I Married the Man I Hope My Son Becomes

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Yesterday was the end of a chapter in Nick’s life. A chapter that I think we’ll both try hard not to dwell on too much, but one that has also been very significant in Nick’s life and even my own. Yesterday was Nick’s last day at Starbucks.

These last few years have been what could be considered Nick’s worst. I mean, really they’ve been more difficult than anyone should have to suffer. After graduating from Duke Divinity School with a Masters of Divinity (a prestigious school and program) and completing a year of CPE, Nick found himself unemployed. His ordination was with the Anglican Church and unfortunately that church isn’t growing at a very rapid rate. There just weren’t that many job opportunities. For over a year, Nick applied to jobs with no doors opening to him.

If you’ve spent any time unemployed, you know how discouraging it can be to put yourself out there and apply for job after job only to be rejected or not even receive an interview. If this wasn’t hard enough, during this time Nick’s first wife asked for a divorce.

He moved back to Champaign and in with his parents because he had no way to support himself in Durham. One week after moving to Champaign, he got a job; his first in 14 months.

I remember his first day at Starbucks. Actually, I remember when he came in to interview with our district superintendent. Our store manager, Malikah, told me before he came in for that interview that she thought if he was hired the two of us could really hit it off. Her words were, “I think I’m going to hire your future husband.” When someone says that to you, you don’t forget the first time you meet them. (By the way, thanks again Malikah. I owe all my happiness to you!)

I’ve never met anyone quite as broken as Nick was that day. He was in a town he never wanted to call home, working a job he was overqualified for and never really wanted in the first place, and trying desperately to save his marriage. The first time he told a joke at work we were all surprised; we didn’t think he knew how to laugh.

It hurts to think back on those days. Not a jealous hurt because he was previously married; the hurt you feel when the one you love hurts. I didn’t love him back then, but I remember the pain in his demeanor and when I think about it…I hurt.

A year into working at Starbucks, Nick told me he had feelings for me. We shortly dated and quickly married. God’s redemption was at work! I think we both thought the career part would come quickly after that; that all the pieces of the puzzle were falling into place. But it would take another year and a half before we’d be where we are today.

He never was as sad as when I first met him, but he also was never as happy as he is now. It was so hard for Nick to work day in and day out in a job he never wanted, that he thought would only be temporary. It was only temporary, but temporary lasted almost 3 years.

Shortly after Milo was born, Nick told me he felt even more desperate to find another job. He said he didn’t want his son growing up with a father who worked at Starbucks. I was crushed; the man I love couldn’t see passed his job and was worried what his son might think of him.

I’m grateful for Nick’s employment at Starbucks: it provided our family with affordable insurance, an income, and not to mention a free pound of coffee each week 😉 But I’m glad that chapter is over too. I needed my husband to come back to life. I needed the last parts of him that had died during his unemployment/underemployment and divorce to be restored. And they have.

That’s a lot of background story, thanks for hanging in there with me.

Nick has suffered a lot these last 4 years. I hope he never experiences anything like it again in his life. But at the end of this, I have never admired and respected someone as much as I do my husband.

While he longed for a different job, Nick was diligent in the one he had. He never considered the work beneath him and worked hard every day. He never complained about the job itself, just the occasional bad day.

More importantly, Nick never lost faith in God or in his calling. I would have given up. I would have taken all of the no’s to mean it was time to consider doing something else. But Nick stood firm. He knew what his passion was for and were he was skilled. For all of the no’s Nick knew that someday there would be a yes. So he waited.

I understand what Nick meant when he said he didn’t want Milo to grow up with a dad who worked at Starbucks. But when I look at my husband, when I consider how steadfast he has been through these years, I plead with God that Milo could grow up to be like his daddy. I pray that Milo will see Nick’s devotion to God, the way he takes time daily to read, pray, and journal, and will do the same.

Because I know Milo will go through hard times too. I’m going to try my best to prevent him from experiencing such pain (I can’t), but if (when) Milo goes through a season of suffering I want him to have the strength to endure it like his daddy did. Watch your daddy Milo. Pay attention to the way he prays and pursues time with God. Watch the way he retreats for times of silence and solitude. Be like your daddy in those ways Milo and you’ll be able to hold tight to God when the days are dark. Grow up to be like your daddy, Milo, and you’ll be a man that your wife says, “I hope our kids grow up to be like their daddy.”

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From Bread Winner to Bread Maker: Part 2

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(If you’re just joining me, read Part 1.)

I never wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. In fact, just before Milo was born, I repeatedly told my friend, Nancy, that I would be itching to get back to work from my maternity. I would be bored at home and longing for work. I would never want to be a stay-at-home mom. I’m publicly admitting: Nancy, you were right. You told me I might change my mind once Milo was here, and I did.

But it was about more than just Milo that changed my mind. It was the health and wellness of my household that concerned me. I feel called to care for a space that allows my husband to relax after a long day at work. I feel called to prepare meals that will keep us healthy and ward off sickness. I feel called to maintain a space that our church family feels comfortable in. And that they feel secure that we will not do anything destructive to the house they’ve so generously given us.

I also want a job that allows for me to have a healthy work/life balance. That might sound crazy considering that my work and life co-exist. But I was trying to accomplish these things while also working full-time. It wore me ragged. I was exhausted all the time but couldn’t rest because “there was too much to do.” I knew this lifestyle wasn’t sustainable and given the choice between working outside the home full-time and letting my home be my job; I chose my home.

While it catches me off guard that this would be my choice, I feel like it really shouldn’t. Hands down the best job I’ve ever had was working as a waitress at Ike’s Fish House in Monticello. I wanted to be at work as much as possible because I loved it so much. When I was serving a table, my attitude was that for whatever the reason these people needed a break. They needed to take a time-out from life and just be cared for. I felt like I was giving them a form of therapy. The same goes for my other jobs in the food service industry. I have a passion for taking care of people, especially in terms of meals. How does that not relate to caring for a home?!

I never realized how those jobs, those passions, would be preparing me for a life as a wife and mom. It wasn’t until the opportunity presented itself that I realized God had been preparing me for this job all along.

That doesn’t mean I’m not nervous. I worry that I won’t measure up. That I was never really equipped to be at home full-time. But the reality is I’ve been more than equipped; I’ve been called. Just as Nick has been called to the church as a pastor, I have been called to the home to be the caretaker. And I take my calling just as seriously as I take Nick’s. I’ve come to realize that it’s no less of a calling that one to work outside the home, it’s just different.

So here I go. Forsaking the paycheck and the identity that I’ve held so tightly to money and embracing the job that has no monetary value.

From Bread Winner to Bread Maker: Part 1

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This morning started like any other morning; I woke up, made my coffee, and got Milo up. The only difference was I didn’t leave for work and, for the indefinite future, I will never leave for work again. Today is the first day of my new job as full-time homemaker/mommy.

I’m excited about my new job. It catches me off guard how happy I am to be in this position. For years I ranted on about how I would never be a housewife or stay-at-home mom. To me, that “job” was more like the absence of a job. I didn’t see the value in caring for a home full-time until I had a home and family of my own. Now I feel called to this role and am thrilled for this opportunity.

But as I do with any kind of change, I have some fears and apprehensions about staying at home. I’m not worried about having nothing to do (I’ll go into more details about my job responsibilities in part 2 of this post…stay tuned!) or that I won’t feel satisfied about my work. It’s the money.

Sure, things are going to be tight on a one income budget. If you don’t know anything about a pastor’s salary, let me tell you it’s not the highest paying job out there. But there are additional perks to the job, like our house we get to live in free of charge. My car is also paid off this month and Nick’s will be by the end of the summer, so many of our regular monthly expenses will be eliminated. Financially it sets us up perfectly to let me stay at home. So why did I say that it’s the money that worries me?

I’ve been working since I was 13. The summer before 8th grade, I babysat the 3 kids who lived across the street Monday-Friday, 8-5pm. It was the first time in my life I earned a regular paycheck. I worked the same job the next summer as well as working at the local Dairy Queen. I supplemented by income by mowing our yard and a neighbor’s yard.

I’ve been a workaholic from a very young age. While I enjoy working for the sake of labor, it’s also a monetary issue. I have always taken a lot of pride in financially providing for myself. When I didn’t want to share a car with my younger sister, I bought my own car with the money I saved from working. When I decided to do another year of college to become a personal trainer, I paid for my entire tuition in full without any loans. There is something about earning a paycheck and being able to provide for myself that adds to my identity and self-worth.

It was hard for me to adjust to the “our money” mentality when Nick and I got married. But to be honest, being the bread winner made it easier for me to feel ok about it. I felt secure knowing that I had earned the money I was spending. I hardly ever felt guilty for a purchase I made because as far as I was concerned it was my money anyways (side note-this was not a healthy attitude for a marriage!).

For the first time in 15 years, I won’t be earning a paycheck. I won’t be providing any income for my family. The money I spend will not be my money. This is a struggle for me. I think a lot about finding a small, part-time job not because we need the money or that I want to work, but because I need to earn money. I need to believe I have claims to our finances, that I am a contributor to our income.

I don’t really need a job and I’m trying to resist the temptation. Because what I believe I really need is to trust Nick. I need to trust his love for me, that love does not hold something like income over the other person. That love values what a person does, even if there is no money attached to the work. I need to trust Nick will not hold our money over me. This kind of trust is hard for someone like me, someone who believes in doing things for themselves. But that’s marriage
for you, moving beyond yourself and the need to be the sole provider and understanding the sum of the team is greater than its parts.

It’s All Connected

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For the last week or so I’ve had this discomfort starting in my right hip and traveling down my leg. My foot will feel tight, as if someone’s pulling the muscles out of my foot through my leg. I’ve tried the usual stretching and strength training but nothing was helping. So yesterday I went to see my massage therapist.

I get there and Jeff asked me what’s going on. I tell him about my hip/foot issue. I press my right glute and say “I can feel something right here.”

“We’ll see,” he responds.

The thing about Jeff is he never jumps to any conclusions. He’s been doing this long enough and is wise enough to know that things aren’t always what they seem. So just because you feel something here, doesn’t mean the problem isn’t over there.

He works on me for some time trying to get to the bottom of what could be causing me so much discomfort. I’m worried about all of the possibilities: I’ve developed some strange gait from the surgery on my right foot two years ago or that my hips are a complete mess from having Milo.

After working on my back half, he tells me to roll over and starts to work my abdominal area. He hits something and all of a sudden I could feel my foot release. What on earth? The muscle he was working on was my iliopsoas: one of the major hip flexors. How was this muscle in my front causing so many problems in my back and down my leg? Because it’s all connected.

Muscles don’t work in isolation; they work in movement patterns and groups. So when they hurt, they also hurt in groups. And a lot of the time the muscle hurting isn’t the actual problem, it’s hurting because it’s having to pick up the slack for the real problem. My iliopsoas was out of whack causing my glute muscles to need to compensate. Then every other muscle connected to my glute had to react.

So why do I share this with you? Because I think we experience this same concept in other parts of our lives. We think we are able to compartmentalize issues; work problems stay at work just like home problems stay at home. But we’re not as successful as we might think.

Have you ever left a long day at work and as you’re driving home every other driver on the road just annoys you? Did every idiot driver really just start driving down the same road, or are your emotions from work getting the better of you as you drive. Have you ever lost sleep at night and then felt irritable all day long for “no reason.” Or have you ever argued with your spouse and then struggled to find the energy to get through your workout?

We can’t separate our lives into neat categories that don’t bleed into each other. It’s all connected, so if one thing is out of sync you’re going to experience it in other areas of your life as well. I’m certainly no expert, but I think there are plenty of times we need to slow down, step back, and ask ourselves what’s really going on.

So back to my iliopsoas. While it’s a common muscle to strain from running and it was certainly causing problems while I ran, what was making it aggravated in the first place? The way I was carrying Milo. My mommy life and habits had bled into my running life.

Go figure.

Sometimes I Miss Melinda Dragonuk

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Most people get married, take some time to adjust to married life, and then have children. Nick and I aren’t most people, so we cut out the adjustment period and went straight to having a child. We were married in the beginning of 2013 and had Milo by the end of the same year.

The whirlwind of that year didn’t give me much opportunity to consciously adjust to married life. I went from being single to being a wife to being a mom so quickly, I didn’t have time to reflect on the loss of my identity as Melinda Dragonuk.

I didn’t realize how much I missed being Melinda Dragonuk until this past weekend. Saturday was the Steamboat Classic in Peoria, IL. It’s a race that I’ve run several years in a row. I missed last year’s race due to pregnancy related illness, so I was really looking forward to running it this year. Nick was going to be on call at the hospital that morning, so I made plans to have my family watch Milo while I ran. Then later that afternoon we would go to my niece and nephew’s birthday parties.

But days before the race, I began to realize how flawed this plan was. I would have to get Milo up by 5am, drive over to Peoria with him by myself, spend all day out and about with no sufficient place for Milo to nap, and then drive home that evening with what would have to be a mess of a child. I sacrificed the race for the sake of my child. To be honest, it was an easy decision and at the time it didn’t bother me too much.

It was at the birthday party that I really noticed my grief over the loss of my maiden self. Here I was at a Dragonuk family get-together, except it wasn’t really the Dragonuks. It was the Dragonuks, Daghfals, and Jordans. I love my ever growing family, especially all of the new babies, but for the first time I realized I will never be a Dragonuk again.

It’s not just about the name, although I really do miss that. The name Dragonuk is intense, which is also the best way to describe the people. Whenever I gave my last name, people would comment on how cool of a name it was. Never has anyone told me they how cool the last name Jordan is.

But more than that, Melinda Dragonuk was independent. She went where she wanted, when she wanted. Melinda Dragonuk could run any race she wanted to; she never had to sacrifice a race because it would be a long day for someone else. Melinda Dragonuk had no one else to support, so she could spend as much money as she wanted on traveling to places like Seattle, Boston, and New York City.

Melinda Jordan missed the Steamboat Classic because her young son would not be able to handle the long day. Melinda Jordan has not traveled further than Cincinnati since her honeymoon. Melinda Jordan cannot frivolously spend money on whatever her heart desires.

I was driving home from the birthday party reflecting on all this loss. For the first time since I was married and had Milo, I really did not feel like myself. I was Melinda Dragonuk for such a long time, I just missed her and had no idea who this Melinda Jordan person was.

I came to the point of being absolutely overwhelmed with grief when God offered me some grace. I realized Melinda Dragonuk was pretty selfish. Being able to do whatever she wanted, she often did with no regard for others. Melinda Dragonuk would have chosen running over relationship any day. But Melinda Jordan was able to see the bigger picture: there would be other races. Melinda Jordan is better at loving others.

There is a loss when going from a maiden name and identity to being married. For the first time, I was able to experience that loss and see it for what it was. I miss Melinda Dragonuk. But I really do like Melinda Jordan the person. I guess I just need more time to adjust to the name.

Cries in the Night

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I have to be honest: I’m pretty spoiled. While raising an infant has its challenges, Milo is a pretty easy going baby. From 2 months of age, he has slept 10 hours a night. On the rare occasion he’ll wake up in the middle of the night, but it’s very rare and always easy to get him back to sleep. Until recently.

About two weeks ago, Milo started waking at 1am like clockwork. You have to give the boy some credit: at least he’s consistent! The first couple nights it didn’t phase me. We had family visiting from out of town, so he was spending more time with “strangers” and less time with mommy. I figured these cries in the night were just his way of making up for our lost time during the day.

But as this wore on and seemed to be becoming our new norm, I started to get a little worried. I kept telling myself this was just a phase, he’d move out of it just as quickly as he moved into it. And let’s be honest, one waking in the middle of the night isn’t that bad. Many babies his age still do that and have yet to achieve a full night’s sleep.

So the other night it’s 1am and Milo starts crying. I rushed into his room to comfort him in hopes that he’d just fall back asleep quickly. I picked him up and immediately he was soothed. So I rocked him for a couple of minutes and put him back in his crib. I honestly enjoyed those few minutes of holding him—I know that the days of my baby boy wanting his mommy to hold him are limited so I’m happy to take advantage of them. But the moment I put him down he started crying again, so I quickly picked him back up. For 30 minutes we did this dance: cry, pick him up, rock, put back down, cry, pick him up and so on.

With no end in sight, I began to lose patience. I wondered if I had brought this problem onto myself; that I had enabled Milo by always picking him up. So in that moment I decided it was time to set things straight, I would let him cry-it-out.

Having done no research on how to properly do cry-it-out, I simply put him in his crib and sat on the floor next to him trying to hush him. It was awful. He cried until he was hysterical and choking. I thought he would eventually just pass out, but he was as determined to cry as I was to not pick him up.

After an hour, Milo was no longer the only one crying. I went into our bedroom sobbing and woke Nick up. I explained the situation and looked to him for affirmation. I needed to hear I was doing the right thing. What I got instead of affirmation was accountability. Nick, ever so gently, asked me if I thought this was the right time to try enforcing cry-it-out. He asked if I might be basing my decisions more on emotion and exhaustion rather than clear thought. He suggested that I comfort Milo in whatever way necessary and that the next day we would actually come up with a plan.

The next morning I was sipping my coffee and reflecting on the previous events. I realized how right Nick was, that I don’t do my best thinking at 1am. (I’m so grateful to have such a wise husband!)

I went on to realize that in the moment I decided to treat the symptoms: Milo’s waking and crying. But that’s not the actual problem. At his age, Milo can’t verbally tell me what’s wrong. He can’t say, “Mommy, my tummy hurts” or “Mommy, I miss you and need some extra snuggles.” All he can do is cry. I got so caught up around the crying, I missed the fact that Milo was trying to communicate with me. I was hearing him, but not listening to him. He needed to tell me what was wrong, but I was losing the message in translation.

The other problem I faced during that debacle, was the fear of “them.” You know, “those people.” What would “they” say when they heard I did cry it out. Half the moms out there would encourage me and say I was doing the right thing; the other half of moms would be ashamed and tell me how I was scarring my child for life. We sometimes get so caught up in the theories and philosophies for child rearing, that we treat our child like a math problem. There is a specific formula you must follow with only one correct answer.

But it’s not that simple because babies are people and they don’t just fit into a formula. What works best for one child doesn’t work best for another. And it’s not fair to the child to treat them in such a cookie cutter way. As Milo was crying, I became so paralyzed with fear that I was going to do the wrong thing. I was so concerned with all the other voices I couldn’t hear the one that mattered: Milo’s.

Ok Milo, Mommy’s listening.

Marriage, Calling, and Compromise

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What do you get when an Anglican man marries a non-denominational woman? A couple of United Methodists.

At least that’s how it’s working out for Nick and I.

I’ve been raised almost my entire life in a non-denominational church. I went to a non-denominational Bible college. And when I moved to Champaign, I immediately looked for a non-denominational church to attend. I believe that where the Bible speaks we speak and where the Bible is silent we are silent. I believe baptism is by immersion. You get my drift?

But Nick doesn’t come from the same background. He grew up United Methodist and started the ordination process in that church. He left the UMC and finished out his ordination in the Anglican Church. For years he tried to find a pastorate position in the Anglican Church without any success. And then I entered his life.

In the beginning of our relationship, I was naive enough to think I would be fine being a part of the Anglican Church. But all it took was one experience at an Anglican worship service and I knew I would never be at home in that church. Thinking that would mean the end of our relationship, Nick surprised me when he said we would find a place to worship together. His calling to be my husband was more important than a specific church. Wow. He loves me.

It wasn’t easy for us to find a compromise. I work at my non-denominational church and love it here. But Nick candidly told me he could never work at a non-denominational church. I pretended like that was ok, but secretly I prayed God would change his heart. I didn’t want to leave my church, the place I consider home.

But Nick is meant to be a pastor. He’s totally in his element when he preaches and he’s amazing at pastoral care. As much as I prayed he would change his mind about the non-denominational church, I eventually realized that it was never going to happen. And worse, that I was the obstacle for him living out his calling. I finally conceded. Next month Nick starts his first pastorate position in the United Methodist Church.

I’m nervous and excited about this next chapter in our lives. Already there are parts of Nick coming back to life that I’ve never seen. We have a beautiful house that the church is putting so much time and money into renovating for us. And I get to be a stay-at-home mom. We both feeling like God is leading us into the place that He has made for our family.

But there’s a lot of compromise that comes with it. I’m entering into a church tradition that is pretty unfamiliar and that I know I will not always see eye to eye with. I’m leaving the life that I made, that I chose, for myself behind along with the relationships I’ve built.

There is a reassurance that I often have to return to: God has called Nick and I together. God has called Nick to be a pastor at this place. I have my place in this calling too and God has been preparing me. Over and over again I remind myself of these truths because if I didn’t the unknowns would be too much for me. My fears and grievances of leaving would drown me. I would try to hold Nick back, to find another way.

God has called Nick and I together. God has called Nick to be a pastor at this place. I have my place in this calling and God has been preparing me.