Facing the Opportunity to Make Changes

My husband and I noted recently that we have entered a new season of parenting. It's not so physically demanding anymore--I only have to intervene in the bathroom occasionally, though there's definitely pee on the floor. People can brush their own teeth, if they only would. Everyone can change clothes independently when they want to. Most of them can bathe themselves. Even the youngest is in school for a few hours each week. That's a beautiful thing. 

No, there's still physical labor involved, but parenting has largely become an exhausting mental and emotional exercise: I have a full-fledged middle schooler with whom drama waits around every turn. There’s another in whom I can actually see the transition into preteen happening--and before my eyes he's boarded the emotional roller coaster and gone for a long and grumpy ride. The next one will collapse to the ground screaming about how he's "the worst boy in the world" if he's corrected about anything. And one is incredibly energetic preschooler who is just as likely to cut her hair off at the roots as she is to take a nap. (As I said, there's still some physicality.)

In the next year, all of the little people will be having an entire school day. At school. Like, they won't be home. With me. A lot.  That will be a new season.

So my thoughts have been turning to what might I do with myself as the hours of my day are not filled up with direct childcare? I've been pondering this at length and come up with...little. My husband asked me, "Well, where do you want to be in 10 years? What steps might you take now towards that?" I think that's a wise thing to think about, but my head nearly exploded. 10 years from now?! I can barely imagine it. I'm going to hold that in the back of my mind, but I think I need to just consider the upcoming season for now.

I stepped entirely out of the workforce to be a mom, and I'm very out of practice and out of licensure. Should I go back to school myself? For what purpose? Should I take baby steps toward some out-of-the-house career reentry and substitute teach, or volunteer more than very part-time? Should I try something entirely new? Should I immerse myself in hobbies, or in housework (bleh--please, no!), or in writing something long, or in looking for any job I can find, because...at least one of these kids is college-bound and someone has to pay for it? I know something doesn't have to be financially profitable to be valuable, but...do I need to be partially profitable? How is what I have been doing valuable, and if that's right, shouldn't I just keep on doing it? Or no? Or partly that, but partly something else?

How do I figure out if the opportunity to make an adjustment is the same thing as a desire to make one, or a calling to make one? Or is there such a thing?

Here are a series of questions that I'm thinking about as I ponder "what's next--"  if anything! These are not in ranked order; they are all swirling around, some larger and louder than others. Maybe they would be worth considering for anyone facing an opportunity to make a change.

  • As a follower of Jesus, what might Jesus be asking me to do or become? What might it look like to continue in my desire to lay down my life, day-by-day, for Christ's sake? Maybe it's just to keep on keeping on where I'm at, with what I'm doing? Or maybe it's to adjust a little? Or maybe a lot?
  • What's good for me? I've been persuaded that this should factor in somewhere. But...what if I don't even know what I might want? I hardly know how to spend a morning out at this point?
  • What's good for my family? They still need me, don't they? But how much, and at what times and in what ways? How would any new things mess with what we've been doing? 
  • What's good for my marriage? It's good, but how might it remain so? How might we grow? 
  • How can I invest my life, my time, and my energy in what is good? I'm nervous about wasting it.
  • How can I be faithful in the upcoming season? Can I envision a way in which the steps I take next are wrapped up in the same story God's writing with my life already? 

I'd appreciate your prayers on my behalf about this, personally. 

As I continued to wrestle with these thoughts recently, I was both encouraged and a little distressed by re-reading the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30.  Jesus talks about the master going on a long journey, who calls three servants to himself, entrusts to each a certain amount of money (the talents, in certain translations), and leaves. The two servants with the larger amounts of money each traded with or invested them and earned a return on their investment, which they happily brought back to the master when it was time. The servant with the smallest amount of money succumbed to fear of his master's harshness and buried his potential investment in the ground. All he had to show for his time and the trust that his master had shown was the same piece of money, just dirtier. 'You should have at least left it with the bankers to earn interest!' the master scolds. The other two servants are praised for their actions and invited to enter the master's joy, and he gives them the leftover dirty talent to work with in the future.

This teaching is nestled in between the parable of the ten virgins who either do or do not run out of lamp oil for lack of foresight and preparation; and Jesus teaching about the judgment of the King where the people are sorted into the blessed sheep and the goats who are sent away. The sheep were the ones who acted with compassion and mercy toward the suffering, and the King takes this as a personal favor; the goats failed to do so, which the King takes a personal insult.

This parable at this time means a couple things to me.

First, it reminded me that my very life is a gift given for God's use; and likewise, so are my interests, my abilities, and my gifts. To spend them with Christ in mind is the first step in making a solid investment--after all, no investor can MAKE her investment pay a return; we just try to choose wisely, keep an eye on it, adjust as necessary, and wait for a return. So, self--Just Keep Breathing.

Second, it reminds me that the needs of others matter very much to God, and He just may have created me in my situation, with my interests, abilities, and gifts, to be able to make an investment in alleviating suffering or otherwise provide some remedy to the problems or challenges facing my sphere of influence. What if the privilege to not have to immediately find the biggest income possible is itself one of the talents I have been given in this season? I have the freedom to sit and consider these things; let me be thankful and rest a bit in that rather than take it up as yet another thing to be anxious about. So, self--there are many opportunities, and possibly Several Good Answers. This may not be about finding the One True Thing.

Do you have such an opportunity coming up? How have you gone about making your decisions? Have you lived through it already? What has your experience been? How have you seen God's faithfulness in your story?

I'd love to hear from you in the comments.

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