Monday, April 27, 2009

Give Me a Heart for People

Today I am a single mother with a single child. No, we had no tragedy--actually, quite the opposite. Brendon is now big enough to enjoy his first "rite of passage" and join his dad on an intensely exciting business trip to exotic Indianapolis. It's amazing how even the Honda Accord they rented is the coolest car EVER!...but I digress...

Given my suddenly light position in life for these two days, I decided my youngest and I would play after I picked him up from school. We motored to Ikea to play in the children's section and finish up with ice cream cones. While he was navigating one of the many tunnels in the room display section (if you've never been to Ikea, this sentence probably makes no sense and by the way, I feel truly sorry for your sad station in life), he ran across a new friend, Braden. Braden came with his grandpa, who was a brilliantly charming Scottish gentleman, brouge and all. I love Scottish accents. We had a wonderful conversation for several minutes while the boys played with each other. It certainly didn't hurt how much I enjoyed the conversation when he commented on how beautiful (in a normal, non-child predator way) my son is and that he obviously "has a very pleasant disposition." Mothers love to hear those things. After we bade "goodbye" to these new-found friends and slowly enjoyed our ice cream, we headed home to get ready for T-ball practice.

My sons are amazingly good car riders. From day one, they've both loved riding in the car so much and are so quiet I sometimes forget they're even with me. This bit of trivia is pertinent to this story--really, it is. Since he amazingly good car rider, I found myself reflecting on the conversation I had at Ikea. The Scottish gentleman was quite obviously "un-churched." At one point during our conversation he used some rather colorful language (colorful enough to still be banned from prime time TV, in case you were wondering), thrown out in a quite tasteful way. That's what caught me. I didn't instantly bristle in hidden and controlled condemnation. Five or ten years ago, I probably would have thought, "How sad that such a lovely conversation had to be ruined by a bad choice of language, even though he was careful to be quiet enough that the boys didn't overhear." Today I thought, "How sad this gentleman and his family don't live in Natomas so I could get to know them better. They seem just like the kind of people God's been throwing in my life lately." The shift is subtle, but clear to me. While I still don't condone or participate in "questionable" activities, I'm falling more in love with people who do. I'm seeing people who are far from God, feeling the tragedy of that and begging to help be the bridge to bring them to a point where they make an informed decision about whether they want to believe in Jesus or not. Besides, it just makes me laugh when I hear a friend who won't darken the door of a church tell someone else, "If you're going to go to church, pick my friends' church. They put on one hell of an Easter egg hunt!"

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Maybe you were one of those tiny girls who giggled and flitted through jr. high, loving every unstable minute of the drama that is puberty. I was not. As a child I was outgoing, happy-go-lucky and generally uninhibited. As a pre-adolescent, I was gigantic (5 foot 3 and 125 lbs is massive for an eleven year old) and clumsy. I wished I could either shine as the life of the party or fade into oblivion. I rarely enjoyed either luxury. Ages ten to fourteen were painful years I've mostly managed to block from my memory.

Why, then, am I drudging them up? This past week I had an opportunity to re-visit jr. high with the maturity (no laughing, please) and wisdom age is supposed to bring. Michael and I were able to enjoy a minister's and spouses staff retreat. It was an actual retreat with a beautiful hotel room, meals out and the chance to play with our church staff, instead of the normal working "vacation/retreats" most churches like to host :). The challenge hit when we moved into the fun activities portion of the retreat. The first activity was go carts on a slick track, which was really fun...even for an anal driver like me. After that, we headed over to a great driving range located on the edge of a man made lake. The holes were on islands adrift in the lake, which is pretty darn cool, if you ask me. I love watching the guys hit a few golf balls. The weather was beautiful, the conversation stimulating, until someone happened to remember I was there and decided we ALL needed to hit a few balls. All of the sudden I found myself in jr high again. I had never even held a stupid golf club before...unless you call a mini golf putter a club--I don't. I painfully managed to swing a few times. I missed the ball more than I hit but eventually plopped a couple in the brink about 50 yards in front of us. With great relief, I handed the club off to someone else. For the final activity of the day, we ended up in a bowling alley and the torture that is jr high continued. I had only "bowled" one game about ten years ago (it wasn't pretty). Once again, I had no idea what type of equipment to use, how to hold it, etc. Seriously people, I do know how to do some things that involve active participation. I can skate (both ice and roller), ride horses, mini-golf, ski and hike to name a few.

I definitely handled the whole situation and feelings that accompany being that awkward and obvious much better than I did when I was eleven. It's nice to know I've managed to mature some through the years. This brief relapse gave pause for introspection that evening. It all comes back to security and trust. Can I rest in God's love? Is His love good enough, or do I have to be talented, smart and witty too? It's a good lesson for me. After all, isn't trust about following Him even if you look (or feel) awkward, scared and inadequate through the process? I seemed to hear His words break through. "Do you truly love Me more than these...?"

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Ministry Challenges

I was given a very interesting task this past Sunday. As we were chatting at an open house, the pastor of a large church overseas asked me what the most challenging aspects of being a pastor's wife are. After I threw out a couple of my own personal challenges, he said one of the ministry schools he has contact with is trying to form a few classes to help the wives of men studying for the ministry. Now THAT'S a capital idea! I wish they'd organize a few week long intensives for pastors' wives over here :). In order to give him more varied feedback (and probably more accurate, since I tend to be a little off the path of what is "normal" comments, please), I sent out a quick message to several pastors' wives I know asking about their challenges. The responses have been wonderful and I'm grateful to be able to read them. Not only are these women sharing from their hearts, I'm noticing many of the more seasoned pastors' wives are reaching out to shepherd some of the shared hurts and challenges. THIS is the church, and I love it!

Three key struggles have repeatedly made their way to the forefront. They are, in no particular order:
1. Expectations of both the pastor's wife and her family/children (both real and imagined)
2. People leaving the church
3. Criticism of their husband

Do these resonate with you? What do YOU feel are the biggest challenges of being a pastor's wife?