I sympathize a lot with a line of Meg Ryan’s character in You’ve Got Mail. One night on email, she wonders, “I lead a small life. Well, valuable, but small. And sometimes I wonder: Do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave?” I’d probably phrase mine similarly, but I’d wonder — do I do it because God is telling my story and has led me here, or because I haven’t been brave — full of faith?
Might as well admit it … I turned 30 on my last birthday. This still feels strange, as I’m guessing it has to many of you, because sometimes I just feel like a junior higher who rocks a minivan and pays taxes. I’m realizing that I’ve probably only got 10 more years at best without crows’ feet, body parts that gripe regularly, and phrases like “middle age” applying to me rather than just my son’s homework. For the love.
Whether because of my big 3-0 or just converging life circumstances, I’ve found myself contemplating a lot of what Tricia talked about in her post on moms and dreams. I look at the younger, Anne-of-Green-Gables-type version of myself and realize that my life is not the dramatically world-changing one I’d pictured with such certainty and flourish. I’d envisioned myself teaching kids who looked a lot different than me in some cinderblock building across the ocean, or maybe leading a Bible study in a different language. But you know, I’m guessing that very few of us end up becoming the version of ourselves that we anticipated.
As I grow, I realize that as I choose certain paths, I am not choosing others. Windows that were once wide open are now not so wide. Did I compromise? Sell out? Maybe you’re wondering, like me, How did I get here? Or maybe the question deep inside of that: Is my life special? Am I just another run-of-the-mill mom?
Motherhood, I have decided, is an interesting time of waiting on God. Especially in these years of young children — when the days are long, the remnants of me sometimes seem to fade to a mere shadow with frizzed-out hair from the constant work, and the results of my efforts seem either very temporary (“Oops! I dumped it again, Mom!”) or in the very distant future — it’s easy to feel like my life is constricted by the four walls of our tri-level. And I actually seek to do a lot outside my home! I’m just coming to grips with the fact that my small steps toward pursuing dreams that God has put in me require a lot. Of. Patience. Sometimes it’s easy for the grass to look a lot greener on the lawn uncluttered by riding toys, a soccer goal, and dog doo.
Like you, I certainly don’t regret my children or my marriage! But if good is the enemy of the best, which is this?
I still think it’s a good question to ask at any point in life, if not simply to realign myself with what God wants. But I have to go back and look at how God brought me here. Yes, I could have gone off into the sticks in Africa. But frankly, I don’t know how much of my desire to go change the world was actually my own naive ideal that makes some occupations seem more sacrificing or beautiful — at least to other people.
As my husband and I walked down each path … that led to the next path … that led to the next, we asked God for wisdom — which God says that a) he gives generously as long as b) we trust that he will. Plus, as my mom is fond of saying, I can’t give him a card that he can’t play. It’s his purpose that keeps going, not mine.
And wanna know something cool? A hundred years from now, there may be fifty or more people following Jesus — and changing the world — because I had four kids who hopefully will keep having families that love God and reach out to other people. My own grandma exchanged becoming a nurse in Africa to raise a family that now impacts the culture both here and around the globe. Jesus’ mom, too, was only one of the billions of women who have changed the world, starting with diapers.
Maybe “30 with four kids” isn’t such a small life after all.
Janel Breitenstein graduated summa cum laude from John Brown University and began her career with NavPress, where she worked on The Message Bible. After having four children she resumed her professional career (around her momlife) by serving as a writer for FamilyLife. In January of 2012 Janel and her husband, John, packed up their family of six and moved to Uganda to serve with Engineering Ministries International (eMi), an organization that focuses on poverty relief and development, providing structural design and construction management for Christian organizations in the third world. Join us as we all learn first hand, through Janel’s posts, what it’s like to go from suburban America, to answer God’s call in Africa!