For those who are unaware, my senior pastor has had to take a medical leave and we will be getting a part-time interim senior pastor beginning July 1. I continue to serve as interim pastor for the time being. Once July 1 hits, my pastoral responsibilities will decrease a bit, but I will continue to preach at least once a month and serve work with the new interim pastor to help him transition in and out within the next year. Lots of changes coming. Some I'm looking forward to, others I'm totally dreading. My heart is grieving many of those changes, but that's for another time, I suppose.
This past month off of school has been jam packed so far. I've traveled to Florida to spend time with my best friend, had a slew of doctors appointments that resulted in a minor surgery last week, my mom was in town for that, I took a weekend class, worked A LOT, and made some plans for the future. One of the things I'm most excited about this summer is that my nieces are coming out here to spend a month with me! I can't begin to express what a treat this is going to be, albeit stressful at times, I'm sure. They are absolutely precious to me and I really miss being a part of their daily lives. I'm so ready to share my life with them again... and the love of Jesus... and to get to know who they are for longer than a week. Between living in Africa and moving out here, I've missed a significant part of their childhood which makes me so sad. June and July are going to be an adventure, that's for sure.
So, that's the extreme abridged version of the last 5 months. But the real reason I finally sat down to write is because I want to share a piece of my heart. This makes me really vulnerable... but I've been learning through my graduate work that I tend to keep things very surface-level with most of the people in my life, so this is my attempt at slowly working on that.
I have always enjoyed infants... my whole life. There's not much better than holding a tiny, precious life in your arms. And babies love me. I've not met a baby I couldn't soothe and care for peacefully. It's always been a natural thing for me. From the time I was in college until about 5 or 6 years ago, I tried to convince myself (and everyone around me) that I didn't want kids. Watching so many of my friends and family get married and have children was extremely painful for me since that is my heart's deepest desire. I always felt like there was something wrong with me because that just wasn't happening for me, so to make myself feel better, I talked about not wanting kids and being glad that I was so free. Even within the last few years, I've talked over and over again about how little kids stress me out and how I can't stand the toddler phase. Deep down I knew I was lying, but it eased the pain and lessened my embarrassment to suppress that desire, to deny it.
A few months ago I was in an unexpected meeting with someone (who doesn't know me at all, btw) and over and over again they highlighted and praised me for "choosing" to not have kids. No joke. Three or four times within an hour and fifteen minutes. My first response, as is typical, was anger. I thought, "how dare you assume that I've CHOSEN not to have kids. You don't know anything about my life now or my past! You don't know if I've miscarried or maybe even lost a child. How dare you say something like that?!"
After the initial anger died down and I chalked those comments up to ignorance, I started to really reflect (thank you, counseling program) on why the words of that person hurt me so deeply. I really don't want to be one of those overly sensitive people who gets upset at something not meant to be harmful. And yet, this felt personal to me. It was presumptuous and arrogant. More than that though, it brought up the deep hurt of not having children. Let me be clear: I have not chosen to not have children.
About 5 years ago I made the very difficult choice not to allow myself to move forward with looking into adoption while I was in Uganda. In fact, you may or may not recall that there was a baby, Elijah, who I had spent about 9 months visiting and hanging out with at a baby home during my second year abroad. He was my precious boy and I loved him. He responded to me like I was his mother and the caregivers at the baby home asked me to adopt him. Their request startled me and my immediate response was, "I can't do that." I went and spent time with him a number of times right after they asked me that week and I thought and prayed about it. Knowing that he had to be adopted along with his older, toddler sister, I decided that I just couldn't do it at that time. I knew God was saying no, but walking away from him on that last day before coming back to the States was heartbreaking. I knew that I would never see him again and that I needed to trust him to God's care.
Thanks to some friends of mine in Uganda who continued to go to the baby home to volunteer, I found out that about six months or a year later, Elijah and his sister were being adopted to an American family and that he was going to be in really good hands. Praise the Lord!
I have not chosen to not have children. If it were up to me, I'd be married and have a family. I have chosen (most of the time, though not always) to be obedient to God. And up to this point, that obedience has left me single and without children. If I'm being totally honest, there's a small part of me that is resentful... and I have to lay that part of me at the foot of the cross every single day. Some days are easier than others. I still don't understand the reasoning behind things and it's still really, really painful, but I will continue to trust God because He knows these deep hurts and longings I have and He is faithful.
Today I had the privilege of hanging out with a sweet, almost-4-month-old for most of the day. He's such an easy going boy, which is always a plus, but my time with him was such a joy. I loved formating my day around his needs. When I needed to get something from the store, we went for a walk. When he was hungry, I fed him while reading through sermons and commentaries and figuring out a direction for my sermon this week. When he napped, I sent emails. When he woke up 30 minutes later, we chatted and giggled while I changed him. When the youth kids came over for Bible study, I rocked him to sleep and then laid him in their waiting arms while we watched our series and prayed together. I'm not naive enough to think that every day would be a breeze, but I genuinely enjoy being a caregiver and loving others.
Sharing such an intimate desire is difficult for me, like I mentioned. But it's also a great reminder of God's faithfulness in my life. So when I'm sad or lonely, I can be reminded that God is aware and I can trust Him with my heart. I don't have to carry the resentment around with me. Snide comments about the "choices" I've made will impact me less. I'll see days like today as opportunities to share the love that flows out of me as a gift from God. He hasn't made a mistake in how He has designed my make-up, instincts, or the desires of my heart.