Every couple days someone asks me “how is school?” I am not always sure how to respond, it just depends on whom I am speaking to. Adjusting to seminary life as a working mom has been exhausting and exhilarating. I wake up most mornings at 5:00 and quietly tiptoe past my children’s rooms to the office downstairs. It is dark, but not yet cold, though I know winter is coming. Some mornings, I awake with a heart and mind full and ready to take on the day, other days I wake up overwhelmed by all there is to do and see and listen for and tasks to complete in a day’s work. My goal is to begin each day with prayer and scripture (and coffee). Some days, the two hours I have of quiet is not even enough space to complete my studies or morning prep for the day ahead of me, so I skip the reflection and go straight to work. I have always wrestled with the guilt of making decisions that don’t always reflect my truest, deepest yearnings- out of response to what feels like my most basic felt need. I am learning to accept grace in these spaces that God has for me.
Even something as simple as, what do I put my mind to when I first wake up?, is a very real question I ask myself. In these places where I am tempted to feel guilty about what I am not doing, I aim to remind myself of God’s presence with me in all things. The heart of the matter is where do I place my hope and trust? Is it in my own abilities to accomplish what needs to be done that day? Is it to succeed at doing my job, my role, my position whether that be as wife or mother, pastor, student, or even friend? There are times I am keenly aware that I am striving out of my own efforts, and other days that I sense God’s spirit urging me to press on, sustaining me when I can’t imagine how I will be able to complete a task or finish a day well.
This week, my sister called me from Portland and asked if she could come to Seattle for 2 days. I knew the reading and writing for school that needed to be done. I knew about a very heavy work load at church that I was facing. But after not spending time with my sister for three years as she has traveled the world with YWAM, I knew I had to say yes. We had two awesome days together, though far too brief. When she left however, I was overwhelmed with all I needed to do and I wasn’t sure how it would all get done. My nights were long and my mornings were early, but as I pressed on, taking things a day at a time, by God’s grace, again, what needed to happen, happened. What did not need to be, was not.
The wisdom comes in knowing what it is that does not need to be in that moment or day. Sorting through what is important and what is priority is what I find myself doing these days. My values are right in front of my face, brushing against me like branches of a bush on a nature walk deep in the forest. I cannot get away from them. Does this matter? How am I caring for my children? Does this lead me to a better place in my relationship with my husband? Does this help me connect with people? Does this help me prepare for a day of worship with the church family? Is this life-giving, or energy draining? These questions help form and shape my day. In these questions, God’s spirit speaks and encourages me; and challenges and chastises me.
The choice I made to respond to God’s call and take courageous baby steps of faith by applying to grad school, came with a cost. There is much sacrifice and compromise and giving up of former personal ways of being. The ways I am present for people are different. I can’t host a community group, I can’t volunteer at my kids’ school, I can’t read novels in my free time, the dishes are left in the sink for far too long, but this is only temporary. The gains outweigh the perceived losses. Spending time in scripture, reading, reflection, sharing with other students on the seminary journey, learning from amazing men and women who love God and are serving God through instructing, is just so amazing. I feel the weight of the privilege- and also the joy of responsibility- to soak this season in, and let seminary inform my ways of being. Ultimately it is God who is doing the forming and shaping, and I believe God will use seminary in powerful ways in my life. I will continue to seek quiet space, to receive grace God extends through my own personal acceptance of it, and to ask God for an abundance of hesed– steadfast loving kindness, as I navigate the day-to-day joys and trials of life as a mom, friend, wife, pastor and seminarian.