Finding Meaningful Connection

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another:
What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’ ~ C. S. Lewis

I am an extrovert. I like being around people and I thrive on conversations. I’ve been accused of smiling too much and, obviously, talking too much. I remember in high school lounging up against my locker on the second floor finishing up some homework while waiting on the morning bell to ring. Some upperclassmen walked by and I greeted them as they passed. I had no agenda of gaining their attention but felt I couldn’t ignore them. The grouchiest among them turned back to me and declared, “You’re too happy!” I simply shrugged off the comment with another smile and went back to my book.

I never expected to one day struggle with that joy, but that’s exactly what happened after a few moves in ministry. Enter 2010. I was 30 years old with a one-year-old and a four-year-old and a husband pastoring in solo ministry in “the middle of nowhere” Pennsylvania.  I consistently hit up the library for Story Hour to meet some moms and find friends for my little ones but none of these ladies went to my church. In fact, I taught my own kids Sunday School because mine were the only ones who regularly attended. I was all alone. When you’re all alone you start longing for connection. I was at a loss as to where to start my quest for some kindred spirits (enthusiastic nod to L.M. Montgomery’s quotable lines from Anne of Green Gables).

My husband had sent me a link posted by one of the pastors he followed on twitter. LeadingandLovingIt.com was a website that had resources, blog posts, and hosted online conferences for Pastor’s Wives and Women in Ministry. I “attended” the online conference in my lonely dining room during nap times that week. I sobbed in my tea cup a lot. The conference kept referring to these online groups to join. I ignored those invitations telling myself there wasn’t a group I could actually identify with. I felt stuck, alone, and afraid to be real to anyone, thinking I would reveal how much I was lacking. Wasn’t I supposed to be content?

It took another round of online conferences a year later for me to actually peek at what online groups were being offered. I found myself simultaneously checking the groups and crossing them off my mental list of options as I read the descriptions. Scrolling, scrolling, crossing off, crossing off until I reached one that jumped out at me. It said something along the lines of being the spouse to a pastor who was the only staff at their church. Bingo! That was me! But the group was full. Of course it was. Instant plummeting of my hopes. I clicked on the leader’s name and went to her blog. I liked what I read. But the group was full so I dejectedly went and unloaded my dishwasher. A day or two later I decided to email the leader and tell her I was encouraged by her blog and that perhaps someday I would join her group should it ever open up.

Wouldn’t you know that sweet leader messaged me back and told me she would love to add me to a facebook group even though there wasn’t room to join the virtual chat. Gulp. I had already written off the need to pursue this group. I started second guessing myself immediately, but the Lord kept prompting me to reply back.

I was added to the group. Interestingly enough, not even a week later, another group member announced she was transitioning out in order to lead her own group and a virtual chat slot opened up for me.

So much more than a mere chat slot became accessible to me. I gained relationships that I value to this day. These ladies understood me before they knew everything about me! We laughed together, cried together, PRAYED together! I think it was the third monthly chat that I found myself telling them embarrassing stories about myself in one breath and sharing my flaws in the next.

One of the ladies ended up moving from Chicago to only 40 minutes away from me. We started exchanging messages and got to know each other while she was packing up boxes. The two of us met at a Chick-fil-A with our kids soon after they moved (side note: they moved to our closest Christian Chicken establishment so clearly it was meant to be). Both sets of families can claim relationship together now. I’ve moved away from this particular friend since then, but we keep in contact regularly. Why, just yesterday, her preschool aged son gave me a tour of his house via the Marco Polo app. He was a newborn when we moved away but he knows me. The hubbies Zoom chat once a week to encourage each other. Our kids are pen pals. These are the times I am most thankful for technology, but more importantly, I’m grateful for how the Lord has used creativity in the minds of His people to find a way to bring connection. That’s what we all long for, isn’t it?

You don’t have to be an extrovert like me to find connection. It takes bravery, though. I had myself thinking I had nothing worth sharing before those ladies on that computer screen showed me differently. None of us looked the same, but we found so much in common. We didn’t live in the same states nor all share common denominations. What we had in common was life in ministry and all the things that entails (which is a blog post for another day). We have shared baby showers, a spouse’s heart attack, births, deaths, ministry joys and transitions, and SO MUCH PRAYER for and with each other.

Pastor’s Spouse Connection has been created for this very purpose. To help us connect to each other. We don’t have everything figured out as to all the avenues in which to effectively connect you, yet, but we are working diligently on this task. If you have some great ideas, we would love to hear about them. You’ll be able to share with us in the comment section or on our facebook page. How can we help you connect? Personally, I can guarantee it’s worth the effort on your part.

 

Jessica Sheets is a lover of Jesus and a former elementary teacher turned SAHM who can be found spontaneously bursting into song while scaling Mt. Laundry or baking for the next life group. She laughs every day thanks to her favorite individual, her husband Stevan, and her wonderful kids, Ella (10 yrs) and Ezra (7 yrs). Jess has been a pastor’s wife for 12 years and is usually the first to laugh (or turn beet red) during a sermon jest. She knew when she was 12 that the Lord was calling her to marry a pastor someday but had no idea what that really meant! She’s still learning along with Stevan as they navigate this adventure of ministry.

Why Can’t I Have Lifelong Friends?

 

As a pastor’s wife of 25 years, I was told several times that my best friends cannot be in the church where my spouse is pastoring, but I believe my church family is part of God’s family and if they cannot be part of my inner circle of friends, then what does that say to the church? Also, what am I saying to the unchurched? Most of my lifelong friends have come from our congregations and sharing my life with them is what God intended friendship to be? I don’t need a safe place to gossip or complain about my church. I need friends who can help me solve problems and make our church better. Being transparent as a leader is imperative.

If I refuse to develop intimate friendships within the church, then I am eliminating many influential relationships with other people. I am also withholding my friendship from people who may desperately need a good friend. Making and maintaining close friendships is difficult, but it is worth the effort. Through these years of ministry, I have come to discover that many of us struggle with establishing, developing, and keeping deep lasting friends.

I have read over 20 articles about friendship and the theme of most of them is what NOT to do in a friendship. Well, I want to share with you five principles that we SHOULD be doing to create the types of friendships we all long for.

One: This first one seems obvious but I am talking about the power of God’s love in us. We need to understand God’s love for us before we can truly love others. We are to love as Christ loves. Experiencing the overwhelming joy that comes from knowing that God loves me not because of what I do, or who I am…He just loves ME. That gives us a confidence to share that love with others. Without that security we tend to depend on our friends to make us feel loved instead of having a vessel full of love to overflow to them.

Two: In our busy world, we need to understand the commitments that others have and give them the flexibility to meet the needs of their families, jobs, and church while finding ways to stay connected and build the friendship.

Three: Finding time for others must be intentional. Friends who say, “we need to get together,” but do not mark the date on their calendars will most likely not get together. We must set time aside for our friends. We also need to be intentional about what we share when we are together. Ask intentional questions to dig deeper in the relationship. Don’t just talk about superficial things if you want to make a lasting connection.

Four: Don’t let one failed meeting; the one “I can’t make it today” or distance keep you from being friends. Be persistent and find out what works. I have friends that I see quite often and friends that are far away. Being persistent in making the connections happen is key to keeping those relationships alive and healthy.

Five: We all make mistakes, are forgetful at times, or misunderstand each other. Be willing to work through the hard stuff to keep a friend around.  I have seen several deep friendships split up over minor problems that escalate and tear people apart. Remember that Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy and that goes for godly friendships. He doesn’t want us to have friends that challenge us in our walk with Christ.

Finding and keeping a true friend will require implementing each of these principles, but I would add one more: prayer. In each one of our moves I have prayed for God to bring someone into my life who would like to build a lasting friendship. The desire for connection should go both ways, so don’t be afraid to ask God to lead you to someone who wants the same thing.

 

Beverly and her husband have been married twenty-eight years and have served in ministry twenty-six of those. They have four amazing children, three awesome daughters-in-laws, and two outstanding grandsons. Beverly has a B.S. in Secondary Mathematics Education from Oklahoma Wesleyan University and is currently a certified teacher in Michigan. She has held many jobs over her years as a pastor’s wife, and God has used them all to shape who she is today. She has been a teacher, a store clerk, an office manager, a librarian, a stay-at-home and homeschooling mom, a business owner, and now adds writer/speaker to this list. (You can check out her book “Flourish: Enjoying Life as the Pastor’s Wife” on Amazon.) She loves camping, playing Pokémon Go, singing, scrapbooking, reading, and loving on her family. She feels very blessed by God and hopes to continue in His mission for the rest of her life. If you enjoy this post, you can see more at beverlykimball.com.

Time Away

 

This month we are sharing tips on the blog to assist pastoral families in getting away for much needed rest and relaxation. We know that busy schedules and limited financial resources can make this a challenge. A few weeks ago we shared a post by Kathy Drury that featured practical, money-saving tips for travel (find her post here). Along with that helpful information, we want to highlight another great opportunity. There are many ministries and individuals who have a heart to support pastoral families by providing free and reduced cost retreats and vacations. To learn a little more about this, we are re-visiting a post from last year by Danielle Freed, a pastor’s spouse and member of our PSC team, who has found this to be a huge blessing for her family.

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 14 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.

 

Want to Get Away?

 

I love to travel. Always have. However, with little ones at home as a stay-at-home mom, living on my staff pastor husband’s salary, I needed to use serious cost-cutting skills to make those trips happen. Below I share some tips that may help you make your next trip possible.

Passes with Reciprocity

Find a museum or zoo or whatever it is you want to go to (usually it will be near where you live). Then find out on its website who it shares its passes with and pay for a one year membership and enter these other locations for free or a great discount. As an example, we lived near Minnetrista, a cultural center about 30 miles away. It cost us $75 a year for a family membership which allowed us to go there free. It also allowed us into over 300 gardens in the US through the American Horticultural Society –  ahsgardening.org. It also gave us connection to almost all the science centers in the US through astc.org/passport. Just follow the guidelines before you go as each location can set their own rules for use. There are other organizations that do this as well including the Smithsonian – affiliations.si.edu/affiliate-benefits/membership/affiliate-reciprocal-membership and lots of zoos – aza.org/reciprocity, or for more museums – narmassociation.org. If you have a 4th grader, this one is amazing if you are headed to a National park – everykidinapark.govIf no 4th graders are in your family, you can buy the “America the Beautiful” pass to see all National parks in a year for $80 per car. A bonus to US Military – you get the pass for free, and seniors can get a lifetime pass for $80.

Accommodations

If funds are tight, find other friends who live in a place you’d like to visit and house swap. It can be wise to ask friends and family if they have connections to free or low cost options as well. Our favorite is homeaway.com (vrbo.com and airbnb.com would be similar) where we find a home or condo to rent. We have found several great homes that were cheaper than a hotel…and fit our family of 5 better than a hotel room. They provide a kitchen which helps save lots of money by not needing to eat out as often. This option also provides more space for everyone to spread out and make noise if needed or have quiet spaces to read and rest. You can also find Groupon deals for resorts and other lodging options. Camping is another low cost option. If you don’t have the gear, ask around. Someone you know likely has gear you can borrow that is unused in their storage.

Big Cities

I suggest staying just outside of a big city for lower costs on hotels and parking fees. If public transportation is available, it is a great way to get around town more economically. Parking in large cities can cost as much as a multi-day pass on the subway, which you will likely want to secure for moving about town. Grab counter-service foods or go to a local grocery or farmer’s market and get some food to eat at a park. Often you can find festivals or free concerts in parks. Some cities offer historical sites to see that are also free. We have even gone to libraries for fun. Check out what they are offering for free classes or events too.

Car Rentals, Cruises, and Airlines

Just some simple tips here. Southwest is a great airline for everyone, but especially families. It’s all we will fly as a family if at all possible. If something comes up and let’s say someone in your family gets really sick, there are no change fees to cancel and rebook. Other airlines charge up to $200 per ticket to change a domestic reservation. Also, bags fly free so all that gear you might have to take with you can just be sent through baggage. When you book a car rental, know that if you just rent the car and get a confirmation number and you don’t pre-pay, you can easily cancel your reservation and rebook if plans change or you find a lower rate later. This works well if you book months in advance and your remember to check rates every few weeks or so. Cruises are similar. Usually you can book way ahead when rates are lowest and if something changes and you decide not to go, you can get all your money back up to 60 days prior to sailing.

Let’s Talk Money

Budgeting is the best way to make vacations possible rather than going into credit card debt to take a needed vacation. Set aside a little bit regularly and build up a small fund for your next trip (even if you don’t know when that will be). You can ask for money or gift cards for Christmas or birthday gifts that can help you build that fund up too since the vacation time might be more of a blessing to you and your kids than more possessions. We have a vacation even when we don’t have plans for a trip. Because of that fund we are ready to go somewhere, and we will already have set money aside for it. Every paycheck my husband gets, a little bit goes to the vacation fund. I don’t want to promote credit cards, but if you can use them wisely and pay them off monthly, over time you can get reward money for vacation travel. We have a Disney credit card for this purpose in particular.

When Should We Go

If possible, it is best to travel in the off-peak season. That is the least busy and lowest cost time to go almost anywhere. It’s often worth it to take younger kids, sometimes even older kids, out of school to make this happen. Homeschoolers can achieve off-season travel even more easily than others, of course. If Disney is on your bucket list, I highly suggest an off-season visit for dozens of reasons. A good rule of thumb is that when kids are in school, rates are lowest, when kids are out of school, they are highest in most any location.

Plan ahead

Use the internet or get books to research where you are going. Search for event calendars online to find out what will be happening when you are there. Sometimes the visitors bureau or county will have these calendars on their websites. There might be smaller, but still amazing places and events to visit if you look into it just a bit before you arrive.

Our spouses are not in ministry for the money, they have been called. Many times their pay is reasonable, but often we have to be very frugal and intentional to make the most of travel time to ensure we are getting the rest and recuperation needed for difficult ministry seasons. A break for a week or even just a few days from the dailiness of ministry can be refreshing. So, I hope you are able to catch a little time away with your family or friends in the near future.

 

Kathy Drury loves to travel and find fun new places to go. She travels most with her husband, David, and her 2 teens and a pre-teen who reside in Fishers, IN.

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.

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.