What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

Frequently asked questions

I was almost 50 years old before I discovered what I wanted to be when I grew up.

My mother knew in third grade. When she took a hygiene class, she decided then and there to become a nurse. She also knew early on that she wanted to teach others to read. If you had asked me in grade school, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I would have replied, “a missionary nurse and schoolteacher like my mom.”

In junior high “Uncle” Bill, one of my boarding school teachers, stopped me one day on the sidewalk and challenged me to consider becoming a missionary doctor instead. Because I loved and admired him, I agreed to do so in order to make him happy. The problem was, I neither felt drawn to working with sick people, nor did I have a propensity for the sciences of any kind! But I did know that I fell in love with Miss Pat’s English class.

During my senior year of high school in the USA, I began to panic. What should I do next? My parents were overseas and unable to help me with college decisions. Mrs. Casler, my friend Cindy’s mom, suggested I attend Word of Life Bible Institute, a one-year school of Bible training, before heading to medical school. And so I did.

At the end of that year, I visited a nearby Christian college to check out their pre-med program.  And that’s when it finally hit me—I was pursuing someone else’s dream. With a sense of relief, I gave it up, only to flounder—what do I do now?

Enter Ron, a guy I dated a few times. “Go to TTU,” he suggested. “They’re offering a full tuition scholarship for MKs (Missionary Kids).” And so I applied.

Am I seeing a pattern here?! I didn’t like or know how to make decisions. I just went where others directed me.

I remember sitting in a large classroom when I first arrived on the TTU campus. I was supposed to be filling out forms, including my intended major and class schedule. I didn’t have a clue what to do! The only constant up to this point in my life was that I knew I wanted to become a missionary. I leaned over to the student next to me and said, “I don’t know what I want to major in.”

“Just put down Education,” he replied. “Many students do that. You can always change later.” And so I did.

It was when I took my first education class that I began to back-pedal. A friend who was in the midst of student teaching said she was required to have perfect handwriting and it felt like she was acting all day, and it was exhausting. The thought of teaching frightened me.

Okay, so now what? To become a missionary, I knew I needed to know my Bible, so I switched to a Bible major. Now here was something I was familiar with.

Enter Speech 101 with Dr. Euler. Though the thought of public speaking terrified me, I had enough poise apparently to impress the teacher. “You should consider an oral interpretation speech major as well,” he declared. At first I balked at the idea, but again, a teacher has clout and I listened. The literature appealed to me, and my performances in junior high and high school plays gave me something to build on.

When I got married and didn’t end up on the mission field, I wondered what good my speech and Bible majors did me. I suspect it was my husband Scott who encouraged me to apply for a job teaching English and speech at Berean Academy, a small Christian school. But my four-year teaching experience there exhausted me. It was hard work—mentally, physically, emotionally. I felt intimidated by American teenagers and couldn’t relate to them. I was too young and inexperienced to handle a classroom, but I enjoyed the challenge of trying to keep my students from getting bored. I also enjoyed directing plays and preparing students for speech competition, but again, the work was extremely demanding and I made many embarrassing mistakes. Thankfully, Mrs. Calvert was a sympathetic and supportive supervisor, along with some parents who encouraged me.

Raising three babies and keeping house and moving four times kept me busy by default for the next several years. When we needed the extra money, Scott found out that a local junior college was hiring evening English teachers and urged me to apply. I returned to teaching, but again it was through someone else’s initiative.

It was while we were doing some in-service teacher training that the light bulb finally came on in my mind. We were introduced to the topic of brain studies and were examining how different brains are wired. After taking an assessment test, each teacher was instructed to approach an easel, take a pushpin, and place it in their dominant brain quadrant. I was chagrined to discover that my pin landed on the green square whereas most of the other teachers put theirs in the blue section. Apparently I was working against my natural bent, and it made sense why teaching exhausted me so. And I realized for the first time that all my life I’d been pursuing other people’s directives rather than following my heart.

Shortly after that, we moved to Tennessee, and I had to step down from all responsibilities at church, at school, and in the community.  I was starting over with a new life and many possibilities. One Sunday morning I sat riveted in my seat as Pastor Dean asked the question, “What is your passion?” That sermon, along with its guidelines, became pivotal in my understanding of who I was created to be. At first I didn’t think I liked what I knew about myself. All along I pridefully thought of myself as a professional—someone with status and education. But now I realized that I got far more pleasure out of shuffling papers around than trying to influence and push people to perform a certain way. I had been an introvert in an extrovert profession.

I jotted down in my journal that I loved order, the preciseness of grammar rules and the repetition of data entry.  I also knew I had a passion for reconnecting MKs. I was already meeting those needs as editor of Simroots (a magazine for adult MKs). Life was getting neater and tidier, but I knew I needed more than that to keep me busy while the girls were in school. I just wasn’t sure what.

And then it happened. My world flipped upside down and got messy again. In walked Minna Kayser, a very wounded, suicidal adult MK who landed on my doorstep and stayed. I know now that it was a God-event of epic proportions. (You can read all about it in our book Diamond Fractal.)

I never in my wildest dreams would have thought that working in the counseling field would be a good fit for me. It is far removed from sitting in front of a computer all day and losing myself in organizing script for a magazine. What was God thinking!?

To this day, I’m still not sure what happened. How did I get here? How has a speech and Bible degree and classroom experience and proofreading skills prepared me for this inner healing prayer ministry? How is this related to how my brain works? I’m a visual learner, not an auditory one, and yet what I do requires intense listening. I don’t have the gift or the passion for traditional counseling. I don’t even have the traumatic past that often draws counselors and psychologists into this career. I don’t get it! This calling is so much a God-thing that I am left shaking my head in wonder.

I’m still editing Simroots, and I still enjoy connecting MKs, but my real passion now is watching the light bulbs come on in people’s hearts and minds when God speaks truth to them in a prayer session. What astonishes me is that I got catapulted into this work without the skills or training at first to do it. I got thrown into the deep end before I knew how to swim.

I seem to have lived my whole life in default mode, following instead of leading, listening to others rather than listening to my heart. Was God’s voice in Uncle Bill? The stranger who sat next to me on the first day of school? Did He direct Ron so I’d end up at TTU? Or use Scott to get me into teaching?

Why didn’t God just show me or reveal to me my passions way back when I was a little girl—like He did for my mom? Why did I wander for so many years in areas that didn’t fit me? Am I such a slow learner? Or is that all part of the growth process, the learning progression?

The funny thing is, contrary to my friends’ observations, I don’t feel gifted at all for this ministry. But my mother the nurse, my first role model, claimed she could never do what I do. She didn’t even understand it when I tried to explain it to her. Is this a supernatural, spiritual gift or is it physical—the way my brain is wired to think after all? The fact that God does all the work and I get to watch makes me think that anyone could do this ministry if they just had the training and a willing heart. But I know now that not everyone is called to do what I do. My conclusion? I have learned that when God calls, He equips.

How did you figure out what you wanted to be when you grew up?


4 thoughts on “What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

  1. This was fascinating. I’ve always wondered how you ended up where you did! As I read this, I saw how God led you. You were open to Him and at the right time, He gave you a shove into the place He wanted you.

    As you know, I’m a writer. How did I get here? Stories were always a huge thing on our mission field. All the missionaries told stories, about their work, their pasts, each other, or just for fun. They stood around a Land Rover or a car and swapped stories. it just was.

    I’ve always loved writing stories, putting on paper what I see around me, weaving it with people’s lives and what ifs. I wrote some silly stories in high school, practicing my million words. When I was expecting my first child, I was on bed rest for 6 months because of toxemia. I was bored so my mother challenged me to write my favourite Bible story. I’d always loved Esther, so I started in. But of course, I needed to know the REAL background, not just what the Bible said (because it’s missing a lot). So what was supposed to be a short story eventually became my first novel, If I Perish. After that, I was hooked and kept writing. I’ve now written another historical, a middle grade adventure, four mysteries in the Inspector Blake Series (working on the fifth), dozens of short stories, and have a Science Fiction series going (I’m on the second book now). For fun, and to give myself a break, I’m writing a cookbook!

    I didn’t know I was going to do this when I was young; I wanted to be a zoologist, then a historian (I still do). I fell into it. It is my passion, my pleasure, and my spur. I am so grateful for how the Lord led me this way. I am still planning to go back to college and get that History degree — just for me.


    • Do it! Go back to school, that is. I waited until my last kid was out of college and then I went for it–my Master’s in Pastoral Counseling. But history? Oh my, no! Glad someone is keeping track of other people’s lives. I can barely keep up with my own!


  2. Karen, I love this posting. Of course, I know some of the story; but not some of those earlier years, the people that influenced you. You are such an encouragement to me – your honesty, your forthrightness, and your passion for the work you’re in at this point in your life.💕

    Sent from my iPad



  3. We have many similar experiences as I read over your weekly posts. I actually floundered, a lot!, when I finally made a decision to enter “higher education”. I won’t say college as I actually began in Bible School as I was told it was not as demanding as college would be. I think I would beg to differ with whomever gave me that advise. Obviously they have never had Mr. White…but I digress.

    I was not a good student growing up; had no study habits and was NOT at all interested in pursuing a college degree. In fact, I didn’t even begin my Bible School education till I was 21. Most freshmen were fresh out of high school and knew WAY more than I did about how to go about studying and writing papers. I was a licensed hair stylist from Indiana and thought this was my career for life; or at least put me through school in Tennessee till I found out I would have to re-take the State Boards for Tennessee AND take 500 more hours before that…even tho’ I had worked 3 years as a hairstylist. That’s when I signed up for a work scholarship which was a divine appointment as I was fortunate to be placed in the Dean of Men’s office rather than the dreaded dining hall as most gals were assigned. This was the place God showed me I should focus on, but it took me a really long time to figure it out. I, too, thought it would sure make life easier if God would just show me NOW what He wanted me to do so I could prepare and not waste time; however, He had other plans and some real shaping of the rough edges to do on me. I also was a new Christian and my sole purpose in even coming to school was to study the Bible. I switched to the college after spending 2 1/2 years in Bible School feeling I was almost ready to graduate and felt I had no real skills to use as a single person so I decided to major in secondary education/business proficiency.

    I met a lot of people by remaining longer than the planned 3 years; got two degrees and countless friends that are still important to me to this day. You and Scott being two of the hundreds. Working for the Dean meant that I practically learned who all 4,500 students were (at least by name) and most I had placed in their dorm rooms and matched roommates with a fairly good degree of accuracy. Some I even match with their life mates only because the fellas wanted help in knowing “something” about the gal they had their eye on. Yet I managed to remain single. (sigh) Go figure.

    So, Karen, I feel your pain. I totally get the struggle you had. I changed majors about 3 times and lost so many credits but I don’t regret it. Dr. Lackey counseled me to do everything that interested me because it would make me into the person God can use as only I can do. The skills and interests will never be the same in anyone else. He said had he known that God would gift him to teach the Bible, he might not have honed his musical skills (and he was an accomplished pianist) or if he had known that playing the piano was easy for him, he might not have studied the Bible as much as he did…but he chased both interests and God used it in a very purposeful and powerful way.

    Thanks for sharing this part of your life. It caused me to reflect and be thankful, once again, how God has directed my path.


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