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Work Like A Doctor, Live Like A Nurse

Christina Darnell

Renee Lockey used to equate freedom with control. The more control she had over her life, the more freedom she would experience. What she found was that control does lead to freedom—but only when the right One is holding the reins.

Renee decided in high school that she wanted to become a doctor. She settled on the specialty of obstetrics and gynecology and pursued it passionately. At 30 years old, she went into private practice in Austin, Tex. By the time she was 37, she had accomplished what she’d set out to do—she had a successful career, she’d paid off her debt, she was saving liberally, and, still, she could spend money without having to think much of it.

But once she’d reached her goals, she was left with the nagging question: “Now what?”

“I had accomplished everything I had set out to accomplish,” she said, “and I was not in the content place I’d imagined I’d be.”

In a testimonial for Generous Giving, she said something was missing, and she didn’t know what it was.

It wasn’t her job—she loved that. “God has given me a job that’s a ministry,” she said. “I get to walk with women and families through joyful times and through some challenging times. I get to experience life from the beginning from the moment the baby takes its first breath.”

The problem, she said, was that her idea of freedom wasn’t in line with what God says is freedom. It was around that time—with her discontent nagging her—that Renee says “God realigned my values with His values and showed me places I thought I was free where I wasn’t.” She said God began showing her “steps of surrender.”

One of those steps was to get out of a relationship she said was not “honoring to [God].” The second had to do with her finances.

An avid runner, Renee uses her time running the trails to pray—and that’s often when ideas come to her. “When I’m running, I hear radical things from God, and that’s where I go to meet Him,” she said. “When I made the decision to go all out and live for Christ, it started to get crazy the things I’d hear.”

Renee traveled internationally, digging wells in third world countries or serving on medical mission trips. “You can’t go and look at another culture and not do a compare and contrast. Here is what they have, this is how they live, this is what I have, and this is how I live,” she said. “I would sit in that, and it would break me.”

On one of her runs, in response to what she’d seen overseas, she felt God leading her to “work like a doctor and live like a nurse.”

“I thought, sure, I could live on half my salary,” she said. “Then, I could live on a quarter of my salary. A quarter is probably about what the average nurse is making.” (In Austin, the average salary for a physician in obstetrics and gynecology is around $282,175. For a full-time registered nurse, it’s $76,060, both according to salary.com.)

She took that quarter and crafted a budget to live on, which she says took time to get used to. “I hadn’t had to stop and think about how I was spending my money in awhile.” The other three quarters she designated as God’s—“that’s what to share.” She gives to missionaries, clean water projects, and others.

That was in 2011. A few years later, after her son, Tristan, left for college, she was faced with an empty nest. The outdoor enthusiast, with her tan skin and piecey blond hair, traded big-city life for mountain living in 2015 when she left private practice and moved to Colorado, where she works for Ob Hospitalist Group (OBGH) as a physician and site director. When she’s not at Memorial Hospital Central, she’s usually biking the mountain trails, snowboarding, competing in cross country cycling—and serving overseas.

“Our talent is a resource, and our time is a resource,” she said in an OBGH interview. “I am learning to give from all that I’ve received. It’s a lifelong journey.”

She says she chose OBHG, a nationwide organization that partners with hospitals to provide 24-care for pregnant women, because of its mission-oriented goals and work-life balance. In private practice, Renee was often on call. At OBHG, the physicians work in predictable shifts. With her son in college and fewer work demands, she began traveling with Samaritans Purse on medical mission trips to places like Kenya and Rwanda.

She said the rewards from those trips have been huge. “Across cultural and language barriers, compassion still speaks loudly, and people are appreciative for all that you give. I take these trips as much for me as I do for others. They ground me, making me a better doctor, mother, person, and friend.”

Aside from scaling back her lifestyle—she built an “800-square-foot dream house” made of reclaimed barn wood in Leadville—and giving more of her time, Renee says God also convicted her about her savings. “My goal was to retire at 50, to retire with a certain amount of money, to live at a certain lifestyle.” But then she lost six figures in a bad investment. When that happened, she said she “had a lot of peace.” She decided to save less and give more now.

“I have a choice of whether to save or whether to share, and I get to bless somebody, and see how it impacts their life—the reality is it feels right,” she said.

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Christina Darnell
Christina Darnell

Christina Darnell is a freelance writer who has contributed to WORLD, The Charlotte Observer, and other publications.

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