It has been just over a year since I quit my old job as a mental health counselor to stay at home with my son.
Maybe it has taken a year to sort through all this good grief.
I was so scared. At times I still am.
What was I scared of? Being put into a box. Being obsessed with my kids or daytime television. Throwing my expensive education down the drain. Mom jeans, seriously. Not being able to relate with anyone who didn't stay at home or who didn't have kids. Losing friends. Being looked down upon. Being seen as unintelligent, unproductive, or unambitious. Feeling like I had no purpose. People thinking that the path I've chosen is the path I think everyone should choose. Losing myself.
When I took the leap, I had carefully weighed all the alternatives. I tried to block out everyone's expectations, the thoughts of the people I would let down, and look at our specific life circumstances to funnel out the right one. I had "The Best Yes," my favorite book on decision making, on repeat on my phone. I had prayed. Oh how I prayed. My husband agreed and told me I could change my mind if I didn't like it. I talked about it with my closest friends, my parents, my siblings. The decision was the right one at the time. I had to trust God and just let it go.
Quitting my job a year ago was easily the hardest decision I had needed to make thus far into my life. So much harder than checking the major box on my college application, saying yes to Tim, or deciding to try for a baby. It was like the road map I thought I had been using for life was wadded up and tossed out the window. I didn't see it coming.
After a year, this is what I know. I'm completely undone and freed by the fact that my identity is in Christ, and Christ alone.
My identity is not in my job. Not in my kids. Not in my title. Not in what I get done or don't get done on my to-do list. Not in how clean or Ikea-ed my house is. Not in my diplomas, beautifully framed and dusting behind my bed. Not in how fast I fit into my pre-maternity clothing or how many blog posts I get up in a week.
In Christ alone.
I had always said that phrase before, but God seared it into my heart when he led me on this journey. I had to let go of one identity and lose myself, in order to allow God to confirm what I had suspected since I came to know Him. That I was HIS before I was my job's or even Tim's wife or Titus' mama! And at the end of the day, being HIS is all that really matters. What freedom!
In the meantime, there was a lot of good grief over my identity. I didn't land so gracefully into my newfound identity crisis. I grieved over the woman I thought I was. Then I grieved over the woman I didn't want to become.
I asked "What now?" a lot in between feeding, burping, and changing my baby. Even though I knew these mundane tasks were important, and that I wanted to be the one to do them, I also wondered if I would ever use the gifts God had given me. In the darker moments, I wondered if this all mattered, if I mattered, if I had wasted my time and should've taken this trajectory much sooner and bypassed the investments I had made into the identity I was creating for myself. I'm ashamed to say that I've often placed myself the victim, the ultimate sacrificer while the rest of my family now got to follow their dreams. All the while, I felt guilty for having these feelings in the first place. Staying at home is a privilege I know many would love to have, so what right did I have to struggle with these thoughts?
On the other side of that grief, was a messy, free from expectations Jillian who was already called "good" through the blood of Jesus Christ. I don't have to prove anything to anyone, least of all myself, because God has already proved my worth by first creating me and then freeing me from sin's crazy grip on my soul. I don't have to look for a boss' praise, a raise, or a promotion to prove my worth. I don't have to fit into an unrealistic, uncomfortable "stay at home mom" mold because the mold God made for me is one of a kind. I'm created uniquely by God to do great work for His Kingdom and that didn't end the day I handed in my two weeks notice.
The beauty is that what I do on a daily basis isn't either or, black or white, good or bad. God values changing diapers just as he does publishing a life changing book on motherhood. And maybe He will call me to both of those. But for now, I'm content knowing that He will guide me to the right next step each and every day. All I have to do is faithfully follow the path He is carving for my life.
In this year, God surprised me with the gifts of blogging, leading Dayton Women in the Word, and shepherding a house church all the while my days are still committed to chasing my toddler and loving my main squeeze. The gifts He gave me were never wasted, but rather redirected into a direction that fit with the stay at home life. Not to mention, He's given us another baby! But the biggest gift He has given me is my identity in Him. I can now hold all my gifts, including my children, my husband, my education, my talents, and my dreams, in an open hand. Take them and use them for your glory God. I love them, but I don't need them to be satisfied in you. In Christ alone.
God has allowed me to let go of trying to be a "stay at home mom" or a "mental health counselor" and embrace being "Jillian, God's child who also happens to be Tim's wife, Titus' and Bambino's mom, and who likes to write, read, study God's word, and talk people through the hard stuff in their life." I know that won't change if I ever decide to go back to work.
God didn't make a mistake when He called me to make this decision. And He certainly didn't make a mistake when He made me, Tim, Titus, and Bambino.
Ladies, are you struggling with this decision? Or with decisions similar? You aren't alone. And you can jump into whatever decision God is calling you to because you are safe in your identity in Christ. If you are like me, you will jump to realize you were already caught long ago. You can take the risk, because He risked everything for you, for your freedom in Him!