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 🙂

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.