I received a private message this week from a woman who’s struggling to rise to her calling amidst the crush of grief. I realized a revision of my response to her would fit with perfection the theme of this week’s blog post, so, here it is.
It’s amazing how the joys and sorrows of life wind so closely together. So closely. So very inextricably.
The hopes and dreams of my life were indeed challenged. Besides being challenged by my own immaturities, insufficiencies, and sub par habits, they were challenged by hyperemesis, by postpartum depression, by a crazy breathing issue, by cancer, by the death of my first husband, and by the magnitude of the hopes and dreams themselves.
As a Christian, I pressed into my relationship with God as I sought to understand and negotiate each darkly looming obstacle in my path. I won’t pretend that pressing in was ever especially graceful. I just pressed in. I took my Bible, my journal, and my cup of coffee in hand through early morning after early morning, and I poured out all my heart to Him. Many times I was hurt. Many times I was angry. Many times I felt confused. Sometimes I even felt betrayed. I made sure He knew all about it.
And He met me. And He absorbed all my wild emotions. And through the ebb of the intensities, I learned to hear His Voice as He whispered life into my soul.
Over time, as my understanding deepened and my vision broadened, I was able to come to believe that, no matter how things may appear within our moments, my God is a good God and He has good intentions toward me, good plans for my life. I learned to trust the “not yet” answers to prayer and I learned to trust the “no” answers to prayer.
My life looks dramatically different from the life I imagined I’d live when I was a fifteen-year-old, but, my! Even with all the sorrows I’ve endured, it’s been amazing! And I can even say I’m grateful for those “not yets” and “nos.” In the tapestry of this life I’ve discovered those “not yets” and the “nos”—those sorrows—are the dark threads that cause the brilliant threads—the joys and the beauties and the triumphs—to shine so brightly.
It seems we cannot have the one without the other.
I choose both.
A little snippet from
A Midwife in Amish Country
Celebrating God’s Gift of Life
Every day I sank deeper into my deleterious, damning conclusions. The things I’d come to recognize about myself were true, but how I chose to handle those truths was destructive. Supposing the success of my life was up to me, I supposed those things were condemnations, even sentences. I was disappointed with myself. I was ashamed of myself. I was angry and frustrated and afraid. And I was tormented with guilt for failing to be happy with my lovely life—with my handsome husband and my beautiful children and with the potential to realize my dreams.
Depression is stealthy and subtle. It took a while before I recognized I’d become wedged beneath the onerous thumb of depression, and by the time I did, I was a suicidal mess. I actually think it took becoming suicidal for me to realize I was suffering depression.
Somewhere after Christmastime I confessed to Brent I was depressed and needed help.
Brent hugged me tight and told me he would help me. I hugged him back, thanked him, and said I thought I needed something more, like the pastor or the doctor. Possibly both.
But we were young, and under many misconceptions in those days. Somehow, we’d come to believe depression wasn’t a thing that could be treated. We believed it was a thing to pray through and snap out of. I’d begun to doubt that myself by then, but Brent was still convinced. Years later, as with our near-hospital birthing scare, when Brent came to a full realization of what could have happened, he apologized to me for refusing to allow me to go for help. But in that moment, refuse he did. I was displeased with his decision, but I accepted it. I felt it would be a violation of our marriage to seek help in the face of his refusal.
Left to my own devices, I redoubled my efforts to wrestle myself free. I memorized my favorite Psalms, began a regular exercise routine, read self-help books, and wrote in my journal. Every month or so my sister, Kris, would send me an eight or nine-page letter from her home in Arizona. I clung to her letters. I haunted the mailbox for them and when one appeared, I’d tidy the house, fix supper, nurse Paul, wake Brent, leave him with the kids, and go find a quiet place to read it through a few times. A friend of mine whom I think suspected I was depressed, Deb, began calling me every afternoon. Jean would call from time to time, too, cheering me with birth stories and plans to resume my apprenticeship.
In spite of the moderate success of my efforts and the priceless bright spots Kris, Deb, and Jean provided me, I deteriorated. By springtime I concluded my miserable presence was harming Brent and the children, and I thought about suicide every day. If I hadn’t been such a dreadful coward, so afraid of pain and of going to hell, I’m sure I would have done it. And my hesitation to do it made me feel even worse, because I just knew if I was out of the way, Brent and the kids would have the chance they deserved to find a better wife and mother.
My journal entries from those opaque days are filled with prayers, though, in truth, all my journals are filled with prayers. The Scriptures that meant the most to me then were those describing all things as possible with our Almighty God. A pas- sage that especially resonated with me was Colossians 1:27, “…Christ in you, the Hope of Glory.” Another was Proverb 23:7, “As he thinks in his heart, so is he.” I understood from the start I was called to do amazing things. What took a climacteric event, even an epiphany to realize was I’d only be able to do those things if I allowed Christ to really be in me. To be and do all I felt I was created to be and do would flow out of that—out of connection with, out of relationship with, out of friendship with Jesus Christ Himself.
I began to cry out to the Lord. Literally. Usually in angry, accusing tones. A regular cry was, “HEY! You PROMISED in Your Word we get to be MORE THAN OVERCOMERS! Well, this isn’t it!” And then I’d huddle, half-fearing, half-hoping a bolt of lightning would strike me from the earth.
Around this time my parents attended a weekend workshop they really enjoyed called From Curse to Blessing, and they invited Brent and me to attend another with them in May. I was disinclined.
No, truthfully, I was bitter and jaded sure I needed to go. It was a workshop designed to bring to the surface issues troubling us, plus sessions spent in small groups for sharing about those troubles and receiving prayer.
Having already spent so much time in sincere, yet seemingly fruitless prayer, all aspects of the event were grossly unappealing to me. But I was desperate, and I felt obligated to my family to give the thing a try.
On the way there, I prayed. “Okay, Lord, here’s the deal. I’ll go to this conference and sit through every minute. I’ll humble myself and do whatever’s asked of me. That’s my part. Your part is You’ll come fix me. If we get to the end of the weekend and I’ve done my part, but You haven’t done Your part, I’m going to go home and kill myself.” Again, I wondered if He’d strike me dead with lightning for talking to Him that way—oh, how my views of Him have changed—but reasoned it would at least get the job done.
By the end of thirty-six hours I was fine.
It wasn’t the talking, it wasn’t the sharing, it wasn’t the praying, although I’m sure the atmosphere created by those things facilitated what happened. It was as simple as the Lord showing me a single, simple thing that changed everything. It was as if He reached over and tapped me on the shoulder, pointed, and said, “Hey, Kim, look at that.”
I looked. I looked, and I saw a thing that was there all the time. I looked at it and my eyes were opened to it, and seeing it released my heart and soul from it, and a torrent of releasing was unleashed, and that torrent rippled on and on, and I think it’s rippling on to this day.
An interesting element of my dissatisfaction with myself as a wife and mom, I discovered, was linked to some issues I had with my dad and the way he parented me.
and skeptical, and the idea of attending that conference filled me with fury. I knew for It took a while for those issues to surface, I think especially because he was really such a very good dad. I think because he was such a really good dad, and because I didn’t want to com- plain about my really good dad, I pushed the issues I had with him away, back, down, out of my sight, and out of my mind where they were able get a hearty fester going.
Through my season of depression, those issues began to rise to the surface and I realized I was boiling with hurt, anger, and bitterness. The way I’d chosen to handle my feelings was to vow and declare I’d do things differently when I became a parent, failing to realize that to make such an oath was to take matters into my own hands, rather than to go to my Heavenly Father for comfort and healing and release—to make myself my own god, and to shackle myself to the fetid condition of my heart.
There at the conference, the Lord showed me plainly how corrosive the decisions I’d made had been. Then, in the very next moment, He delivered me from them.
How? In a flash, He showed me my dad’s heart. He showed me how completely my dad loved me, and how he invested him- self heart and soul in the betterment of my life. He showed me how every painful error my dad made was made while trying to benefit and improve my life, while trying to bless me.
He pointed me past my dad’s actions to my dad’s heart and in that moment, my heart broke for him and I was set free—just as simple as that.
When the conference came to a close, I drew my dad aside to apologize for having held him in judgment and dishonor, and to thank him for being such an excellent dad.
When Brent and I were alone that evening I reached for his hand and said, “Guess what, Honey? I’m okay now. I’m all better.”
I could plainly see he was worried I had a mountaintop experience of some sort and that once I hurtled back to earth, I would likely be disappointed and worse off than ever. He tentatively voiced something along those lines, and I decided against arguing with him.
I knew I was better, and knew time would prove it.
If you’ve read and enjoyed A Midwife in Amish Country already, would you consider writing a review of it on Amazon and Goodreads? We’re hoping I’ll be offered a second book contract, and the volume of sales and positive reviews are the two primary things my publisher will use to decide whether or no to offer me one!
Stasi Eldredge, NYT best-selling author of Captivating
Dr. Sara Wickham, author, midwifery lecturer and consultant, www.sarawickham.com
Jolina Petersheim, bestselling author of The Midwife
Leslie Gould, #1 best-selling and Christy-award winning author of over twenty books, including The Amish Midwife
Rahima Baldwin Dancy, author of Special Delivery, childbirth activist, and midwife (retired)
Marie Monville, author of One Light Still Shines
Cindy Lambert, coauthor of One Light Still Shines
Elizabeth Davis, CPM, Co-Director of National Midwifery Institute, Inc., elizabethdavis.com, author of Heart & Hands: A Midwife’s Guide to Pregnancy and Birth and the international bestseller, Orgasmic Birth: Your Guide to a Safe, Satisfying, and Pleasurable Birth Experience
Serena B. Miller, award-winning author of More Than Happy: The Wisdom of Amish Parenting, serenabmiller.com
Eleanor Bertin, Lifelines and Pall of Silence
Sara Daigle, author of Women of Purpose and Dare to Love Your Husband Well
Beth Learn, founder of Fit2b.com
Kim Woodard Osterholzer, Colorado Springs Homebirth Midwife and Author
Books by Kim: