I grew up dreaming BIG. I remember being ten years old, talking to my counselor, telling him that my dream was to go to the Olympics as a gymnast. It seemed so logical to me; even though I could hardly hold a handstand, why couldn’t I compete with elites on the world’s biggest stage at some point in my life? He gently asked me to pick a new dream.
But that naïve dreamer’s soul could not be squelched. My mind has constantly been full of splendid ideas that only sound ridiculous when they hit the light of everyone else’s dreary reality. I’ve spent 24 years thinking in terms of next, then, and after that. I’ve always felt an insatiable thirst for more.
Once I set my mind to working with kids, I’ve been scheming and dreaming about all the more I could do: Graduate school, of course, volunteer work at a children’s hospital, administration, some time as a superintendent, then doctorate. Throw in some more nonprofit work, and a stint in politics, then I’d finish my career as a professor. Certainly that more would be enough.
I tricked myself into believing that because God has called me to work with kids, I should let it consume all of my dreams. If you had asked me a year ago, or even just six months ago, what my life goals were, I would have delineated my long list of career dreams with extreme conviction and certainty. I would have said nothing of my family or of character traits I wanted to develop, or the person I want be. My sole focus, my once-believed only purpose, was to be outstanding in the field of education.
But God has been working on my heart. He’s been tugging me away from MY calling and back into His. My quest for more lacks meaning. It lacks true purpose and heart and soul. So God decided to call me to something more.
He’s calling me to love my family well.
It would be easy for me, in all honesty, to muscle through my list of career goals. I do not doubt my ability to work hard, to lose myself in my job, to complete higher education, and flourish as an educator. What I do doubt, however, is my humility and my gentleness and my capacity to sacrifice.
To love my family well would mean to operate in my deficits. And that’s just like God, isn’t it? He knows my deep desire for more, so He’s calling me into a new dream that will stretch me more than my own dream would. What a blessing it is to be called to work in your area of weakness. What an honor it is to be led into unknown waters. What an absolutely terrifying walk of faith.
I am not a sacrificial person; I am needy and spoiled and selfish. To say that I am content to lay down my dreams in the pursuit of caring for those around me does not come naturally. And I think that’s why this revelation has brought me the sweetest peace.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still pour into my teaching career. I’ll still get my master’s degree and I’ll still strive for my best. But my focus has shifted. Concurrently, my dreams have softened and sharpened, and my more actually feels like more. I can’t think of a better legacy, a better life story, than to love my family well.
I’ll be blunt: watching my mom’s disease progress sucks. The possibility of leaving yet another school to move to Ohio for my fiancé’s job does not thrill me. I am a crappy-on-the-good-days caretaker who is mostly floundering. This “loving my family well” thing is going to be the biggest more I’ve ever dreamed of walking through. BUT HEAR THIS: When God calls you to it, He will not drop you there. I am staring down a calling I’d rather say no to. But I have this quiet, gentle calm that is reassuring me. Because I know He’s called me to it, I know He will be there with me in all of this.
If I can look back on my life and say that I gave my mom a good life despite dementia, that I created space for my sisters to live their dreams, that I supported my (soon-to-be) husband through an amazing career, then AMEN HALLELUJAH, what a testament to God’s goodness that will be. I always dreamed of my life being marked with more, and in this simplest and hardest of ways, that’s exactly what I’ll get.