There are moments in my life that I consider to be “landmark moments”: impactful experiences that I vowed never to forget, that would drive me to specific resolutions. I vowed I would do whatever it took to have a peaceful home when I had a family. I vowed that I would encourage my children and tell them I loved them every single day. I vowed that I would be available to my children, that I would offer them hope, that I would tell them I am proud of them.
As I prepared to graduate from high school, I had a burning desire to attend a Christian college in hopes of preparing for full time ministry. Because my parents couldn’t afford to send me to college, my only option was to find a full time job. I worked at a few retail stores, and I was miserable. I had no direction. I had unfulfilled desires, and I believed the lie that there was no hope for me. That I was doomed to a life of meaningless jobs.
I believed that I was a hopeless misfit. So I chose to swallow a bottle of pills.
I didn’t necessarily WANT to die. I wanted change. I needed guidance. I needed someone to say that there was more to life than this. That I would be okay. I needed someone to live life with me, to tell me I wasn’t a misfit, to offer me hope.
Four years later, I found myself on a Christian college campus. My dream had come true, but I often feared that one day I’d discover that none of it was real. On one particular afternoon during my first semester, I came back to my room after classes for a nap. An hour later as I began to wake up, I entered that “in-between place” of sleep where you are not quite awake, yet not quite asleep, and I was suddenly afraid to open my eyes. I laid there, wondering if it had all been a dream. Gradually, a realization crept over me: it wasn’t a dream! God had miraculously provided for me to finish college! In that moment, I turned a corner in my journey.
During those years I met people that would have a profound influence on my life. A roommate who was patient with me as I grew from an immature, insecure, loud, flirtatious, young girl to an increasingly focused woman of God. Professors who took the time to teach me study skills and who made it their goal to help me become a successful student.
There was the Dean of women who said to me, “One day you will write…”
There was the professor who told me, “One day you will speak…”
And of course, the man who would one day be my husband!
I was sitting on the hood of his car when he asked me if I would consider dating him. Up until that very moment, I had absolutely no idea he was interested in me. Mentally, I had checked that possibility off my list. Brian was everything I had ever dreamed of or hoped for, but I was sure I was not good enough for a man of his character. We developed a friendship, and I became resolved to the fact that a man like him would probably never be interested in me. When he asked me to pray about whether or not we should begin a relationship, I was so shocked I almost fell right off the car and onto the pavement! Two years later we were married. Brian with his godly family upbringing, and me with my resolve to do things “differently.”
We were finishing up our schooling and living in campus housing. A staff member’s wife made herself available, and began to show me, and teach me, how to love a husband, children and others “differently,” She began to bring to life what I had been resolving to be when I “grew up.” Not only did she live her life and love her husband and family differently, she gave her life away; she drew me into her circle and lived life in front of me.
For about three years I had a front seat and was able to watch her as she loved her husband, her children, and was a keeper at home, and she did it in such an appealing way that it was used by God to create within me the desire to follow her Christ like example.
“You are precious!” She would say. “I’m so proud of you!”
Her words lifted me. They were words I had never heard before. Words that filled me with confidence and helped me to see that God had created me, with giftings meant to bring Him glory.
We moved and I left the guidance of my first official mentor. I began the journey of parenting with lofty goals of “doing it differently.” With little outside guidance, and much judgment and resistance from family, we did what we thought was best. We read all we could find and prayed for guidance—never feeling quite adequate enough. Because there were so few older women who had the time to invest in the lives of younger women, I was briefly drawn into legalism. It was easier to follow rules. Rules gave me guidelines. It pulled me into groups of women who thought the same way, and gave me a sense of feeling accepted. For awhile anyway…
With the help of a wise husband, I finally began to walk away from legalism. But that only left me alone again. Looking. Longing for someone older to take an interest in my life. To have time. They were lonely years, but years of learning. Praying for help. Depending on God. Searching the scriptures to find out what my calling is as a wife, mom, and mentor, so that one day I would be available. So I would do it differently. Years of preparation. Of learning about grace, and of looking around me and choosing to live life with those around me.
My life’s journey has led to this moment. Mentoring. Breathing it. Writing it. Living it.
I have had two mentors who have impacted may life significantly. Who have shown me what “differently” looks like. My time spent with them has changed me. Although it has been a process of growth that I am still in, my time with these godly woman has been what has given me the hope that there was a different way to live and the excitement to learn how to live it. It’s what gave me the drive and desire to learn how to do for others what these two women have done for me.
I trace the steps of my life, and see how God has gently led me to a greater knowledge of Himself. And although I have not been the perfect wife or mother, I believe that our home has been mostly peaceful. I thank God for how He has accomplished that.I look around me, and I see that I somehow have gotten to a point where I am available and living daily life with people. Even though I wasn’t sure what it would look like, God orchestrated my life so that I would be immersed in people. I am so thankful! He took the desire, the resolve, the willingness, and turned it into real life.
Today, I sit on my red couch, with my computer on my lap, and I write. I share my story, still amazed at all that God has done. Even when I didn’t know it, every step of my journey has been leading me to this place. I look back over my life and I trace God’s hand – and His grace. There is evidence that He was there.
He was there when I vowed to do things differently. He was there when I tried to take my life, and when I left for college. He was there when I sat on the hood of my future husband’s car and he told me he was interested in me. He was there in my landmark moments, prompting me to vow to be there, to be available, to hear my children. He was there writing my story and preparing me to do things differently. To know Him. And to give my life away.
All I needed was to be willing. He did the rest. He made it happen with four little words. They were faint at first, but became louder as my understanding grew. Four little words were the key to doing it differently.
Give. Your. Life. Away.