From Medical Doctor to Stay-at-Home Mom

By Kathryn Butler.  Original article found here

 

When I was nine years old, my parents encouraged me to play the clarinet or flute, “like the other girls did.”

I remember their words circling through my mind as I leaned forward in my chair to examine the neat rows of flutists during band practice. I admired the willowy sweep of their arms, and their fingertips poised over the keys like a clutch of butterflies. Then, the bandleader raised a finger, and I snapped to attention. He signaled for me to blast the refrain of “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” on my trumpet.

My predilection for brass over wind continued into adulthood. I studied biochemistry at a women’s college, attended medical school, and pursued specialty training in surgery, a field in which male practitioners outnumber women four to one. After residency, I sub-specialized in trauma surgery. I opened chests, got bloody, and returned dying kids to their mothers. I taught, wrote papers, edited books, and spoke at national meetings. In the halo of my success, my husband decided that when we finally had children, he would stay home.

But God had other plans.

My Son’s Fragile First Seconds

Jack careened into our world after forty hours of induced labor and an emergency Cesarean section. When I held him in my arms alone for the first time, he tore the floodgates to my heart wide open.

But as I adored him, his breathing paused.

In the still silence, I began to count the seconds.

One.

Two.

Three.

Four.

Five.

“Jack.”

I rubbed his sternum. Pressed my call button.

Six.

Seven.

Eight.

“Jack!”

His skin mottled to dusk color.

Panic gripped my throat.

“Jack!”

I covered his supple face with the foul yawning of my mouth, and blasted hot air into his lungs.

“Breathe Jack, breathe!”

Rubbed his sternum again.

Shouted.

I forced another blast, shoving air into delicate windpipes meant to coax breath like a quiet stream.

He eeked out a cry, barely discernible at first. Then his wail intensified. His color ruddied. Two nurses rushed in and whisked him away in a mess of blankets. I collapsed into the pillow, and sobbed.

A Question of Calling

Jack spent two nights in the special care nursery, tangled in monitors. In a short time, he reached for the bassinet lights with his eager, pruned fingers splayed wide. That outstretching continued at home, first from his crib, then during his wobblings in the grass, his ventures in the frothy skirts of the sea, and finally as he rushed to embrace me whenever I returned home from work. I would stumble into the house with my shoulders groaning and my mind overburdened, and he would flail toward me, his gangly arms seeking, his face tipped heavenward, cheeks hot, eyes wild.

Jack did just fine. I, on the other hand, never recovered. Ten years after I first slipped into a white coat and welcomed an identity I wore everywhere I went, I questioned my compass. For years I had convinced myself that, as a doctor, I sacrificed moments with friends, family, and my husband for the greater good. The call to heal the sick and tend the injured superceded all else. The Lord heaped blessings upon me, and I hurled them back in the name of “service” to him.

I’m a woman surgeon, I would snap. You made me this way. I have a legacy to carry on.

The Power of a Mother’s Love

After Jack was born, and once his sister followed two years later, God exposed the artifice of my worldview. I never anticipated the fierce, visceral, heady, unruly, terrifying love I would have for my children. The allure to minister to them in every moment, to guide them and teach them in the Lord’s ways, was palpable — rich with fiber, depth, and magnetism.

As the 70-hour workweeks marched on and robbed me of first crawls, first words, first discoveries of frogs and the ocean, I measured my daily activities against my imperatives as a mother.

The harried days, the teaching, and the hours in the operating room, once so important, paled in comparison with my call to shepherd the children with whom God entrusted me. When my daughter, not yet nine months old, burst into tears as I lifted my backpack to leave for an out-of-state conference, the Lord drove the point home.

Without intention, I had established for my infant a truth claim about knapsacks and mothers that reduced her to tears. What was I also teaching her about God, her heavenly Father?

Lean In or Opt Out?

The Internet is replete with commentary on Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook), Ann Marie Slaughter (President & CEO of New America), and the “Opt-Out Generation.” As intriguing and complex as these discussions appear, for Christians, debates about “having it all” run askance of the point. The real question is, are we leaning in to our careers or opting out to stay at home in order to have it all for his glory, or for our own edification?

In my case, my worldly success arose not from dedication to Christ, but from my own pride. The scalpel, the lecture, and the accolades they earned me served as objects of worship. My motivation — to help people — was honorable. But as I relied upon it to justify my existence, my relationship with my career mutated into idolatry.

Opting out was a step toward communion with God.

When we consider our roles as professionals, mothers, teachers, mentors, entrepreneurs, writers, academicians, and athletes, we must not only celebrate the gifts God has granted us as individuals crafted in his image, but also consider how to use these talents for his service, rather than for our own self-aggrandizement. Cradled in sin, we are born with a proclivity to pursue things that glorify ourselves, rather those that glorify God. Our task is to counteract this inclination, by delighting in our blessings and devoting our time and efforts toward Christ-focused service.

How do we ensure that we pursue our work in faith, in a capacity honoring toward Him?

Whom Do We Glorify?

When I resigned from clinical work, many colleagues, friends who had witnessed my struggles in preceding years, applauded me. Others, incredulous, barraged me with questions about my decision. Peers scrutinized my every claim. Mentors urged me not to “waste” my education.

Their accusations reminded me of the remarks Mary suffered when she anointed Christ. According to the world, she, too, had “wasted” a precious gift (Matthew 26:6–13). We know that when we serve Christ, we waste nothing.

However, when viewed against Western ideals of success, the worldly ramifications of our decisions can stir up crushing doubt. The question, “whom do I glorify with this task?” serves as a barometer for our focus in such scenarios. Too often in our careers, the answer is “ourselves.” When this occurs, we must adjust our trajectory back toward God.

R.C. Sproul writes, “If we are serving God without joy, there is something wrong with that service.”

Christ assures us that our joy will be complete in him (John 15:11). Such joy is steadfast, deep, everlasting. When we seek after the approval of the impermanent world, rather than yearn for Christ, we loosen our embrace on the joy that comes only from abiding in him.

God Knows

The prospect of abandoning a secure position with excellent prospects for advancement terrified me. I spent many nights agonizing that despite the Lord’s call, my decision to leave medicine was reckless or irresponsible. Such fears are normal and expected, but reflect our own limited understanding, rather than an enduring faith in the Lord. God is sovereign over our lives, and whatever doubts we have, we may trust that he knows the path, and is in command over all.

Christ has already overcome, and so we have nothing to fear. From Proverbs: “In his heart a man plans his course but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9), and “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your path straight” (Proverbs 3:5–6).

Hope in Christ

“Yes, but what will you do in twenty years when your kids go off to college?”

Friends repeatedly ask this question. The premise rests on an understanding of personal satisfaction as the chief aim in life. For such well-meaning friends, hope depends on identity through accomplishment.

What I have learned over these years of motherhood is that our hope rests not in our own effort, but in the resurrection of Christ. From 1 Thessalonians 1:3: “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Christ died and rose victorious over death and sin to free us, so that we may have the hope and fulfillment that comes from living in him.

When we embrace this precious truth, we know the peace and joy that comes from abiding in Christ. Humbled, not a little frightened, we free ourselves to race forward with arms outstretched, face tilted skyward, trumpet blaring at our backs.

Dear Diary

I can’t reach my toys.

Mom says I need to keep trying.  She just lets me lay here on my belly and flail.  I move my arms and kick my legs and she thinks I look like a frog.  A cute frog, but a frog.

She and Dad say I need to learn to crawl.  I need to push myself around and figure it out, without them helping me.  Like somehow get places without them picking me up.  That’s all good and stuff, but I don’t want to crawl.  I want to walk!

Sometimes I get to stand on the bathroom counter and play with the towel hanger, which is so fun.  And then I try to walk a little on the counter, but I’m still trying to make my legs work like Mom and Dad’s do.

I do like laying on my belly and playing with toys — I just want to not do the crawling part.  Can’t I just walk first?

Today is Today

Some days we protest naptime.  Today is one of those days — we had a little playdate this morning and I thought for sure Levi would be out for a while.  He went down like usual but half an hour later he was wiggling around in his crib with no intention of putting himself back to sleep.  We’ve tried everything; the mobile, rocking while standing and singing, rocking while sitting and singing, eating, singing, diaper change, the mechanical swing and music…

While I rocked him in the chair I sang one song over and over and over:

 

Jesus loves the little children,

All the children of the world.

Red and yellow, black and white

They are precious in His sight.

Jesus loves the little children

Of the world!

 

His big blue eyes would look up at me and watch as I sang.  He’d play with my hand, glance back up, and smile.  I’d smile back and he’d talk or go back to my hand.  The smiles melt me.

Today is one of those days nothing has made me uptight or frustrated.  That can change, for sure — patience is a funny thing.  I can have all the patience in the world, or absolutely none at all depending on the moment.

But today, as I’ve worked for three hours to get my baby to nap, God has given me patience and joy.  Instead of having to take deep breaths and look away to recompose myself from irritation, I’ve giggled with Levi and playfully kissed his hands as he protests.  He may stay up a little longer thinking it’s time to take on the world, but at least he’ll do it happily.  When Mama’s relaxed and happy, baby can relax and be happy.

Moments like the ones I had singing to him and watching his beautiful eyes are moments well spent.  Those moments I get to snuggle him all up and hold him tight, rock with him and sing to him — I wouldn’t trade those for anything, even sleep.  Because yes, his whole day will be thrown off; but it’s one day.  It’s today and that’s what we’ll go with.  Thank You for it, Lord.

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*Above picture from last week.  ;)

And P.S. — I will be referring myself back to this post in the future!

Dear Diary

Dad figured me out.  He started doing this thing where he puts me on his legs in the air and I zoom around — it’s so fun.  I love it.  I don’t know why Mom didn’t come up with that a long time ago, cuz she usually tries all kinds of things to get me to laugh.  They don’t all really work…

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I know this picture looks like we’re having a stare down, cuz sometimes we do that too.  I can go a really long time without blinking, but Daddy and Mommy can’t.  So I win.

And Mommy I’m sorry I used this picture, because it’s dark and not how you would want it to look.  But I think that’s okay, right?  It’s a good one for me to look at.

I love zooming around on Daddy’s legs.  He makes noises and faces and I have to laugh because he’s so funny.  Mommy does it with me now too, cuz she really loves when I laugh.  She makes some funny noises and faces too.

I’m glad Daddy figured me out, because now we have even more fun together.  I like having fun with him!

Sincerely,

Me

Love always, A Pastor’s Wife

Sharing this from a friend on Instagram – I love how she phrases these words and provides  redirection and encouragement.  A quick post; find the original here

***

An open letter to church attendees,
Your pastor isn’t perfect. If your church is 12 people or 12,000, he is still human. There is a good chance your pastor didn’t get into this career for a paycheck or power. He became a pastor because He loves God and wants to point others to Him.

There is a good chance he gets up early praying for you and your family. When tithing stops and people don’t show up, he worries about what staff he has to let go. When there is a community crisis or natural disaster, he leaves his wife and kids to unlock the church doors to welcome you in. When he performs your children’s wedding ceremony or speaks at the men’s retreat, he is most likely missing his sons soccer tournament or daughters dance recital. When there is a death in your family, no matter what time of day it is, he is by your side. When there is a family crisis, he is on the phone with you even if it is dinner time. He carries the beautiful weight of your church on his shoulders. This burden is his offering. But, please know, it is a heavy burden to carry.

So when he preaches 5 mins to long, you don’t like the style of worship, the chairs are uncomfortable, you don’t like the way he dresses, or in the hustle of Sunday morning he forgets your name, it isn’t because he doesn’t care, it’s because he isn’t perfect. His role is to point you to God, the One who is always perfect. Before you complain or criticize, please remember he loves you and is doing the best he can. Your pastor is your shepherd not your superman.

And to my husband who just celebrated 10 years as a pastor. I love you. I see how you toss and turn at night. I see that distant look in your eyes when you come home from a hard day at work. I know it pains you to miss important moments with our kids. I see your longing for people to know Jesus. I know it hasn’t been easy, but I’ve seen your faithfulness day in and day out. Your sacrifice isn’t lost on me. Thank you for being my pastor, husband, and friend. I love you.

To all the wives and children of a pastor, Your quiet sacrifice is seen. It can be a lonely road. You are loved. carry on.❤️ Love always, a pastors wife.

Driving this morning I pulled over a couple times to snap photos… isn’t this world so beautiful?  God’s handiwork amazes me.  He crafts each leaf, each blade of grass, each drop of water.  They all come together to make such beautiful things.

And to think that Heaven is going to be even prettier — that what we see here is all damaged goods!  Wow.

Dear Diary

Dear Diary,

It’s Monday.  For some reason all the adults I know don’t like Mondays.  I’m not sure why.  I don’t like days like yesterday, whenever those happen.

I got to sleep in yesterday — I’m not sure what Mom and Dad were thinking, cuz it threw me all off.  But the sleep was good.  We didn’t go to church (you know, the place where we listen to a guy that makes Mommy and Daddy laugh and then I have to see a hundred people all talking and making faces and it’s really overwhelming).  We didn’t go there because I guess Mom and Dad wanted to sleep too, and when they found out what time it was they got sad and decided they needed to wake me up.

When they wake me up they always are smiling and laughing, and making squeaky noises.  I’m still trying to know why they squeak.  I’ve seen those things that fly in the air make the squeaky noises — and I know Mom and Dad don’t have wear fluffy things.  So I don’t think they’re the same, but I don’t know why they squeak…

Anyways, yesterday was no fun.  My lips hurt real bad.  Okay no, it was inside my mouth.  Mommy says they’re my gums.  They hurt real bad, all day.  They hurt so bad I couldn’t fall asleep, and Mommy looked a little upset when I didn’t want to take my afternoon nap.  I think she was trying to do something without me, but I can’t imagine why.

She and Daddy got me up and we played, which was fun.  There’s this squishy colorful thing I love — oh wait, it squeaks too.  But it isn’t fluffy.  I know cuz I put it in my mouth, and it feels real nice on my gums.  But why does it squeak too?  I maybe won’t know for a long time.  But we played with it and will all my other toys, because they’re so fun.

The not fun part was when it was time to go to bed, cuz my gums really, really, REALLY hurt.  I got to play in the water and put on my bed clothes first, and then Mommy fed me and put me to sleep.  Except after I was asleep for a little time I was hurting again and so I opened my eyes real big and looked at Mommy and she looked like I wasn’t supposed to do that.  She rocked me, and then picked me up and rocked me, and I had to scream the whole time because ouch.

I know I usually start to go to sleep at 7:30 but Mommy told me this morning I didn’t want to sleep until 9:30.  She said it was a good thing I’m cute.  I’m not sure what that means.  But I know I screamed and cried a whole lot and it made me cough and choke and I didn’t like it.  Mommy held me and Daddy played with this thing that put light on the wall, and it moved around and that was good to watch.  And they gave me this cold thing to put in my mouth, and that helped for a little time and then I didn’t like it.  And when I was crying and screaming for a while Mommy cried too and I tried to eat her chin and then she laughed.  I like her chin.

Then I guess I cried and screamed for long enough that it was time for me to eat again, so Mommy fed me and rocked me and then I fell asleep.  And I didn’t have to wake back up again until this morning.  Daddy came in and smiled and talked to me and then picked me up and handed me to Mommy because he had to go somewhere really fast.  But I’ll see him again today when he comes and gives me a kiss.

So I’m not sure why people don’t like Mondays, because I think I don’t like yesterdays.  They’re awful.  I hope I don’t have to have another yesterday.

Sincerely,

Me

 

***

Happy Monday!  I’m going to start a series of these “Dear Diary” posts as a fun way to start our week.  Fun for me to write, hopefully fun for you to read!  Because unlike Levi, not everyone enjoys Mondays.  :)

Lipstick and Babies

Levi and I took a trip to Walmart this morning, and I realized something not-so-profound: lipstick is hard to wear with a baby!  We walked up and down the isles, forward and backwards (I think Levi appreciated me going backwards so he could go forwards for a change).  I looked at this brand, then that brand, then back to the first… price checking, and color checking.

Finally I found a decent shade and off we went to find contact cleaner and rubbing alcohol.  Levi tried to have a conversation with the cashier on our way out, and she was kind and gentle and wished us a nice day.

When we got home and Levi was in his crib, I tried on the new lipstick.  I’m pretty sure I haven’t worn lipstick since our wedding, and now I have another reason not to.  You can’t kiss babies with lipstick!

Surely there are ways to adorn your lips without the color wearing off, but it made me laugh.  Unless I want kiss marks on his face (well, body) or have incredible restraint, I probably won’t wear it that frequently.  It looks pretty — but do you know how many times I kiss that kid?  I smother him hourly!

Speaking of which, my little man is just about due for some more.  Hope you shared a laugh with me.  ;)

 

Prayers Today

Have you ever had days you feel burdened to pray for specific people?  Some people come to mind, stay there, or pass through…  It can be tricky at times to determine what the Lord is leading in their regard.  Maybe there’s an action He’s wanting you to take; a quick text or note to send, a visit, an answer you haven’t decided on.  But the action could also simply be to pray.

Prayer is mysterious, isn’t it?  We wonder what it does, what – if anything – it changes, who it affects.  But we know that God tells us to pray, and therefore we do it.

Last night and today I’ve had a few people on my mind, and the only action in front of me to take right now is prayer.  These children and their caretakers, this boy and his caretakers, and this not-so-little girl.  Mainly the first group of children and caretakers; I don’t know why, and that’s okay.  God knows and my job is to be obedient.

I’m sharing this merely to encourage you.  Are there people who have been on your mind the last few days? or week?  People you’re not sure how to help or handle?  Maybe the action God is asking you to take is to pray.

Someday we will see the results of our prayers, be it this side of Heaven or not.  It will be amazing; we can trust Him to that.  We need only to be obedient.  :)