Fear and Grief Feel Similar

I was so excited to start my new job at Sisters of Saint Joseph of Peace until I had to announce to Washington Cathedral that I was leaving. Then the grief and fear hit me, and they hit hard.

I was expecting to feel happy and unaffected emotionally while others were surprised I was leaving. Instead I had a panic attack and had to go home on the day of my announcement. It didn’t help that I hadn’t slept in two nights from my babies. The whole next week I could barely eat as I realized I was grieving. It was so surprising to me.

Over the past week, I’ve realized that when my life hasn’t felt safe, happy, or loving at times, the church has been that for me. Leaving my church job is taking a lot of courage and trust in God. I know it’s what He wants for me and I know his will is the safest place for me to be, but it still feels scary.

I’m also just so sad. I have so many good, positive, and loving experiences at Washington Cathedral. To have this chapter closing is very sad for me. I love the staff. I love the people in the church. I love how safe it feels for me there.

I’m being challenged to trust God like never before. I’m thankful for that. But rather than being a brave soldier, I’m trying to just let myself be human. In fact, my mantra everyday has been, “It’s ok to be human.”

I’m trying to let myself be tired just because of emotions or lack of sleep. I’m trying to give myself grace if I tear up in public because grief comes in surprising waves. I’m trying to acknowledge my fear, sadness, and exhaustion and sit with it. Rather than pushing through to strive for perfection in everything, I’m trying to step back to make more space for feelings.

What feels weird is that this is a good transition and I know it. Sometimes I’m surprised at just how fragile I feel. Learning to love my fragile self and lean graciously into that identity is new to me. But if God loves me just as I am, surely I can learn to love myself completely too.

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Will you still attend Washington Cathedral?

When I’ve told close friends and staff that I got a new job that allows me to be with my family on the weekends, it’s always followed by the question, “will you still attend Washington Cathedral?”

I say yes, because that’s the short answer. But in reality, there is a longer answer to that. Ben, Eva, Oscar, and I all want to still attend Washington Cathedral. We want to keep routine and community for our kids. We want them to see their grandparents at church. We love the values and theology of Washington Cathedral. We love this church and want to support it however we can.

And yet, there is a hesitation in my yes. I’ve only ever been a pastor to people at Washington Cathedral and now I’m going to have to find a mature and gracious way to put up boundaries. That’s really hard for me! I won’t be available for the important stuff I loved as a pastor: texts in the early mornings from parents who need prayers for their kids, facebook messages responding to people with serious anxiety or depression, hospital calls anytime of the day or night, spontaneous counseling for anyone who needs it, organizing community to meet the needs of the homeless or domestic violence victims, calls late at night from people deep in grief. What people don’t realize is that I take this on 24/7 and it really is a full time job. I got a new job and I won’t be able to keep this one. I deeply care for each individual I’ve pastored, but I will need to create space to find my new identity and build my new career.

I honestly don’t know how to not do that. I honestly don’t know how to not be a pastor. But that is what my kids need while they are this young. They need more of my focused attention when I’m with them. They need me to take an actual day off or not stop dinner to respond to a person in crisis.

Once my insurance at my new job kicks in, I’ll go back to counseling to work on this. But I know I’ve got to grow in this area if I want to stay at Washington Cathedral. If I backslide too much and it’s taking away from my family, we may pull back for a time and worship closer to our home for a bit. Or if God clearly calls us to another church, we would obey that too. But I haven’t felt lead anywhere else.

Honestly, this is something I would really appreciate prayer for. While growing into a new career, a new rhythm to life, going back to school… to also take on learning radical new boundaries sounds very intimidating to me. But I wanted to share the longer story behind my hesitant “yes”.

Why I chose my new job

I’m writing this 6/27/18 but I’ll post this after I announce this to the church 7/8/18.

A couple wise people told me to write a blog post on why I chose my new job and what I like about it. That way, after the honeymoon period is over, or if I face hard challenges, I can look back with confidence as to why I made my decision.

Also, for any friends, especially from Washington Cathedral who feel confused about how Becca White McCary could possibly ever not work for Washington Cathedral, I wanted to write something to help others understand too.

From the moment I became a mom, I have not balanced ministry and family life well. It’s been a painful struggle for me. Pastoring often feels more natural than mothering to me, but I still love my kids deeply. In both areas I’m never able to give enough. My kids cry “mama no preach!” On the weekends and cry for hours on end all the nights that Ben tucks them in without me there because I’m running kids programs. Camps have been very hard on my kids too. Similarly, I know that the Cathedral Kids and my sermons often need much more than I’m able to give too. It’s caused a lot of painful internal struggle and guilt for me.

Ben has known for a long time that I’ve needed to find a different job, and it only took me 4 years and lots of counseling to catch up. I was in denial for a long time because there is nothing else that I’ve ever wanted to do. I loved my job at Washington Cathedral. From the time I was in 3rd grade, I have pictures I drew of me preaching at Washington Cathedral one day. I loved using my masters degree, helping people, building up the church, playing with kids, counseling, doing hospital visits… all of it. If I had chosen a different path in life that didn’t involve marriage and a family, I probably would have stayed at Washington Cathedral as a pastor all my life. But I did choose to become a wife and mother and I love it. I love my husband and I love my kids and my first loyalty is to them, not my career.

Slowly, God began to reveal this to me. The first time was the moment I gave birth to Oscar January 2016. I was called by multiple people, hours after having him, wondering how I planned to cover the Cathedral Kids program since he came 3 weeks later than expected. I felt like I needed to call subs and send out curriculum rather than attending to my hours old baby and it was clear, my life was out of balance. I needed something with systems and extra employees in place to let me pull back sometimes. Three weeks later, Oscar had a fever and Eva was having a tough time, I was recovering from my emergency C-section, but I was back in the pulpit. As my postpartum depression and anxiety increased, it became clear something was out of balance in my life, but it hurt to bad to admit I might need to move on from the only job I’ve ever wanted.

August 2017 I got a job offer for a church in Seattle. Though I really liked this church and it’s pastor, I knew in my bones this wasn’t right. Anytime I thought of leaving, I had another panic attack. It didn’t help that Oscar was back in the hospital that week either. Two more times that year this church came back to me with offers and 3 other churches seriously considered me as well. But in each situation I wasn’t ready to go and it just didn’t feel right. I was doing a ton of processing but no other church job felt right.

Every time I did a funeral or met with one of the wise older women of the church, they told stories of choosing their families over their careers and what a blessing that was to them. Every time, I heard God whisper to me as they spoke, “listen to that”. I also had wise friends telling me that they think it would be healthier for me to look into a different job. I’m so grateful for the people who love me enough to tell me the uncomfortable truth.

Finally, inconsequentially, a job at a Catholic retreat center popped up on my indeed profile to be their “administrator”. Without looking into it much, I clicked one button and sent them my generic resume. Surprisingly, a couple weeks later, they asked if I could come in for an in person interview. I said yes, in part to humor Ben who was looking out for my best interest to find something that was a less stressful fit for me. But when I prepared for the interview, reading their website, I teared up to see the powerful way these nuns lived out their faith fighting for justice. I had no idea what job I was interviewing for. I thought, “maybe it’s a secretary type position?” But I got really, really excited to go and meet these women. I’m a total fan girl when it comes to nuns.

When I met them, there were 2 big surprises: 1. The moment I met them I loved them and felt like I had known them my whole life. 2. They weren’t interviewing me to be an office secretary. They were asking me management questions because I would oversee 30 employees, 3 managers, and multiple departments. I never would have applied had I known how under-qualified I was. They wanted someone with a degree in business management and gerontology and healthcare management. I had none of those. But I left feeling deeply grateful for the chance to meet these women. I knew I would remember that moment the rest of my life.

Much to my surprise, they brought me in 2 weeks later for a 6 hour in person interview where over 60 people asked me interview questions. It was intense, but I loved it. I expected to have a panic attack, like the job search process in the past, but instead I felt full of peace and energized in a good way.

2 days later they called and offered me the job and I accepted.

So here are the pros to the job:

-I get to work Monday-Friday, with weekends home with my family. For the past 2 years, Ben and I haven’t shared a day off. Add in me working evenings and him commuting 3 hours a day, we’ve really missed time as a family of 4. This will help that tremendously. I’ve also never had 2 days off in a week. I don’t know what to expect, but I’m excited to try out this new rhythm.

-I get to work an early shift (7-4) and so I can be home each night to make dinner and tuck in my kids. No more nights of Oscar waiting, crying at the window for hours past his bedtime until mommy comes home.

-Saint Mary’s at the Lake has many similar values to Washington Cathedral, allowing me to hold onto many organizational things I love such as a family/relational atmosphere and a collaborative team work approach to leadership.

-I get to hang out with some really amazing saints. I really liked the people I met, both the employees and the nuns.

-I will be stretched in my faith in ways that I’ve been longing to grow. I love justice but have struggled to feel comfortable going to political marches while pregnant or nursing and I’ve felt cut off from friends who are as passionate as I am about justice issues. These nuns will help me reconnect with that and find ways to exercise this passion of mine.

-This is a huge career growth opportunity for me. I get practice being in a formal leadership position and overseeing a staff and managers. I get to practice HR skills and get tuned up in my professionalism. This is a pro because I will grow so much, but I also know this will be a big challenge to get up to speed.

-They are paying for me to go back to school to get up to speed. I get to find classes or a certificate to get in business management. One more thing to add to my resume and help me grow as a leader. It helps me feel more secure as a provider for my family to have more things like this should I ever need to look for work.

-I could see myself being here a long time. It’s intuitive, but I just feel peace being there and I don’t think I’ll get bored or stagnant anytime soon. I have so much to learn!

-It’s a raise for me and my family. Though the whole raise is going to childcare costs now, when both kids are in public school, this will be a good thing for us.

-There have been a few close calls with my dad’s health in the last few years… his MRSA and Massive pulmonary Embolism to name a few, it was way too scary to think of losing my dad. He is my best friend, mentor, and pastor. But he was also my boss. If he died I would be out of a job and unable to find something that allowed me to take care of my kids. Now I get to let my dad just be my dad.

-I get to model women in leadership to my kids.

-I get to grow up outside my family a bit. I get to be defined just as Becca McCary and see how that feels.

-I can worship with my family and invest in my kids spiritual growth without needing to be in the back teaching Sunday School.

-Taking this job won’t force me to say goodbye to Washington Cathedral. In fact, I can still worship there on the weekends because I won’t be working.

-I can afford to send both my kids to school. Oscar has been ready for preschool and Eva ready for a more social and academic challenge. Now I get to send them to an amazing school and I’m really happy about that.

-I can afford to keep our nanny before and after school. She has become like family to us and the kids get to keep having Jordan in their life this way.

-It’s help me clarify my calling in a way that feels really, really right. All the pastoral job offers I’ve gotten haven’t felt right. When they ask me, “what do you want to do” I never felt fully understood and able to meet my calling in their setting. I feel called to pastor people (all ages, not just kids) and by that I mean look after them spiritually, teaching them how to follow Jesus, encouraging them, and protecting/supporting them. Every time a church tried to pin me down to one specific group my hear would say, “no, I’m just a pastor!” But it’s also help me see a huge part of my heart and my calling: to build up the local church. Now I get to tithe from income outside the church and see how I can build it up in other ways. I can still preach if that’s helpful or just clean the toilets when they are dirty. Not being tied down to a church job, frees me to keep the broadness to my calling that I feel is there while still specifically loving and supporting a local church.

I’m sure there are other pros, but those have been the big ones for me. Thanks for taking the time to check in on me!

Waiting for a diagnosis

This is my family. I am so blessed. But I’m also sick, and that is hard. It’s nothing worth being dramatic about; I’m not terminal. Recently I got lab work back that I might have hypothyroidism. It’s super common and easy to treat. It’s often caused by an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto that people develop after being pregnant. I may not even have it, Nevertheless I feel the symptoms.

During this two months of waiting for more lab results, it’s on my mind a lot. The worst part of the disease is that it can cause infertility. Thankfully I have two babies already and can’t afford a third anyway. Ha! The most ubiquitous part of hypothyroidism is the exhaustion. And that’s where I really struggle. It’s hard to explain what I am experiencing, but I hit a level of being run down where surges of stress hormones flood my body. All I can do is lie down, breathe through it, and try to rest. It’s like a tiredness emergency that gives me no choice but to listen to my body.

So right now I’m learning to wait with my eyes on Jesus and his divine faithfulness. I’m learning to listen to my limits, rather than push through them. I’m drawing closer to my God who chose to experience human limits himself. I’m choosing to trust God and lean on my support network to make sure basics are covered.

I’ll update more of what God is teaching me when I get my diagnosis at the end of June. For now I’m resting on gratitude for the many, many blessing in my life. God is faithful and I am enough to do what a God is calling me to do right now. This I know to be true!

The Story of Jesus

jesus with kids

I love telling kids about Jesus. They are so honest in their questions and sincere with their desire to know God. Having studied at Princeton Seminary, sometimes my schooling gets in the way of me being able to clearly articulate simple truths. Recently I found myself googling “Free printable telling of the kerygma for kids”. Basically, I wanted a brief handout that told the story of Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension for kids. Since I couldn’t find one, I made one. So I thought I would share it here in case anyone else has a precious little one in their life whom they want to tell about Jesus.

You can click on the link below. Feel free to print it or use it for whatever… as long as it gives honor and attention to Jesus!

kerygma

Good Friday

  

Jesus stayed on the cross. He felt the pain. He stuck with suffering to the point of death. All. For. Love. 

From the time I was a very young child, it has not been lost on me that someone gave their life for me. When I hear that fact, and let it soak in, I cannot help but be moved. This is more than just pure emotionalism. It’s different than watching an inspiring movie or thinking of an inspirational hypothetical story… There is something deep within my soul that says “Yes! This is true! And it makes all the difference!” 

 
When I step back and think about it, Jesus has transformed and shaped my entire life… Yet I have never met him face to face. This man lived 2,000 years ago, dying on a cross. This one historical event has impacted my life so deeply and so personally that I’ve ordered my whole life around him: my marriage, my kids, my career, my finances, how I spend me time, my values, my inner most thoughts…

This feels so natural to me. It feels so right to worship my God, Jesus Christ. What continues to amaze me is how this event shapes others too. 

 

Last week I read this story of Jesus’ death on the cross to my daughter Eva. She is 3. But her soul too was deeply touched and stirred by Jesus’ love and forgiveness. We read and sang a worship song and cried together as we were so touched by his love. When I read her the Easter story she jumped up and down and a smile filled her face as she yelled “He is alive!”

I’m convinced we are made to know and worship God. How is it that this God whom we have never seen face to face touches our hearts until our bodies tremble and our souls stir? Surely he is the son of God. Surely Jesus died out of love for me for the forgiveness of my sins. Surely Jesus died for you, for love for you and for the forgiveness of your sins. 

I’m so thankful my daughter’s heart was soft towards God, allowing his word to resound within her heart. I pray she turns her heart to God again and again and again, forever being touched by the powerful story of Easter and a God who loved her enough to die for her.

How to survive not sleeping

I’m going to say it: the hardest part of parenting babies and toddlers is the lack of sleep. It’s harder than the tantrums. It’s harder than judgment you get from others about your parenting. It’s harder than all the changes in your body. It’s harder than all the poop you have to clean. It’s harder than the way everything in your life becomes sticky. Not sleeping is just so hard. 

  
This is a picture of what happened when I tried to take a moment to myself to rest. My son emptied out the cabinet, climbed inside, and got himself stuck. It was quiet so I knew my rest was in vain. I found my son like this. 

So how do I stay mentally strong without getting breaks or even a 3 hour chunk of sleep at night? First of all, if I’m being honest, there are days I don’t stay mentally strong.  We all have our hard days. You’re not alone if it all just feels like too much.  But on the days I handle it well, here is what I do:

1. I start by lowering my expectations as much as I can. This one is super hard. Before kids I was a high achiever and very hard worker. If I wanted to do something with excellence, I could. Now, If I want to do something with excellence, I can do it only if my child care works out, my kids are healthy, and I got at least 3 hours of sleep. So there are many days, when I have to just lower my expectations. The house isn’t going to be clean today. My makeup won’t be done. I won’t get to work out. I won’t be able to tackle the extra projects I was excited about for work. This hits my ego. I get a lot of self-esteem from my performance. But you can only do so much. There are lots of days you just have to scale back your personal goals. 

2. I tell myself this is only a season. I look back at pictures of how much my kids have already grown. I remember how precious they are to me. I remember how deeply I love them. This season is hard, but it’s so sweet too. You can’t have one without the other so I try to cherish it. 

3. I remember I am not alone. I talk to other working moms of babies and we are all so tired. It helps me not have a pity party to know that I’m not the only one in this boat. It’s just a tough season. 

4. I reset my expectations by keeping my eyes on Jesus. Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light”. I think Jesus has a specific agenda for me every single day. I don’t think it’s more than I can do either. So I try to keep my eyes on Jesus and ask, “What do you want me to do right now in this moment”. Sometimes Jesus resets my work priorities so I am productive in the most important things. Sometimes Jesus tells me to go rest while I can so that I have the strength to be gentle and kind to the people in my life later today. I can’t get through the days on my own. I have to listen to God in a more constant way than I’ve ever done before. 

5. I look for ways to set boundaries… mostly from my kids. My friend said to me yesterday, “Give your kids an inch, they will take a mile”. This is very true of my kids. They don’t want me to take any time for myself. They don’t want me to go to the bathroom. They don’t want me to eat. They don’t want me to shower. They don’t want me to pray. Anytime I do anything that takes any focus off of my kids, they get mad. But I tell them, “Mommy is a person. God loves her. Mommy gets to go potty”. “Mom gets to talk to God” “Mom gets to love her body by working out”. Every time I say something like this I feel like I’m teaching them how to love themselves someday. They hate it now, but I think it’s good for them. 

6. I work out to get more energy. 

7. I give myself lots of grace when I eat junk food for quick energy. It’s not the healthiest choice but something has gotta give. I value health. I don’t want constant junk food. But there are days you’ve got to make it through the day with quick energy that has to come from somewhere. 

8. When I don’t sleep my anxiety about life shoots up so I try to go outside and breathe deeply. 

9. Sometimes I take 15 minutes to myself and let my kids scream. I lock my 3 year old in her room. I put my one year old in his crib. I let them scream while I close my eyes. They hate it but there are days it feels like I am going to fall over if I don’t get to rest for a few minutes. 

10. I remember that tired feels a lot like sad. Tired feels a lot like overwhelmed. Tired feels a lot like being anxious. So whatever I am feeling, I step back and ask myself, “Am I tired?” If the answer is yes, I know that my feelings will pass or become less intimidating if I get some sleep. It helps me keep my emotions in check. 
How do you survive the sleeplessness of parenthood?