Have you written something as Past You, that has challenged Future You? Or, to put it more spiritually, has God ever used something you've previously written to speak to you?
This week, I've been in a bit of a quandary. I'm loving life in the country, speeding down quiet lanes to village schools to supply teach. Leaving at 4.30 or 5 with no work to bring home. More time to dream. More days to write. So, when a three day job came up at a bigger towny school nearby, I don't really know why I applied. I think, to be honest, I was seduced by the thought of better money, security and a more predictable work pattern. This, I told myself, would actually help my writing because I'd be able to plan things better. I'd know when my days off were and I'd be more productive.
I sort of forgot about all the planning, parents evenings, marking, staff meetings, display, moderation and assessments. Well, you know, I only did all that for 30 years. It's easy to forget...
Anyway, I'd done supply at this school and liked it, so I arranged a visit. The head was really nice. He remembered me. He had also moved here from London in January. Amazing! A sign?? The school was big - much bigger than the little village schools I've mainly worked in - and the staff was big too. They seemed like a friendly, happy team - much like my lovely school in London. I prayed, Should I apply for this job? Is this the right job for me? It would make a huge difference to our finances (not that we need a HUGE difference, but still!) My husband would be very happy! God smiled, but said nothing. I talked to people. They all made helpful comments. I prayed some more. Nothing.
Perhaps God doesn't mind? I applied. I got an interview. I kept praying and asking God to show me if this was the right job. Still, nothing.
I had the interview this morning. It went well. I went back to my village school this afternoon, where I was covering for Year 6, and panicked. I simply did not know what I wanted. If they offer me the job, should I take it? Would this be the sign that God wanted me to have it? If I don't get it, does that mean it's not right? Does God mind whether I take the job or not? Do I mind? Do I really want to go back to getting up at 6.30 three mornings a week and working all evening and on non-teaching days and at weekends to get everything done? What about whittling away writing time? But the extra money could buy things that might give me more writing time - a cleaner/weekends away to write in inspiring places/a course. My mind was going round in dizzying circles and I felt sweaty and hot, like a trapped insect.
In Year 6, we were talking about how to make friends. They leave next week and go on to secondary school in September. Some are excited. Some are terrified. All of them agreed they could use some time to think about friend-making. I showed them a booklet I made for my daughter when she went off to uni. I said that she had been feeling a bit anxious about making friends and I had made her this booklet to help. Here is what I showed them (a bit crumpled, at the bottom of my school bag - sorry!)
They were intrigued. I said there were 20 things in the booklet but I wasn't going to read them all out because it would take too long. A few of them could choose a number between 1 and 20 and I'd read those out. Then we'd make Advice to Self booklets for next term.
Well, these are the ones they chose: -
6. Don't pretend to be something you're not.
14. Don't sell yourself short. Never do what you think others expect to try and keep them happy. Have your own boundaries and learn to say No. 'Thanks but that's not for me' etc.
16. Trust your instincts.
18. If you don't like a situation, get out of it!
20. Love and respect yourself. If you don't no one else will.
I thought of our lives in London, what we had given up - church, jobs, friends - some so old, we'd been pregnant together, once long ago, in another life. It had hurt so much to make that move, but we'd done it because we believed God was calling my husband to another church. And that he was calling me to teach less, and write more. As we would be living in a manse, renting our London house out, we could afford it.
How could I have seriously entertained selling out on my dream so soon?
I withdrew my application.
I had asked God to speak and he did, somewhat unexpectedly, through some words I had written
long ago to my daughter. I had lost my way but he brought me back, using the very thing I had originally moved here for - my writing. How clever is that?
"What's that bit at the bottom?" one of them said, pointing.
"Ah, that bit...was written by William Shakespeare," I confessed.
I read it to them. It sums things up quite well, really, for me, for you, for all of us with dreams to write and a tendency to go off-beam at times. Thank you Will...
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Deborah Jenkins is a freelance writer and school teacher, who has written articles, text books, devotional notes and short stories. She also writes regularly for the TES. She has completed a novella, The Evenness of Things, available as an Amazon e-book and is currently working on a full length novel. Deborah loves hats, trees and small children. After years overseas with her family, who are now grown up, she lives in East Sussex with her husband, a Baptist minister, and a cat called Oliver.