promotions.

Last November I tagged along with my husband to the annual Young Life College conference in New York City. Almost 13 weeks pregnant, I’d just recently had a conversation with my boss informing her that at the end softball season, I would not be continuing on as the KU Director of Softball Operations. I wasn’t leaving for another job nor was I leaving to be a stay-at-home mom. I knew that my vocational calling was in ministry. There was no job waiting for me, but I needed to have faith and trust the Lord in this calling even if it didn’t make logistical sense.

At that conference, we got to hear from a profound speaker who is on the executive leadership of Young Life. He told a compelling story of how he took a professional demotion to follow God’s calling in his life. His words have stayed with me through this season:

“A promotion in this life is getting one step closer to the thing that God has ultimately created you to do.”

God gave me confidence and clarity in that moment. Yes, I’m leaving a career that has a clean and clear road to professional prosperity and financial security. Yet it feels like this step out of college athletics and into full-time ministry is a promotion.

 

T H E . B E G I N N I N G .

For the past eight years, I have been serving in a ministry called Young Life. I became a student leader as a sophomore in college while I was also a student-athlete at the University of Kansas. My husband Kevin, who I was dating at the time, also became a volunteer Young Life Leader in the same year. Pouring our lives into college students, building relationships with them, mentoring them, and helping them grow in their faith has always been a passion that both Kevin and I have shared. This ministry is what kept us in Lawrence even after we both graduated from the University of Kansas and got married. In 2014, when we realized that full-time ministry with college students in Lawrence was our long-term calling, I was interning with Young Life and Kevin was preparing to transition out of personal training and into a full-time, paid role as KU Young Life College Director. The following year, I was a private softball coach and pursing this joint mission with most of my time alongside Kevin.

In the spring of 2016, I was offered the position as Director of Operations for the KU Softball Team and a chance to work under my former Head Coach, Megan Smith. Since I was already established in Lawrence, this opportunity was too good to pass up. I knew that taking this job in college athletics ultimately meant that I would be sacrificing Young Life, but at the same time, this job still fit into my primary calling to serve college students at the University of Kansas. In my mind, this just narrowed my focus to serving the softball student-athletes. I was excited to be around the game again at a high level and wondered what God had for me in the world of college athletics.

 

T H E . P R E S E N T .

During my two years as Director of Operations, I learned a lot about a career in college athletics and a lot about myself. I loved working under Coach Smith and of course working for my alma mater. Being around the game again was energizing and exciting for me. The Director of Operations job was difficult and tedious, but after my first year, I felt like I settled into my role and was thriving. However, I also quickly discovered that a career in college athletics meant sacrificing my gifts and calling to be in full-time ministry. While I was serving college students in a sense, I was more behind the scenes instead of in a direct mentoring and leadership role.

I missed the ability to build deep relationships with college students.
I missed leading Bible Studies and teaching students about Jesus.
I missed our weekly Young Life Clubs and engaging with new students.
I missed helping students find a community where they would be accepted and loved for who they are.
I missed spending my days working alongside my husband to reach students with the gospel of Jesus, build them up as leaders, and launch them into the real world.

Additionally, my administrative gifts that helped me succeed as a Director of Softball Operations were also needed in Douglas County Young Life. Kevin is such a natural pastor, teacher, and evangelist, but he needed help with the event planning and fundraising that comes with vocational full-time ministry. As his wife, who also feels a deep calling to this mission, I’ve felt compelled to come into more of a direct role by his side to help out in these specific areas.

We had dreamed about the upcoming transition even before the exciting news that I was pregnant with our first child! Our daughter Lydia’s anticipated arrival only confirmed that the time was now to pursue my calling because of my ability to work from home or bring Lydia on the job with me in ministry. In God’s perfect timing, Lydia’s due date was in mid-May, just after the conclusion of softball season. Sure enough, I packed up my office on May 11 and went into labor three days later! I’ve had the great joy of easing in to my new role with Young Life and in full-time ministry ever since.

 

T H E . F U T U R E .

Already, this summer has been filled with ministry to students who are in town and planning ahead for the upcoming school year. Our Young Life students love to come over to our house and hold Lydia while we talk about Jesus and life, and this brings me so much joy!

I also took over as the volunteer chair of our Young Life Committee for donor care and am using my gifts to serve on the financial side of our non-profit organization. Additionally, I am serving the greater mission of Young Life as a Personal Donor Development Coach, mentoring new Young Life Staff in their journey of fundraising personal support. While these two roles give me titles and direction, they don’t pay much. My dream is to help our organization get in a place financially where my role would turn into a part-time paid position that would be more sustainable for our family long-term. But this dream is ultimately uncertain and not guaranteed.

Regardless, I have learned this:

Permission to pursue a calling
does not come from a job title or a paid role,
but from a personal prayer life.

Seeking the Lord in prayer for the last five years since graduating college has put me on a path that has lead me here. I am more confident than ever in my gifts, my calling, and where the Lord is asking me to work and serve with the best of my time.

 

T H E . B O T T O M . L I N E .

As I step forward into this new season of motherhood, I wanted to share this important part of my journey too. Not only am I fulfilling my calling as a mother, but I’m also living freely in my calling to pursue the work that God has before me. The Enneagram-Type-3 “Achiever” in me has battled through a false need for having a paid job to be in ministry, but the Holy Spirit reminds me that’s not how the kingdom of God works.

So yes, I’m a stay-at-home mom perhaps by society’s standards. But to me, I went back to work the day I got home from the hospital. My work simply doesn’t look like the world’s work. There’s no paycheck transferred into my bank account right now, but my reward is in the joy and satisfaction of knowing that I’m walking in obedience to God’s calling on my life.

So here I am
by no means have I arrived
and yet
I’m one step closer
to what my Father in Heaven
ultimately created me to do
for His glory
and my good

Cheers to promotions.

 

“And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

Lydia’s Birth Story

9 AM MONDAY

Monday, May 14 started out just like any other day. I had a cup of coffee and sat down for my morning quiet time with the Lord. Yet instead of sitting down on our porch or in my usual spot in the living room, I told my husband Kevin I was going to go spend time in our nursery praying for Lydia. At 39 weeks pregnant, I picked up a journal that was gifted to us to record prayers and thoughts for Lydia throughout her life. This is what I wrote:

Lydia – I am 39 weeks pregnant today. I am sitting and praying for you in our finished nursery. There is a verse above your crib that reads “Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine.” These are words that your Daddy and I believe have been spoken by God over your life. You belong to the Lord…

Jesus – I pray for our baby girl, that labor and delivery would not be delayed but come soon! We are ready to meet our little one! I am ready to bring her home and show her the place that we’ve prepared for her! Father God – bring her safely into this world and into my arms. Thank you God for the beautiful life that she is!

When we sit and pray and spend time with God, He conforms our heart according to His will. My heart was led to pray for the first time that morning that God would no longer delay her arrival. And that, indeed, was His will.

12 PM MONDAY

After some reading, cleaning, and a workout, my husband and I were off to our 39 week doctor’s appointment chatting briefly about the week’s activities and making plans for the rest of our afternoon. Everything about our appointment was normal. We got the news that I was dilated at over 4 cm, 90% effaced, and we laughed with our doctor about wanting her to come soon!

The final thing to do was to listen to Lydia’s heart rate. We waited for the familiar sound of her heart beating through the Doppler monitor, and while we heart her heart beat, my doctor’s face changed from a smile to a look of concern. Lydia’s heart rate was low. She instructed us that she wanted us to stay for further monitoring. After about 45 minutes of monitoring Lydia’s heart rate, we found the pattern. Each time she would move, her heart rate would go up as normal but then dip down suddenly below baseline. After getting a sonogram to check a few other things, our doctor sent us over to the labor and delivery unit for further monitoring to make sure that this drop wasn’t spontaneous activity.

2 PM MONDAY

We walked into a delivery room and my stomach was strapped with two monitors – one for Lydia’s heart rate, and one to measure contractions. The nurse left us alone and Kevin and I started to pray. Kevin’s prayer, similar to my own that morning, changed suddenly according to God’s will.

Lord, let us meet our daughter today.

An hour or so later, our doctor came back in. The pattern in Lydia’s heart rate had persisted, and she didn’t feel right sending us home. She informed me that she was admitting me into the hospital for an induction. We talked through our options and our attitude changed to excitement. This is the day we had been waiting for. We were finally going to meet our daughter!

4 PM MONDAY

They immediately started me with an IV of penicillin because of my group B strep while Kevin went home to grab our pre-packed hospital bags and a few last-minute items. As soon as Kevin came back, my doctor broke my water, and labor began.

5:30 PM MONDAY

We spent the next two hours being monitored, getting and IV, texting friends and family, walking the hallways, and processing what was happening. We prayed for Lydia’s heart rate and her health. We praised God for this day. With each increasing contraction, so was the reality of labor. My sister Rosie arrived for extra support and stayed in the room throughout labor, leaving just before delivery. We came up with a code word for every time I would start to feel a contraction. After laughing at all the possible words, we established a simple one. Now. Every time Kevin would hear the word now he would put out his hand, I would grab his hand, and we would together endure the pain.

7:30 PM MONDAY

After only progressing to a 4.5 cm, we made the decision with our doctor to start Pitocin (given through an IV) to induce labor. Within 30 minutes, my contractions increased to every 2-3 minutes. Lydia’s head was lowering, my dilation started increasing, and so did the pain.

For the past 8 months, Kevin and I have had a lot of conversations about our birth plan. I am so thankful that we stayed open-minded and that we could confidently accept the induction without being disappointed. The goal was healthy Lydia, whatever it takes. Yet one important preference was to not have pain medication or an epidural. We read a book together, took a class together, and spent time preparing for what the pain of childbirth would be and how we would approach the reality of that pain. For both medical and personal reasons, we stood firm in this decision. Throughout the next five hours, the pain increased with every contraction to undoubtedly the worst continuous physical pain I’ve ever experienced in my life. Yet we never lost control and God never left our side. There were four stages of the pain from my experience, which I will process below as I continue documenting the timeline of Lydia’s birth story.

8:30 PM MONDAY

After learning I was 5 cm dilated, I decided to do a labor position on the ball. Lydia was so low that the nurse couldn’t keep the heart rate monitor on outside of my stomach. One nurse had to actually hold it on to my stomach while I was laboring. I even tried the wireless monitor so I could get in the tub, but we quickly learned that made it even more difficult for the monitor to stay on. I got the chills and was shivering head to toe and started feeling nauseous. Whatever liquids I drank since being admitted I instantly threw up. The doctor decided to insert a heart monitor from the inside that would stick on the top of Lydia’s head. This allowed the nurses to completely leave the room and monitor from outside the room. Finally we were left alone – myself, Kevin and Rosie. We turned on worship music and the rest became a dream. I wish I could remember every detail but it was so surreal. This is around the time I hit stage one:

 

D I S T R A C T I N G . T H E . P A I N .

Back to laboring on the ball, what I remember from this stage was that Kevin would tell me to “dream Lydia dreams.” I thought about meeting my daughter. I thought about taking her on walks or taking her to the pool this summer. We tried to distract my mind from the pain. This didn’t last too long, and I quickly transitioned to stage two:

 

F I G H T I N G . O F F. T H E . P A I N .

We learned in this stage that I needed to actively fight the pain mentally so that I could relax and breathe through the pain. I found myself repeating phrases that Kevin would say throughout the climax of the contraction.

The pain is temporary.
It will pass.

10:15 PM MONDAY

After being checked again, I learned that I was dilated at 6.5 cm and 100% effaced. However, Lydia had turned slightly and she needed to be face down, so my doctor suggested that I change positions. With the front of the hospital bed raised, I was on my knees, arms over the top of the bed, rhythmically swaying my hips and breathing through each contraction. After a few moments of weakness, doubting to myself and Kevin, wondering if I could do this, wondering if it was too late for the epidural, I realized that I needed to change my mindset. This brings on stage 3:

 

A T T A C K I N G . T H E . P A I N .

Perhaps it was the former athlete, competitive side of me taking over, but all of a sudden I realized that I didn’t want the pain to win. I knew that I could be in control mentally over the pain with a mind-over-body approach. I simply needed to get my mind in a place to attack the pain. I needed to not think about the many hours and contractions to come, but take it one contraction, once at a time. Our repeating phrases changed:

It’s worth it.
Joy on the other side.

Over and over, we repeated these phrases, breathing through each contraction. Kevin was my rock and didn’t leave my side from this point forward. I would say now, reach for his hand, and he would coach me through the pain, reminding me of our phrases, reminding me that it’s worth it and that there’s joy on the other side. We found our rhythm and Kevin constantly reminded me that every contraction with an increase in pain meant I was one minute closer to meeting our daughter.

11:20 PM MONDAY

All of a sudden, I started feeling the urge to push. I asked Rosie to call in the nurse, I needed to be checked. I had figured out how to attack the pain, but resisting the urge to push was an entirely new experience. After being checked again, I learned that in just the last hour, I was dilated to a 9.5 cm. (I only needed to be at a 10 cm before I could push!) I needed to endure the pain just a little bit longer while Lydia got a little bit lower. Yet at this point not only was the pain a 10/10 on the pain scale, but I was also having to resist my entire body convulsing to want to push her out of me. It’s at this point that I transitioned to stage four:

 

E M B R A C I N G . T H E . P A I N .

As we got back into our labor position, Rosie came over to read scripture. This is what she read:

Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (John 16:20-22)

I was reminded in that moment about the Cross. I was reminded about the pain that Jesus suffered on the Cross because He loved me. I wondered in that moment how Jesus was able to find joy in His pain, because He knew that there would be joy – salvation for His beloved – on the other side of the Cross. I thought about how He was empowered by love to endure the pain and suffering on our behalf – because He loves us.

Kevin had been reminding me of the gospel and the presence of God was obvious throughout labor, but in this moment I looked at Kevin. I felt completely empowered by my love for him and my love for Lydia. We had one of the most intimate moments of our marriage. I told him that I was enduring this all with joy because of my love for him and my love for Lydia. He thanked me, spoke sweetly to me, and we held each other’s gaze for several moments before the next contraction came.

These overwhelming feelings of love allowed me to embrace the pain. My final phrase became:

Joy in the pain.

12 AM TUESDAY

The doctor came in for a check, and I was 10 cm dilated. Finally, it was time to push! Kevin remembers this scene much more than I do, as I was now on my back, continually enduring contractions and resisting the urge to push until my doctor and the delivery team was suited up and ready to go. The doctor gave me the instructions on how to position my body and how to orchestrate my breathing.

Each time I would feel a contraction coming on, now, I would take a deep breath in and out. Then one deep breath in, hold, and push as hard as I possibly could for 10 seconds. Pause, repeat three times until the contraction ended.

This stage was easier because I could finally use the pain towards something, but the amount of pressure that I felt as Lydia’s head started to come out was a whole new kind of painful sensation. Not very long after, Kevin and I could both look down and see the top of our sweet Lydia’s head coming out and we could see her dark brown hair.

While worship music had been playing throughout all of labor as background music, a song came on our bluetooth speaker about halfway through pushing. Hillsong United’s Lead Me to the Cross… The song that I walked down the aisle to on our wedding day. This was the sweetest gift from the Lord and a reminder to us in that moment of His presence.

The Lord was near. I prayed more actively in this stage during breaks between contractions. I needed God’s help to show me how to relax the right muscles, hold my breath, and push the right way so I could meet my daughter sooner. Finally my doctor informed me that she could make a 1 cm incision and then I’d meet my baby. Without a doubt, I said yes.

12:39 AM TUESDAY

I don’t remember even feeling the incision because of all the pressure. All I knew was that I was determined to meet my daughter. On the very next push, my doctor had to yell at me to stop pushing because my daughter was arriving! The next thing I knew I heard Lydia’s cry and she was immediately placed on my chest. I started repeating a different phrase in that moment, over and over:

My baby, my baby, my baby…

Kevin started crying as he came close. Whatever else followed – delivering the placenta, getting stitched from the incision, the emptying of fluids – nothing else mattered because I was holding my daughter. She stopped crying when she felt the warmth of my chest. I saw her eyes and I studied her from head to toe.

2 AM TUESDAY

After our family bonding time, they weighed her, measured her, and my sister and parents came into the room to meet Lydia. Then I was able to get up, use the bathroom on my own, and walk myself to the room down the hall next to my husband who was pushing our daughter in her hospital bassinet. I enjoyed the benefits of the quick recovery of natural childbirth, and we received compliments from doctors and nurses commenting on Lydia’s liveliness, their shock that I never once screamed or lost control, and commenting on Kevin’s steady and attentive presence.

.

Yes, the pain was worth it.
Immediately the pain of childbirth was forgotten.
Love, joy and relief washed over me.
Our daughter was here.

Lydia Evelyn Tietz
Born 12:39 AM on Tuesday, May 15, 2018
8 lbs 7 oz, 21 inches