This post is part two of a longer family journey. Read part one here.
I feel sensitive to admit that through the beginning of this pregnancy, the beginning of the life of our third child, there were plenty of times people would congratulate us, and I would force a "Thank you, we are very excited." What I wanted to say was "Thank you, but I'm freaking out just a little bit here."
My inmost sense is that this pregnancy is God's doing (well, duh!). Really, we were probably in the clear (in a biology kind of sense) when this all, ahem, went down. But an unusually early ovulation, or (sorry) some sort of super human sperm (which Ray, of course, claims) and what do you know... BABY. That and I specifically felt God tell me "You're stuck with this one" (Maybe it was more gently put, but my state of mind and all...). In fact, I felt that message so clearly that I haven't fretted miscarriage during this pregnancy at all--what-so-ever--like I had with my last two.
You're stuck with this one. Meaning, our baby is here to stay. Meaning, if anyone was ever meant to live on this earth, this child was. Meaning, it is time to work through your feelings about adding another child to the bunch, because it's coming. In 9 months, he (or she!) will be here.
So, we've been working on those feelings. Specifically, we've been working on creating space--physical, mental, emotional--for this baby.
First, we have to literally create room in our 800 square feet of living space. We've taken some steps toward this. God provided a roll top desk for us so we can have our "office" downstairs in the main living area. All we have to do is shut the top to make things feel tidy (or keep the kids out). We downsized our dining area with a breakfast nook table with benches instead of chairs that will seat a family of five, plus a guest or two. We are looking and praying for a bed with a trundle for the boys. They are not old enough for bunks, but Calvin is ready to be out of the crib, and we cannot fit two twins in their room if we have a hope of preserving some play space (plus, we um need the crib coming up here).
So we are making physical space. It is a step. A start.
Next, is emotional and mental space. This is the toughest. In some ways we feel so stretched. How can we accommodate another child and all his (or her!) needs? These feelings came on strong as we weathered a tough first trimester with lots of nausea and sheer exhaustion, coupled with a long bout of Calvin waking several times a night. I was tired and discouraged. Ray was tired and annoyed. We realized that, even under the best circumstances, if we do not change some things in our lives we just cannot visualize a very healthy family-of-five kind of life several months from now.
This part takes us several months back, because honestly, it's been tough for a while. It's been busy. Ridiculously busy.
The reasons are simple, and we have all been there. It's over-commitment. Plain and simple. You know, all those things you get into because they are really good things, and they are important things, and for one reason or another you just think you need to do them all.
I felt God speak to me about trimming some of these good, wonderful things last fall. Specifically, to step down from running the children's program at our church. Now, as I said, often the things we are involved in that add up to our collective over involvement are good things. The children's program is a great thing. But then, so are many of the extra's that are adding up to too much. Something has to go. I agreed to do it (agreed with God, that is). Then, something unforseen happened: a couple involved with leadership moved on, and this did not click with my idea of the possible for me to then step down, so I did not. I thought, I need to hang in there for the church community. I can't quit now and leave everyone in the lurch. THAT would be selfish.
But, as we prepare for this baby, and go through some other things, I've begun to see that decision as the sin that it is. I thought at the time I was choosing for the good of the community. That I was playing my part. Now I am beginning to wonder about that. It was a selfish sacrifice at I time I was already feeling overburdened. As it turns out, self-righteousness tends to lead to bitterness.
Now, I will staunchly argue that Christians were not meant to walk this walk alone. We were created to live in community with one another. We are instructed to be the body of Christ collectively. If you have ever actually lived in community and honestly felt you were really a part of a larger body of people, then you know at times you need to make choices that are group-centered and not self-centered. Everybody has a part to play, and it takes work. Certainly there is a fine line between self-sacrifice for the body, and personal obedience to the LORD. So, where is that line?
What I am beginning to consider that I had not before is that surely our Father in Heaven, who loves us each so dearly and who loves the collective body of believers so passionately, would not instruct us individually to make decisions that would hurt the body. (right?) He would not lead us to hurt our communities of fellow believers in which we find fellowship, in which we worship collectively, in which we bond together to serve and minister. But sometimes we are instructed by Christ to move on, to step down, to refit ourselves. How does it all work out for good then?
I've only been able to see this in retrospect. After months of soldering on in ministry I have come to a point where I am of no benefit to the church. Sure, the younger children have a dependable nursery program, but at the expense of one woman becoming so fragile that she cannot bear to say 'yes' to any new opportunity for her family. She cannot fathom the joy of new life on the horizon in light of her present state of being. She is so tired. (And so cranky, and 'naggy'. To be honest.)
Of course, there is no going back. It is impossible to see what vitality and possibility could have come from following God's instruction at the outset, even though I selfishly assumed at the time that to do so would have brought undue burden to my friends in ministry. But I suspect if only to follow Christ's lead would have brought fruit instead of brokenness. For me personally, my family, and in ways I don't understand, but trust, the church body.
Now, God has a way of giving us paths of redemption, doesn't he? This little baby is quite the catalyst. I certainly realized in the early months of pregnancy that we were going to need to cut back. To readjust. I did not realize I would learn so much about obedience and just how relieving it is to follow and obey. I did not know I would have the chance to redeem what I had lost through my early self reliance.
So, as you might have guessed, the 'Cut Backs' have started. And, to my utter surprise I feel impossible peace as I take responsibility to obey to what God calls me. This must be what it means to "surrender" to Christ. To obey when he leads, though the way does not make sense to our rational mind. But, the peace that follows the smallest step toward Christ is--well, it's practically a rush.
More to come. This is getting long, eh?