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She’s my Deborah

Positively Speaking

A month from today, as I write this, I am officially retired from 52 years of caring for and teaching other people’s children and parents. Wow! That is a long time to have car seats in the car and be changing poopy diapers.

It was plan B. I am retiring without finding my career job. You know, the one where you make upwards of $60-70 thousand dollars when you count in all the benefits; the one that looks good on the resume.  It’ s a position of influence and responsibility that came with perks.

Caring for children and coaching families started when I was eleven, actually. I don’t remember the name of the first family. I do remember where they lived (two doors away), that there was a stack of Playboy magazines by the toilet in the main bathroom, and I earned a glorious fifty cents an hour, seventy cents after midnight.

Family Care Specialist, as I eventually listed it for the IRS, was plan B.

Yes, I’m educated and have yet to earn back what it cost me. I have a teaching certificate and a Masters degree, another fifty credits towards a Masters in Children’s Drama, and another fifty three credits in theology beyond my Masters in Christian Education. On my days off I did youth work. Always, I did music simultaneously. The financial return was nil.

According to the world, I’m a failure. I made a poor choice in marriage partnering myself with a man who abused me financially all the while running through eighty thousand dollars my mother gave him to go to school. (No, I was not invited to his graduation). When I went to work to compensate for his lack of provision for our family, I made the innocent mistake of believing that when I found co workers exploiting me sexually or stealing drugs from supplies prescribed to mediate hyperactivity of the children being served, my superiors would be interested and call me a shero for being brave enough to report that my co workers were in a world of hurt.

Nah...I would come to find that workers like me were not given employee of the month rewards, but instead called whistleblowers and retaliated against. Nobody likes them, I discovered.

So why do I feel like a success? Why do I so love what I’ve experienced in my work life and get teary eyed and nostalgic when I see the last two days on the calendar, with the last two families, who are aging out as they say in the business? I have seen the best of humanity in unguarded and utterly vulnerable moments. Special needs and typical families that rise to the challenges of going over, under, around and through situations that require super human determination. I have seen parents develop new skills to develop their children’s strengths. I have had hugs around my neck from wee ones and heard ‘you’re OK’ from teens.  I’ve seen them move beyond the death of a child, or a marriage.

Pretense did not exist in my work world. Countless moments of easing working parent guilt and encouraging kids to talk about their feelings, sticky hands that are learning new techniques in cooking and tears of frustration when children don’t feel heard or parents are feeling lost. Reassuring hundreds that what counts is unconditional love.
See, out in the world, school, business, church, social organizations, everyone has a bit of a facade on. Me? I’ve been in the middle of real truth, transparent pain and complete rejoicing at the conquering of seemingly impossible hurdles. In my work world, I’ve gotten to see real life. I’ve gotten to see real victory in people’s lives. I’ve gotten to love people in real and tangible ways.

For three years, three glorious years,  I was a pastor. There, too, I went right into their homes. I had the joy of seeing people rise to the best they never thought they could do. People who wanted more real faith, better relationships in their families, deeper transformation of their weaknesses. Love is stronger than death, I learned there.

I did spend four wonderful years as a stay at home Mom when all four of my children were young. Even then, babysitting coop and coop preschool as well as two open adoptions, had me living with other people’s lives in my lap and my heart.

When I started my work career I wasn’t very good at standing up for myself. I’ve grown too. Most people are shocked at the change. I just don’t let people walk over my boundaries anymore. I set limits. I’ve learned to feel comfortable with that.

Now in retirement, I will live out Plan A.  I’ll make a lot of money in the next few decades, but looking back, I will cherish forever 52 years of going into people’s homes and, when they were least expecting it, teaching them the only thing that matters is love, and encourage them to not just survive, but live victoriously.

As I wrote in a children’s book I authored several years ago called, “She’s my Deborah”, “She says she will love me even when she doesn’t come to my house anymore.”

Yes I will... all of you...yes I will..