Looking Backwards, Moving Forward

I’m still thinking about my life’s purpose and the path I should be taking during this season of my life. Since history is the best predictor of the future, I decided to look back and see where my life has been and where I should be looking in the future. As I analyzed all the things I have done, both consciously and unconsciously, one thread has continuously run through all the fabric of my life. That thread is children.

All Paths Are Personal

I never bore children of my own. The only profound regret of my life is that I never experienced the growing, delivering and raising a child of my own flesh and blood. Once it became biologically impossible the pain of this diminished and I was able to look back at my life and really see how God had given me hundreds of children. Granted none of them bore any resemblance to me, nor was I responsible for their well-being and life; however, I was given a chance to make a difference. The ripple effects of these relationships will continue to grow and affect the next generations. That is a powerful path.

Working at a school was the highlight of my working life. Both as a nurse and an assistant teacher I had the privilege of nurturing and encouraging children for ten years. I had always wanted to be a teacher and no other job fulfilled me like this one.

I left the working world to come home and be present in when our daughter was going through a particularly difficult time in her life. I was needed here to make a difference in her life far more than the kids at school needed me. The purpose was the same, the intended beneficiary had changed.

Next came our first granddaughter. Born to a single mom, lost and struggling as her own mother had died when she was sixteen (I am her stepmom). I now had two girls who needed me. My purpose continues.

Two more granddaughters come along; a marriage doesn’t work out and suddenly our empty nest is full again. The joy of a full house is indescribable. I loved the activity and purpose it brought to my life. Cooking for and helping with the girls brought so much joy. And then it was time for them to move on.

So, that brings us to today. Just when we thought we were done. Ready to live the retired life and wondering what we would do with this time on our hands, our first granddaughter — the one who changed everything for us — was in a crisis. So many experiences in such a short life left her in a rough patch. Her mom and stepdad were at wits end and they have two other girls to care for. We opened our home and brought her back to the place that was her first home. The past few months have been difficult but the growth and change are remarkable and she is well on her way to being the adult we dreamed she would be. Again…I (we) continue on the path.

Little Picture Living

I don’t always see what I do everyday as part of the bigger picture of life. I never had the “I’m going to change the world” mentality; never been the activist, or the person who wanted to accomplish big things. My goals were always about creating a home and family. I have written before about my one passion and that is children. I set out to care for children in my working life and I spent the vast majority of my career doing just that. But even that didn’t trigger any “bigger picture” views of myself. I just got up everyday and did what I was trained to do.

I think God protects me from thinking of myself in a grand kind of way. I am just an ordinary person who tries to be kind and do what is right. If I saw myself as some kind of saint I know it would go right to my head and all the good I could do would be wasted. The irony of all this is I spend so much time wondering what I am “supposed” to be doing with my life, when in fact I was doing exactly what God designed me to do all along.

I think because so much of what I have done just falls under the banner of you do what you gotta do. In the midst of the fire you don’t stop to analyze the fire, you just put it out. I have been on my path for all forty years of my adult life. During that time I never gave myself credit for doing anything to make a difference because I just looked at the big stuff. I never did anything big. I just left a crumb trail of lots of little things. Because what I did wasn’t traditional or I wasn’t the “teacher” I wanted to be, I only saw what I wasn’t not who I was.

One Path, Small Detours

I don’t want to leave the path, I’m just ready for it to look a little different. I want to use my talents and skills to improve the lives of another generation of children. I have always dreamed of writing books. I could write a picture book for emerging readers. I would love to write the kind of story that encourages children to be the best they can be, or tell a fabulous tale that is remembered forever. Maybe it should be a book for the adults on blended families and lessons we have learned through the years. Maybe I will volunteer with disadvantaged kids and help them with school work. After all I did want to be a teacher. That urge is still inside of me. I don’t know where I am going next, but I do know that my path to the destination is sure and I have history on my side.

Wherever you are in life, do what you can. Don’t beat yourself up for what you can’t do, rather look at what you are doing and know you are doing your best. If, like me, you feel a nudge towards something, a tug at your heart, pay attention. God might be preparing you and showing you your path. If the time is right and you can do something about the nudge, then do it. If you aren’t able, just be aware and know that one day in some way, your path will become known and you can follow in confidence.