Christian

Lessons from the Sidelines

By

This book will launch on Dec 1, 2020. Currently, only those with the link can see it. 🔒
Synopsis

Football coach’s wife Beth Walker encourages women whose families are in the public eye to pursue their own callings even as they support their husbands’ careers and ministries. Through her own personal stories as well as interviews with other women who are also living just outside their husbands’ limelight, Beth shows it’s possible to do both.

Whether you’re a coach’s wife, the wife of a professional athlete, a pastor’s wife, the wife of a CEO, a military wife, or a college administrator’s wife, you have unique challenges to navigate that differ from the struggles of other women. Lessons from the Sidelines will help you:

-Engage 7 steps to clarify your calling, identify your sweet spot, and implement strategies that will enable you to live on mission.
-Identify how the 5 Stages of Burnout can impact your marriage and your ability to fully embrace your calling.
-Tackle the unique hurdles of parenting in the public eye.
-Learn practical tips for getting through the harder parts of the calendar year.

Public life can be lonely, even when you’re living on mission. We all need a cheerleader from time to time, and Lessons from the Sidelines aims to be just that.

Understanding Your Calling

“Calling is a process rather than a
destination, since life is ever-changing as
we likewise change.” – Ivan Mesa


Before we move forward, I feel it’s only fair to give you a little background

information. If we were together, I’d ask the same of you,

because knowing where we came from is a key part of understanding

why we’re drawn to specific things or have certain cultural beliefs.


I grew up in a faith-centered home. We never guessed what our

Sundays would look like or where we would sit when we arrived at

church. I loved Sunday school, youth group, and special events at

church. I always felt comfortable and welcome in our church community.

It wasn’t until many years later, late in my college years, that I

began to understand how my level of comfort in our church community

prevented me from questioning some areas of Scripture that deserved

a closer look. At the same time, I can trace the foundation of

my compassionate worldview, my convictions about the importance

of relational ministry, and my belief in a merciful God who lovingly

pursues us to my earliest years to that community.


My formative years were consistent and safe, and I’m thankful for my

parents, extended family, and church community for that security. I

know not everyone has had this kind of experience. However, I inaccurately

assumed that my easy life meant that God was pleased with

the choices I was making, that my perspective on life and theology

was accurate, and that as long as I kept doing things exactly the

same way, the road ahead would stay smooth and well-lit.


The further I ventured down the path of living out my calling, the

bumpier things got. And the more I tried to white-knuckle my way

to staying comfortable, the harder it was to keep to the easy road.

Still, if I felt lost, had a conflict with a friend, or felt confused when it

became clear that previous teachings on Scripture weren’t as cut and-

dried as they once seemed, when I prayed for God to show up, I

sensed his presence and saw him answer prayers.


Several times I have discerned God guiding me. Annie Downs, bestselling

author and host of the That Sounds Fun podcast, often asks

her guests what this looks like for them. Some describe God’s guidance

as a whisper while others describe it as a sense. For me, God’s

guidance is almost always a conversation. An idea I would never

choose for myself pops into my mind. Other times, God will ask me a

question I’m not interested in answering.


When I look back at each of these markers, there is a clear pattern.

I have a choice to make. Option A is rational, would make everyone

around me happy, and seems like it would make life easier. Choice B

is crazy, will definitely be met with disagreement from people I love,

and will make life harder the second I step toward it.


God is always gentle with me; in these moments I recognize God’s

voice because he is calm and kind. You may recognize the phrase,

“still, small voice” from 1 Kings. In contrast, my thoughts scream at

me. But when God speaks, he reminds me of our past conversations:

Beth, you only know what the next step looks like, and I’m asking you

to obey me. The choice is yours. Every time, I end up with Choice

B, and so far, I’ve not regretted those choices. This may not be how

things work out for you, but Scripture is clear: God often asks his

people to do things that don’t make practical sense.


Out of all these hard choices, the most challenging was my choice

to reconcile with Ordell after he broke up with me early in our dating

relationship, to choose to trust him with my heart anyway. That pivotal

choice meant I eventually took on the title of coach’s wife as well

as mom. If I wasn’t careful, these titles could encompass my whole

identity. If I did that, I would be limiting God’s calling.


We all experience changes in our titles at times, but the value of

your life is not tied to your title. I am Elijah’s and Levi’s mom, but

my life did not become more valuable after they were born. I am

Ordell’s wife, and Ordell is a coach; therefore, I am a coach’s wife.

However, just as I gained titles, I will also lose them, like when Ordell

retires someday. And yet the value of my life will remain the same.

The same is true for you. You were created for an important purpose

that may or may not be tied to one of your titles. Remember to look

broadly. You don’t want to miss your calling because you are focused

on a title.


God has created us all to glorify him in a unique and special way, and

you have a special combination of talents and gifts that make you the

only person capable of completing the calling God has created you

for, the calling in front of you and the one you have down the road,

and also the one you may not yet see.


As have many women I’ve encountered through the past two decades,

I’ve learned that while our calling is our own, when we marry,

it is often the unique combination of gifts belonging to both partners

in a marriage that opens our path for the fulfillment opportunities. I

believe this is true for both wives and husbands. We can also unintentionally

limit each other from pursuing our callings if we aren’t in

sync. We will discuss this more in Chapter 4.


In the first section, we’ll begin discussing how you can clarify your

life’s calling, thrive in your sweet spot, and define what it means

to live on mission. Understanding your calling is a vital brick in the

foundation of partnering with God as you learn to use all your gifts,

talents, and strengths. As I share my story, along with those of Deb,

Robyn, and Kim in this chapter, my prayer is that you will see how our

past experiences can shape our present.


If you’re wondering how your past and present experiences will connect

to help you identify your calling, our various stories will hopefully

shine a light on those possibilities. If you’ve already identified key

milestones in your past, my prayer is that this chapter will help you

take another reflective look, leaving no stone unturned.


the calling of the coach’s wife life


On my fortieth birthday, Ordell asked me a surprising question. He

asked if, knowing what I know now, I believe I chose the right job after

graduation. You see, during my final year of college, I had two internships.

I worked as a personal trainer and swim instructor at a local

health club, and I was on student staff with Young Life, a parachurch

ministry with the mission to introduce adolescents to Jesus Christ and

help them grow in their faith. My mission field was a local high school

campus, where I spent several hours every week in relational ministry

with high school girls, encouraging them to pursue Jesus.


When I graduated from college, I could have continued pursuing

a career with Young Life as a full-time staff member, but instead, I

accepted a job offer from the other internship. Suddenly I went from

working two part-time internships which equaled almost forty hours

a week of work on top of twelve credit hours of college classes to

only working 37.5 hours a week teaching swim lessons and personal

training.


My passion for relational ministry didn’t stop just because I’d left

Young Life, though. I’d spent three years under excellent guidance

from my Young Life mentors and co-leaders. But relational ministry

is incredibly time-consuming, and Ordell and I knew that we had a

decision to make. Our lives could run parallel, or we could partner together.

When we got engaged, I shifted my ministry focus from high

school students to the football field. It surprised me that years later,

he asked me to reflect on a decision I never spoke about with regret.

Life as a coach’s wife is often all-encompassing. We’ve learned that

family decisions need to run through the football filter at some point,

or they end up becoming major pain points. Football is the largest

and least flexible component of our family’s calendar. It impacts when

we travel, where we live, and who we serve in ministry. Because of

this, we’ve learned that at some point, we need to filter every decision

through the lens of football. In our house, this means we look at

anything that requires our time, energy, and effort, and we ask, “How

does this impact our football commitments?” Implementing a block

calendar has been a lifesaver for me as I ask this question.


To some people, it may seem ridiculous to consider my husband’s

career with every decision, but when I married Ordell, I accepted that

my calling as his wife included being a coach’s wife simply because I

am married to a football coach.


While my choice to walk away from Young Life drastically altered

my path at the time, every life season we’ve journeyed through has

reaffirmed that I made the right decision for the long term. I had two

great options for career paths after college, and I chose the one that

aligned with my college major. This created space for me to partner

in ministry with my future husband.


what is a calling anyway?


This word calling means different things to different people. To make

sure we’re on the same page, let’s define calling as the non-negotiable

thing placed in you by God to glorify him. We begin to understand

our calling by understanding and discovering the gifts given to

us by God. These are listed in Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10

and 28-30, and Ephesians 4:11.


The broadest interpretation of my calling is that I am called to help

and encourage people. Every personality test, spiritual gifts quiz, and

natural instinct confirms this for me. I am a helper and an encourager.

I come alive when I am cheering others on as they meet personal

goals. It doesn’t matter what the goal is, but with limited time for

ministry, I prioritize opportunities that include spiritual development.

My calling to help and encourage others is also a strength in my job

as a digital marketer.


I love this quote from Baylor University: “The task is not to think only

about what God wants one to do for a job but to think also about

how God wants one to be Christ-like whatever one’s job.”1


But how these traits reveal themselves in my life is unique:

• As an athletic training major in college, my favorite aspect of the

work was helping to prepare others for success on the athletic

field.

• I love partnering with Ordell to serve our football players in ways

that cast a vision for their futures.

• I have a passion for mentoring other women, cheering them on

as they pursue God, growing in their faith, and learning about

the calling God has for their lives.

• In a crisis, my first instinct is to figure out a way to help. You’ll

likely hear me ask “What should we do?”

• I am a digital marketer, but I don’t sell products. My job is to help

small businesses tell their stories in clear and creative ways using

online platforms.

• At football games, you will find me on the sidelines, taking pictures

of the game so that our parents and players will have closeup

action shots to include in their photo memory books, filling

water bottles, and cheering our team on as loudly as I can.


Your calling may not look anything like mine, but it’s just as special

and important because it’s what God created you to pursue. If you’ve

never considered how your unique wiring impacts your daily decisions

and interactions, don’t worry—that’s what we are going to do

here! We will cover ideas on ways you can begin to strategically think

about your personality traits in later chapters.


Now, in my forties, I have a clear understanding of how my strengths

and passions best work together, but that hasn’t always been the

case. I’ve led Bible studies, joined the PTA, helped with VBS, and

cooked meals for more staff and football players than I can count. I

have read to my children’s classes, taught college girls how to cook,

connected people with resources they were having trouble finding,

driven people to doctor appointments hours away, sung in nursing

homes, and babysat my friend’s children in emergency situations. I’ve

helped people in many ways that I’ve loved, but I have also committed

to my fair share of activities that have depleted my energy.


Whether or not an experience completely fit my giftings, every one

helped me further understand the importance of operating out of

my calling and passions combined as often as possible. There are

enough opportunities to serve people around us that we can find the

ones that breathe life into us rather than leave us feeling drained and

exhausted.


Most of us serve and support those around us to the best of our ability

when we are doing the things that come naturally to us and make

us feel alive—when we are operating in our gifts. As I have aligned

my strengths and passions in every area of my life, the best part has

been that I now wake up every day happy and fulfilled by the events

on my calendar. To say it another way, I’m thriving. Even when I’m in

busy or stressful seasons, I know I’m doing what I need to do, and

that’s an important perspective to help me stay focused and moving

forward.


calling as a cornerstone


There are only so many hours in a day, and because I have a natural

instinct to jump in and lead, collaborate, or help, I’ve had to learn

the power of the word “no.” I’ll run myself ragged if I don’t add

additional filters to the equation. I’ve discovered this the hard way,

and I’ve disappointed people by backing out at the last minute. Still,

even when I should have probably said no, God has been gracious

to allow me to uncover unexpected areas where I can flourish for a

season.


My process isn’t perfect, but through trial and error, I’ve come to

understand that my calling is the cornerstone of the life I get to build

in relationship with God. And I really get to thrive when I commit to

minimizing the friction points between my calling and our family’s

present season of life. Any coach’s wife will tell you that life is lived in

seasons of varying lengths.


Each season naturally includes something that requires the most

attention, care, and focus. For example, in the season of babies and

toddlers, whether you work outside the home or as a homemaker,

the children require most of your mother’s energy. When your kids

are older, they may require less hands-on attention, but as parents,

you’ll likely find that you need better communication in order to gain

a full picture of what’s happening in your teen’s life.


If we picture our callings as the cornerstone of our foundation, there

are still other building blocks we can add. Ultimately, when our

strengths, passions, gifts, talents, and calling align, we can operate

in our sweet spot. That said, sometimes our ideal opportunities will

be limited because of time, accessibility, or simply because we’re in

a particular season of life. Rather than waiting for the season to pass,

we can look for ways to grow, adding bricks to our foundation and

shoring up that cornerstone. By increasing our knowledge of a subject

or sharpening our skills, we will be ready when the opportunity

to fully step into our calling arrives.


same calling, different application


More now than ever before, women have the flexibility and ability to

pursue a variety of passions, dreams, and callings. While it has long

been the case that many women need to contribute to the household

income so their husbands are able to continue in professions

like coaching, preaching, or teaching, I see an influx of wives seeking

careers doing the things they feel called to do rather than settling for

a job that just pays the bills.


For example, wives are continuing their educations and obtaining

masters’ degrees and PhDs. Wives are building their own small

businesses, negotiating remote working opportunities, and in some

cases, choosing to stay behind while their husbands move on to new

jobs so they can continue their careers without starting over. We

can’t make these decisions lightly. Weighing the long-term impact

of moving multiple times versus living apart for a few months of the

year is a difficult, yet common conversation in transient families. Military

families and those in sports who live in one area of the country

during training and another during the season, with travel for recruiting

in between, say they wrestle with separating the family at different

times of the year.


While some wives feel called to stay home with their young kids,

others take whatever job is in front of them as long as enough calendar

space is left for them to pursue their passion in a volunteer

capacity. Wives aren’t compromising, and they are so courageous.

I’m also watching wives step up in other countries and bloom where

they are planted as they love and serve their neighbors and reflect

Christ’s love. FCA is a global ministry, and God calls his people to

different countries for both long- and short-term ministry opportunities.

Husbands and wives are serving through FCA together around

the globe, supporting coaching families as well as their communities.

Military wives are teaching Sunday school in local churches as well as

intentionally sharing their faith with their neighbors and landlords in

every country where they live.


I’m talking with wives who understand that their voices matter, and

they’re raising them clearly. Within all these scenarios, there is a common

thread. We’re all wives who desire to support our husbands as

they pursue their dreams. We also understand that there is room in a

marriage for both partners to thrive in their callings.


everything eventually shifts


When our sons were born, the wisest move financially and for our

football-centered life was for me to stay home full-time. I contributed

to the household income through various jobs, including coaching

the local summer swim team and babysitting other children. This

didn’t feel like a sacrifice, because I had always assumed I would stay

home with our children, and it also just made sense.


That season was rich with football ministry. We hosted team dinners,

staff dinners, dating couples, and a leadership team breakfast meeting.

I had enough flexibility in my schedule to generously use my

time to bless those in our football circle, and I loved it. I sent treats to

the football office, had college students over for brunch and coffee,

took walks with girlfriends, and filled my days with relational mentoring.

Then we moved to a different state, and the new dynamic of our new

team changed things. Our boys were older and in school all day.


I’d stepped back into the working world a few years earlier, but this

move to a new campus required me to work more while we found a

renter for the house we left behind and paid rent on our new house.

The priority became making our finances work—which meant me taking

whatever job was necessary regardless of how my skills and gifts

were utilized—over adding ministry opportunities to my calendar.

I was able to find a job I enjoyed and learned a lot of valuable skills I

still use today. Our sons were independent enough that when my job

began to require travel, we figured out how to make it work through

our football filter, but it was forced through. Even though our priority

was paying our extra bills, God also opened the door for me to

participate in a student Bible study with women on campus. This was

an opportunity we’d prayed for, but balancing that with work travel

left me weary and with too much on my plate. It worked, but it wasn’t

what was best for me or our family.


Although travel work was lucrative, it also meant that my ability to

serve our team was significantly limited. There was never enough

time for everyone, least of all me. My time was dispersed unevenly,

and I always felt that my kids were getting the worst end of the deal.

By the time our boys arrived home from school, they were exhausted

from the day and ready for time alone. We’d spend a few minutes

together eating dinner or working on homework before Ordell would

head to football practice and I’d turn my attention to cleaning or paperwork.

My workouts were scheduled in hotel gyms between client

appointments, and most of my weekday meals were grab-and-go

from college cafeterias.


Eventually, I found a job that seemed like it would work through any

season and every move. I accepted a contract to work remotely from

home as a virtual assistant. Then, God graciously sent me a client

who quickly identified that I was capable of much more than the

parameters of our contract, and before I knew it, I was training for

a new career that aligns with my calling and which I love. I was so

exhausted from travel work, I was willing to take any job, but God

wasn’t willing to let me compromise.


A few months after I settled into my job, we moved yet again, once

more switching teams. Because I took the time to identify that I was

not operating in my calling, and to find something that was a better

fit for me and worked with our football filter, this move was different.

My job moved with me without interruption. Stepping into a new

career was a leap of faith, but I believe it worked because I was more

intentional about following God’s lead. I can see now that it was a

milestone, because God showed up. Let’s take a deeper look.


taking the next step in faith


When I was traveling for work, I was also quickly working my way

through the stages of burnout. One space God has consistently met

me over the years is in providing great jobs exactly when our family

needs them.


I was exhausted and knew I couldn’t travel for work much longer. I

reached out to a coach’s wife who had mentioned that a company

she worked with was hiring remote workers. As she explained how

the company was a great fit for the coaching lifestyle and outlined

the hiring process, I heard that same calm voice in my head encouraging

me to take the next step and submit my resumé. Within two

weeks, I had accepted a contract to work for the same company. I

stepped out in faith that this company would pair me with a client I

would enjoy working for, but I had no idea when and how my work as

a virtual assistant would begin.


One of the sections of my hiring paperwork asked about my interests

and volunteer work. I included my role as a monthly contributor to

The Glorious Table, a devotional blog for women. That one line was

the key thing that connected me with my current employer.


In three years, I’ve evolved from working five hours a week, sorting

emails and scheduling calendar appointments, to working twenty-five

hours a week as a content strategist and digital marketing account

manager. My job has helped me develop my writing, editing, and

proofreading skills. I’ve learned the power of storytelling and gained

certifications in various aspects of Google Analytics, marketing, and

SEO that help my work and ministry. Most importantly, I’ve discovered

a new way to do something I love and to use the talents God

gave me for his glory.


The best part about my current job is that because I applied the

football filter, I prioritized working remotely. Had that not been the

case, I never would have connected with my boss, because he needed

someone who could work from home. I know things don’t always

work out so smoothly, but it’s worth exploring ways to find work you

love within a scenario that works harmoniously with your husband’s

job. God is creative; you never know what solution he’s already provided,

so dream big.


My experience as a coach’s wife is one of thousands, but I cherish

it because it’s uniquely mine. But it was the experience of another

coach’s wife that opened my heart to believe the balance I craved

was possible.


it takes a village


The football filter starts with acceptance of the fact that the demands

of coaching are not going away. This doesn’t mean your husband will

never pursue a different career, but it’s about living in the present and

not wishing it away. Acceptance paves the path to joy. Resistance

encourages the roots of bitterness to grow deep.


In the hardest seasons of this crazy life, the other coaches’ wives in

my life carry me through. In past seasons, they have loved my kids,

cooked for me, helped me clean my home, prayed with me, studied

the Bible with me, and reminded me that this, too, shall pass.

In addition to other coaches’ wives, I’ve shed tears and celebrated

with pastors’ wives and administrators’ wives. I’ve sat in the office

of our FCA marketing director (wife of our area director) and talked

about God and our kids, and planned ministry events together. When

we hear truth spoken by those who live similar lives and experience

the same heartbreaks, it carries a different weight. It is incredibly

important to have a village around you that understands your life.


finding your place


A town made up of only shoe stores would mean each store would

compete to cover only one body part, leaving the town seriously

lacking in necessities. Any village functions best when everyone has

a different job. We need grocery stores, gas stations, clothing stores,

and restaurants combine to make a town welcoming—and a great

coffee shop helps, too!


Your ideal role within a football staff, a community, and/or your

current stage of life isn’t always possible, but when coupled with an

understanding of your calling and a little flexibility, it’s easier to sort

through and discern your good, better, and best life options. It’s even

easier when those around you choose encouragement over judgment

and when you choose to reciprocate. Be patient if you aren’t

in your ideal situation. Keep your eyes open for opportunities, but

don’t be afraid to try new things while you wait. This can keep you

from discouragement as you wait for the ideal lineup of life stage and

opportunity.


My current resume boasts three distinct career paths in the past

seven years. This most recent batch of opportunities doesn’t include

the five jobs I held between graduation and birthing our first son. I

averaged a new job every year, although some overlapped.

Eight different jobs. Eight. That’s a lot, I know, but each job taught

me invaluable lessons, and each redirection came at the perfect time.

Finding my sweet spot with work and family and football hasn’t been

easy, but I think I’m there—for now, anyway.


we aren’t a coaching family


So far, the focus of this chapter has centered around my experiences

and lifestyle because learning to live life as a unit is something every

family I interact with wrestles to do well. Your calling may include the

role of pastor’s wife, or you may co-pastor a church with your husband.

You may have married a banker, and recently your husband

realized his gifts are best lived out as the FCA area director, which

means you are now living a very different lifestyle. These very public

and service-oriented jobs can be jarring and leave us feeling a little

out of sorts.


The process of discovering your calling can start the same way for

everyone, single or married. It begins with figuring out the details

of who you are. God doesn’t make mistakes. You are one of his

most amazing creations, the one he made in his image and deemed

“very good.” We are complex and detailed, but our designer has a

plan. It’s up to us whether or not we will embrace our full calling. But

before we process this, I want you to hear from my friend Deb. Her

thoughts on calling are so wise.


d e b ’ s story


Deb DiPietro is the wife of retired University of Tennessee president

Joe DiPietro. When I sat down with Deb, the first thing she said was

that regardless of where our conversation went, it was imperative for

her to tell me the two most important life lessons she has learned

over the past forty-four years of marriage.

1. When our husbands have a public job, part of our role is to remind

them of their priorities.

2. We are responsible for our own happiness.


The next thing she said was not surprising: “Beth, I never wanted to

be the wife of a university president.”

Deb has an impressive resume. When she was in her late thirties, as

the wife of a department head and faculty member, she obtained her

master’s degree in forestry from the University of Illinois. Deb has a

very specific passion as an environmental educator. She and Joe met

in college, where they were both studying agriculture. Deb married

Joe the veterinarian. Life took a different turn, though, and as doors

continued to open for her husband, she knew things would change

significantly. She also knew Joe would thrive in higher education.

Deb said, “I’ve watched him work a room, drawing energy from every

person he interacts with. Joe is an excellent leader. He is in his element,

using his strengths and passions.”


In an interview for The Tennessee Alumnus magazine, Deb said,

“When he first started talking about it, I couldn’t imagine why he
would want such a big job, but I really felt from the beginning he
would be an excellent candidate and the best person for the job.
He’s just so good at managing people and getting people to work
together that I knew he would do a really good job and the university
would be really lucky to have him.”
“And he has always supported me no matter what. When I wanted to
stay home with the kids, he said, ‘Of course, that’s a really important
job.’ When I wanted to go back to graduate school, he totally supported
that—even though it meant he was the one running the kids
around at night while I was in class. And when I wanted to work full
time, he was supportive of that.
“I knew this would have a really big impact on our lives, but I have
to support him because he has supported me in all the things I’ve
wanted to do. Not to mention he’s a very talented administrator, and
I wasn’t going to stand in the way of that.”2


Joe’s journey from veterinarian to university president required the

DiPietro family to move a few times. When Joe’s career path included

a move from Central, Illinois to Gainesville, Florida, Deb prioritized

the needs of the DiPietro children as best she could and chose a

mid-year move so their eighth-grader would have time to settle into

the area, make friends, and get involved in school activities before

high school.


“Everyone expected we would finish out the year in Illinois, but I

knew that in order for our daughter to have the best opportunity to

be involved in the clubs she loved in high school, she needed to be

in Gainesville to finish her eighth-grade year,” Deb said.


Deb also knew that administrators’ wives were expected to volunteer

in the Gainesville community. She decided that instead of volunteering

at the local hospital gift shop with other administrators’ wives,

she would turn an expectation into an opportunity. Deb reached out

to the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH), the state museum

located at the University of Florida. She knew her educational

background, strengths, and passions would serve the community—

and her—better if she took on a role as an environmental educator

rather than in a gift shop.


What I love most about Deb’s story is that she started as a volunteer

because that was the expectation, but because she was working

within her passions, she quickly gained the trust of her supervisors,

and they hired her. Deb was modest about her time in Gainesville,

but she mentioned one additional key detail. As an employee, she

developed programs for the Natural Area Teaching Lab behind the

museum, as well as indoor museum programming, volunteer training,

special events, and other programs.


Deb’s story is a beautiful example of what can happen when we

bloom where we are planted.


robyn ’ s story


Robyn, a military wife, is one of those women I know for certain God

brought into my life to make up for the fact that I don’t have sisters.

We were brought together because our sons became friends, but

it’s grown far beyond that because Robyn understands the coaching

life through her experience as a military wife. Since 2015, Robyn

has worked for the University of Illinois Military Families Learning

Network as its Family Development Early Intervention Program


Coordinator. She describes her job as a perfect fit for her strengths

and passions, and I agree. But when Robyn graduated in 1999 with a

bachelor’s in education, she never dreamed she would be where she

is now—mostly because the job didn’t exist.


What I love about Robyn’s story is that her journey to finding her

sweet spot was long with unique milestones along the way. Looking

at the big picture, it’s clear that God’s hand was guiding Robyn

toward her current career, but along the way she was able to use her

gifts and talents to serve people in many different leadership positions,

even if they didn’t feel like the perfect fit to Robyn. She was

faithful in serving as she waited for God’s perfect timing.


As Robyn recalled the milestones that brought her to her current

position, I found myself in awe of the many details that had to come

together to uniquely qualify Robyn for her career. She describes

her journey as a tiny thread connecting experiences together. That

thread was not the plan Robyn anticipated. Robyn chose her major in

elementary education because she loved working with children and

wanted a job through which she could support herself. She hoped to

marry, work a few years, have children and stay home with them, and

go back to teaching at some point.


She did teach, but when her husband’s job moved them to North

Carolina before his deployment, work wasn’t easy to find. She

subbed, which kept her busy, and then their first child arrived. Robyn

stuck with her plan to stay home, but her extroverted personality

kept her involved in her community.


As a stay-at-home mom, Robyn became a La Leche League leader.

Looking back, this was the beginning of Robyn dipping a toe into the

world of adult education. She enjoyed teaching, but she knew the

medical center setting was not the right fit. Good, but not best.

Robyn also volunteered as a Family Readiness Group key caller within

the military when her husband deployed. Her reasons were simple:

she had been through one deployment and knew she could help

guide wives who were experiencing their first. She looked over her

shoulder and encouraged those just a few steps behind her in the

journey.


A few moves later, Robyn hit a wall. In 2014, she had been a stay-at-home

mom for ten years. Their family had grown from three to six

in two-and-a-half years, and much had happened during that time.


Child number two was adopted from Ethiopia, and then child number

one received a special needs diagnosis. Children three and four

were young and full of energy, making for a very busy household.

Robyn sensed change was on the horizon but didn’t expect that the

year she spent homeschooling her newly adopted child and special

needs child would be a key experiential piece. After a year spent

fully at home, Robyn needed an outlet for her extroverted side and

sought employment as a part-time administrative assistant.


Robyn was focusing on a small goal, but God had much bigger plans.

A friend sent Robyn a job posting, then followed up to tell her she

needed to consider applying. Because Robyn has intentionally surrounded

herself with trusted girlfriends, she knew she could ask for

advice and receive honest feedback. One message came back with

each request for input: You are qualified. Stop selling yourself short!

Isn’t that how things go? We cannot see our own strengths and

abilities as clearly as our friends and family do. Thankfully, Robyn’s

support network gave her the push she needed in order to begin

picturing a new career path.


So what does Robyn do now? Among other things, she develops

web-based curriculum for educators around early interventions for

education and childcare professionals working with young children

with disabilities and their families. She provides the lens for early

childhood to understand unique strategies to support military

families.


The qualifications listed in that job posting were:

• Education background

• Experience and understanding of the military lifestyle, culture,

and available supports

• Strong communication skills

• Understanding of social media

• Adult education experience

• Strong writing skills

• Understanding of the needs of children with disabilities


Since Robyn began her career five years ago, she hasn’t stopped

learning, growing, and striving to understand her passions. She

knows God has placed her in her career, and she is thriving. She

recently completed her master’s degree, and her team has published

and presented three papers at different conferences. As part of a collaborative

network with MFLN, they also received an award for their

virtual conference web-based programming.


If you feel like you haven’t connected with any of these stories yet,

that’s okay. There are so many more women in different stages of life

to whom I am excited to introduce you.


Kim's Story


Kim is a stay-at-home-mom

of three and is finding creative ways to balance two callings she is

equally passionate about; homeschooling and relational ministry.


Kim and her husband, Kyle, both hold dual roles. Kyle works full-time

in the tech industry, and Kyle and Kim are also fully committed to

serving a campus ministry as local missionaries. They serve as small

group leaders for the graduate school group at their local chapter of

the Collegiate Church Network, an association of churches on college

campuses all over the country. Their church meets on a college

campus and is a registered student organization.


Kim and Kyle are so committed to their ministry that they have reconstructed

their home to host groups with minimal disruption to their

growing family. After our Bible Study Fellowship group met there for

a get-together, I wondered what kind of passion was behind that kind

of financial investment.


Kim explained that as she and Kyle both attended the church they

now serve when they were attending the same university they now

serve. She was trained as a leader by those whose role she now fills.

People saw a natural ability in Kim and believed she was capable of

leading a small group while she pursued a career in engineering. Given

the tools and space to lead, Kim, an engineer by trade and training,

was leading within the collegiate ministry before she met Kyle.


Their ministries merged when they married and they began leading

a small group together, and with each subsequent life change, Kim

finds herself adjusting to a new normal and adapting in her ministry

roles.


The transition from leading undergrad-level small groups to grad

school groups happened organically, and as Kim laid out the timeline

for me, she pointed out that it aligned with their transitions in

life stages. As their family was growing from three to four, Kim was

transitioning from working part-time to staying home with their kids

full-time, and leaders of the grad school group were moving. Kim

said it was hard at first because all she knew was undergrad ministry,

but she realized that grad school students were in a different stage of

life. Ultimately, she found it easier to connect and build relationships

with the students. Since graduate school students are usually only

around for one-to-two years, this is especially important.


Kim confessed that in her current stage of life, with three littles at

home, she doesn’t feel like she is always able to engage in ministry

the way she desires. There came a point where she was unable to

meet the full expectations of the ministry and needed to step back

into more of a support role rather than a leader role. She misses being

able to meet up with people for coffee or lunch like she did when

she was a student or working close to campus. But she isn’t quitting.

She and Kyle partner together hosting groups in their home, and

plans ahead in order to meet with people when she can. Kyle’s job

is flexible, and with planning, she can still invest in relationships, just

not as frequently. Still, Kim knows her current season will change. She

will have more flexibility for ministry in a few years when her kids are

a little older and more independent.


As a student, Kim had the opportunity to observe her college small

group host balance parenting, homeschooling and using her gifts of

hospitality in college ministry. This consistent presence in Kim’s life

gave her the confidence to know she would also be able to multitask.

When the time came for her to step into her mentor’s shoes, she had

a good idea of what life could look like and she is embracing her two

current callings.


Kim not only hosts college students in her home and balances homeschooling,

she also teaches within the homeschooling co-op her children

participate. Kim acknowledged that while she’s living out two

callings, homeschooling takes up most of her energy and time these

days. “I love being at home with my kids and teaching them. I chose

to leave my industry and be a stay-at-home mom in part to give

our family the freedom to continue to do ministry with our campus

church. Homeschooling has the same benefit of allowing us to be

more flexible with our ministry.” The transition from work to full-time

homeschooling was slow for Kim. She and Kyle looked at each new

life stage together and Kim decided how she could best continue to

balance living out both her callings.


The thing I love the most about Kim’s story is that she understands

her calling clearly, and she makes every decision with her ministry in

mind. Just as we choose to run things through what I call the football

filter in our home, Kim and Kyle have their own ministry filter. Every

yes comes only after consideration of how it will or won’t impact their

primary commitments.


a word of encouragement


At one point during my interview with Deb Pietro, I couldn’t help but

interrupt. “You’re my hero!” I said. “I feel so empowered listening to

how you knew what you wanted to do and went for it.”


Deb smiled and gently said, “Well, you have to remember, I was in

my forties when this happened. Think of your life right now. Would

you feel pressured to volunteer someplace you knew would make

you miserable?”


I knew she was right. Now, in my forties, I’m no longer intimidated by

someone’s title the way I was a few decades ago, and I’m also much

quicker to look for a creative solution that’s going to allow me to

thrive rather than doing something just to please other people.


The better we know ourselves, the easier it is to establish boundaries.

More importantly, once we discover how empowering and energizing

life is when we thrive in our sweet spots with our personal gifts and

strengths prioritized, yeses and no's come easier.


We may have the same calling as someone else; there are many

authors, pastors, coaches, and CEOs who have wives living similar

stories. But there is only one you. The way you approach your calling

is unique to you. This approach will take time to perfect and you will

likely go through several iterations. For many of us, it takes a combination

of life experience, false starts, and trial and error to learn

where and how we best thrive. But thrive we will.


With that goal in mind, let’s take time to explore some strategies that

will help you begin the journey to find how your unique strengths

and passions work together, and how you best express them—your

sweet spot.

About the author

Beth Walker has partnered with her husband for twenty years, in leadership and ministry both on and off the football field. Beth is passionate about encouraging women to pursue their individual callings from God. view profile

Published on September 10, 2020

Published by Cross Training Publishing

70000 words

Genre: Christian

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