He makes me lie down

How do I begin. How do I tell the world of our struggles in a way that doesn’t give the enemy unnecessary air time but instead points to the maker of heaven and earth. How do I bring to light things that are often hidden in the shadows of shame and publicly declare that our strength is found only in our great Redeemer and King? Ministry life often involves lines and appropriate boundaries but here, in a genuine effort for transparency, we will let the world in on the latest with our family in the hopes that it will help someone who is hurting and will bring glory to the only One who can heal.

In November of 2014, my pastor husband, my very best friend, had a nervous breakdown.

If you know anything about our life for the past few years, its not that unexpected. Four children in 40 months. Each child admitted to the hospital for weeks at a time for different medical issues. A very difficult twin pregnancy with mommy in the hospital for weeks with a placental abruption and preterm labor. Premature twin newborns, vacation time used to go to and from home and the NICU and, as one can imagine, very little sleep. Financial resources strained to provide for all the needs of a young family and 3 little’s in diapers. Postpartum anxiety disorder. A  necessary move. A devastating flood causing a temporary relocation. Uncooperative landlords. Another move. A ministry change. Changing the structure and leadership of our church. I could go on….

We have been in survival mode and everyone has a breaking point. For my darling energetic and happy husband, this was his.

After his breakdown he began to unravel the tapestry of anxiety and depression he had been struggling with. He sought prayer support and medical help. Both have been instrumental in his healing to this point. But he has a long way to go. So at the end of January our church did the most loving thing they could do for him, they made him take a leave of absence so he could get himself well. This is something his natural instincts would have not allowed him to do. They know him well and they care deeply about his health and spiritual well being. So they insisted. And we feel incredibly supported and loved. Hear me world – The church does get it wrong with pastors. But they can also get it so right!

So we began a journey towards wellness with no end date in mind. Counselling, prayer support and medical intervention have all been utilized. Rest. A vacation. Studying of the word. And time spent in quiet before the throne are all part of our plan. We have been so blessed by our elders, our fellow pastors, ministry and support staff and our congregation. Love has been heaped on us and we covet the intercession and prayers for healing, peace, restoration and joy.

My husband is a gifted preacher with a passion to bring the word of God to his audience in accessible language with a strong focus on exegesis. Preaching the word of God brings him joy. And the enemy is salivating at the chance to sideline someone who God has so immensely gifted at sharing the gospel. But where there is light, transparency and honesty there is nowhere for darkness to hide. So there is no need for our friends and family to wonder. No need for idle gossip, speculation and even well intended curiosity.

We are not jumping ship. We are not reevaluating our place of ministry or a life given to ministry. There is no interpersonal conflict. In fact we are so humbled to be carried to the foot of the cross by servant hearted leaders who have sat with us, cried with us and prayed for us. People who I have called when I needed help and literally dropped everything for me and my family. God is humbling me as a ministry wife. I am willing to wash the feet of the saints but how I arrogantly struggle to let them wash mine.

But here, in these days of hardship I have had no choice. God has made me lie down. He has made me rest. He has forced my husband and I to take a break and refocus on our love for Him alone. And He wants me to lie down in green pastures. He wants me to rest in goodness, in lush green grass. In a place of abundance and blessing. In a place of health and restoration. He knows I am incapable of choosing what is good.

So he makes me. He leads me to where I will find rest and healing. He bends my knees and draws me to Himself.

Psalm 23

A Psalm of David.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

No such thing as an ‘oops.’

***This blog entry was saved to my folder, ready to be published when I was announcing our third pregnancy. For whatever reason I was too exhausted to edit it and make sure it was ready to go. The irony is that a few weeks after writing this we learned that we were expecting baby #3 AND #4. I thought it was time to share what was going on in my mind the few days and week before we knew we were expecting our twins. And the obvious reason why I haven’t blogged in a while.

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Have you ever heard parents talking about their kids and refer to their third or fourth child as an ‘oops?’

“This is my son, the soccer star and my darling daughter the spelling bee champ. And *sigh* here is baby Henry. *whispers* He was an ‘oops.’ I told my husband it was time to make the appointment to finalize things but he didn’t listen….”

I don’t normally pay this sort of thing much attention. After all, these parents clearly love their children and are by no means intending to be malicious. Calling their baby an oops is just a cute way of saying that this was an unintended or unplanned pregnancy, right? Well it just took one conversation with a mom whose child had been called the ‘o’ word by others to learn otherwise. I won’t name her in this blog to respect her privacy but she did give me permission to use her story. I will call her Monica.

Much like myself, Monica struggled to conceive. But after years of miscarriages she was blessed with two daughters very close in age and a son about 4 years later. Though she had been given much she continued to prayerfully ask God that He would again bless her with a child if it was His will. She was getting older and she knew that with her history, this was medically at least, not likely. But she knew all things were possible with God and she trusted His will would be done. 4 years after the birth of her son she had another baby. Her friends chuckled when she told them she was expecting. “Hope the valentines day was worth it because you are going to be up to your elbows in diapers, AGAIN!” and from her family “you do know how you get that way, right?” She was shocked. These were fellow believers, those who know that children are a blessing from God, a cherished creation from a loving creator King. She was hurt but she kept it inside. That is until an older lady from her church noticed her struggling to wrangle all of her kids into her minivan one Sunday after service. Her ample baby bump was obvious and not at all intending to be cruel, the older lady said, “my, my! You should have been more careful. I got through my ‘oops,’ you will too.” Horrified and hormonal, Monica unloaded every hurt feeling she had. She knows her reaction was wrong and she has since apologized to the older lady.

But this story really made me think. It’s such a casual thing, to call a baby an ‘oops.’ If the kids are really close in age, we assume it wasn’t planned or wanted by the parents because who would choose that? Or when we see a significant age gap, the youngest must have been unintended, a night away from their preteens with a bottle of Merlot. So we call it an ‘oops,’ a kinder, gentler way of calling the child a mistake or an accident. We don’t mean any harm when we make the comment about ourselves or about someone else. But I think there is harm. I think we rob our creator of His deserving credit. Babies don’t just happen by chance. I learned the hard way that no matter how badly one wants a child, it’s not in our hands. Only God can give and take life and if we believe that, we believe that He is sovereign over all things then we have to trust that, even if the pregnancy was not in your plans, it was in Gods plans before the world began.

Our culture doesn’t revere children and parenthood the way scripture does. So the world is often hostile to children. Restaurants don’t want them, people on airplanes complain about them and you can rid yourself of your pregnancy if it’s not something you think fits into your plans. So I think the ‘oops’ terminology is a quiet creeping in of our societies disdain for what God created and called good. Very good. And I think that, as Christians, we should gouge out this way of thinking and refocus on Him.

So, why blog about this topic now? What spurred on this subject in my heart? Well, I am pretty sure it’s because I am announcing my pregnancy. When this baby is born, Lord willing, my oldest will be 3 and my middle child will be 20 months. And I will have a newborn. I am well aware that I will be busy (FYI, I am busy NOW!) and I know that my life will be a vaguely managed chaos. And though this pregnancy was unplanned by us, it was known by God from the beginning of time. And it has been the most incredible surprise and I am so excited. So this is fair warning, I don’t think it’s a good idea to call my baby an ‘oops.’ My God is sovereign over all things!!!