"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

29 April 2018


We proclaim Him . . . teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ (Col. 1:25).

I was never going to teach.  It was not even at the bottom of a list of possible paying vocations I’d ever considered.  But when the time came that circumstances forced me into the workforce to support our family, it was the quickest way to that end – so here I am, some 35 years later, about to grade my last projects, my last finals, and I cannot imagine any work that would have been better.

There is so much to be grateful for:  my own teachers who prepared me so well for such a time; the literature itself which shaped me, grew me, even at times saved me;  my colleagues over the years who have taught, challenged, and encouraged me; my students who have so graciously allowed me to be part of their lives in and out of the classroom. 

Still, so often through the years, discouragement would strike, and many were the days I dragged myself home wondering if I’d ever done anyone any good, if the work had been worthwhile that day or ever.  And so today I want to give a special thanks to those who went to great lengths to show me, in this final semester, that my work has in fact not been in vain, that this “Jack, joke, poor potsherd, | patch, matchwood” has, in Him and Him alone, done the only work I ever hoped to do.

The Academic Office put on a reception for the two of us retiring this year (the other being the matchless, beloved drama teacher/director “Mr. B” – Bernie Belisle).  My thanks to Kevin, Rhonda, Audrey for your work in arranging the event (including AJ and the luscious cake and excellent catering service).  Your thoughtful gift to me is one I will always treasure – the beautiful leather journal and the silver pen inscribed with the Bryan motto, “Christ Above All.”  Thank you to all of you, to President Livesay and the Board and the rest of our administration, for all the years of encouragement, assistance, and loving friendship.  You have always made me feel at home in a place where Christ is indeed held above all.

My peerless colleagues in the English Department – Ray, Whit, Daniel – made the week all the more special with a personal gift of Victorian-themed embroidery tools (scissors, needle-holder, etc.).  You have come to know me well, not just as a colleague but as a friend, and so you know my various plans and loves and I appreciate your showing your love for me in this sweet way.  You are my friends and my brothers, and I thank you for all you have meant to me over the years, all the prayers and  laughter, and the shared tears and sorrows as well.  You are the best.

But they did so much more.  Ray arranged an opportunity for our students and alums to shower me with appreciation, gathering cards and printing off emails from them to fill a lovely handcrafted keepsake box.  Dozens of the precious ones I have taught over the years took the time to send such kind and humbling words; thank you, my dear colleagues, for arranging such a special gift.

To those who wrote (and those who have written at other times with similar words, whose letters and emails will also go into this box):  how can I ever thank you.  You were always the reason that even on the darkest days I could find a smile and see the beauty both in the work itself and in your eager eyes.  The specific conversations and classes and even off-hand comments you remember show me the power of our Lord to work – through literature, through writing, through a mere teacher trying to do her best by all three – to work His truth, His beauty, His goodness into all our lives.  Thank you for that gift.

And thanks, too, for a candy tree growing out of unicorn mug, for a lovely hand-crafted necklace, for an adorable crocheted pet, for a stunningly crafted blown-glass kingfisher which will catch fire in my eastern window, and for the endless hours of shared laughter, tears, failures, and victories, conversations silly and serious about literature, about writing, about life.  You are God’s blessings to me.

I deserve none of this and no credit:  all is His work and His glory.  Live for that, dear ones.  Act in God’s eye what you are:  “Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places, / Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his  / To the Father through the features of men's faces.”  And know always that you live in my heart as ones who have shown Him to me.