The day started exactly 39 minutes later than usual. For the second day in a row, my alarm clock failed me. Of course, I thought it was a fluke on Tuesday morning — and then was too busy to check it to be certain before going to bed, counting on its usual reliability once again. I awoke at 5:09 this morning in an absolute panic. I had no way on the planet of getting coffee made, lunches packed, gym bag readied, and myself out the door by 5:45 a.m.
Then I remembered the student papers I had left, spread all over the school office table. When I had returned to finish grading them yesterday after teaching my final class, I had found the office occupied by a random teacher/parent conference. By the time they had finished, the school work day was over, and I had but time to grab my laptop and cell phone and leave school before heading to a varsity basketball game that night. I determined the best course of action: Forego the workout and get to school early to finish grading those papers before someone else can claim your time.
I was almost on track to leave at my designated time when I grabbed my cooler and realized I’d forgotten to put a portion of my husband’s lunch into his cooler. Did I have time to get to his work and still get to my work early enough to grade papers before my student drop-off duty?
I didn’t think I had a choice. I sent a text, didn’t get a response, and still headed to the nursing home where my husband practices physical therapy. I was close to a panic, realizing that I likely would arrive at my school only on time when I had wanted to arrive early. I determined to control my frustration and trust God’s timing. I parked at my husband’s facility, lunch portion in hand, and realized the door was locked. I called my husband. No answer. I saw a nurse approach and asked her if she would allow me to enter with her.
“I forgot to put an item in my husband’s lunchbox,” I explained. (How lame am I — drat that Acts of Service love language!) Thankfully, she let me walk through the door with her, no questions asked. I then went into the therapy area, saw no employees, entered the office area, saw no employees, and then entered the storage area, and still saw no employees. But in that last area, I saw my husband’s cooler, and so I simply put the item in his cooler and tried to leave. I was locked in. Thankfully, another employee was entering, and I asked if she would let me out.
“I am not a patient,” I said.
She believed me. I was free. Surprisingly, I drove away from the facility and hit every green light on the way to school. Despite how the morning had begun, I felt God was smiling on me.
I arrived at school about 20 minutes early, went straight into the office, and started grading papers. A couple of minutes later, a colleague arrived and said, “Is this where (such and such) committee is meeting?”
“I have no idea; I am simply trying to get my grading done before I have to do drop-off duty!” I am sure I sounded a bit stressed.
“OK… I will just wait,” the employee said.
I felt rude but desperate. I graded as rapidly as I could, determined to get the stack completed and packed up before I resumed my other duties. Of late, my job — the parts unrelated to actually teaching — have driven me a bit crazy. My colleague Diana and I had graciously given up our small office to the grammar teacher assistants, who had been residing in the hall. Diana and I took the former headmaster’s office, knowing it also could serve as a conference room. Mistake. We had no idea how often it would be in use. Too often — and I mean that with my whole heart — I spread out my papers to grade or open my laptop only to find a meeting about to take place. I have to gather everything quickly into a pile and lose all semblance of any progress I may have made. Or I walk away — perhaps to teach a class — and return to find everything I need to complete locked inside the office with random groups of people. Time wasted. Sigh.
Thankfully, I managed to grade the papers — not enter the grades in my gradebook, which means I still couldn’t return the papers to students — but at last the deed was done. Between classes and during lunch, I managed to grade the rest of the stack and, by the end of the day, actually enter the grades into the computer. Finally. A productive day.
As I was driving home, I thought of how my day had begun and how I longed for some breathing room in my schedule. I remembered the days when I had gone deeply into God’s Word and how that had strengthened me for the day. Not today. Today was a rapid wake-up followed by work, work, work. But it wasn’t a bad day. At all.
The car radio was on, Christmas carols were blaring, when suddenly “For the Beauty of the Earth,” a modern rendition of an old hymn I sang as a child, came on. I immediately started singing, noted the song was a bit high, employed my diaphragm for breathing, and found myself able to sing strongly and beautifully without difficulty. The moment made something click in my brain.
Breathing. Deep breathing from the diaphragm, as Mrs. Udell, my voice teacher, told me, is what allows me to reach high or low notes or hold a note for a length of time — with ease. I can sing like a pop star, all throat, no diaphragm — but I am more likely to injure my ability to sing. Or I can relax my throat, breathe deeply, and allow the music to flow.
When I did that in the car, I realized that my spiritual life is very much like singing. When I allow for that breathing room in my schedule — as I so longed for today — I am able to breathe in God’s Word and His presence and His strength. I can walk through the highs and lows and hold on for lengths of time when I am breathing correctly. I am still figuring out what “breathing correctly” means as a Christian. I don’t think waking up too late for a sit-down with my heavenly Father means I’ve missed breathing correctly. Even though I had some moments of stress today, I was immensely aware of God’s presence and felt His loving care as I worked to be effective.
I still remember the lessons Mrs. Udell taught me; they stick in my mind and help me correct my form when I begin to sing. I don’t have the privilege of having her or another voice teacher in my life currently, but the same is not true of God’s Word. I have access to it and to the Holy Spirit, and I can daily walk in His presence — whether my nose is the Bible or His Word is simply hidden in my heart and running through my mind.
While I hope my alarm goes off as planned tomorrow morning, today reminds me that all is not lost. I can still breathe correctly spiritually — even when God grants me some extra minutes to sleep.