This is not an announcement

Processed with VSCO with a9 presetTypically announcements are made when something practical or tangible has already happened, like “we bought a house” or “our baby has been born” or “i just got a new job” or “we’re engaged!” This doesn’t fall into the practical/tangible category.

And yet, it feels like something worth announcing. Or maybe it’s more like declaring a college major, or setting an intention.

In any case, here it is:

I intend to become a midwife.

If you want to read some long and soul-searching details about how thing have gotten to this point, please read on.

For those who want cliffs notes, here are they are: I’ve been a birth junkie for years, and finally God brought it to the forefront and asked me to own the desire in my heart that I’d been trying to deny. My family and I are trying to sort out the timing and details of what pursuing this will look like. It will involve, I hope, a combination of apprenticeship and self-paced distance education. I haven’t taken a single practical step yet, nor made a single commitment, but I’ve explored options and hope to start SOMETHING within the next year. 🙂

Now, the long version (for those with interest and time to read)….

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each season the hardest, each season the same

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each season feels like the hardest one. i remember when hazel was brand new, and how utterly in over my head i felt. the learning curve was so steep. i was grieving the loss of independence, freedom to use my time as i pleased, space to be alone with myself. and i had no idea what i was doing, so no action was simple or natural. the weight of concern and worry, with all the accompanying advice-seeking and google-searches, was exhausting. leaving the house felt like the most impossible thing. how was i supposed to plan an outing between all the naps and feedings (which were, in here case, LONG)?

this season now, and those early days with hazel feel so far away. i sometimes think that if i could go back and re-live them, it would feel easy compared to now. i would handle it like a pro, i would be so much more laid back. maybe that would be the case, if i could carry the knowledge/tricks/confidence i’ve gained in the three following years with me and apply them there, too. but that’s not how it works, is it? of course not.

Father breaks us in easy, giving us one challenge at a time, taking us deeper and deeper into responsibility and commitment. if He were to throw us right into it, we would surely drown. Or so it seems to me.

looking back even further than new motherhood, to the days when i was a young adult and single, how simple that all looks from where I now stand. bills were few and simple, taxes straightforward, freedom to use and structure my own time was enormous, i could accomplish things in a fraction of the time it now takes with small children in tow, all my decisions were my own to make (no need to seek consensus with a husband), and my parents would still help me out financially. i could have gotten up and gone to do anything with such comparative ease (travel, move, adventure). but at the time it didn’t feel so easy! there was also loneliness and longing for a mate, worry about not having enough money even for the few bills that i did have, and the downward-spiraling thoughts that often filled up all those solitary and unstructured hours. there weren’t children to anchor me, to make me get up in the morning and do the next thing that needed doing, and being single was like facing the world alone, not knowing when or if that aloneness would ever end. and though i didn’t have kids underfoot to sabotage my cleaning and cooking and errand running, i also was still learning how to cook and clean and run errands, which sometimes made me feel so young and inexperienced.

as scripture says, “each day has enough trouble of it’s own.” that’s meant to remind us not to worry also about the future, but i see it working retroactively, too: yesterday had enough of its own worries, too. there will always — in every life season — be heavy concerns, and loads to bear that feel too heavy at times. there will be moments of overwhelm. and, in each life season there will be provision. there will be enough of the internal resources, the support of community, and material needs. there will be enough of these things, coming forward as they are needed, because across all of these life seasons the one constant thing is the Father to whom we’ve entrusted ourselves.

so TODAY, when the challenges of a feisty, cooped-up 3 year-old and a 21-month-old who’s stumbling into his terrible 2s while teething his molars, combined with my achey, cumbersome, pregnant body on a gray day, with to-do lists a mile long and a house that feels impossibly messy but cannot be tended to because the children’s needs are so unrelenting and my body in such a state… today when cooking yet another meal and doing yet another load of laundry feel absolutely unrewarding and mundane… today when I feel so isolated from the comfort of close female friendships because the urgency of daily life squeezes out most of the opportunities to connect… today when our list of financial responsibilities is longer and more complicated than i could have imagined or navigated when i was 24, and when the upkeep of a house and the oversight of a nonprofit and the managing of my own business keep our minds racing into the night…. today when the challenges of being a wife with all the mutual submission, vulnerability practice, and intimacy to keep up feel like harder work that the romance movies ever would have led me to believe… TODAY there will be enough. TODAY my Father is with me, leading me gently because I am with child (Isaiah 40:11), providing for my every need out of his glorious riches (Phil 4:19).

and so for you, friend. whether you are in your early 20s, living with friends and trying to discern the trajectory of your life while avoiding being turned out on the street, or whether you are a new mother absolutely drowning in the enormity of that identity redefinition and the weight of a newborn’s constant need, or whether you are in your mid-life, about to see your youngest child off to college and suddenly there is a giant gaping hole that invites you to redetermine how you will spend the rest of your days… in all these seasons, He is sufficient, He is present, He is neither shocked nor dismayed at how things are going, and He waits to show you mercy.

1 year after stepping back

about a year ago i wrote about my decision to step back from the SBR ministry after realizing how terribly burnt out i was.

i haven’t looked back once. i have never second-guessed that decision. it’s crazy to be able to honestly say that.

i was just looking at that entry from 1 year ago, in which i had written about what i hoped to see happen after stepping back, and i wanted to spend a little time reflecting on how those things have or have not turned out the way i imagined or hoped that they would:

  • i am looking forward to learning and mastering the art forms of managing my household well (including cleaning and menu planning and budgeting), and mothering intentionally and creatively. our entire marriage has been spent with both of us in ministry, and the timeline of our shared life has been a whirlwind of events in quick succession (meeting, moving, marriage, transit-leadership, moving again, buying and fixing a house, beginning SBR leadership, having a baby, getting pregnant a second time), and so there hasn’t been that time period in which to really settle down into some of those foundational skills. i want to master them and do them with attention to the presence of God.

yes, i think i’m making some progress. my ambitious “household binder” that was supposed to keep me on a manageable schedule for cleaning the house, budgeting, and menu planning sort of fell by the wayside, but i have learned a great new way to budget and have developed a habit of monthly menu planning and both are working out well and are sustainable! cleaning, however… well, that’s something i’ve yet to really find a happy place with. 🙂 as for mothering “intentionally and creatively,” yes, i think that’s coming, too. but there’s some balance to find there. like, i don’t have to have a zillion hand-made activities and a strict daily schedule in order to count myself as an intentional and creative mother. the standard can be a bit more relaxed.

  • i suspect i’ll actually be a fresher and more positive encourager and helpmeet for tim now.  i had been so tied up in knots of cynicism and criticism about the boiler room ministry because of my own lack of peace about continuing on in it, that i carried that energy into all of our conversations with him, with the end result of often making him feel discouraged or diminished in his life work. now i feel i’ll be more able to see it from his perspective (which is one of confidence and faithfulness and joy) and spur him on.

this has absolutely been true! since stepping down, the Lord has really renewed my joy in living where we live and in being a part of the ministry/work that we’re apart of. i have felt the cynicism melt away miraculously and relatively quickly. i have really been taking delight in being a listening ear and advisor to Tim as he continues in the work. i feel proud of him and am watching him really step up and excel in new ways! it’s been really amazing.

  • i am excited to be able to pour my time and energy into taking hazel on outings and to play dates that will stimulate and bless her, as well as to pursue photography, without feeling like i should be doing 20 other boiler-room related things instead (which just ends up paralyzing me).

yup, it’s been great to spend the “open” hours between meals and naps going on outings with hazel or playing intentionally with her (and gus) rather than feeling like i need to steal moments to work on something for the boiler room. it’s both an actual change in how much time i can give to being a mom, AND a mental load off (those open-ended to-do lists are such a drag). i have managed to keep doing some photo work, and to narrow down precisely what SORT of photo work i want to do. and that’s been joyful and just the right amount of it, most of the time. i’ve gotten some help from mommy helpers to keep the kids for a few hours while i edit, blog, or respond to emails for my business (3 or 4 hours a week).

  • i look forward to seeing how Father will direct my heart, and what divine appointments He will lead me into now that i won’t be moving out of a place of obligation or slavery, but of freedom. i wonder what he’ll do with some of those areas/interests in my life that seem to “have life on them” (as tim would say): photography, the birth community, motherhood, food.

i’ve been having fun stepping into boiler room life and work when i have time and inclination or holy spirit nudges. whether that’s pursuing some quality time with someone who needs some love, redesigning our website, or photo-documenting boiler room events. and i’ve been really enjoying following my Christ-indwelled heart into other things with life, like getting to know the natural birth community in Grand Rapids or joining a mama bible study with a bunch of great women i didn’t know before.

SO. praise you, Jesus, for being the Good Shepherd who truly did lead me into green pastures and give me rest for my soul.