With retirement a month from today, I am reflecting back on some of the formative times when the narrative began.  Monica and I grew up in the same church and met when the three one-room schools were consolidated into the new building.  It was in January.  She was in the fourth grade, and I was in the fifth.

Even before we met, we both knew that we wanted to become Lutheran Elementary School Teachers (she of the young and me the older students).  We started dating when we were in our church’s youth group during Monica’s sophomore year at Frankenmuth High School.  After I graduated from Buena Vista High, I was off to Concordia JC in Ann Arbor while Monica finished up high school.  Following my graduation from Concordia Chicago in 1975, I stayed an extra year to get my MA in school administration while Monica got her BA in elementary education from the same school, known then as Concordia River Forest.

Our request of the placement committee was quite creative – or so we thought.  We were looking to be placed together in a small town in the Midwest, with Monica’s placement receiving a higher priority than mine.  This was back in the day when the guy was often placed in “Timbuktu” with no hope of the female ever being placed.  She was given a teaching job in Sterling Heights however no teaching positions were available for me in the entire metro area.

With our July 31 wedding date about a month away, I was told to interview for a position for which I was not trained.  It was to work as the Director of Christian Education at a church with no school.  I would coordinate Bible studies for all ages, youth ministry, and basically anything else where help was needed.  I still remember driving across 8-Mile from I-75 to Kelly wondering “what in the world I might be getting myself into”.

As it turned out, my fit at Charity was much better than Monica’s at St. Paul’s.  She was expected to teach 1st and 2nd grade in a school that had no gym, with the additional responsibilities of school music, Sunday School teacher, girls’ athletics, and youth ministry.  While she was able to get out of one or two of these areas, she was not able to convince them to change their mind in one area – that of receiving a 20% pay cut because she was getting married!

We rented an apartment on 12-Mile right across from Macomb Community College.  Every morning she would drive north to Hayes and 19-Mle while I drove south to Kelly and Morang (6 ½ Mile).  Many days I would join to assist in her after-school coaching, and then head back down to Charity for an evening meeting.

St. Paul had a supportive pastor.  And Monica made many great friends at St. Paul’s – she is still in contact with many of her students to this day.  But as July turned into August following that first year, she found herself dreading going back (because of some serious issues I won’t mention).  The problem was, we had been taught that to give a place less than two years after placement was unethical.  After much anguish and prayer, we made an appointment with Don Kell, the superintendent of Lutheran Schools in Michigan.  After telling him of the situation, he simply said to Monica, “Well, if I were you, I would resign.”  The next day she did just that.

Of course, in mid-August there were no teaching jobs available, so Monica became a cashier at a Hardware store in Detroit.  We rented a tiny house near Cadieux and I-94 and wondered what the future would bring.  A month or two later Mount Calvary Detroit called.  The husband of their kindergarten teacher was being transferred out of state.  Monica then had three wonderful years there until we started a family.  I believe it was during those years that she received a call to teach in a school in the Saginaw valley.  I also received a couple calls to serve as a DCE in Pennsylvania.  While each decision was difficult, the Lord led us to stay put each time.

I believe the entire above narrative was very formative for our marriage, our faith, and our view of life … with each chapter adding different pieces.  Growing up in the same community and church … going to different high schools (hers – lily-white and me being a minority race in mine) … being apart from each other on an every-other-year pattern for 5 years … the first year of marriage … the hardware store … being away from family and learning how to live in many different communities … Monica being highly valued in multiple settings and me in one.  We learned to be independent, yet very dependent at the same time!  And talk about learning how-to live-in faith while traversing many twists and turns.

Why is it that hindsight is so much clearer than foresight?  I think it may have something to do with our Lord’s vision and promises.  When I look back, while our life together has not been anything like we envisioned it to be growing up, we have actually been Lutheran Teachers – in settings beyond our wildest imaginations – for our entire lives together.

I have a feeling that Joshua may have had similar feelings at the end of his career … just as I believe the words spoken to him at a time of transition applied to Monica and I similarly at every turn.  “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1.9)  Which, of course, means that these words still apply to all of us at each transition point … whether planned by us or coming our way unexpectedly.

That’s enough looking back for one day … so, looking forward let me simply say, “I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” (Acts 30.32)  I will talk to you again next week.  In the meanwhile, “Be strong and courageous.”

Looking Back