Saturday, December 2, 2017

Noel.

I'm busy this time of year, just like everyone else.  When December arrives I find myself in the midst of so many wonderful events.  It's the nature of the season, and it's the nature of my profession.  I love the concerts.  I love the decorations.  I love the thrill of wonder on the children's faces in my classes as their ears listen classic and traditional seasonal songs for the first time in 11 months or so.  I relish in all the sweet moments.

Christmas is also a difficult season.  We're tired.  We're broke.  We're struggling to make ordinary things a little more magical and it's easy to get all caught up in the festivities and find ourselves completely spent of time, sleep, and money.

I'm getting older, but I've never been able to get through the holiday season without at least one serious cold, a case of the blues, and dark circles under my eyes.  I take great pride in my celebration of the holiday season, which can sometimes be a sickness all to itself.  I'm all too happy to jump on the holiday event bandwagon, but like a kid who ate too many funnel cakes at the fair, sometimes it leaves me feeling a little less than jolly.

I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about all of the many things I must take care of on my list.  I fight the urge to have a pity party in the evenings when I just want to sit down on my couch.  Doubt and hurt feelings are quick to rise to the surface, and I find myself feeling extremely tender and vulnerable about this season and my involvement in all the things.

This season exposes all of our human limitations and makes it crystal clear why the world needs a Savior.  

We just don't always like to hear the Truth in those words. 

I want to be important.  I want to be current and valid and dependable.  I want my voice to have weight, and I want others to hear me and like what I have to say.  I want to create and celebrate and participate and do great things.  I want to bring others into the wonder of the season, and I want to sing and write and share.  

But, I must be remain aware of the stark truth: I can't save the entire world.  My birth was not one heralded by the angels, and my death will not pay the the price for sin.  

This season is not about me . . . this season is for me.  


Then let us all with one accord, sing praises to our heavenly Lord
That hath made heaven and earth of naught
And with His blood, mankind hath bought
Noel. . . born is the King of Israel
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Monday, November 20, 2017

Because.

Because this week officially begins the 2017 Holiday Season.

Because it is 7:07am and you’re in the car and fussing at your girls about sharing toothpaste which leads to a longer discussion about being grateful and how they don’t even buy anything in the house (or maybe that’s just in my car).

Because the to-do list is ever growing and doesn’t seem to have an end in sight.

Because holidays are awesome and awesomely hard all at the same time.

It's going to be just fine.

Admit you’re human, do the best you can, try a little harder, give yourself a break, and breathe a little deeper.  

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Assault on the Ministry Family: When she doesn't feel like she's enough.

She is cute and so very happy to meet you.  She's been at the church for decades, or maybe she's new and still getting used to the congregation.  She smiles every Sunday morning as she stands next to her husband.  She will engage in small talk and ask you the right questions because she genuinely cares to know the answers.  She excuses herself after a few minutes because there are a million things she needs to address:  her kids need her, someone is late for the preschool class again, and yes, she would love to help the sweet ladies in the kitchen bring out some new treats for the refreshment area.

She must be friendly and on point every single time the church doors open.  She is surrounded by a lot of lovely people who know her name, and she does her very best to learn their names as well.  She takes the time to make sure she looks well-dressed because people expect her to look the part.  Heels and pearls, or jeans and sandals--whatever is appropriate at her church.

She leads by example by being one of the first to sign up, show up, and help out in all the events.  She is involved in a lot of big things like VBS, ladies circle, nursery, planning showers, and assisting at weddings.  She always shows up with a gift, a dessert, and kind words.  She oohs and ahhs over the new babies, celebrates the big moments, and cries with the grieving families.  She is always there, and people can always count on her.  

But, inside that cute exterior is a festering wound the world will never see.

She's a complete and total mess and has no way of letting the people around her know about it.  It's just too dangerous--for her and for her husband.  Anything she says and does is under constant scrutiny by the congregation.  She doesn't want to say or do anything that will call attention to herself nor her spouse and family.

She cannot tell you that under that perfectly put together exterior that she is dangerously close to falling apart.  She has worked herself into a ball of anxiety and has to do her best to plaster a smile on her face as she walks into the church each week.  She is so afraid of disappointing people and letting them down.

She cannot share that she is embarrassed that her kids are acting like terrors and sass their teachers.  She is unhappy with their behavior, but even more ashamed that people might be judging her "lack of parenting skills" which somehow reflects poorly on her husband and their ministry.  

She worries that everything she says and does will be misrepresented and misunderstood.  She worries that her mouth will get her into trouble again, or that she won't say the right words at the right time.  She knows that she's going to let someone down--especially those with high standards for her glass house.  She just prays when she offends someone, that it's not someone with high influence in the church.

She is often lonely.  Lonely because her spouse is called away during dinner again.  Lonely in the midst of another church event.  Lonely as she sits alone in church because her husband is preaching or leading worship or working with the teens.  Lonely because she shoulders a lot of responsibility and a lot of filling in when someone backs out at the last minute.  Lonely in the middle of the Ladies Circle meeting.

She cannot share with you how she aches on the inside.  Darkness curls up next to her ears and heart and whispers the most discouraging words.  It reminds her of the many, many times she's failed and how shameful her actions have been in the past, and how terrible it would be if anyone ever found out.  It tells her over and over again that she's not smart, good, spiritual, pretty, and/or together enough to be a minister's wife.  Or a youth minister's wife.  Or the children's minister's wife.  Or the lady married to the elder, deacon, and/or Bible study leader.

So these ladies have to hide.  They have to hide all of their struggles because they have learned that the church is not always the most welcoming place for those connected to leadership.  Nobody wants their ministry families to have issues, and the churches will try to ignore it or drop them like a hot potato.  Most of them can't even share a blog post like this one because of fear that people in their own congregations will misunderstand and hold it against them.  People love to gossip and tear down and gloat in the failures of the holy, and the last thing these ladies need in their lives is one more voice telling them what a disappointment they are.

Because, believe me, there is enough of that going around in their heads and hearts.   

I've encountered a wide variety of ministry families in different churches over the years, and I am happy to say that there are some churches who absolutely take care of their ministers and their families.  I've also encountered some who are not overly invested in the ministry family's well-being, and some churches that mean well but just miss the mark.

Even in the most encouraging churches, it can take years for the ministers' wives to let their guards and walls down--especially if they have baggage from a previous church or experience.  When my husband was a full-time minister, I was so thankful for those people who came alongside of us in each of our churches and encouraged us through immense joy as well as in our most painful times.  And, I'm thankful that we still have fellow ministers, board members, and friends who walk beside us now.

Now that my husband is a camp manager, we have the opportunity to work with many different ministers from all over during our camp sessions.  We hear their triumphs and losses.  We hear about the wonderful things in their congregations, and we hear the hard things, too.  It is our desire to be able to pour into them, cover them with prayer, encourage them, give them freedom to speak, and we want to speak out when they are unable to speak up for themselves.  

Your ministers' wives are often unable to speak what is on their hearts.  They don't need another casserole or message to deliver to their husbands. They don't need another opportunity to serve.  They don't need another committee to chair or job to fulfill.    

What they need are champions in their lives.  They need people to fight for them and protect them.  They need honest and true friends who will take care of them.  They need people in their congregations to see them as more than a minister's wife and accept them as they are, and love them for it.  They need encouragement and prayers and love.  They need people to pray for them as well as their staff spouses.  The need people in their lives to speak truth to their hearts and to remind them that they aren't alone in their feelings.  They need to be gently reminded that they are humans like rest of us and are unable to live up to the unrealistic expectations they place on themselves.

Church (the collective), these ministry wives need you, too.  
  
to be continued. . .

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