i work in threes

A few years ago, a bright-eyed, blonde girl with the last name “Durham” decided it’d be a really clever idea to get married, move cities, and graduate from college all within three weeks. Everyone looked at her like she was insane. And she was.

Almost four years later, that same girl was confronted with having her first baby, raising said baby, and leaving one job and starting another (which also meant changing churches) all within three months.

Okay, I can’t write in third person anymore.

Seriously, life kicked our butt in April. But all I can say is I truly have never been more grateful (and excited) for any season of life. We love getting to know this little guy, and I am stupefyingly blessed for this new adventure as a writer. Oh, don’t worry–I have frequent moments where panic ensues and I think, “Am I cut out for this?” But then I pause, breathe, and remember to release control. I choose to show up and believe that God will equip me for the place He has brought me.

We’re thankful. And tired. So I ask you to bear with us, again, as blogging may be on the sporadic (and random) side of life over the next month or so.

Until then, here’s a picture to hold you over.

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transitions

It’s been a life-changing 9 weeks. We feel so blessed and honored that God gave us the gift of being parents to Keegan. Let’s be real, it’s also been hard. There have been a lot of late nights, early mornings, and days I’ve gone without brushing my teeth.

When we found out we were pregnant, we immediately began praying that God would guide us as we made decisions for how to parent Keegan. In 2 Chronicles 20, there’s a story about young Jehosaphat defeating Moab and Ammon. I am not comparing our journey into parenthood to the battle Jehosaphat faced (although . . . just kidding), but I do resonate with his plea and crying out to God. When he found out that an army was attacking him, Scripture says that Jehosaphat was afraid, so he “set his face to seek the Lord.” He then called everyone together to seek help from the Lord, and they came from every town in Judah to seek him.

Scripture paints us a picture of Jehosaphat trusting and proclaiming God’s providence–that He was maker and ruler of all and that although he was afraid, and he did not know what to do, his eyes were focused on God.

I made a little bookmark with this very phrase, and placed it in every book I devoured over the course of pregnancy:

“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

I am the kind of person that invests wholeheartedly in everything I do. I fail, a lot. But I try to invest wholeheartedly in my relationship with Jesus, my marriage, and my role as a youth pastor. When I became a mom, I quickly realized that the wholehearted way of life poured into motherhood, and that another role was added to the mix.

I am a child of God first. That has always been the case.

But now I am a mother, and it has changed everything.

And so, I asked God to make clear to me what I should do . . . if I could still be a youth pastor and a mom, if I could still do everything I did before with this new little person in our lives. Through it all, I felt overwhelmingly peaceful that He was going to give an answer, I just had no idea what it would be. Could I do this part-time? Should I go back full-time? Should I stay home with Keegan? Ultimately, we decided that I couldn’t come back as a full-time youth pastor.

I knew I couldn’t come back for one, big reason: I would be of no good to anyone. I wouldn’t serve Chapel Rock well, I wouldn’t serve students well, and I wouldn’t serve my family well. I don’t want to be a frazzled mess every Sunday, biting people’s heads off because I only slept two hours the night before. And I certainly don’t want to be a frazzled mess to my family, coming home exhausted and then only giving Keegan leftovers. He deserves more than that. Kyle does, too.

We prayed and waited patiently, as well as pouring ourselves into the word of God more than ever. From the first day I committed my life to ministry, I never expected that part of the story would be a ministry of motherhood. I guessed I would be a mother, sure. But I didn’t realize that motherhood would be a ministry.

I asked God to give me an opportunity to serve the Kingdom and be a mom. I didn’t know how that could work, but I prayed for it anyway.

He gave it.

In two weeks, I will start my new role at Traders Point Christian Church as a part-time writer for their Communications team. I will get to work from home a majority of the week, be a mom to Keegan, and give to the local church in a way that uses my gifts and passions. We are excited for this new season ahead of us, but it also means that we will be leaving Chapel Rock, and so we leave with conflicted emotions of gratitude and sadness.

To Chapel Rock: you have been all we have known as a married couple. I became “Anne Wilson” here. I learned to love people better because of mistakes I made here (I made many). You all listened to terrible sermons and made me a better communicator with your sleepy eyes. You pushed me to serve people in deeper ways because of the ways I have watched you serve others. We are sad to see this season end. But we’re not moving. We still very much hope to be a part of your lives, just in a different way. We won’t be at Chapel Rock anymore, but we will still be in Sunningdale. Thank you for all that you have given Kyle and me. We follow Jesus more deeply because of you.

i forgot to brush my teeth

It was four in the afternoon, and suddenly it dawned on me:

I haven’t brushed my teeth today.

“There is nothing that brings you face-to-face with your own selfishness more than parenthood,” Amanda said sympathetically. “I never knew just how selfish I was until there was a little person that constantly needed me.”

Amanda wasn’t the only one that lovingly warned me about the soul-refining process of parenthood. Everyone tried. But there’s no context for understanding just how much, in the most beautiful and bittersweet way, parenting takes the life right out of you.

About a month ago, when Keegan was almost three weeks old, we took a Saturday trip to Trader Joe’s. Keegan was asleep, I needed to leave the dungeon formerly known as our home, and Kyle–well, I think he just needed to see daylight. As soon as we pulled up, Keegan started fussing, so Kyle motioned for me to go on in, solo, while he stayed in the car with the boy. I wandered around the aisles, with lots of phrases popping up above my head…

So this is what society is like…

Am I drunk?

Did I even make a grocery list?

I wonder if I’ll have time to eat that.

Is this a banana?

Am I dreaming or is this real life?

The sleep-deprivation was insurmountable at that point, and if anyone contacted me in those first three weeks, well, I’m sorry. There’s no excuse other than I didn’t know my name most days, and the physical recovery of a major surgery + a newborn that wouldn’t eat was, well, a lot tad overwhelming. Looking back, it’s actually pretty funny. I am positive the people who passed me in the fruit section were questioning whether I was sober/alive/not homeless.

Some women waltz into parenthood, singing lullabies to their sleeping angel and asking themselves how life ever existed before him. If you are this mother, you are going to want to stop reading now. (I am so happy for you, by the way, I just know you’re probably not going to like this next part.) Will you allow me some space to be this honest? That was not me. I wish it was. Don’t get me wrong: I instantly loved Keegan. I constantly just stared at him, morning and night, putting my hand on his chest to feel him breathe.

But I also cried. Every day. Every hour. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I didn’t recognize myself. The baby blues were no stinking joke. I’m pretty sure hormones were flying out of our windows.

And then one morning, like the spring that should have arrived a few weeks ago, I woke up and said I can do this. God has equipped me to do this. I am woman, hear me mother. While feeding him that afternoon, I said aloud to my son, “Keegan, buddy, we’re going to make it.” Amanda was right; there’s nothing like it. Parenting is painfully, unpredictably beautiful. So I told him that day how hard this had been, how sorry I was for not being fully present just yet, and how much his little face made my heart swell up to the size of a hot-air balloon.

Then I went and brushed my teeth.

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Photo credit to Nathan & Ashley Siner Photography & Design (www.thesiners.com).
Like them on Facebook here: www.facebook.com/nathanandashleysinerphotographyanddesign

longing and begging

It’s December 17th, we are right in the season of Advent, and I can’t recall a time I have longed for Jesus so badly.
This week has been nothing short of longing.
Longing for hope, peace, and anything that remotely resembles joy.

And this is just my little life.

One of my friends had her heart ripped out of her chest on Tuesday morning, discovering that the little boy she thought was going to be hers was in fact not anymore. They call it adoption reversal, which sounds like a cold way of saying, “You can’t have your baby anymore.” Her and her husband are now grieving parents, with nothing to show for it except empty hearts, pockets, and bedrooms.

That same morning, my other dear friend told me she and her husband went into hear the heartbeat for the first time of her precious 12-week-old, and the nurses “found nothing.” And used the cold, non-empathetic words, “this is not a viable pregnancy.” I don’t know who invented that phrase, but they should probably redo that year of their life. I can’t imagine a more lifeless phrase when telling a woman who dreams of being a mother that she is, in fact, not.

On Tuesday afternoon, one of my family members suffered from a mild stroke, which leads to lots of challenging conversations and rearrangements as they navigate what to do in this next very unknown phase of life.

Again, this is my little life.
I know suffering is everywhere.
I’m not blind to it.

I read the prayer requests every Tuesday afternoon in our staff meeting . . . heartbreak after heartbreak, loss after loss, and sometimes my heart gets so swollen I cry right there, in a conference room with gray walls and business suits.

And again, this is only my little corner, with the faces I know and love.
I know it’s everywhere.

On Friday afternoon, I got a text from my husband that said, “Try not to saturate yourself with the media coverage of this.” Of what!? I immediately turned on the news, ignoring his caring request, to find the horror that the rest of you saw and for a minute I said right out loud, in the stillness of my living room, “What in the world is going on?”

All of this coupled with joy–visiting with friends late Sunday evening, eating cinnamon popcorn, laughing about nothing and then eating some more. Listening to my sweet baby’s heartbeat today at the doctor’s office, and hearing, “You and the baby are getting along perfectly,” as I breathe relief because let’s face it, this seems like the week people are supposed to get bad news.

I’ve read Brene Brown‘s wise words about not selectively numbing emotion, about how you can’t numb pain without also getting rid of joy . . . and so I have fully embraced the pain that surrounds me, knowing that without it I cannot receive full joy.

But I confess that I long for Christ in a way I never have before. I long for Him to heal my friends, heal these hearts, and to bind up wounds. I long for Him to bring about restoration in the midst of darkness, and then I stop right where I’m sitting because I remember . . .

He came into darkness.

He was not surrounded by a world full of rainbows, unicorns, and butterflies. He was born right into a dark, unknown world, full of uncertainty and hatred, and yet He was called the Prince of Peace.

And this year, I long for Him.

I long for Him to hold my friends that sit with an empty nursery, to hold their hearts tightly and whisper into their pain and hear their angry questions. I long for Him to heal my sweet friend and her husband, whose entire paradigm of life is now something I cannot imagine, fathom, or begin to understand.

I long for Him to usher in peace to the little corners of our worlds, in the brokenhearted places we dare not say aloud. And during this season of Advent, I am not ashamed in my questioning, no–begging.

Christ, I beg of you to come close.

We beg you to be close to us.

because i can’t count on my hands

I knew once we announced our pregnancy, the questions would come like raging rabbits in search of a garden.

“How long are you going to breastfeed?”

“Are you going to get an epidural?”

“Have you started shopping for maternity clothes yet?”

“Are you going to find out the gender of the baby?”

Contrary to what the tone may imply, I enjoy questions because questions urge dialogue. I get to hear people’s stories, what their personal experience has been, and what they wish they would’ve known or done differently. So in this way, questions are good for me, because they force and encourage me to think and listen.

On the other hand, the questions can also be intimidating and anxiety-ridden. And the one that has ignited the most anxiety has been:

“What are you going to do about work? And daycare?” 

This question implies, of course, that I am going to continue working full-time, and that my child will inevitably be in daycare. This is a fair question, as I have never really spoken about dreams of being a stay-at-home mother. I read an article recently about Yahoo!’s CEO who planned on going back to work within weeks of labor and delivery. Then I read another one about a woman dealing with similar questions and issues, taking a less-demanding job so she can be with her family more. It’s a discussion that isn’t short of opinion or experience, and for me, it’s one I don’t take lightly, and feel too conflicted about to jot off a simple, “a + b = c.”

But our short answer is: we really don’t know. 

In our short 14 weeks of pregnancy, we have talked about every option, envisioned (and budgeted) each scenario. We’ve asked people we respect and admire the decisions they made, why they made them, and what they would do differently if they could. All had different answers, but very similar theme: do what fits your family.

This conversation is loaded with theory, identity, family, sacrifice, etc. No decision comes without significant loss and gain. So I ask, in the midst of our wandering, that you be gracious to us. We are trying to figure it out. We don’t know. We are full of lots of questions and very few answers. And we are settling in being okay with that for the next six (or so) months. I find myself saying more times than I can count on my hands, much like Jehosophat in 2 Chronicles 20, “God, I don’t know what to do. But my eyes are on You.” And something tells me that’s kind of the theme in parenting.

we are not enough.

My husband is not enough.

My friends, nope, they are not enough.

My mother, she is not enough.

My father, he is not enough.

My brother, he is not enough.

My coworkers are not enough.

My students, daggonit, they are not enough.

None of us are enough.

We want people to be enough. We wear them out, force them into roles they were not meant to play, beg them to be playdough in our hands–shaping them into the exact people, leaders, spouses, friends we hope and dream them to become.

But, I am not enough. And I so desperately wish I was. I frantically run through life, hoping that everyone I meet will be amazed, “Wow, isn’t she marvelous?” And yet I continue to disappoint the people in my midst. I used to think the solution to this was to just be better, achieve more, impress higher, be stronger.

I am finding that real courage comes from saying, “You know what? I guess I am not enough. I have so much to learn. I suppose, no, I know I need other people. I cannot do this on my own. I am flawed. Deeply, deeply flawed. I know it; I embrace it, and know admitting it will be the only thing that frees me.”

This morning I have peace in knowing I am not enough. And neither are you. We’re not supposed to be.

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
2 “Who is this who darkens counsels
with words without knowledge?
3 Get ready for a difficult task like a man;
I will question you
and you will inform me!
4 “Where were you
when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you possess understanding!
5 Who set its measurements – if you know –
or who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its bases set,
or who laid its cornerstone –
7 when the morning stars sang in chorus,
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
8 “Who shut up the sea with doors
when it burst forth, coming out of the womb,
9 when I made the storm clouds its garment,
and thick darkness its swaddling band,
10 when I prescribed its limits,
and set in place its bolts and doors,
11 when I said, ‘To here you may comet
and no farther,
here your proud waves will be confined’?
12 Have you ever in your life commanded the morning,
or made the dawn know its place,
13 that it might seize the corners of the earth,
and shake the wicked out of it?
14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
its features are dyed like a garment.
15 Then from the wicked the light is withheld,
and the arm raised in violence is broken.
16 Have you gone to the springs that fill the sea,
or walked about in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you?
Have you seen the gates of deepest darkness?
18 Have you considered the vast expanses of the earth?
Tell me, if you know it all!
19 “In what direction does light reside,
and darkness, where is its place,
20 that you may take them to their borders
and perceive the pathways to their homes?
21 You know, for you were born before them;
and the number of your days is great!
22 Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
or seen the armory of the hail,
23 which I reserve for the time of trouble,
for the day of war and battle?
24 In what direction is lightning dispersed,
or the east winds scattered over the earth?
25 Who carves out a channel for the heavy rains,
and a path for the rumble of thunder,
26 to cause it to rain on an uninhabited land,
a desert where there are no human beings,
27 to satisfy a devastated and desolate land,
and to cause it to sprout with vegetation?
28 Does the rain have a father,
or who has fathered the drops of the dew?
29 From whose womb does the ice emerge,
and the frost from the sky, who gives birth to it,
30 when the waters become hard like stone,
when the surface of the deep is frozen solid?
31 Can you tie the bands of the Pleiades,
or release the cords of Orion?
32 Can you lead out
the constellations in their seasons,
or guide the Bear with its cubs
33 Do you know the laws of the heavens,
or can you set up their rule over the earth?
34 Can you raise your voice to the clouds
so that a flood of water covers you
35 Can you send out lightning bolts, and they go?
Will they say to you, ‘Here we are’?
36 Who has put wisdom in the heart,
or has imparted understanding to the mind?
37 Who by wisdom can count the clouds,
and who can tip over the water jars of heaven,
38 when the dust hardens into a mass,
and the clumps of earth stick together?
39 “Do you hunt prey for the lioness,
and satisfy the appetite of the lions,
40 when they crouch in their dens,
when they wait in ambush in the thicket?
41 Who prepares prey for the raven,
when its young cry out to God
and wander about for lack of food?
(Job 38:1-41 NET)

Thank you, Yahweh; You are enough.
I am sorry for expecting everyone else to be what is reserved for You alone.