Years ago we moved to a large city in order for our three children, then in middle and high schools, to attend an artsy school that focused on freedom
in spirituality and creative expression. The teachers and students were an eclectic mix of interesting people with fascinating lives; we were excited to
have our kids share in their journey. The cost of tuition was more than our family could absorb, so during the interview, I found myself blurting out that I’d love to teach in exchange for some of the cost. The principal studied my eager face and asked, not about my qualifications, but my passions.
As if in a dream, I heard myself spilling over with enthusiasm about teaching elementary art. Art? Yes, they’d just lost their art teacher and a replacement was needed. I was qualified to teach creative writing and public speaking, but here in this surreal whirlwind of unfolding circumstances, was signing on to bring weekly art classes to each elementary classroom in a school characterized by their support for the arts. I’d officially gone mad.
While driving the several hours back home after that interview, I went cold with pure, raw fear.
WHAT was I thinking back there?!?!? What could have possessed me to suggest such a crazy arrangement……and what was wrong with THEM for agreeing with it??? I wrapped each valid question in prayer and left them to percolate…..wandering again into that place in my heart that had dared to suggest such a thing. I had felt REALLY alive back there…..something rose up inside me and danced all over that room until we were all believing the music.
In the days that followed, ideas and insights would bubble up from that ridiculously joyful place in my heart as I packed and cleaned and hustled through the details of moving a household. Soon, exhausted by busyness and goodbyes, it became harder to duck each time chilling accusations taunted me: “WHO do you think you ARE?” My knuckles white on the steering wheel, I traveled the road to my new home with a resolve grown thin with fatigue and anxiety. My hidden buttons were going off like a switchboard.
Within a few days, school began and students and parents began filing into a large gymnasium for the opening assembly. New teachers were introduced individually. When I was announced as the new elementary art teacher, loud expectant applause jolted me like an electric shock. I almost died of intimidation. Art classes were a big deal to these people….if I was going to fail and disappoint, it was going to be in a large way, embarrassing my children. Good Lord, what had I gotten myself into?
My husband headed back home to continue with his job and prepare our house to sell. I felt very much alone in a new city with a small rented house, three transitioning teenagers and a terrifying new job. There was also an intoxicating sense that I was uncurling cramped wings and spreading them wide until damp feathers began reaching to catch an updraft. I prayed for huge, enormous, massive grace. It came…..bright red and on wheels.
My shiny red wagon soon became my trademark. Rattling down sidewalks and hallways, buckets of paints, markers and supplies jangling and clattering in a tipsy tumble of happy potential, it seemed to clamor loudly “anything worth doing is worth doing badly at first.” God himself seemed to call through the clatter “Your worth is not on trial here; it’s settled. No more hunched shoulders, cringing and waiting for the ax to fall. I’ve got you…..I’ll cover you.” And He DID in amazing ways…..and gave those kids (and me) an education that birthed so much more than pretty pictures. There was rich, raw life in it; creativity was released in the rumpus.
The noise and rhythm of red wagon grace helped me to slide into that childlike place where all the best stuff comes from….that playful wonder where impossibility becomes fingerpaint in messy, hopeful hands.
Years have passed since those magic-filled days. When we started our business, the red wagon came along, helping me carry my tools to dig and plant new gardens. The waters beneath me seemed deeper and more dangerously churning now. There was more to risk. More to lose. And again, fierce more-than-enoughness covered and kept me.
I recently found myself feeling drawn to pull out my wagon again. This morning I sat down beside it and ran my hands over it’s worn, paint-spattered surface still smelling a little of cow manure compost. I got the funny sensation that it’s ready to set out on another adventure, like I used to feel with my guitar when a new song wanted to be born. It’s full of stories now….just waiting to see if I’ll find the courage to tug them out and write them down. Taking another deep breath, I grab the handle and start to pull….leaning into letting the wild rumpus start!