All the Way, My Savior Leads Me

Ten years ago I left my first job & first career in order to pursue my second. I had spent two amazing (and difficult) years in the Yup’ik village of Tununak, Alaska teaching 2nd & 3rd grade. I’m sure I learned much more than I was able to impart to my students, but that’s another story.

I knew I wasn’t really cut out to be a teacher. I couldn’t do as good of a job as I wanted to; so I thought about what I could possibly do next. I had wanted to be a teacher since the time I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up (except that one time I said I wanted to be a ballerina…). I then remembered that when I was in elementary school I once thought that being a librarian would be an amazing job. I also remembered a time while I was in college when I was telling my fellow soon-to-be teachers about all of the books in the Scholastic book order and what I loved about them. So that’s what I settled on, I would be a librarian.

Close to this time, ten years ago, I started grad school. Nine years ago I graduated with my Master of Library Science degree. Sounds super cool, right? Eight and a half years ago I was offered a job in a place I had never been; a place I had never even thought of. Cape May County, New Jersey. I, of course, accepted it.

I could tell story upon story of all the things that happen in my typical day to day at the library: parents telling their kids they need to leave or they will get locked in and the library monster will get them; getting Storm Troopers to come to a Star Wars program we hosted; moms being surprised that I remembered their child’s name 3 or 4 years after they started going to school and stopped coming to storytime; eating bugs because kids read over 7,000 books one summer. Maybe one day I’ll write about all of those and more. But not today.

What I want to share, and try to process through for myself, is how amazing God has been through all of this.

I came to this strange place called New Jersey knowing only one person in the area. I soon connected with a family that welcomed me with open arms. God used them greatly to guide me, teach me, grow me, comfort me, and support me through these years filled with many ups and downs (and I don’t think He’s done with them yet). Through them I got connect to a church that also welcomed me with open arms. The people there became my family, as mine was so many miles away. They, too, have been used by God to help me grow in my faith, encourage me, love me, and speak truth to me.

The past eight and a half years, as I delighted in my career, as I gained loving, godly relationships, God grew me immensely. I’m not sure I would recognize the 27-year-old who came to a place she had never been all those years ago. For that I am oh so grateful. Words cannot fully describe just how much.

In a few short months, I will be moving on again. But this time I won’t be on my own. And this won’t be a big move where I know few to no people. My husband and I have bought a house and are moving closer to where he works. This has always been the plan and we are both excited for it. Excited to be living near our church family & community. Excited to have a place of our very own, to paint and decorate as we please (I may be more excited about the decorating part than he is). Excited to be close enough to friends to have them drop by just because. Excited to be more active in our community.

But this time, I will have no official job title. We will be moving outside o the county so I will no long be able to work there. I am not searching for a new job as a librarian. It has been our hope to start a family. I have been looking forward to the end of my job title as “Head Children’s Librarian” in the hopes that I could replace it with one I desire even more “Mother”. That is not the case…yet. And even in this, especially in this, God is growing me.

Why do we constantly look to titles, people and other things to fill that place that only God can? Above all else, I struggle with this. I don’t know how many times I’ve talked with others about where our true identity lies. Or even how many times I’ve written about it. Do you know why that is? Because it’s the one thing I most need to be reminded of.

In the midst of this world, I get stuck.

I get stuck thinking that my career is the most precious thing.

I get stuck thinking that if I find out one more friend is pregnant I’m going to lose it.

I get stuck thinking that if I can’t have what I want the world is going to end.

Lies. Plain and simple. Lies.

Truth:

My career has been an amazing blessing. I’ve met so many precious souls and got to work in a place & with people I thoroughly enjoyed.

I rejoice with all of my friends expecting children. They, too, are a great blessing. I preemptively ask forgiveness if I ever act strange/rude/distant around you. Some days are just harder than others.

Who is here who knows what’s best better than the Creator of it all? Don’t I remember the times when I wanted something so badly (marriage) and God said, “Not yet. He’s not who I have for you.”? Don’t I remember all of the amazing things He’s done in the past? How do I forget those so easily? Why do I get so wrapped up in this world and forget about my God?

Thankfully, He always finds away to draw me back. Sometimes it’s a sermon that sends me running to His open arms. Sometimes it’s a verse that causes me to cry out to Him. Sometimes it’s a song that reminds me of things so easily forgotten.

“All the way, my Savior leads me,
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His faithful mercies?
Who through life has been my guide
Heavenly peace, divinest comfort
Ere by faith in Him to dwell
For I know whate’er befall me
Jesus doeth all things well”

Forgive my winding trail this time around; one idea lead to the next. I’m sure you know how that goes. If not, you’ve just got an insight to my thought process 🙂

What I hope to convey to you (and to remind myself) is that if you find yourself struggling in this world; stuck in the mire and weighed down by worries, turn to the one Whose yoke is easy and burden is light. Let Him direct your path. Delight in where He leads you.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

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Dear Baba,

Two years ago today…

I didn’t write much about it because I didn’t know where to start. I had been through a lot already that month and was recovering from major surgery. I was both in shock and not surprised, if such a thing is possible. Most of my childhood memories included Baba as she lived with us since I was 4. I couldn’t write about it then, but feel drawn to write now.

Dear Baba,

Thank you for all the memories shared. For telling me about when you were a kid and how you almost broke the principal’s arm (though I’m still not sure if that’s true or not). For letting me keep you company when you were watching your “stories” and I was playing with my paper dolls. For being honest with me when I tried to make you promise that you would never die after I experienced loss for the first time; “No one lives forever, Kellie.” For looking out for me (like that time you yelled at Teresa and Kimmy for locking me outside in the pouring rain). For being generous and helping me out in college when I felt things were falling apart. For eagerly listening to me read Harry Potter to you and telling me that listening to Jim Dale read the last one couldn’t compare to me. For the money you gave me at least 7 years ago, that was to be for my wedding “or whatever you might need.” I did use it for my wedding, Baba; I found the most lovely dress. Thank you for your contribution to that day. It was more than just the dress.

My 33rd birthday was just 10 days after you left us. On that day I finally decided to set up an online dating account. Don’t worry, I was safe and didn’t let any of them come to my house on the first date and I always drove myself to meet them. I thought it would be a good use of the money I had just received, and I’m happy to say, Baba, that it was indeed. I went out with a couple of what you might call duds. They were nice and all, but not for me. And then I met him, Baba, 6 months after you had gone, I met the man who’s now my husband. Thank you, again.

I regret that you were not at our wedding and that you never got to meet Steve. You would like him, of that I have no doubt. He has a great sense of humor and he would make you laugh. And, yes, Baba, he loves me and treats me well. I’m sad that my children (when we have them, Lord willing) won’t get to grow up with you in their lives. I admit I’m a little jealous that you were at both Teresa’s & Kimmy’s weddings & that you got to meet their firstborns. Don’t worry, though, my husband and my children may not meet you, but they will know your stories. They will taste your peanut butter pie and pierogies. They will gaze upon a Christmas tree with ornaments you made hanging from it. You are not gone as long as your memories are passed along.

Thank you, Baba, for the memories.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Christmas, in Retrospect

I hope you all have enjoyed a wonder-filled Christmas season! For me, it was the first time I was not traveling at Christmastime since I as living at home with my folks some 13 years ago. I had spent most of my vacation time with family earlier in the year and I was a little relieved that I wouldn’t have to fight the holiday traffic & craziness at the airports. I love my family, don’t get me wrong (you hear that, Ma – I love you!), but have also been blessed immensely with friends here who might as well be family too.

Christmas Eve at work included a surprise visit from Santa (who was supposed to visit the local hospital but there were no kids there; a Christmas blessing, indeed), lunch with friends, and me playing various Christmas CDs on my computer (including the soundtrack to The Muppets’ Christmas Carol). After work I got home in time to pack my overnight bag, gather some goodies for the evening, make a couple last minute gifts (more info on those Friday), throw everything in the car, and head to church for music practice before the service started. After service my friends, Michael & Robin, hosted an open house. This time was full of friends, food, & fun. I spent the night there so I could celebrate Christmas morning with them and their family. It was a nice, quiet, and relaxing day that ended with some more friends coming over to have a lovely Christmas dinner of Chinese take-out. It was a wonderful couple of days; I was able to talk with my family & even video chat with some. There was much to enjoy, but I feel as if I’ve left something out. Let’s rewind (you do know what that means, right?) a bit; back to church on Christmas Eve.

This was also very special to me – being able to be a part of our Christmas Eve service. Always traveling, I had never been able to attend. Words cannot adequately express what it is like to be in a darkened chapel with 60-75 people all holding candles, singing, “Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.” It is beautiful, awesome, and powerful; realizing some 2,000 years ago the Son of God, the One who was with God in the beginning, the One who is God, humbled Himself & put aside His glory, to be born, of a virgin, as a human. He was born, as all babies are, completely vulnerable and dependent upon His earthly parents. The Lord of all creation came to us, a mere baby, because He loved us so and wanted to make things right between us and our Father again, once for all. He did not stay a baby, of course not. All babies grow up into children, and those children into men and women. This baby, this Jesus, grew into a man; a man who worked many miracles, taught many truths, and saved many lives. In fact, He’s still doing that today. This humble babe, born in a manger, grew to a man, knowing one day He would die for many; for as many as would believe in Him and call upon His name. He lived a sinless life, and when the time came, He gave up that life; no one took it from Him; He gave it up freely as a perfect sacrifice, the only sacrifice that could ever reconcile the sinful heart of man with the God who created him. Of course, we know, it doesn’t stop there. Jesus’ death was followed by His resurrection, proof that He has overcome death and the grave. And that, my friends, is what gives us hope. If He is indeed our Lord & Savior, we have the greatest hope; that we will, one day, be reunited with Him. And that, truly, is the best Christmas Gift.

I pray your Christmas was not only merry and bright, but also that you had time to reflect on what it really means and the great Gift we were all given, those many years ago, as a star shone brightly over a baby asleep on the hay.

Love & Blessings,

KJ