Somewhere In Between

Warning: this post is all over the place. It’s probably four posts in one. But I wrote it on and off yesterday afternoon – with plans to edit it later – and I decided this morning to just post it as-is. Clearly I’m feeling a little spontaneous and living on the edge. :-)

This is the first year that Alex has played football, and I’ve been a little surprised by what a commitment it is for our family. I don’t say that begrudgingly at all because he has loved it and David and I have loved watching him love it, but most weekdays I feel like I look up and it’s 9:00 at night. We get home from work / school and I check blog email and Alex walks Hazel and I start supper and he eats a snack and David gets home and then one of us takes Alex to practice.

I’d originally thought that practice would be a fun time for D and me to get to eat out or walk around a book store or hang out on the practice field and talk, but as it turns out Hazel’s least favorite thing in the world is going into her crate for the second time in a day. So one of us stays with her, one of us does the practice run, and by the time we’re all home again and we eat supper and try to have a conversation that lasts longer than two minutes, it’s A’s bedtime. On a good night I manage to stay awake until 10:30, but most nights I don’t make it past 10.

5 AM is always early, you know?

At least once a day I think about all of you who have 2, 3, 4, or more kids – all involved in an activity – and in my head I applaud you for getting those young’uns where they need to be every single day. As kids get older, practice schedules are no joke, and even though I am the first person to jump on the STOP OVER-PROGRAMMING KIDS soapbox, I am also mindful that part of our job as parents is to help young’uns figure out what they love to do, to help them realize what they’re good at doing, and to put them in situations where they’re working for something way bigger than themselves.

It’s a fine line. But right now – on this Tuesday night at the tail end of September – I feel pretty good about where we’re standing. Tomorrow may be a different story.

And then there’s this. I’ve spent a big chunk of the last 20 years in a classroom. I’ve taught a bunch of different subjects, but mostly I’ve taught American literature. This year, though, I’ve shifted into a new job. I have an office instead of a classroom, and now I spend most of the school day talking to and praying with and occasionally handing out Kleenexes to high school girls. It’s weird to be in an office after so many years with chalkboards and then white boards and then SmartBoards. I have a phone on my desk now, but I’m not at all used to it and I jump when it rings. Anybody who has been a teacher can relate to the strangeness of a ringing phone during the workday. Ringing bells are one thing, but that phone? That phone is something else.

My new job doesn’t come with any sort of fancy title and doesn’t require special credentials. Thankfully we have a licensed counselor who can deal with the more serious issues, and that is such a comfort to me. I’m really just there to love on our girls and help them navigate day-to-day stuff: problems with friends, questions about faith, frustrations with hair or clothes or boys. I told somebody last week that I’m sort of like a drama coach – only my job has nothing to do with musicals or plays. And I’m not trying to help the girls get better at drama; I’m trying to encourage them to stop it. Walk away from it. Love each other. Honor each other. Honor each other. Honor each other.

(That last thing is a pretty big deal to me.)

I probably visit with an average of 8 or 10 girls every day, and for the first couple of weeks, I talked a lot. Shared my ideas. Told them how I thought they should handle things. And they were super gracious to me in my over-enthusiastic attempts to solve their problems. But somewhere around the end of week two, I felt like the Lord was reminding me over and over again to keep my mouth shut. I mean, He didn’t say, “SHUT UP” or anything like that – thankfully God’s a whole lot more patient than I am and not even a little bit rude – but almost every time I’d open my mouth to “fix” something, I’d get that check in my spirit that sounded a lot like, EASY, GLADYS. NOT SO FAST. DIAL IT BACK A NOTCH. LET HER TALK.

It’s been such a good lesson.

For those first few weeks after school started, I felt consistently overwhelmed by the new work stuff. And at least a small part of that, I think, was that I wanted to do my best to help but couldn’t figure out how to manage my days. People floated in and out of my office. I couldn’t plan what my day would look like. I missed the structure of my junior English class and the element of control that comes with HERE. LET ME TEACH YOU ABOUT JAY GATSBY. I HAVE SOME POINTS. YOU’RE GONNA WANT TO WRITE THEM DOWN.

It’s so much better now, though. I’m still smack dab in the middle of a big ole learning curve, but I’m figuring out how to flex a little more. I’m don’t feel pressure to fix everything because I’m reminded every day that the Lord’s timing is so much better than mine. It is a kick – A KICK – to see the Lord at work and marvel at how intricately He designs the details of people’s lives. And I told David tonight that I’m learning – slowly but surely – that what I’m really getting to do every day is see how Light ripples and bounces when it gets to shine in dark places. Each day preaches a new and different and beautiful sermon.

All that to say (after almost a thousand words of rambling): I feel a little bit like I’m in transition. David and I now have a boy who is finding his way and loving life and starting to figure out who he is and what makes his heart beat a little faster. I’m doing this new thing at work, and in the strangest way it feels as natural to me as writing does. It’s a different side of my personality, but the days are full and they fly by and by and large they are a blast. And then there’s this new book that comes out in about four months, and while I do feel all kinds of vulnerable about the fact that people may read it and decide they don’t like it or the first one was better or whatever, the process of turning it over to my publisher and letting go of it, so to speak, has been such a relief that I can’t even describe it. I held on to it long enough. It’s time for it to move on.

I didn’t mean for this post to turn so reflective, by the way. It was gonna be light and breezy. But I’ve been reminded so much lately that this is such a sweet, rewarding phase of life, which is sort of ironic because ten years ago I would have told you that there was nothing about the mid-40s that sounded even remotely fun to me. I always thought I’d be so sad to not be the mama of a little one anymore. But as it turns out, I’m not sad at all. I’m just grateful. I turn 45 in a couple of days – FORTY-FIVE – but I don’t feel a single bit of the inner freak-out that 40 dumped on the front doorstep of my mind and my heart. Earlier today I was trying to figure out how to put this particular time in my life into words, and here’s what I came up with:

GIDDY UP.

So maybe I should warn you that 45 may not be a particularly eloquent time for me.

Thankfully Mumford & Sons can express themselves way better than I do. I heard the song “Below My Feet” about an hour ago, and this right here? THIS IS IT.

Keep the earth below my feet

For all my sweat, my blood runs weak

Let me learn from where I have been

Keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn

Keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn

GIDDY UP.

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Comments

  1. No need for editing; this was great. I applaud YOU.

    God bless your ministry, your work, your writing and your family.

  2. Cheryl Stanley says:

    I feel like you are the new Tami Taylor. :) Bless you for being there – and being the conduit of God’s love for those young ladies!

  3. I for one, think those girls are MIGHTY fortunate to have you to clear up their drama. I trust you’ll tell a couple of them to GIDDY UP, Soph!

  4. sometimes you read something and it just hits you RIGHT THERE and you can’t even put into words what it is that’s hitting you. But you know that you relate, understand, and are completely moved by it. That was this post. Thank you.

  5. What a beautiful, eloquent post. I really enjoyed it and found such wisdom in your words. I love how you always throw in some humor and humility! I have been reading your blog for years and I am blessed by it.

  6. Molly Forrest says:

    I just love your heart for your people & for serving & for laughter. Sounds like you have my dream job. Super glad you let His light shine through you. Giddy up, indeed!

  7. Beautifully stated. I agree with the others who said those girls are so blessed to have you. I’m a mama of three teenagers and the description you gave of a drama coach perfectly describes it! Haha! Love it! I’ll be turning 40 next week and I want to remember the wisdom you presented here. It really is a sweet time of life and I need to embrace it.

  8. I wish we had a program like that at my daughter’s school. There is SO. MUCH. GIRL. DRAMA. And it’s elementary school. And it’s a very small school. I can only imagine the fun High school will bring!

  9. Rachel McCoy says:

    Sophie, this was a great post! I’ve been reading you for years and I can say that with what you shared about your new role at school I know it’s perfect for you. It sounds a little guidance counselor-esque. I’m a counselor and I work with teenagers, too. I once heard at a training that if you find yourself talking to them too much about what they need to be doing, etc. to remember the acronym WAIT. It stands for Why Am I Talking?? It serves as a reminder to me when I get too preachy to shut my mouth and let them have the space to share. Anyway, I thought of that when I read this today. Blessings on your new role and this season you’re in!! Can’t wait for book #2.

  10. I’m so grateful that you just posted this, and did not polish away the reflective and the figuring out part of it, because it went right from your heart to mine. We have two sons– one in eighth grade and one in sixth. I miss my little guys a little, but this new season is so rich and full.

    And you have so much to offer these girls, and I am delighted for them that they have you in their corner. That honor each other thing, that is a word for us big girls too.

    Sophie, I’ve read your words for years, and only commented a handful of times, but heavens to Betsy, you bless me every time.

    Giddy up!

  11. I went on a mission trip to Thailand this past spring, and we had a team motto that I think you will appreciate…..”Blessed are the flexible for they shall not get bent out of shape.” Keep being flexible and God will continue to use you in ways you can never imagine!

  12. ” see how Light ripples and bounces when it gets to shine in dark places. ” Love this. Honor each other is a wonderful lesson for us all! Your job sounds great; your girls are blessed to have an ear to listen!
    Good luck with all the practices. You are in a fine time of life, for sure!

  13. Loved this post. So encouraging to see how God opens new doors for us in different life stages.

  14. I am one of those mamas of four, and I thank you for your applause because at the end of the day, I have neither the time nor the energy to applaud myself. I am 46. I have a girl who is a Senior this year, a girl who is in 8th grade, a boy who is in first grade, and a girl who is four. High school, middle school, elementary school and preschool are all in different places and start and end at different times. We sacrifice financially so I can stay home and be the bus driver/nutritionist/personal chef/maid/laundry lady/”drama coach”. The boy is playing football and has practice three nights each week plus games on Saturday, and this week they threw in a mandatory pep rally on Friday night. I, too, was surprised by the commitment football requires. Especially because HE IS SIX! The middle schooler is in band and has lots of band related activities. Senior year is just all together crazy. The little one spends a lot of the day asking me to hold her. (Yesterday, I told her I didn’t have time, then looked at her precious little face and picked her up. My oldest called me a ‘sucker’. I know that too soon, she won’t ask anymore.) I am pulled in at least five different directions every single day, and while it is exhausting, I honestly feel like this is the best time of my life (so far).

    Giddy up, indeed!

  15. Oh, I love this post and all the comments. Wanted you to know Sophie that I have the Big Boo podcast on my phone and have listened to all of them. My BFF says they sound just like we would if we were talking to each other. When I can’t calm down my racing mind at night, and need to go to sleep, because 5:30am is so early, I listen to the podcasts. I laugh to myself and relax enough to drift off peacefully. It is like you and Melanie are telling me a bedtime story. Can’t wait for the new book!

  16. Julie in Michigan says:

    Great post Sophie, yeah for the new book coming out soon and for being there for the girls at school! I feel great being 45, you will too!

  17. “..see how Light ripples and bounces when it gets to shine in dark places.”

    Isn’t this just so beautiful?? I love this Sophie. I absolutely love and admire what you are doing in that school. Girlfriend….it makes a difference! Oh how I wish I had a Boomama in my life back in the day. I know you are loving them so well.

    Thankful for all you are doing. You reflect His light wonderfully.
    Fran

  18. If you think this is rambling, Sophie, then ramble on! I loved every single word of this post!

  19. Oh, Sophie! I need you to know what a love note from the Lord this was for me!! I am also in my first few months of transitioning out of the classroom (3rd grade) to an office setting at my school. I think I cried every day the first few weeks. I missed having “my kids” so badly! I finally stepped back and realized that the Lord knows so much better than I do. Even though I feel out of place and I have struggled with finding my footing, He has given me so many opportunities to love on teachers. This is my new mission field. Thank you so much for sharing your experience! It has reminded me again today that I am not alone.

  20. I’m grateful for you and your role at the high school! I hope Paige comes to see you. Wait – can I come see you?? Ha…… And, BTW, I just turned 45 for the 4th time – and it won’t go away! Have a great day! Keep writing and sharing –
    Anne

  21. Love this post so much. I’m a mom of 4…3 of them are boys. All of our children were involved in sports that pretty much took up time all year. One went from football to basketball to soccer…while our daughter was a swimmer, and that was year-round . We tried to make it all…the practices, the games, the meetings. We did a lot of “tag-teaming.” You are right…it can be exhausting. You just have to decide what you want your “family time” to look like during this season…and be flexible. For us, having dinner together at home was very important…and somewhere along the line I figured out that it didn’t HAVE to be at home…around our table. It might be at McDonald’s before the game…or after. Or sandwiches in the park at the field…or in the car at Sonic…or in the bleachers with a meal from the concessions stand. We made wherever we were our family time…and it was a precious time, whether it was 20 minutes or an hour. We blocked everything else out…we prayed no matter where we were, helped them with their homework, talked…and did our best to show our kids that we were engaged in what was going on with them. It gets harder the older they get…bc of the amount of homework they had. Remember that this is just a season…and enjoy it. :) Can’t wait for your new book!

  22. Oh Boo, you did lots of good with his one. It’s the beginning of October, the week after my little towns mega, once every 4 years, Homecoming Extravaganza, and I am TIIIIRRRREEEddd. I have 4 kiddos-one in college, one in High School, one in Junior High, and one in Elementary. We’re ALL tired right now, no one fusses about bedtime, NO ONE. But it’s all such good stuff, even the Cross Country workout at 6 a.m. And listening is challenge for me because my ADD brain wants to announce/suggest/shout random/interesting/funny things in the middle of my 12 yr old daughters discussion of her day, and if I don’t listen someday she’ll stop talking. God please keep one hand over my mouth and one hand on my shoulder!

  23. praise God for such an opportunity for you – and you’ve already had 2 things you love as “work” before…teach/write. I’m a birthday past you and looking for that first thing to let me see God working.
    Happy almost birthday. Blessings to you!

  24. Thank you. I turn 40 next month, and this is so encouraging. :)

  25. Molly P. says:

    One of my favorite songs!

  26. Bless your heart! Thank you!

  27. Thanks for this. I just took on a new ministry at church working with K-5th graders. My husband was just encouraging me about those darn learning curves. :).

    Also my husband’s grandma (mine by marriage) reminded me of the stories in your book. She is 92 and we made the mistake of telling her we were headed to the store and asked if she needed anything. She went on to describe the type of gum she would like for us to pick up. Oh my. “The double mint gum. The one that has more than one and it’s in the long package. The lONG package that’s clear but the gum package is green. And it has to be double mint. Do u know which one that is? It’s at the checkout.” It went on for five minutes. I’ve never been so thankful for speaker phone in. my. life. As you’d say “I was so tickled!”

    Anyways thanks for your writing and podcasts. They are fun and help me see the lighthearted side of things which is refreshing for an over thinker like myself.

  28. Sophie, I just love you. That is all. :)

  29. Re: Last Paragrah: I hear ya, Girl! I loved the days with littles: I call them the “milk and honey days” because they were so rich and sweet. But, as much as I was afraid of teenagers, they are rich, too. The relationships are deeper and funnier than I ever imagined. i do love an 8th grader in ways I never expected. They have thoughts and ideas that inspire me. I’m so glad the Lord has brought you to this good place. May I come sit in your office on a “bad” day? ;) (crazy girl who asked you to autograph a napkin at Panera this summer)

  30. Kathleen G says:

    Reading the post and then the comments, Sophie you have readers that support you and I can see why after this post and all your posts, really. I found you on The Pioneer Woman blog, like Bigmama. A lot of changes this year in your life and you do it with grace and humor. Love this post, Kathleen in Phx

  31. Adrienne says:

    Hooray! As a mom to a sophomore girl, a big thank you for what you do!! I’m going to meet my daughter’s drama coach tomorrow :). And I LOVE your writing–books and blog!

  32. I absolutely loved reading this beautiful post about how in the hectic days of your life you are still able to find the reward in it all and the blessings that God is giving each and everyone around you, including you. Giddy up is perfect but you are right where you need to be right now and that in and of itself is just bliss!

  33. Kathy Reynolds says:

    I am a mental health therapist and I have to remind myself everyday to be quiet and hear what my clients are saying. It is not about me.

  34. LeighAnn says:

    Dear Sophie….This is your best post ever. Thank you and God bless you!

  35. Karen Beymer says:

    Well Sophie, at 70 Giddy Up, feels right! Luv’n God’s timing!

  36. Happy Birthday in a few days! And I’m with you on the whole transition thing. It’s great and hard at the same time.

  37. Love it!

    As an, er, matuuuuure mom of a number of children that is subject to change without notice, I do appreciate the acknowledgement of the balancing act. As one who does it with a negative degree of fabulosity, but lots of love and enthusiasm, I return the salute to you and all who manage home, family, ministry and career. The ones who become published authors? Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit, there’s a whole ‘nother category of ‘bless your sweet heart’ for your kind!

  38. I love it when you write without editing yourself. “Honor each other.” I think I need to write that in big letters at home and at work. So happy for you that you have written your 2nd book. Happy Birthday to you!

  39. Nancy S. says:

    Thanks, Sophie…..I love your “ramblings!” Now GIDDY UP!

  40. I bet those young girls LOVE you too.
    My blog reading began in 2008 and yours was the second one I found myself checking in on everyday. LPM was my first and one day, I clinked on your name link when Beth mentioned she hoped you felt better and wish she could bring you a pound cake!!! My then senior in HS daughter, loved when I would read your post out loud when she came home in the evening. It is now a tradition. We both have always said what a wonderful teacher to high school girls you must be and now this new job just sounds perfect. Your warmth and love for people is so obvious, and your with your humor combined, you will be a great mentor to them!
    Have a great football weekend. You and Mel must be nervous wrecks!!

  41. I wish my 14 year old daughter had you in her school. We juggle her love of the musical theater with my son’s love of the real-deal football. I was JUST discussing with my husband how to protect some family time over the next month. It’s all good……and I am going to just GIDDY-UP with you!!

  42. Go Sophie! And Happy 45th!! I think it just gets better and better… well, physically it seems to be more challenging but empowerment-wise I wish I was this age a long time ago. LOL!!

  43. Loved this post! Congrats on the win today!