Pursuing God, People and Passions: An Interview with Melanie Knowlton

I’ve been asking the question “Why” a lot this week. Why did I start This Is Thirty Four? Why would anyone read this blog over the millions of other things they could read online or elsewhere?      I’m not sure I know the answer to the second question…yet. But I do know the answer to the first question. Why did I start This Is Thirty Four? I started this blog because—as I’ve said before—I know so many women who are doing amazing things; and I want to provide a space to share THEIR stories in the hopes of encouraging and inspiring other women who might be in a similar place in life.      Today’s interview with my dear friend, Melanie Knowlton, is the first interview I’m sharing on This Is Thirty Four. I thought I wanted to interview Mel because her story fit in with this month’s theme: New Beginnings. Earlier this month, Mel went back to work for the first time in eight years to pursue a career in one of her personal passions—FOOD.      As it turns out, my interview with Mel isn’t really about new beginnings or food at all. This interview is about Mel sharing her heart for people and her relentless pursuit of the heart of God. One of the things I love most about Mel is her honesty, especially about motherhood and the struggles she’s had being a stay-at-home mom. If you know Mel, this interview will make you love her even more. If you don’t know her, you’ll want to invite her out to coffee (she’d prefer to grab dessert) after you read what she has to say.

I’ve been asking the question “Why” a lot this week. Why did I start This Is Thirty Four? Why would anyone read this blog over the millions of other things they could read online or elsewhere?

I’m not sure I know the answer to the second question…yet. But I do know the answer to the first question. Why did I start This Is Thirty Four? I started this blog because—as I’ve said before—I know so many women who are doing amazing things; and I want to provide a space to share THEIR stories in the hopes of encouraging and inspiring other women who might be in a similar place in life.

Today’s interview with my dear friend, Melanie Knowlton, is the first interview I’m sharing on This Is Thirty Four. I thought I wanted to interview Mel because her story fit in with this month’s theme: New Beginnings. Earlier this month, Mel went back to work for the first time in eight years to pursue a career in one of her personal passions—FOOD.

As it turns out, my interview with Mel isn’t really about new beginnings or food at all. This interview is about Mel sharing her heart for people and her relentless pursuit of the heart of God. One of the things I love most about Mel is her honesty, especially about motherhood and the struggles she’s had being a stay-at-home mom. If you know Mel, this interview will make you love her even more. If you don’t know her, you’ll want to invite her out to coffee (she’d prefer to grab dessert) after you read what she has to say.

Jenn Prentice (JP): Tell everyone a bit about yourself.

Melanie Knowlton (MK): I'm a 33 year old mom of two wacky, wonderful, exasperating, sweet, funny kids (Jack, 8 and Emma, 3) who have changed my entire perspective on life, God's love, and who I am. I married my best friend -  a big, lovable guy who turned out to be THE best dad in the world. Wives say that, but I actually MEAN IT. He somehow manages to work full-time AND gives his all to our family, which is a huge inspiration to me.  We've had our fair share of challenges, but my husband has always had my back; and I've done my best to have his. This year we celebrated 10 years of marriage!  While I'm incredibly proud of us, I'm also humbled by the amount of grace God gave to us in the past decade!  

JP: What was YOUR childhood like?

MK: Growing up as an only child, I had lots of time to think, dream, and wonder on my own.  When I remember my childhood, mostly all of the good times come to mind (which is encouraging to think that my kids may NOT remember my many failures as their mother)! 

When I was 11, my parents decided to divorce.  As heartbreaking as it was at the time, it was also the catalyst to me seeking God, finding Him, and watching Him mend the brokenness.  As fast as things were crumbling around me, the Lord was re-building my life, blessing me with adopted brothers and sisters that I had longed for and didn't know I wanted. I learned a couple crucial things about God and myself during that time: 1) He made us rely on one another 2) He made me to need Him & others more than most people do.

I'm extroverted through and through, so being an only child was very lonely. As it turns out, being a stay-at-home-mom can also be quite isolating...

JP: I want to know more about that stay-at-home-mom isolation; but first, tell me what you’re passionate about.

MK: It took me about the first 30 years of life to hone-in on what's really important to me. With no hesitation I can say that I'm most passionate about the following:

  1. 1) GOD 
  2. 2) PEOPLE
  3. 3) FOOD (In that order)! 

I am most consumed by a desire to know God, be known by God, and share his love with the world.  That, in combination with my very extroverted personality, fuels my love and passion for people. I studied psychology and have always been interested in developing relationships with those around me, but after college, I just HAD to go back to culinary school to pursue a different passion: FOOD. I mean, I was the kid making dirt soup in my back yard and my favorite thing to do STILL is to bring people together around a table full of delicious butter (er, uh...I mean fantastic food).  

JP: I can attest to your fantastic food, and your love of butter. It’s the perfect culinary marriage, really, and I’m so happy I get to benefit from it. Ok. Now tell me more about stay-at-home-mom isolation. Was that what compelled you to go back to work?

MK: I’m not great being on my own, and I really NEED to be around people to feel good. As it turns out, kids don't exactly offer the most engaging interactions or conversations. As a stay-at-home mom, I was constantly feeling isolated and unhappy...but too committed and ashamed to admit that I needed to go back to work. I started having bouts of what I call "the blues" (not quite a depression, but feeling overwhelmed and discontent).  I think "the blues" can be a result of an unmet need or a passion you aren’t pursuing - two things severely lacking for me while at home with the kids. I was and am SO THANKFUL that I was able to stay home with my children for as long as I did, but eventually I couldn't deny the big PUSH I was feeling to work again.

JP: So where are you working now and how did you know this was the right job for you?

MK: I started searching for jobs online, and I even took a part-time retail job just to get my feet wet (and confidence up) again after being out of the workforce for eight years.  I ended up taking a job as a food broker for a company called KFB Foods. The position blends my ability to create relationships with people with my passion for the culinary industry. In spite of the fact that I hadn't worked outside of the house for eight years, I felt completely qualified for the position after reading the job description. The best part of the job is the hours, though. I get to drop off AND pick my children up from school.

JP: How was your first week on the job?

MK: Well, learning new things can be a bit daunting, and there’s a lot to learn at this job. However, I still feel that overwhelming sense of peace that lets me know I'm in the right place. 

JP: And how are your kids adjusting?

MK: They are still greeting me with smiling faces when I pick them up from school. I’ve realized that this is going to be a GOOD thing for them. I really feel that going back to work will help provide the space I've needed to reflect on all of the wonderful things I love about my kids (and myself) so that I can come back to them with the energy to play and the emotional availability for their needs.

JP: Tell me more about your kids, Jack and Emma, and their needs.

MK: Life at home with my kids was far more challenging than I think it is for most. I have a son with some very challenging behaviors. I'm talking VERY challenging…like smeared poop on the walls during his time-outs as a toddler; having to take everything hard out of his room as a preschooler for fear that he would hurt himself while destroying everything in sight; having to pay our babysitter more because he was too tough to handle; hitting, biting, losing friends because of the hitting and biting...that kind of challenging.

I realized pretty early on that things weren't supposed to be quite THAT hard.  I blamed myself. I blamed him. I blamed myself for blaming him. I lost faith for a while. I wondered where God was in all of it. I didn't understand how God could allow my son to have so much anger in his heart at such a young age. I was lost, confused, completely isolated in spite of having people l could trust all around me, and eventually I became consumed by fear. I was afraid of who my son might become. I was afraid of who I already was, and I was afraid that somehow God had turned his back on us. 

JP: How did you combat that fear?

MK: Over the course of many months following this "crisis of faith," I realized that God had (of course!) not abandoned me.  I was looking through a dark lens, clouded by fear and tragedy. I began taking life moment-by-moment, sometimes unable to do ANYTHING other than fix my eyes on Jesus - my Savior, my Redeemer.  I reached out to friends and to the church.  I had been asking God every day to please show me that I still belong to Him, that He was with me. And He began ANSWERING MY PRAYERS.  The more I pressed in to Him, the more HE conquered the fear. Years have gone by and more peace has been restored day by day. 

JP: So, how’s Jack doing today?

MK: Life with Jack is still not EASY, by any stretch of the word.  But, God is faithful and I see positive change in him.  He doesn't throw tantrums like he used to. He shows love to his sister--when he isn’t taunting her the way most brothers do. He can be so sweet and kind, and he seems to be WANTING to do the right thing.

JP: What lessons have you learned through parenting Jack these past eight years?

MK: I'm reminded that there is NOTHING my son could ever do that would make me stop loving him, fighting for him, forgiving him.  And how much greater is God's love than mine?! God will never leave me or forsake me.  God will never stop loving Jack, fighting for Jack, and forgiving Jack. WHAT A BLESSING it is to serve a God like our God! 

Today, I consider myself blessed for the ways in which raising a challenging son has deepened my faith in an always faithful God. It's not always easy and I am prone to forget...but I have a child who reminds me on the daily of my desperate need for The Lord! And I can't help but think that God has something extra special in store for us if we keep believing. 

 

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