled with divine appointments, divine provision and my husband’s ability to persevere when I wanted to give up all hope of ever regaining any financial or professional stability.

My husband is an incredible man. He has used every talent he has to keep our heads above water from painting and carpentry to worship leading and preaching invitations, Tim is not afraid of hard work and or doing things with excellence.  He has not turned down any job that would help us, often working at several things at once and all along the way he has never missed an opportunity to minister to anyone who needed it.  Any life he could speak into and point to Jesus he has done it.

He has held me close when the fear seemed almost a physical thing and spoken God’s truth into my ear over and over. There simply is no one like him, and now my job will make his life easier too. He can continue to pursue his master’s degree and teach kids about Jesus. He said with a twinkle in his eye he was ready to be a kept man…I laughed and was grateful yet again for that insatiable sense of humor of his.

So Merry Christmas to all of you who have faithfully prayed for us, stood with us, and held us close. Our Journey is far from over but I am looking to 2014 with a renewed sense of hope and Joy.