Well, it’s that time of year again. Back to school.
The stores are full of bright and beautiful folders, crayons, notebooks, backpacks galore, parents everywhere look sleep deprived, and Facebook is overflowing with adorable pictures of children letting us know what grade they are now in.
This time of year has always been a favorite of mine. I love the excitement, the newness, a clean slate. The potential for growth and the anticipation of new memories.
But this year… it’s been different.
You see, this is the first time in 24 years that August hasn’t meant “back to school” for me. The first time I haven’t been a student or a employee. The first time I haven’t gone shopping for new clothes, books, supplies, etc.
And, the first time I’ve struggled with what that means for my life.
I’m sure those of you who are employed are thinking “I would do anything to be in your shoes“. But the truth is, most days I would say the same back to you. I guess the grass is always greener.
But seriously. I’ve really struggled with this. I’ve struggled with how to answer the question, “So, what do you do?”. I’ve struggled with the fact that no one is counting on me to get up and get dressed everyday. That I’m not contributing financially. That my resume could potentially have a 3-4 year gap. That I have $150,000 invested in an education that some days feels like a waste.
But I’m not alone in this unemployment life. Oh nooo. Moving to a different country has opened my eyes to a whole community of men and women in my same situation. Men and women with degrees and desires to be employed, but due to their location, are not.
“Military spouse unemployment continues to hover near 20% (about four times the general unemployment rate). That unemployment figure does not include those who have dropped out of the labor force altogether, but only captures spouses who are actively still seeking employment. Perhaps even more sobering is the fact that military spouses enjoy higher than average education levels, yet earn only about 50% of their civilian counterparts. Among those spouses who do work, most are underemployed, settling for jobs for which they are either overqualified or underpaid.”
It has been so easy for me to get caught up on all the reasons why I “should” have a job. But during the last 8 months of unemployment, the Lord has slowly been shifting my heart and mind.
I’m learning that my vision has been too small — too narrow — it gets stuck on what makes sense, what’s fair, how I look compared to others.
And it often forgets that none of that actually matters. That while going to college and being a school counselor and building a respectable resume and contributing to the income are all beautiful things — they aren’t my true purpose here on earth.
My true purpose on earth is to be following Jesus and making Him known to others. It’s to daily wake up and seek His will for my life. To mature in my faith — ultimately believing and proclaiming that nothing tops His plans.
I’ve been trying to keep this my focus recently. To think differently than I naturally tend to. To acknowledge my fears and insecurities — but to just as quickly dismiss them.
To accept that not going ‘back to school’ can be just as much a gift as going.
I’m learning that unlike most employed people, I have the gift of time. And that if I’m not intentional with it, it will slip away.
I’m learning to say YES (and mean it). Yes to eating lunch with someone I just met. Yes to a volunteer position at church. Yes to babysitting for new moms. Yes to cooking longer than 30 minute meals.
And yes to “Sauce Day”.
The Lord has blessed me with a new friend that I look up to in many ways.
She is a homemaker-extraordinaire. Her husband adores her, her children respect her, and the way she lives her life draws people closer. Any amount of time I can spend soaking in her wisdom and artistry, I’ll gladly take.
So when she asked if I wanted to come over on Monday and can homemade tomato sauce with her and her lovely daughters, I quickly agreed… Yes!
It was so special for me to spend ALL 3 meals in their home that day — learning something new, living life a little slower. To turn an ordinary Monday into “Sauce Day”, as her youngest daughter proudly named it. A day that employement would not have allowed.
In a few years, when I reflect back on my time living abroad, I have a good feeling “Sauce Day” day won’t have a hard time standing out.
Because it was a day I felt the Lord whispering… “Can’t you see what I’m doing? Why would you even think for a second that any of this is a waste? I’ve intentionally planned these days for you, Brittany. This season is a gift. Will you please receive it?”
I drove home as the sun was setting — with a full belly, full heart, and 7 delicious jars of sauce in tow. I looked up to heaven and let out a deep sigh. Thank you, Lord.
Thank you for going before me.
Thank you for never forgetting about me.
Thank you for showing me that sometimes there’s nothing sweeter than having the time for Sauce Day.
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.” Isaiah 43:18-21