Reflection

Every year, at family church camp, we take a family photo on a certain dock, with the fall colors behind us. The first year, it was just the three of us. Katy was two months old, still in that curled up, cuddlesome newborn stage.

Two years later, another daughter had joined us, and, at six months, Rosy was a bundle of energy and charisma. Katy was a beautiful, chubby-cheeked big sister. We couldn't believe our blessing. On the other hand, this was my darkest year as a mother. I struggled to juggle two children. I constantly felt like I was letting someone down or leaving one of my two precious children with unmet needs. I threatened to throw in the towel and go back to work, leaving the child-loving and the child-rearing to someone who could do a more dispassionate job of it. Aaron and I had our only angry fight of our marriage: he put his foot down and asserted his authority unequivocally. I wasn't going back to work. End of story. I was going to stay home and work through it. It was the first time I understood the passage that has become a favorite, really understood it at a visceral level, saw it as a reflection of what was truly in my heart during that season: Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. (I Timothy 2:13-15)

We came through the fire. We had two more children. I submitted both the work my body could do and the emotions of my heart to the idea of being settled at home with my children. I still wrestled with the idea of "calling" and questioned how I had felt so certain that I was called to be a nurse, only to be asked to give it up to raise children. How could I have been so wrong? I started graduate school, and felt parts of me come alive again as I learned and conversed with peers and experts in my field. I saw a ray of hope at the end of what seemed like the long dark tunnel of years in my house/cave: the possibility of teaching primarily from home, staying involved in a very meaningful way in the caring profession of nursing. That same year, when all the dust seemed to be settling, we walked through the storm of cancer, early weaning, radiation, separation from my husband and children. In hindsight, the storm of disagreement over career was preparation that forged our marriage for another time of fire, one we would have to walk through together, unified. I also finally understood what I had been given. How deep the roots of each child's soul had woven into the fiber of my heart. How much Aaron and I were grown together, inseparable in spirit and now separated in body. Fear crept in. And with it a deeper understanding and joy in Christ's provision, grace, mercy, and love.

And here I am, still. A happy mother of children. He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise be the Lord. (Psalm 113:9) Little did I know, when that first photo was snapped on the dock in northern Wisconsin in 2003, how precious each passing year would feel now, to me as a 30-year-old cancer survivor. I am thankful for the ways in which I have been tested. I am thankful that I have found freedom, whimsy, awe, contentment, peace, restoration, mourning, friendship, compassion, and honesty in the God in whom I trust. When I was 24, embarking on the miracle of motherhood and wifely pleasure and duty, I had no idea what could happen in six years. I had no idea how much deeper the rabbit hole - and the well of Christ's sacrificial love - could go. I had no idea how much deeper faith could weave itself into my life and my mind. I took so many things at face value, and left deep questions unasked, like a still pond with not a ripple disturbing the dark surface. I have found that Truth is not just a mirror in which to gaze, but a lake in which to baptize my life, immersed in the crisp coolness of quiet depths invisible in that mirrored surface.