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Speaking of missionaries, some of those who knew me before college have to wonder if I fell off that wagon. Beginning somewhere around age 5, I spent 15 years dogmatically (and vocally) sure I would one day enter the foreign mission field. Some thought the plan a waste of my gifts. (I doubt they consider homemaker an improvement.) But I longed for the mission field with the certainty of divine calling--a certainty that waned in college as my understanding of faith, missions, and callings changed. My father once wisely counseled that my future plans could change and it would be okay to let them. Though it cost me some doubt and a good amount of pride (After all, in evangelical circles a call to missions is generally revered as the highest calling one can have.), I finally pursued this new calling to with all the passion of the old one. (My transitional goal, teaching, was always tied up in my larger goal--first an opportunity for mission work abroad, then a mission at home, and finally a purposeful means of income until I could be a homemaker.) Seven years down that road, five into its fulfillment, I have no regrets.
It's funny, really. I am determinedly ambitious. Having excelled in an academic setting in high school and college, it seemed natural for me to continue that through at least a Master's degree. But why spend all the time and money with no intention of using it? Mothers don't get a higher salary or more promotions because they have extra letters after their name. Education, certainly, is an admirable goal regardless of profession. . .but degrees and education are not inextricably linked. It was difficult at first to give up the idea of academic accolades. But ambition should not be limited to academia any more than to professional careers. I still pursue higher education--without the unwanted required courses, papers, and exams. I am still determinedly ambitious, yet my ambitions now revolve around hearth and home, and they are every bit as daunting as any academic ambition I ever conceived. As G.K. Chesterton wrote of huswifery and motherhood, "How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness." To love and give and teach and labor in order to help that which is dear to you need you no longer--"hugeness of her task" indeed.
There are moments when I am impatient for more of that "hugeness" to trickle down--for the days when I can teach Carolyn to read and write and bake and sew. After all, ambition and patience are not natural companions. Then I remember that those exciting days will bring new difficulties of their own--parenting decisions more difficult than whether or not to let the baby cry in her crib for a few minutes. And then I am doubly thankful for the simple joys and simple problems of babyhood.