I Got My Life Back

Have you ever had to give up a job, a project, or a dream that you really wanted, only to find afterwards that the sacrifice had given you your life back?  I have had the experience a few times.

The first occassion was about 20 years ago.  I was teaching part-time in the small private school my sons attended.  I had a wonderfully supportive principal and liked most of my fellow teachers.  The families of the students were encouraging and supportive.  Theoretically, my work day ended at noon, giving me three hours of ‘free’ time before my children got out of school. However, the free time was often taken up with grading, lesson planning, and filling in where needed.  Additionally, the school had some issues which I couldn’t overlook.  I struggled with these issues my last year before making the decision to not return.  I chose instead to homeschool my sons.  A friend questioned that decision.  She had homeschooled her son previously and she told me, “When I sent him back to school, I felt like I got my life back.”

For me, the opposite was true.  As I adjusted to being a home-school mom, I realized I had gotten my life back.  I enjoyed teaching, but it was time-consuming and extracted a toil on my family.  Homeschooling allowed my children and I to sleep in and be better rested.  It allowed me to focus my ‘best energies’ on my husband and sons and to have more time to take care of my home and prepare more home-cooked meals.  An added benefit was the ability to travel and take vacations when everyone else was in school.  I never regretted my decision to be a full-time mother and homeschool teacher, even though that was not what prompted me to make the decision to my teaching job.

After six years of homeschooling, my husband and I decided to open a restaurant.  The boys were hold enough to work in the restaurant.  The plan was that my husband would run the restaurant in the mornings, while I home schooled the boys; the boys and I would cover the evening shifts.  It was a good plan, but needless to say, things did not work out exactly as planned.  Homeschool and family life soon took a back seat to the demands of business ownership.  After much soul-searching, we decided to sell the restaurant.  It was a difficult decison for me, as I felt we had worked so hard to make this dream a reality.  I was heartbroken that it hadn’t worked out as planned.  Yet, once it was sold, I again had the feeling that giving it up allowed me to get my life back.

Once the business was sold and we had moved back to our home town, our twins asked to enroll at the local Christian high school.  They needed a math teacher, so I found myself teaching again.  I loved being part of this wonderful Christian school, but it was demanding. I taught seven classes daily in addition to being a class sponsor and helping out with other clubs and projects.  I stayed for two years after the twins graduated and thoroughly enjoyed it. Yet, I felt God leading me to leave.  Again, it was a hard decision.  God led me to another job that allows me to use the skills I have honed through my past work experiences and through business ownership.  And, once again, I felt like I got my life back.  Teaching was very demanding and required many hours of grading and planning after school hours which took away from my family time.    It was also very rewarding, which made the decision to quit that much more difficult.

Since leaving teaching, I have had time again to engage in hobbies and try my hand at some new ones, including writing and blogging.  I have had two novels published and recently completed a Bible study on money and finances. God has opened doors that I would not have had the opportunity to walk through if I had remained a teacher.

Perhaps you are wrestling with making a change in your life, such as leaving a job you love or giving up on a dream.  Change is never easy, but it can lead to new and exciting opportunites that would never come if the change were not made.  Search your heart, pray, and allow God to lead you.  As a Christian, I know that God has a great plan for my life.  His plans and purposes are much more wonderful that the plans I would make for myself.  I have found that I am happiest and feel most like ‘I got my life back’ when I follow the path He lays out for me.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”  Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Have you ever made a change and felt like you got your life back?

Do you feel God is leading you to make a change now and you aren’t sure that you want to let go of your current job and/or dream?

Letting Go of A Dream

Tonight I am contemplating how difficult it is to let go of dreams, even when it is clearly in one’s best interest to do so.  This spirit was brought on by watching You’ve Got Mail.  I love this movie and have watched it many times.  It is a romantic comedy and, as such, it ends on a happy note. Yet, much of the movie deals with the struggle of a young woman to keep afloat the children’s book shop her mother opened 42 years earlier.  Eventually she makes the difficult decision to close the shop. She feels that her mother’s dream has died. She expresses her despair to her Internet pen pal as, “People are always telling you that change is a good thing. But all they’re really saying is that something you didn’t want to happen at all… has happened.”

Store closingDifferent life

 

The movie resonates with me because I know the feeling of having to decide to discontinue being in business.  In our case, we sold our business rather than closing it. Several years ago my husband and I opened a restaurant in a small town.  We had high hopes and great expectations that this business would be enjoyable, support our family, and be handed down to our children.  The business was profitable but not exceedingly so.  We worked hard and it consumed most of our family time.  There were days we enjoyed it, but many days it just felt overwhelming.  Over time it became apparent that we were not cut out to be business owners, and  we decided to sell the restaurant.  It was not an easy decision.  On many levels, we felt like failures.  Fortunately, a buyer was found and we walked away with our finances and credit in order and returned to more traditional employment.

I watched You’ve Got Mail many times during the months we agonized over what to do and the ensuing months between putting the restaurant on the market and closing the deal.  We weren’t being forced out of business, yet I empathized with Kathleen Kelly’s struggle and felt her despair.  Ironically, after watching the movie tonight, I got on Facebook and saw that a local business woman has decided to close her business after 10 years.  I am acquainted with this woman and know how hard she has worked to make her business a success.  She is a gifted seamstress and makes unique and interesting handbags.  However, her business was hurt terribly when the economy crashed and, although the economy has recovered somewhat, her business has not.  Many people in our area are concerned about another government shutdown and/or furloughs.  Others have seen their insurance premiums rise as the Affordable Care Act proves to not be the solution to the healthcare crisis.  Many others are simply more cautious with their money, having struggled through significant periods of unemployment.  I am sure that other factors played into her decision to close the business.  My heart aches for her, even as I recognize that this is not the end of the world.  It is, however, the end of this particular dream.

My husband and I have had a good life since selling the restaurant.  I don’t regret the decision at all, yet there is still a twinge of pain in remembering the death of that dream.  Neither do I regret the decision to open the restaurant.  New doors have opened for me because I have had the experience of being a business owner. Today I assist others in evaluating whether business ownership is the right decision for them.  If they decide to move forward, I assist them in writing their business plans, applying for loans, developing marketing strategies, and making other decisions about their businesses.  I have valuable insights to share from my experiences in opening, running, and selling my business.

My friend will move on and find new dreams to follow.  I hope that she will look back on her period of business ownership as a good experience and that she will have learned many valuable lessons that will guide her as she moves forward.  Someone posted on her Facebook page the comment, “When a door closes…a window opens!” That was certainly true in our case.  Closing the door on our dream of restaurant ownership opened other doors and allowed us to choose a path that was better for us.  And I believe it will be true for my friend, as well.

My husband and I are blessed to have built our lives on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ.  We know that God has a plan for our lives and we trust Him to guide our steps.  Some times the path is rocky and filled with trials and disappointments; other times the path is smooth and filled with triumphs and joy. Either way, our hope is in the Lord.  In Jeremiah 29:11, we read, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'” We don’t know what the coming year holds for us.  We look forward to it in anticipation of new dreams and plans as we strive to follow God’s leading.

Whether you have let go of a dream or are trying to make a new dream come true, please know that God has a plan for you.  He wants to help you make the dreams He has for you come true.  I pray that 2014 will be a year of letting go of old dreams and making new dreams come true.

What dreams is God placing in your heart for the coming year?