Some thanks to my brothers

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Over the last few years, God has had me on a fumbling journey into ministry, marriage, and motherhood. I don’t have a thing for the letter M, really, it’s just that these three words hold so much weight because they have been the avenues God has used to shape me the most.

When I walked onto my Bible college campus in Cincinnati, eager and ready to study the Bible, one of my first meetings was with my academic advisor, who was there to help me select courses based on my proposed ministry goals. I enthusiastically expressed my desire to serve in ministry of some kind, maybe student ministry, and he let me know that it might be best to consider going into children’s ministry since not many (if any) churches would ever hire women for positions in student ministry.

I was shocked. I had never heard of this. My home church had women who served in ministry roles of all kinds, and I didn’t know some people thought women couldn’t use their gifts to minister to others because of their gender.

So I switched my major to music ministry because I could carry a tune. Then I realized I couldn’t figure out how to read complex music to save my life, and after many hours of struggling just to turn on the software to help me study music, I had a come-to-Jesus moment in my dorm room at 1 a.m., realized this was not my thing, and changed my major to biblical studies and general ministry.

Then something incredible happened. During my junior year of college, I got a phone call from my (new) academic advisor that a church in North Carolina was looking for a student ministry intern, and specifically wanted to hire a female to help grow their ministry to teenage girls. I went to visit, accepted the internship, and spent my senior year of college in a beautiful, southern town learning how to work in a church and ministry setting. It was a hard, brave, and beautiful year.

By far, though, one of the things I cherish most about that year was how much my two supervisors poured into me. They saw something in me that I couldn’t see yet, and they called it out when I was too afraid to pursue it. “You’re made for ministry,” they said, “and you have a gift.” I have to tell you very honestly that this terrified me. For all the right reasons, and then a lot of paranoid, made-up ones. I had heard some unkind things about my gifts and my gender going hand-in-hand, and it made me, at a minimum, nervous.

Something started that year, though, that gave me confidence. My student minister from high school wrote me a letter, too—encouraging and challenging me to keep pursuing Jesus and His calling on my life. I started opening my eyes and looking for the ways my brothers were encouraging women to use their gifts, and to my surprise, I found many.

In To Kill a Mockingbird, there’s a scene where Judge Taylor acknowledges a request that women and children be removed from the courtroom. While he denies the request, he says, “People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.” And while I can tell you a lot of stories about the things that have been hard, I can tell you more stories about brothers who have encouraged me, who have gone before me, who have defended me, who have challenged and respected me.

Maybe my perspective has changed, or maybe I’m looking for something different these days. Regardless, today, on International Women’s Day, I want to honor and thank my brothers. Your support, encouragement, and affirmation of the women you know and work alongside means so much, more than you know. Your voice is a loud one in this conversation, and the words you use to affirm your sisters in Christ are heard clearly. We are grateful to you, for the ways you push and challenge us to grow and follow Jesus, first, and to use the gifts He has given not for our glory but the glory of God and good of humanity.

Thanks, first, to my dad, who always pushed me to think critically and deeply. Thank you to my husband, Kyle—you already know all the words I can hardly find to express my gratitude for you. And a big, long thanks to my brothers in Christ: Todd, Jeff, Jon, Shawn, Jamie, Nick, Danny, Aaron, Matt, Jake, Petie, Don, Greg, Jim, Neil, Eric, Jared, Anthony, Jay, Brian, Brett, Dan, Paul, Ron, Taylor, Ryan, Justin, John, Nate, Travis, David, Mike, Tyler, Nathan, Sean, and Josh.

To my sisters in the United States: let us remember to be so grateful that we live in a country where we have the freedom to vote, to use our gifts and voices, and receive an education. We live in a time where we don’t have to choose between gentleness and leadership, where we can seek both hospitality and knowledge of God—a world where we can nurture the children God gives us and do work we love and supports our families. Let us be so grateful, and let us not forget our sisters around the world who do not have the same. May we use our energies to fight on behalf of the voiceless.

Happy International Women’s Day, friends, and a special thanks to my brothers.

an update of sorts

Hi, friends.

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I didn’t intend on taking a 9-month hiatus from this space, but back in March I moved into a full-time role at our church as the content director (which I love), so our family moved some things off our plate while we made the transition together. This corner of the internet has been one of them.

It’s probably no secret to you at this point that for the majority of my pregnancy I was wrestling with a lot of big questions about motherhood, calling, and work. I was asking questions about what to do and what was right and what was wrong, as if there were clear answers. After a couple of years into parenthood, I slowly realized that there is no “right” way to do any of it and that every family makes decisions based on who they are and what their reality is. This has been incredibly freeing for me as I’ve stepped into a new season as a full-time working mom.

One thing a fuller schedule magnified, however, was the lovely and painful reminder of my limitations. I can usually do about three things well at a time, and if anything else gets on that plate, everything else suffers. So, right now, my focus is primarily on our family, our people, and my work. Other seasons will allow for other things, but right now, a simplified and full life is what I’m chasing after and resting in.
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seeking God over parenting theory

seeking God over parenting theory

Hi friends. I’m over at The Lookout Magazine today talking about how in the early days of parenting, I tried to be a perfect mom and then eventually began to rely on God instead. Here’s an excerpt:

I had a conversation with myself this morning, and it went like this: “My son’s 20-month appointment is coming up. I should probably research what vaccines he’s going to get, but I’m seeing Jayla today and I need to remember not to talk about it because she is very offended about vaccines. 

“I wonder if he’s getting enough nutrition. He didn’t eat fruit last week and has declared war on vegetables. Maybe he won’t grow this year. What if he doesn’t grow? Must remember not to ask Betty about it because she’s a vegan and would die if she knew my kid was on a steady diet of chicken and more chicken. 

“He didn’t sleep last night. I wonder if he’s teething. Must remember not to mention that to Susanne because she believes in the attachment theory and would shame me forever if she knew I didn’t go rock him back to sleep.” 

That sounds like a fun conversation to have with yourself at 6:30 a.m., right?

Read the rest here.

from the archives: granola & glasses of milk

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photo credit: The Siners Photography

When I was a new mom, my friends surprised me: they loved me in ways I didn’t know I needed. This is a post from the archives about what I learned about caring for friends going through postpartum after experiencing it myself. This conversation is by no means complete, so if you have anything to add–jump in the comments and let’s learn from each other.

Originally written May 13, 2013.

On a Tuesday afternoon, a week after Keegan was born, my phone rang. I recognized the area code, so I answered, hoping it would be someone with answers to something.

“Hello?”

“Hi, is this Anne Wilson?”

“Yes.”

“Hi, Anne! I’m one of the nurses from your hospital. I was just calling to check in and see how you and your baby are doing.”

“Ok.”

“So . . . how are you doing?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know? Honey, are you crying?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, sweetheart. It’s going to get better. I wouldn’t go back to the first few weeks with my first for anything. I know it’s so hard right now, but it does get better.”

When? When does it get better?”

I was standing in my kitchen, letting the tears flow into the sink with water running, hurling down handfuls of granola, forcing myself to eat something—anything—that resembled nourishment and substance. I was in full-on-ugly-cry-mode, the kind that makes everyone in the room uncomfortable, and all I could think was, “When will this baby sleep?” I was exhausted, nerve-wracked, and recovering from a serious surgery. All my hopes and dreams of childbirth, nursing, and motherhood seemed to be laughing back at me and the only word that came to mind when I looked into my son’s eyes was simply . . .

FAILURE.

Nothing was going as I planned. Nothing seemed to work. Where was this feeling of euphoric love mothers wrote about, spoke about, told stories about? I didn’t feel it; I could only think about sleep. And now that I know him, I so desperately wish I could go back to that time, stare that woman in the face, and say, “You can do this. All those people who say ‘it’s going to get better’? They’re not lying to you. It will.

A few friends have asked us since if there was anything that would have helped us through that time. And honestly, there isn’t. We just had to make it through. But, there are some words of wisdom I can share with those that are close to someone going through postpartum.

A few disclaimers: I am not a psychologist or a doctor. I write this purely as someone who’s been there, not an expert. Also, every woman is different. Some may snap out of it (like I did), and for some, it may linger for months, if not years. If you are close to a woman battling postpartum depression, be her advocate and delicately tell her if you think she may be suffering from depression. There is no shame in getting help.

1.    Love her well, and from a distance.
I don’t mean that you can’t go over to her house. I wanted to show Keegan off to the entire world. But try not overstay your welcome, as it can be very nerve-wracking for the new mother (and father). She’s just trying to keep her head on her body, and the added pressure of hosting a guest for a long period can be a little much.

2.    Be specific.
Most mothers I’ve talked to aren’t sure how to brush their teeth during the newborn fog. So when someone says, “Just let me know if I can help you!” it’s overwhelming and quite frankly, goes unnoticed. We know the intentions are genuine, but we don’t know what to say back. Instead, offer to do something very specific, like, “Can I come rock a screaming baby for you?” or, “Can I come do your laundry?” or, “Can I come clean your kitchen?” Then follow that with, “Give me a time and I’ll be there, no pressure to entertain me.” Then? Show up. One of my friends came over one morning, and after leaving her downstairs for five minutes, I came down to a clean kitchen and empty dishwasher. I could’ve cried. Another friend came one night while Keegan had been screaming 2+ hours and rocked him to sleep while we sat on the couch and stared at each other. Had we had the hydration necessary to produce real tears, Kyle and I both would have cried.

3.    Just go with it.
Your friend might not be recognizable to you for a month (or two, or three). Just go with it. You may go days (or weeks) without hearing back from her after you’ve texted or called. Choose not to be offended. Try to avoid comments (even joking) about how she’s “a little hormonal” or “going crazy.” She knows she’s not quite herself, and she wishes she was, and all she needs now is encouragement, love, and support. Save the jokes for a year from now. They’ll (most likely) be funny then. But not yet.

4.    Feed them.
During our first weekend home with Keegan, Kyle and I went an entire day without eating real food. No, we didn’t eat paper, but we chugged down glasses of milk as substitutes for food because we were that sleep-deprived. I was so grateful for all the people who brought us meals that took mere seconds to prepare. If I thought about it before, I would’ve drafted a letter to give each one of them about the meaning of food and how their gift was like a thousand birthdays. Because it was.

5.    Give the husband a big hug. And a cup of coffee.
I can’t speak to this because I’m not the husband, but from the wife’s perspective, I wish I could go back to that time and thank him so much more than I did. He did everything for us those first few weeks, and I didn’t have the energy to give him the thanks he deserved.

So there’s my non-professional input on how to help a friend who just brought a bundle of screaming love home from the hospital. She is going to be wearing different skin for a while, and that’s okay. Just go with it.

embracing the mundane

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset A few years ago, we were living pretty disconnected and frazzled lives. Kyle and I barely passed each other in and out the door each night, and we were beginning to deprive one another of companionship. When we had Keegan, we decided to make some significant changes in our family rhythms to create a slower life, and in doing so–we redefined the word “boring.”

I’m over at Today’s Christian Woman this week talking about how embracing the mundane has changed the rhythm of our family, and also my spiritual life. See the article here.

other heroes

Mommas who send your little people off to someone else while you work: I know the complicated feelings so well. If you’re anything like me, you feel a mixture of so many things when you drive away: guilt, shame, jealousy, pride, relief, and the list goes on. You possibly wonder if your child will grow up to resent you or love someone else more than you, and maybe—if you’re like me—you feel guilty for enjoying your quiet morning commute.

I want to pop in today for just a quick moment to say something to you, as a friend. I remember the first time Keegan ran to his babysitter instead of me. He saw her from across the room in a public space, and he started pointing to her, flinging his arms open to be held by her. I knew, of course, that this day was coming—and I had anticipated all kinds of guilty feelings for this day. But to my surprise, I was met with very different feelings–ones of peace, joy, contentment, and above all, gratitude.

Here's a picture of mine, by the way. He is loving his life.
Here’s a picture of my boy, by the way. Clearly loving his life.

Everyone wins when we allow other people into our kids’ lives. We win, and our children win. It’s okay that our kids have added heroes in their lives besides us; in fact, it’s good. Because no matter how many trusted adults we allow into their circles, we are the only ones who can be their moms.

So here’s my quick note to say: carry on, momma. Your little ones are having a blast. It’s okay if your little guy runs to someone else sometimes because no one can replace your role as his mom. We need other adults to love our children well in places we cannot, because we’re not perfect (or omnipotent)–and they need so much more than we can give. It’s really, truly good.

where else would I go?

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I feel like it is my duty to show you this picture.

I’ve been a journaler since I could write legibly, and I have the elementary pre-teen angst journals to prove it. They’re mostly filled with elaborate stories about boys I liked and American Girl dolls I wanted, but in between all the elementary crazy, there’s a question or two tucked in those pages about the meaning of life and spiritual curiosity. We grew up going to church on occasion, and we always showed up for the big holidays, Christmas and Easter. We dressed in our best, sang carols, and read the story of baby Jesus coming into the world as a yearly tradition.

Ever since I was a little kid, I loved learning about this big, infinite God who created everything there ever was. In my little eyes—I could never get enough of him. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to know God. I’ve been curious about what God had to do with the human existence, if anything at all. As a fourth grader, I can remember being up late at night wondering if life had meaning, if any of this was real, and if the way I saw the color red was the same way someone else saw the color red. I was a spunky, philosophical little thing, asking adults questions like, “Do you think God exists?” as icebreakers to conversation.

During my middle school years, a family friend invited some of us to attend church with them one weekend. I’d never heard of a “Christian” church before, and coming from a very mainline Protestant background–those evangelical-types always seemed a little funny to me. It was everything I didn’t recognize or understand; people were dressed in jeans and approaching God like a familiar friend instead of a frightening man in the sky. I envied the way they spoke of God, as if they are referring to someone they’d just been with that morning, and I wanted to know if I could have access to a God like that.

When the worship leader got up to lead us in music, everyone all around me started singing right out loud, which was startling at first. A few raised their hands, some sang while sitting, and a small crowd quietly hummed to themselves. Because I loved music, I sang along with them, and wondered if the God they were all singing to could hear me, too.

I don’t remember anything about the sermon that day, but I do recall picking up a Bible for myself that morning and reading it with my own eyes. The first thing I read was in Romans 10:11-13, “For the scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, who richly blesses all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” I couldn’t stop reading. I took a Bible home with me that morning and poured over its pages for the next several weeks.

I met Jesus that year.

I was in seventh grade, and seventh grade is a particularly cruel time in anyone’s life—much less a girl’s. Seventh grade was a hard year for me for all kinds of reasons, but mostly because in lots of ways, I felt like I was losing my sense of home. Although my parents tried their best to maintain stability through the divorce (and I can never thank them enough for that), there was an inevitable piece that always felt broken and torn, no matter how much we wanted to put it back together. I had two addresses instead of one, different closets, different school busses—all kinds of different, really, and I had the zits to prove it.

But there on that Sunday morning, Jesus became my home. And every time I come to write, I come back to that truth—that there in my awkward years of wearing leopard-print pants with clogs (true story), Jesus met me. It was a naïve and simple faith, but it was Jesus all the same.

I’ve grown since then. My understanding of who Jesus is has continued to change and evolve, my perspective of God is bigger and richer, and in many ways harder and more complex. I don’t believe there’s a simple answer to everything anymore and there are days I actually long for the simple faith of my youth. But even still–even in the midst of my existential wandering, questions, and doubts, every time I come back to the Word, he is there, reminding me. Jesus is my home.

As I prepare my heart for Advent this year, I’m reminded of the picture at the end of John 6 when Jesus is talking to his disciples. At that point, many of his followers had decided he was no longer worth following, and Jesus says to them, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?” And Peter replies, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.” I relate so much to Peter in this exchange–as I continue to grow and pursue God, I’ve watched people walk away from Jesus or just quietly drift into a faithless sleep. And I’ve drifted, too, of course–I’ve been in and out of a vibrant faith, sometimes even crawling my way back to trusting and believing God. But Peter’s words to Jesus touch me. When the uncertainty or pain of life feels like it might swallow me whole, I am just like Peter, saying, “Where else would I go, Lord? You are my home.”

During this Advent season, it has not escaped me that regardless of our circumstances, or no matter how far away God feels sometimes, he is not like our feelings. He is so much more, so much bigger. We can have as much of God as we want, and he withholds no good thing from us. 

My husband and son, reading Unwrapping The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp
My husband and son, reading Unwrapping The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp