Growing Life In the Church

Being pregnant with twins has been by far the most physically, emotionally, and spiritually challenging experience of my life. (Note-if you are tempted to say, just wait until they get here, please don’t. It may be true, but it isn’t helpful.) Imagine the worst case of food poisoning you’ve ever had. Or that 48 hour bug that knocked you on your *$$ for two days. Now, imagine living with that every day for four months while continuing to work full time. The struggle is real.

But I have not faced that struggle alone.

When I began the application process to become Senior Minister at First Christian in Bowling Green, someone (not a church member) said to me, “Well I don’t know what you & Willie’s plans are for having children, but I just don’t think that you can be a mother and be the pastor of a church that size.” I was crushed. And I had that icky feeling in my stomach, like, I know something bad just happened but did it really? Is it just in my head?

Determined that I would start a family and be the pastor of First Christian in Bowling Green I moved forward with my interview, accepted the position, and a few months later experienced a miscarriage. Willie and I found out on a cold Friday in January and were devastated. One of my first thoughts was “I have to preach this Sunday. I have to still witness to the Good News even amidst this tragedy.”

The next morning I came to my senses and realized that I could not faithfully preach the next day. I texted a retired female minister in my church and my board chair to let them know what was going on and they quickly arranged to carry on worship without me.

I grieved on that Sunday, still believing in the Good News, but able to be present to my Good Friday. I counted it as a sick day and not as a vacation day. No one asked any questions. I healed because I didn’t have to pretend nothing was wrong and I also wasn’t tempted to go to my church members for the emotional care I needed. I surrounded myself with friends and family and sat with that darkness.

I spent a lot of my days off on our new land nestled in the hilly Kentucky countryside, feeling the life come back to me as we saw flowers blossom and trees bud for the first time on our 13 acres. We had toasted with apple cider next to the creek the week in December we found out I was expecting. Now, we trusted that as spring returned to our land, it would also return in our hearts one day.

Several months later I shared about my miscarriage with the church through a written devotional. I talked about how that grief affected me and my relationship with God. And then, in September, we got pregnant with twins.

Enter the food poisoning days.

I couldn’t tell the church at first, now knowing how risky those first months are. That risk was multiplied with twins; I read that 30% of twin pregnancies lose one of the babies in the first trimester. I told a few key leaders in the church so they would be aware of the situation. They were a lifeline through those months. I was a wreck physically and emotionally.

But my mom came to help out every month. And while I drug my lifeless self into the church office during the week and into the sanctuary on Sunday mornings, my husband did EVERYTHING else- and I mean everything. Because I really couldn’t.

And, finally, not past the morning sickness, but past the riskiest stage for the babies, I announced with great joy that we would be welcoming, not one, but two new members into our church in the spring. The church gushed with excitement. (I mean really gushed! They knew our sorrow from last winter and so they felt our joy as we had- ever more profoundly.)

Since then, they have given every indication that you can be a mom and a Senior Minister. I have been able to continue working despite the daily physical challenges because they have been the body of Christ. Occasionally, someone makes me dinner. My board empowered me to hire a student intern who helps me with the physical parts of Sunday morning I am no longer capable of. Any meeting or program I lead, I am surrounded with caring church folks who do the heavy lifting or setting up equipment or any of that little stuff you don’t think about when you are fully mobile and physically well. On the days when I get dizzy, I go home and take a nap. Our Associate Minister has taken over hospital visits which require walks that are longer than I can now handle. If I need to write my sermon or return emails from bed, I do. We have discussed and planned for the possibility of bed rest and no one has panicked. I will have a good maternity leave when the girls finally arrive.

I am proud of what we have accomplished while I have been growing not one, but two lives, inside me! We have welcomed new members, baptized new believers, held an educational event in partnership with our local mosque, and are in the midst of a search for a full time Director of Children’s Ministry and Christian Education.

The ministry of the church has not suffered. And neither have my tiny, growing baby girls!

This, church, is what I believe it means to be the living loving body of Christ in the 21st century.

We do not have to fear a generation of leaders who wants to balance ministry and family.

I am not naïve enough to think that I can have it all. I can only imagine the challenges that lie ahead. But I believe I will be able to balance my role of pastor, mom and wife, because my mom, who told me when I was a little girl that I could be whatever I wanted to be, is now moving to Bowling Green to help. Also, my husband will stay home with our girls as full time dad and part time farmer.

So can I take a moment to celebrate that there is a healthy & growing church in the Bible Belt that really meant it when they said they were excited about having their first female Senior Minister?

With this partnership, I truly believe that anything is possible.

Thank you First Christian for teaching me what grace looks like.

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