By Heather Nelson
I’m lying on my bed at home in Bellevue, Neb. about to pop in another DVD when I realize something. I’m not happy; I’m bored and depressed. I spent the last month off from school binge-watching seasons of “Friends,” struggling to find an activity to keep me busy.
Before the stress of finals swept over the university campus, student leaders like myself met with his/her FOCUS* missionary discipler. Anna, my FOCUS mentor, provided me with a list of ways that I could improve in formation, fellowship, prayer and service. A month into summer, it seemed as if I failed in all areas.
(Admittedly, I have felt desolation for the past few months, now. And my reluctance to develop my summer prayer routine did nothing to help this.
So, after returning from vacation with my family, which was a much-needed break from reality, I phoned a friend. Olivia, who is also a FOCUS missionary, offered me a job as a nanny at the start of the summer. A few complications kept me from accepting the job initially. Thankfully, she was still in need of help.
My story begins in Lawrence, Kan. where God brought me to live with a FOCUS missionary, a graduate student, and two young boys. My story is about what God ultimately wanted from me this summer. It’s about what He wanted me to learn. I entered the Stear home ready to accept the role as “the babysitter.” (The boys called me that the first week I lived with them because they had “forgotten my name.”)
I spent time observing and learning how things worked in the Stear home. How would I discipline the kids? What was family mealtime like? When would we go to mass on Sunday? Whose turn is it to get the boys ready for bed? I started to realize what worked and what didn’t.
My first week as a nanny was challenging. I applied for jobs, rebooted by prayer routine, and adjusted to a new setting. God gave me the opportunity to learn this summer: vocation, persistence in prayer, and about myself.
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must do.” Col 3:12-13
Patience: this is something that I lack. The children don’t always want to listen to me. My first days with them were challenging. I struggled to find a way to take charge. Olivia and I discussed my concerns. Then, we created incentives for them to earn “stars” for good behavior. At the end of the day, if they followed directions and behaved, they earned a treat. The boys responded well to earning “stars” for good behavior. The boys have taught me to remain patient in times of distress. It’s a skill that I needed to realize in my spiritual life, too.
“Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves.” Phil 2:3
Humility: the second thing that God is teaching me. From my experience of being the oldest child, I’ve learned how to care for children. I’ve observed my parents; I understand the basic needs of children. Caring for children, who constantly need guidance, has taught me to truly put others before myself. I’ve gained a greater appreciation for others. I’m learning what it means to be humble.
With God showing me the way, I’ve gained a clearer perspective. I never thought that becoming a nanny would teach me so much about life. God uses opportunities like this to prepare me for later in life — even for situations on the university campus.
I’m so grateful. I look forward to the next three weeks that God will form me while I live with the Stear family.
*Fellowship of Catholic University Students