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 🙂


The woman in the pew next to me

My supervisor left a sweet note in my box the other day:
    Heidi,
      I saw this and thought of you. 🙂 

(A generally good way to make someone’s day is to leave a note like this!) Attached to the note was a small magazine with a post-it note marking one tiny article that ran down the side of a page.

The article was entitled “The Women in the Pew Next to Me.”

I didn’t even get a chance to read the article before my mind was working over time.

How often do we notice what is happening in the world of the woman sitting next to us on Sundays? 

Who knows if her marriage is happy?

Who knows if her heart is breaking over the decisions of one of her children?

Who knows if she’s losing her house?

Who knows if she’s waiting for a diagnosis from a doctor?

Who knows if she’s working two jobs?

Who knows if if she grew up losing her self-worth slowly to sexual abuse?

Who knows if anyone ever told her she’s beautiful?

Who knows if anyone told her God loves her despite her past, despite her present?

Who knows if she’s exhausted…chasing little people, slogging through laundry, sacrificing dinners out for family time in?

Who knows if someone’s words cut deep into her heart?

Who knows if she feels insignificant- searching for a friend who will listen and laugh, cry and hug?

Who knows if she lost one of her children to heaven in the early stages of her pregnancy?

Who knows if she struggles to control her weight, her beauty, her emotions?

Who knows if she still cries silent tears from the abortion so many years before, or just days ago?

Who knows if she struggles to care for a child whose needs seem more than she could ever fill?

Who knows…


At the risk of sounding too law oriented- have we taken the time to notice, to care, to ask about the tears, real or silent rolling down her face?

This, my friends, is the church. This pew is where Christ meets us in the form of people who love us, hold us up when we have no strength, and laugh with us in our deepest joys. 

What if that person is your pastor’s wife? What if one person asked her out to coffee or invited her over for a moment of friendship? What if we included one another in our lives to the degree that we open in our hearts and let Christ do His great big work of Love, and Forgiveness, and Compassion, and Kindness through those of us sitting in the pew together. 

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Ephesians 4:32

*The original article given to me by my supervisor was in Vol. 7, Issue 1 of Touchpoints (2011), put out by the Columbus Coalition Against Domestic Violence. and written by Poppy O’Guin Steele.

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!