Monday, July 17, 2017

Following My Dreams With My Kids In Tow

Another 12-hour-day that started with my kids crying at the prospect of going into the church today and ended with Peter and me dragging our sleeping children into their beds 13 hours later. Is this what living the dream looks like?

I've been blessed in the last year with the opportunity to serve on staff at our church in the Austin suburb of Hutto. It's an awesome privilege. I've been encouraged to bring my kids with me and given the space, toys, and patience from my co-workers for them to play and watch TV. During the hours I’m in the office—usually only 12 or so a week. It seems like a pretty sweet gig to me, but my kids don't seem to see it that way, which makes me question my life choices. .  . Every. Single. Day.

I have a terrible habit of second-guessing my way out of life choices. I nearly scuttled my relationship with Peter a dozen times while we were dating. I left the same (amazing) company twice because it seemed like my working there wasn't working out for the other people in my life. 

Is this position God's will for me? Was it ever? If it is, then why am I struggling to feel like I'm doing my job well. Why do I feel like doing my job is damaging my kids? Can you be in the middle of God’s will and unhappy about it? Can you be in the middle of God’s will and not at peace? I was raised to believe this was not the truth. . . but then again, I was raised to believe a lot of things that aren’t exactly theologically sound.

Jesus was at peace in the storm, so I should also be, right? But if I’m not. . . doesn’t that say more about me than my boat? That’s a funny story because he was totally at peace on the boat in the middle of the storm, but you know where he wasn’t “at peace”? In the garden on the night he was arrested. And he could not have been more in God’s will. 

How dare I compare their complaining about spending a few hours a week watching TV in the lobby of my office to Roman guards arresting, beating, and killing my savior. But then again, how dare I dismiss my calling and my responsibility to follow it because it hurts. 

Of course my kids aren’t damaged by my job. They are affluent American kids who have never even had to go camping without access to showers and the internet. Yeah, it would be more peaceful to drive to work with my kids excited just because they get to spend the day with me. It would be fun if they saw the good that our church is doing for real people in a real community and wanted to be part of it. It would be amazing if they were proud and supportive of my role at Hutto Bible. But they’re kids. And they’re my kids.

God gave me these kids and he gave me this calling (for now) so the two of them are going to have to find a way to get along. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Painfully Dreaming

I'm not really into introspection. People tend to think I am for some reason, but the truth is that I have for years avoided thinking too hard about myself. I prefer distraction. I even do yoga while watching TV. The biggest reason for this is because I just don't want to face how much of a disappointment I am to myself. Even a decade ago, I'd turn off the radio when Kelly Clarkson or Taylor Swift songs about leaving small towns and making it big came on.

Growing up, I was always told I should be a writer. I always thought I would be, but I never wanted to write for writing's sake. I assumed I would write something when I had something to write about. Then I just never did. 

Actually, I still am occasionally told that I should be a writer. Except now, when someone says that, I hear, "You should have been a writer." And it hurts. It hurts so much to think that there was one thing I could have done of importance with my life but i missed my chance. Like I said before, I prefer distraction to introspection. Even now I'm writing this while watching Sherlock just to dull the pain of thinking. 

So now I've been asked to go through Jenny Allen's study Restless. And it's hard. The first week, I broke down in tears every time I tried to open the book. The book is about finding out how your dreams and abilities could be used for God's kingdom. 

It must be easy for someone as successful as Jenny Allen to talk about following your dreams for Christ. What about someone like me? I always said my dream was to write a book, but the truth is I haven't pursued or studied writing at all in my life and wouldn't even know the how to research and compose a book if I had something to say. It was painful to think that I'd missed my chance to have meaning. 

I stuck it out. Because I committed to my group. And because I’d already bought the book. I haven't finished the study yet so I can't say 100% whether I recommend it or not, but I’m SO glad that I’m doing this. I don’t know whether to credit Restless or just the simple act of finally thinking about my life, but I’ve had a huge breakthrough! My big discovery was that it isn’t actually my dream to be a writer. Maybe it had never actually been my dream. 

The thing is, writers write. They enjoy writing. They don't need an excuse to write.  I don’t. Not really. Not now at least. I was always just told that I would be—at least, should be—a writer. When we talk about people who pursue a career to please their parents, I always pictured doctors or accountants, but I had identified my dream as being a creative. And I’m just. . . not.

Do you know what I do love doing? Communicating. I talk just to hear myself talking sometimes (probably why people mistakenly think I’m introspective.) Communicating is similar to writing, but much shorter. Much more transient. Much more utilitarian. And much less impactful. Yes, I will never be famous for my Instagram posts. But I’m actually doing my dream right now. 

Good for Jenny Allen that she’s a teacher and writer. I didn’t actually want to be. But you know what I do remember wanting? I remember sitting in the UT Tower, listening to a live stream of a church conference, and thinking, "I want to work for the church." The thought came out of nowhere and I didn't know how or why and I didn't have a plan or a good reason to want to go serve, but somehow seven years later, I'm on staff at Hutto Bible Church. 

And I’m happy. . . Mostly. I’m also insecure and tired and frequently frustrated. But I achieved my dream. And that’s pretty amazing for a slacker like me.