There are many stages of parenting: infant years, toddler years, and school-age years. Then, your children are leaving the nest, and you’re left wondering, “What’s next?” When Rhonda Kehlbeck, Director for Global Engagement with the Halftime Institute, found herself with an empty nest, she began the journey to find the next step for her life. She shares with us today about all the steps she’s taken and everything she’s learned along the way.
4word: You are now a mother with grown children. How does it feel to have them all out of the nest?
Rhonda: I feel a wide range of emotions. Most days I’m excited for both girls, because they are spreading their wings and loving their lives in college and work. It’s encouraging to see that all the parenting, teaching, and loving on them my husband and I did for the first 18 years really has prepared them to be independent. But there are also days when I miss being their mother on a daily basis. I miss the times when they would come in from school and tell me about their day as they sat on the kitchen counter nibbling on whatever I was cooking for dinner.
4word: After your children were grown, you decided to relaunch your career. What steps did you take?
Rhonda: I read Bob Buford’s book, Halftime, which gave me the idea of not just looking for a job, but searching for what God wanted me to do with this next phase of life. My first step was to get to the point where I could pray, “Lord, I’m willing and ready for whatever you want me to do.” Once I was able to pray, “Lord, I’ll do anything,” then I really went out on a limb by asking God to lead me to a job that would be so out of my comfort zone that I would have to rely on Him like never before. I talk more about my career transition in the video below.
My next step was to go on interviews with companies and schools that fit my education background and experience. This part of the process was frustrating and confusing as I searched for a job for 11 months. I finally gave up looking for a paid position and decided to just volunteer as a tutor at the West Dallas Community School. I could easily see that God was at work in this small, Christian school for underprivileged kids, and it made sense with my education and experience as a former teacher. Within 2 months, one of the teachers had to resign at mid-year, and the school asked if I would step into the role of full-time Kindergarten teacher. My last teaching job was teaching grad students at Dallas Baptist University so I thought if I could handle adults, surely little children couldn’t be that hard. I was wrong.
At 9:30AM on my first day teaching Kindergarten, I remember looking at my watch and praying, “Lord, if you don’t come down here and do something with this chaos, then I’m leaving at noon and not coming back.” About five minutes later, the janitor came into my room and walked over to me and gave me the longest and strongest hug I’ve ever received. He then turned around and walked back out the door without a word. The next day, I asked him, “Mr. Jackson, why did you come into my room yesterday and give me a hug?” He replied, “I try and live so close to the Holy Spirit that when He says, ‘Get in there, she needs you,’ I go in.”
I knew then that God had me in that class of five year olds for a reason. God knew I didn’t like it, but He obviously had me there to learn a lot about myself and open my heart and eyes to the effects of poverty on children. I also had to rely on God like never before, because I couldn’t see what He was doing, and I couldn’t understand His reason for keeping me in a job that was so mentally and physically draining. All I knew to do was to continue to hang onto God’s promise that He had a plan for my future. Every day, I woke up at 5:00AM so I could fill myself up with God before I headed to school. I knew that if I didn’t spend time with God every morning, there would be no way I could teach another day in Kindergarten.
Finally, as I was approaching my 1-year anniversary at the school, a friend who knew I was miserable, suggested that I enroll in the Halftime Institute. She explained that the Halftime Institute was a program that helped people figure out what God was calling them to do next. I checked out the website and signed up immediately for the program. Once I got to the two-day launch event, it was as if God was waiting for me to stop trying to figure it all out by myself. After the two days at the Halftime Institute, I started working with my coach and the pieces started to fall into place. A couple of months later, I was offered a job that was exactly my sweet spot. It was a job that combined all my strengths, skills, and passions.
Therefore, my journey for my career relaunch was long and winding, but each step was critical. I needed time to pray, listen to God, and learn to cling to Him even when things didn’t make sense. It was only then that I was ready to be in the job that the Lord was calling me into.
4word: Did you find it difficult to shift from finding significance in raising your children to finding significance in your career?
Rhonda: As a mom to two daughters, I felt a tremendous sense of significance in my job of caring for them. The hardest part of finding significance in my career was actually finding the career that combined my strengths, passions, and skills. The process took longer and was more difficult than I expected. Although I had worked part time as an adjunct professor and did lots of speaking engagements, I was predominantly a stay-at-home mom for 21 years. Going back to work full time after that many years out of the work force was very difficult. At the age of 50, all those insecurities that I felt in my 20s came rushing back: Are my skills obsolete? Will I be able to learn new skills at my age? How will I ever catch up with technology? Am I too old to be jumping back into a career? What kind of career will give me the passion, joy, and impact that I desire for my next season of life?
4word: What do you think organizations like Halftime and 4word can be for women who are searching for God’s next step for their lives?
Rhonda: The Halftime Institute helped me figure out what God was calling me to do next by helping me identify my strengths and spiritual gifts and by helping me to create a personal mission statement. My mission statement helped me to hone in on the jobs that fit my personality and strengths, but it also helped me to say no to opportunities that weren’t the best for me. Once I was able to zero in on how God uniquely created me, I then had a better idea of what type of career I should pursue. The best part of the program was that I also had a coach to guide and encourage me for an entire year. This gave me tremendous comfort as I knew I wouldn’t have to figure it out all by myself. I had a coach who could help me stay on track and keep me moving forward.
For me, joining 4word was just icing on the cake. Once the Halftime Institute helped me figure out which direction to go, 4word gave me a support group. At the first 4word function I attended, I had this overwhelming sense of ease as I met woman after woman who was just like me…a working woman who was trying to find her way again and desperately in need of companionship with other professional women.
4word: If someone is at a crossroads in their professional journey, what are some steps they can take to discovering what they are truly passionate about and should pursue next in their career?
- Get on the same page with God. First and foremost, seek God’s direction and guidance. It took me a while, but I finally got to the place where I could pray, “Lord, I want to do what you want me to do…whatever that is…I am willing.”
- Adjust your sense of timing. I found that God’s timing isn’t like my timing. I wanted to jump into my new career quickly, but God needed me to learn a few things about myself and Him first.
- If you’re not sure what God is calling you to in your next phase, get help from the experts. It just makes sense to get help from professionals who have already traveled this road and know how to avoid the pitfalls.
- Cling to God even when you can’t see/understand what He’s doing. Don’t let the frustrations of the process cause you to doubt God’s plan for your life. The longer and more difficult the process becomes, let that drive you to spend even more time at His feet.
4word: Do you have any stories you can share of women who have successfully found their new “niche” in life, thanks to Halftime?
Rhonda: All the women I’ve met through Halftime have been memorable because God created each one so uniquely, but one of my favorites is a woman I met at the beginning of 2014. She came to the Halftime Institute and I was instantly drawn to her. She had that same, “what am I doing here” look that I had a few months before. When I asked her why she was there, she said, “because I’m sick of my job but I don’t know what else to do.” As we talked about her passions and what she was interested in, she wasn’t sure, but she knew she wanted to help women in some way. She began working with her coach on refining her mission statement and action steps.
Through the process, she was introduced to the 4word organization and the 4word Mentor Program. Soon after, my friend was signed up to be a mentor to young, professional women. She had never thought of herself as a mentor, but the process was immensely fulfilling, and as her first mentoring sessions ended, she immediately signed up to do it again. This eventually led her to take on a larger role in the organization, and she brightens every time she talks about it. She still has a job that drains her, but now she has a role and mission that fills her back up.
4word: Any parting words for our readers?
Rhonda: My personal goal for 2015 is to Live with Abandon. This goal encompasses every area of my life from health and fitness… to my career… to my relationship with Christ. This year I’m going to go all out loving my family, enjoying my career and the people that God brings into my path, and living out my faith on a daily basis. I want to live 2015 to the fullest and enjoy the life that God has given me.
When we step out in faith into the next part of our professional journey, we must be prepared for all the twists and turns along the way. As Rhonda shared, the trek to the job she has now was not a quick or easy one. Along the way, there were times when she questioned if God was truly guiding her, and every time she questioned, He provided a gentle reminder to stay faithful and keep trusting. If you’re in a time of transition, take inspiration from Rhonda’s story and keep pressing on!
What are some life transitions you’ve experienced?
Rhonda Kehlbeck received her Ph.D. in Education from Fordham University. She began her career as an innovative educator in Texas where she used many of her interactive teaching techniques working with teachers, parents, and students. Her background in Education comes in handy as she now teaches others how to move from success to significance at the Halftime Institute in Dallas. She intensely loves finding the funny and profound in all things and combines real life stories and practical Biblical application in all of her talks.
Her first book, I Can Do That with My Kid! Family activities to Encourage Reading, Writing, Communication and Positive Self-Esteem in Children, is proof that God can use anyone to do His work.
Rhonda is a wife, mom, teacher, speaker, and listener…but her life goal is to wear herself out loving Jesus!