Decluttering a drawer today I found a small bag containing postcards which I collected three years ago at Mount Rushmore. I purchased these items because every year when I taught my first graders about said mountain, someone would always ask, “Is this place really real?” My answer was always “yes.” Then they would ask, “Have you been there?” My answer was always “no.”

So three years ago after school got out I drove my son to Wyoming, dropped him off with strangers to be a ranch hand for the summer and drove on, by myself, to Mount Rushmore. This trip was one of great courage for me. I had never gone on a road trip by myself, and would have never done it in MY car (which was over ten years old) for fear of breaking down and being stuck all alone in the middle of nowhere. Nevertheless, I got into my 2003 Volvo and drove. When I got home I stuck the bag in a drawer (because no teacher wants to think about school two weeks in the summer vacation) and went on with my temporary summer custodial job at my church.

Today while exploring the contents of that small plastic gift shop bag, I was filled with a plethora of feelings.

I felt sadness, because during that summer of custodial work I decided to take a step of faith and quit my teaching job in order to rest. My mind needed space to process, allowing it a place to work on my personal life which was rather a mess. Melancholy hit like a ton of bricks remembering those sweet six and seven year olds with their toothless smiles and hearts eager to learn, to love and to be loved. It was a season in my life filled with joy and although going back to that job is not a part of my plan, I do not regret even a minute of the time I spent with those children.

I felt proud, confident in myself because while I was cleaning toilets for the people who come to church each Sunday, I was searching. Searching for God, searching my heart, searching for purpose, and dreaming. Three years later, I know what I am supposed to do with the rest of my life (okay… maybe just this part of the rest of my life), and I am finally stepping out in courage to do what it takes to actually start following those dreams.
It has been difficult.
It has been scary.
It has been worth every dirty stinking toilet scrubbed clean.
While still a mess, my life is so much better than it was three years ago. Time to stop and rest was incredibly necessary as I climbed the mountains of self-doubt and fear. Now that I my heart and mind are in better shape, I am ready to face more challenges as I courageously follow my heart and God wherever He leads.

Mount Rushmore was constructed by courageous men who had a dream. Whether a dream to draw in sightseers, to build big statues, to take big risks or to simply feed their families, these men were full of courage and didn’t let a mountain get in their way.  I am grateful for their example.

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