One of my favorite hymns is “Here I Am, Lord,” by Daniel L. Schutte. I especially like the words of the refrain:
Here I am Lord. Is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.
Ten years ago today, I walked away from professional work outside the home. I was filled with excitement and fear. I knew it was the right thing to do, but I could not effectively articulate why.
I have shared before on the blog I never really envisioned myself as a stay-at-home mom. When I headed off to college, I had a plan: graduate, marry Todd, develop a professional career (probably in teaching), eventually get around to having one or two kids, and continue working outside the home until my retirement at some very distant point in the future.
The plan started out fine. I graduated from college and married Todd. I also devoted five years to a professional career. And then? Well, I wandered off the visionary path and got lost for a while. In the end, it was okay. I found a new path that I like much better.
It took a really long time to hear and understand God’s calling. My vision, while good, was not the vision God had for me. My professional work was in college student housing at a public university. I ran a residence hall full of 300 college students.
It was a really great job. I lived where I worked, which was very convenient. The hours were bizarre, which meant they were flexible. The students I worked with were full of enthusiasm. Every day was exciting. Our oldest two daughters came home from the hospital to a building filled with really fun friends.
But there were also downsides. My graduate program was not meant to be studied by someone with a full-time job. I had to beg favors from my supervisor to adjust my work schedule for classes. My grades suffered sometimes. Staff meetings in my apartment that ran until midnight were a challenge when babies were trying to sleep. I was tired.
The last six months that I worked outside the home, Todd took a job that required fifteen hours of commuting in the car a week. He was finishing a graduate degree. I was muddling through one. We were both working full time. And our children were toddlers. When I left that job on May 31, 2006, this is what I said:
“I am going to stay home for a couple of years. When our youngest child goes to kindergarten soon, then I will leave the home again. Maybe I will even come back to the university.”
Deep down, though, I was beginning to suspect that God had a different plan for me. Here’s what I was truly thinking:
“I have absolutely no idea what I am doing right now. Tomorrow, I am going to be home with my kids. I am scared to death that I will lose my identity, find out that I cannot hack it at home, and in desperation take a job I despise because I will be completely unqualified for anything I might enjoy. The only thing I know for sure is that I need a change. I wish I knew for sure what that change might be.”
Ten years later, my perspective has changed somewhat, but not entirely.
I still have absolutely no idea what I am doing, but tomorrow I will be home with my kids.
Every day is a new challenge. I put tons of effort into creating a homeschool for our children that is uniquely designed to give them the best possible education. I suspect that I will be doing this until our youngest daughter graduates from high school. But who knows? Sometimes God has a way of changing plans. While I would like to keep doing what I am right now, I realize my life does not always happen as I plan. Every day is new.
I no longer worry about losing my identity because I found a new one. And it turns out that most of the time, I can hack it at home.
I have been accused of “wasting” my education by staying at home, and that makes me sad. I acknowledge that I put a lot of time, effort, and money into my bachelor’s and graduate degrees, but I disagree that my education has been wasted because I am at home with my children. Homeschooling parents do not need college degrees to successfully educate their kids, but I know that I am better at what I do because of my time in college.
I have stayed at home with my girls twice as long as I worked in my professional job. I have homeschooled nearly all of that time. I still love it. I do not want to do anything else. My education is never wasted so long as I am finding joy in what I currently do.
I still wonder about what I will do when I grow up.
Someday, when the kids are no longer at home, there is a real possibility I will be in a pickle for what to do with my time. I may have to go back to school and learn new skills. That is completely okay with me. I keep reminding myself that is not today’s problem. I will worry about it when our youngest daughter is closer to leaving the nest.
Sometimes I am still looking for a change.
About a year and a half ago, I got an itch for change. I did not know what the change was. I prayed about all the options, talked with Todd, and waited for God to answer. Were we being called to adopt again? Nope. Did we need to leave our community for a new place? Nope. Was I supposed to find a job outside the home? Nope. Should the kids leave home for the public school? Big nope.
And then, six months ago, the feeling left me. I no longer desired change and I found contentment. Instead, I felt compelled to scale back on some commitments and simply find more margin in my schedule. All of this happened just a few weeks before the words “severe dyslexia” were spoken in our home for the first time.
Those two words, along with many other difficult factors, brought a great deal of change to our home. And a new calling for me, too. God knew that I would struggle to let go of my comfortable routines, assumptions, and plans. I needed a year of questioning in order to prepare for the the long, challenging road we now walk. And because of that uncertain time in prayer, I am better equipped to follow the path laid before me today.
When Daniel L. Schutte wrote his hymn, he was not thinking of me. But when I personalize his words, they remind me of what my calling, in this season of life, is to be:
Here I am God. Are you sure you really want me, God?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I am scared, God. But I know you will lead me.
And while you do, I will hold these three girls of mine in my heart.