After completing the courses for a teaching credential, I discovered, as I journeyed down the application- interview road, that there was a snag at the state credentials office. By the time it was straightened out, the schools where I'd hoped to work had filled their open positions, and it looked as if I wouldn't be able to find a job.
When I face frustrations and obstacles, I love to turn to God in prayer. After many years as a stay-at-home mom, I'd found quiet communion with the Father very helpful in finding the time and funding to return to school. In fact, it was this gentle process of prayer and expectant listening for God's answer that had led me to change my application from a high school to an elementary school credential - and hence the delay at the state office.
Driving down the freeway one August day, I had a conversation with myself that went something like this: "I know that the direction I received from God to teach younger children was good. I've worked hard to prepare, and I have a lot of wonderful things I can't wait to share with students. There must be a place for me, because what I would give as a teacher would be a kind of love. Surely God would want that."
At about that moment, I realized I had missed my exit, which made it necessary to double-back on a local street. Waiting for a light to change, I noticed a small private school. I hadn't thought of teaching in a private school, but I had the feeling that I should go in and apply, even though there was only a week left before school would start.
When I walked into the office, a woman who I thought was a clerk was sitting at the front desk. I asked for an application, and she said, "What are you looking for?" I explained that I had done student teaching in the third and fourth grades. Her eyebrows shot up and she said, "Yes. I have a position open for a third and fourth grade combination class."
It turned out that the "clerk" was actually the school principal - and she gave me a brief interview on the spot. I filled out the application and received a phone call that same afternoon to tell me that the position was mine. Later, the principal told me that, when I'd walked in, she had been on the phone desperately trying to find someone to fill that position.
Teaching that combination class was one of the happiest experiences of my career, and the experience of finding it has become a touchstone when I face a block to progress. After reading "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," written by the founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, I came to understand more clearly the power of prayer and reasoning about our place and purpose. She wrote, "The Father in secret is unseen to the physical senses, but He knows all things and rewards according to motives, not according to speech" (pg. 15).
That day in the car, I didn't pray for just a job so I could pay my bills - although that was certainly a need. I prayed for an opportunity to share with children a love for learning. This asking was a pure motive, a yearning for an opportunity to love. And an unforeseen way immediately opened up to fill this kind of position - with such precision that I was in exactly the right place at exactly the right time, to meet exactly the right person.
At the end of the year, one of my colleagues said kindly about me, "She doesn't just teach ... she loves her kids forward."
I like to think that our purpose is to love forward, beyond whatever obstacles are in our way; to imagine and then joyfully determine a career built on consciously expressing the qualities of patience, persistence, imagination, wonder, and gratitude.
I've taught for over a decade now, and when I hear new teachers worry that in this economy there is no place for them, I can honestly assure them that God always has a place for those who are willing to follow His lead. Praying for them, I remember Mrs. Eddy's statement, "Working and praying with true motives, your Father will open the way" (pg. 326).