After finally choosing my word of the year (you can read about that here ), I was ready to embrace everything. Even if it was just a gentle embrace. To embrace change. Embrace newness. Embrace people.
And I’m not going to lie. It’s been hard. Really hard.
Because I just started working again. As a substitute teacher. And being a substitute teacher is hard. When I was a full time teacher, I had my own classroom, my own plans, my own expectations. Now I am a guest in someone else’s world. Trying to make it work. And it’s hard. Because everything has changed. Technology has changed. Children have changed. Society has changed. Expectations have changed. And while a lot of it is for the better, it definitely hasn’t gotten any easier.
And I’m having a hard time embracing it. All that change. It’s a bit like hugging a cactus I think. Not that I’ve ever hugged a cactus. I live in the Pacific Northwest where most cacti are roughly the size of a pickle and grow in a small pot. But I’ve been to Arizona and seen cacti the size of a person. I would imagine if I tried to hug one, even if I leaned into it, arms open wide, solely focusing on the beauty of the cactus, that as soon as that first spike would touch my skin, I would release and recoil. And wonder why I tried to hug it in the first place.
It’s kind of like that. I start the day ready. Ready to embrace. A little nervous, a little excited. I throw my arms open wide. Well, sometimes I have to force them open. But still, arms open wide. Ready. It’s going to be good. Embrace this. You are needed and you are necessary. Embrace it. But at the very first sign of spikiness, I deflate. How do I embrace this? It’s hard. How do I embrace the hard parts? The scary parts? The unanswered calls for help?
I looked up other words for embrace in the thesaurus. Maybe I was searching for a milder version of the word. And I found the word cradle. Which immediately reminded me of cradling my babies in my arms. I remembered when my middle child had colic. How hard it was when she howled in the middle of the night for hours on end. How I walked endless circles in this house with her held tight against me. Still she cried. But I cradled her in my arms anyway. I didn’t release and recoil. I embraced the colic. Embraced the prickliness. I embraced her. Walked with her. Bounced with her. Sang to her. Tried everything to soothe her. But did not let go.
I didn’t have the same relationship with the Lord back then, but I am convinced He heard those middle of the night pleas of my heart and soul to “please, for the love of everything, let her stop crying and go to sleep,” as actual prayers. And He listened anyway. Because in about three weeks time, that little baby stopped crying in the middle of the night and started to sleep like a champ.
And so I wrote the word EMBRACE on my arm in sharpie. A hidden reminder under my sweater as I headed into another day, another classroom. Embrace it. All of it. The expected and the unexpected. Don’t let go. Shoot out silent “please for the love of everything, make it stop” prayers through the day if necessary. He will listen. Embrace. Walk with it. He will listen. Bounce with it. He will listen.
And then, finally, a moment of hope. From an eleven year old boy. “Ms. M. we were really happy to see you were our sub today.” I smiled. Accepted that compliment. And felt the hope. Because there was hope. There is hope. There is always hope in the embracing of all that He puts in my life. It will get better. It will be easier to embrace. And even if it isn’t, it will still be good. Because there will still be hope. Because in leaning in to Him when it gets “prickly”, and embracing it all anyway, there will always be something good.
And then, after your brief suffering, the God of all loving grace, who has called you to share in His eternal glory in Christ, will personally and powerfully restore you and make you stronger than ever. Yes, He will set you firmly in place and build you up. 1 Peter 5:10 (The Passion Translation)