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Family Planning

Having a baby (expanding your family, procreating, multiplying, filling the earth…..you get the picture), is easy for a lot of people. I’m not talking about getting pregnant. That’s actually hard for a lot of people. I’m talking about sitting down, talking about a time-line, and planning to make or be a family. You decide if it’s the best time in your career. You decide if you can ‘swing it’ financially (you can’t, by the way). You spend a couple of days excited about coming to a consensus on the matter. And then, well, you make a family. It’s this beautiful, crazy, messy, happy, exciting thing when and if that’s what you’re able to do. 

That’s not the story when you’re a clergy couple or even the only pastor in the family (and the female side, I might add). 

We decided back in the spring, watching Cooper become confidently mobile (and crying), and learning more words (and crying), and growing out of clothes (and crying), that we were ready to start thinking about having another (I’m the one that did all the crying, by the way). It would make them just over two years apart. It sounded perfect.Then the realities kicked in.

We’re itinerate (and about as faithful to itineracy as we can be). We might be moving in June. It was hard (hard, folks, doesn’t cover it) moving 6 months pregnant last time. It was more physically painful than actually giving birth (they give you good ‘medication’ that day), not to mention the fact that it was a very emotional matter. It was hard moving away from our doctor and hospital and churches that had celebrated the news with us. It really was a hard thing and we didn’t know if we’d be moving again and, in fact, we did. 

It was also a hard thing on the churches that we moved to. We’d decided to spend, together, 8 weeks after Cooper was born just learning how to be a family. The Book of Discipline allows for this time upon agreement of PPRC’s and District Superintendents and cabinets and ultimately the Bishop. Even though we’d received that agreement, it was hard. We could tell it was hard. We knew it was hard before we took the time and it was hard after we took the time. We were new. We’d just moved there and not long after took two months of maternity and paternity leave (not vacation…..not ‘off’ time……not a sabbatical). It was just hard on everyone and justifiably so. 

Don’t get me wrong, all the joys were there too but, in reality, there were a lot of “hard” bits and pieces that are not generally realities for folks in most professional settings. 

So we moved. We settled in. We revisited the conversation. Here’s what we decided to do.

  1. We decided to make sure we’d been here for a year before we needed to take significant time off (to be, cultivate, and grow as a family). That’s hard for me. We’d already made that decision back in the spring. I’d already visited the excited, happy place that you go when you think about creating life. It meant hitting the “pause” button. Turns out that was a great thing for me. That decision was made at a time I’d decided to work on a personal sense of overwhelming “impatience” as a whole. 
  2. I decided to have a real confidential and important conversation with the chair of my PPRC about the “idea”. That was a little tough for me too. It meant letting someone other than family in on really personal plans. It was hard but only for a second. I happen to have an incredible PPRC chair who exhibits grace and love in such a beautiful way — the way a mother does, really. She gave me some great perspective and celebrated the idea with me. 
  3. We decided that, as best we could (one really doesn’t have much control over these things) to plan a pregnancy around the liturgical calendar (please insert your laughs here…..go ahead…..take your time). WHO DOES THAT!?! A clergy couple — a clergy couple does that. It’s not crazy at all. I decided to sacrifice the comfort of 3rd trimester pregnancy in winter for timing a pregnancy and birth (and leave) in a way that would keep me from taking time during Advent (Christmas) or Lent (Easter). Crazy I know, and then not crazy at all. I knew it would mean the possibility of being (morning) sick during one holiday and uncomfortable during another but it wasn’t taking me out of the pulpit or out of relationship during those really important, high church, high liturgy, times. 

It’s different. It is. It does really mean asking for grace in ways that we haven’t before. It means bending a bit of our freedom to be and create a family (because we ARE a family) to make sure we can also be effective and loving in the places we serve. It’s what we’re doing to faithfully serve and still be and celebrate and cultivate our family. There are days it feels like a fight all the way. There are days we feel completely out of control. Then there are days I know God is honoring both hats that we wear and celebrating both commitments with us. 

We’re pregnant, by the way. No, this baby isn’t due during Advent, nor is he or she due during Lent. Baby T is due on what’s likely to be the hottest day of 2014. Yes, I was terribly sick all of this Advent but I didn’t miss a thing and won’t next year. I’ll be uncomfortable during Lent, but I’m not at all woriied. God-willing, we’re staying put and planting roots in Ridgely. Folks have celebrated with us. Though plans haven’t been made for leave yet, and we’ve yet to decide what we’ll do together, I have faith God is in the midst. 

There are hurdles but also bridges. Without sacrificing our family on the altar of the church, it does mean doing things differently. There’s A LOT to consider but we have and here we are excited, thoroughly considering next steps, and, well, growing.

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Calling it Off

It’s the hardest thing to do. If I could go back to Candler School of Theology (my seminary at Emory University in Atlanta where I received my MDIV in 2010) and have them structure a class it would be “When to Cancel Church 101.” I’ve been here 7.5 months and it’s needed to happen on 3 occasions (the first not actually being church but being a Trunk-or-Treat on Halloween when the weather, earlier in the day, seemed precarious). Last time we canceled church, it was the second Sunday in Advent and Craig and I both had the stomach bug, but I was going to power through and then I received a phone call from my PPRC chair suggesting we cancel and letting me know several others also thought so. I would’ve fought. I would’ve fought tooth-and-nail to not cancel church. Come Hell or high water, we’ll have church! However, I was on my deathbed and she offered to spread the news and I was nothing but thankful. Today I woke up to chaos…..

When I woke up it was 6:00. I was scheduled to teach a UMW Mission U study on the Roma of Europe nearly 2 hours away in McKenzie. I knew that the only bad weather was in my area and that everyone wanting to attend the event would be just fine in their traveling but me……well, it was bad.

We got ice and snow and mess earlier in the week. The average temperature has been in the mid 20’s. All of that stuff has stuck around here. So, the 1.5 inches of snow that fell last night on top of the ice on roads that had been salted but were no better because salt does nothing when it’s freezing, just didn’t help. I still got ready — I’m stubborn like that. I was going to be a trooper and just see if it appeared that things were better heading out of town, but they weren’t. I turned around in a neighborhood, unable to see where the roads ended and yards began. I stopped and made some phone calls canceling (postponing) the event knowing that others would be scratching their heads wondering why.

I came home and crashed on the couch for a little while, while the boys slept on, watching whatever I could find on TV and watching the snow continue to fall outside, lamenting the need to cancel the event and hoping I’d made the best choice. Then I got a phone call about church.

I didn’t know what to do. The reality is that whatever choice I make, someone won’t be happy and I like it best when folks are happy (right? RIGHT? Sigh*). That’s just how it is and just how it works. I remember people being thrilled and disappointed in October when I canceled the Trunk-or-Treat. I remember feeling bad about it for a few days. It cleared up pretty well. We probably could’ve made it happen but I had to make the call.

I called around. I called my PPRC chair. I called a trustee. I called my music leader. I called a few others. I knew a few others had already been talking about it. I made the call…….

It was SUCH a HARD call to make! The week I’ve had has testified to it’s difficulty. I struggled and raced around getting everything finished and ready for Sunday morning and Sunday evening. Everything was actually in place but I was exhausted. I was proud of myself. I organized things perfectly for the UMW event. I didn’t WANT to call anything off! I was ready! I’d worked hard! I was out-of-breath and dreading feeling like someone would be disappointed in the “call.”

I don’t know that anyone WILL be. I almost hope I don’t know. I digest those things and they hang around for awhile.

As I look out the window now, the roads have cleared throughout the day. The sun that wasn’t supposed to come out (said the weather-person I’ll never listen to again) shined long enough to clear off the church steps. Though there are inches of snow and ice on the sidewalks still, I can’t help but think we would’ve made it work and that even if two came, the Spirit would show.

It’s hard. I care about people’s safety. I care about giving God glory with the hard work. I care. It’s my job. It’s my calling. I just wish I felt better about this call in my call.

This is a tough one, this call. What do YOU do?