On being a PK…

This August we were driving “down south” to visit my husband’s sister and her family for a much needed family vacation. The drive was lengthy and we had already gone through all our books on CD so we cranked up the volume on some local Christian radio. Between every song advertisements for a special conference came up over and over again. We heard them for the whole week we were there, and I tell you, I could recite them by heart. This conference was important for someone. Near the end of the week it struck me that the conference wasn’t for adults, but was for pastor’s kids still in the home. I turned to my daughter (age 12) and blurted, “Wow, a whole conference just for pastor’s kids! Is that really necessary?”
My sweet daughter was oddly quiet. I looked back at her from my seat next to my husband.
“Do you think of yourself as a pastor’s kid?” 
In my mind, Macee was just like any other kid. Bright, fun, beginning to get past the grouchy stage of early adolescence…beautiful. Child of God. Redeemed, transformed, made new. The only thing different between her and another child of God, in my thoughts, was that she was tall for her age and had a special gift for loving on any person, of any age, at any time. 
But that doesn’t answer the question does it, for Macee. “Do you think of yourself as a pastor’s kid?” From the backseat came the small answer,
“Everyday, Mom. Everyday.”
As I sat back and contemplated her response and my apparent lack of understanding of the life of a PK, I recalled a different conversation in our house three years prior. My daughter, broken hearted, needing a friend, feeling unloved and unworthy came to me in tears,
“People just think we’re weird, Mom. Everyone thinks we’re different.”
At the time I thought that conversation was just about us. Just about our family’s zest for individuality and zeal for uniqueness. At that moment I realized, it’s not about me, it’s not about our family, it’s about the church and that weird place we put church work families. “What?!” you say, “What place? I don’t put anyone in a place?” But you see, we do. 

Colossians 3:21 encourages Fathers to avoid provoking their children. But how many kids in churches do we raise the bar for because of who their parent is, expecting more from them?

This verse is fitting for the church, because really, that is where my child, under no choice of his or her own, is growing up.
Church, don’t provoke your children.
Just as you love your pastor, love his children. Don’t raise the bar for them. Don’t expect more of them. Don’t assume you know them, until you spend time getting to know them individually. They are each beautiful and precious, and unique. Their love for Jesus comes not just from the home they’re raised in, but the church that raises them.
Don’t love them for who you think they should be, love them for who they are.
Colossians also promises what will come when we set the bar too high for our pastor’s children (whether in our own home or in church)
…discouragement. Almost every single translation uses this same word- discouragement. 
What does the discouragement of a PK look like? It’s different for every child, obviously, but I think that it’s the cracks, the fissures of faith that begin innocently that are most concerning. The PK who simply can not sit in a pew contentedly for the ants in their pants, and is scolded by more than their mother. The PK who is frustrated with being the acolyte for the 84th Sunday in a row because they are the only ones who show up. The PK who is afraid to tell someone they struggle with their body image, because it’s just more stress for mom or dad, who is helping everyone else. The PK who hears the words people say about their Dad and has no where to go with them. 
How do we create churches who love and uplift their PKs? Love and uplift them…as individuals! Celebrate their unique gifts and do not give them more than there fair share, simply because they show up. Notice who they are, not in relation to who is their parent, but in relation to who God made them to be. This is how our children learn that the church is a place to grow and be loved and desire to stay there and flourish. 
May we take a step back and be an encouragement rather than a discouragement. I take numerous steps and build all kinds of boundaries to protect my children from the life of growing up PK; to help them love Jesus and love the church, not because I do, but because they have the Spirit of the Living God inside them. Foolishly I thought I could do this alone. My daughter reminded me I could not. I need the church to do this with me, to see with me how precious she is as herself, and herself alone. 

*No Macees were harmed in the writing of this blog post. All Macees were asked permission to share their stories with the world at large. 🙂

The sacrifice of family

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 🙂

God’s grace in my mess

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 story of what felt like failure:  

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 3-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. Three 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 hard time hearing 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. 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 embrace 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. 

Grandma Gigi and my tribe – We miss her and can’t wait to see her smiling face again in heaven!