Tuesday, December 2, 2008

balancing homemaking and ministry (1) my journey

Scene 1: child 1

I was a university staffworker, 29 years old, when I became pregnant for the first time. I'd recently finished my history PhD. I'd been married to Steve since I was 21. It took 2 years to get pregnant: and I can't remember ever getting better news! Even better when I saw our beautiful daughter for the first time.

I'd always assumed I'd stay home full-time and care for our children. From full-time study, to full-time university ministry, to full-time homemaking. One child and very little sleep, but I still made it to the main meetings of our uni Christian group. Elizabeth (bless her!) sat quietly while I listened to the Bible talk, or at a table in the caff, munching happily on the snacks I'd brought while I chatted with students or mentored Rachel.

Scene 2: child 2

Six weeks after having my second child, I got the flu, which led to post-viral post-natal post-something depression, and my world feel apart. It wasn't severe, but I cried for an hour or 2 every day for a few months, and it was 2 years before I was physically and emotionally strong again.

As for being involved in ministry, Ben (bless him!) turned out to be a chatterbox, and my days of hanging out at uni meetings were over. I still mentored one girl each year. I was happy caring for our home and family, but feelings of resentment and regret at the ministry I'd given up came and went.

Until the life-changing day I picked up Elizabeth George's A Woman after God's own Heart. It desribed marriage, homemaking and motherhood as a high and noble calling, requiring love, energy, organisation, prayer, self-sacrifice, commitment and contentment. Homemaking was transformed from something I did because that's what I did, to something I could whole-heartedly throw myself into with all my energy. As usual, I threw myself in with such enthusiasm that I burnt out for a while, and didn't read another homemaking book for many years!

Scene 3: child 3

It was our third baby who broke the proverbial back of ministry outside the home. Up to that point I'd managed to mentor one girl each year, but I had no extra time with a 5 year old, a 3 year old, and baby Thomas to care for. None of my children took kindly to playgroup, so my contact with non-Christian mums was limited to school and kinder, and my only ministries were hospitality, leading Sunday School and encouraging mums at church.

I remember the years with baby Thomas, then baby Andrew, as years of contentment as I stayed home and cared for our family. I didn't often resent not having much time for ministry outside the home. Homemaking was something I did with single-minded purpose and enthusiasm: I had learnt, finally, that this is a way we can serve God with all our hearts, caring for the people he has given us to care for.

Scene 4: child 4

An odd psychological shift happened when Andrew turned 2 last year. This would normally be the time I'd be gearing up for another exhausting pregnancy, 9 months of morning sickness, breathlessness and sleeplessness, and months of intense baby care. But there were no more children on the horizon.

Which is where you come in. Dreaming of all the ministry I could do with only 4 children to care for (ha!) the word "blog" flashed into my mind. From blogging to writing, from writing to seminars, from seminars to leading a Bible study, and I'd have to admit (as usual) that I've thrown myself into things a little too enthusiastically. This year, I've learned what it feels like when you get the balance wrong, and your family pays the price for too much ministry outside the home.

So what have I learnt? That helping my husband, loving our children, and caring for our home, is an honourable and joyous profession. That it doesn't matter what training or ministry experience I have, it may be necessary to set these aside for a time, to throw myself into the precious, brief years of young babies and children. That the balance between homemaking and ministry shifts depending on number of children, their age, my health, and our situation. That I need to be very careful how much outside ministry I take on, accept my husband's guidance, and listen to the wise advice of others, so that I have enough energy and time for my home and family.

That's my story so far. Believe me, I'll be planning next year's ministry with greater care and wisdom, but I'll tell you about that in a few day's time, God willing.

1 comment:

mattnbec said...

We don't have four kids, and I've not had PND, but I identify with a good deal of your journey in learning to balance homemaking and ministry. Interesting.