Yvette Picou: Pursuing a Dream after Raising Children
Did you ever have something in your heart that you wanted to pursue but never got around to it? If so, I’ll bet you’ve had thoughts like It’s too late now. I missed my chance. The opportunity passed me by.
Well, meet Yvette Picou. Her life tells a different story.
She is a 48 year old wife and mother who now, after raising three children, is pursuing something she once thought impossible. She began this exciting, uncertain journey two and half years ago and has found it to be life-changing. And more empowering than she could have ever expected.
Here she describes what led her to step out in faith, some truths she has learned along the way, and why pursuing this dream has been so meaningful.
Like many young women, I was raised to dream of marrying and raising children. My pursuing a college education had never been on the radar. School wasn’t discouraged; the topic was simply nonexistent.
So I plunged headfirst into marriage and motherhood very young – before I even turned twenty. And I found great joy in being a mother to my children. Having a family was very fulfilling. I gained so much joy from our first two children that when our second started school, I realized I wanted another child. So along came our third. 🙂
But at moments through the years, I felt as if something were missing in my life. I was reminded of it ever so often – sometimes when my friends spoke of their college days… other times when I felt ill-equipped to help my children with their schoolwork. Over time, my lack of education became a deep insecurity. And the insecurity grew. It ultimately became like a scarlet letter – an obvious defect in me that everyone could instantly discern.
The nagging feeling that something was missing became stronger as my children grew older. They were coming of age, and suddenly I was faced with the stark reality that they were going to grow up. Become adults. Move out. I wouldn’t be raising them forever. This joyful season of young motherhood was finite. It comes to an end. No one ever told me this.
In all my upbringing, all my experience, I was taught to aspire to raising a family. But I was never told how brief the season would be. You blink, take a deep breath, and your children are grown. You’ve raised them. And yet… there is still much life ahead of you. Years. Decades.
What do I do now? I would think to myself, sometimes through tears.
Then the thought of going to college wisped through my mind. It was fleeting – like a vapor. It sounded very far off. Silly. Irrelevant. Impossible.
But later the thought reappeared. Again, I dismissed it.
And again, it reappeared. I kept shutting it down. What business do I have going to college? And why would I do that now? There’s no way I could get a degree. My insecurities rushed to the fore, assuring me that I did not have what it takes to go to college and that this idea was nonsense.
And yet, the thought kept coming. A year or two into this silent conversation with myself, something shifted inside of me. I realized that I still had life to live. I still had something to offer. I decided to apply to college in 2013.
Sitting at home one day, I applied to Liberty University. I found my husband afterward and told him I had just completed it – my first college application. We stood together in the doorway and just cried. The significance of the moment overwhelmed us both.
Looking back, I see why taking this first step was so powerful. It was the first time in my life that I was pursuing something for just me. It wasn’t mine by extension of being someone’s wife or mother. This educational journey was entirely my own. Having gladly remained in the shadows of my husband and children for so many years, having continually watched them achieve, I was completely undone by the thought of pursuing my own dream.
I completed my first few classes and to my delighted surprise… I did well! It was turning out that I did have what it takes to do well in school. I realized that I had bought into lies in years past – lies about my abilities, lies about how impossible college would be. None of it had been true.
A key point in this journey was my first visit to Liberty’s campus. I attended convocation and ended up sitting beside my biology professor. Here I was – on my college campus, sitting beside my brilliant professor. Never in a million years would I have dreamed that I would be standing in this scene. I stayed there for several days and finished my visit by attending a worship service on campus. The service opened with “How He Loves,” a song that carries deep meaning for me. The heart of the song is that God’s love is a vast ocean – it fills in the gaps of our inadequacies. God speaks to each of us in personal ways; for me, this was one of those moments. I lost composure altogether. I knew I was where He wanted me to be.
This journey has been a continual demonstration that obstacles can be overcome. That ordinary people, empowered by God, can do the extraordinary. That insecurities usually surround our greatest potential.
I am now two and half years into my undergraduate program. There have been highs and lows, rejoicing over victories as well as crying through struggles. I have had to expose myself to the risk of failure, which at times, is really scary. But on the other side of failure, I’ve tasted victories that are all the sweeter. In it all, I am learning to keep my eye on the prize. A Scripture that has carried me through this journey is 1 Cor 9:24: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” This experience has been a lot like a marathon. I have approached what seems like a massive ultimate goal by breaking it into smaller, attainable goals. I focus on each term, each month, each week, each day as it comes.
What I’ve Gained By Taking This Risk
Embarking on this degree has been tremendously empowering. I get to be an example to my children by demonstrating something that is important to me. My doing this says You CAN overcome. You CAN pursue your dreams. You are intelligent enough and capable enough, whether you think so or not. [In the words of Abilene, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”]
I’ve also discovered that I love to read! I am intrigued by books now. I look at tattered pages and wonder what story is hidden inside. Which world does this book open to its readers? This newfound love of reading has been a huge surprise.
I’ve learned, too, that God can take our unique situations and turn them into something beautiful. Even in the chaos and mess we make of ourselves, He makes it beautiful. Having raised children and waited all these years, I now appreciate this experience so much more. It wasn’t God’s plan for me to complete college in my twenties. He has made it evident that now – my forties – is His perfect timing for me to pursue school. In fact, if I had gone to college at the typical age, it would have been a horrible experience. My perspective has completely changed since my twenties. Because of how my story unfolded, I now see school as a privilege. I am honored to do this – and thoroughly enjoy my schoolwork. Sometimes I am so enthralled with it that I picture myself hiding away and indulging in it for days on end. It’s that life-giving for me.
Another gift I’ve received from this journey is the wisdom to embrace the timeline and pace that works best for my life. I took a huge leap when I first started school and committed myself to a course load that was too heavy. So I adjusted my schedule the next semester and took fewer courses. This lighter load freed me to be the wife and mother I want to be – and to enjoy life along the way. I’ve learned that there’s no rush. There’s no one I have to “keep up with.” I mean, heck, I waited all these years to start… I’m going relish this experience.
“In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.”
So how is Yvette’s story a Kingdom story?
Which Kingdom truths are hidden inside of her journey?
*First, her journey demonstrates that every season of life is pregnant with purpose. Multitudes have believed this pervasive, yet silent lie that life plateaus and then slowly declines. Somewhere between sending kids off to college and starting social security, purpose evaporates and all one can hope for is to coast peacefully to the grave. Hardly anyone would say this out loud, but watch the way people live. Their actions convey that they’ve bought into the lie. They live to maintain and protect – to minimize losses – rather than venturing into new territory. Rather than learning something new or taking a risk, they resign themselves to watching television. Sitting in the same spot at church. Eating at the same restaurant. Hanging with the same people. Reciting the same lifeless prayers.
Beloved, God has so much more for us. Until our last breath, there is an assignment on our lives. There is deeper intimacy with God, new prayers to pray, new people to engage, darkness to dispel, praises to offer, new things to learn, growth to experience. Life in the Kingdom is not about coasting. It’s about engaging God’s anointing on our lives for the particular seasons in which we find ourselves.
Yvette’s story illustrates this well: Rather than filling her newfound time with soap operas and shopping, she chose to step out in faith and follow God into the unfamiliar. Because she was willing to embark on something new, she has seen God come through for her in fresh ways. She has risked failure, even faced it, and has gained much richer triumphs because of it. She has grown exponentially during a season of life when many would have chosen stagnation.
God has something in this for us, Friends. An invitation to follow Him into the unknown. That’s where the life God intended for us actually starts. When we allow Him to strip away our false securities… to demonstrate to us that He really does come through and that things impossible with man really are possible with Him (Matthew 19:26).
*Yvette’s story also speaks to the centrality of God’s timing. Her college experience doesn’t fit with the “normal,” American expectation. And you know what? It’s not supposed to! Here’s a beautiful truth: God doesn’t operate according to cultural norms, family pedigrees, or public opinion. His Kingdom is not of this world… Nor is His calendar. The pressure we feel to accomplish specific goals by certain deadlines is rooted in the world system, not in the Kingdom. The life to which He invites us is one of rest, patience, submission, seed time and harvest. Not striving, competition, deadlines, and performance. God isn’t interested in how much we can crank out and how quickly. He’s interested in intimacy. He’s after our hearts. And He’s willing to take as much time as necessary to complete His desired work within us.
Not only has God’s timing been crucial in Yvette’s starting college, but it has also been central in the pace of her classes. This journey has taught her to discern the pace of coursework that is most fruitful for her. She is not in competition with anyone. And there’s no man-imposed deadline she’s striving for. She is free to listen to the Lord, follow His lead, and enjoy the experience. [Imagine that!]
*Yvette also reminds us that God beckons us to things for which we feel unqualified. If you can complete a task with your own human ability, it’s not a God dream. God dreams require intentional steps of faith. They always involve uncertainty and risk-taking. And they usually involve our weak points – those areas where we feel especially inadequate. He loves taking those pieces of us we’re convinced are useless (or embarrassing, or shameful, or…) and infusing them with power. He releases strength through our places of weakness, comes through for us, and shows us that with Him, we can do anything. He’s the Secret Ingredient, the only one who can take credit for bringing such unspeakable dreams to pass.
And Beloved, His dreams are so much better than ours. Will you let me be big in you? He asks. And then… Will you let me be big through you? Will you let me be the untamable, exceedingly great God that I am? Will you accept the role I’ve given you in this brilliant story?
May our hearts in unison shout a resounding ‘yes’!
Thank you, Yvette, for following God into the unknown –
and for demonstrating the rewards on the other side of risk-taking.
Here is Kim Walker’s version of “How He Loves,” the song that Yvette referred to.
The story behind these stories…