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.

God Seeker, Peacemaker

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Peace…it’s a word we hear and see often this time of year. Chances are you’ve seen it elegantly printed on a Christmas card, heard it captured in the tune of a favorite Christmas carol, or spoken in a memorable line of a holiday movie. When I reflect on this word, images from my childhood Christmas plays come to mind where a boy or girl clad in a repurposed white sheet, cardboard wings, and a gold tinsel garland halo stepped forward to loudly proclaim, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

At that point a host of small gold tinseled angels joined in saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth PEACE, good will toward men.” The recipients of these words were the bath-robed, towel-headed shepherds struggling to sit still and attempting to look afraid. I don’t recall the atmosphere that surrounded our little church plays as very peaceful. God bless our Sunday School teachers who had the job of corralling and directing a bunch of squirrelly munchkins, but somehow in it all, I heard that word and seeds were planted that brought a yearning to more fully understand this peace that was so much a part of what Jesus, the babe in the manger, came to bring.

Desiring Peace

I would venture to say that peace is something we all long for in life. That calm tranquility that moves us through each day, that allows us to smile even in pain, that puts anxious thoughts to rest. It is a peace filled heart that can love those who have wronged us and forgive despite never being asked. Peace helps us capture the beauty of each moment, see significance in the ordinary, and make the most of every opportunity. A life of peace – we desire it and seek to attain it, but why does it seem so elusive?

I have struggled with the idea of peace in my own journey. It became clear to me some years back that I didn’t fully understand the meaning of peace. I thought of it primarily as the absence of conflict or trouble. Although that definition is not completely inaccurate from a dictionary standpoint, it fell short when played out in my daily life. Conflict and trouble were always lurking around. Sometimes it was due to internal struggles and at other times it was external. From the actions of those closest to me to world events filled with pain, strife, and uncertainty, there were so many things I couldn’t control.

I must be honest and confess that when facing these realities, I have often been a wee bit of a worrier. Well, that’s not exactly true. Sometimes I have been a big, fat, chronic worrier consumed with anxious thoughts. There’s nothing like a little worry to steal your sense of peace. When I was a young pastor’s wife, I recall worrying about feelings of inadequacy. During our church planting years, it was uncertain finances that occupied my mind. Adding children to the mix took this to a whole new level as I worried about transitioning them to new communities when we felt God calling us to pack up and move. It was difficult for me to watch them endure the heartbreak of leaving friends and family behind and struggle to acclimate to new areas. Experiencing a sense of peace when facing these realities was hard, and based on my understanding of peace – the absence of conflict and trouble – it left me feeling incapable of ever truly experiencing what I so deeply desired because I could not create an existence absent of those things.

This was an important but difficult realization for me. I felt frustrated and even a little ashamed. I had followed Jesus most of my life. I was married to a pastor for goodness sake. I should get this, right? But I didn’t. I felt like a fake. I certainly desired peace. I much preferred to feel my soul at rest beside quiet waters rather than crippled by a tumultuous storm of worry and anxiety. Yet, living with a peace filled heart can feel impossible when the struggles within ourselves and the world around us are so real. As I became increasingly aware of my inadequate understanding of peace, I found myself having to humbly walk back to the drawing board to figure out what this all meant.

God Seeker

I prayerfully began looking for answers, turned to Scripture, and sought counsel from those who were further in their journey. One thing that became clear early on was that true peace can only come from God. He is the source. You might think, “Well, of course! Every Christian knows that.” I know it seems overly simple, but it is so important. We can easily lose sight of this without realizing it. Our human nature and tendency towards self-reliance pulls us toward thinking that if we say and do the right things or if we have the right thoughts, we can experience peace. We subtly move from seeing God as the source of peace to relying on ourselves. We can also make our circumstances the source of our peace. When things are good, we feel great, but when things get difficult, we fall apart. I know I allowed myself to get caught in that trap, but when we fully see God as the source of peace, our God who is constant and faithful, we have a source that is reliable day in and out.

The next logical discovery for me was that to experience peace, one must seek the source – God. Again, mind blowing, I know, but sometimes the profound is in the simple. This means we are to seek God alone and not peace itself. At some point in my journey I came across a quote that said, “The Bible nowhere calls upon men to go out in search of peace of mind. It does call upon men to go out in search of God and the things of God.” (Abba Silver) When we seek God and live in relationship with him, peace is a result of his transformative work in our lives. He is the source of the inner peace we desire, and we find that in earnestly seeking him.

Peacemaker

As I walked further in this journey, I began to see another interesting truth. When we seek God and grow in him, he fills us with peace that results in both a state of “being” and “doing”. This peace allows us to “be” calm, less anxious, and less distracted. Our circumstances don’t change this reality. In John 16:33, Jesus said to his disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Did you catch that? In this life we WILL have trouble. True peace is not the absence of trouble, but the result of the hope we have in a victorious savior who overcame the world.

The “doing” side of peace is the real turn. It is not enough to live in our own little bubble of peace, separated from everyone else and the troubles of this world.  Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”  The word “peacemaker” suggests someone who is spreading peace to the world around them.  As we seek God and allow him to live and be at work inside of us, we will experience his peace, a peace which our attitudes, actions, and reactions will begin to spread to others. This allows us to become active participants in God’s plan to bring peace to this world.

So, if you find yourself like me, desiring peace in a world that might seem chaotic, upside down, hurtful, or disappointing at times, remember this: Seek God, allow him to shape and transform you from the inside out. God-given peace will flow from that, and as God fills you with his peace, let it pervade the very essence of your soul and spill out to the world around you.

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.” – Francis of Assisi

mariettaMarietta Williams is a mom, pastor’s wife, and random hobby enthusiast. She married her college sweetheart, Chris, and has spent the past 18 years serving alongside of him in a variety of ministry contexts ranging from church planting to pastoring in both small and large churches to district leadership in their denomination. She has a heart for pastors’ spouses and desires to see them flourishing as they live out their God-given callings. She currently serves as the director of Pastor’s Spouse Connection and lives in Marion, IN with her husband and 3 children.

Traveling Light

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We learned a life-changing lesson about money while hiking the Appalachian Trail for three months as a young couple. Taking a long trek on the Appalachian Trail had been a life-long goal of Keith’s, and our chance came after he finished seminary. We didn’t have any kids yet and it seemed to be in an interim year between ministries. Soon we were in his parents’ basement among a myriad of backpacking paraphernalia, sorting out what to take and what to leave behind. Moccasins to lounge around in after a day in stiff hiking boots would be so comfortable, so I packed them in. A tiny radio to keep in touch with the outside world and weather reports…in it went. A small bag of essentials that formed my basic make-up kit was a definite. I was intent on making my three-month journey in the woods as comfortable as possible.

Satisfied that we had everything we needed, I carefully shouldered my pack and weighed in. Subtracting my own weight, I found my pack weighed about 40 pounds. My husband’s pack weighed in at almost 50 pounds. Neither of these was extraordinarily heavy according to the prevailing backpacking wisdom of the 70s. We tightened the waist strap snugly, and walked around a bit. They actually felt fairly comfortable, at least in the basement. Carrying them on the trail was quite another matter.

The Pain for the Gain

We started our three-month trek in Georgia and signed the hikers’ register, proudly listing our destination as the Susquehanna River, 1,000 miles to the north in Pennsylvania. Tears welled up in my husband’s eyes as his life-long dream came to reality.

The euphoria quickly wore off. What seemed an okay weight in the basement definitely made our backs and feet ache, especially since most of the Appalachian Trail is uphill. Soon we lost all interest in taking any side trails to the many panoramic views, and all we looked forward to was our next hourly rest stop. I remember one time during this period when my husband, who was leaning forward under his towering load, asked, “Why are we doing this?” I too was bent over looking at the path beneath me, and cynically replied, “Why dear, it’s to see the scenery!”

The Secret Discovered

Then we learned the secret of joyful backpacking: The lighter the load, the greater the joy. How ironic! The very things we had packed to make our journey comfortable had become the burdens that drained our joy away. We began to see all the possessions we were toting as the enemies, not friends, of our comfort. Finally one evening, we spread out every single item in our packs and decided which were truly essential in light of their weight.

The results were shocking. All at once my little radio didn’t seem necessary any more. Sure, it was handy, but hearing weather reports didn’t change anything. Out went the radio. My lounging moccasins, which had seemed so important when I packed them, went in the luxuries pile along with the radio. My husband’s fancy little Swiss knife with blades and gadgets to do just about anything you could imagine — well, you can guess where that went. The small make-up kit I had included to maintain my self-dignity during this trek…well, I kept that. Some things are clearly necessities!

We had quite a bonfire that night when our luxuries (formerly necessities) went up in smoke. The items that wouldn’t burn were packed in a special place to give away later (e.g., there were several Boy Scouts who eagerly accepted our gifts, never recognizing they then had to carry them out). A few days later, we walked out to a post office and sent home a whole bag of nonessentials.

What a difference! We could now swing our packs onto our shoulders from a standing position. And we would often scamper down a side trail to drink in the beautiful views of the Appalachian valleys below.

Cutting our weight became a regular diversion for us. We carefully compared the ounces of every food item we purchased at country stores each week, discarding unnecessary wrappings and boxes. And before each scheduled post office stop, we decided what weights we could trim from the burdens we still carried. We even decided to cook over a fire and sent our cook stove home. The more we did without, the more we realized we could do without. By the end of our hike, we had trimmed 30 pounds from our packs. We had discovered the joy of backpacking by traveling light.

Settling Down

Then we settled down. My husband got an assignment working with our denominational headquarters, and within a month of completing our trek on the Appalachian Trail we had moved to Indiana. We rented a house, retired our packs to the attic, and began settling into a new routine.

The needs of a normal life were far more sophisticated than trail life. Take clothing for instance. On the trail, I had reduced my needs to one change of clothing. Then, working in an academic community, it seemed I needed seven or maybe even ten outfits as a minimum requirement. Soon my closet began overflowing, and extra outfits had to be stored in the hall closet. We kept the hand-me-down furniture for the family room when we bought new living room furniture. Then, of course, there was the kitchen to outfit with a mixer, toaster oven, blender, food processor, everyday dishes, special china, and a dishwasher. These just seemed like basic essentials. And, after a few years, we bought a house with an electric garage door opener, and that luxury soon became a necessity. Then we moved to Indianapolis and built a house, larger still, since “we have two growing sons and my mother-in-law with us now.”

Little by little, we accumulated the ingredients of a comfortable life. Sure, we both worked hard and took care of our things, but was this really what God wanted for me? Would I ever be done fixing up my house? Was I really happier than ever before? Several Christian speakers addressed the issue of materialism. I cringed…for a while, at least.

Conviction

What hit me was God’s Word. One of the ways I have always been able to tell God is speaking to me is that I keep seeing or hearing a particular truth everywhere. Here it was in a book I had borrowed. Now it jumped out from a message by a visiting speaker. Then it surfaced in a magazine article. But most of all, verses kept popping out from scripture: “Do not pile up treasures on earth.” (Matt 6:19) But Lord it’s all committed to you, isn’t it? “If we have food and clothing, let us be content” (1 Timothy 6:8). But contentment also includes a garage door opener, doesn’t it, Lord? “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed” (Luke 12:15). Who, me, Lord? Am I greedy? “Put to death…sexual immorality, impurity, lust, even desires, and greed, which is idolatry.” (Col 3:5) Lord, why put an innocent thing like greed in with those really serious sins? God’s Word kept hammering away at me.

Then the Lord took me back to my Appalachian Trail experience, and seemed to say this truth still works: the greatest joy comes to those who travel light. I had fallen into the trap again. I was assuming that all these things would produce a more comfortable life and effective ministry, yet some things we owned seemed to own us!  They were loading us down and draining the joy of traveling through life on earth. Even when we had accumulated a houseful of nice things, they didn’t seem to satisfy.

So we decided again to make cutting down on our possessions a regular habit. We often ask what were really necessities? What things could we sensibly get rid of? What things were legitimate aids in our ministry to others? How much of this conviction should we subject our children to? What should we keep until the kids are gone? What do we need in order to care for my mother-in-law? What is an investment and what is an expense? How far should we go in this?

None of these answers come easily. We continue to struggle with most of them, sometimes every day. But it’s the painful struggle that gives me the peace afterwards. I know that I’m not being led by hollow, simplistic answers that won’t last. I have a God-given conviction that brings contentment and joy.

If you have been thinking about this subject recently, why not start unpacking stuff and start giving it away. Who knows, maybe you’ll enjoy the trip much more with a lighter pack.

 

Sharon Drury-ExecutiveTeamSharon Drury committed her life to Jesus Christ as a teenager, and enjoyed being a pastor’s wife after marrying Keith Drury in 1967. They raised David and John, who are married and each has 3 children. Sharon was a stay-at-home mom for 15 years and founded a national ministry for pastors’ wives called Yokemates in the 1980’s. She went on to work at Indiana Wesleyan University for over 20 years in various positions of leadership. She retired in 2013 after serving for 7 years as Professor of Organizational Leadership in the doctoral program at IWU. 

 

A Little Bit of Nothing

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Do you like the foam in a Latte?

Do you ever find yourself taking the lid off the latte cup and savoring just the foam?

Have you ever scooped the foam out on your finger and enjoyed it?

I caught myself, lid off, finger in the cup, and scooping foam this morning. Ahhh, enjoyable!

Foam really is “nothing”. It is mostly air, but oh how enjoyable that “nothing” was this morning.

As I sat outside doing what I would most days classify as “nothing”, God reminded me how enjoyable a few minutes of “nothing” really can be!

I could hear the wind lightly blowing through the trees and at least three different kinds of birds chatting. I could see the acorns hitting the ground. I saw and felt the tiny ant crawling on my arm, and I tasted the “nothing” of the latte foam. How enjoyable were these moments of “nothing” this morning! I was just being and NOT doing. Just listening and not talking. Just waiting and not hurrying.

And why did I find these moments so enjoyable? Because in our hurried, always wanting to be productive world, we have very few moments of “nothing”. When we miss our “nothing” moments we miss so much. God has been reminding me in so many ways to stop doing and start being. He reminds me that I would learn so much more and walk so much closer to Him if I would take what the world calls “doing nothing” moments and be in them. I would hear Him, see Him, feel Him, and touch Him if I would just take those moments. He is good, and He is in every moment! I have to stop missing Him.

How many “nothing” moments did you enjoy this week?

I am praying for each of us right now. I am praying we will take the “Nothing Challenge”? Take 10 minutes today and be in those “nothing” moments.

Just rest in the “nothing” and see it is something!

*Note: If you have a chance, share with us how the “Nothing Challenge” went!

 

KimCraftKim Craft loves the Lord and her wonderful eclectic family with all her heart and soul! Stories are her hobby. Stories people share with her while sipping tea, stories she reads in scripture, and stories in book after book that she devours. Kim marvels how the Lord has worked in people’s lives including her own. He has brought her through many chapters and in and out of many new editions. There are some she would have written and some she would not have. She believes the Lord has called her to be in community with others to encourage them and to share her story with them as they share their stories with her!

Put On Your Boxing Gloves

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My father-in-law was an amateur boxer. For a long time we had his old punching bag hanging in our garage. It really came in handy during times when one of our kids needed to release some anger or frustration and just chill out. So often as a pastor’s spouse there is a range of negative emotions needing to be released or boxed out: betrayal when you are gossiped about by someone in the church, pain when someone leaves the church, discouragement, apathy, frustration, depression, and loneliness–one of the top feelings consistently reported by pastors’ spouses. How do we combat (or box) some of these challenging emotions in ministry? I have three suggestions that have helped me over the years:

Abide
Abide is a word I have been mulling over the past couple years. I have John 15:5 displayed in a couple different places: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a person remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” It is a reminder to keep abiding, to keep praying. I have especially needed this reminder when feeling lonely, distant, and upset with God.

Recently I was taking a walk and talking to God about an extreme burden I had. For days I felt like there was a rock on my chest. I was having trouble breathing and sleeping. Every time I prayed, I felt no different. I pressed on with abiding and had it out with him one night. I boxed with God. I lay out all my raw emotions and told him I either needed to get on sleeping/anxiety pills or he had to do what I could not do. I prayed, “God, take this burden from me.” I reminded him that he told us to give him our burdens and that he would give us rest (Matthew 11:28-30). I demanded rest physically and emotionally. I told him he needed to respond by taking my burdens when I brought them to him because I felt like giving up. It wasn’t immediate, but I realized the next day that I slept better that night. The rock was gone. I felt lighter. Every time that the burden returned (sometimes ten times a day) I gave it to him and he has been faithful to keep the rock off me.

I have been thanking and praising him for this answered prayer. Had I not persisted in abiding, despite the silence I was feeling from him, I would not have experienced the joy of finally hearing him. And it is so good. When these feelings of discouragement, worry, fear, frustration and loneliness enter your thoughts, immediately take those thoughts and release them to God in prayer.  He will meet your deepest needs. Have a heart-to heart, a boxing match, with God. Thank God in faith for what he is going to do. Then, release it. Box with God. He can take it. When was the last time you boxed with God and laid out all your raw emotions before him?

Exercise
There is something to say about the endorphins being released, and the relationship of exercise to emotional health. I wish I could boast consistency with exercise, but alas, I can’t. And since I can’t, I can only attest to the difference I feel emotionally when exercising versus not exercising. One of my favorite things to do is speed walk, either by myself or with a friend. Exercise is something I long to make a lifetime habit. My husband has developed this habit over the years and has been inspiring me with his dedication. He recently participated in his first triathlon on Father’s Day. The kids and I couldn’t wait to cheer him on.

Play
I see play as synonymous with rest. It is easy for us to forget to play in ministry, but it’s so important to don our boxing gloves and make room for this. The list is endless: travel, a retreat, book club, supper club, have a neighbor or someone over for lemonade (Len and I have a list of those we want to invite over this summer for lemonade on the porch or for ice cream sundaes on Sunday), connect and socialize with other pastors’ spouses who may also be feeling lonely, jump on the trampoline with your kids, take a day trip or a longer trip with your spouse or some friends or a sibling. My mom, sister and I are going to plan a trip together (inspired by my husband who went with his dad and sister to the Grand Canyon). Sometimes it just simply helps to get away from your ministry work and come back with a renewed perspective. It’s like when I get away from my kids. I come back a better mom because of the break.

You might also develop or foster a new hobby. My husband and I have reached our midlife years. I turned 40 this year (gulp). Just yesterday on a lunch date we talked about the importance of continuing to try new things to combat staleness and help break up the grind of normal life routines. My husband talked about taking a cooking class, I talked of learning to rock climb. We talked about taking a ballroom dance class together. I am rhythmically challenged, and I think this will provide lots of laughs between us. Perhaps if I state my plans to you this will ensure I will follow my own advice! Sometimes our role is to help our spouse to play by planning something fun. Maybe we need to take the lead in adding spice to our lives.

 

Amy Luchetti-ExecutiveTeamAmy 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.

I’m Sorry, You Must Die

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It started with a personality profile quiz and a brief conversation in our living room, ten years ago. The kids were settled into bed. My seminary-student husband was reading, and I was grading papers with occasional breaks to browse Facebook or read a friend’s blog. I happened upon a personality quiz, so naturally, because I was procrastinating, I took the online quiz. My result indicated the Commander personality type (ENTJ if you’re curious). I read some of the results out loud to Eric incredulously. “This thing is bunk. This sounds so cold and harsh. This isn’t me at all. I’m taking it again.”

My sweet husband laughed, went back to his reading and muttered, “Why take it again? It sounds pretty accurate to me.” Partially offended I retook the online quiz again, determined to proffer a more pleasing result. Ten minutes later I had my second result. “There,” I turned the screen in his direction, “that’s better.” I’m not even sure what the second result was, but he read the first two sentences and said, “No, the first one was the real you.”

So here’s the thing. The first result, the Commander result, had one sentence I still remember. People with my personality profile, which by the way make up a whopping 3% of the population and include people like Gordon Ramsey and Margaret Thatcher, might be represented with the phrase, “I’m sorry, you must die.” This line stood out to my dear husband who laughed out loud and remarked… “Yes! That is totally you. You need a t-shirt with I’m sorry, you must die across the front.” Apparently his personality profile did not include intuition because I was becoming more anxious by the minute, and he was laughing.

My thoughts were going something like this. My husband, who I love dearly, will soon be a pastor. I will soon be a pastor’s wife. What pastor’s wife would live by the mantra, “I’m sorry, you must die?” This is not good. Not good. I need to change.

I tried again.

“Don’t you think my second result could be a personality I’m growing to become?” I offered. “Maybe my initial result is like the immature me, and I’m learning to become more sensitive to others’ feelings and to keep my opinions to myself.”

He closed his book, and realized that I was genuinely concerned about my Commander results. Thankfully, even with my poor (non-existent) articulation of my feelings, he interpreted beautifully (a strength of his personality, not mine). He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Listen. That second personality profile is not who I married. I married a strong-willed, crazy smart, determined, brave, leader. That is who you are, and that is who I love.”

Relief washed over me. We went on with our evening, but for the next days, weeks and even years, this conversation continued to roll around in my head and heart. I would have to learn to love this me- the real me.

I didn’t have many experiences to bolster the idea that women with dominant personality types are valued in the church. The valued archetype seemed to be demur, regal, effortlessly hospitable, and somehow able to transform a dingy fellowship hall into a banquet room with rosettes made out of crepe paper while simultaneously baking the perfect dessert, carried in by well-mannered, coiffed and clad children. Obviously this is an exaggerated and false characterization of the spouses of pastors. But somehow, I was still trying to force myself into that mold.

In reality, I have a career that I love. Eric and I chose (and still choose) to balance our time at home with the kids. We share the household (parenting, carpooling, calendaring, bill-paying, cooking, and cleaning) responsibilities nearly 50/50. We respect and value one another immensely. In one season, I sacrificed a job to be at home, and in another season he made a sacrificial and risky move to support my career.

My internal narrative used to be, “I’m not a typical pastor’s wife. I have to learn to be okay with that. My husband loves me.” But recently, I feel it changing. I’m beginning to realize that there is no “typical” pastor’s spouse. Every single ministry spouse handles the joys and challenges differently. I still think about how unhappy, despondent, and frustrated I could have become had Eric and I not had this little conversation 10 years ago. He wasn’t expecting anything from me as the pastor’s spouse, and I was assuming that he was. I was placing unnecessary expectations upon myself. I’m still learning not to do this- mostly as it relates to parenting currently… but that’s another blog post entirely.

The point here friend, is that the thing you and I have in common is that we both love and desire to support our spouses who are vocationally involved in ministry. Every one of us is uniquely equipped, by our Creator, to do this differently. There is no majority with which to conform. There are only sisters, brothers, daughters and sons of God with whom we can connect and grow.

If you look in the mirror, and you think to yourself, “I’m not like the rest of them. I’m _____.” You are right. You’re not like “the rest of them,” because there is no “the rest of them.” There are co-pastors, church planters, male spouses of pastors, financial supporters, career-oriented spouses and more. Love God first, and love others. Generously love your spouse, and sacrifice to support him or her. Follow the desires God lays upon your heart, and live into becoming the beautifully unique person he has created in you. The body of Christ needs each one of us- the executives and the defenders; the logicians and the entertainers, and even the commanders.

 

profile_2015Originally from New Brunswick, Canada, Erin Crisp met and married her husband Eric in Marion, Indiana where they now live. Erin is the Director of Instructional Design at IWU, Eric is the Discipleship Pastor at College Wesleyan Church, and they have three sons, Elijah (14), Micah (12) and Isaiah (11). A former English teacher, Erin enjoys writing and has published pieces with the Annesley Writer’s Forum, Asbury Theological Seminary, The Wesleyan Church, and Seedbed.

 

Now Go. And Do.

About a month ago, pastors’ spouses gathered at The Wesleyan Church Headquarters for Breakaway, a Pastor’s Spouse Connection event. The team that worked hard to put this event together had been fervently praying God would meet us there in amazing ways. He did just that, and we have heard many testimonies of how God used Breakaway as a “defining moment” in the lives of spouses. A great article recapping the event was posted on the Wesleyan Church’s website which you can read here if you have not already had the chance to do so. Breakaway provided a wonderful opportunity to connect with God and each other, and we look forward to more of these opportunities in the future!

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As the event drew to a close, we were blessed to have Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church, speak in the final session. Having been a pastor’s spouse herself, she easily identified with those in the room and her words were heartfelt, spirit-filled, and inspiring. At the end of her message, she spoke words of commission over the spouses. This was a powerful moment as we prepared to head back to the places God has called us to serve. We wanted to share those words with you here today. Wherever you find yourself, be encouraged! God loves you and has called you. Live with his kingdom purposes in mind!

I commission you in the powerful name of Jesus. Through this commission you will live in your world as an ambassador of the Kingdom of God.

I commission you in the work of healing and serving and loving and reconciliation. You are an emissary of justice, and your work from now on is to put things right, to call those things that are not as they will be.

I pray that the God of hope would fill you with peace that passes all understanding. I pray that you will be drawn into community so rich, so deep, so diverse that you will disagree and fight and remain in fellowship together anyway.  I pray that you would have your toes stepped on, your feelings hurt, and that you would forgive. I pray that you would be given the gift of realizing you were wrong about some important things. I pray that you would be quick to seek forgiveness and make it right when you are the transgressor…

Now go. And do. You know Jesus – you have experienced the power and the grace with your own life; you have felt it in your own heart. Now go – heal, disciple, minister, love, loosen chains, throw open doors, bang your own pots and pans.

Speak, breathe, prophesy, mark exam papers, run a company or a nonprofit, clean your kitchen, put paint on a canvas, organize, rabble-rouse, find transcendence in the laundry pile while you pray in obscurity, deliver babies for Haitian mothers in the midwifery clinic, run computer companies, work the love out and in and around you however God has made you to do it. Don’t let the lies fence you in or hold you back.

Love your spouse, love your babies, love the poor, love the orphans, love the widows, love the powerful, love the broken and the hurting, love your friends, love yourself, and love your enemies. Love until you come to love the whole world in the fullness of God, in the full expression of the image bearer he created you to be – just that; no more, but certainly no less…

I call you to realize you are more than you know…God is still living out His story through you…let go and let him do it…constantly seek to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit…may your soul long for prayer and for the scriptures.

May you make room in your life to be inconvenienced and put out, and may you be Jesus with skin on for a few people. May you be fearless, and may you eat good food…

…we will walk it out together. We are part of the redemptive movement of God in the world for his daughters and his sons. You and me – we are Kingdom people, an outpost of redemption, engaged in God’s mission of reconciliation.

Blessed be his Kingdom, now and forevermore.

Peace be with you, my friend. Peace.

lyon_joann

 

Words of Commission from Dr. Jo Anne Lyon at Breakaway 2016. Sections from Sarah Bessey, “The Commissioning” – Jesus Feminist

8 Practices that Helped Strengthen Our Ministry Marriage, Part 3

Today we are wrapping up our series on ministry marriage by Sharon Drury. If you haven’t read the first 2 parts, you can find them here –  Part 1 and Part 2. We will end this series with the final four practices Sharon has implemented in building a strong ministry marriage.

#5 – Because I Love You Cards

I can’t remember for sure who started this but I think it was Keith.  He was a busy youth leader and I was a homemaker.  I usually made the bed each day but one day I entered the bedroom and saw the bed completely made and a little note on it saying, ‘Because I Love You.”  Sweet!  I kept the note for a bit then saw his shoes one day in desperate need of polishing.  I shined them and left his original note in the shoes.  That started a lifetime practice of doing extra loving deeds for each other just because of love. It was a game of sorts and included doing dishes, putting a couple cookies on a desk, washing a car—things not required but an extra bonus deed of love.  Sometimes one of us would forget to return the deed and the other one would make a new card.  At one particularly grueling time one of us had collected a dozen cards—we were in BILY debt! These little surprises fueled our relationship.  And they were “infectious” too.  Our 6 yr old son had seen us doing this over time apparently. One Saturday morning he got up before us and cleaned all the area around our wood stove and when we arose, we found his hand-scrawled “Because I love you” note on a post-it sticker.  We still have that sticker reminding us that “more is caught than taught” when it comes to kids.  We still surprise each other with “Because I Love You” deeds of love even though we’re retired. We’ve been doing it for nearly forty years and it has still feeds our marriage.

#6 – Praying Together

In a seminar in the 1980s Bill Bright told how he and his wife Vonette would reach out to lay a hand on the other as they lay down in bed, and pray a blessing on the other one—taking turns with one or the other going first.  We thought it was a wonderful marriage practice and started copying the Bright’s habit of a nighttime prayer for each other just before going asleep.  Praying together in a big crisis or before big events is important, but praying before going to sleep each night has been an even bigger secret to building a strong clergy marriage.  We have usually gone to bed at the same time, partly because of this practice.   Sure, sometimes are so tired we totally forget.  And sometimes one of us falls asleep while the other is praying.  But often one of us starts by reaching out to touch a shoulder or head and prays a blessing on the other one. Then that person returns the favor so we both get prayed for as we fall asleep.  We’ll pray for courage in a situation the other is facing tomorrow, or for healing from a hurtful experience today, or for wisdom and strength. Bedtime prayers like this worked better for us than a “Bible study” together because one of us tended to drift into “teaching mode” in a Bible study. Instead, the simple practice of prayer drew us closer to God and to each other—like the two corners of a marriage triangle, with God at the peak; the closer I get to God, the closer I’ll be to my spouse.

 #7 – Keeping the Fire Hot at Home

But for the grace of God, we could all have a broken marriage! All the best practices in a perfect marriage don’t work if we are too proud to realize we are not above temptation. I remember early on in our marriage when I observed a bikini-clad counselor entering Keith’s office at the Salvation Army camp we ran. She was just “dropping by to ask some Bible questions.”  I was totally overcome with jealousy… but worked up the courage to later face my husband and say, “You can’t do that ever again.” Poor guy! He was like a lamb before the slaughter. He had no idea what was really happening. Thankfully, he listened to me. Then he paid even more attention to me after discovering she was involved in a marriage breakup of a minister at that camp a year later.  We also realized we needed to bring into our marriage what some spouses go elsewhere to get…fun, creativity, a healthy body, time away from the kids, a good lock on the bedroom door, and an occasional night away at a hotel for just us.  We decided the best defense was a good offense for our relationship. So we worked on having good sex and avoided letting our marriage become dull and boring.

#8 – Laughing together

My father didn’t give me much advice about who to marry but I remember one thing he said: Try to marry a funny man.  How right he was!  And I got a very funny man!  We all know that laughing together with friends is a bonding experience; so it is with our spouses.  Sometimes we watch stand-up comedy [e.g., Jeff Foxworthy] together just to steal their best lines to use in our own marriage.  Or we’ll say a short “inside joke” phrase we both remember that causes us to break out in simultaneous laughter.  These phrases become “insider talk” that makes our relationship a kind of secret society of humor.  Sometimes it short-circuits an impending argument, like when Keith smiles and says, “Yes, Mrs. Rich.” Then I immediately remember Mrs. Rich’s Pyracanthia bushes at our 2nd pastorate and burst out laughing!  Or sometimes I smirk and say “Remember the cowboy hat” and we still, 48 years later, break out in cascades of laughter at that poor gift choice.  Sometimes it is just a phrase from a Peanuts comic strip, like when one of us comes home feeling broken and beaten down, the other notices and says, “Poor sweet baby.” It’s a sign my spouse just needs sympathy, not solutions. Of course, laughing together is easier when we both lighten up and quit taking things—and ourselves, so seriously.  We humans need to laugh.  Many of us find people to laugh with at work or when eating out with friends. It bonds us together with them.  So it is with laughing together at home; it bonds us together as a clergy couple—after all, working with church people gives us plenty of things to laugh about.

Has one of the 8 practices stood out to you as something you have found helpful in your marriage?  Are there other practices you have implemented that you would like to add to the list? We’d love to hear from you in the comment section.

8 Practices that Helped Strengthen Our Ministry Marriage, Part 2

Welcome back for Part 2 of our series on ministry marriage by Sharon Drury. If you haven’t read Part 1, you can find that here. In this post, Sharon will bring us four of the eight practices she has found beneficial in her marriage.

 #1 – We quit trying to have a perfect marriage

When we started out we actually hoped to have a perfect marriage.  After all, we thought a minister’s marriage should be a model marriage. But of course we failed.  One of us got perturbed, or outright angry, or forgot to pick up the dry cleaning, or the kids. We couldn’t make a perfect marriage. Finally, we simply lowered our standards and wound up having a better marriage!  And we’ve had 45 wonderful years together (been married 48 but we don’t talk about a few years in there). Instead of aiming for perfection, we went for “good, long, and strong.”  Our lowered standards gave us room to sometimes be irritating, or grouchy, and even self-centered and angry at times. Admitting it actually made our marriage better.  Sometimes we just need some space, or we’ll write letters to each other to cool down, explain things, or ask forgiveness. Like Ruth Bell Graham said: “Marriage is the union of two good forgivers,” and we have done our part. So we gave up aiming for a perfect, model marriage and are quite happy if we get one that is “good, long and strong.”

#2 – Debriefing

Most marriages don’t die a sudden death—they suffer from lack of attention. So most evenings when Keith came home from work or a trip, the first thing we did was  “debrief” each other’s time away. We took turns going first and simply reported on the day before anything else—even dinner.  When our kids were school age we had a “blood or fire rule” (no interruptions unless there was “blood or fire” which allowed us 5-10 minutes in the bedroom to debrief. This time daily got us caught up with each other’s lives during prime time. We found we forgot too many things if waiting to debrief until after the kids were in bed.  Later on we added another practice: if something big happened through the day, we shared it with our spouse first—rather than first sharing the news with coworkers or friends.  The first time one shares good news is often the best celebration, so we wanted to reserve that best celebration for our spouse and not with others. Debriefing kept our lives intertwined so we could avoid becoming like nurses at a shift change or just “ships passing in the night.”

#3 – Date Night

We found that reserving a “date night” was just as important after the wedding as before. That meant we had to set aside money for dates even after we had kids and even before we bought furniture. It was expensive to get sitters and it cost a lot to pay for meals at a restaurant, but these twice-monthly dates gave us couple time separate from family time with the kids, or church functions with other families.  And later on when we wound up both working in the same ministry, we simply put a time limit on “work talk” so we had plenty of time to devote to other topics and chatting about our own relationship. Date nights set aside time to repeatedly fall in love with each other.  Looking forward to each other’s presence—like we panted for in college—was great preparation for us liking each other when the empty nest stage hit (and even more so after retirement). Date nights helped us keep our own relationship growing and kept us being best friends and romantic partners even when we were also busy with work and kids. Plus, it was a statement to the children that they weren’t always first; they were a little jealous when we got dressed up and the baby sitter showed up—and that was good! Recently when getting ready to go out on a date night we calculated we’ve been on more than 1200 dates together.  I guess its no wonder we still like each other!

#4 – Day Away

About once every three months we would go away for all-day unplanned time away with each other.  At first we just “tried to fit it in” but that didn’t work.  Other things crowded out our best intentions.  Eventually we simply blocked out the common day on our calendars and told people “I’ve got an all-day appointment” on that day. I was a homemaker at first and ran a business on the side, so it was easier for me when we started out. Usually we’d get back by the time the kids were out of school.  Often we’d just drive aimlessly and stop at a shop or place to walk whenever we discovered something interesting. But mostly we drove and talked.  There was just something about being in the car that led to deeper conversations.  We’d talk about big ideas, where we wanted to go on vacation next, what we were most happy about, what irritated us most, what we wanted to put on our child-rearing bucket list, where we saw ourselves in ten years—sometimes we’d get out a tablet and designed our dream house together.  Other times we’d stop and shop for clothes in another town or stop to see an antique car for sale, but really it didn’t matter so much what we did; we just spent the entire day with each other apart from the blur of daily routines.  Occasionally we’d get a motel and sneak away for overnight too, though that was rare until the kids were gone.  A Day Away with each other gave us time to talk about big things—our direction in life, our goals, where we were going together.  It kept us on the same page.

8 Practices That Helped Strengthen Our Ministry Marriage, Part 1

We are excited to begin a 3-part series on marriage in the ministry. Sharon Drury,Sharon Drury-ExecutiveTeam one of PSC’s founders and a member of our executive team, will be sharing insights from her experience as a ministry spouse. Sharon married her husband, Keith, in 1967. For 15 years, she was a stay-at-home mom caring for two boys. She also served in a variety of capacities in the local church and started a national ministry for pastors’ wives called Yokemates in 1985. Sharon went on to work at Indiana Wesleyan University for 20 years in various positions of leadership, and she served as the Professor of Organizational Leadership in the doctoral program for 7 years until she retired in 2013. Sharon cares deeply for pastors’ spouses and desires to serve as a source of encouragement to them. We pray this series will be helpful as you work to build a strong ministry marriage. 

I’m going to share with you some things about our marriage even though our dating year in college didn’t start out well. A faculty member said of us, “That’ll never work; two bossy people!”  Even if you aren’t bossy, just living with any other person can be irritating at times, but we eventually learned to say, “If two people agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary.”

There is no longer any “typical clergy couple” out there. Instead there are many different ways clergy couples can make their marriages work.  The range of differences I see among ministry marriages usually fall into at least 5 types of relationships:

  • Pastor & Satellite Spouse – this is often in the early years of a traditional couple, when the mom is home with little kids…or sometimes when the wife works well at home and in the church as a follower of his leadership (the old two for the price of one pastor & wife combination sometimes still works!)
  • Supportive Couple – this can be a clergy marriage where the spouse cares but is definitely not called, and believes being a good wife or husband is the best way to free up the pastor to do ministry; then he/she returns the favor by sacrificially loving the spouse and enjoying time off from ministry.
  • Separate Careers – these two often had separate callings back when they got married and now bring in two incomes; they make their ministry marriage work by sharing and caring enough about the other’s work to support them in their career or calling.
  • Parallel Ministries – I often see this when one is the pastor, and the other is very involved in different ministries at the same church. Some male spouses tell me they see it as a ministry partnership: she is the minister, and he has a secular job, but he will take point as a lay leader in a small group, etc.
  • Co-Pastoring – this is when two ordained individuals, often paid the same salary (or not) who have worked out a division of labor for the work to be done that suits their gifts and graces; it may feel like ministry is their “family business.”

Whatever type of relationship that you have, I know there are often undue expectations or even outright attacks on clergy marriages. It seems the devil would love to trip up the shepherd so he can mess up the sheep!  So in this blog series, I’ll share 8 practices that have helped strengthen our marriage, and hope these can strengthen your marriage, too!

When reading about the 5 types of relationships, did you find one that described your ministry marriage? If not, is there another category you might add? Use the comment section below to share your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you, and join us next week for Part 2 of this series as we dive into the 8 practices.