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  • Writer's pictureGraceful Willow Learning

Blessed Journey Across Borders: Embracing God's Plan on Faith, Education, and Motherhood

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

Maria Ignacia.

Hello! My name is Maria Ignacia. I am a daughter of God, wife, mother, teacher...

I am blessed to have an amazing husband and two little daughters who make my life very interesting, and provide a great opportunity to become a saint (life with two under three has proven to be quite the adventure).

I was born and raised in South America, and always wished to become someone who could help kids. At first I wanted to be a lawyer and help those children and parents who wanted to go the adoption route. Then, I decided I wanted to have my own orphanage and help the little ones know God and develop appropriately with all the tools a teacher and a loving care-giver could give them. By the time I was in 12th grade I wanted to become a pediatric surgeon so I could make children better and hopefully run a hospital-based educational program so the kids who were in recovery and those who were in extended in-patient stay wouldn't miss any opportunities to learn and develop their brains.

It wasn't until the second-to-last month during my senior year that I felt called.

God called me.

God called me, to become an elementary teacher in my home country. I attended an amazing Catholic University and thrived in there. I received my associates and bachelor's degree with high achievements, and I even majored in all four core subjects (math, language, social studies, and science).

I got my first job straight out of university at a private school. I learned a lot, made incredible teacher-friends (whom I am still friends with today), loved every one of my students, and enjoyed every single day I spent teaching these kids.

Then, during a free period, I finished my lesson planning early and started thinking of the future. I had been talking to one of my teacher-friends and she was telling us about her wonderful experience teaching abroad. I got so excited about finally having a way to accomplish my dream to go to other countries and learn from their cultures and educational system, that I wasted no time and started my research right away.

The great adventure.

After 1.5 years of teaching in my wonderful first job, I came across a program for hispanic teacher to come and teach in the U.S.: Participate. I applied and within 1 month I was ready to come teach in the "splash" program. The whole process was super fast, but I was so sure I wanted to do this that I did not think twice and right after I first applied I started selling my things, gave notice to my landlord, talked to the school principals and headmaster and got their full support on my new endeavor.

Two days after my first contact with the program I got called for an online interview, and a week later I was teaching a demonstration math lesson, to the people in charge of the whole hiring process, who came to get all of the applicants documents, evaluate the delivery of the lesson we planned, and conduct in-person interviews.

One week later I found out I had been selected to participate in the program and that I would be leaving in 3 weeks. It was great news, but a very overwhelming time: quitting a job I loved; leaving my home to go live with my mom until I flew out; saying goodbye to my family and friends; going to a foreign country to live on my own for the first time... needless to say it was a crazy few weeks prior to my trip.

A new life.

The day finally arrived and I felt like I had the whole world at the reach of my fingertips! Until I sat on that plane and sadness and uncertainty hit me very hard and I started crying and crying (and I didn't stop until I got to my final destination!)

I went through immigration and got my luggage and a person with a sign was waiting for all the teachers who were coming from the different countries to be taken to the hotel we would be staying in for a week to learn everything about the American culture, get bank accounts, cell phones, and everything needed to be set up before arriving to what would be our home for, at least, 2 years.

While I was settling in, I met the most wonderful friend. She was in the same situation I was: moving from her home country (Ecuador) to teach here, without knowing where we would live, how we would move around, where to buy things (and what to buy), etc. We were assigned to the same school and so we became best friends.

After a little less than three weeks into this adventure, I had to move out of my apartment due to the engagement of my roommate, and so my friend and I decided to become roommates. Everything went amazingly -with the typical adjustment period when you are sharing a flat with someone- and we soon became like sisters.

It had been about a month and a few days of arriving to the U.S. when I met the man I didn't know I would marry -but hoped he would be the one.

My fairy-tale.

I met this wonderful man... we dated for a month before officially establishing our relationship. We enjoyed a happy boyfriend-girlfriend time and, a mere 9 months later, we got married. It was a quick engagement because of his job situation (he had to leave the country to go work abroad for 2 years, only 1.5 months after proposing to me). We made the most out of the short 4 weeks we had as a married couple and then he left with the promise he would bring me to where he was going as soon as possible.

The wait was the worst time of my life... I kept praying for his safety, for my sanity, and for the time we could see each other again.

Thankfully, after a lot of paperwork, patience, and a lot of prayers, we finally met again 6 months after he had left.

He took a few days off work so we could get settled in this new country, on our new apartment, and get me set up with a driver's license, car, etc.

I remember thinking I couldn't be happier at that time -little did I know that was just the beginning!-. After 2 months of settling in and getting a grasp of how things worked out in this little island in the middle of the pacific ocean in the asian continent, I got the opportunity to "try out" for a supporting teaching job at a preschool (I was not paid for the time I was working there since it was a trial period). I went there for a week and I loved the teaching part, but I did not like how the school was structured and ran. So after a week I apologized and had to pass on the offer because it did not align with my principles.

I was bummed out because I was excited to be working with a different age group than I was used to, and to learn from this ancient culture, but I decided I wasn't going to give up and started looking for another job immediately.

Within five days I found a teaching position at a college as an English teacher, and began a week after that.

I loved it in there! This was a business college focused on the hospitality area, so many of the students wanted to work at hotels, be tourist guides, flight attendants, etc.

I met many new friends from the U.S., Mexico, Australia, and Japan, and was amazed at the different teaching styles I was learning from them. I loved being able to share our experiences, plan together, and learn from the students.

When 2 became 3.

I had been teaching for a year when my husband and I got pregnant with our first child. I felt really sick for about 8 weeks, but unfortunately we lost our baby to miscarriage. It was a very sad and difficult to accept experience, but we never lost hope and faith in God's plan.

We got pregnant again about a month after. Everything was going great with baby... but I was getting sicker and sicker every day and so by the time I was four months pregnant I had to quit my job. I couldn't wake up early and stay in a classroom for more than 10 minutes at a time without having to run to the bathroom due to constant nausea.

I learned I had a mild case of HG (Hyperemesis Gravidarum) that kept me having morning sickness all day long until I was 2 days shy of 27 weeks. Fortunately I felt much better after that (although still not an easy pregnancy on me).

We welcomed our first baby girl on a beautiful morning in 2021. Life changed in 360º for everyone. My poor little one didn't want to sleep at all (still doesn't like sleeping to this day), so I was always exhausted and suffering from post-partum depression. Thankfully our church community was very nice and provided a huge support network for everyone in the family, but especially for me. I made friends I am still in contact with, I made friends who became family... and everything was ok... still hard, but we survived.

We decided I was going to stay with our little one at home and go back to work if we needed it or when my husband retired.

Back in the U.S.

After three years living in Asia, we moved back to America. We were thankful to be close to family and friends and excited to be back in a familiar environment, knowing where to buy things, knowing the language, etc.

Being back meant more family time, more independence, reconnecting with other friends, etc.

Ten months into this new adventure, we welcomed our second baby girl! God is always good and gave us the best pregnancy experience and the most chill and cute baby.

Being a stay-at-home mom.

Staying at home with the girls has been the greatest gift (although some times it feels like a curse haha). I get to see them grow, interact, learn new things... I see what they like, and what they don't; I get to know them in a deep level by learning about their personalities -which couldn't be more different-, their learning styles, their interests, their triggers, etc.

It is wonderful to share life the way I think God intended for us to do... But with everything in life, it comes with its hardships: striving to be a better wife, mom, housekeeper, homemaker... it is hard to find the time to do everything when you are working 24/7... and trying to get a break is very hard, but necessary.

I am still learning what works for us, and what doesn't, but I am happy to say we are happy and at peace most of the time. Since I started feeling this way, and when we decided we wanted to homeschool our kids, I have felt a new call from God.

God's plan.

I think God put me in the education career so I could learn how to teach kids (remember it is not about the content, but about the skills, since the knowledge is everywhere on books and the internet, but the ability to access and learn from those is what is important). It was also crucial for me to work at a school so I could have access to teachers who are more experienced than I and who shared their many different teaching-life situations. Because of these friends and their stories is that I came to the U.S., met my husband, and feel completely filled with love and zeal for God, family, and education.

Now that we have decided to homeschool, and that I know how to teach children, I wanted to explore my options but found that none of them really aligned with what I though was more beneficial for them and with our values and principles. And so this is where the first idea for Graceful Willow Learning was born.

Looking back on my journey, I am filled with gratitude for the opportunities, challenges, and blessings that have shaped me into who I am today. Through it all, I've learned the importance of faith, family, and the power of education. It is with a heart full of purpose that I embark on this new chapter with Graceful Willow Learning, eager to share my knowledge and learn from this wonderful community. Thank you for joining me on this journey, and I look forward to the adventures that lie ahead.

Thank you for reading and leave your comments, suggestions, and feedback in the comment section, the suggestion form, or e-mail me. I look forward to sharing my knowledge with you and to learn from everyone in here too!

Here I have another post about how the process of creating this business went if you want to read it.

God Bless,

Maria Ignacia

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