Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.
I’m swimming in a beige and navy sea of crepe. Covering the coffee table and my living room floor, the cloth is on loan from Ingraham High School’s drama department. It was given to me with a pattern on the understanding that I would turn it into a blouse for an anonymous villager in their production of Beauty and the Beast. The blue twill skirt, last week’s project, presented challenges of its own, so I look with apprehension at this new pattern. I frown at the neckline, the gathered sleeves, the elastic. Tricky.
Still, I know the first steps. Iron the fabric. Unfurl it across table and floor. Pin patterns to fabric along the arrowed grain. Cut it all out. I take a deep breath and begin, aware as I do so how many years of teaching are behind each of these motions. Lying on gold carpet, mountains outside, I’m seven and cutting a tote bag out of red corduroy for a home school sewing project. An olive green dress emerges from Arlayne’s and my fingers just in time for the senior prom. Grandma shows me how to save time on quilt squares for Dahlstrom Recycled Christmas 2007. Every stitch has brought me to this moment with the plaid, giving me the courage to proceed because I’ve learned so much already.
I’m considering the metaphor as I keep cutting, in straight lines, the ease of the first few steps allowing my mind to wander. To long races, and the coaches who always told me to put on my shoes before I did anything else. To misty mountain hikes, where the pass was invisible but this rock-strewn switchback was clear enough. To algebra problems that threatened to keep me in the seventh grade, then the mysterious day when I understood that mere mortals didn’t see the whole problem at once. They knew only the first step.
It holds true now, also, in larger arenas than sewing. I didn’t imagine that I would like teaching when I studied it in college, but knew that the next step was a six-month classroom internship. Only when I arrived could I see that teaching was fun because there were students. I’d never have known from the step before.
Three months ago, I had no idea if I should leave Ingraham, this school where I have learned to love teaching, to pursue the myriad unknowns of teaching Christian middle schoolers in a foreign country. The only clear leading I had was to begin the process. Fill out an application. Pray. Fill out another. Ask others to pray.
I go back and forth with God over how much clarity I’d like for the future. There are days when I wouldn’t mind having it all laid out there, the next year or five or ten. I could brace myself for the disappointments, anticipate the successes like a child at Christmas. Most of the time I’m happier not knowing. The most glorious moments I can remember have been around corners I never thought I’d see, through doors I hadn’t dreamed of choosing. There have been splendors. There will be more.
In the end, it isn’t up to me, the seeing ahead. I’m here for next steps only.