I am twenty years old. I stand at the pier, surrounded by friends of my own age. Each one eagerly scans the horizon, wondering which ship the hopeful waters will send their way. Anticipation fills the air; a smidge of apprehension hides within each heart.

One by one the ships come. I watch as some board those bound to college and career. Mostly, I watch as they climb aboard ships that waltz them to an altar where they say two small words that form a life-long commitment.

But mine has a different name, a different purpose. Its voyage lands me on the other side of the world, provides me with four thrilling, high-action, grueling, adventurous years of participating in God’s work on the foreign field. This voyage has a peculiar feeling about it; I know it is changing the course of my life.

Four years later I find myself back on the pier, waiting for a new ship to peek its head over the horizon. One comes, and whisks me away to an unnoticed Bible college in the Southeast. Outwardly, I stay put; inwardly, I am navigating unchartered waters of exploring the heart of God and learning to love Him through the expansion of my mind.

Once more, four years after setting-sail, I find myself on that familiar pier. Again I wonder what the next ship will hold. I look around me, and nearly all of my peers are well into their voyage of marriage and family. I look within me and see that desire for a “normal” ship is increasing, as is my want to nurture another through mothering. I wonder if this is the time that God will bring that ship along.

But the current sends a different vessel. I catch a glimpse from afar. It is easy to notice because of the 19 sets of arms that are flailing from its deck and for the particular shrill of a Jr. High girl’s scream. It reaches out and grabs me as it sails past. I wonder if I know what I’m in for.

As I settle in, I realize that this ship involves much more than being a teacher. For besides instructing about poetry, predicate adjectives, and personification, we look to the Word of God to learn about faith, godliness, and eternity. We live life together and I learn what it means to have a roomful of eyes watching my every action.

One day, a student slips up and calls me “mom.” We laugh. Later, I ponder it. Maybe this ship is not just what I would have asked for, but perhaps it’s not so different as I once thought. I draw and enforce boundaries. I dry tears. I listen to excited stories. I correct when needed. I cheer with success and hurt with difficulties. I referee; I coach; I teach. Sounds a bit like being a mom.

Perhaps it is not the way I had charted my course those nine years ago, but maybe it holds more of what I long for than I ever thought it would. It is where this voyage has brought me. And I will embrace it.

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