God of even this…

God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 
                                                 Genesis 21:17
 
This last week has been pretty miserable. Like anyone in crisis, I feel like most of what I do is wait. Wait for an answer, wait for help, wait for things to get better…and…nothing.
   
Well, not nothing, obviously not nothing. But what feels like a void of unchanging hopelessness. I’m sure some of you have been there. I also know that some of you are standing on the other side. Some of you have shared your stories with me, of God working, of moving from hopeless to hopeful, of trust in God and Jesus’s time, healing the deep places of your heart.
   
Here we meet Hagar. She seems like a pawn in someone else’s game. She is sent away with a skin of water and a loaf of bread. She sits away from the bush, unwilling to watch her son die. Here is hopelessness at its best. 
   
But El Roi answers. “The God who sees…”
   
He sees her pain. He sees her struggle. He sees her hunger. He sees her aching heart. I need to know that. I need to know that God sees me.
   
And so He shows me. 
   
I had a friend cry with me yesterday. Cry. Audibly. I have rarely felt so loved. 
   
I had a friend tell me that he finally understood what Paul meant when he said he was suffering for another person. He felt my pain, our pain, as his own.
   
My sisters have told me countless times that they would lift my burden if there was any possible way they could. 
 
I am not just given a loaf of bread and a skin of water, but meals come, food is served, and sometimes I don’t even know where it came from. 
   
There are prayers said, sometimes in the wee hours of night, on our behalf.
   
This is one reason why God created the Church. This is the visible Church lifting up our arms, when we ourselves can not. This is the visible Church, wrapping their arms around me and letting me cry. This is the visible Church seeing through the compassionate lens of a Savior who came to redeem our crisises and heal our broken hearts.  

This is a God who sees me, through you. 

  
He sees each of us, beautiful sisters. It is His name. And He can not deny who He is. Whatever our pain, whatever our joy, whatever our struggle.
El Roi…He sees me. He sees my sweet, sweet husband. He sees, and that is my Hope each day.

 



 

Heart and soul…or Bring me a friend, Lord!

“Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.”                                                                         
                                                          1 Samuel 14:7
   This verse came up in my Bible study this week, in the beautiful story of Jonathan’s faithfulness, trusting in God’s intervention in his life. The author really wanted me to get a specific idea from the Scripture passage – trust and listen, God intervenes. It’s a good message and completely Biblical. However, it’s not the one I heard. 
   
    The whole time I was reading this passage, the last part of this verse played like a loop in my mind. 
      “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.
And in my pastor’s wife heart the old longing sat, calling out to God….
       “I just want a friend. One single friend.”
This is what we all want, isn’t it? I mean, all of us on this round planet, searching for someone to understand us and love us “heart and soul.” This isn’t a romantic verse. It’s a verse about going into battle…together. It’s not about our husband’s being our soul mates. It’s helpful to remember that God is always enough, but this verse shows us that God is not only enough of a friend, but He’s a friend that cares. He values people and relationships in our lives and works through them. 
 
    Time and time again I hear pastor’s wives tell me, I just want one friend. Someone who sees me for who I really am, who’ll invite me places, and most importantly invite me into their life and want to join in mine. Friends who reside in the tri-state area, not spread hither and yon by clergy life.
 
    When we first moved to our call, I thought that friend would never come and then… I went to library story time. Weird, but true. I meet Lani, who was also looking for a friend. She was willing to open her heart and her time for me and what a difference it made! Lani moved away, 2 short years after we met. (Tears.) But her gift to me was that gift of the armor-bearer of Jonathan – 

“Do all that you have in mind…I am with you, heart and soul.” 
Lani opened her heart, so that I can open mine now to others. I can make myself vulnerable and risk all the yucky rejection, because she was willing to be my armor-bearer, my first friend in a strange new place, giving me strength in the battle against isolation and loneliness.
 
Do you long for a good friend? 
Can you be that friend for a pastor’s wife? Not just saying hi on Sundays and praying for her family, but inviting her in?
 
God is surely enough, but He also surely cares about the very desires of our heart, including bringing you a friend. Lift it up to Him, sister. He hears. He doesn’t just give us the armor, but He gives us people to bear the armor with. It might be His timing, but He has a friend in mind. 


 

What I know now…

It is good for a man, that he bear the yoke in his youth.

                                                                                           Lamentations 3:27

My husband just celebrated a monumental anniversary- 10 years in the parish. It may not seem that big to those outside the church work world, but for those of you in, you know – It’s exciting stuff! 

It got me thinking- what are things that would have been helpful to know on day one? It’s almost like being a new parent. Would I have even been able to listen if someone would have tried to enlighten me on the difficult stuff? For what it’s worth, though, here are some of the things I’ve discovered in this ministry life that I just wish I would have understood earlier. Things they either don’t say in Seminary or my ears just weren’t open enough to hear them.

#1 – Church hurts. 
It doesn’t always hurt, there are endless joys, but I just didn’t know that it would be so hard. There is the timeless joke that church is hard because it’s full of sinners. And this rings true! We are all sinners, so why am I surprised when someone says something hurtful, when someone criticizes my husband unnecessarily, or someone (myself included) fail to put the best perspective on it all? Ministry is a wonderful and beautiful gift from God. But let’s not fool ourselves- It’s difficult. Someone please tell us this. Shake us and tell us the reality of watching families fall apart and children become prodigals and friends walk away from church forever. It won’t scare us away from ministry, it’s part of strapping on the armor. Would I trade it in? No. Because God heals the hurting places, and unlike basic Neosporin, His healing creates something completely new and worthwhile, better than before, and this testimony in Christ will go out and reap a bounty.

#2 – Finances will always be difficult.
No one ever got into the ministry looking for the big bucks, it’s true. But when we pulled out of the seminary parking lot and into the parsonage garage, I thought that with a regular paycheck and some savings in the bank, it might at least get a little easier. Truth: money is a struggle for all people, all the time. Yes, there is contentment and I feel like we’ve gotten there (or at least closer to the “I know what it is to be in plenty and in want…”) but whether you have millions (ha!) or the small salary of covering a vacancy, stewardship always will require thought and sacrifice. Money is difficult because you care about what God thinks about it. You are constantly living in the realm of should we use a little to go out to eat or buy the little one a new pair of shoes, should we spend the fuel to visit a good friend…well, then we have less money if the youth group has that fundraiser next month. Ahhh! Constantly thinking and planning with money is exhausting and there will never be enough of it because our sinful flesh always craves just a little bit more. I am glad I finally understand that there isn’t a magic amount in a paycheck when it just all gets better and contentment comes. It’s time to lay it before God, ask Him to help our churches be faithful to their pastors and help us to be content in each circumstance and help us find answers to the difficult times. He is faithful when people are not. 

#3 – When people don’t choose church, their not choosing between something else and you…they’re choosing between something else and God.
Ok, hear me out- it’s not that when someone misses a Sunday they’ve gone heathen and we’re all judge-y about that. Nope! But it does hurt when a visitor comes and they pick the church down the street, or you invite someone to Bible study for the fourth time and they have too much going on to do it. This is a weird church worker family emotion, that I’m not sure others understand. It’s personal. We have to work to not take it personally, because even in this, it’s about God, it’s not about us. People have to make all kinds of decisions and it’s not the preaching or the programs or the anything that people come to church for, in the end. It’s about Jesus. It’s between them and God. Maybe God has a ministry plan for them in this other choice, maybe they’re ignoring His still, small voice to get involved in a Bible study…who knows, God knows. We invite and we love, He fills the gaps when people disappoint. Know that He thinks highly of you. You are complete enough for Him in Christ, it’s not personal.

#4 – You will need someone to spiritually care for you.
As much as we wish God gave us superhero powers when we entered this church work life as a family, He didn’t. (Well, He gave us the Spirit, so that’s arguable…but you get the point.) We need spiritual care, just like the next guy. And for us, it’s not as easy as showing up and sitting in a pew on Sunday. How many of you feel like a single parent on Sunday mornings? I get the sermon recap at lunch, so that helps. Our husbands are our rocks, but they can not be everything to us at all times. And there is a weird and wonderful and complicated dynamic involved with sleeping with the pastor. This is personal opinion here, not Biblical truth, but I believe we need to seek spiritual care in other places also. Who else do you have in your life that can fill you spiritually? Maybe for you it’s not a person, but your own quiet time with the Word in the evening, or you have a spiritual mentor from your home church, or someone you know that lifts you up in prayer regularly. I have a women’s Bible study that meets every Wednesday. I can share my real self there. I don’t have to hide. I am filled weekly. I have a tiny group of gals from college that I talk to every day in a little chat group. I get a text from my friend, Sarah, that says “What’s your day look like today? I’m praying for you.” almost every morning. These people fill the Spiritual places deep in my heart and my husband helps them to overflow. 

So- would I have listened had someone shared these jewels early on? I hope! But who knows. When we are young, whether in age or experience, we feel like we kind of know. We almost need to be in it to experience the yoke and lift it before the One who can make it something beautiful. 

I pray for ministry wives every day. What would you add to this list? What wisdom can we glean from you, sister? May those yokes of “youth” be a blessing to you eventually. May you always be filled with the Truth and Knowledge of the One who trades us His yoke, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light. 

This is us, feeling youth-filled 🙂