I used to hear the word ‘calling’ and immediately I would feel intimidated. You know the feeling. Your hands get sweaty, your heart beats a little faster, and you feel smaller than you did just the second before. That’s not a fun feeling.
It took a while, but eventually I figured out that God doesn’t ever intend for me to feel that way. Whew! That was a relief.
And then I realized, that the word ‘calling’ isn’t supposed to only mean “Missionary”, “Pastor”, “Doctor”, “Writer”, “Artist”. It’s not reserved for just the big words.
Sometimes our callings are more subtle. But definitely just as important. Because if God has called you to something, then you better believe it’s important.
I’m not a missionary. But I am a mother. I’m no published writer. But I am a wife. I’m not a doctor. But I am a daughter of God. I’m also a woman and a sister and a friend…
These are callings. And I don’t want to take them for granted. I want to recognize the purpose in these callings. I don’t want to be intimidated, but I do want to live up to my potential. Never perfect, but always progressing.
Within these more general callings, God sometimes calls us to more specific things. God gifts us in areas so that He might use us in this big messy thing we call life. If you are in relationship, you are in ministry. You might not have an office inside a church or counseling room. You may not have a title or degree or receive a pay check for it. But it’s ministry all the same. And quite a miracle really. It amazes me how God chooses to invite us in, whisper to our hearts and prod us in the direction of being used by Him. It is such a gift.
I say these things to you because I want you to be encouraged to recognize the ministries God has called you to. I want you to find purpose, to feel useful and that nothing, not even our suffering, is ever wasted in God’s kingdom. It is all our calling.
One area that God prodded me in, in addition to the ones I listed above, was the Beaufort Women’s Center. It’s quite a story and I’d love to share it with you.
I’ll never forget that Sunday morning. I wasn’t feeling so great. In fact, I hadn’t been feeling all that wonderful for several days. I remember the shirt I put on. A brown blouse with lace detail at the top. Tan slacks to match. I remember the thought that entered my mind and the panicked feeling that followed. I remember the look on my face staring back at me in the mirror. The furrow on my brow and the dark circles under my eyes.
I was pregnant. I knew it. I just knew it.
I had felt that feeling before. Twice before, actually. There is no other feeling like it in the world. That sickening turning in your stomach. The metal taste in your mouth that coats everything you eat and contemplate eating. The waves of nausea rising up and down then finally spilling over. The hot and cold sensation that comes over you all at once and the need to lie down on the cool tile of the bathroom floor.
It was all too familiar.
On the way to church I whispered to Dustin that I thought we might need to pick up a pregnancy test on the way home.
I didn’t miss the look that passed over his gray eyes. That look of, “Surely not. You must be joking.” I wished that I was.
I remember sitting in the pew and hearing the words of the sermon, willing them to sink into my soul. “No matter where you are or what you might be going through, God wants you to know, it will be O.K.”
It will be O.K.
I wanted it to be O.K. I was willing it to be. But I felt scared and overwhelmed at the thought of being pregnant again. My oldest was 2 and was so hard. My youngest was only 8 months and still so needy. How would I make it through the next 5 months or so of being bound to the couch and the bathroom floor?
How would Dustin and I make it through the stress? Our marriage was already failing. Crumbling beneath the weight of so much pain and hurt and betrayal. In fact, I had been trying so hard. So hard to get out. To leave him. To leave the pain and the hurt and the dysfunction. To pursue my happiness and what I deserved. I was trying so hard to make it Okay. Okay to leave and not feel guilty for ending our marriage. After all, it was the right thing. The only thing. I couldn’t even think of staying and what that would mean.
When the test came back positive all I could do was cry. I cried for 4 long months. I felt so trapped and was so angry. I was angry at God for allowing this to happen. He of all people should have known this was the wrong time. The worst timing possible! He could have stopped it.
Was He punishing me? Rubbing my own vows in my face and down my throat? Did He enjoy watching me suffer in a miserable marriage? Did He realize that I was unhappy and deserved more??
See, it wasn’t that I didn’t want another baby. It was just that I didn’t want to be married anymore. And finding myself pregnant for the third time prevented me from finding my way out. And now I was trapped.
I eventually came to terms with my pregnancy. And thankfully I never considered abortion. But you know what? I started to feel compassion for the woman who does. I started to feel compassion for the woman, young girl, who finds herself in the biggest crisis of her life. Finding herself pregnant and feeling like a frightened animal backed into a corner.
Trapped. Hopeless. Scared.
Because that was me.
I wasn’t 15. I wasn’t living out of my car. I wasn’t hiding from Pastor-parents. I wasn’t in the middle of my college education.
But the feeling was the same. I didn’t want this. Not now.
God met me in that place. I couldn’t see Him, walking next to me. But I think it was because He was carrying me. Holding me as I thrashed about. Like my little 2 year old, strong-headed, determined girl. That was me and He wouldn’t let go.
When Levi came I was still scared. I didn’t know how I was going to do life. How would I make dinner? Grocery shop? Would I ever be able to shower again, with a just 3 year old, 17 month old and a new born?
Ten days before I gave birth I found myself in Labor and Delivery fully convinced we were there to have a baby. We had been at a Super Bowl Party and my contractions had been coming every few minutes for a few hours and getting stronger. As we were headed out the door to the hospital, someone asked me what his name would be.
We didn’t have a name! I had been too busy living in denial that we hadn’t decided on a name! So I was slightly relieved when my labor turned out to be false. I was embarrassed to be sent home on this third time around, but at least we’d have more time to choose a name.
When the moment actually came and they finally laid him on my chest all warm and wet, we were still unsure of what his name would be. We had tossed around a couple, but none of them seemed to land.
As they were cleaning him up and suctioning him out, one of the nurses went to lift him off my chest. Dustin hadn’t cut the cord yet, so that would have been a problem. The other nurse yelled, “He’s still attached! Wait, he’s still attached!”
I looked up at Dustin in that moment and knew then what his name would be.
Levi means, to be attached.
I wouldn’t come to understand the true significance of this until a few months later.
I was reading that familiar passage in Genesis about the story of Jacob. The man who had been a deceiver. The man whom God redeemed and changed his name to Israel. Names are important.
In chapter 29 verse 34 it reads, “Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, ‘Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.’ So he was named Levi.”
It stopped me dead in my tracks. How had I never seen that before? In that moment all became clear. Whatever haze I had been walking in or fog I had been looking through vanished completely.
Of course God could have stopped his conception. But He didn’t. He had a big purpose for that little baby. That little seed that He used to root my feet firm.
I didn’t suddenly become a joyously loving wife. Butterflies didn’t automatically fly into my stomach at the thought of my husband. I didn’t start singing and dancing or any other such nonsense. It looked different than that.
It was an acceptance. I saw God’s sovereign hand. And I knew there was a purpose to it all.
So I prayed. “God use my pain. Use my crisis pregnancy somehow. Redeem it like you redeemed Israel. And thank you for using this baby to attach me to my husband.”
I prayed for two years before I saw God move.
In a somewhat random kind of way, I was asked to join the Board of the Beaufort Women’s Center. I at first thought “no”. But agreed to do the spiritual thing and “pray about it”. Thankfully God works in spite of us! I prayed for two months and could think of little else. This was it!
As God would orchestrate it, I attended a Care Net Training the first week of my becoming a board member.
I had never participated in anything like that before and didn’t really know what to expect. The very first session, Dottie, the trainer, warned us that, “This training will change your life”.
I didn’t believer her. In fact, I kind of laughed to myself and thought, hmm, we’ll see.
She also encouraged each participant to find someone to pray for us during that week of training. “Satan doesn’t want you here,” she said. I asked my sister-in-law to pray for me. That God would get me there each day and use it to develop in me a true love for every woman coming into the center. Including the post-abortion woman.
I had no idea what I was asking for or how dramatically God would answer that prayer.
There were six days of training. The very last day was all about Post-Abortion Stress Disorder.
During the first session, I could feel my heart starting to beat faster. It felt as if something were breaking inside. Welling up and threatening to flood over. I swallowed hard, over and over, willing the tears to stay down, locked tight in the hidden places. But that was not to be. The tears began to stream down my face unhindered.
I tried to be discreet. I was in the second row and caught Dottie looking at me several times. What must she be thinking? I used my sleeved shoulder to dry my nose and face. It wasn’t quite big enough.
When we finally took a break, I ran for the bathroom in search of a tissue. I willed myself to pull it together and to finish strong.
I sobbed through the second session. There was just no stopping it. It was useless for me to try. I succumbed to my ugly-cry and tried to take notes in between my hiccupping.
When we stopped for lunch I went to my car seeking privacy and answers to why I was reacting in this way. What was my problem!?! I had never before experienced anything like it. I am a crier for sure, but this was beyond that.
I reapplied my make up, thinking that would be incentive enough to stop the tears.
Everyone was eating lunch when I returned. There was almost a hushed silence as I reentered the room. What were they all thinking? I wouldn’t blame them for whatever it was. I appeared to be losing it.
As I reached for my plate, a friend reached out and patted my arm. “You ok?” “Don’t!” I whispered desperately. “Don’t look at me!” I was trying so hard to hold to my resolve.
But again, as hard as I tried to hold it together, I was completely powerless to my emotions.
I once again found myself in the bathroom with mascara streaks down my face.
I decided I had to leave. I had been crying for the better part of three hours with no end in sight. I didn’t know what else to do. As I turned towards the door, I heard a quiet knock. It was Dottie.
She closed the door behind her and turned and looked at me. I could see the questions in her eyes before I heard her voice them. “Have you had an abortion, sweetie?”
“No, I haven’t.”
“A miscarriage, then?”
“No, nothing like that.”
“Then what’s the reason for all these tears?”
I stared blankly at her. I had no idea. Really. I was coming up blank. I had no answers and was starting to think I WAS losing it!
She wrapped her arms around me and started to pray. She asked God to stop the trembling inside me and to help me finish strong.
As she turned to walk out, I turned towards the sink. I splashed some water on my streaked and puffy face. The tears were gone. Just as quickly and confusing as they had come. It was done.
I walked back to my seat, my lunch forgotten. I didn’t bother to look up to meet the questioning stares. I still had no answer to give.
Somehow I finished out the rest of the training that day.
Later that night while pondering all that happened, I realized God had answered my prayer. He had not only begun to root a deep love in me for the woman who suffers from abortion. He had allowed me to mourn for her. My weeping was an outpouring of His heart ache for her. And I continued to weep. For months the tears flowed. And the pull towards Post Abortion Ministry only strengthened. Like an under current taking me without consent, I had no choice in the matter.
That’s truly what a calling is. As hard as you might try to do something else, you just can’t. It doesn’t always make sense or even seem practical. You have to swallow down a lot of pride and marvel in the way God works.
I tilt my head sometimes and ask, “Really?”
But it’s always with a deep sense of gratitude and thanksgiving. I wouldn’t want to be in any other place.
The things I have seen God do in the lives of women ravaged by abortion has been astounding. I am a spectator. Sometimes a traffic controller, simply pointing others to the power of Christ. It truly is an honor.
God had a lot to teach me before I could step into this role. The early part of my marriage, I had been trying to write my own story. But things kept happening out of order. I tried ripping out the pages and starting over, but that didn’t work too well. I had been trying so hard to write a fairy tale but all I was getting was the Simpsons.
My idea of holiness and sanctification was very warped. I thought we had to be perfect for God to love us and use us. I thought we had to have it all together and be good at something in order for God to call us. Thankfully that’s not how God works at all.
He uses the broken. The messy’s. The ones with problems and hang-up’s. He uses those who have suffered and who’ve been afflicted. Who have lost and who are grieving.
One of my favorite verses is 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.
There is purpose in our sufferings. Through them, God gives us a story, a testimony and sometimes a calling.