UpClose with Rebekah Lyons
Interview by Melissa Caddell
A lot of our mothering days are made up of small choices. But some days and seasons are marked by huge, life-altering decisions (not to say that potty-training isn’t one of those). So how does a mom decide to move her family nearly a thousand miles away from a community where she has deep roots? Or how does she work through the multitude of decisions around a child with special needs?
Meet Rebekah Lyons, a woman who’s made some big decisions in the past few years. She’s the mother of three (sons Cade, 11, and Pierce, 9 and daughter, Kennedy, 6). She works alongside her husband, Gabe, as the Executive Director of Q, a non-profit organization that addresses the role of the church and cultural renewal (go to Qideas.org for more info).
Tell us about your family’s decision to leave your suburban community for the big city.
It was a tough decision that I resisted for three years. My husband, Gabe, and I had spent our entire marriage of 13 years in the suburbs of Atlanta within a vibrant community of friends. It was safe. It was home. Over time, we began asking what it would mean to really follow the calling God had for our lives. Our hope was for the Christian faith to regain credibility among a new generation who had discarded it as a viable option. We wanted to be a part of the solution.
This idea eventually became something we could not shake. It was a prompting for us to risk and go toward something unknown. As we prayed and stayed open to God’s leading, we believed we should move to New York City. So we sold our home and loaded up our minivan (complete with three children and two toy poodles) and moved to a Manhattan apartment.
To an outsider, our decision didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but these kinds of decisions often don’t. We had decided to live with no regrets. And regret is knowing you’re supposed to do something, and not doing it. So, we relocated our organization, Q Ideas, and became involved with a local church community started by our dear friend and pastor.
It takes a lot of courage to be that intentional about moving out of comfort. As a mom, how do you set aside that fear in your decision-making process?
It’s not easy. It starts with small steps. Long before we were compelled to move, we had been asking the question, “How do we shape our family so we always encounter new things?” This was our test … would our imagination be full of faith or fear?
Exposing that fear is the only way to overcome it. So we gradually exposed our family to new experiences so change wasn’t so fear-inducing. These new images, people and places began to expand our imagination. We focused on the fun side of “new” and all the possibilities. As we did, it helped reduce the anxiety.
As mothers we sometimes get “mommy-ish” to protect our kids, but the more we take risks, we teach our children what a life of faith looks like. That thing of “stepping into the unknown” is real. We are so fearful for our children — we don’t want things to be hard for them. But that’s where God shows up. We say we fear for our kids, but really, we fear for ourselves. Kids are resilient. They wake up every morning with a sense of wonder and excitement. They’re not stuck with years and layers of wounds or bitterness or anything like that. They take each day for what it is.
How did having this mindset help when your first son, Cade, was diagnosed with Down syndrome?
Exposure is a huge key to normalizing those things you may have feared. The day our son, Cade, was born, our whole community was instantly exposed to a newborn with Down syndrome in their midst — something none of us had experienced the day before. Just by being born, he increased their awareness to what a life with Down syndrome looks like. I remember turning to Gabe as we were driving to the hospital the morning that we got the official diagnosis and saying, “Our life is forever different.” And there was something in me that was afraid because I thought, I have no idea what life now looks like.
I remember wondering, What will I do when I have to explain this to his siblings? What will I do if he’s not walking at 3 years old? We fear the unknown. We fear pain. We want to run to safety — I know I did when Cade was born. Because it hurt so deeply in that moment, I was afraid it was going to feel like that for the rest of my life. I couldn’t handle that. I didn’t think I could make it. But I learned that in a strange and beautiful way, pain requires us to ultimately surrender what we think “happy” should look like. Our version is a mere imitation of what God can actually do when he helps us through that pain.
What have you learned about facing those fearful moments?
Years later, I’m learning that the anticipation of these fearful moments is so much greater than reality. God gave me what I needed for each specific day. It began by just putting one step in front of the other, and being pleasantly surprised later by what transpired. Everyone who faces a major transition has fears, such as having your first child and wondering if you can possibly be that selfless. To having a second child and wondering if your heart is big enough to love him or her with the same intensity as your first. Whatever the situation, we must walk forward, or we won’t get the chance to be amazed by what God will do. Even in the pain, we keep walking forward.
Melissa Caddell is a writer, speaker and coffee drinker. She and her husband, Casey, are raising three delightful, chatty girls (ages 12, 9, and 4) in the ‘burbs. Melissa writes from the relative quiet of her closet. Visit her at melissacaddell.com.
A Timely Decision
How do you decide to spend your time and where to invest your passions and skills during the season of motherhood? Here are some thoughts from Rebekah.
Take care of yourself. It will feel indulgent, but I would argue that it is the life preserver during this season.
Ask yourself the question, “What gives me life in each of these four categories: physically, intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally?” Then make space for that.
Moms must recognize that if we don’t restore ourselves, there’s little left to give. Instead, you could become a mother who feels bitter, depressed or even resentful that you can never come up for air.
Share with your spouse or family member your desire for this and then put it on the calendar to make sure it happens.
This renewal brings a holistic perspective on being a daughter of God, a wife to our husband, and a mother to our kids, which the world needs to experience.