I had it all planned out: graduate college, move to New York City, land a sweet magazine gig, Facebook-post the heck out of my super-rad life, and become successful.
Now, I happen to believe in God, so of course, this wasn’t for me. It was for God, I said. When I became successful and famous, He would definitely get the glory. Because, you know, I was humble.
But then, plot twist. Enter the Great Recession of 2008, AKA, the worst era in history for a new grad to land a job—let alone in the withering magazine industry. What’s that sound? Oh, just all my hopes and dreams bursting in a blazing fire of despair and hopelessness.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t move to NYC. I settled in Cincinnati instead. Got a job at an advertising agency. Climbed some ladders. Got some promotions. Moved into a corner office with a view of the Ohio-freaking-River.
Things were looking up. My career in Cincinnati wasn’t exactly NYC caliber, but it was respectable. I liked what I did, I was good at what I did, and I was grateful for it. I was feeling all kinds of #blessed.
Meanwhile, I got married. A few years later, we got pregnant. And then, when I was about eight months along and roughly the size of a boa constrictor who’d swallowed a refrigerator, I was dropped a God Bomb. (You know, that thing where God tells you to do something that totally disrupts your life plans.)
He whispered to my heart, You will give up your career for this child.
Um, ’scuse me?
No thanks, God. Being a stay-at-home mom is not in my game plan. I conceded on that whole NYC dream, but my status as a career woman, well, that’s non-negotiable. And if you haven’t noticed, I’m pretty good at my job. People need me here, see? I can’t just go quitting to change diapers all day. I’m too talented—too important—for that. Imma stay put, mmk? (In hindsight, I maaaybe had some pride issues.)
Also, I have some convoluted history with the whole stay-at-home mom gig. My mother was a stay-at-home mom, and while I love my mama, she and I are very different people. All she ever wanted in life was to get married and have babies and live happily ever after. And she was incredible at it. Nothing wrong with that. But that was her. Not me.
Me? I have career dreams! I have professional goals! I want to go places and accomplish things—all the things! I couldn’t possibly head down the same life trajectory as my own mother. I’m just going to assume I heard you wrong, God.
No Gray Area
My darling, red-haired baby boy was born in April 2016. I met God halfway and worked part-time for the first year. Figured I was being obedient-ish. That counts for something, right? (Wrong. Turns out, there’s no gray area in obedience.)
For that first year as a mom, things appeared to be going swimmingly. I did career stuff part-time. I did mom stuff the other part-time. I still had a salary and benefits and a job title (which made me feel validated as a productive member of society). Everyone was happy.
But then, another God Bomb. When my son turned one, I heard it again: Elizabeth, it’s time to quit your job.
This time, I heard God loud and clear. There was no running. There was no hemming and hawing. There was no “I’m going to take six months to ‘pray’ about this while I keep doing what I want to do.” Deep in my gut, I could sense exactly what God wanted me to do, and I knew he wanted it done now. This time, I said yes. I obeyed—right away, all the way.
Oh, there were tears. And fears. And tears about the fears. Will our family survive without my income? Will working moms judge me for quitting the workforce? Will my brain become a steaming pile of mush from playing peek-a-boo all day? (The answers are yes, no, and only a little.)
Obeying with a Happy Heart
Obedience isn’t always easy. In fact, it usually isn’t. But our God is not a frivolous God. He doesn’t ask us to do things just for kicks n’ giggles. He has reasons. He has a purpose. And He leads us in directions that are ultimately for our good.
At first, my obedience wasn’t pretty. Sure, I went through the motions, but it was done with gritted teeth and self-pity. I envied working moms who were crushing it in the corporate world, and I allowed my days at home to feel trivial and “beneath me.” (Oh, the pride!) Then I stumbled across this Bible verse:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. Colossians 3:23
Talk about a swift kick to my keister.
I’ve been slowly, gradually, baby-steps learning that it’s not about what I do for my job, it’s how I’m doing it. It’s about changing diapers with all my heart. It’s about playing Play-Doh with all my heart. It’s about cutting hot dogs into toddler-sized pieces with all my heart. Because I’m not doing those things for my glory or even for my son’s. It’s for God. And He is worthy of my best.
Yes, I went down kicking and screaming at first, but in return for my obedience, God’s given me the most incredible gift: peace.
Peace that I’m pleasing Him. Peace that He’s near to me. Peace that I’m exactly where He wants me to be—even if it’s not where I planned to be. Friends, there is nothing more satisfying, more fulfilling, more intoxicating than the lavish gift of God’s abundant peace. It’s always there within reach; we sometimes just need to shift our hearts to receive it.
Also, let’s be clear about this: Just because God’s desire for this season of my mommyhood is staying home, it doesn’t mean that it’s his desire for every mom.
God could equally be calling another mom to run a Fortune 500 company or perform open-heart surgeries or teach Kindergarteners. Whatever we do, it’s about holding our lives with open palms, obeying what God is asking in this season, and doing it with all your heart…for the Lord.
Do I sometimes miss my office job? Yep. Do I hope God lets me rejoin the workforce someday? You betcha. Do I regret obeying God? Nope. Not one iota. I’m grateful He crushed my career dreams because he’s teaching me things (like, ahem, humility) that I wouldn’t have learned if everything had gone according to my plan.
He’s not done with me. He’s not done with you. If you’re in an unsatisfying season, take heart. Don’t wallow in your discontentment. Shift your heart and allow God to refine you, strengthen you, and prepare you for the next season.
Let’s be grateful He loves us enough to crush our career dreams.