Sometimes I find myself reflecting on the person I was before I met my husband and had a zillion kids (okay okay, only 4 so far). I was a girl with great drive and focus (how else could I write a 20 page term paper, 5 take-homes and 2 essays all in one weekend, powered only by orange juice, mac and cheese, and ramen noodles?), with a plan for my own life that, at the time, looked very dazzling. I was well on my way to completing my BA with the intention of doing my MA at the same school and my PhD at a Pontifical University in Rome (dream big or don't bother!). I was going to travel the world, experience new things, teach and be taught. I was going to find fulfilment in a world that was waiting just on the other side of a few more papers and exams. In the back of my mind, I also had a dream of becoming a Nun, and living out all my dreams wearing some sort of fabulous habit, veil and all. Joining a religious order would fulfil my deep religious yearnings and desire to serve others, while giving me a chance to serve my own ideal as educated world traveller.
Looking back, I doubt that if I had been given a glimpse of my life today, I would have said yes, and dived in head first. I'm relatively sure that I would have outright said no! When the opportunity to be part of a new religious community in my own city arose, I said YES before I even had a chance to consider what it was I was doing. I already had a sense of what that life would look like and what my challenges would be. If my 20 something (well, early 20 something) self had any sense of the daily challenges of my current life, I have a feeling I would have been overcome with intense fear and run the opposite direction. Possibly screaming. Back then, I had no idea what I was truly capable of. I had in my heart the desire to be a mother, but along with that I had the deep sense that I wasn't chosen for that life because I wasn't equipped for it. I simply was made to be a nun, solitary and stoic. (And seriously, I really do know that that's not a qualification for a "good" nun. My Sisters from the Franciscans are the most loving, giving women I've ever met. Stoic is not a word I'd even think to apply to those gorgeous ladies!)
When I pictured myself as a mother, it was with a feeling that I had no patience, no knowledge of babies, and that I physically could not endure labour. Being a mother to me also meant being married. And you see, I was not the marrying type, unless you count marrying Jesus. I couldn't picture myself a suitable wife to anyone, with all my solitary habits and eccentricities, my inability to be emotionally intimate with even my closest friends. The women I was nearly 10 years ago would not have been able to answer the call to the life I live now. She would have been scared, and perhaps rightly so.
The truth is that that girl is still there, part of me every day, but I'm also so much more. I'm glad that God didn't give me any real insight into what my life would be. I didn't one day wake up a wife and mother, and certainly not a mother of one preschooler, two rowdy toddlers, and one very sweet but demanding baby. God built me up, little by little. He showed me my talents, and gave me new ones. He gave me a friend, taught me how to share my struggles and emotional baggage with him, then made him my husband. He gave me one child, let me adjust, then another, then another, then another. At each stage, God waited until I was ready, then gave me a little more. Oftentimes it felt like each new pregnancy would be too much, but then I would find myself surprised as I came out of the fog of new babyness that I was not just surviving, but joyful (most days). If we reach out for God's hand, He won't let us sink, even if we feel like we're drowning some days.
I'm glad that I never had a sense of what my life would look like today. God didn't give me a chance to scare myself out of it. I can't imagine my life any other way, nor do I want to. When I gave my life up to God, He took that life and has made more out of it than I ever could have imagined.