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".