Recovering Church Staffer...it's an issue

This fall marks 2 years since Chris stepped out of full time ministry and if I'm honest, we still haven't fully integrated into the real world. Church work is all we have ever known.

Chris's grandfather was a pastor and Chris followed suit by jumping into being a youth pastor before he was even out of his teens. I came to know Christ at 16 and jumped in head first to leading and interning. Chris took a youth pastor position while we were engaged and so literally our entire relationship has centered around working at various churches. Which is both wonderful and not so great.

The territory that comes with working on staff at a church is huge. There's the whole leading people to God thing. But it goes deeper. Church staffers have to make adjustments to EVERY area of life. What it really looks like is the whole family is on staff (because we're all jumping into help and we're all being looked at with a microscope) but only one of us is getting paid for it. And don't get me wrong, it's not about the pay; honestly if it were no one would work on staff because generally the pay is very low.

We have had some smooth transitions to other areas of ministry and churches and other transitions have been absolutely heart wrenching in the worst of ways. If we were to write a book you'd wonder why we stuck with it; why we still even believed. And to that I can say that Jesus never promised an easy life and we have seen God move more in our lives than we could ever describe, and so walking out on Him was never an option/thought.

Leading up to stepping out of ministry we were experiencing some burn out. And that's sooo common among church staffers. You pour so much of all that you have and all your family has into it and there's just only so much you can give if not taking care to refill the tanks. Our tanks had been running on low for quite some time and I think we didn't know how to refill. 

Chris and I both have spent more of our lives working in ministry than not, so this new life was almost like moving to another country and not speaking the language. It took a REALLY long time to find a church that we loved. When you come to the table with helping shape and run churches in your background, it was important for us to find one we weren't trying to "fix". Learning how to integrate into a church community has by far been one of the most difficult things we have ever done. And it shouldn't be. The areas that we COULD serve in wouldn't be beneficial because they were areas that we used to run. I don't think we know how let go of that (and I get it, that's our issue to work on).

I think when people find out Chris used to be on staff at a church,  wheels start turning as to why we're not still working at church...was there a moral failure?  There are other issues of course as well. Our friends had always been the other staff members, and it's just not easy to jump into a church and instantly be BFFs with the staff. It's hard not to "judge" certain areas that we were in charge of at our previous churches...things WE KNOW we could offer insight but have no place to go up to the leader of that area and say "you don't know us, but we used to do this and we can offer some advice to improve it". That just turns people off and away. 

I'm just rambling now. Sorry. You're my shoulder to cry on dear interweb since none of our non church staff friends have anything to reference this to. Maybe in some ways we are experiencing grief. The church was our love for so long. Maybe our identity was completely wrapped in serving on staff because it felt like we were tangibly making a difference. One thing I know for sure, the church as a whole has to do better with how she treats her workers. I would just ask for you to pray for your entire staff at your church. They need it more than you know. They need to feel appreciated. They need to know they are making a difference; that the sacrifices they make (many that you'll never know of) are worth it. 

And here we are, TWO years out and still feeling lost at church. Where is our place? What do we do? How do we make friends?  

OUR MIRACLE

Throughout the following days, I went through various waves of emotion. From laughing hysterically that only this could happen to us, to deep grief.

I’ve told you a million times that music is how I work things out with Jesus. It’s my love language haha.

So by the time Friday came around (1 week to the day of our failed match) I was a bit weepy. I’m loving the song “Thy Will” by Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum and so I played it on repeat all day and BAWLED my eyes out. It spoke so perfectly how I was feeling (she wrote it about a miscarriage, so almost the same emotions). You need to read the lyrics to understand, so I’ve generously posted them below :)

I'm so confused
I know I heard you loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here
I don't wanna think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of your plan
When I try to pray
All I've got is hurt and these four words

Thy will be done
Thy will be done

I know you're good
But this don't feel good right now
And I know you think
Of things I could never think about
It's hard to count it all joy
Distracted by the noise
Just trying to make sense
Of all your promises
Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that you're God
And I am not
So

Thy will be done (x3)
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done (x2)

I know you see me
I know you hear me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness you have in store
I know you hear me
I know you see me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness you have in store

The last time I played the song that day, I had some straight out worship in my bedroom. Hands raised, tears pouring, completely surrendering to God’s will and not my own. Gosh, I still get emotional thinking about it. Then I hopped in the shower to get ready for date night before Chris got home.

When I got out of the shower, I had a missed call from our case worker with a message that said “you’re going to want to call me back!” And I did.

She informed me that there was a lady in South Carolina currently in labor and wanting to set an adoption plan. We knew no information about her other than she said she was clean as far as drugs/alcohol. I agreed that we would be interested and waited to hear back. At this point I just thought I’d discuss with Chris at dinner. And that’s what happened. Then we got home from dinner about 6:45 and case worker called with instructions to get in the car and go to South Carolina to get OUR baby!

Through some divine circumstances that I’ll never fully understand, we were the top of the list. And we were chosen. We didn’t know if it was a boy or girl or even the race. Our baby was born just before 8pm that night and we got the call on the road that it was a BOY! We arrived in SC a little after midnight and we were able to go meet him. The next day the paperwork was signed and we were able to get a room at the hospital until we were discharged on Monday. And then the following Friday we were cleared by both states to come home!

We had the privilege to meet our sweet birth mom and pray with her, love on her and minister to her. It was a precious moment that I wouldn’t trade anything for. Our week in South Carolina was filled with TONS of movements of God. He worked out details in a way that only He could, and that’s exactly what we had prayed over our adoption journey; that when people heard our story, they would say “Only God.”

And that’s the truth here friends. Only God could have orchestrated this the way He did. He has made the most beautiful masterpiece out of our pile of ashes.

Our adoption hearing is scheduled for October, and then everything will be 100% official.

This baby boy of ours, well he’s the picture of God’s faithfulness. He’s proof that prayers are answered. Our world has been forever changed in the very best of ways. I can’t imagine life without him. He’s everything I ever dreamed of and more.

WE HAVE A MATCH!

The story continues….

So, the last week of May we received a call from our case worker with a sure match. Birth mom (we’ll call her “BM”) had matched with a family and they unexpectedly pulled out. BM was due with a baby girl in 2 weeks! She was in our state and we had a conference call with her and she matched with us. We came up with and paid out a large chunk of the fee. Then, Memorial Day weekend we went to visit her. Chris and I both felt weird after the meeting but we just thought it was Satan messing with our heads.

We were pretty sure she was in early labor while we were visiting with her, but she wouldn’t go to the hospital. The next Thursday we got the call that she was in labor, so Chris and I packed up and headed for the hospital. She wasn’t there. We got a hotel in the town and were planning to go back to the hospital Friday morning. Instead, we got a call that she was basically caught in the act of scamming us for more money. The deal was off. She had no intentions of going through with it. In the state of GA, the BM has 10 days to change her mind after birth. And so, we drove home in silence…hearts broken. In 2 weeks our world had been turned upside down and we were planning life with a precious little girl.

Over the weekend it was still a roller coaster of highs and lows – we may still get her, we may not.

By the time Monday came, I was just ready and relieved for it to be over. It was like living a bad dream.

Our jobs had already been notified that we were going to get our baby, and then Monday we both returned to work and had to answer all the awkward questions. It was terrible.

Chris was ready to call it all quits. And then I told him that I knew God had a baby for us. I was certain. And I think he saw it in my eyes and heard it in my voice that it was not quite time to give up. Not yet.

To be continued…

The Beginning

Where to even start?

This past spring I was starting to lose a little bit of hope for our someday baby.  There was a new level of insecurity and comparison that I wasn’t prepared for when we started the adoption process. It was kind of like a relapse of when we were trying to conceive and everyone else was pregnant except me. I found myself in a sea of adoptive families all getting their baby match and yet we were still nowhere near a match. We received multiple situations that we could have presented on, but they were either way out of our budget constraints or the birth moms had engaged in drug/alcohol usage in levels that we were not comfortable with.

One particular Sunday morning, I was struggling with jealously over an adoptive family that was on their way to meet their new baby. I cried all through church that morning. We sang this song called “Faithfulness” by Hillsong. I ugly cried of course. And while I don’t claim to hear God speak audibly, He most definitely spoke to my heart that morning in a most undeniable way.

 “I am faithful, Lauren.”

That was all I needed to hear. From that moment I knew that God completely had us in His grip and that whatever happened, we would be OK.

Fast forward a few weeks, and we presented to a near perfect case. And the birth family chose someone else. It stung more than it should have. But that night, I retreated to bed early and pulled out my bible. It was my deepest source of comfort. Psalm 139 is one thatI had been reading and claiming throughout this journey. There’s just something special about seeing in writing that God goes before us and behind us and He’s already traveled this road. So as I was fumbling to get to Psalm 139, I instead flipped to Psalm 113:9. It was a verse that I do not remember ever reading and so when you see it, you’ll understand the shock my heart received:

“He gives the childless woman a family, making her a happy mother. Praise the Lord!” – Psalm 113:9

Ok God, I hear you. Goodness.

And yet again my hope was renewed that God was going to work this out. I’m not naïve – not every family that believes in God and prays for a baby gets a baby. And I was wrestling within my own heart in knowing I would be OK if my deepest desire never happened. But between this verse and the “faithful” moment, I KNEW that God was going to work this all out. I KNEW He had a baby for us.

To be continued…

WE HAVE A BABY!

Hello bloggy friends. I am aware that it has been several months since I have graced you with my blog presence. About eight months to be exact. I sincerely apologize, but it’s been just a wee bit CRAZY around here.

So, let me start by saying, we have a son! Wow that’s still surreal to say out loud. Today is his 2 month birthday!  He is all things perfect and we are oh so very grateful.

There’s a lot to unpack for you in this journey. If you are a facebook/instagram friend, you’ve seen some of the pieces, as I’ve shared some there. I’ll probably unpack this over a few posts, so stay tuned – you don’t want to miss a thing!

Meet our sweet Amos Whitt:

Spring is coming.

Winter is a hard season. The ground freezes up and it seems like signs of life have withered away; and with that frozen ground, you can't possibly cultivate new life. I think there is something to be said for a season of hibernation. Bears have the right idea.

Just as there are seasons on the earth, there are seasons in our lives. And those life seasons don't always coincide with the temperature outside. For many of us, our winter seasons are painful, bleak, colorless...and we'd love to hibernate and hide from it all; take a long nap and wake up to the hard times being over. But that's not how we grow. There is a purpose for every season. Just as with Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter, each is necessary for the other. Each season is preparing the way for the next.  And if we've learned anything from watching this world around us, we can know confidently that the seasons WILL change. Winter can't last forever. Spring is coming. New life is coming. New joy is coming. The "death" that winter brings is only preparation for new life to come.

This baby journey has been full of seasons. FULL of them I say. But I am at a point where I can honestly be thankful for our story. I have had opportunities to share pieces of God with others that I may not have had a chance to otherwise. I am thankful for what God has taught (and continues to teach) me. I have come to know Him so much more intimately. I feel that my faith is stronger than it has ever been. In the waiting, the winter, I have found respite in Him. He is my hibernation place. I'm genuinely thankful to just have a small part in God's story in this world. 

God has proven himself so faithful. Not that He needs to prove it. But in His kindness, He has. And He has been faithful since the very beginning of time. Faithful to us even when we don't deserve it. Because we know He is faithful, we can take hope in the fact that the season WILL change.  The hardened ground of winter WILL welcome spring. 

Your spring is coming.

Calling all mommas

As we embark on this journey to adopt our baby, I need some advice, fellow moms. Tell me your ways. Share your secrets. What are the things I MUST have? What items will I buy, but never use? Tell me please!!! What do I need to know? How do I survive with a newborn? Annnnnd Go!