I am a homemaker. It is what I write in the box for “occupation”. Which means that much of my time is spent doing ordinary things that are necessary to keep my busy home in order. Tidying. Laundry. Carpooling. Numerous trips to Costco and the grocery store. And the relentless cycle of preparing food and washing dishes.
My twenty-year-old self would label me a sell-out. In college I spent hours having conversations with friends about wanting to open up a group home that would be a place of healing for wounded children. Or practicing social work in a major hospital, bringing peace and hope into situations that were chaotic and broken. Or joining the Peace Corps to live a life of adventure overseas. My senior year of college I actually did send a tear off card to the Peace Corps requesting information, but I never heard anything in response – and I have never been quite sure how to interpret that.
But then life happened.
I fell in love with my statistics tutor senior year of college – who could see that coming! – and we were married a year after graduation. I went to grad school for my Master’s of Social Work – but our first son (surprise!) was born six weeks after graduation. I worked as an on-call/per diem medical social worker for a local hospital network – but then my husband started grad school for his MBA and baby boy #2 came along, and the income I was able to generate was not worth the stress of trying to manage my work and babies.
So my career was put on hold. At twenty-eight I became a full-time homemaker and my daily routine became an endless list of tedious tasks. My family is my greatest joy, but that doesn’t mean that every moment and season has been fulfilling. You put in a lot of years of parenting before your kids can even have a conversation, let alone say “Thank you.” or “I love you.” – and mean it.
In those early months of parenting, I remember talking on-and-on to Ryan about something that I had heard during the day on talk radio. As I took a breath he innocently asked, “Why do you always talk to me about what Dr. Laura said?” And I burst into tears saying, “Because I don’t have anything else to talk to you about. I don’t do anything interesting while you’re at work and the baby doesn’t talk to me.”
Sixteen years have passed since that emotional conversation in a tiny apartment kitchen. That baby is 6 inches taller than me and is researching colleges that he’d like to attend. And I have come to realize how valuable those years of tedious work are to my spiritual formation and the work I love developing the community that we share with young adults…
It was the tediousness and simplicity of life at that time that made the space for me to move from believing in God, to actually knowing and being known by Him. I began devoting time to bible study, seeking God for companionship and affirmation, and learning how to really pray – to converse with God. Not just asking for things, but sharing my deepest thoughts, and questions, and concerns. As well as sharing things that I think are funny and perplexing and disturbing and beautiful. Learning to recognize his voice in deeply intimate exchanges. So full of delight and grace for me. Not because of anything I do, but because of who I am. His daughter. His beloved.
For a long time I have felt like all these years have been a wonderful detour. I just figured that God just had a better plan for me than mine, and I was grateful for how everything worked out. In recent years a discipleship ministry has taken root in our home. I serve a family dinner to a community of inspiring young women and lead a bible study with them on Monday nights, and host a family dinner to a community of exceptional young men every Thursday night.
That means that I get to be a homemaker for these guys:
But also for these guys:
And for these girls:
As well as several beloved faces not represented in these photos. Amazing young people that we get to love and feed in our home every week.
Recently, on a Thursday evening I paused while cleaning the kitchen and looked around my home. I had fed and nourished my family and several young men through good food and good conversation. Men we have grown to truly love as part of our family. Some of them were laughing at the dining room table playing a game. Some were watching TV. Others were enjoying conversation, working on laptops, and folding their laundry. It brought tears to my eyes remembering that twenty-year-old college girl, sitting on a dorm room floor and dreaming plans into the early morning hours of running a group home. The veil was lifted and I could see that my life is not a happy detour. God has been absolutely faithful to fulfill the deepest desires of a young woman’s heart, and every part of my journey has equipped me for this. My vocation. My life work. I did not give up “working”. I have just been on a path that I could not have foreseen at twenty and it’s full of blessings that I could not have imagined. God has made my home into a place of healing, of hope, of peace and joy for everyone who comes through our front door. But because I expected the fulfillment of my dreams as a young woman to look like something else, I almost missed it.
And I no longer think my twenty-year-old self would label me a sell out. She would love coming to my home for dinner.