Friday, September 25, 2015

The Change of the Seasons

Today I'm tackling a subject that is not meant to coerce anyone else making a decision to make my decision; it is meant to share my experiences in facing a new phase of life. My hope is you can relate to life's changes more than you can a particular decision or outcome that I chose.

In May 2008 I graduated college (Da Bears!) and set out for the first time on a career path. I had had a few jobs in college but having a career was taking a job to a new level. Fast forward four years and I had been teaching middle school. While it got tiring and I was often worn out, I have such fond memories of my co-workers and students. I learned more in that 4 years than I could put into words. Many days I still forget that I'm not a teacher; that was so much a part of who I am.

the good ol' days of teaching at AMS with these babes and getting off at 4 so we could still hang out all night!
When Cash came into my life and we got married, I felt I was ready for a new career. I had really allowed the stigma of teaching overwhelm me. I lost my ministry in it; it had become a job. While now I can look back and say "wow" to all of the experiences, at the time I felt there was something different for me. And at the time there was.

I moved to Midland in 2012. In the previous years I had wanted what I considered a professional career: one where you wore business professional and went to lunch with clients and had evening events. I had seen my dad work in this environment my whole life, and I looked up to and respected the position he held. If I could just be like that, I would have made it (I thought).

For nearly 3 years I worked for a community bank. They were amazing to me. After hiring me to ultimately help start a training department, they quickly gave me all the things I thought would make me feel professional. And it did. I was proud of my work. I worked my tail off.

sending selfies to my sister during a conference call; oh, the corporate world
During that time I felt I was where I needed to be and never would have foreseen a change. I had a terrific boss and a lot of freedom in my creativity and development of the department. Within a couple of years, I had been promoted twice and had become the Training Manager and an Assistant Vice President. Let me pause there.

I remember the day so vividly that my boss walked in and handed me flowers with a card that said congratulations on my latest promotion. Wow. I couldn't believe it. It was humbling to have worked so hard and be given such a great opportunity. When she left, I began calling Cash and my whole family. "You won't believe this! I'm an AVP now!" They all said kind congratulations. They knew I had worked hard, because they were on the receiving end of all the nights I was away from home.

While I was filled to the brim with excitement and pride, I remember going home that night and home...I was Avery. My husband did not love me more nor did he love me less. My parents did not begin to see me differently. My dogs weren't wagging their tails a bit faster. I think that's when my mind began a shift from look what I can do to Jesus, what do YOU want me to do?

In the same time frame Cash and I began decorating our Christmas tree. I found an ornament one of my first students had given me tucked away in a box full of Christmas cards from past students. I broke down. In front of me I saw how lives had been changed. God had used me for that time of my life to be His vessel into my students' lives. I had let that go. It was beginning to become another hard lesson in the chapter of listening more to God than myself.

That was in December. In March we found out we were expecting our first child. I had already begun praying, "God, You have allowed me great opportunities. You gave me what I thought I wanted. I feel empty. I miss the rewarding aspect of a ministry for you. What do you want me to do?" Let it be known that there definitely is a ministry in every job. I had been able to write a leadership training that influenced the lives of many co-workers and hopefully be a witness to others on a daily basis. But what I could not determine at the time if that was the ministry God wanted for me.

Let me take you back a few years. I remember my second year of teaching telling a friend of mine, "I could never leave teaching. To not have the opportunity to minister these students--I just couldn't imagine." That was where my heart had been for 8 years of college and working. And then I had taken a leap and went into the corporate world. While it was a great experience, I was just beginning to feel I had turned my back on God's calling for my life. I think I had wanted to make more money, have a little more (what I considered at the time) prestige. And what I found with that was that at home I was no more of a "real somebody" and in my heart I felt I was missing out on my calling.

So we found out we were having a child. Not something I had originally known I wanted in my life, but I found out quickly that my whole world would be turned upside down in the best way possible. In no time I had quit shopping for myself, eating for myself, thinking for myself. I found myself on my knees more than any other time in my life (even if it was hard to get up and down the bigger my belly grew!). What I felt God begin to tell me was rocking my world.

In March I thought God was telling me that the empty feeling I had had for a few months was for a purpose. He was proud I had worked hard, but he was preparing me for something different. By the summer I knew but could hardly face that that different preparation was for me to stay home. I remember crying on the front porch with my mom and sister and said, "But I've worked so hard! Do you know what all I've accomplished? And 2016 is a Presidential election year; I DO NOT WANT TO WATCH CARTOONS DURING DEBATES!!!" They laughed for a moment and then told me that all of those cares about my career and Presidential elections would be different now.

As I continued to pray I tried to understand why would God lead me to 2 different job roles only to have me stay home? Wasn't I smarter than that? What about graduate school? Had all of that been for not?

It did not take God long to totally erase my selfish desires or silly preconceived notions. I began to see very clearly that the more I pursued my own adventures the less I felt like a good wife, a good soon-to-be mom, a good friend. I was bogged down; and I think God let me see and feel that to understand why He was calling me to something different.

Now God's path for every woman is different. For you He may have called you to be in the corporate world and be a life changer there. Or He may have said that you should be a nurse or doctor and save lives and be a life changer there. And in that He may have told you what He told me: let My direction and My blessings be enough for you. His direction and His blessings for you may look different than His direction and blessings for me. But I knew exactly that He meant for me to pull back from the world I was hoping to be in and allow myself to love my family and care for them like I never imagined possible.

My close friends who knew me I'm sure laughed when I told them I thought I would stay home. My friend Megan said, "I never saw that from you. You were so career-minded." I could not shake, however, God's total conviction over this decision. When I gave work a two weeks' notice, they were in complete surprise. I could not have been more thankful for my nearly 3 years there and then how they were completely supportive during this time. They did not try to coerce me into staying or maybe working part-time. They told me they respected my decision. On my last day of work I walked into an office with a baby gift and gift card lying on my desk. I wept.

I wept for the memories. I wept for the kindness. I wept for the love I shared with them. But I did not weep over the decision; I had gotten too strong of a word from my Lord to weep against His will.

The first two weeks were a little bit harder for me in weaning myself off of titles and responsibilities and duties that lead to praise and recognition outside the home. I was afraid Cash would think less of me. I don't know why. Although we had come to this together, I felt like I was not contributing as much or he would think I was lazy. That may sound silly, but it was a deep fear of mine to be seen as less in my husband's eyes. But every day he supported me. When I cried that I wasn't as much as I used to be, he gently reminded me I was even more. When I felt like I wasn't a good enough cook or housekeeper, he would brag on what a good job I did.

my new role of housewife and trying to do my first load of laundry
It's been 4 weeks now that I've been home. While that is not a long time, this decision and working seem like a distant memory. I'm exactly where I know God wants me to be, and I have had the utmost peace in the adjustment. The baby is due in less than 7 weeks, so I've been taking this time to adjust to what my job is inside the home. I've learned so much already. These are merely my take-aways, but maybe some of you can relate:
  • the smell of fresh, clean laundry is the best smell inside of a home
  • the seemingly small task of ironing my husband's clothes makes me love him more
  • having the bed made and the home comfortable for him gives me purpose
  • putting my love into his food makes it worthwhile when I see how happy he is to be fed and full on a halfway decent meal (We are still learning that one!)
  • being at peace with God and with myself brings more peace into our home 
  • doing for my husband and our home has made our love deeper and stronger
I have loved these 4 weeks. I have nothing to brag about. The hubs does not give me raving quarterly reviews or promotions. I have no title to put on LinkedIn. At parties I get to talk about errands instead of deadlines. But I'm where God wants me to be for this season of my life.

When I was working, I tried to keep strong to the verse found in Colossians 3:23 "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men." I find that still true as I work inside the home. Paul continues in verse 24 "knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ." These words rang true for 7 years of professional life. And today, as I sit here on a Friday afternoon with a roast in the crock pot and clean sheets on the bed, they still ring true to my time as a stay-at-home-wife/mother. And I encourage that for you too. Whatever God has led you to in your life, do it with all your heart. You, my dear friend, are serving the Lord Christ.

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