Age: 43.8 // Favourite Food: Fried Chicken // Dream Job: Lifeguard at a retirement community in Florida. // Current Season: Empty Nest Prevention. // Met Jesus: Before I can remember. // Favourite Verse: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, oh Lord.” Psalm 19:14 // Instagram: @bethgreenwv
It was an interesting season to say the least…a span of time that I have referred to as the year from “you know where.” All because of a great deal of change that shook some things up for me.
We pastor a church in a small city of 19 thousand people, give or take, in Martinsburg, WV.
Our staff is humble in size, yet quite creative and productive- always striving to do our best to lead a fairly large flock of people, although none of us have ever been on a church staff before. During the season I mentioned earlier, many of us were wearing a variety of hats to get everything accomplished. In spite of our inexperience, we also shared this incredible excitement to serve. It was so new and exhilarating. Then, it all began…
A few years in to this blissful new endeavor, several significant staff members who had served us very closely had decided to move on to other seasons in their lives which would pluck them and their families out of our church. (I use the word “pluck” to refer to the sudden discomfort this would bring.) If you have spent any time in church leadership, I’m sure you understand. Goodbyes can be uncomfortable.
Meanwhile, outside of my church bubble, there were some other layers of change happening, in no particular order.
One involving one of my dearest friends. She and her husband, with God-ordained purpose, moved a thousand miles away where they would transplant their family into Canadian soil, carrying in their hearts a dream to pastor a church where their family roots were. She was someone I leaned on in many ways. But now my dear confidant was relocating far beyond my reach.
Speaking of being out of my reach, did I mention that at the same time, our eldest son was away at college on the other side of the world in Sydney, Australia? Just thought I’d mention that little detail. Certainly, if you are a mother, you understand that having a child away at college, in another country at that, has potential to tenderize your heart. (I use the word tenderize as in… like one of those hammers you pound chicken with.)
Then, one brisk autumn morning, as I was approaching my 40th birthday, I heard these words from an emergency triage nurse who was treating me for a strange and sudden allergic reaction in our local emergency room- “by the way,” she said, “did you know that you were pregnant?”
Did you catch that part?
Yeah, it was just like that.
My life was seriously about to experience a new emergency.
You need to know that change and I…we don’t usually get along. Up until this point in my life, I was the kind of person who preferred the predictable. Change interfered with my plans and expectations. Change messed with me. Having another child? Really?
Our other 2 children were grown – one in college and the other finishing up high school. So, as far as parenting goes, we were SO close to reaching that place of rest where you sit back in your rocking chair, kick your feet up and look at scrapbooks while enjoying a comforting cup of tea and intelligent conversation with your ADULT family members.
But ALL OF THAT, including the “rest” part, (but excluding the rocking chair part) was about to c h a n g e.
Don’t get me wrong. We were excited. The next 33 weeks were filled with celebration, preparation and giggles from every well-meaning friend and family member, topped off with an occasional Abraham & Sarah joke.
Fast forward 8.5 months.
Our third and surprise child was born – a son. We celebrated him. We adored him. We were so grateful for God’s purpose and plans for him, but this kid was larger than life, AND he was louder than loud! He might have snuck quietly into my womb un-announced, (I’m not gonna lie. That sounded weird), but holy moly, after he put his feet down in our home, it didn’t take us long to know, without a doubt, that this young man would make sure that he would get noticed everywhere he went every single day for the rest of his life.
Everything in my life at this point had drastically changed. I was “starting over” in my 40’s. The diapers, the night feedings, the sleep deprivation, the 24/7 call of new motherhood…I was mourning the loss of my freedom – to go to the mall, go on a date with my husband, or even take a shower whenever I wanted. And all the moms out there just nodded your heads.
To be honest, I wasn’t prepared for the shock. My other children, then 16 and 18 had personalities which were nothing like this little guy! In comparison, they were easy, quiet children, self-entertained and spent much of their time hibernating in their rooms. But this child – He was so active. He was strong-willed. He required constant attention. He was very VOCAL; The say-goodbye-to-nice restaurants-for-YEARS kind of vocal. Now, my once peaceful house was frequently filled with crying, screaming and tantrums!
But then, I would calm down and go back to taking care of my baby.
Any parent understands that nothing has the ability to suck selfishness to the surface like a brand new baby in your home.
One day, in the midst of all these whirling, swirling winds of unexpected change, I remember sitting alone in my office with worship music playing. I was reflecting on the past year – in the wake of all that had moved on, and all that had moved in. Then this powerful little song by New Life Worship started to play.
One thing I know that I have found
Through all the troubles that surround
You are the Rock that never fails, You never fail
One thing I know that I believe
Through every blessing I receive
You are the only One that stays, You always stay
You never change
You’re still the same
You are the Everlasting God
You will remain after the day is gone and the things of earth have passed
Sitting there in my brokenness, crying grateful tears, I remembered that even when everything around me is changing, through both blessing and loss, goodbyes and hellos, my God remains the same. I am loved by a God in Heaven who will never, EVER change.
“But you are always the same;”
Looking back, God has taught me some things through it all:
– I have learned that when I think God is taking something from me, he is most likely planning to get something to me.
– I have learned to take a seat once in a while, empower others to rise up and take their place, and applaud them when they surpass me.
– Oh yeah, and that scripture, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” is actually entirely about being content in any circumstance; NOT about having ninja powers.
And finally, while change isn’t always fun, change is often God’s way of guiding us, blessing us or protecting us from something. God uses change to usher us into new levels of growth. He loves us, and He really does know what is best.
So my friend, whatever season of change that you may be facing, whether expected or unexpected, I pray that the God of yesterday, today and forever will steady you and hold you close. I pray that His generous hand and faithful heart will teach you to trust Him in the midst of it all. In all your goodbyes and hellos, may you find peace in the promise that He will always remain your everlasting One.
By the way, on the other side of that season, God has continued to bless our church with faithful people who fill our world with joy and laughter. Our staff is as strong and productive as ever. My son is home after finishing college, and I get to see my long-distance dear friend once every year. The baby is now four years old, and he has become the life of our party. He is still, however, very, very loud. If that were to ever change, I don’t believe I would mind.