This day began like any other: drinking coffee, saying good morning to the nanny, curling my hair and putting on makeup, slipping on a dress, and kissing my husband and children goodbye, before walking out the door, turning on music, and running to catch a train into London.
Sitting on the train this morning, I am reflecting on what a journey the last few years have been.
We moved to London one year ago.
In that year, our lives have changed completely in ways we could have never expected. But somehow, the details fit together as part of a bigger story. As I reflect on the last few years, I see that each season in my journey was defined by a few words. These words have provided meaning and context – and have helped me to make sense of some incredibly challenging situations. Here are a few of the words that have defined my life over the last five years.
Quiet me with your love.
The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17
Five years ago, I was at a park enjoying a BBQ with family and friends on a hot summer day. I was about 14 weeks pregnant. I began to feel a familiar pain in my barely-there bump and fear swept over me like a wave. The next day a visit to the perinatologist confirmed my fear that staying pregnant would be a fight – and that I would spend the rest of my pregnancy on bed rest.
For four months, time stood still as I waited (and worried) for the baby growing in my womb to be big enough to thrive. This words from this verse in Zephaniah became so real to me – God was with me, he was with our son. He was mighty to save – and because of his love I could be quiet.
When our son was born four months later - tiny but perfect in every way - we rejoiced that God had been so faithful in protecting our child. And then we named him Zephaniah.
Break my heart for what breaks yours.
About four years ago, our family of five was driving to Eastern Washington where I was competing in my first triathlon. As we drove through the mountains from Seattle to Lake Chelan, our three sons slept in their car seats and my husband and I talked.
We were beginning to talk about adopting a child from Africa. God had put adoption on our hearts. But at the same time, it seemed like everything else in our life was being stripped away. For many years, we had been a part of a church community we loved. But that summer, two leaders at the church had confronted us, accusing us of a long list of sins. What had we done wrong? While the accusers list was long, it came down to one thing: our family didn’t fit their legalistic expectations of what a Christian family should look like.
In the weeks that followed, we were pushed out of a community we loved as we had our character and faith questioned. Most of what the leaders said was not true, but we were left alone, carrying a heavy burden of shame.
And so began a long season pruning – and of heaviness and brokenness. Looking back, I believe this was spiritual warfare. Just as God lit a match in our hearts, Satan tried to suck all the oxygen out of the room to extinguish the fire. But like one of those trick birthday candles that keeps burning no matter how many times you blow it out, God kept filling what was empty. Healing what was hurt. Carrying our heavy burden. And restoring what was broken.
Do you know what is dangerous? Open the Bible and the newspaper, side by side, and pray this prayer:
God, break my heart for what breaks yours.
In university and as a new Christian, this prayer had defined my passion for missions and ministry. As a wife and mother in a legalistic church, however, there was no place for broken hearts. The passion that God had given me for mercy and justice had been sidelined and silenced. In it’s place? I could make one hell of a cupcake. This is a long story that I will tell another day.
But the short version is this: when our family was pushed to the edge of our church community, we found a little room to breathe. God breathed on the flame he had lit in our hearts. In our brokenness, he filled us with a compassion for the broken. God bandaged up our wounds and called us deeper into community with his people – and with him.
I’m going to tell you the truth. As a new mom, the main reason I went to Bible study was to put my children into the nursery so I could drink coffee with other grown ups. I rarely did the Bible study homework. It’s not that I don’t like to study the Bible – I do. But with three boys under the age of four, opening the Bible was a great way to fall asleep. Honestly just showing up (latte in hand) was all I could handle.
But sometimes that’s all it takes for God to speak to us.
Three years ago, we were living the American Christian dream: three kids + minivan + big house in the suburbs + private school + dad in a corporate job + stay at home mom. But I was feeling restless. With my broken, messy heart, I was fully aware that my life was too comfortable, too disconnected from the rest of the world.
Somewhere in my sleep deprivation, the words of Luke leapt of the page:
And he said to them, Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. Luke 9:2-3
The idea that the disciples were called to take nothing was like a breath of fresh air. No more stressing over which storage container to buy to organize crap we didn’t need. Just give it away. Take nothing.
We decided it was time to radically simplify our lives so that we could follow Jesus with more abandon. We sold our house, our cars and most of our stuff, and moved half way around the world.
Have you seen the movie The Devil Wears Prada? Or 13 going on 30? I love movies where the heroine works in a job in fashion or publishing in New York or London. As a stay at home mom of many, movies like this were sort of a guilty pleasure – an escape from endless breastfeeding, diapers and laundry. I would sink into the sofa with a glass of wine and imagine what my life would have been like if I had…until I fell asleep…
Except this time I woke up with a job in fashion in London.
About nine months ago I went out to drinks with a friend. I told her I was thinking about going back to work. She asked me what I wanted to do. I said I didn’t know. I had this crazy idea that it would be fun to work in fashion in London. So I looked for jobs – and found a listing for a marketing role with an ethical fashion brand. I wrote up a resume and sent off the email, feeling 100% confident that I would never hear back. Except I was wrong.
In less than a week, I had a job offer. In London. In fashion. Working for a company that was making a beautiful change in the fashion industry and improving the lives of thousands of people in the developing world. The job truly was a dream come true – and I believe both a gift and a calling from God.
But like all working mothers, I felt torn. I loved my family, but I also loved my job. After a decade in a church where women were discouraged from working outside the home, I felt conflicted.
Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life. Acts 5:20
One of the things I love about our new church in London is that the Pastor’s wife is a doctor. In the church community there are women who are homemakers and stay at home mothers, but there are also women who work outside the home. It is a church where women are valued for all of their gifts, including those that are relevant in medicine or ministry or business.
In the midst of my conflict over my changing role as a wife and mother, God gave me the gift of these two words: speak life.
These words have become my mission at the office. The company I work for is fantastic in so many ways, but I joined in a season when many were feeling discouraged. Trying to do the right thing – trying to do business ethically and sustainably in an industry that is anything but – is hard. These words have given shape to my work and little by little I’m seeing renewed hope and excitement around the office. These words have been a reminder that it was God who opened the door, God who called me to do the work I am doing, both in and out of my home.
The words have become a mission at home as well. I am learning to speak more gently and intentionally, to make the most of the precious time I have with my children. Day by day, my children are growing to understand that our lives are not our own. They grasp that God has called me to go back to work and that my work is helping thousands of other mothers and fathers to provide for their children. They are thinking about how the work they do can reflect the heart of God – and make the world a better place.
What about you? What are the words you live by? What are the words that have defined the different seasons of your life?