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 🙂

The sacrifice of family

While he was still speaking to the people, behold his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?”And stretching out his hand toward his disciples he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!”

                                                                              Matthew 12:46-49
My sisters visited this weekend. They left, and I think they took a little bit of my heart with them. We laughed and played cards, we ate, and played tag with the kids. We recapped struggles and joys of childhood, we plotted our sisters cruise plans, and lamented living 8 hours apart for 10 solid years now. (And it wasn’t even all my sisters!)
 
This is perhaps one of the most difficult passages for people to “take.” What in the world could Jesus be talking about? His mom just wanted to talk to him. How rude! What is all the talk about ministering to your own family in the New Testament? Here’s Jesus blatantly disregarding the people in His own household. (Of course this isn’t true, but isn’t it a frustrating passage at times?)
 
Here, sisters, is the reality of life in ministry. One of the most difficult things about life in ministry is right here in these passages. We are called to give up our family. Yep, give them up. Many of you have been there. You packed up everything you owned in a small u-haul, you had a garage sale or gave things away so it would fit in the cheaper one; you waved goodbye as you watched little pieces of your heart fly out the window and watched the people you love get smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror. 
 
This is the little-talked about sacrifice of ministry- people. God asks us to once again give up the comfortable and the familiar, and turn it in for the new, the unknown, the stranger. 
We walk away from our niece’s birthday parties.
We miss out on cooking dinner twice a week with our sisters.
We give up being there when Dad gets the diagnosis.
We aren’t the person our nephew turns to when he gets a blue ribbon.
 
But if we believe God is who he says he is. He has a plan, a purpose, and a hope. When God asks us to give something up, he promises to fill us with so much more.
 
In my experience, by giving up our family in ministry, intentionally- acknowledging this sacrifice, bringing it before the Lord in prayer, and being honest that it’s a painful part of the process…we get our family and so much more. 
 
Yes, we still miss the birthday parties. 🙁 But we don’t lose our family. It looks a lot different than we expected, but God teaches us just how much He wants to be the one to fill us. He teaches us what family is in the body of Christ, in a way very few people come to understand without this kind of sacrifice. He primes our hearts for joy and struggle with people we never would have met had we stayed home. He gives us family with different last names, but the same Jesus-shaped heart and he gives us sweet, sweet reunions with loved ones far away. 
 
It doesn’t necessarily make it easier, it doesn’t diminish the tears, but it does make it better. Knowing it’s His.
 
I’m curious about your story. What is it like for you? Who did you “give up” to follow your husband in ministry? What is the thing you miss the most? Feel free to share it with me. We can support each other in the sacrifice, sister.
 
Here’s a picture of my family…in all their crazy wonderfulness. 
 
 
And my sisters and I…until next time 🙂


The epic pastor’s wife fail, or God’s grace in my mess

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
                                                                          2 Corinthians 12:9

If there was a test for pastor’s wives, I generally feel like I would fail. Well, maybe not fail, but pass just barely. I have some skills in ministry. I have a degree in ministry, two, after all, and a passion for God and loving His people, but that doesn’t mean I feel like I’d pass the pastor’s wives challenge. Can anyone relate?

There is no challenge, of course. No test. No rules. Just real life and real forgiveness.
So, here is my fail.  

My husband’s grandma died last week. We came back early from vacation and he prepared to perform the funeral. We were sad, thankful that Grandma Gigi was 98, and had been a wonderful blessing in our lives, but sad and missing her smiling face already.

Funeral day came. I dressed my kids and prayed endlessly for my husband. Lord, give him the words. Lord, give him strength. Lord, give him peace.

The family walked in the church and I sat down with my beautiful kiddos in the pew right behind “reserved for family”, because there was no room in the inn evidentially. My three year old found the nifty wooden sign declaring “reserved for family” and promptly threw it to the floor. He loved the clattering noise and was ecstatic when some kind soul in front of us placed it back on the pew in reach. 3 more tries and I found a different home for that sign. 

My 9 year old, nearly refused to go up and sing with the other children in a rendition of Jesus loves me. He pushed his Old Adam shoes into the bright red carpet and walked noticeably and painfully slowly to the front of the church. 

Midway through the sermon my 11 year old began weeping in earnest. She loved her Gigi. She was heart broken and sad, and distraught at her first real reminder that on this earth there is death and sorrow. I put my arm around her and tried to gently comfort her, until my 3 year old simply could not be contained in the quiet anymore and began stomping his feet against the pew in defiance of experiencing one more minute of the service. 

All of this was expanded by the sweet woman behind us who clearly had a hearing difficulty and whispered a loud play-by-play to her fellow worshipper – “He likes that sign!” “He doesn’t want to go up there and sing!” “She misses her Grandma!” “He’s ready for the service to be over!” She meant well, and in her defense was inadvertently supportive, but it was embarrassing to say the least.

I hauled my 3 year old out of church, down the middle aisle, burying my face in his neck, to camouflage the sobs welling up in my throat. This was a disaster with a capital D. I felt spent, sad, and still anxious for my husband preaching his heart out. 

I stood in the hallway of the church, feeling lonelier than I’ve ever felt in 10 years of ministry. Someone quietly walked up behind me and gave me a hug, a member of our church, a friend. Her words were simple and sweet. Gospel in my dark moment…”I’m so sorry. I wish I could make it better.”

The message of the church. The embrace of love in the moment of despair. That’s all I needed. That turned what felt like an epic mom failure and pastor’s wife nightmare into a moment between friends. I am not alone. When I am weak, God gives me strength, often through His people, from someone who simply wanted to help make it better this side of heaven. 

 

A strong anchor…


We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.                                                                        Hebrews 6:19

It’s no secret to most people who know us that our life is a little messy right now. This year has been one of the most difficult I’ve ever experienced.

I find myself like Job asking God to just take it all away. I want a rewind. I want it erased from my memory. I want my heart to feel fine again. Then I find myself thanking God I don’t have boils, I have all my beautiful children, and there’s no ash heap out my back door. A little perspective helps.

However, it’s in the mess I confront my fear and God’s truth. I stood by my husband’s hospital bed and literally got on my knees and cried out to God- “Please step in. Make it better. Make it all go away. I can’t live without him. I just can’t.”
     

The answer I got was unexpected…
In the quiet of my soul, I heard –            

He is not your anchor. 

See, I love my shepherd. I LOVE him. My husband is my husband, my pastor, my best friend. He is the macaroni to my cheese, the mustard to my hot dog, the red wine to my dark chocolate, and all that good stuff. He represents everything that God is to me- loving, kind, and patient. I have made him more in my heart and mind than he was ever intended to be. He is not my anchor. He is not what is meant to hold me steady. That is not his job. I can’t hold him to that standard. 

I LOVE my shepherd. I love Jesus. He is that anchor that is holding me steady. Looking at that hospital bed, I found the truth. Dave is my gift from God. Dave is given to me for a time. He is a blessing, but he is not my god. He can’t be everything my heart needs. 

Only Jesus can fill the cracks in my soul. 

Only He can be everything I need.

He is my anchor. 

He holds me steady in the storm.


A long time in coming…

The LORD your God has blessed you in the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything.       
                                                                                              Deuteronomy 2:7

16 years ago I started a journey. I was far from mature, but I knew God had a place for me in this life, things for me to do. I was sure this place was exotic and wonderful. I took classes to be a deaconess. I married my stand-up husband, I worked to get him through grad school, and followed him to the far reaches of the earth- well, at least to Northwest Ohio. 8 hours from home and 30 miles to the nearest Aldi and TJ Maxx.

Far from exotic, I lived in the corn fields. It was shocking to me that people lived without sidewalks, and finding a friend took a few years and is still one of my greatest struggles. Those early months were so hard. It was lonely, confusing, and consisted of me vacillating from embracing my new life to yelling at God for torturing me so. I took a deep breath. I joined a bible study full of wonderful women, real women, with real problems, who really loved the Lord.

In the next 9 years, I came to the conclusion that is the force behind this blog. My life will continuously be a struggle this side of heaven. All of our lives will. But it will also be filled with sweet, sweet joy, continuously finding that wonderfully exotic place God has for me, wherever he has so deemed to put me.

As a pastor’s wife, I find that I am not alone in this struggle. I have sat beside, chatted with, and prayed with many women, just trying to figure out how to best balance the eight thousand balls they juggle in the air that comes with the territory. Sisters, this blog is for you. I hear your heart. I see your struggle. I laugh with you when the joy comes.

I love my shepherd and I know you do too.

I love my Shepherd. I love Jesus and all that his grace has been and done and redeemed me from in my life. How do I make my life about Him? How do I seek Him in everything, everyday?

I love my shepherd. I love my husband and struggle to show him this each day, in the midst of everyday marital junk and joy. I watch him in his work and am so proud of God’s work through him, so devastated when he hurts, and so tired of spending Christmas and Easter lonely. How do I love him best? How do I build him up, instead of tear him down?

I love the people God has entrusted to me. I read in an article recently another pastor’s wife say, “Let’s face it. You’re part of the ministry too.” Truth spoken, like a balm to my heart. Thank you for recognizing this, random stranger in a magazine. And so far in this life my job has simply been Mom and student. Some of you are Moms like me, some of you are nurses, some are engineers. God has a path and a place for each of us, but on this journey, because he has given us our husbands to support, we are in ministry. This looks different for each of us. No necessary talents required, like playing the organ or teaching Sunday School. We follow the way God chooses to use us, but we are doing ministry, because we are the front line encourager for a man who is constantly under fire from Satan’s arrows. How do I love the people God has put in my path? How do I share Him, while sharing my husband, and balancing life and work and children, and a clean home, and friends, and attempting to get a devotion in?

So I have a new leg of my journey. It just got more exotic! I accepted a call as a Deaconess to Serve Pastor’s Wives with Grace Place Lutheran Wellness Ministries. I am looking forward to talking and laughing with precious women, finding resources to help pastor’s wives and families in the struggle, and offering opportunities for sharing our hearts with others who understand.

This blog is meant to be simply a piece of all that. It will be real. I firmly believe healing comes through realness, authenticity, and honesty in not just who God is, but what he’s brought me through. I will be blessed if you join me in this journey.