Saturday, March 6, 2010

Take Me Home Country Roads

When I was in high school there was a store in our mall that sold music boxes. It was one of my favorites stores to vist and admire the many styles they had to offer and check out the variety of songs they played. I wanted one. Josh and I were dating at the time and he knew of my love for the music box store so he got me my very own music box just in time to move it in to my dorm with me. It is one of my most treasured possessions. I don't have very many. Have I told y'all my kids break everything? But this music box, it is treasured and is one of those things I hope to hand down to my girls. Or maybe get it out on occasion to show my grandchildren and tell them the story of mine and Josh's courtin' days. Did I really just use the word "grandchildren"?Good grief. Well, back to the music box.

I just packed this music box tonight (in bubble wrap and in a special box that will say "Emily's Very Imprtant Stuff-DO NOT TOUCH. ONLY EMILY CAN TOUCH THIS BOX!!!!!!!!!") and it was the perfect ending to a very emotional, full circle kind of day. It is almost 1:00 am and I should really be heading to bed since tomorrow promises to be the day from packing and cleaning hades, but I just feel like if I don't take the time to document my thoughts and feelings I will soon be swept away with chores, responsibilities and other things that will block this special day from my mind.

As I've shared, I'm no rookie to the moving scene. I moved more times than I can remember as a child and this will make the 6th move in 8 years of marriage for Josh and myself. They say it never gets easier. Whoever they is. Or maybe they do say it gets better? I have no idea. It's way too late. What I'm trying to say, is that no matter how many times I move or how excited I may be about the move, it's always hard. Change is hard. Leaving Montrose will mean leaving what has been home for 3 years, leaving our church family, leaving my best friend who is like a sister and leaving the routine that we've called life for 3 and 1/2 years. Above all of that, we are leaving behind a season.

A couple of years ago God really began to speak to me about seasons and how important it is to realize that we go through certain seasons for periods of time. Nothing in life is forever. Sometimes that is good news. Sometimes it's harder to grapple with. But the beauty of recognizing the seasons is learning to make the most of them while you are in them. Having small children is just a season. That means my life won't always be crazy, messy and exhausting. It also means Iwon't always have the time with and the unconditional adoration of my little ones. I have to soak it up now and make the most of the time God has given me with them.

I bring up this issue of seasons because I want to express what this season of life in Montrose has been like for us. Well, for me. In August of 2006 Josh and I packed up our little family and moved into a house we had never seen in anticipation of God calling us to a church that we had no clue about. Sarah was 4 and Eli, 16 months. Us city dwellers moved into an almost 100 year old farmhouse with no cable and took up watching the cows walk to the next pasture over for our entertainment. After being in school full-time and a stay at home mom, I picked up my spiffy briefcase I got for graduation and started my first ever real job. With my diploma still in the mail and the ink still drying on my Social Worker's license I strutted into the hospice company and acted like I knew exactly what I was doing. Several people didn't want me to get my job and made it well known. I had a lot to prove. Josh went from working 60 hour weeks as a breadman to playing Mr. Mom and filling in at different churches on Sundays. We didn't have two pennies to rub together, but the excitement of the call God had placed on our life (and some well-timed cards and special gifts :) sustained us through the first several months.

During the summer before we moved Josh had filled in at a church called Montrose Baptist Church. We were smitten with the people and Eli and I enjoyed playing with the neighborhood dogs while Sarah went to her class and Josh prepared for his sermon. We always remember that they were about to start their Vacation Bible School and Josh stood at a small podium on the floor surrounded by igloos and inflatable penguins. :) In late November, that church called and asked Josh to be the full-time pastor. I missed out on the excitment of hearing that the church had voted us in. Sarah had gone to the bathroom and ended up stuck in the stall. I finally just told her to climb out under it, but by the time we made it back the announcement had been made. Leave it to me to be stuck in the bathroom. Story of my life.... :)

We couldn't wait to move into the parsonage! The week before Christmas our parents took the kids and Josh and I painted 7 rooms and a hallway. I was working everyday and we were making the 90 minute round trip every night to work on the house. I thought about that tonight as I was in the paint section at Wal-Mart. Another full-circle moment. I lived on Dove chocolate and Diet Cokes that week and we moved in just in time to celebrate Christmas in our new house.

Josh was ordained a week later. We found out Kate was in the works a few weeks after that. :) In just a few short months I had become professional social worker, preacher's wife and soon to be mom of 3. Thankfully, I was too sick to notice that I should probably be a little overwhelmed. Our church people loved on us and patiently endured the many growing pains that come with beginning a ministry from the ground up.

My work schedule became increasingly challenging. I was supposed to have between 25 and 35 patients, but due to continuous staff changes and a huge growth spurt that our company went through I ended up having close to 60 patients at one point. And it wasn't just having that many people to see every month, it was driving across creation to see them. It was carrying their burdens and their family's burdens as well. It was that much more paperwork. My caseload was at it's highest toward the end of my pregnancy. I was 7 months pregnant in July, working on overdrive with so many extra patients, and taught VBS every night for a week that month. That very same week Josh performed his first funeral, that of a newborn baby who had never left the hospital. I was in awe of how he handled the service and we both tried to minister to the family, but in my hormonal state I could never bring myself to look at the baby.

Less than a month later we were preparing for Sarah to start kindergarten. That was a job! The shopping and the clothes and the haircuts and oh my gosh, I had to sew a nap mat that turned out to be the most shameful piece of non-handiwork you've ever seen. I had started having a lot of contractions and was so worried I would miss her first day of school. Well, I made it to drop her off but by that night I ended up at the hospital being given medication to stop my labor. I went back to work and still remember the day I dropped Eli off at Mrs. Lavern's and headed to work. I ended up taking the longest route possible and by the time I made it to my first patient's house I was unbelievably relieved she wasn't home. I was hurting bad! She only lived a few minutes from the hospital so I decided to go get checked out. Sure enough, I was in labor a month early. They kept me and I started making phone calls. Josh was in Jackson for school and ended up running out of gas on the side of the interstate (don't ask) and so it felt like forever before he got there. I had to find people for the kids to stay with and they had to go in my disaster of a house to get the kid's clothes that probably weren't clean because I hadn't been able to fit in the laundry room since my second trimester. Anyway, I just won't ever forget that day.

But, I especially won't forget the next day. That is when Kate made her entrance into the world. I had Sarah and Eli both in 5 hours and I just could not believe I was in labor with my 3rd baby for over 24 hours. Turns out her birthday, August 28th, was also my one year anniversary with my company and the only way I would qualify for my family medical leave. She was such a good girl, hangin' in there for that. :) That day would turn into one of the most traumatic of my life. I experienced post partum hemmoraghe that could have been fatal and Kate had to be taken to the NICU for breathing problems. Our conditions were totally unrelated and unexpected as I had never experienced any problems in the past. I also found out later that my beloved cocker spaniel, Abby, died that day while we were at the hospital. I'm tellin' ya, I will NEVER forget that day!

The very next week after we were home from the hospital (I stayed for a week and Kate stayed a couple of days after I left) Josh's mom, T, came to help out after my parents had to go home. Just a few days into her stay we received the sad news that Josh's grandpa had lost his battle with lung cancer. We all packed up and headed to Panama City for the funeral, Josh's second to perform.

After all of that I ended up taking 8 weeks for my maternity leave. Will you believe me if I tell you I don't remember much of them? I went back to work armed with a breastpump instead of my spiffy briefcase and spent many sleep deprived days driving the country roads. I loved my job though. I truly believe it is one of the most rewarding I could have had. In June of the next year I felt God leading me to quit my job. I cannot even tell you how hard that was. Like I said, I loved my job (okay, there were parts I didn't love, but for the most part I really liked it) and there was no way we could make it financially without me working. I've heard women make snooty comments about women needing to learn how to live without certain luxuries so they can be at home with their children. While I am a supporter (obviously) of being at home with your kids I always felt frustrated by comments like that and wanted to tell them that as soon as we learned how to live without the luxuries of electricity and food I would quit my job! Despite my feeling that way, God would not leave me alone about my job. This time, like the time He asked us to move to Mississippi, He was asking me to step out on faith. Josh will tell you, this was a hard time for him. He wanted me to be faithful, but again, we just couldn't make things work on paper. We had a meeting at work one Monday morning after I had made up my mind not to quit. I was so upset I had to leave and go to the bathroom. After the meeting I went to the Jeep and got my Bible. I was praying and God led me to Numbers 20, Moses' Error at Kadesh. Iwish I could remember how I got there that day because I can assure you I don't usually turn to the book of Numbers for comfort. Anyway, I called Josh crying like a baby and asked him, "What was Moses' error?" We both knew the answer. Disobedience. Moses missed out on entering the promised land because of it. That settled it for me and I went inside that very minute and gave my notice. My boss kept asking me where I was going to work. She couldn't believe I was really just leaving without having another job lined up. Shoot, I couldn't believe it either!

Minutes after leaving her office one of our chaplains took me aside to find out why I was such a basketcase. He then informed me that one of our other offices, the one that is actually closest to our house had just had an opening come up for a chaplain. Josh went for an interview the next day and started the following week.

I am still in awe of the faithfulness God has shown us in the last few years. God has provided for us in too many ways to share here. He has gifted me with so many new relationships in this season and strengthened many I already had.That is not to say that there haven't also been many times when I've felt like God had left the building. I've recently shared how we went months not knowing what God's plan for us was. 4 months after I left my job I decided to homeschool Sarah Beth, and if that wasn't a move nobody saw coming (including me!) I don't know what is. Talk about more changes!

I've shared a lot more than I intended tonight and I know if you've read my blog for a while you know about a lot of these things. I guess today I am just trying to wrap my mind around it all. New jobs, new ministry, lost jobs (Josh ended up being laid off from that job for six months), broke down vehicles, health issues, family issues, loved ones lost. We rejoiced at having my sister move from Alaska to Georgia only to have Josh's sister leave for Italy. During this season Josh has worked full-time, gone to school full-time and pastored a church. We've lived in the parking lot of that church and I've homeschooled (or tried) and cared for 3 kids under the age of seven. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm impressed as all get out that we even SURVIVED this season. You know what I mean? I mean, when I was in counseling for my depression I learned that two of the triggers for me are 1. stress and 2. change. HA! I am absolutely praising God tonight that I've gotten out of bed everyday the last 3 years!!

The thing about it is, we haven't just survived these last few years, we have THRIVED. You couldn't tell it if you checked our bank account or saw the broke down cars we will soon be towing to Florida. There hasn't been any significant growth in numbers at the church. But the thing is, these have been some of the richest years of my life, y'all. Rich in experience, rich in relationships and rich in personal growth. Josh and I may have been married for 6 years and had 2 kids when we got here, but we were two clueless, naive kids if there ever were any. We will be leaving this town and this season as grown ups. More importantly, we will be leaving this season of ministry to go on to a new season of ministry.

Josh loves statistics. Personally, I just like beating the odds. Well, Josh found this statistic that says, 1,500 pastors leave the ministry permanently each month in America. (According to Shiloh Place Ministries (, which drew its information from Focus on the Family, Ministries Today, Charisma Magazine, TNT Ministries, and other respected groups). 1500 every MONTH!

I'm sure I could do a whole post on that subject and I know that there are many different reasons and situations behind that. But let me tell you why that statistic matters to me. I don't know about y'all, but as I think back on the trials my family has experienced during this season I start to get the idea that Satan may not have wanted us to hang in there. I'm not a betting woman, but I'm willing to bet that Satan would have preferred that Josh and I join those 1,500. Let's face it, ministry is hard. It's hard when everything in life is going great. Throw in a few family crises, financial instability, career changes and a 2 year old and man, ANY job seems better! I would absolutely be lying to you if I told you there has never been a single time in the last 3 and 1/2 years that I haven't thought (or said) "Could we please do something else? Please, pretty, pretty please?" As Lisa McKay says in her book "You Can Still Wear Cute Shoes And Other Great Advice From an Unlikely Preacher's Wife",

"It's not every woman who looks forward to low salaries and high
expectations. Of frequent moves and misunderstood children. Of criticism and
conflict. These are just a few stereotypical pitfalls that can understandably cause a woman to put the skids on any plans her man has for serving in vocational ministry."

Do I share all of this to ask you to feel sorry for me or to run screaming from any call God has placed on your life? Not for a second! I share all of this because, you know that music box I mentioned WAY back in the beginning of this post? Well, that music box just happens to play John Denver's "Take Me Home Country Roads". That didn't mean a thing in the world to Josh or I 11 years ago when he bought it. But tonight, I grin at the idea that our first season of ministry would be one that took us down more country roads than you can shake a stick at. I don't doubt for a second that God called us here and God sustained us here. And I'm praising the Father that we while may have spent some of this season driving around lost (figuratively and literally :) we are leaving as stronger drivers with clearer directions. I can't thank God enough for this season that has been SO incredibly difficult and yet so unbelievably rewarding. Thank you Father, for these country roads. They've blessed my socks off!!!!!


CrisisMaven said...

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Karen said...

Excellent post!