Friday, July 05, 2013

Peace with My Position

In the last few months I've had the opportunity to meet with a handful of young women in my life who are on the edge of their next big chapters. As they approach graduation, school transfer or beginning their work careers, we've lingered over coffee and talked about what's next. As I look into their eyes I see it...the sparkle of simultaneous exhilaration, fear and cluelessness. (I honestly say that with great love.)

There is no longer a guidance counselor or custodial parent outlining their next steps. On the edge of the proverbial nest, they are taking big leaps with wings that have been strengthened for two decades in preparation. They aren't yet sure about the long, how far, how high, at what speed...and they are learning that so much of this season is about praying, then taking off--trusting the wind of the Spirit to carry them as they flap and soar.

It has been a sweet, healing experience for me to sit and talk with these women. I've experienced several different legs of my flight so far and still find myself in those places--wondering if I am really honoring God. Have I grown too complacent and lazy on this particular ledge? Or have I taken on too much? Are my wings flapping much harder than intended because of my pride and need to prove my worth?

And I hear the whisper in my heart: Slow down, child. One step at a time.

Once upon a time I was an independent young woman with no idea what the Lord had for me in terms of the future. I vividly remember driving away from Tuscaloosa, AL in my dented, light blue Honda Accord with a degree, a job offer and only enough belongings to fit inside that sedan. I did well professionally, free from any definitive career aspirations, striving to do my best and honor God--trusting Him with the details of where it would all lead.

I was not actively seeking my "Mrs. degree" but really hoped God would see fit to bring me a mate and little ones. I was not in any real hurry and kept busy with what He put before me 'in the meantime.' There were amazing experiences in that season.

In my late 20s, God did bring an incredible man into my life. It took a few years, a couple of moves and major heartache before we married in February of 2002. The desire of my heart came at a cost. As a result of that union, my career took a major detour/derailment. I left a job I loved, a team of incredible co-workers, a nice salary and fulfilling ministry to move to a new place several states away for one brief year. In Virginia, I worked a mindless job that felt more about covering our utilities than any sort of call.  In what can best be described as a 'placeholder year,' my ministry work went from relational to hourly shifts and we counted the months until we would begin our job hunt for the place where we would build our nest and plant our family. I wonder what blessings I missed by looking constantly towards the next thing.

I was not bitter about what I 'gave up' to get married. I felt peace that he was the One and this was the path God had marked out. I didn't always love it, but it was a tradeoff. Trading my maiden name and the identity that came with it to become better known as "Dr. Scott's wife" did inspire a few pride-fueled pity parties every now and again. Honestly, it only got worse when I earned my new name: "The One Who Has the Triplets."

I wish I could say this whole issue was worked out once and for all long ago, but it wasn't. It has taken different turns and led me to lots of soul searching in the process. Although none were overt, I can look back and see how I pursued different identities through the last nine years: Super Mom, Volunteer of the Year, Wonder Wife, Social Butterfly... They have all required compromise, yet not one has been my ultimate fulfillment.

As a woman who still stays at home although my children attend school, I've felt additional pressure to justify 'what I do all day.' In the midst of a tough season of wrestling with it all this Spring I heard myself say out loud to my husband: It's not that I am discontent, I just want a good answer for 'what I do.' Yikes! Talk about a petty motivation.

I've pondered several noble pursuits: a masters in counseling, fostering, writing more, leading a major fundraising effort for a terrific cause... but at the end of each exploration I have realized that I am not feeling 'called' to those things as much as I am feeling insecure about my position in life and in search of a noble sounding answer to other people's questions.

And somewhere in the last couple of months a refrain has taken residence in my heart and soul: This is your call, Jen. In this season, THIS is it. Be here.

I have a very busy husband to whom I pledged to be a helpmate. Everyone has a different deal, but in our marriage it means the house, the finances, the food, the errands, the trash cans, the car maintenance and pets--it's all on me to manage.

There is no way for me to adequately convey the stress my husband is under in his job 14+ hours a day. He never gets to turn it off. It is not workaholism--it is real life in his profession. Several times a week, he is the one who tells patients their biopsy results. He's the face they will always remember uttering the words: "It is cancer." When on call (every 4-5 nights) he's the one tasked to speak to worried family members. He spends hours in the ICU with very sick patients counseling through end of life issues. Between clinic and OR time, he sees over 100 patients in a given week. All must be dictated. Even when he is home, phone calls are steady, research must be read, charts signed. Often when he is staring off into space, I know he is thinking through the course of action for a particularly sick patient.

The reality is that my greatest sphere of influence is loving and supporting my husband through work here at home so he is free to minister in this extraordinary call. It is behind the scenes work, full of much 'mundane' for those few moments each day that matter. They come when least expected, so I must be available. I'm 'on call' too.

The reality has also set in that I have a decade remaining before my children will (hopefully) launch.

Ten years. That's really no time at all. Before we can blink, they will we taking their lights out into the world...right now it is our role as parents to teach them how to shine.

I am writing this as an expression of my heart--not as any judgment of what God has called anyone else to do. This type of comparison is unhealthy and unhelpful. But I rejoice in the peace that God has answered me in my personal wrestling for the call he has for me: This is your gig, Jen.
All those other seasons and experiences weren't 'given up' for this, they were preparation.
Live and love and serve here until I prompt your heart for something else.

Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them.
I Corinthians 7:17 NIV

As I was wrapping up this post, I glanced up at a card my friend, Cabell, made me some time ago and it made me smile.

(reference 2 Corinthians 4:7 The Message)

Beautiful indeed.


The Mommy said...

Beautifully written!

Jennifer said...

Powerful stuff!! I needed this tonight- just sitting here whining and crying to my husband about my life when really I just have the summer blues and my baby turned 2 today. I think this is one of your best posts. Just taking care of a house is a full-time job add kids and a husband- whoa Nelly that is plenty to keep busy while striving to be content. Love this!!!

LeighAnn said...

Jennifer, this post is so who I was thirty years ago. I had always taken "pride" (isn't that the problem?) in being the smart girl. The overachiever. The one most likely to blaze a trail, etc. Then God led me to the man I would marry, had two children and moved around the globe with my husbands career for thirty years. Back then I felt the need to explain myself to every new person I met. They didn't "know" who I was...who I had been. Then, like you, God spoke to me about not letting the enemy steal my joy. I was listening to what the world said about me, SAHM, wasting my education, etc. and NOT listening to the quiet voice that was speaking to me all along. Here we are today, married 43 years, two wonderful children, three precious grandchildren and I would not trade one day of the time I was blessed to spend with them for any amount of praise from strangers....Thank you for being a voice for your generation of young mothers. Have a wonderful weekend with your sweet family!

Glenbrookemama said...

Jennifer, this post is magnificent. Who we are and what we do is so scrutinized. This is what I see. I see a woman whose devotion to her husband results in an amazing family, and additionally you contribute to the quality of life and dignity of death for the patients he can minister to, because you fuel him. I see your devotion to your kids rooting spiritual sequoia and beautiful deep souls. I see your thirst for God and love of life pulling you to find meaning and healing on a path you are forging, that many women follow and praise God for your exhortations. Early on, as I turned down snapppy professional gigs and travel to be home with my kids, it was because I realized I didn't want to deliver anything of higher grade to audiences than I was giving my children. You are on the right path and you are sharing life and love through God's special Gospel according to Jennifer and I know He is beaming. The only ones who can look down upon you...are the angels! I know the angst to strive to be all things--but to be all to your family---what an honor. This world likes to measure things by gold medals, but you have a heart of gold.And you have a title--Mom--that trumps additional titles/degrees. I have no doubt you can reach the stars professionally, after this divine layover. I believe in YOU!

JMom said...

Wow! Tears. What a blessing you have spoken over me. Thank you for your precious encouragement!!!