Friday, September 25, 2015

The Year of Fishing

Today I went to a professional development day at a local high school, where most of my favorite boys from last year are attending now. I like the school and what it is trying to do (strive to be better, always, just to sum it up).

Before the day even started, the campus minister got up and read that passage from the bible where Jesus walks on water. And Peter wants to, too, and Jesus calls to him to go ahead. Peter gets out of the boat, heads Jesus' way, and then falters.

I have always focused on the faltering. Always. Lack of faith.

The speaker guided us to look at that first part. The part when Peter gets out of the boat. Out of the perfectly good boat into the choppy waves. It wasn't "a boat sitting in a driveway in south county" but a boat on the Sea of Galilee. Boat's your best bet, buddy.

In order to follow Christ, in order to do what must be done, we must get out of the boat.

Of all the readings he could have chosen, biblical or later Christian writing, he chose that one to read to us today. And you know how I love connections.

I'm going fishing.

Cast your nets into deep water.

Get out of the boat.

Our speaker was Jon Gordon for the morning, and Jimmy Casas for the afternoon. They were both a little intangible compared to the past few years, but I was open to intangible today. Jon Gordon spoke about his book The Energy Bus, and how he started picking a word to focus on for the year. How focusing on a single word changes you, your actions, thoughts, perspective. It is a lens through which you see your whole life.

I have never done this, although I have done this. I can look at the last three years: hospitality, nichevo, and vulnerability. I settled on them during the summer and they guided my life throughout the year. Each year summer came along and another idea teased itself out. Each year they led to deepened faith and living with purpose. I wasn't doing it on purpose and it was only in retrospect that I saw the themes. But I like the idea of moving in a forward direction too.

He stood up there and asked us about what our word would be this school year.


A little harder to explain than "joy" or "determination." Makes it sound like I'm heading out for a weekend in waders.

I've never even been fishing. It's really just a metaphor for risk and faith and hope. But it's nicely tangible and I know what it means.

Because I'm pretty sure at this point that God is talking to me through these stories of Simon Peter's profession.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

All Caught Up

I'm having an all-caught-up evening.

My house is clean. I'm on the front porch in the 65 degree fall evening. Just finished entering my grades.

I have a full tank of gas and properly inflated tires and all the checks that were sitting around the house have been deposited. The overdue library book has been returned.

The garden is picked. A ton of green tomatoes still on the vines and it'll be several weeks before they're damaged. Let them be. They're fine.

Spent the weekend with different non-overlapping euler diagrams. Good times.

I ran my culminating 5K this morning at a cemetery. I can't quite touch the irony there, but I'm sure it's there. Running to save myself from getting there too soon? It was a beautiful morning; I ran with a friend who runs faster than I do and it was good. She slowed and I sped up and we ran together. She could still talk after the first mile; I couldn't, but I'm good at the minimal response. There were too many very large hills. It was hard at times. But I did it and now I have a time to beat. Because I'm going to do it again.

Early fall is my favorite time on my block. A few porch sitters, yes, but more of it has to do with the general sagging feeling that matches our houses under this streetlight better than hot summers or a dusting of snow. Or mud. Dry crisp evening and older brick houses with lights still on.

Bix took the girls to the zoo and Niles had a playdate. I cleaned a bit, graded a bit, played our old nintendo a bit. We had dinner at the pub we always go to, and London complained that they hadn't seen the polar bear exhibit yet. I pointed out that there is time. We could go in a few weekends. It's free and....we're here.

The cat bolted out the back door while we were weeding. She came back.

This week is a new wave. I start a class with about 2/3 of my faculty that will run long and frustrate me and everyone else but we need to take it because. And Friday I have intruder training, which I hear is quite intense and involves a SWAT team presenter. Lots of the conventional wisdom we've been believing for no good reason, I hear, is pretty much false. More on that, I'm sure, after I experience it. Brooklyn has tennis matches every day. And my parents go on a trip, leaving me without afternoon carpool.

It's good that I'm all caught up. Because I'm about to start swimming again.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Cast Your Nets

Peter:Fishing as Sally:Teaching

Winter, 2013. I didn't know what was coming next in my life. The job I thought I wanted, teaching art for just enough compensation to send Niles to preschool, building an art portfolio, using it as a possible springboard to more art teaching in the future, hadn't panned out that past autumn. In a big way.

Our relationship with the school crumbled quickly after that. I'd already pulled London out and sent her to the little school she graduated from (and Brooklyn and Niles still attend).

I was subbing in a lower-middle-class suburb. I knew I needed a classroom job for the fall, or walk away from teaching for good. I was at a sort of crossroads. Everything seemed kind of barren for me. I wondered if I could manage something else. I wondered if I was even good at anything else.

The Gospel reading that Sunday was the one where Peter and Andrew are in the boat with Jesus and he tells them to cast their nets into deep water. Fr. Miguel told the story about how we are asked to cast our own nets into deep water, see what we draw up, see what bounty we find.

I knew I needed to try again. I needed to get my life in order and my portfolio and find a teaching job. So I got to work even though it felt kind of hopeless, like a useless effort. I was older. I'd been home for 13 years. I didn't have a master's degree. Talk about deep water.

Easter Season, 2013. The Gospel reading that Sunday was the one where Peter, sitting on the shore with other disciples, gets up and says, "I'm going fishing." I'd always read that with a sort of disgust in his voice, like, damn it, I'm outta here.

But Fr. Miguel said it like he was searching. Fishing. Searching. Hunting. This is what Peter did before Christ arrived in his life. And now that seemed over. What do I know? What am I good at? I need my life to make sense again and fishing was part of what made sense. I need to go do the one thing I know how to do.

I left that mass kind of shaken. I'm going teaching. It's the one thing I know what to do and I need my life to make sense again and I need to get this done. Now.

That week I got the permanent sub job out west, teaching in an art classroom for what was probably the only time I would be paid to teach art. And it was fun and perfect and poignant. Right after that job, I got the job I have now. Catholic school. Huge pay cut. Lots of fringe benefits--intangibles, you might say. In many ways, it has been a soft place to land, to start again, to go back to what I know from before.

This week, my class went to mass on Thursday.

The weekday reading was cast your nets into deep water. Again. I thought about Fr. Miguel's words from 2 1/2 years ago. I listened to the school's pastor's words, which were nearly the same. Cast your damned nets into deep water, Sally. Go outside your comfort zone. Do what seems contrary or useless or hopeless and see what God brings.

I drove to London's tennis match thinking about it. On the way home, she mentioned she'd gone to mass as well that afternoon during her activity period. Served mass, in fact. Got donut holes afterwards as a reward. And she talked about the Gospel. Cast your nets.

I'm not a "God gives me a sign" kind of girl. But I thought about fishing and teaching and how easy and comfortable my job is and how I am very very uncomfortable with the comfort. I thought about Peter on the shore searching for something that would fit, something that made sense. I felt like that, like I was uncomfortably waiting for something else bad to happen. And instead I needed to go do what I do best.

I need to go fishing.

I need to cast my nets into deep water.

I think I have a chance to draw up a catch beyond what I can hold.