Becoming Who We Are

I want to tell  you a story today. It’s a good story – at least, I think it is. It’s a story about young love, and mature love. About fear and overcoming fear. About unlearning and re-learning. But mostly, it’s about grace, grace writ large, grace first, last and always. 

First-born children – yes, they were each first-born children. Raised in similar families, too. Conservative, loving, happy, Christian homes. With dads who went out to work and moms who stayed home to work. With church as a staple source of encouragement, fellowship and teaching, some of it in words, lots of it as subtext.
And they both learned the same things about love and life and marriage, and about the ‘right’ way to make choices and the ‘right’ way to live into those choices. So when they married – she a blushing bride of 20, midway through her senior year of college, he all of 23, finishing his MBA at a grad school across town – when they married, they knew what choices to make. 
They made them happily, heartily, easily. She even researched their wedding ceremony, hunting for just exactly the right one, one that would include the word ‘obey’ in her vows – because, after all, that’s what the Bible says, right?
They learned early to become a strong unit, connected to one another firmly as they discovered more about life and marriage while living far away from home for two years. And when they came back, they brought a tiny baby with them, the first of three…in four years.
 
And they knew what to do, you can be sure of that. He would go off to work every day; she would stay at home and take care of those babies. And that’s what they did.
It worked pretty well, too. 
Oh, there were those niggling thoughts for her: “Is this what life is really about? Is there more that I should be doing? Is it enough to be at home with my babies all day?” 
But most of the time, those thoughts would flit into her head and then move right on out again, replaced with her mother’s voice, “Yes, of course this is what you should be doing. This is what all good Christian women do – they stay at home, they keep a clean house, they cook nutritious meals, they keep their children safe. This is what life is about.” 
And she really did love those babies of theirs. Yes, she really did. She did her bit at the co-op nursery school; she started a women’s group at church as the kids got bigger; and she began to read a little about the changing views on the role of women in the church. 
 
And her heart was stirred.
She remembered that once-upon-a-time she had been a good student, that she loved learning, that she had some talent as a leader and a speaker and a writer. So she did a whole lot of reading. She went to a conference or two – after her children were in school all day, of course. And she prayed a lot and she talked with her husband a lot, and she wondered. “Maybe there IS more for me to do in this life. I wonder what that might be.”
It wasn’t easy getting there. She was so full of fear that she ignored what became an increasingly clear call from God to go to seminary. For five years she ignored it, convinced that if she did something so radically independent, her marriage would be over.
 
Sadly, she didn’t trust either her husband or her God enough to know that the journey she was on was a shared one, that her husband was beginning to re-think things, too. So they got a little professional help, to sort it out, to unlearn and to re-learn. And they made a great big leap. Yes, indeed.  A great big one.
 
She enrolled in seminary when their youngest ‘baby’ was a senior in high school – and she was 44 years old and only two years away from being a grandmother.
He said, “The time has come for my shirts to go to the laundry – no more ironing for you.” 
 
And then the doors of their hearts began to open wider and wider, allowing the fresh Wind of the Spirit to blow through, to change things, freshen things, renew things. While in seminary, she had a direct call to pastoral ministry. Nothing like that had happened to her before. Nothing. “What,” she wondered, “do I do with this?”   
 
She and her husband talked and they prayed and they wondered. One day, he said something amazing to her, something she could scarcely believe she was hearing:
 
“You know what, honey? For thirty years, you have supported me in everything I’ve done, both professionally and personally. You’ve raised these great kids, you’ve created a good home for all of us, you’ve been a rock and the center around which the rest of us have orbited. So you know what I think? I think it’s my turn, now. It’s my turn to support you. So wherever God calls you, we’ll go together, okay? We’ll go there together.”
 
And that’s exactly what they did. Three years out of seminary, they moved 125 miles from home so that she could take a pastoral position. That meant that he commuted that distance – every single week. EVERY.SINGLE.WEEK for ten years. 
 
Without one complaint.
 
Because that’s what partners do, isn’t it? They support one another. They take turns if they need to. They encourage the best use of the other’s gifts. They live the truth that each half of their union is a whole human being, created, called and gifted. They pool their resources, they look to God together, they seek the welfare, health and wholeness of one another and of their joint venture, too.  
 
It wasn’t easy – good things seldom are. And it was very good indeed. They rode the road together. Through the tears and the fears, the laughter and the struggle, they believed in one another and they believed in the God who made them, named them, created and gifted them and called  them to be exactly who they are. Exactly.
Joining this one with Rachel Held Evans’ synchroblog week, “One in Christ – A Week of Mutuality.” I decided to eschew the technical/biblical/rhetorical approach to this topic in favor of a very personal story. Because I do believe it is in sharing our stories with one another, that hearts are changed, lives are enriched, and God is honored. And besides, I’ve spent the last 30 years or so making the biblical and exegetical arguments and I am DONE with that part. Kudos to Rachel, however, for taking it on so beautifully this week.
And a peek at those babies all-growed-up with their own babies, many of whom are also all-growed-up. Sigh. The baby born in Africa is the woman on the far right. 
Our middle daughter is in the middle of the photo and our son is in front of me.
This is a photo of a photo taken by Rich Austin of Austin’s Photography in Arroyo Grande, CA, and I apologize for its blurriness.

 

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Comments

  1. diana, this is beauty and grace and truth, and it made my eyes brim for the goodness of your faith and marriage and ministry. thank you for sharing your story. it is a breath of fresh air.

  2. Diana this absolutely amazing. I want my marriage to be like yours. Thank you for sharing your story and your marriage.

  3. Great story. Thanks for sharing it. oxox

  4. You know what’s so beautiful about this, to me? The perspective you have after years of mothering & ministering in different capacities. Thank you for sharing your story here, Diana.  It encourages me to keep talking and praying things through. Thank you.

  5. Lucillejohnston says:

    What a beautiful family- Good that you chose to go to Seminary- God has used you and your talents.
    Love, Lucille

  6. Beautiful story!

    I’ve been reading Rachel’s posts and some of the posts by others… and I think what Rachel (and everyone else) is doing is wonderful. Lots of good information.  But… though I’ve not spent years making the “biblical and exegetical arguments” about mutuality, I’m tired of the line-by-line edits, the discussions and the arguments. Enough already. Men and women, while different, are equal and have equal value. 

    So this post was refreshing. A story of two people who care enough about each other to fully support each other… wherever that leads them. Thanks for sharing!

  7. BEAUTIFUL. “We’ll go there together.” I got chills. Love, love, love.

  8. Wow! What an excellent story, Diana. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  9. Making choices can be such a challenge when we think we have to weigh the “ought to”, “want to”, and “must” options all the time. But it sounds like God nudged you in the right directions, and was a partner in the decisions both you and your husband made. And what a gorgeous family you have!

  10. pastordt says:

    Thank YOU, Annie, for stopping by and leaving such kind words. Keep talking – keep praying, which is actually a variety of talking, isn’t it? Even when we do it without words.

  11. pastordt says:

    Thanks, Carol, for dropping in here tonight. And yes – our lives are filled with far too many oughts/shoulds. Struggling our way through them is important, though – and worth the effort, I think. Thanks for your kind words about our family – we think they’re pretty remarkable.

  12. pastordt says:

    You’re welcome, Leigh. So glad to see your name in the comment box!

  13. pastordt says:

    Wow. My day has been MADE. Sarah Bessey got chills here. :>) (And I mean that – not being facetious at all.) Thanks for coming by and leaving kindness in your wake.

  14. pastordt says:

    Janet! How nice to see you here – and thank you for your good words. I guess I’d have to say I’m with you about the information overload on this topic. It’s important information – but somehow, telling stories is where I think we need to go in order to move forward and through all this. At least, I need to do that!

  15. pastordt says:

    Thank you so much, Lucille for leaving a comment here. Because YOU are a big part of this story, you know. YOU were the older woman who mentored me, called out my gifts, confirmed my call. So THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. Again. And again.

  16. pastordt says:

    Hey, Una! Thanks so much for leaving a word here. And you, my dear, are tops on my list of those I’ve tried to encourage to follow God’s lead and use your gifts in and for the church. oxox right back.

  17. pastordt says:

    Shawna – thanks so much for your kind affirmation! But don’t have a marriage like mine. Have a marriage like YOURS. Because that’s the whole point, right? We are each unique and our relationships are unique and God will work in and through you and your husband in ways that will surprise you. Count on it.

  18. pastordt says:

    Sweet Suzannah – haven’t seen you here or at your place in a while, though I see you scattered across FB and Twitter. I think I need to re-subscribe or something. Thanks for this lovely message. Ours is a good story – hard at a lot of points, but good. And it felt good to tell a bit of it in this space today.

  19. What a beautiful love-filled story!  It is of our generation raised by our parents’ values and religious views, and all seemed well until we women began to realize our brains still worked after babies, right?  So thrilled for you that God’s calling has taken you places and down roads you never expected to go and that you married someone who had the grace and love to see that your heart was moved by a call and that he could come alongside in a new role and support you.  And what a fine family you have brought into this world and now have shared in this lovely photograph!  Wholeheartedly agree with your statements about sharing our stories — it is so important that we share in order to encourage and spread the truth.

  20. pastordt says:

    You nailed it, Sherrey – brains after babies. Yes. That’s a big part of it, isn’t it? And sharing stories is at the heart of our faith, seems to me. Thanks so much for coming by and leaving such a great word of encouragement!

  21. Glenda Childers says:

    I simply love you … your heart, your story, your honesty, your sweetness.

    The practical girl that I am … learns from story.

    Now I want to go kiss my husband … who supports me so well.

  22. A beautiful story!  I love hearing women share stories about living up to their God-given potential – and hearing about the men who support them 100%.

  23. pastordt says:

    Thank you, Glenda. I love your heart and your story, too. And save those kisses up, if he’s gone – he’ll appreciate it. :>)

  24. pastordt says:

    Thank you, Cherie – great to have you drop by.

  25. You and your man sound perfectly matched. Do you know how rare that is? Whether you’re 71 or 21 or 41 (like me). The world would have been a poorer place without Pastor Diana.

  26. pastordt says:

    No one is perfectly matched – that is a myth, I do believe. If you are committed to one another and to marriage as an idea and an essential part of your life, if you’re both mentally healthy and willing to take risks together – you can grow into ‘match-dom.’ We all learn how to be married in our own way, I think. And the two of us? We bicker with the best of them! But as impatient as we sometimes get with the other’s quirks and idiosyncrasies, we know we are together. Forever. And since that’s true, we try, by God’s grace, to be the best partners we can be for one another…most of the time. And honey, I think that’s all we can hope for this side of heaven. I truly do. Thanks so much for your kind words, Megan. You are a treasure to me.

  27. AnnGMorrone says:
  28. Diana, may I say how deeply this story touches me? What a lovely love you have. Thank you for making those hard choices and being faithful to that Call.

  29. pastordt says:

    Thank you, Laura. Your kind words come at the end of a day when I needed to hear them. Not sure exactly why, but maybe because a blogger I admire had a rather cryptic post this week that I think was a repudiation of the kinds of choices I’ve made over the last 35 years. Maybe I’m reading in – but I don’t think so. And it just made me sad, at many different levels. I’ve been here before and by God’s grace, I’ll move right on through it. But please know your words helped in that process. A lot.

  30. Thank you Diana, for letting us glimpse your story of love. May you have many more years together on this earth…

  31. pastordt says:

    Thank you, Connie. I appreciate your faithfulness in stopping by here so very much.

  32. soulstops says:

    Thank you, Diana, for sharing your story,  how your loving husband supported you, and how you followed God’s leading…each of us is so unique, and it was a blessing to read @ your journey.  Lovely family photo of the two of you, and the kids w/ your grandkids.

  33. pastordt says:

    Thank you, Dolly, for stopping by and leaving such kind words!

  34. Melissa says:

    This is, indeed, a beautiful story. An encouraging one for me at a time of great uncertainty.

    I am 27 years old, in a beautiful marriage for 5 years, not knowing what to do next. I have felt a gradually increasing tug on my heart toward ministry. This would be a complete career change, not to mention inconvenient at a time when we are thinking of expanding our family to more than two members, and with my lovely mate in a career he loves. He is supportive but there is no clear way forward, no convenient seminary nearby, no money. There is just this idea that will not go away, not for the last several years, this longing. 

    I do not know if He wants me to wait on His timing, or to try harder to make it happen. He has not told me yet. I do not want to marginalize my beloved or leave him behind me on the trail as I plow ahead.

    Do you have any thoughts on how to wait, or how to decide the step forward?

  35. pastordt says:

    Maybe start with extension learning? LOTS of seminaries offer online coursework. You could research the seminaries that are closest to you and see if there is one that particularly resonates with your spirit. Eventually, you will have to go on campus. But you could dabble a bit. There is NOTHING wrong with testing the waters, especially is you’re thinking about starting a family. You do not have to rush. Also, I would encourage you to look for avenues for ministry without necessarily going the seminary route. Is there a need in your current congregation that you see? Maybe a silent retreat you could plan and lead…or a marriage retreat…or whatever you feel is missing in your community. I worked as a volunteer for many years – in music ministries, worship writing, women’s ministries while I raised my kids. That tug on your heart may need a little of both – learning at the seminary level and working at the community level. Many blessings as you explore. Also, do you have a spiritual director? I would heartily recommend searching for a director in your area with whom you feel comfortable and walking with that person while you try to discern next steps.

  36. Melissa says:

    Thank you for your kind response, pastor. I will think about this carefully. I believe God has used you (and RHE’s series on equality) to give me courage to think about this more proactively, and with more hope.

    I have never had a spiritual director – I come from an SBC background, which has left me with some bumps and bruises on this slow journey toward ministry (because women don’t do that…), and also unfamiliar with the idea of a spiritual director. My current church does not have them. Is there a denomination I should look for in my area churches to find one?

  37. pastordt says:

    Well…what I tell you here may be a little hard for someone from an SBC background to grab hold of, but I’ll give it a shot.

    Spiritual direction is an old practice of the church, whereby one person walks with another to discern the movement of the Holy Spirit in their life and to deepen their prayer experience. The tradition was carried by the Catholic church for many centuries and spread to Anglicanism early on. In the last 100 years it has begun to show up in lots of other Protestant settings and my own denomination (Evangelical Covenant) now has a training program at their seminary in Chicago. (A great book to read to give you a glimpse into this practice is “Holy Listening” by Margaret Guenther.)

    You can go online to this website and see if there’s anyone within a couple of hours drive. http://www.sdiworld.org/ I drove 125 miles for three years to meet with my most recent director – and it was worth every second on the road. He was a Benedictine (Roman Catholic) abbot and a dear, dear man. He died in March and I miss him so much. So, I’m looking just like you are. I hope to be in direction for the rest of my life and am finishing my own training in August and will be certified then. I currently meet with six different women once a month and hope to add another next week. It is a gift and a privilege to both receive and offer direction.

    Generally, you meet monthly and there is a small fee ranging from about $30-75 per visit. You need someone who is certified and going through an
    organization like this is a good way to begin. Also, if you have a
    monastery anywhere near where you live, they often have directors on their
    staff and you make a donation to the monastery for this service.

    Please do continue to be in prayer about all of this. It is still not an
    easy road for women in ministry – the Episcopal Church, the PCUSA, UMC,
    ECLA and ECC plus most Pentecostal denominations are the most welcoming
    denominations that I know of, so be very sure and clear that this is God’s
    direct leading. There are many ways to be a woman in ministry without a
    seminary education. (although I encourage everyone and anyone with the
    time, money and interest to take seminary classes – it’s a wonderful gift
    to the church to deepen your understanding and experience of our faith.)
    And even with a seminary degree, you can serve the church without
    ordination. Also, I would recommend that you try to find someone else who
    has made this journey at your stage of life – and there are lots of women
    out there who have done so. I have nothing but admiration for them all as I
    could not have done it in my 20’s. Many blessings to you as you continue to
    wait on God’s leading.

  38. Melissa says:

    Thank you for another kind and thoughtful response. Sorry for the long delay in my reply.

    This has been so helpful, thank you. I will try to be patient and prayerful, although neither are really my nature. Your advice and encouragement could not have come at a better time. So, be encouraged that God has used you in my life. 

    I believe that I am still in a waiting time. I don’t know whether that’s for a little while or for a decade. I’m accustomed to being in control of my own life & schedule, so this is a challenge.

    Thank you again for your ministry.

  39. pastordt says:

    You’re welcome, Melissa – and many blessings as you wait on the Lord’s timing for all of this. I know that’s not an easy thing to do sometimes.

  40. I am so grateful I was led to you today. Your story of Covenant Love so rich, so true, so on point. We need more stories like this. I am grateful for your journey. 

  41. Diana Trautwein says:

    Thanks for coming by this old entry – it happens to be a favorite of mine, for lots of reasons. And you know there are stories like this out there – we just need to encourage folks to tell them more often.

  42. I pray that I am part of that encouraging to tell. There is much power in the telling. My Covenant Love and I will celebrate 18 years of marriage this year. Our path began very young and has been dusty and deep. I just released my blog yesterday with the story of our Covenant Love. I pray it reads Grace…and vow to continue sharing http://www.spiritualglasses.me if you have time for a looksy sometime. Again, I feel so blessed to have been lead here today. 

  43. I love, love this story.

    “Because that’s what partners do, isn’t it? They support one another. They take turns if they need to. They encourage the best use of the other’s gifts. They live the truth that each half of their union is a whole human being, created, called and gifted.” Yes. Yes. Yes.

    One of my dear friends went to seminary after her children were grown and served as a chaplain in a children’s hospital, then co-pastored a church with her husband. There was a time I could have seen myself doing that (the chaplain part), and if I had the opportunity to go to seminary, I’d go at the drop of a hat–if even only for the experience. My husband would support it, just like he’s always supported anything I’ve wanted to do–but I don’t sense it as a calling…yet…but I’m still young. 😉

  44. You ARE still young, dear Sandy. But you’re right – as much as I encourage anyone to go to seminary, you should feel a true nudge in your spirit to do it. I was called to go to seminary first without even thinking about going into the ministry, to be honest. That call came about two years into my four year program.