Tuesday, April 10, 2012

God's Book Fair

Twenty years ago, in college, I heard a chapel speaker tell a story about having to accept God's control in the life of a family member. The question from God that she wrestled with was, "Is he yours or is he Mine?" At the time, I wrestled with that question as well in my relationship with a guy I liked at the time - a guy I'm married to today.

Fast-forward 20 years.

When I finished my first book fair as the elementary librarian at my son's school, my rep asked if we had ever considered a spring book fair. We had never done it before. My principal was game and so was I so we scheduled one as an experiment.

As it got closer, we decided to emphasize our teachers and their book needs and called the fair a Teacher Appreciation fair. I quickly discovered that this spring season at school is crazy-busy. I was tired and ready for spring break. Our music teacher was working herself weary putting together the Grandparents Day program. I started to question the wisdom of this experiment.

Then a coworker told me that she would have been upset if she was a parent at our school because we already did one fair and now we were asking parents to shell out more money for another one. A second co-worker said the same thing the week of the fair. I was surprised. I assumed that the parents would make their participation decision based on their personal budget - we were just providing an opportunity.

I know that I am book obsessed. I think there is always money for books. I grew up that way. My parents were always willing to buy me a book and we are the same way with our son. Maybe it's an only child thing. Whatever the lifestyle differences, I was stunned by the feedback.

I asked the principal if she had heard feedback like that. She had received different criticism - she heard from someone else that instead of collecting money for books for our teachers (essentially, collecting for ourselves), we should be collecting money for folks in our state who lost everything in recent tornados. A good point, but not something we were thinking of in November when we planned this fair.

I was feeling discouraged.

But we had made a commitment, so I had to set my second guesses aside and move forward. I told students to keep their wish lists modest and "politely-sized." We found a donor willing to match what we collected in classroom collection boxes so we could buy books for the area ravaged by tornados. We gave free books to every classroom teacher who came to the preview. I tried to convince myself that I could be okay with the whole thing if that was the most we did, but I knew I would be disappointed. I even asked my husband, "what will I do if no one buys anything?"

The stress was starting to get to me. I was waking up in the middle of the night, unable to get back to sleep because of the things swirling through my brain. I was losing some of the joy I usually feel when I get to talk to kids about books. I was afraid other parents were going to complain.

Then one morning, in the middle of the fair, I woke up at a reasonable time of the morning instead of 2am. In my head, very clearly I heard, "Is it yours or is it Mine?" I hadn't thought about that chapel speaker in years! But the answer was clear. The outcome of the fair was out of my hands. I did the preparation. I showed up every day and did my job. The rest was up to God. I felt like a weight was lifted from my shoulders. I could acknowledge the questions of others without taking them personally. I felt like I could be okay with whatever happened next. I also felt like it was likely that we wouldn't do a spring fair again for awhile, and that would be okay, too.

In reality, we had a very successful fair. But it just as easily could have been a bust. The idea that it was God's fair and not mine was a great relief and a lesson I likely need to apply to other areas of my life and work. I can't bend every event - or other people's opinions - to my will. I need to do my part and then step back and be open to whatever happens next.

So, is there a part of your life where God is asking, "Is it yours or is it Mine?"

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