on working and prayer and motherhood
I did not grow up saying, "I can't wait to be a mom and a wife!" I always assumed I would be, but I wasn't That Girl who just thought about it all the time and longed for that role more than any other. To be sure, there actually wasn't anything that I thought about all the time and longed for. It sounds so dreadful to say it, especially in our go-getter culture, but I didn't actually have a dream. Ah! I know. I did not Dream Big Dreams and have plans to Make Things Happen. I thought maybe I'd make a good teacher, since I liked writing so much and so I studied education for a while in college. But then I did an internship in a 7th grade class at a school near a military base and hated every minute of it. Then I thought I'd like to interpret for the deaf, but the program required "contact hours" and my insecurity + introversion compelled me to avoid that. I ended up majoring in English Literature, because I love reading and writing and poetry and the closest thing I had to a dream at that point was to write...something. Anything.
I held an assortment of jobs between the ages of 16 and 28, including but not limited to: preschool worker, Navy contractor, retail (clothes), retail (books), kid's ministry intern, discipleship counselor, Language Arts instructor, even a brief stint at a construction company which could not have been a worse fit. For the first few years of our marriage, my husband and I collectively and simultaneously held FIVE not-quite-full-time jobs and I was probably technically the "main" breadwinner. [Though let's be real: this is a team effort, our marriage. We both bring everything we can and should to the table and we work together, with love and mutual submission, to steward what God is providing through the work of our hands.]
A year into our infertility journey, the hubs and I moved to a new town. We were both looking for work and after a harrowing experience, the details of which I shall spare you, he became gainfully employed and I did not. In fact, not only was I not gainfully employed, the Lord specifically instructed me to be a stay at home wife.
What. on. earth.
It was so disorienting.
I was starting my first round of treatments to help me sustain a pregnancy, we were applying for a church planting apprenticeship, we were in a new town, at a new church...and God told me to be still. To not work, in the way I was used to working for over a decade. I suddenly was painfully aware that even though none of my jobs to that point had been an inspiration or fulfillment, I'd certainly found some sense of pride and accomplishment in gainful employment. It is a good thing to work and to work hard. I was unfamiliar with this new territory.
To be clear: the husband did not get some killer corporate job that allowed us the luxuries I'm most certain you might imagine since I've now said the words "stay at home wife". We were saddled with medical debt, plus some school loans. We were living in a smallish apartment, saving and giving and planning (hoping) that the fertility treatments would work, so we were prepping our home and hearts for a baby. I was much healthier then, spending lots of time outdoors exercising and creating super clean eats for the man. So let's make sure you understand that I was not sitting by the pool eating bon-bons and having weekly pedicures. [I might have sat by the pool a lot, though, thankyouJesusforthatpool.] But of course there were days when I thought, "What am I doing? I don't know what else to clean and organize. I can't possibly clip another coupon. Our checkbook is balanced. Our bills are paid. The oil in the car is checked. Why am I at home? Why can I not have a job?"
In August of that year, when I started the meds, I heard most clearly from the Lord: your job is to pray.
And so I did.
For nine months (yes, that is exactly as significant as you think it is), I was a stay at home wife whose main job was to pray.
It was an unspeakable gift.
Women who birth babies spend nine months growing them and suffering the aches and pains and nausea accompanied with sustaining new life. They pray and maybe journal and wait with anticipation. Then they labor and groan and bleed and strain to deliver tiny persons into the world. And in the same nine months that my daughter's precious birth mother was doing the aching and growing of our little girl, I was doing the sustaining work of the heart: I was praying. God gave me the precious treasure of spending hours of time with Him every day. This is not a boast and I certainly did not do it perfectly. There were days when I would curl up on the couch and the Spirit of God would hover and there would be power in the silence and I would hit the floor, my face to the ground. There were days it was a discipline to read the Scriptures and to search for His words for me and for others. And there were days when I sat down, numb to the voice of Love and aching in the waiting and wondering. I did not know, as I labored and groaned in prayer, that my very own daughter's life was being sustained and grown by her birth mother.
I spent nine months employed in prayer.
When our daughter arrived, I did not resign from this work (of course), but the Lord's sweet gift to me was this: as I became a mother, I began to realize a fulfillment from the work of my hands that I never thought possible. I labored in prayer and intercession as we waited on her. And when she came home, I labored to learn her rhythms and how to care for her and sustain her. I labored in prayer for her birth parents and the pain they must have borne in choosing adoption. I labored over bottles and diapers and sleepless nights and teething and allergies and all of the things a woman labors over when a new baby arrives. And the work of being a mother became real.
I had never only wanted to be a stay at home mom. I thought "maybe there is more" or "maybe I want more" than JUST being home with my child. But three years in, I am certain that aside from the powerful nine months of the work of prayer, there has never been a job that inspires, challenges, exhausts, intrigues, commends, empowers, and fulfills me the way being this Beastie's mother does.
I delight in this little woman.
Her language development is astonishing to me. "Mom. Hold my neckwace - I have to SWORD FIGHT."
Her thought processes and question-asking are marvelous. "Mom, is this ruined?! Oh, no. It's a 'bisaster'. I'm very, very sad!""Mommy, what does yis do? Yet's uh-vestigate!"
I thrill as she discovers new interests and when she enjoys things. "Mom, come to my book cwub and read wif me!" "Yet's go home and MAKE A CWAFT PWOJECT!"
No, I was not the girl who just couldn't wait to be a mom. And after five years of marriage and two years of waiting, I worked through my "prayer pregnancy" with at-times despair, at-times hope. But as I have become a mother, I am certain - certain - that this is the work of the Lord for me. And while I am oh-so satisfied by the work of motherhood, I am learning in this new season how not to neglect the ongoing work of prayer. That Beastie girl was and is the answer to so many prayers - but she is not the satisfaction of my heart. Christ Jesus alone is the fulfillment and satisfaction of my heart. I learn daily, through the successes and failures of the minutiae, how to surrender and commune with the Lord in new ways. I no longer receive the gift of HOURS of quiet at a time, to pray and read and study.
But in the morning, when she and Little Bit (our foster daughter) begin wailing...Thank you, Lord, for lungs that breathe and girls that are healthy...
When we are filling plates and cups and bellies in the kitchen...God, praise You for filling our bodies with good things to eat - we remember and pray for women and children who are not being fed this morning...
When there are tantrums and sickness and disobedience...Father, thank you for being the Tender and Perfect Parent for all of us - give me the grace and wisdom I need to parent well and to love extravagantly and to discipline tenderly...
The work of prayer and the work of motherhood are powerful. Let it be known that I do not look with remorse on any of the years of waiting and I do not look on these days with guilt or frustration at the "lack" of quiet... The God and Father of my Savior Jesus Christ provides abundantly for my heart as I do the work of faith in parenting these girls. I am grateful for my "prayer pregnancy" and I am grateful for the waiting...and I am grateful for what He is doing now, in the bustle and excitement of raising little women to love each other, to act justly towards others, to love mercy and to walk humbly with their God.