My New Job as a PHM: On quitting teaching, walking labyrinths, and foolishness (part 1)

A lot has changed in a matter of about a month.

I quit my job. That was probably the biggest thing.

No longer am I a CPS teacher on the Southside of Chicago. In fact, no longer am I a teacher at all, unless you count fitness classes, but I don’t. No longer am I getting a large paycheck every 2 weeks either… which is also quite an adjustment.

Can I be honest? Oh, you know I will be no matter what you say– I’ve been wanting to quit my job at CPS since about the second week of school this past year. Going there everyday for the rest of the school year was very hard for me. There were days when I could barely keep it together before the kids left, and sometimes when I had to physically leave my classroom to keep from breaking down in front of them all. The end of the weekend was hard, and so was the close of a long break. Getting out of bed was hard. Walking through those doors was hard.

But do you know what as harder?

Actually making up my mind to leave. 

That was way harder.

“I am not a quitter.”

— This is what I kept telling myself day after day. But inside my soul was crying out. Inside I knew that I could be so much more alive and so much more fulfilled in a different environment, doing a different kind of work– a different calling.

After wrestling with God about this for month after month, I finally felt it deep down in my bones: the only reason I would be staying is for the financial security; I was afraid to leave only because of the pay cut it would mean for me. Was that a reason to hang on to a draining job that was quickly squeezing the life out of my passion? Would staying be truly acting out of my identity in Christ?

“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons and daughters by which we cry out “Abba! Father!” The spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” -Romans 8:15-16

My heart burned with the conviction that God would be with me, wherever I went and whatever I was doing. Being a CPS teacher was a calling— for a time— and leaving my job as a CPS teacher was also a calling–for this time. I couldn’t live as a true Child of God if I was acting out of fear– being a slave to it, and in doing so, a slave to my identity as a teacher.

I mentioned before about how God took my identity away from some things, and so doing, healed me of a 7-year-long battle with bulimia, and so I knew that if God wanted to take away my identity from the role as “Teacher”, then some serious healing or blessing would probably follow. See, whenever He takes our identity from something, he places it in Himself. This way, we are never defined by this world, but by He who overcame the world. This, in and of itself, is a blessing.

What could I do? God did not give me a spirit of fear! I informed my principal that I would resign from teaching at the end of the year. 

As more and more people “found out” about my departure from CPS, there were mixed opinions.

Some were proud of me, wishing they could do the same with their disliked job.  Some were confused– why would I quit a high-paying job that I was having such success in? Some were supportive, encouraging me to do what what was best for me and my family. Others were discouraging, implying that I was quitting and giving up too soon.

I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t let any of their opinions effect me. But after some Spiritual Direction and time of solitude at the Portiuncula Center for Prayer, I found myself ready to truly say “Goodbye” to my former job, be utterly grateful for every part of it– the good and the bad– and to fully embrace this new and refreshing season in my life.

At the Center, there is this blabyrintheautiful labyrinth that the hermits can walk while meditating or praying. There is only one way into the middle of it, but you must walk the entire interior of the maze. There are no dead ends and no ways to skip or even look ahead in anticipation. You simply have to follow the path, trusting that it will lead you to your destination.

This is how it is when you follow God. You cannot look ahead but a few steps. You cannot fear getting lost, because He is guiding you, and although you may stumble, you will not fall off the path (Psalm 37:24). This takes a lot of trust, and many people on the outside will probably just think you are taking the long way, going around in what appears to be meaningless circles and odd turns that make no sense. But…

“..the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” -1 Corinthians 1:25

What appears foolish to the world is often the wisdom of God. What appears like weakness to humans, often is taking the mighty strength of God. These facts have comforted me as I think about how my career change may be perceived by others.

All this to say that I now have a new profession.

I call it a “PHM”.

I’ll be explaining what that is in a later post, but rest assured that is it far more energizing, fulfilling, and live-giving than my previous job, and I am so grateful to God that this job is part of my journey on this labyrinth of life. Even if the rest of the world scoffs, I have the reward of my Savior shouting “Well done faithful servant!” in the far corners of my heart.

Stay tuned for more… I’ve got  to get back to work.

Stepping it up

So, news flash on Claire’s personal life for a sec:

Last year’s STEP-UP Fellows (can you find me?!)

I am currently working with an urban education teacher preparation partnership with Chicago Public Schools and Illinois State University. It provides an intensive live-in internship for undergraduates working towards becoming urban educators and community workers. It’s called STEP-UP.

I had this internship last year and it literally changed my life.

Currently I am on staff for STEP-UP and I have a feeling it may be equally life altering.

Today, somewhere in between meeting with the GADC and St. Sabina’s Employment Resource Center and visiting all of Auburn-Gresham incredibly welcoming (and entertaining!) host families, I found myself thinking about all the strengths and qualities that my team, an incredible group of educators, posses.

This job–heck, even the internship–is very demanding and could be considered high-stress. It requires long hours and constant work, but also continuous self-exploration, intrinsic motivation, and an other-worldly  kind of collaboration that I have never before experienced here on this planet as of yet.

I started thinking about all these demands, and I then surprised myself.

You see, usually when I am in a situation where I have a lot of pressure and stress on me, I freak out and stress out. But this time I’m not doing any freaking or stressing.

I looked at the team of people I am working with and it all made sense.

I could go deeply into all the reasons why I am incredibly grateful to be working with each of them, but that would be a terribly long post. I’ll keep it short. The most important thing you need to know in order to understand happened last night:

It’s 10:45pm, we’ve all been up since at least 6am and have been working pretty much non-stop with no dinner break. You would think that energy would be low and people would be drained, grumpy, and snippy. But no! Yes, each of us feels tired, but it’s that good kind of tired that leaves you with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. The energy is lower, but still very  positive.

The stress and frustration that could easily come about from the late hour and the little kinks that have come up in our planning is replaced with a shared patience and love from the group as a whole that I can’t explain in worldly terms. But here, I’ll try: These folks got my back, and I got theirs’! Why worry?! 

My affection for my own team got me thinking about Jesus’ Team: the 12 Disciples. 

In my last post I picked apart the meaning of the word “Disciple” and since then I’ve been contemplating and reading about what it truly means to be one.

What are the demands and skill-sets needed to fill the job description of one of Jesus’ 12? 

In the next few weeks, while I continue to work within my own job’s high

demands and long hours, and while I monitor our intern’s progress and skill-sets, I want to explore what it truly means to be a Disciple of Jesus Christ in this current world.

I want to send in my resume to Jesus so I can apply for the position of Disciple. I want to get the job, and I want to discover how to ROCK IT!

…… Okay, maybe not exactly like that.

But seriously, what do you think? What makes a “good” Disciple? What would be the job manuel for a Disciple of Christ? If you were offered the job (and you are) would you take it ( or…. have you taken it)?

Look out for more posts on this topic to come in the upcoming weeks!