Soften

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One thing a miscarriage can do, I believe, is to soften you, open you. Maybe the heart mimics what the body is doing as it releases — whether you like it or not — the baby-that-would-have-been into the hands of God.

I had a[nother] miscarriage this weekend. It feels so surreal to name it, particularly in public like I am now. I didn’t know I was pregnant, had not sought to be, had in fact tried not to become so. My only clue was an uncharacteristic acne break-out, which I dismissed by way of other explanations.

Gus is so small still and I so overwhelmed by the task of caring for two, that I have not felt at all ready for babe #3. But it turns out that he would have become a big brother this coming august, had things turned out differently.

There was sudden and severe bleeding and consequent light-headedness. A trip to the ER where my blood pressure bottomed out and for several terrifying moments I feared I would leave my children motherless. There was the rather tactless delivery of the pregnancy test results, described in present tense and yet already in past tense. There was an ambulance ride to the main hospital downtown Madison, during which I sang worship to my Jesus, who was so near. There was lots of monitoring and an ultrasound to “rule out fetal activity” or ectopic pregnancy. There was so much blood, and so also a blood transfusion. There was waiting. Finally there was prayer-evoked miracle as we rounded a corner and came out of the woods, elated with relief that at least I was no longer in serious danger.

The same night I was back at my in-laws house, tucked in with my living babies, depleted, weak and exhausted but alive and grateful.

This was an unusual miscarriage. Such extreme blood loss isn’t typical. And it is certainly a complicated grief to be told about your baby in the same moment you are losing them.

But the softening… It has left me tender. It has put things into perspective, shrinking small dramas to their appropriate sizes, and making room on my heart to love another which, I believe, every pregnancy must do. We grow new spaces in our heart for each little person we carry. And if that space isn’t to ultimately be filled by a born and hold-able baby, we will share it with someone else who needs it. We will not be able to turn back or close off that new addition. So perhaps we move toward a future pregnancy with surprising new resolve and urgency, or we realize how much we do in fact want to become a mother (as was the case after my first miscarriage in 2010), or we cling tighter to the loved ones we already have…

… Or in some unusual case perhaps we are given an opportunity to open our arms and our home to a stranger, drawing on that deep reservoir of newly uncovered maternal tenderness to love them openly.

Which is the case for us. Because two days later we received a call about a pregnant teenage refugee who is giving birth today and needs a soft placed to land until a more permanent situation can be arranged when she turns 18. And against all worldly wisdom, only because Holy Spirit gave both of us a unity of peaceful Yes, we said yes to her, to them.

Today she us in a hospital in Michigan, laboring to give birth to her baby while I am packing up in Wisconsin for a return to our home where we will make room for these two (I have already arranged the furniture in mind ), so that when they are released from the hospital we can help to catch them with our love… A love I’m not actually sure I would have been able to access in this already crazy life season if I had not just suffered this loss and the scare that surrounded it.

I don’t know if that will make sense to many of you… But somehow I sense that these two events are a pair, by design.

Today I am thanking Papa and this little unknown child of ours for the gift of softening, opening.

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home study #1

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today we had our first home study on this journey to become licensed foster care parents for refugee minors.

we sat around our table with a licenser and her supervisor, happily chatting, receiving instruction, answering questions, talking about why this is  road we’re walking in the first place.

and those reasons are so anticlimactic, so matter-of-fact.

and right now this entire thing feels so abstract, so far-off, so difficult to imagine.

part of me wants to do what i always do when i have Big Life Questions and want to anticipate and understand them: that is, i want to Google it. i want to devour articles and blogs and stories from others who’ve walked this road and been brave enough to share about it in a real way. but the google search results are yielding limited results, since the fostering of refugee foster kids is in so many ways a different animal than the fostering of american kids in the american system, and also less common, which means i haven’t been able to find a single blog/account/personal story of someone who has gone before us.

thankfully, we know a few families personally and we can pick their brains.

but really it might be best that i can’t piece together a detailed sketch of what this will be like: how it will feel to have him/her/them sitting at our table in the dark, quiet evenings, sharing a meal of food that i’ve learned to make just so that they’d feel a bit more at home, watching him/her/them play with my children in a manner at first tentative then surprisingly familiar, driving him/her/them to and from school, trying to communicate around language and cultural barriers, waking up to see his/her/their brown-skin faces greeting me.

how old will he/she/they be? we can’t seem to settle on a particular profile of The Sort of Kid(s) We Want, because we believe the Holy Spirit will tell us Yes or No on a case by case basis and really we can make anything work for a little while. and this sort of foster care is usually always just for a little while.

which leads me to wondering what it will be like to have him/her/them be here so briefly, requiring an opening of our hearts and hands and home to love and sacrifice, only to leave again, so soon and to such unknown futures.

the licensers told us today that the real need is for families who are open to taking teenage boys. boys will stay longer than just a few weeks because they are not transitional like the younger ones who are in pursuit of living family already in the country, but whom have no one else to go home to. they need a family that will stick with them for a long haul.

an african or south american teenage boy? for years? can we begin to imagine that?

tonight i told Hazel that daddy and mommy have been talking about having other boys and girls come live with us in our house.

me: “what do you think of that?”

h: “i think…good.”

me: “do you think it should be a boy or a girl?”

h: “a boy.”

me: “do you think it will be a big boy or a little boy?”

h: “a BIG boy!”

me: “like vivi’s big brothers max and ib (they are 15 and 16 years old, respectively, and one of them is a refugee from the Congo)? do you want a boy like that?”

h: “yes!”

i won’t read too much into that, but she’s been known to be weirdly prophetic in the past. i bless her open heart. later she exclaimed,”he come live in mine house with ME! i love mine house so much!”

a harder week

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i tried to start a fire in the wood stove so that i could sit here and write in front of it. the fire did not take. so the scene of this writing isn’t as romantic, nor as cozy as i hoped to be able to report to you, reader-friends. 🙂

you may have noticed that i’ve been quiet in this space. i had one other post drafted last week but in the end it sounded preachy somehow. i wasn’t comfortable with that. so i scrapped it. but i’ve been having trouble coming up with things to say.

this week has been hard. hard isn’t a very good descriptor; it’s much too vague. this week has been full of a raw emotional vulnerability, saying hard things and having hard things said back. it has been a scary week, a week in which i’ve fallen into the temptation to doubt the value and course of our ministry because a very recent Series of Unfortunate Events formed one big question of “what the hell is going on here?” in my heart. and i didn’t know whether it meant God was trying to put the brakes on things or just to invite us into another layer of trust and steadfastness. in the end, steadfastness turns out to be closer to the truth, i think. i’m grateful that He spoke that word (along with other wonderfully reassuring ones) over us and our team. I Corinthians 15:58 has felt like an answer: “Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of The Lord, knowing that in The Lord your labor is not in vain.”

but whenever we are facing the possibility of not getting our next paycheck — as we are right now (it is one of the Series of Unfortunate Events), and which is also a prospect that we face at least once each year — i crumble into a pile of worry and resentment and then go into problem-solving, striving, i’m-going-to-take-care-of-myself-because-clearly-YOU-are-NOT mode. i’ve known that this compulsive chain reaction indicates that need for some healing or sanctification, or maybe both. so tim and i spent the week fasting and praying about it.

[as an aside, can i share with you a bit of what it’s like to live on the financial support of people who love you and Donors Who Shall Remain Anonymous? friends, it is not an easy thing. if you are not careful, you fill find yourself often in a state of questioning yourself, the work you are doing and how you are doing it, always asking if it’s good spiritually enough, the results obvious enough, the numbers impressive enough to deserve the gifts of your hard-working counter-parts who earn their paychecks at for-profit companies. in seasons when the number of people you’re “reaching” seems small, or the fruit in their lives invisible, you may wonder if you’re wasting everyone’s money in order to keep living in this God-forsaken place under chronic low-grade stress that comes from being in close proximity with poverty and abuse and social injustices that your ministry doesn’t seem to be able to penetrate with life-changing gospel news in ways that you think your donors might expect (as if it’s really ultimately your job or at all under your control). and if you buy yourself something pretty or go on a vacation, you may feel an almost irresistable urge to (a) hide it, (b) downplay it or (c) somehow explain yourself for having spent money on it. you may start to fear that your friends will dread seeing you because they anticipate you asking for support, and you struggle to believe that it may actually be a gift and a joy for them to give it.  no, this is not an easy thing. so when there’s a financial rough patch at the boiler room, my desire to somehow escape our status as ministers living on support goes through the roof.]

then God spoke Prov 31:25 to me through another member of our Core Team. “She can laugh at the time to come,” it says. She can laugh partly because she’s prepared and she knows how to care for her family in hard times using what she has on hand and the wits God’s given her. but even more so, i think the reason she can laugh at the future is because she knows who her Papa is, and that He’s holding her fast, and that He isn’t interested in seeing His children beg for bread, and that He’s wealthy and fully sufficient. furthermore, she can laugh because even if the time to come is hard and she is not rescued from the hard things, still she can expect a great gift from that Father who doesn’t give indigestible stones where there should be nourishing fish. He might not rescue her from a missed paycheck, but He will give her provision for what’s really needed, or an experience of His nearness that shrinks all her earthly concerns to something the size of an inconsequential pebble compared to the eternal worth of knowing Him. So I chose to start laughing. and worshiping. even when i still had no idea how we’d pay all the bills this month. there has been so much freedom in that, and so much joy.

as if the Series of Unfortunate Events were not enough, one of my buttons was pushed by another Core Team member in what was really an innocent email in the wake of the Unfortunate Events. and instead of waiting until the maelstrom of emotions subsided enough for me to see straight, i responded through my tears of insecurity and anger and fear, which sent that person and that person’s spouse into something of a tailspin for a couple of days. that whole process also shed light on a way i’ve been relating to tim that is not as it ought to be, and to confess that before him and ask his forgiveness and then to receive it was hard and weepy work, too. and though we [all] have been able to make things right, there’s a residue of embarrassment and disappointment in myself for not acting very much like the woman i like to think that i am, or –worse yet — for not actually even being that woman. it’s so humbling. and i’ve felt so raw and exposed, even as i’ve received grace.

i’ve been so preoccupied with the unresolved relationship tension and the quest to figure out a plan b for our finances, that i have been checking out on my kids and my daily household tasks, looking for ways to escape (obsessive Instagram checks!), finding solace in things that don’t actually satisfy, because i just didn’t know how to help myself, or haven’t felt up to helping myself. i spent one day in a funk so deep that i actually hid from everyone and refused to attend our weekly community meal because i knew i could cry at the drop of a hat. instead, i ate lots of cookies and went to bed early.

BUT He doesn’t leave me here, at least not alone, and certainly not forever. i’ve interspersed testimony to that fact in the midst of my sharing about the struggles, i hope. He’s faithful and He’s worth it all.

and it looks like — breaking news! — we might not miss that paycheck after all.

so this is me, very much still in process. feeling like the world’s worst missionary (i’ll fight you for the title, Jamie). clinging to the steadfast love of my Father and trying to emulate that steadfastness. writing “Jesus, we trust you” in huge letters on the chalkboard wall and trying to mean it. worshipping. forgiving myself. keeping my hand to the plow to do the work He’s giving me to do in spite of my imperfection in doing it.

when you buy a house that’s too big for you

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well, it doesn’t feel too big. in fact, it feels spacious and open and rather wonderful.

but the objective reality is that it really is too big. 6 bedrooms for a family of 4 is really a bit too much.

so when you find yourself in possession of such a house, and when your heart belongs to Jesus and He enlarges it in such a way that you have room in it, too… then you start to wonder about how you might be able to fill that house, grow that family.

  • will you have more babies?
  • will you adopt a baby? a child?
  • will you invite a college student to live with you?
  • will you foster a child in the US foster care system?
  • will you foster a refugee child? or one fleeing to the US to seek their parents?

each of these become real possibilities, as you’re pouring over adoption blogs, listening to the stories of folks in your community who’ve been foster parents, and keeping an eye out for a young person who might benefit from a family to live with for a season. and you keep asking God to lead you into the particular way that He has designed for you to fill that home and that heart of yours.

you find that as you move forward with this you don’t feel like an emotional crusader, intent on rescuing “those poor orphans” about whom you feel heavy-laden with anguish and worry. instead, you’re surprised to find that you’re rather matter-of-fact about it: you say, “we can do this, and this matters to God, so why wouldn’t we do it?”

you hope that doesn’t sound flippant or naive; for it is neither.

this comes after knowing about the hard parts, the stories that are really terrible and have not yet seen the fulfillment of the hoped-for redemption. this comes knowing that there will be a million small deaths to die every day, a lot of discomfort, and a lot of exhaustion. this comes knowing you will be changed.

but a lesson a wise woman taught you long ago is this: there is joy on the other side of obedience. and you have seen that truth demonstrated in your life enough times by now that you’re willing to believe it will be true in this case, too.

you also know that God provides everything that His people need to do the things He asks them to do, both emotional and practical. He will provide the bigger car and the extra beds. He will provide the spirit of adoption in your heart.

so you leap…

gus’ birth story

me clutching gus to my chest just moments after he was born. photo by Sarah Bultman

me clutching gus to my chest just moments after he was born. photo by Sarah Bultman

gus came into the world in a way completely his own. there was almost nothing in common between his labor/delivery and hazel’s. it was, in many ways, redemptive for me.

his birth left me feeling powerful and courageous, alive and aware.

for those of you who want to read the entire story, feel free to click here:  gus birth story.

for those who just want bare details….

  • labor length: 5 hours
  • pushes to get him out: 3
  • where: on our bed
  • when: 9 a.m. on march 10 (his due date)

🙂

this house

i know that buildings aren’t where the magic lies. i know that whatever joy, whatever healing, whatever love i’ve experienced here is due to the pursuit of my heavenly Father and not to some concrete characteristics of these walls, this roof, these rooms.

but, still, this house is very special to me.

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when i moved to the west side in order to live and work at the boiler room, this house was where jenn and tony lived with their four kids. every week they invited me and the rest of the interns out of the holy chaos that was the boiler room house and into their dining room to share a meal, into the kitchen to do dishes and dance, then into the living room to sit and visit. they invited me in close to their family and began to show me by their doing many things about what a healthy, Christ-prioritizing family looks like and how it functions.

after living in Madison for a year, it was this house that i — overheated and emotional — came toafter my long, solitary drive home in adverse conditions. their children flung open the front door and invited me in, and jenn fed me green beans from the garden and her homemade pesto, and it tasted better to me than any meal i’d had in a very long time. it felt like coming home.

then they moved out of it, and kevin and marcy and their 4 kids moved in. and in this house they have undergone radical surrender to Jesus and have ridden the waves of joy and trial that come in its wake. when they had their 5th child (surprise!), he and hazel became friends and now every week hazel spends a morning in this house with marcy and landon, playing. when she walks by the house she reaches for it, and starts up the stairs. it has become a familiar and safe place.

and now, four and a half years after the first time i stepped into this house, we are buying it. we’ve been dreaming of doing this for months, and now the day is here. the purchase agreement is signed, the mortgage application complete, the arrangements with the smiths made, the dream solidified in peaceful joy in our hearts. so unless some insurmountable obstacle arises or Father directs us elsewhere, this house, God willing, is going to be our home. probably for quite some time.

in so many ways it feels so right. this is happening at about the same time that tim is taking over the oversight of the boiler room from tony, which means another layer of commitment to this neighborhood and this ministry. jenn and tony have moved out of the neighborhood now and also are moving into a new work (the planting of a school!), and we are moving into their first west side house as well as into the roles they previously held as the lead pastoral couple of the boiler room. so it’s symbolic in ways.

but i don’t even care about THAT so much as i do about the rich legacy of hospitality, surrender, worship, family, trust, obedience, and outreach that this house holds. it has a shalom over it, begun when jenn and tony bought, redeemed and started praying on its porch each evening, then continued when the smiths left all they had to follow jesus here and use it always to bless and envelop others in love. this house comes with a lot of GOOD baggage. you can’t put a price tag on that.

but aside from all that, there’s also more rooms (more guests! more housemates?, more children!), first floor laundry (every mother’s dream come true), a wood-burning stove (so cozy), a private fenced-in yard (for kids to safely frolic), and loads of sweet aesthetic details (lovingly chosen by jenn).

tentative closing date: mid march

moving-in date: sometime in may or june

can. not. wait.

thank you, Father, for this very good gift (i am still in a bit of disbelief that you would give it to us). we offer it back to you and ask that you would continue through us the kingdom-rich legacies it has carried up until now. fill it in the ways that will make your heart most glad and us most free. remind us that it is YOUR house, to be shared. give us the gift of your shalom over this place as we settle into it for the long haul.

now two weeks in…

it’s been just over two weeks since i made that decision to finally step back from all official responsibilities and roles with the Stockbridge Boiler Room. oh, that decision, though so hard to come to and so slow to be acted upon, it was a long time coming. i just found a draft of a blog entry from almost exactly a year ago that i can now see was a very bold arrow pointing in the direction of this decision. interesting.

but now, being officially mother and home-maker, here is what the days are looking like. they are never dull or boring.

  • my first act as Official Full-Time Mama/Homemaker/Wife was to create a family binder. i probably could write an entire post about all the nitty gritty details of this, but for now i’ll just summarize. a family binder is a place to keep track of all those things that make managing your time and your home and nurturing your family run smoothly. mine contains a weekly glance, daily sheets for recording priorities and to-dos and appointments, a bill payment tracker, weekly and monthly cleaning schedules, menu-planning tools, expense trackers, etc. i refer to it multiple times each day. so far, so good.
  • we get ourselves out of bed around 7 a.m. each day and get hazel her green juice and kefir mix to drink. we eat breakfast first thing: eggs with toast or steel cut oats with berries. all three of us together usually. i’ve been reading the day’s entry from Jesus Calling each morning, as well as looking up the scriptures that go with it. i read them outloud to myself and hazel (and tim, if he’s still around) as i drink my coffee. though simple and quick, this is the most habitual scripture-reading and devotional time i’ve had for a while. since it works, i think i’ll keep running with it. it’s been good to start the day by reading some truth out loud over us!
  • i’ve just started showering while hazel hangs out either in the bathroom or across the hall in her bedroom. then she and i both get dressed. we’re ready for the day by 8:30 or 9 a.m.
  • i’ve carved out office hours for myself to do photography work. it appears that God keeps providing that work for me to do and so i’m trying to be faithful. He has provided two people who take hazel for me each week, allowing me a total of 5-6 hours of uninterrupted time to edit photos, upload photos, communicate with clients, update website/facebook, etc. this has been amazing for me and for hazel. on monday mornings she goes down the street to play with landon under his mama Marcy’s watchful care. and on wednesday afternoons our 12-year-old neighbor kaitlin comes to entertain hazel in and around our house while i hole up in our home office and work. additionally, if it’s needed, i’m spending 1 or two evenings each week working for a few hours after hazel goes to bed for the night. it’s been good to put value on making time to do photo work, and not to feel like i have to cram it into random crevices as whenever i can seize a moment.
  • on tuesday morning or mid-day hazel and i are still spending a couple of hours with our friends alicia (the mama) and lilia (baby 3 months younger than hazel). we rotate between her house and mine. we’re reading a book together called Loving The Little Years, which is all about mothering toddlers and seeing it as God-given mission. we usually share a meal together, too. and the girls play together happily.
  • on thursday morning landon comes to our house while marcy goes to work. i try to load ’em both up in the double stroller for a walk around the neighborhood, and otherwise they play happily around the house together, me just resolving disputes and retrieving toys that have slipped into hard-to-reach places.
  • we’re keeping wednesday mornings open for the option of outings to visit friends or fun places together, or to run errands.
  • i’ve begun cleaning up after breakfast and lunch and doing all the dishes associated with each meal right after that meal ends. this has put an end to the sink and counter stacked with a zillion dishes at the end of each day. it makes me feel like i WANT to go into the kitchen and prepare food for the next meal, instead of feeling overwhelmed and disgusted by the mess every time i walk in. simple change with great fruit for me. and less work for tim at day’s end (since his chore is the do the dinner clean-up).
  • in the afternoons while hazel naps, i try to immediately do my chores for that day. each day of the week i have a two or three household chores to do, all determined by the schedules i’ve created in my family binder. that takes 30 minutes to an hour. this is really new for me!!! i generally avoid cleaning as much as possible, just doing it when the situation becomes almost an emergency. so staying on top of it by doing small bits each day feels empowering. it also makes our house feel more restful because it’s uncluttered, tidy, and clean. mmmm. so nice. it’s been hard to push through and do the chores, however, because often by the time hazel goes down for her nap, i feel pretty ready to crash out myself. but once the chores are finished, i can do more photo work if needed, or just give myself permission to zone out a little bit.
  • saturdays are still family sabbath days. no chores. as little cooking as possible. homemade pancakes for dinner. naps for everyone. no commitments, only spontaneity.
  • the after-nap period each day is tricky for me. it seems to be one of the harder times for hazel, when she’s most clingy, so making dinner has been challenging. i’m looking for creative activities to keep her engaged while i prep and cook dinner for us. and i think we need to move our dinner hour UP a bit so that hunger pangs don’t intensify her discontent. also, i’ve noticed that if immediately after her nap i give her 30 minutes of undivided attention that includes lots of physical contact (carrying her around, snuggling on the bed, tickling), she seems to do better from then until dinner time.
  • when i have a photography session to shoot, i do it on a monday or tuesday evening, or on a sunday evening. usually. tim can stay back and be on point with hazel at those times.
  • we still go to Love Feast on wednesday nights to fellowship with our neighbors and the boiler room family.
  • on sundays we head to Stockbridge Mission Church, where alicia and i have finally created our own “nursery” for hazel and lilia. we are simply taking turns staying with the two little girls at alicia’s house, which is right across the street from mission church, while the other goes to the service. this has been great, since both of us have been missing church gatherings more often than not for the better part of a year. starting soon, the boiler room core team will also be sharing a meal together at the Tenderos house each sunday afternoon, which feels like a perfect way to remain a part of this family even though i’m no longer working for family business these days.

well, that was a lot of really practical, nitty-gritty detail of how we’re ordering our days around here. but it’s good for me to record it here. 🙂 thanks for listening.

and now my babe is waking from her nap, so i will go give my undivided attention to that sweet girl.

stepping back

he leads me beside quiet waters, he makes me to lay down in green pastures. he restores my soul.

the stockbridge boiler room has been a significant part of my life, my spiritual journey, my healing, and my work for about 4 years now. even that year when we lived in madison, i carried it in my heart still. the neighborhood that the boiler room is centered in, the prayer rooms it begins and encourages along, the networking with students and pastors and people across the city, the love feasts it hosts, the family that it is… all of this has made up the landscape on which my recent life — my NEW life as a transformed follower of Jesus — has played itself out. for heaven’s sake, i even met my husband via the boiler room, got married in its yard, and dedicated my firstborn to God at it’s sunday gathering. it has been so hard to imagine life without it.

which is why, i think, for the last year and some months i’ve been trying so hard to make it work.

while i was pregnant with hazel, i felt massive, glacier-deep shifts occurring in my heart. the energy of my life and heart were turning in a new direction: facing her, my daughter. suddenly, it felt harder to care about the homeless men behind my house, i just wanted to love her. logistically, her addition to our family also made showing up for the work and shared life of the boiler room more challenging, and realistically i have not been “around” as much in this past year as i have been in the past, or even as much as i would have preferred. it has been a sacrifice.

and our team — our SBR family — has worked with me, allowing me to rearrange my priorities and responsibilities to maximize my leadership role, changing up the places and times that we meet in order to accommodate hazel’s napping schedule so that i could continue to be involved. they have honored and received me as a sister, a trustworthy leader, a worthwhile and gifted member of the family and doer of the work. how kind they have been, how accommodating.

but all year, in fits and starts, there has been self-doubt, a desire to run away and have a “normal” life, a growing resentment towards the sacrifices of the ministry, and more disgust than love for the neighborhood we are supposed to be here to serve. each meeting felt overwhelming, every project felt like an obligation. the scale tipped so that the sacrifice and hard work of this ministry life felt heavier than the joy. and that hasn’t always been the case, nor do i think that’s they way it is supposed to be when living as Jesus’ disciple. and so i worked at figuring out what wast wrong with me, trying hard to find places where i needed to practice repentance, get more disciplined, pray and surrender more, or have an attitude adjustment. i talked through it with tim and with jenn and with other friends, all of whom have helped me recognize and walk away from any lies that were playing a role in my dilemma. and many times i thought i had finally found “the thing” that needed to be adjusted so that i could carry on.

then we took the month of august for our sabbatical, as we do each year. and when, on the way home from vacation, my heart and mind grew heavier and more overwhelmed and i became filled with dread at the thought of returning home to my normal life… well, i knew something wasn’t right. a few days later, i had a melt-down in the office of our wise marriage counselor. i wept while telling her and tim how tired i am, how sick i am of being in ministry, how much i loathe and want out of our neighborhood, how i can’t see the purpose of it all anymore, how i can’t do it all, how i just want to stay home with my babies. and judy looked at me and gave it a name: burn-out. (oh, so that’s what it’s called.) she said my feelings are normal and probably something i should listen to; that i need to stop assuming something is wrong with me for feeling these things and instead consider that God might be leading me into a different path in this season.

tim has had reservations about coming too quickly to this conclusion. i understand that. there are so many good and sweet things about having healthy biological family units at the center of a ministry together: all the important things that it communicates about the family of God, the blessing that our children can be to the college students and 20-somethings we parent and work with, the example we can be in a neighborhood full of broken families. and, of course, tim is stronger with me by his side. he’s more balanced and more confident (i guess that’s why we call women “helpmeet”), and we had assumed that in order for me to be the helper he desires, i need to stay on the front lines with him. but what if, Judy suggested, i can be a helpmeet to him just as well even if HE is the one doing the bulk of the ministry work? oh, there’s a novel idea. at last tim said, “Well, i think we’ll need to tell everyone that you’re stepping down in September.”

the rush of relief, that tearful gratitude i felt in that moment. it was like, “yes, finally. i’ve been heard. i’ve wanted this for so long.”

and so, after sitting on it for several days, and thinking through some logistics and getting some counsel… today we told our team our decision. we explained what that will look like, what it will and will not mean. i got a little tearful. i had to fight back feelings that i was abandoning people or making their lives more difficult by stepping down. but that peace about the rightness of it didn’t waver. i headed home after that morning meeting of catching up with my SBR family, officially released and blessed by them.

i know there might be a little span of time here where i’ll be like a turtle pulling its neck deep inside its shell, preferring total retreat from the things that have worn it out or frightened it. but i also know that Father has deposited in me a love for His kingdom, a concern for the poor, and a desire to life my life according to His purposes, even if it seems radical. so though i don’t feel very in touch with those roots right now, I’m trusting Him to draw me back out of my shell in the right timing, perhaps in new ways this time, but with great joy and in a manner that brings much praise to His name.

meantime, tim is carrying on. he’s still sure of it. for him the scale still tips in favor of joy. he’ll work harder now, since the position we once shared will now be entirely his. but he’s up for it. i praise God for that.

here is some of what is rising in my heart in the wake of finally surrendering to that inclination to step back:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.

His peace rests on my spirit today.

Hazel is napping now, and i’ve got a meal to clean up after and some things to put away. there are some errands to run later this afternoon, then my friend’s daughter’s 1st birthday to attend (and a dish to prepare and bring along). and all of these simple things are work enough. i’m going to go do them with joy and purpose.

afternoon napping (and an announcement)

i’ve taken to afternoon napping. when hazel goes down, i start a load of laundry, then climb into bed with a book, reading until my eyelids get droopy and i can easily submit to the sleep i’ve been yearning for all day up until that point. it’s difficult to choose to sleep, rather than to push through the fatigue and get to the extensive list of household and work-related tasks i could be (should be?) doing.

i’m not naturally a napper. i tend to judge napping as lazy and unproductive. i tend to feel a little emotionally icky upon rising from a nap, taking up to an hour to bounce back. so i avoid naps.

why then does a nap-avoider choose to take up an afternoon napping habit?

friends, there is only two reasons i  nap: vacation or pregnancy.

i’m not on vacation, so…

🙂

here’s the story:

baby collier #2 is on the way! today i am 12 weeks along. (s)he will make an appearance on the tail end of winter, sometime in early march. (s)he will be born at home, just like his/her sister hazel was.

we’re so pleased, so excited to welcome another little into our family. this babe and hazel will be 21 months apart, which feels just about perfect to me.

and now i have to tell you a little story about the conception of this little one. (no, it won’t be graphic, i promise!)

you see, i wanted to be pregnant again way back in november. i was praying about it, trying to quiet my own desires long enough to hear God’s voice. and amongst the things that i heard were: “stop trying” and “june”. the first word seemed odd since we were NOT trying (tim didn’t feel ready). the second word was a little disappointing to me because it was so much further off than i hoped.

and so i began to question that maybe that wasn’t really God. and my impatient heart didn’t heed the counsel to stop trying. in fact, in february we started trying. i charted my cycles and we took advantage of the peak windows of fertility. and each of the three months that we tried, i thought we nailed it and i’d surely get a positive pregnancy test. nope. in spite of doing everything right, no positive pregnancy test.

in june, i told tim i wanted to be more casual about it. i wasn’t going to chart, i wasn’t going to get obsessively focused on it as i had the previous months. i didn’t want to work so hard to make it happen, because then it would feel especially disheartening if it didn’t. additionally, i wanted to honor that word of “stop trying” in my heart. in june we went on a couple of trips. we enjoyed them, fully present, not preoccupied with attempting pregnancy. and in june – the month Papa had told me way back in november — this baby was conceived.

i tell you this just to testify to the fact that He is faithful to His word even when we’re faithless. if He speaks to you, trust it (note to self for future situations).

so, that’s that. i’ll post a belly photo when i have a belly worth photographing… or when i get around to it. 🙂

13 (this man)

13 (this man)

11 (this man)

this is supposed to be “our” blog, but honestly i’m the one who writes almost all of the posts. so you don’t really get to hear that much about the other half of my marital union. 🙂

but he’s great. and i wanted to write a touch about him here, so you can know what he’s up to.

he is in the thick of building a bike shop in our garage! he’s been gathering donated kids bikes, building tool boards and work benches, running electric out to the garage, putting on a new deadbolt, hanging the bikes so they’ll be organized, and getting help from generous donors to purchuse tool kids and bike stands. it’s incredible. he thinks they’ll be in business by early june when the neighborhood kids get out of school. he has a few volunteers to mentor the boys as they work on bikes. i’m proud of him for this project. it’s so wonderful.

and he’s doing all this boiler room work. it’s an apprenticeship of sorts, in which he’s walking really closely with tony in order to learn how to lead this thing like it’s a family, which it is. this work is fiercely relational, which is sometimes hard because it doesn’t always have immediate fruit that you can point to or statistics of salvations that you can generate. it’s a slow process of sowing and watering and waiting. then waiting some more. and he has the patience for it, is wired to operate in this way. what a pastoral heart he has.

on a more shallow note, i’ve been getting a kick out of his love for finding the latest and greatest apps for his ipod. most of them have something to do with productivity and workflow. seems like every two weeks he’s got another one he’s using and championing. i jokingly call him the “productivity app missionary.” but i appreciate his efforts to find ways to operate intentionally, mindfully, and proactively.

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