Zora Neale Hurston wrote, “There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.” Much of my life’s work, my passion, my reason for spilling up and over the rim of the proverbial cup that is my heart, has been rooted in questions. From those first shaky steps saying “I don’t know if I am capable, Lord, but I think it’s what You want of me?” to uncertain days of “I cannot, but I must, right?” to “Why me? Can’t you choose someone else? Did you really have to make me care so much about this?”
Through it all, through every too-late night and too-early morning, through every argument, through every party, through that time when my kids piled furniture two stories high in the dorm foyer and started CLIMBING it, through that 2:00 am knock on my door that required pliers to pull out an infected piercing, through all the tears, through difficult conversations when I have had to call my kids to the carpet on their behavior, through that time when one of my students fell to her knees on my carpet and wept excitedly about how she had discovered the Lord’s love for her just the night before, through every fervent prayer for their souls and their rapidly beating hearts, through those heartbreaking first times when they experienced death in their close circles, through the years of walking alongside them in their self-discovery and learning from their mishaps and mistakes, through all those times when I royally screwed up…through every bit of it I have tried (and often failed) to get to their hearts and formulate a gracious and frank response to their questions. And in doing so, I ended up with so many of my own. This hard and holy work of serving students has made me question my faith, my life, my mistakes, my triumphs, and sometimes, my own reason for being.
I guess that is why this year has been so meaningful. This work I love, well…I had grown to hate it some years ago. The circumstances in which I found myself professionally back then left no room for advancement nor personal and professional growth. I felt stalled, stifled, and unable to draw a full breath. I let my frustrations with that experience cloud my feelings about my kids and walked away, vowing never to return and returning, instead, to an old career and long-dead dreams.
After 20 months of missing the joy and struggle of walking alongside my students and feeling like I had made a grave error in leaving them, I got the call at work that I had been longing for. I had to step into an empty exam room and weep with the wonder of it all, but then straightened my scrubs and my shoulders, and went back to my patients, knowing that my life was about to change and my questions I had been carrying around so heavy in my heart were about to get answered.
And so they were. The 365 days between February 15, 2016 and February 15, 2017 have been filled with answers. I came to Texas, and 33 years of asking the Lord if I could please find a home happened at last. Until one year ago, I had never lived here, but in recent years had been drawn to the culture and the accents and the people and the sturdy stuff of it all. And it is home. It is home in ways I never thought possible for me in this nomadic life I’ve led. I may not get to stay, and in fact if past promises ring true I won’t be here terribly long, but I’m relishing every day of feeling like I landed somewhere safe and solid and honest.
Friendships I thought long ruined have been restored. How I can go so long without talking to someone, but then be given the grace to pick up right where we left off with new respect for the humanness in us, is beyond me. But it happens. And to have friends returned to my tribe is an indescribable gift.
I found the church I love. After losing a church and my faith in the church and its leaders some years ago, this has been such a sweet return. The leadership is solid and honest and real, and that is a rare gift in American evangelicalism. I am thankful to be there on Sundays, singing my little heart out and finding depth and meaning in old traditions.
I got my heart back. This is a long story, and not one for this particular writing, but I got my heart back. Words are not adequate for how those prayers and questions have been answered.
Most of all, it was made clear that when I ask what I am supposed to do with my life, the answer is, and will be, to love on these crazy university kids and give them space to be themselves and to teach them to stop apologizing so much for being just that. I love watching them grow and change and become self-aware and other-aware and suss out wild lives that offer freedom and wisdom to those around them.
Today marks one year in East Texas, one year at this university with these kids I love, one year working with some of the most passionate colleagues I have ever known, and six years of work in higher education. I cannot imagine doing anything else with this one wild life. A year that answered, indeed.