The end of our time in Norfolk wasn’t pretty (aside from developing an incredible relationship with our temporary roommates). It was hot. I was running to the bathroom freakishly often to throw up. Everything smelled bad. I was so tired. My body hurt. I could barely keep my eyes open, yet I was in charge of a small person while making another small human. Everything felt overwhelming. Life was moving too fast; I was displaced, I had limited days left in a place that I loved and with the deep friendships I had. I was headed into something completely unknown, trusting the Lord to provide ALL of our salary instead of just a portion of it. I was giving up the house that I adored to occupy a two-bedroom apartment. I barely saw my husband between his late night study hours and my all day puking.
I was leaving what I knew (a house, friends, an awesome city, a great small group) to head into a job where I perform the best when I’m all around healthy; spiritually, physically and mentally. I felt the least healthy I had in awhile. I felt completely unequipped and not ready, yet the only thing that brought peace is that the decision to move across the state felt like a divinely inspired one. It was one not made lightly, knowing all the hardship, but made after a lot of prayer, an inspiring sermon and a napkin that listed out our “fears and motivations” for either choice.
Making decisions was never my strong suit, and it really still isn’t. I’m all heart and not a lot of head when it comes to thinking through things (unless it’s comparing and contrasting the best pots and pans to buy off of Amazon). I’m a bleeding heart, I wear emotions on my sleeve. I love whimsy and spontaneity at my core (motherhood is rewriting that part of me). That doesn’t quite make for the best decision making. Praise the Lord that He led me to marry a man who is not like me in that way, he keeps me grounded. With my whimsy and his analytics – we arrived at the conclusion that this decision was the right and best thing for where we were in our walk through ministry and where we were with his seminary (he only had to travel 3 hours from Blacksburg while it took him closer to 7 or 8 from Norfolk).
We were just kids when we started ministering to college students at ODU. All we had was A LOT of heart and some experience through just participating in ministry as college students ourselves. We still are just kids in a lot of ways, but we started our ministry careers with no formal training or education and at the ripe young ages of twenty-three and twenty-four… barely older than the oldest students. We entered into the mess of life with a group of people who went to school at ODU and shepherded them through life the best that we knew how. It wasn’t always pretty, but it was good. At ODU, we found a job that we have slowly realized that we feel called to; the process of growing people in their faith and teaching them to be more like Jesus while sharing that same faith with others. However, part of our decision to go to Blacksburg was that we wanted a mentor, someone with lots of experience that could teach us, because we wanted to be able to serve well for as long as we can. I’ll always be thankful and treasure our time at ODU, but it was clear we could benefit from more training to serve well.
I share all of this because thinking back to that summer, I would have said that those were days that I felt completely empty. I felt like there was nothing that I really put my hope in anymore. I wasn’t really looking forward to moving, my marriage was just kind of in the background while we were trying to maintain everything else. Noah wouldn’t sleep well in a new place, and I was desperately just trying to get him through the hard time of transition. My business led me to a place of deep envy and struggle, never feeling good enough to make the money I needed to make this job a career long term. I didn’t have a place to be, or call my home. I had to say goodbye to the people that I loved most.
I was empty. I was a huge mess. I was puking non-stop. And my brain was full of so many thoughts, and so few of them centered on the Lord.
However, looking back, I’m convinced that God used that time to set me back up for something beautiful. Isn’t that that often when we’re at our lowest that the Lord breaks right back in? All of the sudden, I realized that I was filling up on things that weren’t Him. I also know that all things BUT God will come to pass. All things will disappoint if our hope is anywhere else. If there is anything that is the theme of my life so far… it’s that.
Nothing will satisfy. Whether the ultimate thing for you is marriage, kids, a house, a car, money, health, a great body, a nice wardrobe, traveling, etc. It all goes away.
Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Only when we find our spirit in the poorest of places, can we truly find the treasure of the kingdom of heaven: where the least are the greatest, where people are healed and born again, where we find our necessities provided for us day-by-day, where our souls are quenched with living water, where reconciliation and redemption are common themes in life and friendships, etc.
I left my friend a message once I moved to Blacksburg, trying to share with her the newfound spiritual life that had come. I finally had mental space to meditate on what the Lord was doing. I read a book about prayer. I prayed. I confronted my envy, my selfishness, my extreme self-centeredness. I broke free from obsessing about a community of photographers and wedding vendors liking me. I broke free from the pressure of trying to make my business be my sole income provider, thus breaking me free of the bondage that enslaved me to work on it 24/7. I read my Bible. The joy of salvation was made new to me, once again.
At first, I wondered if my spiritual growth came from superficially just being in the same place that it started in the first place. Meditating on it now, one year later, I realize it has nothing to do with Blacksburg, and everything to do with the process of getting here. Giving up all the things that I had put my hope in, all the temporary things that will come to pass and re-rooting it in Christ alone and making my spiritual life my priority.
This past year has been a tough one, but it’s been full of redemption, rebuilding and renewal.
I don’t claim to be in the best place now. I’m still trying to figure out motherhood when I’m in charge of two small people and their well-being. I still struggle with a desire to be in control of everything. A lot of days, I don’t shower or pick up my bible. There are really hard days. There are days where I feel like no one sees me or the things that I’m doing, or even cares. Motherhood can often be a thankless task.
However… even feeling like motherhood can be thankless – once rooted in Christ – it becomes a way to know Christ all the more; to know Him through serving others, through sacrificing my self and my wants and needs. If I would have tackled this season of motherhood without Christ, I would be lost.
Praise be to God for using the hardest things in life to create more room in us for more of Him. May my prayer, and your prayer be this for the end of our days:
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death
Image courtesy of Silver Pebble Photography