Sunday, May 15, 2011

New Beginnings

Can I just say that I count my job as one of the most difficult blessings I have ever endured.  I am a person of great anxiety without God's help.  I listen to people share the story of how my greatest fears have acted out in their life.  I am in a constant battle to trust God more, as I turn over to Him my fears and trust that even IF something like this happens to me-- He will be there.  My patients are some of the most courageous, honest, faithful people I know.

That being said, it has been a difficult two years since making the move from the hospital to private practice.  It was very difficult at first, which I expected to some degree.  Toss in a 5 month old and I was humbled.  Now, toss in a 2 year old and a newborn come this fall, and I am... ready to move on.  I can't say enough how this has nothing to do with the actual work that I do.  I love sitting in session guiding and encouraging the people God has brought to me.  But I don't love checking my work phone and email seven days a week, being "on call" for emergencies 24 hrs a day, returning calls at 11PM-- or over my entire nap time for that matter.  I don't love the hours of paperwork I do and working 10 hour days only to see four clients.  I am my own secretary, office manager, emergency on-call line, files auditor, marketing manager, suicide prevention hot-line, case consultant... you get the picture.  I am a one man show.  I have worked with professionals and friends over the past two years to have better boundaries, to leave work at work, to find some help with tough cases, to take care of myself, to do strategic marketing, to keep up on my paperwork.  It has helped tremendously.  But what I have realized over the last year-- and 6 months particularly-- is that this is not the type of work God has wired me up to do.

Counseling is for me.  I have spent a lot of time in thought and prayer trying to answer the questions "Is it what I'm doing" or "Where I'm doing it?"  The answer I have decided is... both... for now.

"Where I'm doing it?"  I can't imagine a day when I go back into private practice.  I would love to do individual counseling in a clinic, or in a hospital again-- but I doubt it will be on my own.  I am wired up to work with a team of people.  Period.

"What I'm doing?"  I also can't imagine going the rest of my life without going back to traditional counseling someday.  But I can't foresee being the mom and wife I want to be juggling a caseload like what I have right now.  This is the ... for now... that I referenced above.  I'm ready for a break, and any counselor-educator will tell you that a burnt out counselor is no counselor at all.

"So what's next?"  Well, I have been praying about this regularly.  In November I had a painful discussion with the owner of the practice where I sit.  Since then, I have been praying and praying that God would help me live out my "Strongest Life."  On New Years Eve I cried to my dad on my Grandma's couch in Colorado.  I remember saying "something has to change!"  He is wise, and he told me to be strategic but to not stay in a job that is getting me down "just because."  In January, I made a 6 month commitment to myself that I would quit looking at other practices and develop a thankful and willing attitude at work.  Which I think I have done a great job at.   I committed to praying about my work future and seeking wise counsel.  I wanted to be strategic, and cause the least amount of transition to the wonderful families and people I work with.

Last fall I taught ONE CREDIT at Grace University in the Graduate Counseling Department. It was a great experience.  I kept praying about this-- thinking that it felt good in my soul-- strong, if you will.  I started applying for adjunct positions this spring (for the fall), then stopped when I found out I was pregnant.  Who wants to hire a pregnant adjunct?  Then a great opportunity came up this spring when Nebraska Christian College approached me to teach half-time in the Family Life and Counseling department.  My mentor and friend is leaving, and his open office left an open space for me.  I have been interviewing and negotiating.  I signed the papers last Friday.  It will be two days a week, 2 classes a semester.  My hours are 9:00-4:30.  No nights.  No on-call.  They are willing to work around my "family schedule".  I start in August, and I am THRILLED.

I met up with said mentor for a two hour meeting Thursday.  He was super honest about the challenges of teaching and the BIG job I have ahead of me regarding curriculum and balancing this new job with the challenges of balancing a newborn.  Well said, good friend.

To say I am relieved is an understatement.  The past two years have been full of depression and self-doubt and struggle-- and mono, weight gain, and a horrible blow to my self-esteem.  I am praying that working within the way God has wired me up (a weaver and teacher via the Strong Life Test) will relieve some of this. At the same time, going through this season of life has kept me humbled and on my knees-- to say the least.  I hope my work is never so "good" that I'm not forced to my knees.

Finally, big thanks to Marcus Buckingham for showing me that I don't have to fight against my strengths and can instead find ways to work within them.  He hits the nail on the head that most women spend so much energy trying to prove to ourselves and others that we can overcome our weaknesses (i.e. like working alone in a private practice) instead of working within our strengths.  If that sounds like something you need to learn more about you should check out his book "Find your Strongest Life," but be warned-- it's not a light read.

Here's to new beginnings.

On the journey,


  1. SO, SO glad to see this post! I've been thinking about you and praying for you (and wondering what decisions had been made)since our last phone conversation! Congrats on both...the baby and the job!!

  2. Good for you!!! What an encourager you are to me and many others, no doubt. I am so glad you have the courage to do what is best for you! ;)

  3. Great news Stef! I can definitely see this being a great fit for you! Looking forward to seeing you take on this next adventure!

  4. I am so happy for you & so glad you've decided to see if teaching is something you will love! (And of course about the baby on the way too!)
    Will you be driving to NCC two days a week or do they have a campus closer to you?

  5. Thank you girls. NCC moved to Papillion a few years ago-- so it will still be quite a drive-- to literally the middle of a corn-field-- but not all the way to Norfolk.