God's Brave Women - Jennifer's Story
When my youngest daughter was five, she went through a phase where she would regularly ask, “Momma, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
The question always cut deeply. I was in a season of transition, not knowing what would follow after a season of being out of the workforce, and needing to re-enter. This initial feeling would always be followed by my own questions: How do I explain to her the twists and turns that life can take—that for some, career paths are not always clear or direct? How can I convey the importance of the journey in teaching us to trust the Lord, and how each detour can grow us and prepare us for something later?
"How can I convey the importance of the journey in teaching us to trust the Lord, and how each detour can grow us and prepare us for something later?"
This life is not what I expected.
I had thought life would unfold in a linear direction, and that comfort and security were ultimate goals. Instead, I found myself post-university building relationships with people in Indonesia while living on a shoestring budget. Interacting with people in such different socioeconomic and cultural situations grew my communication skills, my worldview, and fostered a value in me of global citizenship.
Thinking I would then permanently embrace the world of non-profit, surprisingly, I found myself teaming with bright, ambitious, collaborative people at a global energy giant. For four years I grew in leadership, professionalism, and project management skills. I experienced the joy of accomplishing great things with others. I flourished in the environment of excellence that brought out the best of each individual on the team.
As a self-professed city girl living the corporate life, how could I have then anticipated becoming an educator in rural Texas? Thankfully, I was exposed to the importance of cultivating a growth mindset in myself and others. Valuing people and their stories drove my passion and success as an educator.
Trading the pursuit of a master’s degree for the title of “Trailing Spouse” in Japan gave me ongoing opportunities to practice patience and humility; but it was also a welcome treat for this travel-loving explorer! The expat assignment my husband accepted afforded me the chance to focus on family, discover Kyoto’s charms, as well as volunteer at my girls’ school, at church, and as an English tutor for new friends from around the globe.
Leaving Kyoto was one of the more difficult transitions I’ve had to make. Life there had been a welcome treat, and I had no idea what lay ahead. My husband had his work; the kids had their school; but for me, the unknown loomed. And it was at just this time when Eva’s soul-piercing question phase began, striking at the deepest question in my own heart – What do I want to be? And is that something attainable at this point?
The truth was, I believed I had missed out on my calling. Back in university and half way through a Biomedical Science degree, I had considered changing my major to journalism, but I didn’t have the guts to start over. I trudged forward with my degree plan and finished... eventually. Through each of my diverse job roles over the years that followed, writing, print and graphic design would show up as strengths; something I enjoyed. Branding an English Center overseas, building presentations for executives, writing and designing English curriculum for 6th graders—each role held opportunities for me to flex my writing and design muscles. Serving in the churches I attended held more of the same. I had served as a communications overseer, a next steps mentor, developed training for missions teams, and helped a friend turn her bible study into a book. But could any of this really amount to credible communications experience? I was dubious. I genuinely believed that because I had chosen the wrong degree, I had missed out on what God gifted me for, and what my heart really desired to do.
"I genuinely believed that because I had chosen the wrong degree, I had missed out on what God gifted me for, and what my heart really desired to do."
The reality of leaving behind expat life in Kyoto meant I needed to find work. I mean, sometimes, we just need to put food on the table, right? So I applied for positions I was qualified for; things that didn’t make my heart sing, but could meet our needs. No responses came. Occasionally, I would apply to things I wasn’t qualified for, but felt compelled to try. Communications Director for a major non-profit? Why would they even consider me? At what point is hopeful optimism actually stupidity? Was I being brave or foolish? Making it to the final round of interviews for the communications position stoked those flames of desire for something that seemed beyond reach.
Now, I hate to admit this, but as you’ve probably already figured out, listening to God can be a bit of a mystery. There’s no formula; no quick fix or shortcut. It’s something that comes with childlike faith but also wisdom of experience and practice. I’ve not heard the audible voice of God, but I’ve learned that when I am trusting Him to lead, spending time reading His word, asking for Him to guide my heart, He simply does.
I moved through the next year in our new home in Illinois relying on lessons learned about God and His faithfulness. I dug into my new community. I spent time with the Lord daily. I used my God-given gifts to serve where I could. I fought the lies of unworthiness and missed callings with Truth. I got counsel from wise friends. I applied to jobs here and there, but still, nothing. And I wasn’t the only one impacted by this journey; my husband had to be brave, too. We watched as our savings began to dwindle and we prayed; and we listened. Numerous times, we had financially-driven deadlines for me to find work, and every time, God made a way to provide for us before each of those deadlines would come.
At long last, I found out about a strategy shift within my church that opened up a communications position. Because of the relationships I had built over the previous year and a half, and the ways I had served, they wanted me for the role. I was astounded by God’s lavish love.
When God places desires on our hearts, desires that persist as we seek Him, He makes a way to fulfill those desires. It may seem foolish to the world, but the Lord honors our bravery in trusting Him.
"When God places desires on our hearts, desires that persist as we seek Him, He makes a way to fulfill those desires. It may seem foolish to the world, but the Lord honors our bravery in trusting Him."
This has not been the life I expected; it has been so much more. I am loving my current season of life. Looking back, I see how each detour grew and prepared me for something later down the road, and the sum has been immeasurably more than I ever could have asked for or imagined.
Jennifer is a Communications Manager at her local church, helping to share how Jesus is for everyone. She also enjoys meeting people from all walks and cultures, and hearing their stories of life and faith. Her favorite people in the world are her brilliant husband of nearly 13 years, and her two precocious daughters. An explorer-observer at he