My parents gave me a great childhood! They loved me, instilled values in me and provided everything I ever needed. As a kid I played tag with friends in my neighborhood, went to school and played sports. My dad called me home at dusk, fed me dinner and ushered me off to bed at a decent hour. My house was clean and my clothes were washed. My mom did all that. I don’t remember having many responsibilities. I wasn’t allowed to play around in the kitchen or make any unnecessary messes. Sure, I had to keep my room clean but my mom always “double checked” and rearranged when necessary.
I was often paid to do extra chores I should’ve been doing for free. $15 dollars for mowing the front yard and $10 for the back. I liked earning money so I secured my first job as a bus girl when I was in tenth grade. I worked 3 or 4 shifts each weekend throughout high school often earning over a $100 in a short time. I had a stash of cash rolled up in a rubber band under my bed and I spent it all on myself. I bought all my favorite band’s newest music…Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Dave Matthews. I had lots of clothes from Contempo and Guess. I went to the movies, frequented the mall with friends and simply enjoyed what I worked hard to earn.
I couldn’t wait to go away to college! Education was very important to my parents and they encouraged me to study hard. I always loved writing and English was my favorite class. So, I decided to study Literature in College. When my High School English teacher refused to write me a recommendation because she didn’t feel I deserved one, I decided to become an English teacher myself! Ironically, she inspired me. She inspired me to inspire others…not deter them from their dreams.
To be honest, I never really wanted to get married and having kids wasn’t on my bucket list. It’s not that I was opposed to either; I just didn’t spend a lot of time fantasizing about domestic life. In fact, I can vividly remember conjuring up all kinds of lies to avoid babysitting for my nieces and nephews. My sister would call me and I already had my stories lined up. “Sorry, Joni! I have to help Christen study for her Lit test. Yes, Joni, on a Friday night. Sorry.” Anything to avoid watching kids. Rightfully so. I was a terrible baby-sitter. One time while watching the little girl down the street, I became preoccupied with a phone call from a school friend. She was giving me the latest gossip on Keith, the guy she had a crush on. In the meantime, Caroline slipped out the front door and got bit by the neighbor’s dog. It was awful! I was the worst babysitter ever! I couldn’t even be trusted to pet-sit. My friend Kathy asked me to feed her cats for four days while she was away. I only remembered those poor cats on Sunday night when Kathy was half way home! I ran to her house, took all of the cat food and shoved it in my trunk to make it look like they had been well fed. I never told her the truth.
To put it in plain English, considering other people first was not instinctual.
Well, I successfully left home for college at the young age of 17. I had no idea how to cook, no clue how to do laundry and certainly no desire to pick up after myself. I lucked out because my college roommate was the same as me. Together, we lived in a mess and ate Ramen Noodles we cooked to perfection in our illegal microwave hidden in our dorm room closet. Nonetheless, I was on my own and my actions didn’t really effect anyone too much just yet.
After college I became a Christian and my values began to change. Suddenly I didn’t want to live for myself anymore. I wanted to live alongside of another person. I wanted a husband to “do life” with. The idea of getting married and having children became my new hope.
Thankfully I met the man of my dreams a few years later while serving in overseas missions. I fell in love hard core and suddenly every fantasy I had involved me in an apron with two or three kids pulling on my legs. In my dreams, the house was clean, surf and turf on the table and love in the air. I looked beautiful and stylish; flaunting hip-huggers and tank tops around the house while my kids tackled long division and read Homer’s Odyssey aloud to each other by the age of three. Romance was always ripe and sex always amazing! My husband was happy and so was I.
Dreams…what would we do without them?
Fast forward to marriage in ‘real time” and facing the reality that I never actually learned any of the things that made my new found dreams so amazing! I couldn’t cook, I hated cleaning, I wore my jammies around the house on weekends and my pre-pregnancy body…well, let’s just say I traded it in for a baby. I saw, all too clearly, that becoming a stay at home wife and mommy was not what I was bred for.
Instead of being the natural progression of my up-bringing, I was called, by God, to be someone else. God had given me a new dream, a new identity, a new start. He was calling me to be a wife. A mom. A friend. A lover. A companion. And a disciple.
He was reinventing me.
I loved all of it. I hated all of it. I embraced it. I rejected it. I fought it. I surrendered to it.
Life was easy. Life was hard.
Everything God blessed me with required radical changes in my heart and actions. I sometimes felt like my entire identity had been stripped away and I couldn’t even recognize myself. I felt like a stranger in my own body and my selfishness was always before me. I still wanted my own time, my own money, my own stuff. I wanted to eat at restaurants, go shopping and throw my clothes on the floor after a long day. My husband, however, liked to eat at home, save money and keep our home very clean. I wanted to drink my coffee before saying “good-morning” to anyone but my kids wanted breakfast, a sippy cup and a game before I could even get to the pot.
One day while I was resting on the couch, missing my freedom, the Holy Spirit spoke to me in a very profound way.
Jennifer, things have always been easy for you. Now, I want you to work. To make sacrifices for the sake of your character, marriage and children. You will be blessed in that calling.
I’ve never forgotten that.
And now, as I tackle the paramount task of being not only a wife, but a mother to two amazing little darlings, I find myself making sacrifices daily… with a little less grumbling and a lot less “looking back” at what I used to be. The role I have now just isn’t natural for me. I have to study for it. I have to be intentional about it. I’m learning as I go and I’m making lots of mistakes. But that’s ok. God is near. My inadequacies keep me close to Him, surrendering to His agenda and seeking His counsel. Leaning on Him even when I’m too tired to pray.
With all sincerity I can say that my husband and children put life in my existence and I value them infinitley. They are refining me, shaping me, growing me…bringing me into maturity while keeping me young. I’m learning the precious art of living for others…something that my Lord knew how to do perfectly.
By His power, I live in my weakness.
It’s the only place I am actually strong.
Do you feel inadequate for any role God has called you to? Please share your story here!
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