Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Ambition and Aspiration

From the Lisa writes... archive, circa March, 2007

Things I once wanted to be when I grew up:
  • Waitress. I well remember breaking the news to my family at Red Lobster, our go-to place for birthday celebrations. Our waitress, young, beautiful, and confident, had inspired me, but my dad quietly informed me that perhaps I needed to set my sights elsewhere.

  • Nurse. I loved reading the Cherry Ames and Sue Barton series as a girl, and thus my ambition to the nursing profession was born. It was, however, quickly extinguished the day my mom asked me to salt and pepper some raw chicken pieces and I nearly lost my lunch, so to speak.

  • Teacher. In our playroom my dad painted a whole wall with chalkboard paint. Somewhere my mom acquired some old text books, teacher's editions, with the tests and the answers in them. I spent many an hour laboriously copying out test questions on the chalkboard wall and lecturing my imaginary students.

  • Astronaut. I grew up in north Alabama where field trips to the Space and Rocket Center were a yearly event. Some of my fondest memories include my dad waking us up very early in the morning to watch a rocket launch on tv.

  • Actress. My mom occasionally took us to the children's theater which I absolutely loved. Even then I was a great fan of a great story and seeing Aladdin or Jack and the Beanstalk come alive on the stage was breathtaking. Even better was waiting after the show to get autographs of the cast members.

  • Author. As I said, I have always loved a good story well told and this love would propel me to the scribbling of my own stories. A dream I never really outgrew. Yesterday the spiral notebook crammed under the bed; today the computer and blogging.

  • Professor. Two semesters of graduate school cured this one.

The funny thing is, I do not remember ever specifically aspiring to my current occupation: motherhood. I guess maybe I always assumed I would be a mom and never really thought about balancing motherhood with whatever my current career aspiration happened to be at the time.

Yesterday as I chatted with another mom at a school field trip, she asked me the inevitable question, "What do you plan to do..." I finished the question for her, because I've heard it a thousand times, "...with yourself now that all the kids are in school?"

As indignant as I am sometimes when asked the question, it hasn't always been an easy one for me to answer. For nearly a decade I had a baby either in my belly or on my hip. The transition from diaper bag to backpack and lunch box really caught me off guard. I'm a smart girl, I knew with each birthday my boys were getting older; it was my transition that surprised me.

I once knew what I did: I changed diapers and filled juice cups and pushed strollers. For years. One baby boy after another. And now?

That transition plunged me into what has been at times an almost frantic search for purpose and validation. I bought the lie of our culture that we must accomplish to be significant. I knew God called me to be home, even now with the boys in school, but I couldn't shake the feeling I was supposed to be doing something, some accomplishment, some more worthwhile endeavor, something I could tell people I "did with myself all day now that the kids are in school." Somehow, laundry wasn't enough!

And yet, our faithful God has taught me the value of an ordinary life lived for His purposes and His glory. The privilege of serving Him in the simple tasks of laundry and grocery shopping and shuttling kids all over town. The holy responsibility of raising a generation of godly young men. The call to say Yes wherever He leads, whatever He asks. The freedom of living in the today of my journey, and knowing He holds the tomorrow.

The mom I was chatting with yesterday is also a stay at home mom, yet unlike me, she has a clearly defined direction she plans to pursue. For more than just a moment, I was somewhat envious and felt that same old panic over purpose. But after a moment's reflection I was able to answer her with complete confidence: "This is where God wants me for today. And for today that is enough."

3 comments:

  1. I still refuse to cut up a raw chicken. Thankfully Jeff worked in a grocery store as a teenager and he takes great pride in being able to do that task. :-)

    I love this post. I struggle with many of these issues, especially now that my youngest is about to graduate in a year. But I so enjoy my “ordinary life” and can’t really imagine what might be next until God puts something else in front of me. For today, this is enough.

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  2. Lovely post. While I'm grateful that women have options in the workplace, so much pressure has been turned back on those who choose to pursue their work at home (whatever that may entail). We are where God places us, and there's no need for women to feel pressure when the calling is clear. One of the most valuable comments I heard years ago was about life having seasons. I've always held this close. What I'm doing now is what I'm supposed to be doing. It might not be (and probably won't be) forever, but I don't have to get caught up in what others are doing. They're in a season all their own. I appreciate the example my mom sets. She turned her "empty nesting" years into a home business and a pursuit of learning how to cook well (something we would have appreciated had it occurred a decade before, but ah well). It's great to see how she moved from one season to another and has found ongoing fulfillment in her new role(s).

    Sorry for the ramble -- I'm not sure if this was on topic, but your post sparked a bunch of thoughts :)

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  3. I appreciate this. I got the talk from my mother-in-law recently about how I can go to work now that my youngest will be starting Kindergarten this year. All of a sudden I felt guilt crushing me because I do not want to go 'out of the home' to work this year, and my husband and I both agree that staying home is what I am to do right now - even though all the kids are going to be at school. There is subtle pressure from the most remarkable places for us to be discontent managing the home or to think we have to be something 'more'. Thanks again for sharing from your heart.

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