Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Driven by Courage Not Fear ~ My Journey

Recently I decided to change my college major, instead of enrolling in the nursing program at our local community college to become an RN, I am pursuing a degree that the Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech recently added, A B.S. in Commercial Real Estate. I don't know if I will get in, but I have to try. This was a hard and long thought out decision but one that I now have peace about.

It still seems scary and unbelievable to me at times but through prayer, reading and contemplation, I came to the conclusion that because of situations in my past that have caused tremendous fear, frustration and self- doubt, I have made choices in my life based on fear rather than having the courage to step out and not be ashamed of the gifts and talents God has placed within me. I decided I didn't like who God made me to be and tried my hardest to be different looking for acceptance and approval from others instead of from God. Who doesn't want to be liked and loved by all? 

I spent years of my life feeding myself information about what a Godly woman, wife and mom should be like and I drove myself to tears and deep unhappiness trying to be and do what I was reading in these books and magazines. I was exhausted and depleted spiritually, emotionally and physically. I was not living in freedom but rather in bondage and I was miserable. I loved the Lord and wanted so much to please Him but I was convinced that I had to be like the women I was reading about in these books and the moms I was associating with to be pleasing to the Lord. If my girls are reading this, I want you to know that the Christian life is not a life of bondage, it is not a life of measuring up to the way certain Christian female authors interpret scripture in the bible. Your righteousness is in Christ and in Him alone. Not by whether you work or stay home, not by how you choose to educate your children, not by how many volunteer opportunities you take on or anything else that we women tend to measure ourselves by.

I will never forget the cold day in 2014 that I sat in a christian counseling office with my husband as we just poured out our story and the current turmoil we were experiencing in our marriage. 
We were in shambles financially, had 5 young children under the age of 10 and were in a dark place that we couldn't see a way out of. I was so overwhelmed that I couldn't see straight and didn't know where to turn. I needed help. As I look back, I know now that what I was experiencing was depression. Maybe in large part due to my radically fluctuating hormones following 10 years of extreme morning sickness, pregnancy and nursing babies but I was also putting unrealistic expectations on myself that I just couldn't live up to. 

        We sat through several more counseling sessions and one day our counselor looked me in the eye and asked " Is there any chance you could be in the wrong job?" It is one thing to have a bad day at work but when we are generally unhappy and stressed out day after day we need to look at the way we're doing things and consider whether we are operating in our gifts and callings." Her words stunned me, I could hardly speak. That thought had never crossed my mind! 

       My choice to stay home and home school our large family was driven by fear and obligation. Daniel and I were both home schooled and we thought that was what Godly women did.We never even considered any other options for our kids. It was our life and all of our friends were homeschooling. As the years went by I realized that I didn't didn't enjoy teaching, hated the messes, school planning and grading. The older the kids got, the more all-consuming homeschooling became and I grew more and more unhappy.  I believed satan's lies that I was just selfish and discontent and that I had to just get over it. I didn't want to be a school teacher and I was always trying to hurry and get school done so I could move onto to something else. I adored my kids and loved being a wife and mom. Why didn't I love homeschooling them? Was I selfish?

       I never once considered that homeschooling all of my children may not be my calling. I thought it was what I had to do or my children would develop a worldly mindset and make life altering mistakes. I have since learned that it is not my job to instill all of my viewpoints into my kids but instead to point them to their savior at every turn. I cannot make choices for them, I must let them choose as God allows me to choose. I will not raise my children in a fear driven environment. I want to point out what I see them doing well and encourage them. Too often as parents I think we look at their poor choices and freak out so much that we are too blind to even notice the behavior that needs to be praised and rewarded. We just take it for granted. 

As for our marriage, we were second generation home schoolers who had followed the courtship model homeschooling leaders promoted at that time instead of dating and had even met at a homeschooling conference! We naively thought these teachings would keep us from most future difficulties. Instead, we found ourselves having not only marriage difficulties, but financial difficulties, family difficulties and doubting other decisions we had made with our lives. We were experiencing all the normal things that we thought we weren't suppose to experience. Normal things that normal couples in need of a savior experience! 

It may seem that I have made a complete turn around here and no longer advocate
homeschooling but that is not the case. I have many friends who are homeschooling and doing an incredible job with it. It is their passion and what God has called them to do, they are happy, thriving and fulfilled as women and I love to encourage them. Many of them are former school teachers. I am grateful to our mothers for homeschooling Daniel and I. It is what brought us together and we will be forever grateful! We currently are homeschooling our two sons with the help of Classical Conversations and a hired tutor. Our preschool age daughter is also at home while our two middle daughters attend our local public school which is wonderful. This is where I stand, If God has called you to home school and you are not doing it to please others, you are happy and thriving as a woman and it allows you to use your gifts and talents, you should do it. If it is harming your relationships with your kids or husband, causing financial hardship or depression, it is time to really seek the Lord about whether you are to continue. I do believe God may call us to do different things in different seasons of our lives. I am passionate about seeing women thrive. I believe that thriving is God's will for us. Think of the joy we experience when we see our own children thrive... I believe God experiences that same joy for us when we thrive! 

          My goal is to raise my children in an environment filled with love and encouragement. We are all unique and special, designed by God to thrive and do great things. I'm going to sound feminist here and some of you may disapprove but I hope my girls do not grow up believing that their only place is in the home and that they do not limit themselves the way I did. I want them to dream big and know they can aspire to anything they want to be whether that is becoming a breadwinner for their families or a homeschooling mom.  I want them to be happy knowing they are being obedient to God's call on their lives. I want them to be free and confident women who are not afraid to operate in their gifts and callings. It is clear that God has given women just as many unique gifts as men. Some are even designed to be great leaders. We cannot put ourselves in a box.

           This brings me back to my college major, three years ago when we completed counseling, I realized that I wanted to get some training and try working. I started researching different jobs, educational options and salaries. I have always had two big interests in life, Business and Health. I decided that even though business was my main passion in life, a business major was too risky because I would need to climb the corporate ladder to make it, and what if I failed? Whereas I could become a nurse and have a good paying job right out of school where my pay wouldn't necessarily be based on "climbing the ladder". I didn't see it at the time but this decision was also driven by fear: fear of poverty, fear of uncertainty, fear of failing in the sometimes cutthroat world of business. I let my past experiences define me and scare me. I had experienced poverty from a young age and the failure of our real estate business after we were married had devastated us financially from 2008-2011. I made the decision to lay aside my #1 passion to pursue a nursing degree. I found the security of it and the ability to work anywhere, even part-time very appealing. I took 6 months to go through training to get a CNA license and went to work while taking classes. 

    At the beginning of each semester, I met with my college adviser to be sure I was taking classes that would fit within a nursing degree. I knew there was something keeping me from experiencing full peace about my decision but I couldn't put my finger on it and decided to ignore it. Every time I re-evaluated my decision, it made perfect sense to get a nursing degree. I ignored the fact that I lit up inside every time I picked up a business related book or magazine. I devoured information on these topics at a rapid speed. They say the way you played as a child says a lot about your gifts and callings. I find it ironic now that I never wanted to play teacher but I would do just about anything to earn some money and loved exploring ways to make more and save more money. I was a very driven child, a little entrepreneur and I loved every minute of it, especially making sales and going to the bank to deposit my earnings.  I wanted to earn as much money as I could before I got married and had children and it was all over. I was constantly setting goals and doing whatever I could to achieve them. 

    As you can imagine, my personality, gifts and callings didn't fit in very well with the homeschooling movement of the 90's where at the time, many women were even wearing dresses and the patriarchy movement was at it's height. I was made to feel that my personality was one that needed to be conquered and brought under submission. I was deeply hurt by things that were said about me during my teen years and tried desperately to change who I was and was even afraid to open my mouth at times for fear I would say the wrong thing and look the opposite of the image I was trying so hard to portray to everyone. I cried often, I knew I wasn't like the women in all the books and literature I was fed and the conferences I attended. I knew I had to change or there was no hope of ever pleasing God or anyone else or being worthy enough to marry my home-schooled boyfriend whom I loved deeply. Oh how I wish I could go back and have a talk with that teenage girl, give her a big hug and tell her how much God loved her, how He fashioned her and created her to be exactly who she was, how it was Him who gave her big dreams and passions to accomplish big goals. I would tell her to never ever be afraid to be her no matter what people say or think about her but to be confident in who she is! Go take those God given gifts and talents, use them and THRIVE! 

What exactly is ahead for me now that I am in my mid 30's? I'm going to live life with abandon, operating in my gifts and callings. I'm not going to be or do anything to please anyone but the Lord. As for my kids school, we are moving toward putting most of them in public school but are open to homeschooling one or more of them as long as I can handle it while taking classes, I plan to work and earn the money to take classes at the local community college as long as I can to save money on my degree. I'm going to read all the business and finance books I want and not feel funny pulling them out around other women and being caught reading them in the local Library or Barnes and Noble. I plan to enjoy raising my kids and know one of the best gifts I can give them is a happy and fulfilled mom. I'm going to show them what it means to live a life driven by Courage and Not Fear, what it means to THRIVE! 

As William Wallace once said: "I have been given nothing, it is God who makes men (women) what they are". 

Friday, November 17, 2017

David Crowder Concert

      Several weeks ago I found out The David Crowder Band was coming to a college campus less than 10 minutes from our home. Since that is one of my favorite Christian artists, of course I wanted to go very badly! I knew we shouldn’t spend the money since we were still $7,000 away from paying off all our debt (minus real estate) but I couldn’t shake the desire to be there and experience a beautiful night of worship so last minute, I asked Isaac if he wanted to go and we took off. The Lord blessed us with 2nd row seats and we had such a great view of all the band members and vast array of instruments. It was beautiful! I hadn’t been to concert since I was a teenager and of course Isaac had never been. He was enthralled with the whole thing and we both had the best time experiencing it together. Between the concert and a snack afterwards at a local restaurant and leaving a generous tip, I spent $55.06 that night. I know you guys are shocked after how tight I have been for so many years and because our debt isn’t paid off, but you know what? I don’t regret it one bit! I don’t want to be irresponsible but I also realize that I can’t get these years back with my son. I have spent far more time working and worrying about finances than I have living and having fun. That night I decided that no more am I going to miss a beautiful experience with one of our kids because I am so stressed out over finances. I will continue to budget wisely and plan ahead but post debt there will definitely be a new category in our budget titled Family Fun!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Cherishing Our Weekends

 As the weather turns warmer, we are getting more and more excited about planting all kinds of things on our land. We have now had our land for almost 3 years but this is the first year that we are really trying to get several things growing. Our house is still far from finished but with 5 hungry kids and our grocery bill at $1000/month now, we are ready to grow as much of our own food as we can!
 We are excited that a Rural King has opened in Radford and we love going there as a family to get supplies for our little farm.

We love to hit up the Cold Stone Creamery on Tyler Rd to use up our 1/2 off coupons that we collect off the back of our Kroger receipts every week.

Isaac and Susanna with "Nordicorn". Somebody gave Grace this little boo-eyed unicorn on the bus and she gave it to Sue. Sue got attached to it and named it "Nordicorn.". She is taking it everywhere she goes right now and we are all paranoid about keeping up with "Nordicorn" while we are out.

We picked up our first apple tree and 2 blueberry bushes at Rural King. Fruit trees, bushes and garden supplies are not cheap so we will just have to do a little at a time out of each paycheck.

We absolutely love sitting outside around our fire pit as a family and have already had several fires this year. We talk and bond and sometimes the kids will play on the trampoline in the dark. With Daniel and I both working now, our weekends at home to rest and bond as a family are very important to us, it recharges our batteries for the week ahead. We love this stage that our family is in and want to enjoy every minute we have together. 

Because moments like these will pass all too soon...

Monday, February 27, 2017

King of the World, King of my Thoughts.

        As I was driving to work this morning, I was letting discouragement take over my heart. I knew it would be another 8-9 hour day at work plus one hour of driving time and I was feeling guilty and sad about leaving my precious kids. Paying off debt has been such a long and agonizing process and the price has been high.
    I turned on the radio in an attempt to put these discouraging thoughts out of my head and this song came on. It totally blessed me and I had to share it!

King of the World

Just a whisper of your voice can tame the seas. So who am I to
Take the lead? Still I run ahead and think I'm strong enough.
When you're the one who made me from dust.

When did I forget that you've always been the king of the world?
I try to take life back right out of the hands of the king of the world.
How could I make you so small When you're the one who holds it
all. When did I forget that you've always been the King of the world?

Oh you set it all in motion every single moment, You brought it all
to me and you're holding onto me.

The Rich Property

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Fleeting Moments

       As those of you close to us know, this has been a stressful year for me and for our family. It has been yet another year of really hard work and doing our utmost to clean up financial mistakes that began nearly 10 years ago with a foolish home purchase and two failed business opportunities. We are doing all we can to get our family to a place of living a debt-free, financially free life, Not so that we can live lavishly but to create greater opportunities for our children and to be able to give generously as the Lord leads. We are so tired of financial stress and after nearly 14 years of marriage, we are ready to be a in place where we no longer have to stress so much over finances.  We know that we are getting there with God's help! I think the hardest part is the time we have missed with our kids, they are growing up so fast and we know we can't ever get this time back with them. I have chosen to trust God to redeem the time and the vacations that we have missed together and focus more on the quality of the time that we do get together, not the quantity. As of  now, I am working five days per week and helping run a home school co-op one day per week making Saturday the only day I do not work outside the home. One of my goals for this year is to put stress aside when I am at home and look for every opportunity to create special memories with my kids even when I am tired and not in the mood. This beautiful warm week created some perfect opportunities to do just that and was glorious! 

We jumped on the trampoline...

Played in the sand...
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Ran and walked around our property barefoot...
Tried to improve our speed...

Gathered sticks for a fire and watched our little country bumkin break them barefoot and throw them on the fire...

Snuggled the cats...

And talked/snuggled around the the fire as a family until well into the night...

      Lord, help me not to give into busyness and stress and to say yes more often to these incredible, fleeting opportunities that You use to knit our hearts and our family closer together and closer to You!

Ephesians 5:15-17 
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but was wise,making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.