Language Learning to the Rescue

Pregnancy brain is a real thing, but I thought it couldn’t catch up to me. I took pride in my sharp, dependable memory. A few months into my first pregnancy, I was working as an accountant, and a co-worker in another city called me while frantically searching for a package I sent through interoffice mail. “I sent it two days ago,” I said.

But all at once, a foreign feeling of forgetfulness hit me. Questioning whether I had done what I said I would do because I couldn’t remember doing it wasn’t previously part of my daily routine.

Annoyed at my new quirk, I quickly developed a system of sticky notes to combat the hormonal onslaught my brain endured during pregnancy, and to my disdain, my memory didn’t get better until I stopped nursing. I worried my “normal” brain would never return. To make mental matters worse, we moved to China during the nursing mom stage, and I only had one month between nursing my first child and finding out I was pregnant with my second.

I was slammed by pregnancy brain, nursing mother’s brain, culture shock brain, pregnancy brain again, and then another year of nursing mother’s brain! That four-year season of my life felt like wearing glasses that were half my normal prescription. Things that used to be clear were fuzzy and I constantly wondered if I was going to get blindsided by something I couldn’t see coming.

The boys were 2.5 years and 13 months when I began to get cognitive clarity back, but no matter how many brain cells I had functioning at my previous normal capabilities, I lacked something outside of myself and my kids to challenge me intellectually.

I’ve always loved to study and learn new skills. Previously, school and then work met this need. As a stay-at-home mom, I loathed the spongy feeling of my mind going to mush as one more episode of Thomas the Train played in the background. Studying Chinese began to be an outlet for my incessant yearning for intellectual stimulation.

The chance to study Chinese in a more formal university setting came along a few years later (the boys were 5 and 3). Looking back on that year, I love the memories of my husband and I sitting up late into the evening studying together. He crammed each night to be able to stay a few lessons ahead of his students in Calculus because he had been teaching ESL for four years and then switched back to math. I found joy in studying Chinese, even though I had to make myself set the bar lower than I’d liked because I needed to continue to take care of my family and I couldn’t study night and day like some of my Korean classmates did.

After we moved back to Texas when the boys were 9 and 7, I thought back to that year of intense language study and the weekly language tutoring sessions I kept up until we left China, and felt like it had all been in vain because I was no longer using the Chinese language in my daily life. I questioned the Lord about why He’d lead me into the perfect situation to study Chinese if, in just a few years, I ended up in a place where Spanish is the only other language spoken.

It took me awhile to see it from a different perspective. What could be viewed as a big waste of time could instead be seen as a gift of learning the Lord gave me exactly when I needed it most. He always knows what we need, and in His economy, nothing is wasted. If I never speak another word of Chinese in my life, I’d still say it was worth going to language school. It gave me a wonderful season of learning and a whole new set of people to build relationships with. I love my language school memories, and I’m so grateful I had the chance to study.

Maybe you’re finding yourself in a life-stage where you’re frustrated by your lack of mental clarity, or you’re wondering why God isn’t allowing you to use a skill set you painstakingly set out to acquire. Take heart that the next season could bring insight, and God always knows what He’s doing.

What are ways you are finding to grow intellectually right now? Or what are some ways you would like to see that happen?


  1. Jennifer A Henn October 3, 2020

    You are right, God wastes nothing! I’m much older than you and I’m no longer shocked when skills I learned 20 or more years ago are needed now. Keep up the good work, you never know what’s in store.
    I also remind my adult kids of this often when they feel like they’re spinning wheels with another job change. I see though, how the more skills they have, the better off they are. For the Kingdom of God and for their day-to-day life.

    1. M'Lynn October 3, 2020

      Thank you so much for the encouragement, Jennifer! Words of wisdom for sure.

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