A Decade of "Retirement"…

I realized this afternoon that the beginning of the next year will mark the end of my first decade in retirement. Who would have ever known the journey that I would have traveled when I made that decision to leave the classroom ten years ago? Or at least I thought I was leaving….

The first six months of retirement require that you not work for the state during that time period. I took the opportunity to go on a chartered trip to six different major league baseball games in seven days. It was a most enjoyable trip and I got to go to places I might have never seen otherwise.

At the end of that six month period, I was fairly certain that I wanted to keep active by substitute teaching. I remember my first assignment, working for a seventh grade teacher that I’d ended my career with just the year before. There were more ample opportunities to substitute I found and it seemed to be an easy enough job to work only when I had the desire to.

One summer day I was at the local cafe and saw a principal whose son I had taught and she inquired as to whether or not I’d be interested in doing an maternity leave for one of her teachers at an elementary school. That job would be the first of five maternity leaves that I did at three different schools, with each one lasting approximately six weeks.

In yet another situation, a teacher was retiring in October from the school I had last worked at before retiring. I was asked to work for a nine week period and then a replacement would be found. Well the nine weeks came and went and a replacement wasn’t secured, so I ended up working that position for 3/4 of the school year.

The following year, another middle school in the district had a teacher vacate his position after the first half of the year and they needed someone to teach eighth grade science for the second half of the year. I accepted that position and can honestly say it was probably one of the most difficult positions I’ve held. But the end result was that the students did quite well on their end of grade exam and that left me with a good feeling for what I’d done.

There were several other medical leaves I handled for teachers, two of them at the beginning of the school year. They were either at the school I had last worked at or for teachers I knew well, which made them quite a bit easier. I will have to say it’s a bit hard to leave a group that you started the year with, but it comes along with the territory.

I got an opportunity three years ago to teach fifth grade science every day for half a day. It was at a school I had become familiar with through having done three maternity leaves there. It was also my good fortune during one half of one year to get to teach alongside my daughter, who was the media coordinator at the school before accepting another position. That gig lasted for two years, including the challenging last year, which was in a single wide trailer. At the end of last school year, the school was able to hire a full time teacher, so that job came to a close.

The most recent position that I held was at an elementary school. The principal who have given me my first interim position was herself doing an interim at an elementary school I’d never worked at before. The job was teaching fourth grade science and social studies and I’d be needed for the first nine weeks of the school year. That nine weeks came and went without them securing another teacher, so I ended up working there the whole first half of the year.

I was informed a couple of weeks before Christmas break that the system had secured another teacher for the position and that my services would no longer be needed after the first of the year. I had actually anticipated that I might have this position for the remainder of the school year, but such was not the case. I can say without a doubt that this was the hardest position I’ve had to leave. I was blessed to have the opportunity to work with two extraordinary teachers and a wonderful group of kids and I will very much miss them the second half of the year.

So as I begin the new year, for the first time in two and a half years, I’ll just go back to substitute teaching again. I have checked into the automated system that informs you of vacancies and have as of yet to been assigned my first sub job, which I’m sure will come at some point in the next couple of weeks.

I like to post pictures on social media when I work at various schools and I’ve adopted the hashtag #redefiningthewordretirement . And I suppose that’s what I’ll be doing in the weeks, months, and years ahead. God only knows what avenues that journey will take.

David Lee

The Seasons in our Lives….

“To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven.”

During the past several months, I have become more aware of the seasons we all experience in our lives. Just like the seasons of the calendar year, we go through various seasons in our journey. And as sure as fall transitions into winter, winter into spring, we all move from one of life’s seasons into another.

There are those seasons in our lives when everything seems to be going rather well. All things are falling into place, we find ourselves joyful and full of life. We learn to cherish those times, for as sure as we are certain this is where we want to stay, those seasons are destined to change.

There are those seasons quite the opposite, where nothing seems to be going as planned. Failed relationships, physical ailments, and the like can send us reeling into a time of uncertainty and despair. While we don’t like to linger long in these places of darkness, they too are a part of the fabric of our lives. And we realize that these difficult times too shall pass.

The key is to be able to live in whatever the present moment might be and to take each day, whether it be good or bad, as it comes to us. Certainly our journeys are not meant to filled with continual light or darkness. There are lessons to be learned in each of our seasons that can be learned in no other period of time.

So just for today, I’ll accept the season I’m going through as a natural part of the flow of life and be appreciative of all life has to offer.

David Lee

Detours in the Journey

For the first time in a couple of years, I’m not preparing to start a new school year. No bulletin boards to plan, no meetings to attend, no thoughts on what I’ll be doing the first days of class. Another transition time for me, going back to subbing instead of teaching every day. It is a part, perhaps a detour, in this journey of my life.

I sometimes wonder if I made the right decision nine years ago when I decided to retire. I was fifty-one years old at the time and after much contemplation, felt it was the thing to do. I’ve had the opportunity since that point to fill eleven interim positions, ranging in duration of several weeks to three-fourths of the school year. And I’m thankful for each one of those opportunities I’ve had.

Of one thing I am sure – in each situation I’ve found myself in during my post-retirement years, I’ve been exactly where I was supposed to be to fill in for whatever the length of time was to be. I know subbing from day-to-day will be different, but once again, feel that’s a part of my journey as well.

And God only knows what the coming school year will hold. I hold my faith in Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

To Be or Not To Be: The Good Samaritan

I’ve been thinking recently about my response when I’m out and about and someone asks for money. This on the heels of our Gospel lesson and excellent sermon on the story of the good Samaritan this past Sunday. Earlier this week, I was approached at a convenience store by a man who said he needed “money for he and his wife to get home,” and I responded that I didn’t carry any cash on me, which was a lie. And yes, I wondered whether I had made the right choice in my response.

So this morning I’m given another opportunity to test the lesson learned in church on Sunday. I’m in a Dollar General getting some items and am approached by a man who simply says “How are you doing?” I responded “Just fine.” He was carrying a package of socks and seemed to be looking for some other items.

The man said that he realized he was a black man (which to me, at least, didn’t make any difference) and related that he’d just been released from prison. He showed me his ankle bracelet as proof of his story. He told of several places that he’d been to for assistance and showed me a card where he had applied for a job. And yes, he wanted to know if I had any spare change.

Without hesitation, I opened my wallet and saw that I had a $10 bill, which I gladly gave to him. He seem somewhat hesitant when my opened wallet revealed a police badge, which I carry as a reminder of my son, who is a police officer. He thanked me kindly and asked that Jesus bless me. As I approached the check-out, he was in front of me in line. I shared with him several organizations that might be of help and told him it might be best to stay away from one establishment where he had applied for a job. We both then went on our way.

So the story in Sunday’s sermon had played itself out twice in my life. In one case, I didn’t offer assistance, in the other I did. I cannot tell you why I chose to respond in the way I did. I guess intuition has a lot to do with it. And knowing that we’re always given a second chance in this life.

I saw that the man had been able to purchase a few more items with the funds I had given him. As I left, I saw the vehicle he was going to be returning to and on this day, although I didn’t think to say it, I hope Jesus blesses him as well.

David Lee

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Trusting in the Journey…

Life can have many twists and turns. There are all kinds of plans you can make, but ultimately there’s little control you have over the outcomes of what lies ahead. Not that plans aren’t good to make; just don’t get your heart and mind set on a specific outcome.

Case in point: Nine years ago I decided to retire from the teaching profession. I had no concrete plans as to what I would do with my time, but thought it was time to retire. Now here I am, nine years later, still in the classroom on a daily basis.

My short term goal was to substitute teach from time-to-time. While that has been a part of the journey, there have been other opportunities I’ve come upon. Eight maternity leaves, two surgical leaves, one assignment that last 3/4 of a school year, and another that lasted 1/2 a year. None of which were in my plans, but made their way to me.

For the past two years, I’ve been teaching all day, half a day. It’s a job I’ve really enjoyed and like to think I’ve done a good job. But due to circumstances that have nothing to do with my performance, that assignment will come to a close at the end of this school year. And once again, I’ll go back to substituting….at least that’s my current plan.

I have faith in a God that knows exactly what’s going on in my life. And if it’s to the better good of myself and others, another opportunity will present itself. I know that regardless of what is in front of me, there is a Good Shepherd who watches over me. And that makes all the difference in my life perspective.

I am thankful for the many opportunities I’ve been given and hope that I’ve made a lasting, positive impression on those whose lives I’ve come into contact with during this time. I’ll keep my eyes opened to the future with the assurance that all will be well and that I’m never alone in my journey.

David Lee

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