The Important Things

 

Balancing God, family, church, activities, friends, self-care, whatever else life throws at you… it is not easy. Every so often I get a clear snap-shot of how I am doing. This look usually comes during a time of transition, when I move from one season of life to another.

In January, a two-year-old boy came to live with us. He came from a very hard place. Adding him into our family grew us from a unit of five to a circus of six. The Fuersts had just gotten to the point where we no longer needed diaper bags, naps, stringent bed times, and sippy cups. Now, we were right back into the middle of a different season of life… one that moved a lot more slowly so little legs could keep up. So how did we find balance?

Balance began with me being honest with myself. Honest about what I am capable of doing. Honest about where I am. Honest about identifying the important things for this particular season of life. Each season comes with natural limitations. Limitations we need to embrace and honor so we can be healthy. When I don’t embrace these limitations I start to feel like too little butter on too much toast.

Adopting a child called for a major slow down.

To fully form as Fuerst party of 6, some things needed to go. We couldn’t be out every night of the week. The older kids had to let go of some of their weeknight activities. We told them they could each do one thing. My oldest daughter, Phoebe, was in Girl Scouts and sports. We told her she had to choose. It wasn’t easy for her, she loved both. Her decision led to good conversations about her interests and desires. It also helped us teach her about limitations and boundaries.

I also had to say “no” to some things. I just couldn’t keep saying “yes” and still be healthy. I had to cut back on my involvement with the women’s ministry at my church. I love working with women, but the higher priority right now is shaping my young family and making plenty of time for my own well-being. Self care is essential to ensure I have the energy required to care for my crazy crew. In another season, when my children are older, when everyone is in school, I might pick up women’s ministry again. Saying “no” now doesn’t mean I will always have to say “no.”

The first step to balance is making a list of what is most important in this season of life. Narrow it down to four or five things. Then start saying “yes,” and more importantly “no” based on this list. Let your list help you weed out the non-essentials. You can’t find balance when you have too many things going, even if most of them are church things.  Realize you don’t have to do everything right now. There will be time in the future when you enter a new season. No season lasts forever.  Someday we will be done with diapers. I am sure it will come.

 


Cassie Fuerst is a quiet soul, who needs a lot of time and space to process life around her. She stays at home, acting as administrator of chaos for her four children. Her husband, Tom, has been in ministry for 10 years. She loves creating community by going to coffee with friends, having people in her home, and talking to people on the edges. She lives in Memphis, Tennessee.

Breakaway 2017

 

It is hard to believe Breakaway 2017 has come and gone. We shared a wonderful couple days together with spouses from around the country. The event was featured in an article on wesleyan.org that we wanted to share with you. Click here to see a recap of this time of refreshment and renewal for pastors’ spouses. 

We also wanted to share a testimonial from the event. Julie Lamb, a pastor’s spouse and worship leader from Colorado, made the trip to the Indianapolis area for her first Breakaway and wrote the thoughts below about her experience at this year’s event.

I am flying home after Breakaway, a gathering with Pastor’s spouses, where truth was spoken over us and tears were shed in vulnerability. Our hearts grasped — for some, perhaps for the first time — that our identities are not anchored in others’ expectations of us or in the roles we tend to play that were never meant to define us. We paused for a few days to breathe and allow God to redefine us… letting go of mistaken identities… leaning into who God uniquely designed us to be.  My heart is encouraged…lighter.

God set us on a journey in ministry of restoring a portion of His Creation back to Him, and the privilege and responsibility could not be more real. I am grateful for the team who poured their time and talent into crafting an event that encouraged and challenged us, men and women gathered from all across the country where they serve on the front lines of ministry. I am grateful for Whitney Wheeler’s courage to tell her own story. I am grateful for new friendships that were forged and for old friendships that were reconnected. I am grateful for a prayer partner to connect with consistently upon returning home.

I wasn’t sure what to expect in attending Breakaway.  Would it be worth buying a plane ticket and all the travel expense to travel from Colorado? Would it be an event where everyone talks about surface realities and doesn’t really dive into the heart of what we’re navigating in our own contexts?  Would I come home exhausted?

What I experienced was a breath of fresh air.  We were offered an opportunity to navigate how God has wired us each individually in how we connect with Him through Gwen Jackson’s session on her new book Unforced Rhythms. We were drawn in as Sherry Gorveatte shared experiences from her journey of ministry and reminded us of the truth that God’s image is impressed upon each of us.  We were given space to enjoy some down time, the gift of Sabbath built into the weekend. The food was great, the breakout sessions were inspiring, conversations were life-giving, and I left with an encouraged and rested heart.

The PSC team has been so blessed to hear these types of responses from those who were able to come to Breakaway this year. Whether you come to an event or engage with Pastor’s Spouse Connection through online opportunities, we count it a privilege to be able to walk this journey with you. We love and appreciate you for who you are and are so grateful for the many ways we see you allowing God to work in and through you.

Balancing Life and Ministry

 

I long for simplicity. For a life marked by grace and peace. But the reality is, mountain after mountain, wave after wave, there is nothing simple about ministry. When your eyes are opened to a world of people who don’t yet know their Savior — seeing identities unrealized, myths believed, fears won, courage unused, faith untouched — the weight of the task we have been called to is tremendous.

We put our faith to the test daily, trusting God to order our steps. But in the midst of our faithfulness to God’s call on our lives and the churches we lead, we have our own marriages and children to nurture. We have houses to keep, groceries to buy, sports and school schedules to juggle. We have friends, neighbors, and co-workers to love. Not to mention navigating the whole realm of social media, where the fire hydrant of opinion never seems to diminish. Our lives accumulate layer upon layer, and over time, the balance scale plummets in favor of exhaustion and depletion instead of life-giving and whole.

Shauna Niequist says this: “The twin undercurrents of being a woman and being a Christian is sort of a set-up for getting off track with this stuff – women are raised to give and give and give, to pour themselves out indiscriminately and tirelessly. And Christians, or some anyway, are raised to ignore their own bodies, their own pain, their own screaming souls, on behalf of the other, the kingdom, the church.”

This was exactly where I found myself a year and a half ago. I was working full-time in our local elementary school as an aid in the significant support needs (SSN) special education classroom which required enormous amounts of physical and mental energy, all the while serving as children’s ministry director and worship leader for our church plant. I poured every ounce of myself into my work both in and outside of the church reserving what fumes I had left for my family. My personal balance scale had plummeted in favor of exhaustion and depletion. I think sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking that if we simplify our lives enough, if we cut the fat, we will find balance. Balance isn’t the absence of chaos or a lack of struggle. It is peace in the midst of both the simple and the overwhelming.

Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG): “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew wrote these words long before our world operated as chaotically as it does today. Yet somehow it’s a thread of truth that remains ever true. We continue to find ourselves in moments where we are tired, out of sync, and unbalanced. So where’s the hope?

As hard as we try, we will never eliminate all of the factors that make our lives unbalanced. But, we can take a close look at the areas of our lives that may be out of sync. Matthew reminds us to yoke ourselves to Jesus and learn His unforced rhythms of grace. The rhythms I experienced in that season were geared toward survival. When you’re in survival mode, you don’t think about things like rest, freedom, or peace. We may not be able to control all of the things that create an imbalance in our lives, but we can be intentional about establishing rhythms where we’re leaning into God as He speaks into our hearts and minds, listening as we’re yoked to Him.

Two tools that I have found helpful in establishing healthy, unforced, rhythms in this season of ministry are found in Sacred Ordinary Days. (You can learn more on their website at www.sacredordinarydays.com). Sacred Ordinary Days is a planning system that follows the liturgical calendar (the life of Christ), anchoring everyday tasks and activities in a framework rooted in God’s story fostering spiritual formation. Two spiritual practices built into each week, the Rule of Life and the Examen, have been incredibly helpful for me in establishing an awareness of what may be out of sync as I go about my days.

When establishing a Rule of Life, you consider how God has uniquely wired you and together with God set a guideline of values and priorities of how to live your days, focusing on seven key areas: spirit, body, mind, relationships, home, work, and resources. Once you set your values, you have a benchmark to use in your weekly Examen to reflect and reset for the coming week. I have found this resource to be a life-giving rhythm that God uses to pour out His grace over my days. It has been so freeing to look back at the week that is closing and ask some hard questions and answer honestly! What can you celebrate? What needs tending? You start to see progress and experience a more balanced existence when revisiting key areas of your life through the weekly Examen.

I am in a season now where I work alongside my husband in ministry full-time. We work from home, because we are still a portable church meeting in our local elementary school each Sunday. Home is where we work and where we dwell. Home is where we meet with our staff, and host families for dinner. It’s where we retreat and enjoy family time. So finding balance in this season is a new challenge. The lines continue to remain blurry between ministry and family life, but being yoked to Jesus and keeping company with Him, I am learning to live freely and lightly through His unforced rhythms of grace.

 

Julie Lamb is a church planter’s spouse, worship pastor, and mom. She spends her days creating safe worship environments for people to take their next step toward Jesus. She loves encouraging and investing in pastors’ spouses as they navigate the joys and challenges of ministry, especially those in church planting. She enjoys cappuccinos, hiking, and the ocean breeze. She is married to Nate, and they live in Colorado with their daughters Emily, Lauren, and Olivia.

How to Make a New Home When You Can’t Stay Where You’ve Been

 

When life changes happen (like a ministry move, a significant loss, or a job transfer) a new normal is thrust upon us. We have an immediate choice to adapt – or not. Depending on the circumstances, we can choose to dive in to the starting-over of life, and the writing of a new chapter. Or we can resist by clinging to what once was.

Visit Elizabeth Joy at Joy Let Loose to read more about how to make a new home when you can’t stay where you’ve been.

 

Elizabeth Rhyno is a Canadian-turned-Hoosier as of 2016. Wife of twenty years to Scott, mom to three amazing teens, Elizabeth is a worshiper, teacher, writer, and blogger. She loves leading in worship and mentoring other leaders. Elizabeth taught at Kingswood University and now serves as the Director of Relational Arts at Waterline Church in Fishers, Indiana.

 

Ordained

 

At some point in the course of ministry, many pastors and their spouses will participate in a service where their call to ministry is affirmed and the pastor is ordained. Those moments can bring all kinds of emotions, thoughts, and maybe even a little bit of awkward. Ashley Cooper and her husband participated in an ordination service this past year. She wrote a wonderfully humorous and touching blog post about the experience over on her own blog, Harris and Willow, which she graciously allowed us to share here as well. Enjoy!

Our lives have been absolute chaos lately. We’ve moved (a mile away) and have had several youth events since my last post. Camp. Camp. District Conference. Holland. A missions trip. And countless hours around bonfires with friends and students. And to top it all off, my husband got ordained in the Wesleyan Church almost a month ago. While I can sit back and soak in what this day means, what it felt like to sit with friends and family and watch the Wesleyan Church affirm Patrick’s calling to serve Christ, I also dwelt heavily in all that was awkward. And it will haunt me forever.

My friend graciously took me shopping for a nice dress because my jeans and cardi probably wouldn’t have been appropriate for the day. She then curled my hair because everybody’s seen my messy bun and it needs to go.

Two days before the service Patrick had no suit. If it’s not blatantly obvious, we are jeans and T-shirt people. So we scrambled to Kohls, and I threw every suit over the dressing room door hoping to find something that wouldn’t noticeably need alterations.

“This one will work. Good enough!” We threw it in a bag and left.

Patrick rushed into the service wearing that suit and a loose tie around his neck. “Can you tie this?” Absolutely not, but Pinterest saves lives.

Before I could get my app open, the usher at the door approached Patrick and ripped the tie from his neck. “I got this,” he said. As he tied the tie, his wife stood behind Patrick ripping threads and tags from his new suit coat. As I’ve said before, we Coopers are classy people.

We met with the DBMD shortly before the service started. And while I look back and appreciate the time and effort poured into that single evening for us, you would have thought we were planning to detonate a bomb the way we combed over each detail. In fact, I was drowning in the directions and necessary stage movements ahead. I needed a map.

I had carefully considered my dress for the service knowing I had to kneel in front of the congregation. I planned on wearing a long dress to my ankles, but I was unable to find one that didn’t scream bohemian gypsy.  I thought through every move I would need to make in order to avoid flashing everybody. That’s when our Senior Pastor’s wife leaned forward and said “By the way, there is no kneeling altar. You’ll be kneeling at those tables.” Ummm… They hate me, don’t they?

When the service started I knew that I just needed to stand when asked and say one line when acknowledged. “I will by God’s grace.” I repeated that approximately seven hundred times in my head before I actually had to say it out loud.

We were then led on stage and eventually to the table to kneel. That Ikea end table/kneeling altar was staring at me. I had a flashback to my 21st birthday when I put all my weight on one end of a wicker chair at Cheesecake Factory and flipped the chair onto the table behind me. This was surely bound to happen here. I was certain if I put my hands on the very lightweight table to kneel behind it, my weight would send it flying, causing 6 nosebleeds in the first row. So instead, I chose to awkwardly sideways bend until I felt the floor under my knees. I’m sure it didn’t look like it, but it felt like I was doing a drunken rendition of “I’m a Little Teapot.” After we were prayed over, we were able to stand again. No – Patrick was able to stand again. And he did as I was left wondering how I would get up gracefully. I questioned how soon the service would end and how inappropriate it would be to stay kneeling as not to flash my spanx to a room full of people. It only took me seconds (that felt like several minutes) to slowly maneuver into an upright standing position.

All of the ordained ministers were asked to stand on the floor in front of the platform to read something from the screen together. I, of course, began to read it too. It was only after I proudly and confidently read half the paragraph aloud and got to the line “…as the ordained ministers of the Wesleyan Church” that I realized uhhhh…. that’s not my line. 

We were previously told to stay put on stage as the band led us in a final song. So that’s exactly where I stood – only to turn slowly around to see that the lead singer was standing directly behind me.

Should I be moving? Nobody else is moving. Except they were. I turned to see that all the members of the DBMD had quietly stepped back.

I leaned toward Patrick. “Should I get out of Jeff’s way or not?”

I somehow made my way to the side of the stage and out of the worship band before somebody could accidentally hand me a banjo.

As I stood on the side of the platform I looked out to see a full congregation. I saw a slew of ordained pastors who were standing at the front, supporting Patrick and affirming his call to ministry. I saw my brother who drove ten hours to be present for such an occasion. I counted our students, former students, friends, and church family who gave up their evening to come support, affirm, and love us on such an important day in our lives. And I was filled to the brim with love and appreciation.

Whether you were present that night or not, thank you!  Thanks for giving us grace. Thanks for teaching us – through both your words and actions. Thank you for impacting our lives, for loving us, ministering to us, and accepting us.

My heart is full.

 

Ashely Cooper lives in the middle of the woods in Northern Wisconsin with her husband, Patrick, who serves as a Student Ministries Pastor. She spends most of her time proving to be the poster child for the INFP personality type: founding multiple businesses in mere minutes and accepting Oscars, all via daydreams; and craving and valuing deep human connection while tiring easily from too much of said interaction. Her love languages are coffee, chocolate, and kind words. She grew up in the church and has never known her life without Jesus. But it’s in the recent years that she’s discovered the value of the Church and what it means to live a life of relational ministry.

Entangled

 

The onset of spring sends me straight to my garden. The warm sunshine on my back coupled with the cool, damp soil under my knees are food for my soul. Gardening isn’t all fun though; it’s hard work too. At my house, some dear soul years ago decided that ivy would be a much better ground cover than mulch- everywhere…around every tree and on every side of the house. The ivy vines carpet the ground in a thick tangle. They crawl up the stone around the base of the house. They entangle their tendrils behind the siding, climb the branches of the trees, choke out the delicate bushes, and creep out into the lawn in all directions.

This year, as I was engaged in my annual battle against the vines, I was reminded of this phrase, “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles…” The entanglement of sin. This garden is the physical manifestation of the lives of many. My heart is heavy for the sorrows of my brothers and sisters, and God has been teaching me to pay attention to my sadness. What in particular pricks my spirit and hangs with me all day and all week? Am I grieving and lamenting as He has taught us? Or am I reveling in the sensational details of the misfortune of others? In this season, it is the choking brokenness of the most intimate relationships that grieves me. Even though I am blessed with wonderful parent/child and spouse relationships, all around me I see families who are suffocating, buried, controlled and entangled in the hurts of the past or the sins of the present.

It is devastating when the one-on-one care that is most fundamental to our understanding of God as Father and Christ as Bridegroom paints a picture of brokenness. The vines are entangling moms and dads, husbands and wives. The tendrils of selfishness reach into hearts and minds. The woody stalks grip firmly and create thick barriers that prevent the warmth of the Spirit from being experienced.  This is my lament- this sin that so easily entangles our families. If your house is like mine, full of love and joy, look next door and you’ll likely find one in need of the great Gardener. There is hurt everywhere.

We as ministry families are not immune. In fact, we are as vulnerable to the encroachment of the enemy as any other family, and in some ways perhaps more vulnerable. If this is you, if you feel the entanglement of the vines reaching up around your ankles, two thoughts from scripture provide hope. First, our battle is not against one another. It is against the vines. When people cause us pain or harm, whether they are within our own families, in our congregations, or in our communities, it is most often the entanglement of sin causing the harm rather than the person. Second, Hebrews 11 and 12 remind us that we can draw strength from the true stories of the women and men who have gone before us, those who have remained faithful in the face of all of the trials of life. Their faith has brought courage, longsuffering, strength, patience, and love where selfishness, anger, fear, or disbelief could have taken root instead.

On this sunny spring day, I cut and prune, saw and pull, dig and rake to remove just a small fraction of the vines around my house. My muscles ache the next day, and I can hardly see where I’ve made a dent, but I know that at least for one more summer, I’ve done enough to keep the vines contained. It would take tremendous vigilance and strength to eradicate the vines altogether, the kind of strength that only comes from an all victorious Creator. Perhaps that is the kind of eradication you need today, and if that is the case, I pray you find it in Him.

For the three teenage boys and spouse who dwell inside my house, I will do battle on my knees often. I will pray Scripture over them, speak words of life to them, and, with the Spirit’s help, keep my own heart free vine-free, for them. For my neighbors and community who are entangled, dragged down, barely moving because of the weight of sin, I will pray for life in their families, and look for opportunities to help prune the vines. I pray that you’ll join me.

 

Erin Crisp is an alumnus and now employee of Indiana Wesleyan University. She and her husband, Eric, have three teenage sons and live in Marion, IN where Eric is a pastor at College Wesleyan Church. Originally an English teacher, Erin now works in adult, online education while pursuing a doctoral degree in education from Indiana University. The Crisps have been a ministry family for 13 years in Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland and now back in Indiana for a second time. They enjoy music, museums, camping, hiking, exploring new destinations, and reading.

Time Away

 

A few months ago, Amy Luchetti shared some great insights with us on creating space for rest in our lives. She challenged us to hit the pause button, find ways to orient our time to include Sabbath rest, and get away from time to time (find her full post here). One of the challenges that can exist in ministry life is finding the financial resources to get away, but there are some wonderful opportunities out there for free and reduced cost retreats and vacations for pastors and their families that we want you to know about. Danielle Freed, a pastor’s spouse and member of our PSC team, has found this to be a huge blessing and shares below about her family’s experience. 

Vacation planning season is upon us! Maybe you’re making plans for Summer vacation, too. As a pastor’s family though, often a family getaway can seem out of reach. Whether you don’t feel that you have the time, the money or other resources; vacation can often end up a “staycation”, a quick trip to Grandma’s, or even something that a pastor’s family “just doesn’t take”. Our family had hit a place where we had time to take vacation, and really needed time away just the four of us, however, we were in the middle of a tough year with our family’s health and because of costs of medical care, finances were just not there for vacation.

After a simple post on social media looking for recommendations for an affordable vacation spot for our family, a pastor’s spouse friend of ours suggested applying for a vacation through an organization that helps pastors and their families get the much needed time away at a very affordable cost. We applied for a vacation time and were accepted. We were blessed with two weeks in a four bedroom home in central Florida–the only “catch” was we had to stay for 12-14 days, no less, to ensure our family had time to truly unplug, decompress, then reconnect. This particular organization holds this standard high, believing that a pastor’s family needs and deserves time and space to have a great vacation to make the pastor and their family healthier ministers!

For us, the house cost nothing to rent, we were just asked to pay a professional cleaning fee. Our family has never had so much time together! It was fun, so relaxing, and there wasn’t the financial pressure that can often take away from being able to enjoy vacation, especially for 2 weeks. Because the housing was almost free, we were able to take our kids to a couple of the theme parks in Florida and make life-long memories. The organizations “rule” of mandating two weeks of time away was helpful in ensuring we took plenty of time away from the church and ministry.  It was so healthy and helpful to take two weeks to find space for our marriage and quality time with our kids. This year, we’re blessed to have been accepted again and continue looking forward to this year’s getaway while still holding the fond memories of the fun and connecting that we had last summer.

An extensive state-by-state listing of discounted or free vacations for pastors and missionaries can be found on Lawrence Wilson’s blog. This includes retreat centers, bed and breakfasts, resorts, and more. Go to lawrencewilson.com/free-retreats-vacations-pastors. Wesleyan spouses can also check out this web page compiled by the Division of Education and Clergy Development of The Wesleyan Church.

 

Danielle Freed has been happily married for 13 years. She spent the first half of her marriage as a co-laborer and staff pastor’s wife in established churches in Wisconsin and Indiana.  The second half has been planting a church in Indiana alongside her husband, John, that is focused on reaching unchurched and dechurched people with the real and relevant love of Jesus. She is mommy to active and creative Dean, sweet and spunky Dayanna, and her golden doodle, Fozzie. Danielle loves a good cup of coffee, a good hearty laugh, and serious bargain shopping. She lives to witness first hand, the life changing movement of Jesus in people everyday, even when it’s hard or messy.

 

Expectations

 

I expect a lot out of life.

Have you ever gone to a church event that went perfectly well but at the end you left feeling a little flat? Or after a dinner out with your spouse where the conversation flowed freely, but once you were home you felt disappointment? Or after a holiday or birthday passes you just feel unfulfilled?

I have this penchant to build people, special events, or simple everyday happenings into perfect Hallmark movie quality caliber sequences in my mind.

Every meal out with my husband will involve hand holding and soul sharing.

My children will rise up and call me blessed and praise my cooking at the dinner table.

My hair will cooperate and look just like it did at the salon on Sunday mornings for church.

You see these expectations make nice daydreams, but they are rather unrealistic. I set myself up for disappointment when I expect more out of myself, others, or events than they are able or prepared to give.

Please don’t hear me say that we should not expect things.

We should.

Healthy expectations help us live intentionally toward holiness. But unrealistic expectations set us up for feelings of failure instead of victorious living. We need to run our expectations through a couple of filters.

First, is the expectation taking into account what is actually possible? I might expect my hair to look salon fabulous on Sundays, but I don’t have the same tools, products or skill level that my stylist does. Or I might expect my friend to drop everything and rush over due to my bad day, but she can’t because she has small children she has to care for.

Second, maybe my expectation is possible, but if the other party involved in the expectation is not willing to meet the expectation, it is still unrealistic. My children at this point of their lives at ages 2, 4, 6 and 8 are unwilling to eat casseroles without complaint or a stern face. I shouldn’t expect them to sing my praises about dinner when I mix things together they want separated by dividers.

I might expect certain people in my church to acknowledge how hard I worked to pull off an event, but these people have never done so before and are unable to see.

My expectations at times are not attainable.

Once we have arrived at a healthy expectation, we then have to state it out loud to the others that expectation involves.

If I want to have a soul-sharing kind of conversation on my dinner out with my spouse, and I know that he is emotionally able and willing to have such a conversation, then before we go out I should say, “Hey Tom, I’d really like if we could talk about x, y, and z at dinner tonight.”  Then he knows what I expect. Knowing my husband, he will want to help me meet this expectation. If I state my expectation out loud, later I won’t get frustrated with him because he didn’t read my mind.

Healthy expectations take some work on our part. We must be willing to be honest with ourselves and with others. But this work, this honesty helps us live victoriously instead of in a constant state of frustration. I am praying that we can develop healthy expectations, my friends.

 

Cassie Fuerst is a quiet soul, who needs a lot of time and space to process life around her. She stays at home, acting as administrator of chaos for her four children. Her husband, Tom, has been in ministry for 10 years. She loves creating community by going to coffee with friends, having people in her home, and talking to people on the edges. She lives in Memphis, Tennessee.

Rest

 

For the past several months I have been on a quest to rest. This quest continues into this New Year.  I do not always choose a growth word for the year, but when my daughter asked me if I was thinking of doing one, I said it would probably be “rest.”

What I mean by rest is not necessarily more sleep-though sleep when you are exhausted is great. While I am determined to get seven or more hours of sleep, rest entails so much more:

It is learning to rest from work.

It is learning to sit still in my home-there is always something that needs to be done, something that needs to be put away, or cleaned, or cooked.

It is learning to create space to be still and rest in God-this rest may come in the form of a walk and talk with God in the park or the woods, reading a good soul-shaping book, or listening to soul-stirring music while lighting a candle in a dark room.

It is learning to rest with my spouse-this quest for rest has led to me asking my husband if he wants to play a game with me, have a soul chat, look in each other’s eyes for a moment or just cuddle.

And, it is learning to rest with my kids. The other day I was buzzing around the house and shuffling things from one place to another. My daughter was reading a book on the couch and told me to come join her because, after all, I said I wanted to rest more, right?

Basically, I am learning to hit the pause button.

I think of the word Sabbath synonymously with rest. In Hebrew, the word Sabbath means “a ceasing of labor.” It refers specifically to a day in the week set aside for rest and for worship. As pastors and pastors’ spouses I think it is harder to create a Sabbath. Sunday is not necessarily a day of rest for the pastoral family, is it? And the “job” is not a “clock out” sort of job. It can be more of a challenge to create that rest and personal Sabbath for yourself and your family. But it is oh so important.

Somewhere along the way, I realized rest does not always have to be encompassed in a day, but can be found in moments. Jesus models how to choose rest while working on the Sabbath. The Bible tells us of times where he healed and picked grain on the Sabbath.

The Bible also tells us how he withdrew to quiet places to find rest. He encourages us to choose to withdraw and rest, as he knows we can be like Martha and get distracted by all the preparations and work we have to do: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:41-42).

Mary chose a moment of resting at the feet of Jesus.

Slowly, I am learning to choose Mary moments over Martha moments.

Slowly, I am learning how to choose rest.

Our bodies were designed to have breaks. My husband seems to know when he has reached his breaking point. He will initiate time off for a rest when needed by going fishing, to a monastery, a movie, playing racquetball, or lying on the sofa and watching sports. I keep going until I become resentful, “yell-y,” and “complain-y.”

So, I am trying to be more proactive and practice rest so that I resist falling into the trap of exhaustion and feeling stretched too thin, culminating in a cranky me.

I know that rest refreshes; I just haven’t made it a priority until recently.

What does rest look like to you? What are ways in which you like to rest with yourself, God, family, and friends?

Think hobbies. Think of what brings a smile to your face when you have free time?

I rest by hiking, reading, and escaping to Goodwill. I rest by carving out dates with God, hubby, kids and friends.

On a larger scale, I also rest by planning a trip with my family. Getting out of town and stepping away for a bit does wonders for my soul.

If I don’t carve out that Sabbath space, the calendar will inevitably fill with good, albeit busy-stuff.

Mary wasn’t lazy. Like my husband, she knew when to choose rest. If you struggle with choosing rest, I encourage you to join the quest for rest with me. It is quite lovely.

 

Amy Luchetti met her husband, Lenny, at Houghton College where he was studying to be a preacher and she a teacher. They have been in many ministry positions together ranging from a small rural church to larger multi-staff churches. Lenny has served as youth pastor, assistant pastor, and lead pastor. He now invests in pastors as he teaches at Wesley Seminary on the campus of Indiana Wesleyan University. Amy has served alongside Lenny as a partner in ministry. She also loves her work as an academic specialist at a local elementary school. Amy’s greatest blessings are her husband and three children.

Feelings

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Feelings. We all have them. I don’t know about you, but a lot of times I don’t let myself feel them. Actually, a more accurate description would be that I don’t let myself feel for most days then something big or small will set the caged feelings free. Then I’m a monsoon of emotions that sweep not only me but those I care about into a storm.

A hard situation at church compounded with a hard situation in my family, let the feelings monsoon free. I went into a survival mode and withdrew from life. I quit things at church. I quit calling friends. I quit doing more than necessary at home with my kids. I just hung on for dear life hoping I wouldn’t drown in emotions that I couldn’t seem to handle, that I didn’t know how to handle.

I think being a pastor’s spouse compounded this problem. A lot of these feelings I had were directed at the church. The church and I have a long history filled with ups and downs. Some of these feelings were directed at people in the church – people who had made inadvertent uncaring remarks, some who had made intentional stabs, some who just didn’t seem to see the actual me behind the wall that is my husband’s title. And me – trying to be a good pastoral spouse – stuffed these feelings.

Surely it is not ok to feel anger, fear, hurt, loneliness, sadness, shame and guilt. I should be grateful for what I do have; I should forgive and forget; I should be above such feelings. Right?

Wrong! Oh, how wrong.

Tired of drowning in feelings, I started going to counseling. What did my counselor want to talk about?  Feelings: More specifically the gifts and guidance that feelings can give. He directed me to a book called The Voice of the Heart by Chip Dodd. Friends, it was a life preserver.

I learned that feelings are essential to living a full, rich life. I need to feel anger, fear, hurt, loneliness, sadness, shame and guilt. If I don’t acknowledge these feelings, dwell with them, learn from them, and grow from them, I am living a shadow of what I could be. You see, avoiding feelings leads to depression and anxiety.

In depression, we press the emotions deep down. We don’t want to feel the things that hurt, the things that make us angry, the things that make us feel sad so we push them way down into the floor of our souls. As we push these emotions down, we also push down gladness with it. So we are left feeling nothing. No sadness or anger but also no gladness and joy.

In anxiety, we want to protect ourselves from feeling hurt, sadness, lonliness, etc. We are afraid of what could happen or repeating the hurtful past. Anxiety leads us to avoid people and situations that have previously wounded us. So we try to protect ourselves by controlling the world around us. We orchestrate our lives. We plan. We manipulate. We withdraw when we don’t feel in control. We miss out.

As each feeling comes, I need to embrace it. Feelings don’t go away. If I don’t embrace it now, it might wallop me later when it swings back around. God gave us feelings to navigate life. To know ourselves: where we begin and end. To know when we need to reach out to another person. To know when we need to reach out to God.

Jesus was a man of strong emotion. He felt deep sadness. He was lonely. He became angry. He became disturbed by people around him. He felt compassion. I also like to think he laughed frequently. Each of these emotions drew him closer to the Father.

Each feeling has something to teach us, to guide us into a fuller expression of life. Chip Dodd in his book explains what these gifts can bring:

When we hurt, we allow ourselves to acknowledge our woundedness and begin the healing process. If we never acknowledge a wound – how will it heal? It will instead fester. Feeling hurt sucks. It really does. But healing brings wholeness. Has your church hurt you? It is ok to acknowledge the fact. Say it out loud. Begin the process of healing.

Sadness brings the gift of acceptance. If we don’t lament what was or what should have been, we never get to the place where we accept what is. Sadness says that the thing we grieve mattered. We bring honor to what we grieve. The life that is no longer with us mattered. The friendship we lost mattered.  The time that we have missed with our spouses matters. When you were slighted, it mattered because you matter. Please allow yourself to feel sad.

Loneliness shows us that we need to ask for help. It shows us we need to reach out for relationships to others and more importantly to God. Loneliness speaks to our great need to be in community.

Fear protects and prepares us. Fear keeps us from some situations that we should not be in. Fear also moves us to ready ourselves for the unknown. Fear allows us to see we cannot do things by ourselves; we need help. Fear can move us to live in deeper community with others. Fear brings wisdom.

Anger moves us. Anger stirs us to action. Are you angry about something in your life? Do something about it, be a force of change. Anger also warns us that something is happening inside of us. Are we angry because of feeling sadness, fear, loneliness or hurt?

Shame teaches us that we cannot do everything. You cannot be all things to all people. You have limitations. Shame also teaches us compassion. I know I have messed up in the past, so surely I can extend compassion to others who have messed up as well.

Guilt brings forgiveness, with forgiveness we find freedom. Forgiveness in turn brings us into closer community with others and ultimately God.  Have you hurt someone? Seek forgiveness and find freedom.

These emotions, these feelings we try to avoid bring about fuller life. A life where we know ourselves and let ourselves be known. A life where we ride the waves instead of being pounded by them. Yes, feelings bring many ups and many downs – but what a crazy ride. A ride that brings us closer and closer to the heart of Jesus. A ride that brings us closer and closer into community with one another.

 

cassiephotoCassie Fuerst is a quiet soul, who needs a lot of time and space to process life around her. She stays at home, acting as administrator of chaos for her three children – Phoebe, Tommy, and Junia. Her husband, Tom, has been in ministry for 10 years. She loves creating community by going to coffee with friends, having people in her home, and talking to people on the edges. She lives in Memphis, Tennessee.