My Word for 2015

I make resolutions all the time; daily, even hourly sometimes. So although I do make New Years Resolutions, they are usually just extensions of things I’ve been doing the year prior.

2 Reasons for that:

1. I make resolutions constantly because my desire to be my best self goes in direct conflict with my lack of will power.

2. You can’t live like a sloth for 6 months and then get up January 1st and expect to become a fitness expert. So although New Years Day does feel like a fresh canvas for me, ready to be painted, I’m not usually doing something brand new.

December 31, 2014, I sat and contemplated what I would declare as my “2015 New Years’ Resolution”, but nothing jumped out as definitive. I have a whole #30Before30 list that still needs finished, so there’s no shortage of goals. However, that’s not what’s holding me back. Like many other bloggers I follow, what’s defining my outlook on this new year is a word. Wait.

As in, wait upon the LORD.

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Despite all my striving and controlling and pushing and pulling, God has always been in control of the entire universe, my finite life included. If the last year taught me anything, it’s that I have no control over what is to come.

This year I want to own that truth. I want to wait and see what God has planned. Dustin and I will continue to work hard for things we believe are important for our family and the Kingdom, but we are basking in contentedness. This year, we choose gratitude for exactly where we are. And rather than striving to control the future, we are waiting to hear from God what He wants for us.

2015 could bring incredible joy or incredible sorrow, or even both. The last few months, I’ve learned what a gift the unknown can be. I don’t have to carry the weight of the future on my shoulders, because God is holding it in His mighty hands. May I spend no more energy fretting over the future, but resting in the present.

Come what may in 2015, I will wait upon the LORD.

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Things 2014 Taught Me

2014 was a year of learning. The best ones always are. Some of the lessons were new, and some were strong reminders. Without further ado and in no particular order, here are the things 2014 taught me…

  • I can survive winter without being completely bummed the whole time. Get out of the house and keep moving, even if it means wearing extra layers and braving time among sick people…it’s worth the risk.

  • Stress over illness can be more harmful than illness itself.

  • Communication is critically important in relationships, and that is not as simple as it sounds. Keep talking to each other, even when it hurts.

  • We can survive far more than we can imagine, but only when we rely on more than ourselves. My own strength, Dustin’s and my strength together, your strength, isn’t enough to brave the trials of this life. And that’s okay.

  • Humility goes a LONG way. It is one of the most important elements in a healthy relationship.

  • Marriage can survive a separation.

  • Not everyone is going to be happy when you succeed. Sometimes your success will hurt another person, because they don’t understand how you have what they don’t. Because of that, you might feel guilty about the happiness in your life.

  • You shouldn’t be ashamed at how far you’ve come or how much the LORD has given you. Walk in humility and gratitude, and recognize that not everyone is where you are in their journey.

  • You should give more grace than you think people deserve. That’s one way to be like Jesus.

  • Not everyone is in the same place in their spiritual walk, but that doesn’t mean they love Jesus any more or less. Everyone is learning.

  • Good girlfriends are precious gems.

  • Life is best lived when you choose to be grateful for the unexpected. And there will always be unexpected things. Don’t hold too tightly to your own plans, because God’s plans are always better.

  • You cannot just show up and expect everything to fall into place. You have to work hard and then work harder. Life will not hand you success.

  • Two tall adults and one little boy can live a very joyful life in a 500-600 square foot second floor apartment…even if those two adults hit their heads on the surprisingly low ceilings and door frames.

  • You don’t need nearly as much as you think you do.

  • Going to school gets harder with age and more responsibility, but you appreciate it more.

  • There is a much greater sense of accomplishment when you pay for things with cash, especially if that means waiting a long time to get them.

  • Sometimes dreams coming true looks a lot more like hard work, sweat, and tears. Also, you rarely feel the way you expect to when things happen, for the good or the bad, but it’s so much better to take chances than to sit back and always wonder what could have been.

  • You don’t have to be a slave to debt. Whether you are just starting out or starting over, you can have freedom. Again, that means working hard and sacrificing.

  • Judging between right and wrong is far different from being judgmental. The first seeks to be right in the eyes of a Holy God. The latter places oneself in the throne of God, and pride certainly leads to a fall. And oh, how far I’ve fallen.

  • Potty-training is rough.

  • Your children will become just like you. Be someone you’d want them to become.

  • If you have a will as strong as an ox, you’d better gear up to raise a strong-willed child. No joke.

  • I married an incredibly patient and loving man.

  • Time alone is good for personal reflection and growth, but should not be a constant in your life.

  • If you seek opportunities, you will find them, especially opportunities to serve others. There is need all around you.

  • Cliches exist for a reason. It really is more blessed to give than to receive.

  • You can allow people to make you feel bad for just about anything, but don’t. Once upon a time, I let someone make me feel like less of a mother because I only have one child instead of many. How silly.

  • You can be miserable doing something you love, and you can be happy doing something you don’t. A lot depends on your attitude and the people around you.

  • Painting murals makes me very happy.

  • You cannot do everything, so ask the LORD to guide you in how you spend your time. And on that note, you can’t go wrong spending time with Him.

  • Prayer is the most powerful tool a person can use. Miracles happen when you hand control over to the LORD. He can heal hearts and repair relationships. He can and will do far more than you could ever ask or imagine.

  • I firmly believe the entire Bible, but sometimes God uses life to highlight verses in our hearts. If I could use a verse to describe this year, I think Ephesians 3:14-21 would be fitting…

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Un Frozen

I’ve been spending a lot of time “crock-potting” these days. I’m pretty sure my sister-in-law, Leah, coined that phrase. It essentially means that I process things over an extended period of time. The slow-cooking version of the mind and heart. Some people like to hash things out right away, but it takes me time…

I have spent a lot of my life thinking, dreaming, and reading, but rarely to never doing. I’ve always wanted to be someone who helps other people. I even got a degree in a “helping profession”, but as I reflect on my twenties, I am ashamed at how little helping I actually did.

A few months ago I started praying about this. Prayer is a dangerous thing, you know. Prayers get answered, and out of your comfort zone you go. I prayed that God would give me opportunities to serve Him by serving others. I know there are needs all around, but in the busyness of life, I often feel like I don’t get the chance to make a difference.

As I said, prayers get answered. I was given quite a few opportunities to minister to others this fall, and I feel like the tiny bit of change I’m making in the world is making a major change in me.

I’m not going to claim to be a completely selfless person, but I will say that the reason I haven’t been helping people over the last decade isn’t about selfishness. It’s about fear. I have had gobs of dreams and ideas about how I would offer my living sacrifice to God, but I ultimately always turn away in fear.

What if what I do doesn’t make a difference? What if I get sick? What if I don’t have time for my family or the activities that I enjoy? What if I don’t have the resources? What if I fail?

Fear is not of God. Fear focuses on self and self’s limitations.

I spent many years frozen in fear, but as I answer “yes” to the small opportunities I’m given, God is showing me that He can make something out of my nothing. I need only show up. If I keep my eyes on Jesus, and not on myself in all my shortcomings, He will make the difference. And I’m the one who receives the blessing. This “crock-potting” heart is slowly, but surely, warming up to His kingdom work.

Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me

I’ve had a lot of time to think since I last posted. One of the things that has come to mind time and again is how some of us are inclined to throw ourselves pity parties. I hate to admit it, but this is sort of a special talent of mine. If throwing personal pity parties were a spiritual gift, I’d be a Super Christian. Now, before you start thinking I’m totally pathetic, I have to say that I also have enough self-awareness to snap myself out of it.

The last few months, I may have thrown a few pity parties. Yeah, I definitely did. Some of the things were silly. Some were deeper rooted and still difficult for me to handle, but what God has been showing me is this…

You are your own worst enemy when you start feeling sorry for yourself.

It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you start to think like you’ve been granted the short end of the stick in life, things do seemingly get worse and worse. Have you ever said, “When it rains, it pours”? Me too. But recently, I’ve really tried to stop voicing negativity about my life. Here’s why…

When you throw a pity party…

1. You forget to be thankful for the abundance of blessings poured out on you daily.

Sometimes life is really hard, but if you are reading this, I’m guessing you’ve lived a pretty charmed life. Hear me out…do you have a roof over your head? Do you have people to love, clothes to wear, food to eat, clean water to drink, and opportunities to better yourself? Air in your lungs? The beauty of creation outside your door? There are so many things for which to be thankful. If you’re focusing on the negatives in life, you are more than likely missing out on the joy all around you.

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2. You miss opportunities to help other people.

“Poor me. My life is so hard. I just want this. I just wish that. I…I…I” Want to be self-centered? Buy some decorations and throw yourself a pity party! When I was a young girl and I’d come home from school all mopey, Mom would ask, “What is one nice thing you did for someone else today?” That was an amazing way to get my attention and remind me that it’s not all about me. Not only that, but one of the best pick-me-ups is lending a hand to someone who needs it. There’s a world of need right outside your door. Feeling sorry for yourself? Look around and realize that there is always someone else with bigger fish to fry.

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3. You become prideful.

“I’m the only one who’s ever felt this way.” Have you said that before? Have you felt it? I can always tell someone is drowning in a pool of self-importance when she starts making claims that she’s the “only one” and that “no one understands”. What makes you think that your problems are so unique? Does it feel good to be the martyr who suffers in your own special way? I don’t mean to be harsh, but this attitude is truly a form of pride, and not the good kind. Everyone suffers in one way or another on this planet, but we are all in this together. No one is more important than another.

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4. You push people away.

When you take on the attitude that no one understands you and that you are all alone in your pitiful existence, you either keep people at arm’s length, or you push them away completely. Sure, you may feel like people don’t get exactly what you are going through, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care. Maybe they don’t know you’re suffering. Have you told anyone? Maybe they don’t know exactly how to help you, because they’re human, too. Have you asked for help? You may blame others for not being there for you, when in reality, you are the one who has robbed them of the opportunity.

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5. You excuse yourself from responsibility for your life (If you ask me, this might be the most destructive one…)

“My life is so hard. Look at all the things I’ve suffered. Poor me. No one cares. Nothing ever goes my way.” The truth is, sometimes life is the worst. We live in a broken world full of sinners. We aren’t always loved the way God intended, natural disasters happen, financial hardships come, we get sick, and sometimes we lose people we love. It is tough to say the least. I’ve been through a lot in my life, but the truth is, I still had choices to make. I’m thankful that I had a support system (my God, my parents, my church family, countless teachers and mentors) who steered me in the right direction. For the most part I’ve made positive decisions in spite of the hardships, but there were times I missed out because I was feeling sorry for myself. There are ALWAYS opportunities to better yourself. You can’t control what other people do, or how the weather changes, or what life throws at you, but you can decide to get up every day, thank God for your blessings, love the people around you, and make choices that will help you grow. You are responsible for who you become. Choose to be strong and courageous, no matter what life throws your way. Keep your chin up.

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(Thank you, one year old Josiah for being my cry-baby model…You’re beautiful even when you ugly cry! Thank you, Amber Chapman, for capturing pictures of my sweet boy!)

I Need a Reminder (And a few goals for September)

Being a parent whilst also being human is really discouraging sometimes. I feel like a big fat failure almost every single day. Like right now, when Josiah has been asking to put the same puzzle together for 2 days, and it’s still laying in the middle of the living room floor undone. I haven’t found 5 minutes to sit with him to put that stinking puzzle together. You know why? Because I’m tired and cranky, I have a million and one things to do, and I selfishly don’t want to sit on the floor and put a puzzle together.

Also, he refuses to potty train, and I’m about 99.99% sure I could have done things differently, and he would have met this milestone already. He is so incredibly smart, and I wish for his own sake that he would get excited about potty training…I also regret that the majority of my motivation and anxiety about potty training comes from caring too much about what other people think. All the “you should” and “he should” comments from people whose children apparently mastered potty training at a young age have really been getting me down. When I separate myself from that pressure and think about what is really going on, I realize that I’m putting my own insecurities onto my child, and that is NOT fair.

Where’s the truth here? Whose opinion matters?

God’s. God’s opinion matters. Does God care that Josiah isn’t potty trained? Heh. I don’t think so. You see, Jesus came and died on the cross for me, because He thinks I’m worthy of such great love in spite of my SIN…not in spite of my potty training failures. If He loves me in spite of nailing Him to the cross with my sin, I’m pretty sure He still thinks I’m great even if I have failed to potty train my son before he turned 3.

Isn’t it pathetic that I have to remind myself of that? It is absurd that I allow fallible fellow humans make me feel so badly about something so insignificant.

And this is one of the many reasons I need to read the Bible more.

I need a constant reminder of who God is, what He has done for me, and what I mean to Him.

The minister at Oak Forest Church of Christ, Jim Webster, has been speaking truth into my life so much lately. Colossians 1:9-14 has come up several times in recent Bible studies and sermons, and it is a new favorite passage for me.

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (My emphasis added).

What is God’s will for me? How can I please Him in every way? According to this passage, I believe He wants me to…

  • Live my faith out with good works
  • Get to know Him more and more
  • Gain strength from Him for patience and perseverance
  • Give Him thanks

I do ALL of those things. I please God with my life?! SAY WHAT?! Sure, I could and do strive to do all of those things more, and no I don’t have my son potty trained, yet. I’m so NOT perfect…but that’s the point. I don’t have to have it all together. I have to allow Christ to have all of me, because HE is PERFECT on my behalf. Praise Him!

So, with that reminder in mind, my goals for September are…

  • Give myself a little grace, because God gives me a whole lot of it
  • Get to know God better by getting in His Word more often
  • Thank Him daily
  • Love on Josiah and CHILL OUT, because I guarantee he won’t go to college in diapers.

What are your goals? Is grace on your list?…because it should be.

I hope the hot-mess-express that I am can give you a little encouragement today. His grace is enough for me and for you!

#30Before30 Strikes Again!

This morning I got to mark off another box on my #30Before30 list!

#14 WE PAID OFF A CREDIT CARD! WOOHOO!

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One of our biggest goals is to become debt free, so that we can have freedom to follow wherever God decides to lead us without financial burdens weighing us down. That being said, we haven’t had a lot of success in this department in the past, because…well frankly, it all comes down to discipline and sacrifice. We are striving to better steward the money God gives us. It is all His, and we want to use it for His glory!

When I opened my list to mark off #14, I got to mark off another box that I accomplished earlier this month. Two in one month! Living it up!

#15 Take Josiah horseback riding!

We got to accomplish this one while we were on vacation in Tennessee with the Dummel Family. We stayed in a gorgeous cabin in the mountains, and one day we made our way to Deer Farm Riding Stables in Pigeon Forge. We road a horse called “Squirrel” who was very well trained and calm. The tour guide was amazing with kids, despite being quite young. I was very impressed, and although Josiah was scared at first, he kept saying, “This is fun, Mommy!” I loved every minute of it.

Josiah and Momma Riding Galahad

Not to be all sappy, but this was so meaningful for me.

One of the biggest elements of my story is overcoming fear.

When I was 12, I road a horse that scared the living day lights out of me. It probably wasn’t that traumatizing in real life, but I was a scared kid, and for years I refused to even go near a horse. When I decided it was time to face my many fears in this life, I knew I had to take Josiah horseback riding someday. I hope this experience showed him that it’s okay to take risks, because you give God more opportunities to bless you. And what a blessing it was! Thank You, Jesus!

August Update: Perspective and Regrets

As I begin to write this post, it is with the utmost agitation, as everything within my introverted spirit is telling me to withdraw to the quiet places where no one can see the things I’ve been battling. I have had SO many thoughts on what to write over the last month, but nothing has come to fruition. It’s becoming evident to me that the greatest challenge to being a writer is not in having nothing to write, but rather having too many thoughts competing for my attention. To push my way through the mental traffic and put together a coherent thought would have required more energy than I had to give in the last month.

Please don’t read this as a personal pity party, but the last few months of my life have been a struggle. When I went to the chiropractor a few weeks ago and was chatting with Dr. Huey about my schedule (full-time title clerk, full-time wife and Momma, and part-time accounting student), he said, “There can’t be much left in the tank!” Right on. Truth be told, I am tired. I’m simply doing more than a woman should. But I know it will be worth it one day.

In the last month, I’ve managed a few feable petitions to the LORD for help in seeing this time through. He has been faithful to answer me in His own amazing ways. Two weeks ago I got a glance at a precious little man’s perspective…

Yesterday was a tough day, but it was also a blessing in so many ways. You see, the last few weeks have been trying. I had been in the heart of Payroll Accounting, and although I loved this class, after working full-time, doing housework, and spending quality time with my sweet little family, there’s not much left to give at 9pm when I usually sit down to start schoolwork. I ended up in bed anywhere from 11pm-1am every night. That might not seem like a big deal, but I have always been a person who needs a minimum of 8 hours of sleep each night, or I end up delirious and sick. And lucky me, after two weeks straight of that cycle, I did end up sick. Yuck. I had successfully navigated through the bulk of the class and was ready for a reprieve when, BAM! Monday morning I woke up with a burning in my throat and that deep down crummy feeling. You know the one…

Tuesday and Wednesday I spent at home, mainly lounging, bummed that I was neither at work, nor really enjoying my family time. Yesterday, Thursday, I headed back to work, still not feeling all that well. I dropped Josiah off with my great Aunt Tc, saddened by his tired eyes and stuffy nose. My baby had caught my bug. The thing that’s worse than being sick is knowing that it lead to my baby boy being sick. Thankfully, he was loved on all day by his Aunty and cousins, and when I picked him up, he was a little more perky. I wanted to make sure he ate well, so I had decided earlier in the day that I’d take him on a Momma-Son date. We went to Dairy Cottage for a “hanguber” (one of my very favorite Josiah words), chicken nuggets, and fries. While we were sitting there, he looked up at me with pure delight and said, “This place is REALLY NICE, Mom!”

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Without a doubt, Dairy Cottage is not what you’d call “nice,” nor “really nice.” It is simple, and it provides relatively fast food. In the eyes of a two year old, it’s the perfect place for a date. I decided right then and there that he was right. It’s a place for my boy and me to enjoy eating his favorite foods and savor one another’s company.

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His perspective is what I needed in that moment. He isn’t tainted by the world, and he knows how to deeply enjoy the simple things in life. Thank You, Jesus, for “the mouths of babes” to remind us that life really is sweet, even with puffy eyes and sore sinuses.

About a week after that sweet date, we drove to the Smokey Mountains with Daddy for family “cu-cation” (Thank you to my dear Dad-and-Mom-In-Law). I’d like to say I was fully embracing this time in our lives, ecstatic about the break from routine, and completely carefree to enjoy the mountains. I wasn’t. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t still struggling. You see, I’ve been wrestling with so many regrets from years gone by.

No Regrets

I see images like this on Pinterest, and I have to swallow back the lump in my throat because I can’t be that carefree.

I regret so many major decisions I’ve made since I was young. Maybe I’m embarrassing myself a little bit to announce that, but what have I to hide? I know that every path I’ve walked, every person I’ve encountered, every decision I’ve made has shaped me into who I am today, and in many ways I’m grateful for that. However, as I’m struggling to fight off a season of depression, there are obviously choices that I regret.

In the past, I made time and financial commitments to a career that wasn’t right for me, because I bought into the lies that being who I really am was NOT enough.

That, friends, is the ache gripping my heart. I want more than anything in this world to be a full-time Momma with a part-time skill to contribute financially to this simple life we love to live. We don’t want for fancy things, but our life is very expensive.

The making of this situation began long before I was married, long before I was in college. You see, what I really wanted was to go to vocational school during my high school years to become a hairdresser. I LOVED doing hair when I was young, and I even did hair for weddings and school dances while I was still in high school. It was a natural skill that could have been mastered for only a few hundred dollars before I even left Mom and Dad’s. I could have began a trade at age 18 that would have allowed me to pay for college classes or begin a simple life until I married and had children. I could have used those skills to be the family hairstylist and to work part-time while my children were young, because all I really wanted was to be a momma and a wife. Becoming a hairdresser would have given me a career to fall back on if my husband fell ill, if he lost his job, or heaven-forbid, if I found myself a single mother. Let me tell you, I have experienced all three of those situations, and the only thing I had under my belt were thousands of dollars in student loans, a useless degree, broken dreams, and no marketable skills.

All the promise of a bright young woman’s future only left her desperate and scared, scrambling to pick up the pieces.

I can’t give you the name of the person who told me being a hairdresser wasn’t enough. I think it was a collaborative effort by society and the school system. I’m not trying to be critical, but I was vulnerable and moldable, and I was steered in the wrong direction. Sure, I’m smart, but that doesn’t mean that I have to use my brain to make “the big bucks” if that doesn’t agree with my heart. From a young age, I made high scores in class, as well as standardized tests. I have a very high IQ (Awkard. It’s awkward to tell people you have a high IQ. It feels like bragging no matter what. Blah!). For those reasons, I was pushed, yes PUSHED, to “Go to college! Change the world! Live up to your potential!…oh, and just take out loans if you can’t pay for it. You’ll be able to pay them off with the gobs of money you’ll make doing the awesome thing that only a college graduate can do.” I’m smart, but I’m also apparently incredibly naïve.

Trade School

I saw this cartoon on my Facebook feed the other day while contemplating this post. I doubt it was a coincidence. I HATE admitting that I was with the kid on the right. NO…I absolutely did NOT think the kids who went to trade school were “losers.” They were some of my best friends! But I did believe that if I didn’t go to college and get some prestigious degree that I would somehow be failing my teachers, my parents, my school, myself, and worst of all God. Somehow I’d be failing the society that molded me. And to add insult to injury, I also believed that since I was “so smart,” there was no sense in going to trade school when my AP classes would surely pay for my degree. I should keep my mind on the books, not on getting a job right then.

Therefore, I took all the hardest classes, spent my days of high school completely miserable, because there was homework, not joy or fun, to be had. And it paid off…but not in the ways I wish it would have. It paid off by teaching me to be proud. I was proud to be named Scholar Athlete. I was proud of my straight A’s and beyond perfect GPA. I was proud of all the local scholarships I “earned.” But I was NOT proud of who I was. I filled my journals with cries out to God to teach me to be real. In my pursuit of “living up to my potential,” I forgot who I was. I knew I was a phony. I didn’t really care about straight A’s and being “most likely to succeed.” What I longed for so deeply was a family of my own.

Those scholarships ran out my first year in college. Learning a trade would have lasted far longer than those financial gifts. Don’t get me wrong. I am not ungrateful for that support, but it would have been better for me to learn to truly stand on my own two feet before making such a large purchase. That is what college is…an enormous purchase. But society tells kids that college is a right, a necessity, an investment in your future. It is definitely an investment, but in what? And with whose money? College, just as with anything you want in life, should be earned. It is not a right, nor a necessity. Your basic needs are water, food, shelter, clothing, and love. Those things can all be attained without ever stepping foot on a college campus. Just ask my dad, who started working his tail off in eighth grade and never looked back. Without even a high school diploma, my dad provided for four children. Not only that, but he was able to provide a stable home, all while my mom stayed home with us kids. Hard work is what gets you where you want to be. Not college. College is merely a tool. And now that I’ve experienced this whole crazy cycle, I believe it is a tool that you should pay for with your present money, not with the government’s (i.e. your future money). Sure there are instances where student loans may be necessary (like medical school), but that isn’t the norm.

One of the ideas we buy into is that college will pay for itself.

That is not true. Just ask so many of my classmates. At its best, college is expensive job training, and at its worst is a lot of time and money spent for a degree that won’t really prepare you for an actual career. I know that sounds jaded, but ask even the most successful college graduates. Hard work is what pays for your life (and your degree!), and hands-on work, applying the book knowledge, is where the real development happens. I am not suggesting that kids should avoid college. If I had the chance to do it all over again, I would still have gone to college (I loved it!). I would have just done things differently. I would have chosen a degree that was practical, and I would have learned to work to pay for my classes. I would have only taken the classes I could afford. It may have taken me years longer to complete, but in the end, I would have been debt free, and would have had years of real world experience under my belt. The future would have been bright, not dimmed by the nearly $30k in student loans that I now owe.

I did not have the confidence to take that road less travelled.

I was a scared, insecure girl who wanted desperately to do the right thing. I was not brave enough to question the norm, nor to do what I really wanted. I started running after goals that were wrong for me before I even went through puberty. The pressure to succeed starts young, friends. I hope that any young people reading this will have the courage to learn from my mistakes. Seek a life that you really care about, despite how much money you’ll make or the prestige that you would otherwise earn. Before you start taking steps and financial commitments for the future, do some soul searching and figure out if what you’re doing is really suitable for the life you desire. There are a million reasons to pick any specific career, but if your heart is not in it, you probably won’t succeed, and even if you do, you’ll be miserable. What kind of success is that?

The reason I’m struggling now is that I have what I’ve always wanted, a husband and a child…but I don’t get to invest in them nearly as much as I feel they deserve. I spend my days working a job that I could have done without a college degree just to pay for society’s dream for me. I could have made a bigger impact on my family and the world around me with a  simple trade that I let slip through my fingers at a young age. I wouldn’t have put such a huge financial burden on myself that keeps me from spending my days with my sweet baby boy. But the truth is, I cannot go back, even if I wanted to…I need to lift my eyes up to the LORD, ask for help through this difficult time, and keep on working toward my dream.

My dream is that I would be available.

I want to be available to my husband and child whenever they need me. I want to be available to my extended family, my friends, my neighbors, and the people around me who need to hear about Jesus. I’m not there, yet. I’ve made decisions that are making it very difficult for me to be present with my loved ones, but the bright light at the end of this tunnel is that my dream is not impossible. It is just going to look different. One day, I will finish a certificate program or degree that will give me a marketable skill. I will be able to work part-time, if the LORD wills, to support my sweet family financially, but also to be available to them more. This time around, I’m doing things differently. No more student loans. No more belief that taking classes will earn my way. I am taking classes in accounting because I really love it, and I’m applying those lessons at work. Like being a hairstylist, accounting is practical and will be a valuable skill wherever we live. I’m developing my skills daily, and I am slowly chipping away at the debt that is bogging my family down.

If you’re reading this and you have influence in the life of a child, will you please let him know that he is enough, and that he doesn’t have to buy into society’s demands to be successful? Being a parent is enough. Being a hairdresser is enough.

Being you is enough.

So work hard to be you, and please, please, PLEASE don’t steal from your future to do it.