You Ask, I Answer! Part Three.

Happy Thursday!  Wow, 2 posts in one day...what's going on??  Well, I have lots to tell you!

But first, thank you for all the love on my "new look!"  I have had the best time playing with it and teaching myself to change things up.  For the longest time I have wanted to make some design changes, but I didn't think I could do it myself.  I still have several things that are irritating challenging me, but I'm proud to say that all of what you currently see, I did do by myself.  And I like it too :) When I started this blog several years ago, I didn't know the slightest thing about setting anything up!  I just followed directions and paid attention to what other people did.  My how things have changed! On Monday I found myself changing my html code (like I knew what I was doing) and reading every tutorial I could find!  The result is what you see.  It's not quite done, but it's at least better than what it was.  I'm still working on a better header and trying like crazy to change the fonts to something more stylized, but I've already spent one whole day on this blog and I'm determined not to do that again for awhile!  Monday was my self-indulgent  creative outlet day but now it's back to reality and priorities that matter :)

Moving on...

I have been asked a few more questions recently and I still have a few lingering ones to answer, so in honor of that, I'm writing another answer post to satisfy your inquiring minds!  So, without further ado, here we go!!

What is that song from your slideshow and who sings it??

Wasn't that song the sweetest thing ever??  I recently picked up this great new CD of worship songs and lullabies for Ava and I totally cried the first time I heard that song :) It's called "Hold Onto Jesus" by Erin O'Donnell and Janna Long and I just love it!  It's such a sweet little prayer that captures so much of what's in my heart.  It reminds me of so many of the character issues and lessons I hope to impart to Ava.  However, more than anything, it also validates the one thing I pray for her...that she'll know and love Jesus with all her heart, for all her days.  The state of her heart matters more to me than anything because I know if she's following hard after Jesus, everything else will fall into place, according to His will for her.  And as much as we love her, He loves her and knows what's best for her, even more than we possibly could.   I will be singing this song to her for a long time!

How did I become a Nanny?
Actually, I fell into it really.  After my husband and I got married, we moved from Florida to North Carolina so that he could go to seminary.  When we arrived, we moved into a small little town with very few available jobs.  I did pursue some interior design related things, but no one could offer me anything full-time or anywhere near where we lived.  We were determined to pay cash for Trav's seminary bills, so that meant that I needed to work full-time (and then some) in order to make that happen.  Our need was very great and I spent almost a month looking down one dead end road after another.  I even signed up with a temp agency, just to find something to do and they told me they didn't really have anything for me because I was over qualified for everything.  Not what you want to hear!

So of course we stressed our for awhile, prayed like crazy and both took on any odd jobs we could find :) In fact, do you want to hear one of my funniest memories from that season??  (I guess I'm going to tell you whether you want to know or not!!)  We were living off our wedding money and our pathetic little bit of savings, but we were quickly running out.  We needed cash badly, so we stalked this little job board at the seminary for anything we could find :)  One day we responded to a post from a staff member who was looking for someone to re-paint his living room.  Well, in a series of miscommunications, we agreed to do it, only to discover that his wife actually wanted the majority of the house painted, while only paying ONE of us, despite the fact that TWO of us were there to do it!  And to top it off, I HATED the color!  She made this big deal about having me pick out the color (because of my interior design background) but it quickly became apparent to me, that she was too scared to do anything but white.  That is like a designer's worst nightmare!  From a girl who loves color, I was dying.  I made a million trips to the paint store and showed her a thousand options, which she loved, until it came time to actually bite the bullet and do it!  In the end, I talked her into a warmer shade of WHITE.  It was so sad and I was sooooo irritated.  It still kind of irks me that they got all that time and work out of us, for practically NOTHING!  But, I guess you get what you pay for...we certainly weren't professional painters and we got that job done as fast as possible :)

Anyway, one day I was looking in the newspaper of all places, and found a want ad for someone to take care of a 3 mo. old, 50 hours a week, in their home.  I called them and they immediately scheduled an interview.  I had no idea what to expect, other than I knew I loved kids, I had been around them most of my life and I needed a job!  After that first meeting, I quickly fell in love with their sweet baby girl and I really liked both of them.  They hired me THAT AFTERNOON and I started a few weeks later, when she went back to work.  To make a long story short, that job met our needs in so many ways and provided exactly what we needed for our years in North Carolina.  I LOVED taking care of Olivia and I developed a deep friendship with Charlie and Annette that we still maintain today.  It was such a wonderful job and such a blessing from the Lord.  I was treated so well and in turn they became family to us.  That 2.5 year experience opened the door to nannying and gave me a "career" I never dreamed I'd have!  It happened "accidentally" I thought, but as it turns out, the Lord was navigating it the whole time and I know He brought that job to me for many specific reasons.  It has been a great blessing to look back and see His hand working in my life, even when I didn't think He was there.

Do I ever feel like I wasted my degree by becoming a nanny and not working in the interior design field?
No!  And let me tell you why.  From my earliest years in junior high, I have always had a very strong desire to be a wife and a mother. I was one of those girls who dreamed about (and planned) my wedding for hours at a time and played MASH (remember that game?) over and over to see who I might get to spend the rest of my life with! I practiced my new signature with my "dream husband's" last name and I wrote a list of all the children we would have and what we would name them. But I also poured through my Mom's Better Homes and Garden's magazines and imgained what our home would look like. I designed my ideal kitchen, thought through the best traffic patterns, and chose the colors of our living room. Of all my memories from those junior high and high school years, those 2 strong desires were always held in tension within me. I had a love for interior design and architecture and a love for my "future" husband, and the family we would one day build.

So, when it came time to choose a college and declare a major, I had no huge dilemna in doing so. I chose interior design and with the strong support of my teachers, a design mentor of sorts, and my parents, I knew I was making the right decision. I enrolled at the University of Northern Iowa and graduated with a bachelor's degree 4 years later. My first design job was at an Interior Design firm in Naples, Florida. I had already been working part-time as a floral designer for a 4 years at that point, but this was my first full-time "real job."  Not to shabby for the start of my career path, huh? My professors were thrilled at my choice and the head of our department was beside herself with my potential. She was a very tough lady and was known for weeding people right out of our program, but she took a liking to me and she repeatedly called me in her office and expressed how proud she was of me and how much faith she had in the decisions I was making and the path I seemed to be on...She made it clear that SHE had plans for me! That is until one looooong day my senior year, in my Professional Practice of Interior Design class. It was a class that was supposed to teach us the realities of working in the industry, from the nitty gritty money stuff, to the ethics of working with clients. Oh and the dept. head was our teacher. It was a good class, although nothing like "the real world." Anyway, she assigned us a paper in which we were to contemplate and dream about the next 10 years of our lives. Professionally and personally. We had to list our goals, our dreams and some practical steps to get us there. Classic assignment, right? Well, enter my first dilemna. Because I was a young girl, at a secular university, sitting under career minded professionals, I knew we were about to clash a little bit.

At that particular moment, I was walking through one of the hardest year of my life, personally and spiritually. I was still reeling from 4 deaths (in my family and circle of close friends) in a matter of weeks and months. I was on the roller coaster of one bad relationship after another and trying to understand where God was and why He felt so distant from me. (Side note-someday I would love to address that because what I learned about Him that year, in that season, has profoundly impacted my life in the years following.) Anyway, I was struggling in a million ways and also trying to discern what kind of future God had in store for me in the middle of all of that. So I took that assignment home, prayed about it, thought about it, and mulled some answers over in my mind. I knew how to answer it according to the "interior design career path" that would have made my professor very happy, but I knew that wouldn't be an honest reflection of my heart and something in me wanted to leave a real, honest answer.

So, I handed that assignment in with some very truthful answers. In so many words, I told my prof. that I wanted to pursue a professional career in both residential and commercial interior design. I wanted to work in a growing firm with potential for advancement and I wanted to work closely with builders and architects, even potentially going back to school for a second degree in architecture. So far so good. I had goals and I had some practical steps, but then I hit her with what must have felt like a 2x4 between the eyes. I told her that if I was going to be honest, in 10 years I really hoped to be married, working along side my husband in some kind of ministry, and staying home to raise our children. I hoped to use my Interior Design background and experience to minister to women in the church, although I had no idea what road the Lord would take me down. I told her although I hoped to use my education and stretch myself professionally in the coming years, I didn't see design as something that I wanted to pursue forever. I hoped that I would work for several years in the field and then I hoped that my focus would be directed toward my marriage, family and ministry and not necessarily design. Oh yeah, I said it. Can you just imagine the stir I caused?

With some kind of courage, that was definitely not "of me," I laid my dreams out on the line. In the eyes of everyone in "that world" I had just disappointed all of them and had thrown away my career before I even started. Believe me, I knew it going to be received poorly and I wasn't sure how that would go down. It was radical to say the least, but it was also pouring out of me with such conviction, I had no idea I felt that strongly until I started writing it down. Several days passed and then it came time for the papers to come back to us. One by one they landed in the hands of my classmates with grades written at the top. I nervously waited for mine, hoping for just a bad grade so I could get it off my mind. I truly do not remember what my grade was or what exactly it said, but I do remember some kind of note at the top, telling me I needed to "chat" with my professor.

Super. Just what I was hoping to avoid. At that very time, our senior interior design show was right around the corner.  I had just been chosen to compete as the representative for our school, in a national competition, for a project we'd all done for Ducati Motorcycles and ASID. Probably not the best time to mention that I was hoping to get married and ride off into the sunset! So, we sat down together and had the very discussion I was dreading. She told me she was very surprised at my answers and worried about "my future." In her defense, I think she was reasonable to make sure that I wasn't putting all of my eggs in one basket and hoping that a marriage would be the answer that I was looking for, but of course she also hoped that if I was to get married, it would be after a very long and satisfying career. And that's where we differed. I assured her that I was focused on pursuing a design career and that until my circumstances dictated otherwise, that was my main goal. But, I did tell her that ultimately I trusted the Lord with my future and that I would be obedient to whatever He had in mind for me. It was one of the bolder things I've ever done and yet one of the most satisfying. I was very respectful and didn't throw my faith at her, but I was also honest. It was the beginning of another road in my life and looking back, I see now that He was drawing me back to Him and softening my heart toward the very thing He had for me. My professor thought for a little while about what I said and then told me some time later that she admired my faith and that she wished those things would come true for me one day. I graduated from her program and parted ways in good standing with her. We kept in touch for the summer as I started my job in Naples and she gave me great advice. I am so thankful for her leadership and for my degree. It is invaluable to me because it helped mold who I have become and it opened doors for me over the following years. And to tell you the truth, it still does today. I wouldn't trade my college education or my interior design background for anything else. It is an accomplishment I am very proud of.

So why mention this story about a goofy assignment? Because it wasn't until years later that I realized what a defining moment that was for me. The tension I felt between two worlds, the convictions brewing within me and my search for what God was doing, were all part of the process that eventually led to me to where I am today.  I've always felt that pull toward ministry, a calling probably from years prior.  But I didn't always know what to do with that.  So, I pursued a career in the world of Interior Design right out of college.  I did what I was expected to do as a recent graduate.

And you know what, I loved it!  I worked for a husband and wife team who are incredibly talented and had done some remarkable work in both residential and commercial design.  They had left their mark on the city of Naples and I was loving working for them!  Naples is a very wealthy, retirement town on the gulf side of Florida, as far south as you can go.  There are generally two types of people there...millionaires and the people who work for them :)  You can imagine which side of the tracks I fell on!

It was so crazy to be working in that environment.  I saw some of the most incredible homes and properties (seriously they were truly amazing) and we had the privilege of holding our wedding reception at a brand new country club that my firm had designed.  It was kind of like living in a fantasy land.  I couldn't believe the money people were dropping all around me and the extravagant lengths they were going to in their homes.  For a designer, it was heavenly.  Most clients were ready to spend and spend big.  They had neighbors they had to out do!  But for someone who was already feeling pulled between two worlds, it was an internal struggle to process it all.  I loved it and I was disgusted by it.  I worked hard to "create" and then felt guilty about the money I was suggesting someone spend on something "fabulous."  I went to work every morning, excited about the jobs we had and the creative challenges I was encountering and then left everyday struggling with my role in it.  I never expected to feel that way, that was certainly never discussed in our senior design class!!  But I did feel that way and it started to really chip away some of the "glamour" in that industry for me.

At the same time, I started to really get involved in a 20's group at my new church there.  I volunteered to be a leader and it quickly became apparent how much I loved spending my time on ministry and with people.  I found so much fulfillment in that world and I really started questioning what the Lord had in store for me.  I still kept my design job, but I backed my hours way down and started working again in a flower shop.  I missed that day to day interaction with customers and enjoyed having a creative outlet that was easy for me.  I also started dating Travis and was quickly falling in love with him.  All of these things were molding me and shaping me and helping me see that maybe the Lord had a very specific thing in mind for me and maybe it had nothing to do with design?  It was kind of a roller coaster of emotions for me and yet, I had a peace about the doors that were opening and more importantly about my relationship with Travis.  When we made the decision to get married and when we decided we would pursue Travis' call to full-time ministry, I was ready to lay down my career and support him however I needed to.  It wasn't a denial of who I was, it wasn't a waste of my degree and it wasn't a resentment I held toward him.  It was the result of years of processing and sensitivity to what God had for me.  Because I also felt called to ministry, it was easier for me to make those decisions.  Nannying happened to be the door that He led me down and I've experienced tremendous blessing from that ever since.

Today, it is a great joy of mine to still be able to use my design degree in many ways.  I still do some consulting for people, mostly involving paint colors and furniture selection/placement but it's also an invaluable credential for my floral design business.  People take me a little more seriously I think because I have that degree and years of experience in design related fields.  Perhaps my favorite thing however, is when I get invited to speak or do a demo for other women about decorating your home or how to arrange flowers or how to show hospitality to the people in your life.  Ministering to women and using the talents God has given me is something I LOVE.  That is a door that I hope to keep walking through in the future.  If I'm going to be vulnerable with you, one of my dreams has always been to write a Bible study about "all things home," i.e.:  how to honor the Lord in your role as a wife; how to practically maintain and organize a home; how to create an atmosphere that is inviting, peaceful and a haven for your family and friends; and how to honor the Lord well in your home.  Who knows if that will ever happen, but it's been a dream the Lord has laid on my heart for awhile, so we'll see.

Now, all of that is not to say that I've never missed being in the design world or doubted my purpose when I was home with someone else's baby, playing with toys :) Sure I've struggled with that.  And, I've had to deal with lots of reactions from people I know and don't know when they ask me what I do.  Trust me, the average person immediately sees me as inferior when I mention I'm a nanny.  They are even more shocked when they learn I have a degree too!  But, I have to constantly keep truth before me and remember that I answer to the Lord and to my husband for what I do.  I've always seen nannying as a ministry and not just a job.  I deeply love the little kids I've taken care of and their parents too.  The Lord helped me see the worth in being a breath of fresh air to them, in loving them and actually in serving them to.  It's never been all about the paycheck for me, which has been excellent, but would never keep me satisfied.  The joy of being like Jesus to a child and providing a well deserved break to their parents, is all the reward I've ever needed.  Our Pastor recently taught about the subject of God's will for us and how we pursue that and make decisions in light of that.  He made a statement that resonated so strongly with me and reminded me of my years of nannying.  He said that God cares more about who we are becoming, than what we are doing.  That's not to say that He doesn't care about our jobs, but of more concern to Him is the condition of our heart.  As the seasons come and go in life, I do think He calls us to different things for different times.  I'm in a new season now and am no longer nannying, but instead I'm parenting :) But I'm so thankful for the season of nannying He had for me though and for the countless things He taught me.  He brought me wonderful families to serve and blessed Travis and I in so many ways.

So there you go, the world's longest answer to a commonly asked question of mine!

When I decided to nanny, did I go through an agency?
Not while I was in North Carolina, I found my family in the newspaper.  But when we moved to Minnesota, I did interview with an agency and initially went with them, but it was not a pleasant experience.  I did my homework and thought I chose a good one, but it quickly became apparent to me that not only was I being lied to, but so were the families I was interviewing for.  For example, I wanted no more than 20 hours a week, so she would send me on an interview telling me those hours worked for this particular family.  At the same time, she would take a family that was looking for 30 hours and send me, telling them that she could convince me to do it.  It was not a good way to run a business and it only took me a few interviews to figure out what she was doing.  Interestingly, the families were also figuring it out and they weren't happy about it either.  Now, I'm sure there are wonderful agencies out there who don't do things like that, but my experience wasn't exactly a great one.  I can see the value of having a "middle-man" to communicate things for you, but if you are a good communicator and are very thorough and honest about your needs and expectations, I think you can negotiate your terms on your own.  I always recommend you sign a contract and have your "benefits" in writing though.  It just protects both of you.

Changing topics drastically now...

As a Pastor, what does your husband think about divorce?
Well, I don't know if it is wise to try and tackle this question as a comprehensive answer to all cases of divorce.  So, we're going to address it in the context of the precious lady who asked, who has recently gone through a divorce and was mistreated by her church.  As a general statement, Travis would tell you that he, like the Lord, also hates divorce.  He hates it because of the vows that are broken, because of the pain it causes, and because of the ripple effect it has on all those around it, for years to come.  However, he would remind you that in no instance, does the Lord EVER hate the person going through the divorce.  It is always God's design for a marriage that He has brought together, to stay together.  He is a God of reconciliation, who demonstrated that in the way that He gave up his only son so that we could be reconciled to Him.  He wants wholeness for us, unity and peace because it is the way that He designed marriage to be.  He gave us the example of Himself and His bride, (the church), to be our guide for the way we treat one another and the way we respond to each other.  He designed marriage to reflect that relationship and to bring two people together as one, to have a greater impact for His glory.

HOWEVER, we live in an imperfect world and we bring 2 imperfect people into every marriage.  Life happens and sometimes what we once held dear, falls apart in our hands.  If abuse is present, a serious response is demanded.  He would counsel you to remove yourself from the situation and seek counseling immediately to determine what, if anything, could be done to save the marriage.  It's impossible to speak in general terms here, when typically each case is different.  It is important to make sure that you are seeking your guidance and your advice from the Lord and His word FIRST and then from a trusted source, who will also take you right back to His Word.  It is unwise to base your decisions on feelings and even your heart because, apart from God's influence, they will both lead you astray.  You must base your choices on the one source of unchanging truth in a very difficult situation.  God's Word will NEVER lead you astray or cause you to make a decision you regret.  EVER.

What it appears you want to know is, as a Pastor, what now?  What happens to the person who is now a divorcee and possibly a single parent?  Where do they stand in the church and how should they be treated?  Please hear this and know that it comes not only from the heart of a Pastor, but also from the child of a divorce.  You are no less valuable as a person, or to the Lord, because you are divorced.  You are still a child of God and still worthy of dignity and respect, no matter what you've been through.  Always.  You are most likely dealing with the natural consequences of getting divorced and ultimately, that is something each person has reconcile with the Lord.  But, it is not the role of the church to single you out or distance you or shun you.  If that were the case, there wouldn't be a single person allowed in the door!  None of us are perfect and your mistake or decision or sin, whatever is the case, does not make you a second class person or Christian.  We are not the ones who are to judge, that's up to  the Lord.  I would hope that you would be able to go to the Church to find healing, to experience grace and to be pointed right back to the One who can make all things new.  He happens to show up best in the midst of our weakness when we ask Him to.  No matter how hopeless you may feel, you can find hope again and you can find restoration in Christ.  He has not forgotten you and neither should the Church.  

One thing that I love about the Lord, is that He is able to redeem our greatest hurts if we will allow Him to.  I think it's no accident that the Lord led Travis to student ministry, in a time such as this, when so many of his students are affected by divorce.  He is a wonderful comfort for them because he's been there and he's been able to have his needs and hurts met by the Lord.  He can minister to them because he's been ministered to by HIM.  Divorce doesn't have to be the end of your life or of you.  There is hope and healing with the Lord, no matter what you bring to the table.  He loves you sweet one and He wants to be a part of your life, even in the hard, painful stuff.  Don't give up on Him, even when you encounter more hurt from His people.  The real truth is that those who are in leadership are still just as susceptible to sin and to mistakes like everyone else.  If it was possible for some of us to be perfect, we wouldn't need a Savior :) Cling to Him in the darkness, He's there.  There are a couple passages I love that I hope will be a comfort to you today...

"I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten..." Joel 2:25

"For your Maker is your husband- the Lord Almighty is his name- the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.  The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit- a wife who married young, only to be rejected, says your God."  Isaiah 54:5-6

"Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning: great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.  The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him. "  Lamentations 3:21-25

"For He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him."  Psalm 103:10-11

"Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.  Whom have I in heaven but you?  And earth has nothing I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."  Psalm 74:23-26

Blessings to you all!


Angelica said...

Stephanie -

I don't have the right words to express how much your answer to my question spoke to me. Thank you...thank you so much. This season of my life...has been one of the most difficult ones' by far. All I have aimed to do has been to cling to my Lord because with Him what can come against me. I looked for comfort and understanding at my old church and did not find it...but the Lord is good and He led me to where I am today. It has been such a blessing that often I giggle to myself when I look back at this past year. Amazing how He works eh?

Thank you for your comment as well. I saw it a few minutes after stopping by here and I have to blessed my day...

Thank you also for praying for me. It's a difficult road to walk on...but God is near...

Many blessing to you and your family!

holly said...

Love the new look. Can I please have some of your creative talent? The athletic talent is getting me nowhere these days. Hopefully, when the girls start playing sports it will help:). I was just telling a young married girl about your career in nannying and that she should look into it cause she doesn't like her job. Love all your answers and hope you are enjoying your fabulous fall weather. It is actually kind of nice here today!

Anonymous said...

I love the look of your blog! What great questions and answers :)