In the weeks following our oldest’s (Wyatt) birth I was forced to navigate some deep waters — as any new mom is forced to do I suspect. Overcome with unfathomable love and responsibility, most of my life choices began to feel heavy. Doubt and worry creeped in at every possible second and my life course felt the absolute blurriest it ever has.
Is he hungry? Is he getting enough milk? How do I know if he’s getting enough milk?
What if the heart murmur is a heart condition? What will the doctor say? What if he needs surgery?
Am I doing the right thing to work full time? Am I doing the right thing to work part-time? Am I going to get a shower again, ever?
What do I really want from my life? From our life? What do I want our days and years to look like?
In an effort to clear my head and ease my doubts, Nick thoughtfully suggested we each make a list and right down the things we wanted most out of life. A “rocking chair test” if you will.
I remember sitting myself down on our tiny beige microfiber loveseat, Wyatt sleeping and peaceful in his swing, our house brimming with love and affection from an after church Sunday family visit. The list came to me more easily than I expected:
- Find my soulmate
- Be a godly wife and godly mother
- Teach my children to love to learn (and become lifelong learners)
- To own my own business
I wasn’t prepared that day for how heavy that last little ‘line-item” would weigh on my heart in the years coming, nor the vigor with which God would weave it into our days. It’s a crazy thing when you whisper to life a dream.
To say I’ve been at odds with the decision to quit my job and become a stay at home mom (or work at home mom) for a long time now would be the understatement of the century. For almost five years now, I feel I’ve quite literally wrestled with it. Been worn down, beat down and exhausted by it.
Through all this time I’ve never felt distanced from God. I’ve prayed to Him more and more each day and just kept asking Him to make this decision clear for me. I felt strongly that this is what I wanted, but unsure if it was what He wanted for me and my family. Overtime I eventually convinced myself that was exactly what was happening: this is what I wanted for me. I was being selfish.
But at this conclusion, I became even more unsettled — increasingly unhappy with my everyday. Nick and I schemed plans of how to ‘make it happen’, but nothing very actionable ever came of it. I was, after all, feeling very half-hearted. All the while I just kept asking God for a sign, to point me down His path for me. I never felt like He wasn’t answering this prayer, but instead I worried that I was blind to it, that I wasn’t being patient enough, or worse: I feared that I wouldn’t like His answer when I got it.
Almost two years ago now, I found myself alone one summer day (as one rarely is with a three and one year old). Following a month long endeavor to attempt to see if one of my small business ideas would become fruitful, and feeling particularly exhausted by it all, I remained seated in the front seat of my car after turning it off in our driveway.
I again prayed to Him. I cried, both figuratively and literally, to Him. With hot tears on my face I pleaded, “Please just tell me what I should do!!” And then, I felt a very quiet and very distinct whisper:
What if this isn’t what I want for you, what if this is what you want for you.
I felt it was my answer (or at least in part). I was crushed and defeated.
These are the stories of how I know I was wrong.
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9″
Our pastor opens up service with a piece of scripture I’ve heard no less than a dozen times before. Thurser fidgets in my lap, lending an easy distraction in his attempts to reach the pen clipped to the chair pocket in front of us. But today the verse doesn’t fly in one ear and out the other. Today it takes a seat and grabs a blanket, as if it’s going to get cozy and stay awhile.
Over the next several days that verse continues to echo in my mind and for the first time I begin to question that little voice I’d heard that day.
Was it my answer? Or was it my heart deceiving me? I wanted more answers, more context, so I began searching the whole book of Jeremiah.
Jeremiah was a prophet given the task of delivering an unpopular, convicting message to Israel, one that even caused him great turmoil. Eventually his years of constant loneliness and isolation finally got the best of him and he became discouraged. Jeremiah even found himself at a point of doubting God.
A prophet… doubting God… I became fascinated by this.
And while much of the bible speaks of God’s enduring love, Jeremiah also spoke of God’s discipline. It’s not something I think about often: God’s discipline. I know it is there, but what does it look like?
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes.” Jeremiah 17:5-6
Like a bush in the wastelands. Like a bush in the wastelands.
Sometimes the bible is lacking in the imagery department, but this? This illustrative language shone brightly. It jumped off of the page, clutched at my throat and made my stomach flip flop. I related to this so much. Why did I relate to this?
Was I a bush in the wastelands?
“Vrrrrrrroom!” I roar. I race my yellow Jeep matchbox car against Wyatt’s red monster truck down the winding city rug mat road on the floor of the boys bedroom. The light that’s shining through their windows is enough to brighten anyone’s day, but my stomach churns with turmoil. Raging turmoil really, the kind that makes you physically sick.
Nick and I again have brainstormed me quitting my day job and a small business idea — this time with something big and something on which we we’ve already started to take action — but my thoughts aren’t swirling around product lines and branding ideas. Instead they’re riddled with worry and self-doubt:
What if I am leading us astray?
What if I’m being selfish?
What if I wreck us financially?
What if this fails?
I pull up to the intersection as the light turns red. I can feel the anxiety mounting in my chest as we make our way home from work that day to pick up the kids. I am quiet and my gaze fixes on the red of the brake lights on the cars before me instead chirping about my day and the evening ahead of us, like normal.
“Are you okay?” Nick questions.
Blurting them out at warp speed — before I could (again) become too afraid to say anything at all — I confess to Nick all of my fears.
Without hesitation, he offers, “No, you would know. You’ve felt like this for so long. You’re just scared.”
Am I? Am I just scared?
As we sit on the couch, the room lit by a single lamp and over the roar of the air conditioner window unit in the next room, silence gapes between us. It’s a rare night when the kids are fast asleep and we are not. Tears continue to wet my cheeks as I struggle to put months worth of thoughts into words.
“You’re worrying me. I’m not sure if you can do this.” His words cut right through me.
My heart pangs and I feel a flash of anger. A wave of hot, resentful, I-know-I-feel-the-same-way-as-you nearly drowns me.
“Well, that is just a terrible thing to say to me.” I respond. We can both feel my body grow ridgid with contempt.
“Laura, you know I think you can do this. You can do this. But you’re not doing it.” he pauses, dropping his eyes and head in a deep thought.
“I think you continue to underestimate yourself and the things you are meant to do in your life.” he resumes looking at me with utmost sincerity. I have to dart my eyes away from his for fear of crying even more. “What’s really going on?” he asks gently.
And all at once I know.
My heart and my head and my body ache with the knowing. It feels so heavy that I think I must have known for awhile now but (again) have been too afraid to voice it. It slips from my grasp and I feel momentary relief as it thuds to the floor. It’s going to sound crazy if I say it out loud, I think to myself. But it’s too heavy for me alone to pick up again and I can’t seem to just walk away from it either.
“This. All of this. This business, this dream, these circumstances. All of it. It just feels like so much more than my own. It feels like it’s His. Like this is so much bigger than just me. And I am just me…!”
My voice cracks over that last statement. The tears are huge and a I feel a full-on-cry mounting in my throat. I stop to take a deep breath and dry my face with my sleeve.
“I am just me. I don’t want to screw this one up.”
Through the book of Jeremiah we are afforded the comfort of knowing that, just like every believer, even great prophets of God can experience turmoil, discouragement and doubt in their walk with God.
That whisper that day? That wasn’t God giving me my answer. That was my heart. My heart deceiving me. My fearful heart trying to impose upon the bigger (and much, much scarier) plan that God has laid on my life — had even written out right before me.
All that anguish I felt? That was his discipline. Him disciplining me and calling me back to this plan again and again because almost five years ago He put this plan on my heart. And for years — YEARS — I just stuffed it back down deep inside. Because of so many reasons. All of which can be boiled down to fear.
The heart is deceitful above all things. And although I’m still ill equipped to always know when my heart is deceiving me, I do know that by filtering it all through the word of God I will eventually find my way to His plan for me.
And also, that I really don’t like being a bush in the wastelands.
I’ve spent the last several months continually setting aside my fear, my self-doubt, my perfectionism — my turmoil — and I’ve officially opened up shop at www.handwrittenlegacies.com.
Feel free to watch the video below to learn what we’re all about at Handwritten Legacies and visit the Handwritten Legacies website.
It has been such a long road here. Please don’t be fooled and think I’ve “arrived” in any way shape or form. This dream, this plan, has not yet been carried out. The real task and the real work has only just begun. I would be absolutely delighted and forever grateful for your support and I’m inviting you join me on this next chapter of my life. Thank you!!