On Leaving the Only Vocation We've Ever Known

At the ripe old age of 19, I stepped onto the Colorado College campus having sworn off romantic relationships forever (well, at least for a good, long while) due to some unhealthy dealings in the past. It was time for me to shake the dust off and make a new start. No boyfriends. Period.

Just me and school and friends and adventure. That’s where I was headed. 

Teenage relationships with boys had been messy and confusing. No sir, it was time to blaze a new trail. But within the first month of school (I’m sure you can see where this is going), enter one Scott A. Nilsen. 

He was tall, darker-than-me (who isn’t), and handsome. Not to mention, he was a Christian at a largely non-Christian school. A rare specimen indeed. 

He pursued me. He took me on a few dates. He was beyond nice, if not a little shy. And I gave him the stiff arm. (No relationships, remember.) But, by February of my freshman (his sophomore) year, I fell pretty hard for this tall drink of water and the rest, as they say, is history. 

When we were dating, Scott wanted to be a doctor. A noble pursuit. My dad was a doctor and so was his. That career path fell right in line with the culture we had both grown up with. Then he took organic chemistry. Ugh and double ugh. Okay, no doctor. How about a sports lawyer? Law school seemed like a viable second option. 

I’m not sure when that dream faded. Probably sometime during the “Jerry Maguire” era. Help me, help you.

By the strapping age of 22, we were not only engaged but full on married. At this very liberal arts school, our young wedlock was an anomaly to be sure. With rings on our fingers, we had no clue what the future would hold. Scott had considered traveling down some kind of respectable, white collar path, but nothing seemed to “stick.” Then, throwing caution to the wind, I asked him if he had ever considered going to seminary? He loved God and wanted to work with people. Seminary seemed like a pretty good fit.

The summer before he was to start at Denver Seminary (right before we got married), Scott spent one final summer at home slaying it as a “sandwich artist” at his brother-in-law’s Subway shop. Sometime between squirting mayonnaise and arranging banana peppers, Scott received an invitation from his old high school Young Life leader to partner with him in taking high school kids on a backpacking trip to British Columbia. Scott had LOVED this particular trip as an adventurous high schooler and gladly agreed to go. 

That trip changed his life. 

High above timberline, on a snow-capped ridge, Scott’s Young Life leader asked him if he had ever considered going on Young Life staff? After all, he was headed to seminary in the fall. It would be easy to go to school and work part-time as YL student staff. He would just have to fundraise a little to help pay his own salary, but he could go to school and work for an organization he loved — the one that had shaped his own path to Christ. 

Scott came home from that trip and immediately gave me a call. “Hey sweet, darling fiancee (I’m sure that’s what he called me), I figured out what I want to do with my life!”

“Oh, cool!” I said. “Tell me more.”

“I’ve decided I want to go on Young Life staff while I’m in graduate school.” 

Crickets. 

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“Young Life?” I questioned. “I’ve never heard of that. What is it?” 

To be sure, Young Life breeds its own kind of rabid college-football-loving-status type of culture. The people who love it paint their bare chests and scream at the top of their lungs. Everything they own has a YL logo on it. Tshirts, bumper stickers, water bottles. You name it. And the folks who have no idea what YL is or don’t give a rat’s, haven’t a clue what to do with such over-the-top adoration. 

As a relative “outsider,” I had a love/hate relationship with YL for quite a while. It took me a few years and lots of tearful conversations with my husband before I too fell head over heels in love with this ministry.

For the first 10 years, Scott and I led Young Life club together. (I'm sure we all but headed for divorce court as we tried to lead teenagers through a rousing rendition of "Brown Eyed Girl" each week.) We took kids to camp, cheered wildly at their soccer games and snapped pictures as they went to Prom. We sat with, cried with and hugged kids through the death of dear friends and everything in between. Let’s just say there were lots of nights when we had to “politely” kick kids out of our house when we struggled to keep our eyes open and knew in just a couple hours time we’d be up with a fussy infant. 

And Young Life camp?? It's simply the best. There is nothing like it! For the campers, the staff and families assigned to work there. Our time spent serving at YL’s Trail West family camp, single-handedly helped our family heal and bond when we spent a month there with our newly adopted Ethiopians. 

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The second decade on staff brought many unexpected opportunities as well as big, bold seasons of growth. At the end of the day, this ministry isn’t perfect. Nothing is. But it has been so very good. It has shaped us and given us experiences nothing else could. 

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Now, 21 years later, we’re sensing the winds of change and new vocational opportunities. The Lord is calling us to our next journey in life.

A dear friend has asked Scott to join his team of partners who lead a thriving business organization and specifically bring leadership to their generosity movement and philanthropic efforts. Although he is joining a team that has business entities throughout the United States, his role will have a global impact. We are excited to continue to make our home in Colorado Springs, invest in the local Pikes Peak Young Life area and see our kids’ lives transformed by this incredible ministry.  

We are grateful for any adults who desire to walk alongside kids in one of the most tenuous seasons of life and show them the unconditional love of Jesus. They are showing up for so many kids — including our own!

Just like everything we do, this is a family endeavor.

Honestly, the idea of Scott traveling every other week did not sit well with me at first. (That’s probably an understatement.) To the point, that my anxiety about it all nearly shut the whole thing down. But the Lord has worked on my heart in big ways. My white-knuckle grip has gradually relaxed and I am learning to open my hands to receive this God-given opportunity and trust His provision.

Through tears, as Scott and I processed this new opportunity one afternoon I said, "Honey, I am thrilled for you. I am excited that God has something for your heart. You'll be traveling and learning and I'll be...here. Doing the Mom thing. I just hope, if God has something for you, He has something for me -- and the kids as well."

That's the truth of it. I am believing that if God has something for Scott, He has something for us too. Perhaps it's a cleaning lady and a personal chef! I suppose that wouldn't be all bad. :) 

We will continue to write in pencil and boldly step into the next place God has prepared for us. We are grateful for this time on Young Life staff.  It has been a wonderful, life changing privilege!

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Holly's Take:

Another turn in life! It would be like driving through Kansas your whole life, if there were not any turns, right?  Here is where you get off the interstate and switch off the cruise control, to check out the six-legged steer. (If you ever drive through Kansas, you probably know the sign I'm talking about . . . of course, how could it still be alive?)  What is it going to look like? Will this new road be bumpy, smooth, curvy?  You know you'll be seeing different scenery, for sure. I'm so excited for you guys!!! That's easy for me to say from the outside looking in, but I really am, and I'm really proud that you, Megan, were able to be open to the change of Scott not being accessible a lot more often. It's gotta be tough to be sitting where you are with more responsibility in the day to day chores, but not the excitement of a new job in new places. That takes some faith, but no doubt God has something for you in this, too!  What will it be?!

Christina’s Take: 

Oh man. These aren’t easy shifts for you, Megan! I am praying that you’ll have joy and reassurance that you are not getting “left behind” and there is more for you on this new road as well!! I love your heart to be open and pliable. This will help your sweet littles and not so littles know how to move forward in this brave way, too. Love you!