Thursday, September 27, 2007

Chasing My Dreams

I had an anniversary of sorts over the summer that passed by without any fanfare or celebration. I am not even sure of the exact date-- it is more of a season I recognize in a personal way. Certainly not something I announce or make a big to do over. It is the anniversary of when I got serious about being published. Four years ago in the summer of '03 I decided that, yes, I was going to seek publication. A dream I had held in my heart was going to become a reality one way or another. I was going to stop talking about it, and start doing it.

And so, I began to make little baby steps towards achieving this rather large dream. I was going to move forward until God told me to stop, walking through open doors and learning not to shove open the closed ones. Learning instead to say, "Not my will, but yours." And mean it. I knew it would be a long road, and a hard road.

I had no idea.

I think that if someone would have told me that four years later, I would still be unpublished, I would have quit on the spot. I wouldn't have had the gumption to strike out as I did, to stake my claim on what I felt was my calling in life. To tell you of all the slammed doors, the rejections, the near misses-- it is a wonder I have lasted. It is a miracle that I am still here, chasing my dreams just as I was when I started. There have been many days I have said aloud, to no one, or to my husband, "I am just going to quit." And I have-- for a few days. And then, somehow, I go back to it. I get a fresh burst of inspiration, a word from the Bible, or another "great" idea that "can't miss" and I am off and running, my great chase on again.

So where has this led me, and why am I writing it to you, here? Because some things have happened in my life that have shifted my direction and made pursuing my dreams possible in at a new level. I have been balancing this pursuit of publication with being a full-time homeschooling mom for awhile now. And it was hard. More times than not, the homeschooling got my full attention for obvious reasons, and the writing got the dregs.

Conversely, the worst was when my passion for writing overtook my commitment to homeschool. More times than I care to admit, I sat at the computer working towards a deadline or responding to emails while my kids entertained themselves or waited for me to attend to them. I felt bad about it, and it nagged at me. I knew something had to give. There were three things that took up the bulk of my energy-- the toddler, the homeschooling, and the writing/speaking. Since the toddler wasn't something that could "go" in my life, that left two things.

Last year, I put my oldest in school at a great little charter school just down the street. He had a phenomenal year and I was quite pleased with this little school. I call it "the land that time forgot." It isn't just the school, it is the town it is in and the community of folks that are there. It is small town life at its finest, and fit us like a hand in glove. As I observed this little school, I realized that they were accomplishing some of the same things I was seeking to accomplish at home with my children. Since I was doing so poorly, could they possibly do it better?

And furthermore, would God open those doors and give me permission not to homeschool my children? Could that even be possible? I had never even considered that God would ever call me out of homeschooling. I began to pray that God would show me the way to go.

I will add here that I prayed for Him to show me the way to go. Not my friend or my mom, not my neighbor or Bible study teacher. Me. I really struggled with this-- perhaps I am the only one, but I don't think so. I wanted to go where He led, yet I kept offering up other people whose lives I found myself striving to imitate. (Does anyone else find themselves doing this?) So, a lot of this was learning that He had a plan for me and my family that was unique-- that no matter how hard I tried or how much I wished, those other people's lives were never going to resemble mine. Even reading other people's blogs caused me to stumble in my thinking as I told God how well this person or that person seemed to handle outside things and homeschooling-- why couldn't I do that? In His infinite patience, He spent a lot of time turning my head from the window to the mirror.

This summer was a time spent wrestling with this issue, and continually seeking God for guidance and wisdom and insight. I waffled daily, even hourly. Most of all, I had to re-learn how to surrender control of this situation. Because when it came down to it, I didn't have control. Only God could get my kids into this school. Only God could change my circumstances and my heart. Only God knew what our fall was ultimately going to look like. I had to offer it up to Him and trust the outcome. I have written here before that the best thing you can pray is simply, "I trust You." And so, I prayed that over and over again.

And my kids didn't get into the school. In fact, we were given little hope of the ones that weren't in to ever get in. And I was okay with that. I had spent time praying for peace to accept God's decision in this. And I had offered up the writing and speaking to Him, ready to surrender it as I knew that I could not successfully do both. (I will note that there are SOME who can. I am just not one of those folks.) And we began our school year with great excitement and anticipation. I found myself looking forward to my time with my 11 and 7 yo children.

And then, last week something unexpected happened. I got a call from the school telling me that first one, then two days later the other, got into school. I talked to my husband and asked some friends for input, as this was not a scenario I was prepared for. I talked to the teachers they would have. And ultimately, because I know that a spot in this school is very hard to come by, I decided to take the spots. And so, for about a week now, I have had all my children (except the baby) in school!

What a change. And what a blessing. This school has an extensive waiting list to get in. In fact, there are more kids on the waiting list than there are in the school! I feel so good about them being there-- and I feel like a weight has been lifted off me. The day after they got in, a friend called me to ask me about her and I writing a book together. I was able to say yes, that I could take that on without feeling guilty. This week I got two inquiries from people asking me to play a role in both my church and the ministry I work for. Again, I was able to say yes.

I feel like a new chapter has begun in my life. And I am happy about it. I feel joyous, light, carefree. I enjoy this time I have to suddenly focus on a toddler who was formerly something to simply be "dealt with" instead of savored and loved on. I have been able to run errands that have been on my "to do" list all summer. My email inbox is cleared out for the first time in months. Most importantly, when my kids come home from school, I am happy to see them. I am ready to see them. They aren't a burden or a drain. And while the homework is taking some getting used to, it is even good because I didn't have to assign it, plan for it, or think about it. And it isn't my fault that they have it, either.

Don't get me wrong-- I love homeschooling. I treasure the time we did it. We might even do it again if that is where God leads. I am never saying never. What I am saying is that I needed a break from it. And my kids are enjoying the change of pace, and the consistent activity that school provides them.

The other night at our moms' book study, we discussed where we need to work on our motherhood, and one mom said she needs to spend more time on herself-- not in a selfish way, but in a necessary way. She said that she finds it easy to pour into her family and she has the sacrifice and surrender thing down. But then those pesky negative, bitter feelings start creeping in, and she realizes that she is not flourishing in her role as a mom. Another mom added that Beth Moore was once teaching on the verse "Her children rise up and call her blessed," and that the root word for blessed actually means "happy" in the Hebrew. In other words, her children rise up and call her happy.

That really stuck with me as I thought about this change in my life and how my husband has remarked several times as to how happy I seem. Relaxed. Peaceful. Smiling. I want my children to remember me as happy mom, not stress case mom. For about two years, I have been trying to be "do it all" mom, and it didn't work. I wasn't fooling my family. In letting go of the homeschooling, I have found a way to be blessed. I am grateful for these changes in my life, and for the new and exciting direction my life has taken as I continue to chase my dreams in a whole new way.

Disclaimer: Several people have asked me when I was going to tell my blog readers about this recent development. They both separately commented that they thought I would get ugly or negative comments from you all about my decision. I told them that I didn't think that was true, as I have always felt loved and supported by you all no matter what I am dealing with or going through. I hope that stays true and I hope you will temper your comments with love. God is a very individual God and He deals with each of us in a personal way. He calls us to different things according to our bents and gifts, limits and seasons of life. I am so glad He does, or what a boring world it would be if we were all called to the exact same thing!
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Joni said...

Hey Marybeth!

GOOD for you, girl. And thank you for your willingness to put it all out there for blog-land. Bless you as you continue to follow HIM! Would simply LOVE to email more soon, when time and unpacking allows. Thanks for visiting my blog recently.

MooBeeMa said...

I also applaud you! Sometimes I am more in love with the "idea" of homeschooling than the actual application of it. So I need to check in with God now and then for my marching orders. He often changes the battle plans as He works out the Victories He has in store for His children.

Rona said...

Absolutely amazing.....we are actually praying that God would speak loud and clear TO US as to whether we should pull our kids back out of school. Its still on my heart and at this point, I know its not the idea of homeschooling that I used to be in love with taking us on this road. Its a calling. We just want to hear from God loud and clear - kind of like you did when the doors were opened. Enjoy.

Anonymous said...

I'm excited to see what this new chapter of your life brings. And to see what we have to discuss at the next conference/convention together. :)

Hugs! ~ Rachel

Milehimama said...

God put you in charge of your children's education. You are the parent, you are in charge, you decide.

I'm glad you found such a wonderful school to help you educate your kids!

Elisa @ Extravagant Grace said...

Oh, Marybeth! I am so glad you have shared this long journey on your blog. I know it was a bold step, and I will pray that you are received in love.

What is interesting to me about what you shared is not so much the details of determining what God wants you to do, but the way you handled it all. You took your life, the one God has given you personally, laid it on the altar (over time) and ultimately bowed your knee to His will. How beautiful!

I've been through the exact same scenario this summer, too. But my details weren't homeschool verse writing/speaking. It was ministry vs being still before the Lord and giving Him the space and time to fill my plate.

By the end of the summer, God gave me a vision for my life, through reading some books (Lysa's, When Women Walk..., and Keri Wyatt Kent's, Breathe), and through lots of prayer and Scripture study. This is what I wrote down, to return to as a reminder of my mission:

By God’s grace and mighty power, my life is marked by the privilege of serving Him by spreading the good news (Ephesians 3:7). In service to God, with my eyes set on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith, the manner in which I serve will be under continual evolution. The work I am privileged to join my Heavenly Father in is right before me–my husband and children–as I seek to nurture their bodies, souls, and minds, all the while allowing God free reign to do the same on me. I am made in the image of Christ, by a creative and marvelous God, who intends good things for my life, but by His economy not mine. As I allow Him to work freely through me, I anticipate a future of full satisfaction–creatively, spiritually, emotionally and physically–where my emotional and physical wounds will be healed. My heart's desire is to be a mother whose children arise and call her blessed and a wife whose husband gives praise to her name.

Let me tell you firsthand, I am a work in progress, but I have witnessed God at work in incredible ways as I yield to His will and set thine eyes on Him. I pray you will have the same peace and joy in your days ahead as well. May we be happy moms, wives, and daughters of the King together!

Bathing in His Extravagant Grace,

Elisarose said...

You know, in the Bible, God gave us the parents, the responsibility for our children's education. He didn't say we "have" to home school them, just that we are responsible. And for different parents, there are different choices that are all made within the context of being responsible. If you prayed about your decision (which you did), then you can trust that God WILL guide you in what you decide (and He did). Don't feel like you have to apologize for or explain your decision - if that's what God has led you to do, be free in Him!

Sisterlisa said...

I have no idea why anyone would leave you negative comments about your decision. It's 'your' decision. No other opinion on that matters. If you felt led by God to make this move, then that's for you to follow, not anyone else. (((hugs)))) (((((Marybeth)))))

Digging for Pearls said...

Thank you for your honesty and allowing others to see the struggles we sometimes face when we radically follow after God. I too have felt the need to take my writing up a notch. This summer at She Speaks I actually met with an editor and just a few minutes ago I mailed off a submission for the P31 on-line devotionals. Don't know if I will ever be published or not, but know I must at least put forth the effort and leave the rest up to Him.

Lauren at Faith Fuel! said...

This probably, in my eyes, is your best writing yet: trudging honestly through land mines of explosive issues, dreams of the heart, children precious to you, a calling from God, and...a way to do it all. Powerful honesty, and a prodding from the Lord for us all to do our own soul searching.

Thank you for sharing- because you didn't have to. But because you are a Writer- you did.

mamatwoboys said...

Wow, how awesome of you to ask God to lead you to the truth and then actually listen to what he says. I tend to fight God and think that I know best. Let go and let God. Amen and congrats on your new found peace.

Heather Cox said...

Marybeth - You are such an encouragement to us all as hopeful writers. Your path has not been simple - no one's ever is! I'm so glad you didn't let someone else's opinions sway your decision to put your kids in school.

Jenn said...

I'm visiting your blog for the first time. Thanks for sharing this. I too am a homeschooling mom who is about to send her children off to school. What a big decision! I'm so glad we can pray about it and then rest in His leading.

Lindsey @ Enjoythejourney said...

Marybeth, I think you wrote this very well...every season is just that---a SEASON! Here is to fabulous seasons ahead for you and your family, wherever the journey takes you. No condemnation here, friend. Just love and respect for you and your honesty!