My All-In Strawberry Patch: Risk and Relationships

Two years ago I planted a plot of strawberry plants.

I had dreams of juicy red fruit growing organically in my backyard, picked by my minions – er, children – and overflowing bowls of pretty red jewels set out on my table for guests to enjoy.

I asked a friend to come over and dig up the soil. I had my husband line the plot with two by fours. I tended and watered and weeded.

If I had a nickel for every time someone stopped to tell me how hard strawberries were to grow, how the effort wasn’t worth it, I could have paid for a much nicer plot.

I just smiled and nodded and shoved the words deep down inside.

What I should have told them was:

“I’m not growing strawberries. I’m growing commitment.”

Let me explain.

I had thought about growing strawberries for years. Friends grew strawberries and would leave little boxes on our counter. I looked at other local’s raised beds and wanted some for myself. But then I would almost instantly think, “Well, who knows how long we’ll be here.”

Here is where ministry life enters in. It can be weird. Change and calls can enter at any time and plans have to remain flexible. Hearts have to remain flexible. That’s hard for someone like me who is whole-heartedly in, and easily whole-heartedly disappointed.

But you know what…

Life is weird. Change can happen anytime, anywhere, in any profession, in any relationships.

I realized that I was saving half of my heart for what might be. Keeping it safe, committing only pieces of myself so that I wouldn’t have to hurt, to say goodbye. At some point I realized that I was robbing myself of real relationships for what might be, even what would be. I was giving half-heartedly of who I was and expecting whole-hearts back.

Friendships need to be made, and wholeheartedness is not really an option, in life or in ministry.

And so I planted a strawberry patch.

I planted something large, that would take effort, and that I might have to walk away from.

It was beautiful. And it grew 14 strawberries.

Look at this bounty –

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Then, God called us away.

He called us to something new; to plant somewhere else. Oh goodness, it was hard. And every day I fight to be all-in here as well. Questions assail:

Will they like me?

Will they want me?

When will they get tired of me?

I know it’s not about me, but I have to be real. Relationships are hard and hard work and sometimes it seems that finding other people who want to be all-in are scarce.

Because of Christ, we can do it anyway.

Give your whole heart.

Plant something.

Start something.

No matter what tomorrow brings, no matter the response, grow love, and grow commitment to that love.

Christ stands as a constant reminder of the all-in love that our Father gives to us. He gave His whole heart, knowing what would come eventually, knowing that He would have to say goodbye, but trusting the Plan.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 4:32-5:2)

All-in, my friends. All-in.

Devotions and the clergy marriage

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…
Colossians 3:16

I read a study* of over a thousand clergy, only 26% of who reported having a private devotional time in the course of the day.

This led me to wonder how many clergy couples are in the Word together each day. I couldn’t find any studies on this, maybe there are some, but let’s bring it down to the individual level. My husband and I have an on-again-off-again relationship with couple’s devotions.¬†As James writes on another topic‚Ķbrothers and sisters, this should not be.

Is it any wonder that there is no difference in the trend of divorce among clergy than there is in the laity?

I want my marriage to be more. Many of us want to uphold what marriage should look like, as a representation of Christ and His Beloved Bride, the Church, to the best of our ability. We often fall short. We experience falling short as a couple, in our Christian walk, not just as individuals.

That can weigh heavy too.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my husband, He loves me. We pray together, we worship together (sort of), and we have deep and meaningful theological conversations. But there’s plenty of our marriage that reflects our sin, and mostly our sins of omission. Omitting time together, omitting His word together, omitting compassion for one another.

So, this Lent, we’re going to spend a little extra time doing inserting something, instead of omitting something- intentionally. We’ll set a time to remember grace where we fall short; time to reflect on Christ’s grace in our home; picturing His grace filling our marriage up.

Join us!

Get your spouse and a cup of coffee or a piece of chocolate and dive in.

Our lent devotions will meander slowly through Romans 8, one verse at a time for 40 days. These devotions can take 5 minutes or 30 minutes of your time, depending on the discussion you create while reflecting.

Get the link to the PDF of the devotions at this link!

*http://www.intothyword.org/apps/articles/?articleid=36562

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. ūüôā