Burping Babies & Wobbly Transitions
I had successfully delayed re-entry into my new world as an upgraded combo of Ministry Wife + Ministry Mom long enough. A month after delivering our first baby girl my intentional season of respite was evaporating and it was time for me to attempt to re-join my husband on the evangelistic field, complete with the added challenges that accompanied traveling with an infant. For seven years, my husband and I had been traveling full-time together, savoring each opportunity God brought our way to minister together. While he was the primary preacher, God was using us in music ministry together, which included recording projects, altar ministry, and a lot of one-on-one encouragement with pastors and their spouses each week. The years had flown by so quickly that we looked up and five years were behind us, triggering the idea of adding to our family soon.
I will never forget that first weekend as I loaded up all the baby gear into the car, carefully packing the diaper bag for every potential emergency situation. On the road trip to the church, it suddenly occurred to me: "How am I going to go to the platform to sing with Chresten now that I have a baby en tow?" A quick discussion ensued, just as we were pulling up to the church's parking lot, about the logistics of leaving the infant and carrier next to the pastor's wife (whom I had never met) for the few moments I would be needed on the platform. Prayerfully the church's pianist could cover the altar ministry session as it would be next to impossible to successfully navigate that with an infant carrier next to the piano bench.
The service progressed fluidly and, gratefully, the pastor's wife was already an experienced grandmother, fully competent to hold a bottle in our baby's mouth while I filled my ministry slot. However, with a month-old baby who has acid reflux, you have to find a private space to feed and burp her because she's going to cry when she feeds. That quiet spot in a strange church for me was the small Sunday School office I discovered while roaming the hallways. Long story short, within a few moments' time the offering committee converged on the office and a "seasoned" woman greeted me. The next thing I knew she had snatched my baby from my arms, firmly threw her over her shoulder and pounded the baby's back to demonstrate the proper way to burp my own child.
Have you ever watched one of those documentaries about how momma bears take notice when a predator comes into contact with one of her cubs? Internally, that's how I felt. Externally, I gently, sweetly removed my daughter from the arms of the well-meaning stranger and explained the complications that come when babies have acid reflux. And then I prayerfully determined to discuss the situation with my husband later that afternoon. Things in my life were never going to be the same again.
Things in my life were never going to be the same again.
Most of us can look back on our lives and see the many varieties of transitions we have experienced. Transitions in seasons of life, transitions in relationships, transitions in ministry positions, transitions from one location to another. There's a percentage of people that truly love transition, almost to their own peril. But then there's the rest of us. We want to do what God wants us to do and be who He wants us to be. But if we could just do and be all that while remaining comfortable, we would certainly be more eager to welcome the transition, right?
I would love to tell you I've since mastered the fine art of transitioning, but the truth is, I have taken only baby steps along the journey. As my husband has often said, you're either coming out of a season, in a season, or coming into a season. Transition is an ever-revolving door in this thing called life. How do you transition well within the various roles of your life? How do you navigate between ever-changing roles as a woman, a wife, a mother, a ministry partner?
We can all agree it would take more words than are allotted for today's entry to flesh that prospect out sufficiently. But let me share a few insiders' tips I've picked up along the way.
Just because you've found success in your current role doesn't mean you're destined to stay there. We love the beauty that comes when it's time for the roses to bloom each spring and summer. But the cycle of life is designed for seasons of dormancy in order to allow for rest and greater growth when it's time to bloom again. Savor your season now and relish in it. Maximize what you can do in the here and now. But hold it loosely as God may have something even greater, or even smaller, for you in the next season.
Sometimes transition isn't always to something greater. American culture prompts us to "go big or go home". But God's timeline doesn't consistently model the "snowball effect". There have been many frustrating seasons of my life that were noticeably smaller than what I had anticipated. There were days when I was wiping noses of tiny ungrateful children at home while my husband continued on in "our" ministry, preaching the Gospel and winning the lost. The church's promotion quickly evolved from Chresten and Bridgette Tomlin to Chresten Tomlin as I hovered in the shadows. Some days I was flat out ugly about it in my quiet time with the Lord. Some days my husband received my snarky, resentful backlash as I cleaned up after one more dinner that didn't pass the preschoolers' taste test. And yet today I look back on those "smaller" days with a wistfulness and tenderness as I now relish in the beautiful relationships I was cultivating with my own little disciples at home. Small can be beautiful.
Give yourself some grace to wobble a little in the process of transition. As you navigate some of those uncharted waters, you're bound to take a slight right when you would've been better to veer left. It's okay to stumble a bit as long as you're leaning in to the trusty guidance of the Holy Spirit. Consider the man after God's own heart, King David the Great! Aren't you grateful he unlocked his diary to give us a behind-the-scenes look of all his stumbled steps along the way? Ultimately, David wanted to please God more than he wanted to please himself. And that pleased God. God's grace will always be sufficient as you seek His plan more than your own. So you dropped the ball today. Pick it back up and keep moving forward. It's going to be okay.
Transition. A time period when a shift or change is happening. Friend, if you're walking through your own wobbly version of change right now, take a few moments and simply rededicate yourself to the Lord's plan. You're gonna make it, I just know it.
Bridgette Tomlin, founder of Sanctuary, and her husband, Chresten, have been married and in full-time ministry for 24 years. 23 of the 24 years have been spent in evangelistic work, both stateside and overseas. The couple has two beautiful blonde babies--ages 17 and 12--and base out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Like many ministry wives Bridgette often feels like a red flag on the tug-of-war rope with the children on one end and her husband and the ministry on the other end! When she finds time for personal hobbies, Bridgette enjoys entertaining, blogging, singing, browsing the local antique shops, and sipping on a cup of hot tea for a few precious quiet moments. Her heart is to lead others to the authentic presence of God--through worship, through Word, and through one-on-one connection.