Monday, January 21, 2013
My Word for 2013: Listen
A new year is here, in more ways than one for me. This month marks the beginning of Big Boy’s third year in Memphis (the two smaller boys and I will reach that milestone in March), and also the beginning of what will hopefully NOT be a full third year of paying rent and mortgage. It’s also the end of the job I began last May. Yep, that adventure is already ending (read on...). So this new year brings with it a new job that I will begin next month.
And a new year needs a new word. My word for 2012 was DARING, which was full of hope and promise, but the long list of plans I dared to make went largely unachieved. Of course, when I made those plans I didn’t have any idea I’d spend over half the year working full-time, but even still, I think my to-do list for the year was a bit too big.
So my word for 2013 comes from a lesson I learned (or re-learned) the hard way in 2012: listen.
I’m going to tell you the story of how I got the job that I am now in the process of leaving and how I got the job I’m taking, and you’ll see why “listen” is my 2013 word.
Back in the spring of 2012, I started job searching for several reasons, including (in no particular order): we needed money, Boy 2 would soon be in elementary school, and I really wanted to find some vocational purpose. I love being a stay-at-home mom, but there’s also this minister in me who wants to get out and serve, teach, lead, and love on people. As I’ve written here many times before, a big part of what helped me accept the move to Memphis was the hope that God would have a purpose for me here. So I was looking around for that purpose.
I had applied for a couple of different jobs at a large ministry organization in Memphis, to no avail. (One downside of being a stay-at-home mom for almost 8 years is that it doesn’t do much for your resume.) I had asked a friend of mine who works there to be one of my references, so she knew I was looking for a job. Because of her position there, she received an email from the church looking for an Administrative Assistant, and forwarded it to me.
My gut reaction to that email was NO. No, I do not want to be an administrative assistant. No, I do not want to drive that far to work every day. No, this is not my purpose, my calling.
It’s easy for me to say, in hindsight, that that’s the inner voice I should have listened to. But at the time, there were other voices competing for my ears – especially the voices of the bills. Our house was nearing its one-year anniversary on the market, and with that big extra payment every month we just weren’t making ends meet.
I struggled with the competing voices. I wrote a lot in my prayer journal. I wrestled mentally while I jogged. Finally, one of the voices won. It said, “Your calling is to provide for your family.”
Well, how could I argue with that? It’s certainly true. Funny thing is, I admitted all of that during my interview - so perhaps they should have listened. Instead, they offered me the job, and I accepted it.
I spent the rest of the year growing increasingly tired, stressed, irritable, and overwhelmed. I felt that I had no time anymore – for my duties at home, for self-care, for keeping up with the boys’ school stuff, even for something as simple as checking my email. I certainly had no time for all the volunteer requests coming in from both school and church, which added another layer of depression. THAT was where I felt my calling, well, calling to me, but it wasn’t possible for me to leave work to go to the boys’ school during the day (since the two are 30 miles apart, even a short visit to the school would not be a short time away from the office), and on nights and weekends, I didn’t have enough energy left to give.
I knew that things had to change, and my family knew it too. While I was providing for my family with my income, I was not caring for them, not like they needed. They needed me to be healthy, and I wasn’t.
So when I started to think about a new job search, I did it with the idea of seeking balance. I wanted to find a place that fit in with our schedule and location as well as my skills and interests. I asked around about ministry jobs, but nothing came up. Then preschools came to mind. In North Carolina, I had often volunteered and subbed at our preschool. I called and left messages for the directors at 2 nearby preschools. I heard back from one, which is literally just up the road from our apartment. There, a teacher was leaving at the end of December. They had an opening to fill right away. I interviewed and was offered the job on December 17. Wanting to leave my current job in the best way possible, the preschool director and I worked it out so that I would start there on February 4.
To be honest, I struggled with all the voices again before accepting the new job. It will be about half as many hours a week, but well under half the pay that I’m currently earning. But there’s a difference between the bills saying “Your calling is to provide for your family” and God saying “Your calling is to provide for your family.” The bills mean, “You’d better make enough money to pay us.” God means, “There’s more to providing for your family than making money.”
I really do believe, even though I’m not naïve to the fact that being a preschool teacher is not my dream job either, that God is behind this opportunity for me. God heard my cries for help, seeking a life of balance and wellness. As I begin to dream and plan about the time I’ll once again have at home, I ask God to help me use it well – and I plan to listen.
Now, experts of all kinds say that any goals or plans you make need to be measurable. Last year I tried to do that – I planned to write a certain number of things, read a certain number of books, exercise a certain amount of time, etc. This year, I’m bucking the experts. It will take me a while to figure out how best to live a balanced life with my new schedule, and I don’t want to begin with a long to-do list. So these are my plans for 2013:
1. Listen – and discern from whom the voices are coming, and which ones to heed.
2. Take care of myself.
3. Take care of my family.
4. Love and serve others.
What about you? Do you have a special word for 2013? Please share!