My dear Jill -
First, forgive me if I offend in this post. That is not my intention at all. For those of you who are not Jill, I don't plan on "defending" my positions here, so please don't ask me to. I'm responding to my friend, as she has asked me to, and publically, as she has privately asked me to do so.
Sorry for the length of this epistle.
Okay, Jill, since you asked.
To start with, I admire you very much. Our friendship has really grown in the last few months, and both Gourmet Girl and I (beauty & the beast) have appreciated your friendship. (even though you beat me in the contest, you stink!)
After having recently reached several goals successfully, your "what should I do now?" feeling is not uncommon. It is especially common, for example, among doctoral student when they graduate. It gets worse if they have to choose from several good offers (I know, cry me a river...), but it is real, and can be confusing. That seems to me to be where you are. Too many good, but vague, options. It is, however, a normal reaction, and that is a good thing. That means it has a normal fix.
Also, wanting God in your life, and reviewing what you want in your love life, these are related actually, but I won't digress here. Suffice to say that they affect each other because they are deeply personal, and make us frighteningly vulnerable. In both cases, looking foolish is our greatest fear. (Hence, pornography - it's emotionally not risky for the man who is too weak to face his own weakness.)
Okay, now a warning. Now, don't get nervous. You want God in your life. This is good. You know what you want. It is just that when someone leaves/strays from the home of their previous religious experience, there is a reason for this, after all. They have a tendency to want to "pick up" where they think they left off.
Bad mistake. The very things which did not attract you then, did not keep you coming, or repelled you will simply do it again. You will have the same experience, only heightened with much more expectation, and much more disappointment. Best to go somewhere for the right reason, not as a default.
Don't just default. That is what I'm saying. What is the right reason? Right now, I don't know. You may know, you may not. My advice is to do some Q&A with someone you can really trust in the matter, who likely knows themselves well, and will listen to you, rather than waiting for you to stop talking so they can begin. Start there.
In other words, someone you know won't give you a shpiel, just 'cause they learned it on t.v. or at Sunday school. Seek wisdom, and don't be afraid of what you may find. It's okay to pray for Truth. It's a funny thing about prayer, you may get what you ask for, so be careful there.
You may or may not believe me here, but once the center of your life is working, everything falls to its proper place and level in short order and with relative ease.
Love life, family life, social life, interior life, intellectual life; all where they should be. Too easy you say? Aren't Charles Staley and Dan John always talking about the simplicity of training - the imperfect program you do is superior to the perfect program you don't do, take something heavy and lift it over your head, lift-eat-rest-repeat, etc...
This is where I am expert - interior life, spiritual life, family life; in order to thrive, these requires training. Most people just refuse to believe it, because they won't actually do it. On to your other points...
Being great parents, all it requires is love, consistency(!) and sacrifice, in that order(as if that's not enough?). You are already doing this. Keep it up.
Having a strong marriage does NOT simply mean loving alot. It means being able to weather terrible misfortune and adversity with love and joy in each other. Get used to watching each other's back - literally, emotionally, spiritually. "Got your back," is a way of life for married lovers.
Financial plan? Ask someone whose specialty is financial planning. Seriously, I'm not the expert here, and I don't like posing as one in something I am not expert in (I consider it a form of "bearing false witness" and that is, after all, a sin). But it is a matter of planning (of course) and putting your plan into action. Have a "Plan B" and at the end of every year, at least, review your "Plan A" and see if it's working.
Finally, doing it all without having a stroke (my paraphrase of your post). Remember, life is what happens while you are making other plans. Life does get in the way of training at times, but your life is not a disconnected series of unrelated events - it is one, organic whole.
I can only speak as a Christian man, husband, father, pastor, and priest, and when I reach the limits of my meager education, limited experience, and a very small life, and I realize I don't know what is coming next, and I look up with hope and wonder, and pray.
Then I get back to work, because that is what we do. That is the way of Christ - few words, much action.
Whatever direction your life takes you in, it's your life. You are the heroine of this movie. Your adventures, your struggles, your catastrophes, your triumphs - you will decide what these all mean. Everyone has them, but not everyone is transformed by them. Please remember, people don't mellow with age, they harden in their sin. Look into your own heart here.
You have labored much, and with good results. You are still in the process of tranfiguration. Not of the circumstances and settings of your life - you.
What do you want to change into?
Answer that question.
Hey, take your time. It's an important question. You'll know when you have the answer. You've become a good friend, Jill.
I'd love to see the end of this movie.
Love, your friend,