Turning Twenty-Four

Yay for birthdays! Yay for taking specific time and reflecting back on the past year. You can read my 23 birthday letter here.

23 was a rough, growing year but a year full of beauty. Lots of bad changes (so they seemed at the time) and an amazing change of welcoming Jackson Thomas into our lives. Here is my honest reflection letter of this past year.

It all started exactly a year ago. I had just taken a pregnancy test two weeks prior and we were ecstatic to know God was forming a baby inside of me. We had talked about kids for months weighing the pros and cons for this stage in our marriage and life and really felt this was the time. We had also been praying for months if full time ministry was what our family was called to do and Mark and I both got a resounding yes.  The next step was for Mark to go to school to get his masters. This seemed like a lot to us, working full time, me picking up extra shifts as a server, being pregnant and using our savings to get Mark through school but we knew God was in control and that He was leading us in the his direction. I felt like I had a plan. Some security. I am smiling while typing this because we make plans but the Lord directs our steps. Little did I know what I was getting into.

Then, we find out at the beginning of September that our pastor and his wife were leaving. September 2015 was the most craziest, awful month of life. I was throwing up sick from being pregnant most mornings while dealing with the chaos of launching fall programs while two of the core staff were absent. I want to say that it was just a hard month but Mark and I were the only two full time staff after they left and the fall was pretty chaotic.

Mark had to put schooling on hold to work overtime because we didn't have a full time pastor. I had to work overtime because I was now responsible for children's ministry... something I felt underqualified for and scared to death to lead. It was a lot, yet every time I asked God if this is really something we should do, we got a yes. If I'm honest I asked God why he allowed me to get pregnant. Having known what the fall would have held for us, we would have never started trying, yet looking back now I can't imagine my life without Jackson and am so in love it makes sense.  September - December held a lot of tears and deep conversations. I thought Mark and I were close already but through this valley I experienced a deeper friendship, love, trust and respect for my husband. I am crazy about Mark but watching him protect me, lead our family and trust God in a valley was the most beautiful thing. We have come out so strong together and I am so thankful for God for the trial because I got an even better relationship with my husband.

I told myself January was a fresh start and we could put the awful first part of my twenty third year behind me. Mark finally started school in February and that was such an answer to prayer to feel like God was saying He still had us, and that He knew what He was doing. I had forgiven them and myself and was ready to move on.

February- April was so much better. We had an interim pastor and some stability.  I was fully pregnant and was diagonised with pelvic girdle pain which restricted most of my movement. It hurt to walk and some points of the day Mark would wheel me around in the wheelchair. There wasn't much to do. Doctors and midwives said that once Jackson was born the pain would go away and to put up with it till then.  Other than the pain, I was able to focus on the excitement of having this baby and started planning for the arrival of Jackson. Being distracted with creating a nursery etc. was a lot of fun. Looking back, having a baby made perfect sense in the end but it was difficult to see at first.

May-August equals the best months of my life so far. After such a rough season welcoming Jackson into our lives was such a miracle. Babies are miracles and such a gift from the Lord. God had given us a beautiful baby boy and I was so so thankful. Even in those first few weeks, I kept saying over and over again "I feel like I have purpose again." All those months of feeling burnt out and my creativity squished, this brand new baby gave me life, hope and purpose all over again. Mark and I just love being parents. We really love it and if I didn't hate being pregnant I'd probably want six kids because I just love them so much. I felt the call of parenting when I lived in South Africa and took care of eighteen kiddos. I found such purpose in raising the next generation and striving to love them like Christ. It gives me such life to parent. Sitting hear typing my birthday post and looking at Jackson makes the tough year fade.

So now we are into September again and I am feeling refreshed and that God is doing a new thing in my heart. I am becoming passionate again, super excited to lead a bible study and parent my sweet boy as he grows. I was talking to Mark recently and I said we should get a cake and celebrate surviving the tough year of ministry life and transitions. We are both feeling so good and passionate again and I am so thankful. Honestly, I wish it was just a tough month or two, not a tough year but looking back I wouldn't trade it for anything. God teaches us, grows us, moulds us in the trail, in the sufferings and that is so worth it. Anything that makes us look and act more like Jesus is worth it. This past year has taught me so much and I am a blessed woman to be able to have gone through this.

Looking forward I am excited! I really believe that Mark is called to be a head pastor. He preached this past weekend and the Holy Spirit just confirmed so many of my fears because even though I am 100% biased, I know my man has the gift of teaching and is such a good communicator. I am finally embracing being a pastor's wife and loving this calling rather than being skeptical and always thinking about Mark's teaching degree in the background to fall back on. Sure, if God calls Mark to be a teacher or anything else we will do that too, but right now it is clear of our next season. As awful as this past year has been at times, it secured our calling. If our past two years of ministry were super easy, we felt fully supported emotionally, financially and spiritually I may have had an unrealistic expectation. But having gone through the valley and still fully believeing we are being called into ministry....we know that it is God calling us, not us. Because for real, I wouldn't have wanted this life if the Lord wasn't calling us.

So I am so thankful for September. I have been looking forward to this month so that I can mentally close this past season and look forward to the next. I absolutely will buy a cake and Mark and I will celebrate coming through this past year stronger together and with a calling. I have been looking forward to this birthday to solidify that this is a new year. Twenty-four I am ready for you! I know there will still be trials and heartache, we are guaranteed that but I am ready for a new season.

Thank you Lord for your faithfulness. You are so real to me, so present, so fulfilling. Thank you for another year of life and learning. I know each day is a gift from you, each breath you allow me to breathe. Thank you.

happy twenty-four!

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