May seems to bring a cheerfulness unmatched in other months. The promise of hope and excitement fills the air as school finishes for the year and we celebrate graduations and the thrill of completion. We’re planning summer vacations and starting to enjoy warmer weather (finally!). This May, I find myself anticipating my husband’s college graduation and reflecting on being out of Bible College myself for a full year. In some ways, it seems like I was just there yesterday, and in others, a lifetime ago.
The first year has come with a full dose of reality in just changing residence alone; no longer do I live in a place where praying with your neighbors is common and alcohol, smoking and general mayhem is outlawed. Some things, however, are not very different. My last year of Bible college, I was also a full-time mother, which meant that even in the midst of studying and worship teams and early morning practices, my family took precedence. My husband was finishing his degree, and when I would come home from class, I would exchange my smart-looking school clothes and worship attire for torn jeans and stained shirt as I made pb&j’s and changed diapers. While other Bible college students were formulating ministry plans and leading worship among many, I was leading worship for my little brood of three. Although sometimes frustrating at the time, considering the environment, I can see how the Lord used this to prepare my heart for the next year.
A year later I find myself in the same stained-shirt attire and attending to the business of the toddler crowd, while somehow muddling through my first year of homeschooling completely by myself. My neighbors don’t pray with me (although they probably pray that my children don’t scream so much outside!), and due to a move and unforeseen life-stuff, contact with adults my age has dwindled mostly to Sunday morning interactions and savored trips to Target. I haven’t worn dress pants in at least a year, and whatever grace God gave me to match clothing together has pretty much ceased to exist. I still treasure the worship moments I get, whether in a public setting or at home on the stinky carpet, but I’m not standing in front of crowds anymore.
I can’t say that much of this is a surprise. I knew upon graduation that the next year of my life at least would be dedicated to my husband completing college – something we will be celebrating this Friday. While others went off with grand plans of ministry and “stepped into their calling,” so to speak, I knew my next year would be a lot of what we like to call “Armor Bearing” ministry – serving another’s vision instead of your own. And that’s not to say that I don’t feel like motherhood is my first vision, my first priority – I truly do. It’s just that I was aware certain things would be set aside while we focused on Daddy finishing school.
The funny thing is, I couldn’t see at the time how God would use this year to draw me even closer to Himself and even more intimately into His presence. In my experience of working in full-time, church ministry, sometimes it can be easy to fall in the trap of only finding God’s presence and the beauty of His holiness in that special church setting. It’s so easy to “feel God” and sense His presence when you have morning chapel services everyday. It’s easy to worship with flawless guitars, clear vocals, and harmonies in just the right place. My heart is moved quickly in an ambience void of whining, yelling, and little people biting your leg (or pinching, whichever they prefer).
Don’t get me wrong; I love and treasure amazing worship services. I attend a healthy, thriving church where the worship team humbly serves with excellence, and God is glorified in their sacrifice. But being home with my littles – waking up with them every morning, attending to boo-boos, discerning attitudes, apologizing for homeschooling in frustration – has shown me another side of worship leading.
It is in this place, where the sometimes mundane, unglamorous reality of everyday life meets holiness. It is here where I find His presence dwelling in earthen vessels; where the stuff of heaven meets the confines of earth: feebleness, exhaustion, frustration and sarcasm. It’s here where His strength really is made perfect in my weakness. There are no flashing lights to lessen the glow of frustration on my face, or reverb to buffer the sound of my irritated voice. You know 2 Corinthians 4:7, that talks about treasure in earthen vessels? I’m pretty sure Paul was specifically talking about mothers there. The place where all that is good and lovely and pure meets all of human limitation, and we make an exchange to rely on His strength instead of our natural ability – BAM! – that is the place where heaven meets earth. This is the place where His presence shines in my imperfection.
A resounding theme for me this year comes from one of my favorite songs, “Holy Spirit,” by Bryan and Katie Torwalt. The line “Let us become more aware of Your presence / Let us experience the fullness of Your goodness” has become my heart’s cry. In school, we spent time waiting on the Lord. Whether it was with beautiful music playing or sitting in silence, we taught our hearts to hear His silent words. I have found this year a continuation of that process, but without an amazing worship band playing. Instead, I’m becoming aware of His presence while spending 3 months on a couch, drained of the worst morning sickness I’ve ever experienced, and hearing my heavenly Daddy whisper to me, “It’s gonna be okay. I am holding you through this.” I’m finding His goodness in a busy household where everyone needs something at once; in the daily craziness that includes at least one spill a day; in teaching my daughters to take a deep breath and respond instead of react. This is the stuff of heaven.
This year I’ve found that my heart needs to seek Him 100 percent of the time, not just when my family needs direction or when the mood of a public worship service moves me. The more time I spend in the light of His goodness, the more I’m aware of how beautiful He is and how the things of earth –even personal ministry goals – pale in that beauty. It creates a hunger in me for more of His goodness, more of His touch even on the days I think I have it all together. His Presence is not a nice, calming, quiet complement to my hectic mommy day, like a good cup of tea: It is the very essence of life – that Zoe-life that gives breath to this body. Without it, I don’t just have a ‘hard day.’ Without it, I cease to be who I was created to be. It is necessary to my daily life, whether on or off a platform.
At the end of this school year, our family is again in a season of transition, and we’re praying about what is next. I’m trying not to do my normal thing of freaking out and not enjoying the day-to-day. That’s not easy for me! But as we wait, my heart is drawn to Exodus 33:14, where Moses is in the desert talking with the Lord, going through his own season of transition:
“The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
That is enough for me.