Everyone has a story. To be honest though, sitting here as I watch the snow flurries outside, it’s taken every ounce of willpower to begin writing. I never really quite thought I had a story. I never thought had anything quite special enough to be retold to others.
I grew up in a great family, I was very well loved, had great friends and I was a good student. Though I was quiet, I pushed myself to join the color guard and star in school plays because I knew there was more in me waiting to be shown to the world. But, in my mind, high school and the school plays, weekend friend outings, and the camaraderie I felt would never come to an end. I was so in love with my present that my future wasn’t something I thought about.
Then I graduated.
It hit me like I just ran full force into a wall of bricks. I sobbed with every friend I hugged on Graduation day. I felt as if I would never have that closeness with friends again, never again feel part of a team like I had, and the “best time of my life” was over for me.
What now? The comfort bubble I'd been residing in all my life had finally burst and I went into panic mode. I had two choices: stay within my comfort zone or take a risk. My indecisive mind told me to choose comfort while my heart screamed for me to take a risk and create! While I longed to follow what my heart was telling me, the realities of the world told me to buckle down and choose a career that would provide for me financially and secure for me a spot in this world.
So I chose the safe option. I tucked away my dreams of creating a colorful, inspiration-driven life into a pretty folder and sealed it, stored it as a memory, perhaps never to be opened again.
“It's the adult world,” I told myself, “no more playing around. The fun and creativity of my high school world was great while it lasted, but all good things eventually come to an end.”
So I enrolled halfheartedly in a nursing program and tried to convince myself in every way possible that this was the career for me. I ordered motivational posters and stuck notes all over my room. “This is it Barbara, this is going to be great!”Then I went into robot mode: I'm gonna do it and it's going to pay great, what more could I want?
As the fall semester of my first year in college came to a close, I came crashing down hard.
Sitting in chemistry class, while my professor was explaining how to properly measure the amount of medicine to give a baby in the NICU, all I heard was “Barbara, you’re going to end up killing a baby from an overdose because you have no idea what’s going on in this class.” The night before my finals, I realized I had been lying to myself all along. Who was this person I was trying to be? I'm terrible at science, I don't like hospitals, and I faint at the sight of blood -- in that moment, everything I had been keeping inside came flowing out.
I lashed out at myself for choosing something I knew I didn’t want, and I angrily sobbed hoping God would hear me. As I reflected on my decision to become a nurse I decided then and there it was time for me to go. I knew in my heart this wasn't for me, and I finally was admitting it. I felt like a weight was lifted off of me and I was ready to move forward with my life. I knew I had made the right decision so when people questioned it or asked if I was sure, I was able to confidently answer them; that voice of indecision had been silenced.
I began the new semester with a fresh mind and heart. This transfer, new major, and new career choice was the beginning of a new path in the right direction -- it was just what I needed! I chose to enroll in the teaching program because it seemed like a steady career choice -- we always need teachers right? And it sort of had creativity involved so, why not? It seemed like the smartest option.
And I loved it! I loved school. My college experience, just like high school, was like something pulled off the big screen. I’d walk through the Starbucks aroma filled halls and sit in my swivel seats in class, as I tip-tapped away on my hip, new white MacBook, as happy as could be. Life was good and everything was looking up. I listened and took notes as I heard the stories of my professors, wanting to soak up every bit of wisdom they had to give. But as I dove more and more into my major and had to step out into actual public schools I began to fall into confusion again.
So I procrastinated writing my essays for class. The excitement and joy I once had for being a teacher began to be crowded out by the voices of doubt. Was this the right choice for me? Was I making a mistake?
I began to do some soul searching, believing there had to be something out there for me to do. I prayed that God would give me something... anything. I googled photographers, and the list seemed to go on and on. But I gravitated toward one in particular and my whole view was changed, her name was Jasmine Star.
I was captivated by the way she told stories and took photos -- I wanted the type of freedom she had, I longed for a life like hers.
Though my heart was drawn to photography and creativity, I finally graduated with a degree in Family and Child Studies and an Elementary Teacher’s certification. College was over. High school was over. I was out there in the real world. And reality set in hard. Bills were coming in, loans had to be paid, and I was still unsure of my decision. But this was not the time to be dilly-dallying, wondering about my career path.
Barbara, you had practically all your life... and you still don't know what to do with yourself?
I felt like a failure. With everyone else moving on with their lives, I felt the pressure to do something, anything, so I began substitute teaching in elementary schools. Because it didn’t require a commitment, I was able to focus on other things I loved, making this an excellent solution for me. What I didn't know at the time was that I would remain a substitute for 5 years, while going in and out of other jobs in my free time. Over the course of those years, I had multiple breakdowns, went through a breakup, and felt an overwhelming surge of loneliness. I fell into a deep depression but hid it really well from the world and everyone around me until one day, after school, I just broke.
I sat on the floor in my room and just sobbed. There must be something wrong with me. I don't belong anywhere.
I spoke out and told God, "Okay God I know you've always been there and I've gone far enough in this plan all on my own, but starting right now I promise to give you my all and really know who You are if you just show me what you want me to do."
That’s when everything changed.
I developed a hunger to learn more about God and I dove headfirst into the Bible. I listened to Christian music, sermons on the radio, podcasts, anything and everything I could get my hands on. I read constantly, books on top of books, at every break, every free chance I got.
On the outside, everything stayed the same, but a fire had been lit on the inside of me that I had never experienced before. It was like falling in love with someone you were missing all along. I had a new hope that somehow God had something really special planned for me. I started my blog and fell in love with photography and writing. Through these two things I expressed how I felt and saw Jesus in my world.
In the spring, an opportunity arose to have a class of my own and teach Italian the following year. As with everything else, I ran to God, asking if this was the direction I was to follow. It was as if God literally opened the door and shoved me inside. That year wrecked me and molded me in ways I never wanted to. But through it all, God gave me the grace and confidence I needed. During that season He taught me to persist.
As I reflect back on all these stories, I am beginning to understand a little more clearly how God works. Our lives are like puzzle pieces, and through each event and situation that happens, God is placing the pieces together. Though we can't see the entire picture, Jesus already knows where the piece belongs and how it will fit into the puzzle of life.
I'm still not where I want to be, but I'm no longer who I was. God found me and chose me at my worst. I asked Him to give me a purpose, and He gave me something far more valuable: He gave me a love for His word and His son Jesus. And through it, I see the world so differently now.
He's given me something to live for, something that exceeds any success this world can ever offer me. No matter what position or career I find myself in, I know I will always be loved.
He has done so much in me already, it will be an honor and adventure to see how He uses me in the years to come.
”And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
How has God changed your life? How has he changed how you see yourself?
We want to hear your story (even if it's still in process) of victory in Christ!