Footprint #3 - The summer that I graduated from college, no schools were hiring. It was RIGHT after 9/11 happened, and everyone was panicking. Budgets were being tightened, no one was changing jobs, etc....you all know all of that stuff. But I was getting married that summer too, so I needed a job. I soon found one outside of my field that I enjoyed as well. I had worked at Morton Buildings in high school, and that place seemed like a second home to me. I love those people. But, soon after that, my husband accepted a great job in Tennessee. So, we moved to TN & then back again after only a month. (To read more on that story, read Day 5 Things I'm Thankful For post.) After this move back, I began to substitute teach. Honestly, this is where my teaching education really began. I worked mostly at a small school (one teacher per grade), and the atmosphere among the teachers was very collaborative. I would listen to these teachers brainstorm on how to reach their students, and I was in awe at the creativity. Soon, I was filling in for longer bouts of time.
One of the students in the school had a full-time aide. He was diagnosed with autism. Her husband was military, and she would need to be gone for weeks at a time in order to see him when he was home. I filled in a lot for her. This was my first real experience with a thing called autism. He was in 3rd grade at the time, and, honestly, I was so scared. I was totally out of my realm, had no idea what I was doing, and I didn't want to do something that would upset or scar this child. My being there instead of his loved aide was difficult enough, and I didn't want to make things worse. The special education teacher (who is now a dear friend...you can read her own journey with adoption & autism at Home With Our Girl) was my main lifeline. She told me all about this boy, and what helps him. She spent A LOT of time with us, showing me tricks & tips, and I was mesmerized at the stuff I was learning. It was amazing.
I continued to substitute teach which lead me to a job as a teacher's aide at this same school. And that led to a teaching position. It was only a year (maternity leave), but it was the best. I was able to teach with my new hands-on education from subbing, and it was the first time that I felt confident in my abilities as a teacher. After that ended, I was offered a position as an aide again. This time, it would be for the boy who had autism that I had spent so much time getting to know. His aide was moving, and they wanted me for her replacement. I was flattered that they thought so much of me to offer me this honor, but I still didn't feel comfortable being in the special ed realm. I had no training or qualifications or experience. So, I turned the job down.
Heartbroken that after 3 years of substitute teaching and no permanent teaching position, I decided to leave the education world. I once again sought out Morton Buildings and secured a full-time, steady job that I loved, and I worked there until I was placed on bed rest during my pregnancy. We were planning on me being a stay-at-home mom anyway, so it seemed like the best time to make my leave.
Footprint #4 - After becoming a mother, my spiritual life rocketed. I saw God through new eyes, and I fell in love with him in a brand new way. I spent hours rocking Ethan while reading my Bible, praying and singing. Songs like, "Jesus Loves Me" would bring me to the ugly cry because I got it. If God loves me the way I loved my child......it was just overwhelming to say the least. Shortly after this, a friend asked me to participate in a intense weekly bible study. It was a more like a college course for new Christians, but they were implementing it at our church for anyone who wanted to take it. It rocked my world. I told Corey that it filled in holes....questions that I had always had......and I felt like I understood my faith in a complete & whole way. This course taught me how to STUDY the Bible, not just read it.
I would study the Bible during Ethan's nap time. During one session, after I had read the Bible, I confessed to God that I hadn't given him all of me. After we had trusted in God to lead us to TN & the mess that that was, I was a little leery on giving God full access again. I wanted to be in control of my own path. He was more than welcome to come with me & be right along side me, but I wanted to choose where I was going. During this session with God, I gave that back to him. And as I was sobbing from past wounds & a new surrender, I remember feeling his arms wrap around me in a hug, and in his still small voice, I heard him say, "I love you, Jessica. I will use you right where you are." I will NEVER forget that moment. My heart was now ready for God to direct my paths.