Slowing Down to Listen

Independent. Strong-willed. Determined. 

All of the things I want my daughter to be, all of the things I am, and all of the things that got in the way of me listening to everything around me. 

Four years ago I was in the process of packing up my house in California to move back to the Midwest. I was recently divorced, working for a charter school that was being closed down, and completely lost. You see, the world keeps telling us that women can do anything, and they aren’t wrong. I could do anything, I had the world at my fingertips, and, yet, I wasn’t willing to listen.

I was so determined to be independent and make my ideal life work, that I had been stuck in an emotionally abusive marriage. Then, I started listening. Listening to my family who kept asking if I was okay. Listening to God telling me to go back to church. Listening to my friends who kept sending me job postings for places in the Midwest. I felt like my life had completely fallen apart, but it was right there in front of me. 

I needed exactly what every computer needs every now and then: a factory restore. I needed to go home. I needed to learn who I was again and turn the page. I needed every cliche in the book. So I went. I can’t say it was easy. In fact, I received my first bad teacher evaluation that first semester I was back. I sat in that meeting in tears and literally said, “I’m better than this.” And I was. I am. 

And in the most unexpected turn of events, the guy from California who didn’t want a girlfriend moved out there, too. We consistently traded stories about how much we loved California, so when we found out I was pregnant, we knew we wanted to raise our family there. It was hard. I finally started listening to my family and then I was telling them goodbye, again.

This time, though, it wasn’t as sad. They weren’t worried about me and I wasn’t trying to prove a point. I was being independent instead of stubborn. So here I am, in my now-husband’s hometown, raising our family because I started listening. Listening to the signs all around me from God, my family, and even strangers on the street. 

I guess my point of all this rambling is this: being independent, strong-willed and determined doesn’t mean you stop listening. It means you have the courage to do what you know is right for you, and be kind and confident in the process. Once I learned the difference between stubborn and determined, a whole new world opened up, and here I am watching my life fall back together again. 

Let the Journey Begin

Here I am, 30 years old, a teacher with a just-turned-1 year old in tow. Sometimes I look back and wonder how I got here. Other times I know I exactly how it all fell together – one piece at a time. I’m not sure what it is about my daughter turning 1 that has me motivated to change the world, but I do know that starts with me.

I grew up in a happy, supportive suburban home full of food, clothes, toys, electricity, but, most of all, love. As an elementary school teacher, I know many homes are missing any number of the items I just listed, if not all of them. Trying to help every kid that walks through my classroom door, or just passes me in the store, is exhausting and overwhelming to say the least.

So here I am, desperate to make the world better for my daughter, but knowing I can’t fix everything that is wrong with it. So what do we do? Well, Campbell Elizabeth, we focus on love.

We love our family, our neighbors, even our enemies, just like God has commanded us. We live that love so loud that we help change the world, one act of kindness at a time. Maybe one day it’s inviting that “weird” kid over to play. Maybe it’s sharing some of our many blessings with those less fortunate. It doesn’t matter who it is, what they look like, or the choices they’ve made, we love them just the same.

So here we are, my little family of 3: a teacher, UPS worker and 1 year old, ready to make this world have a little more love, because it needs it more than ever before.

P. S. On that idealistic note, I know that life gets messy, and not every day is a perfect example. So grab your favorite wine and join us through the triumphs, try-again-tomorrows, and daily chaos that is life. Cheers.