In my last blog, I shared the importance of downsizing the right way; something that should never be done when one is in emotional upheaval.
With no income coming into the house after my husband’s second job loss in less than ten months, I felt I had no choice but to set aside my writing and music and focus on working outside the home.
First, I dusted off my teaching credentials and applied to substitute teach.
I also increased bookings for my author readings and library presentations and signed up for as many trade shows as I could, given the prime upcoming (Christmas) retail season.
It was hard to imagine myself going back to teaching after so many years away from the classroom. I had left the profession 13 years ago under somewhat traumatic circumstances. (I wrote about my journey in a short story “From Heartache to Heart Restored,” published in Hot Apple Cider with Cinnamon by That’s Life Communications.) But I had a role in my family to fulfill. I have always been the one to step in and take the lead when there is a crisis.
I was now going to be our family’s breadwinner.
In truth, I was dreading having to get up every day before 7 am in case I got a call for subbing. I looked forward to that as little as walking into schools whose doorways I hadn’t darkened for over a decade.
Weeks went by without a confirmation from the school division that my application had been accepted. Always one to practice due diligence, I eventually contacted the board of education office. They said they did want to hire me, but that my application had somehow gotten buried on someone’s desk. After our conversation, the hiring process accelerated and soon I was at the board office getting my photo taken for my teacher ID.
I started getting calls virtually right away. I came up with every excuse under the sun why I shouldn’t answer each call. In my heart of hearts, I simply didn’t feel mentally ready to go back to teaching.
Then, an opportunity came up to teach music part-time at a small Christian school I had applied to substitute teach at. It was for only a half day per week, but it was a steady income and the hours and location were predictable.
I am always blown away when the Lord gives us exactly what we need, even if we aren’t able to articulate or envision it ourselves.
The Lord found a way to ease me back into teaching in a safe, supportive environment. As my confidence grew, I realized that I had held on to the lie that I was a failure as a teacher too long. I am a good teacher!
When the door opened for me to do substitute teaching at the school as well, I was more than ready to take on the challenge.
Meanwhile, I was continuing to do school visits as an author and participating in trade shows.
Juggling three very different vocations over an extended period of time was stressful. It was an incredibly busy fall season and I had no time or patience to deal with the challenges at home. I had an important role to fulfill. I was the one keeping my family afloat financially. I am ashamed to say that I wasn’t very nice to my husband during this time.
At the same time I knew I had to do better.
A couple of years ago I had picked up a book by bestselling author Shaunti Feldhahn called The Kindness Challenge. It was time to dive into it. I hoped it would help me be a better, kinder wife.
Each day I inevitably asked myself, why can’t I be nicer to my husband? I’m supposed to be a Christian! I knew he was suffering, but it didn’t seem to take much for me to explode.
Why was I so angry? The Lord had been good to me—to us—by giving me a job, opportunities to continue my work as an author, and solid sales at trade shows.
Was my temper short because I was exhausted? Was I angry because I was saddled with a husband who couldn’t seem to pull himself out of his depression and get himself together? Or was it because, as Proverbs 13:12 says, “hope deferred makes the heart sick?”
I’m sure it was all of the above. But if I was being honest with myself, I was full of resentment because of my husband’s hesitation to go out east when we had the chance.
Despite reading Shaunti’s book cover to cover, I just couldn’t bring myself to follow through on her daily challenges to be kinder. My anger had such a strong hold on me it seemed to usurp everything.
By mid-December, I was exhausted. I simply couldn’t keep up the pace of trying to keep my ministry going, make money, teach, and keep our household afloat. Thankfully, the Christmas holidays gave me much-needed relief.
As January approached, and with a new school term on the horizon, I started to feel anxious. I tearfully turned to the Lord, crying out for mercy.
As He does in that still, quiet voice of His, the Lord said: “My dear, why are you taking on a role that’s not yours to take?”
I had taken on the role of breadwinner on my own accord. Clearly that is not what God intended for me. God has called me to be a writer. He has called me to be a speaker. He has called me to be a musician. And He has called me to be a support for my husband.
It wasn’t my husband’s fault that he lost his jobs and subsequently suffered from depression. And it certainly wasn’t my wish to feel stressed and angry all the time.
My husband and I had a frank discussion. He supported my decision to scale back on working outside the home in the new year.
I reminded myself that my husband had, throughout our marriage, always supported my decisions when it came to work and family. I needed to be more grateful for his important role in my life.
We made renewed efforts to pray together daily, something we had neglected as I struggled to find time and energy to fulfill a role that was never mine to take on.
I saw a counsellor to help me better understand and mitigate my anger. Then my husband and I saw a counsellor together.
It was the beginning of healing for both of us.
And the beginning of letting go of my dream.