the good stuff #7

>> April 30, 2010

Penny, from New Orleans, writes:
I've read all the previous "good stuff" posts and TOTALLY agree with the weekday day off sentiment.  Nothing better than going to breakfast with my PH on Friday mornings.  They are super special around our house.

I also love when someone encourages instead of critiques a sticky church situation - business meetings and the like.  I love when church correction is met with an "Amen" or "Good word!" - those times make me smile.

But one of the things that I really like is when he does a wedding!  I get to see my hero husband, all dressed up in a very romantic setting.  It's a chance for us to go out - (a date!) all dressed up, get a baby sitter and dance the night away... all the while getting paid to do so!!!  Can't beat that!  Thanks God for the small blessings!  They usually are unforgettable!
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flying noodles and fortune cookies

>> April 28, 2010

It was one of those days. You know the kind when things just don’t go so well. The kids are crabby, you’re crabby, your husband is crabby. Well, it was one of those days for me.

It was a very busy Friday and we had just finished grocery shopping. I had all three boys in tow (all aged 5 and under at that time). My PH had agreed to go along and help. Fortunately, we had managed to leave the store without terrorizing anyone, but by the time we left everyone was hungry.

Sure, we had a van load of groceries; but to go home, unload them and then fix something while the pre-meal meltdown was going on around me was more than I was up for. So I whined and begged to go to the Chinese buffet we all love. Of course I knew that once I mentioned it the kids would jump on the idea too. So Brad relented, and agreed to go.

It was a good restaurant. The Grand Buffet. Lots of vegetarian items (we are vegetarians, by the way), reasonably cheap, fairly clean, good service; and since it’s a buffet there’s no waiting for the food—which is a good thing with hungry kids. And did I mention we were all hungry? It should have been a nice lunch. What was I thinking? When we are all that hungry it can only spell disaster.

First of all, the baby needed to nurse. We were seated by the window in a booth. A booth is not the easiest place to nurse, especially in front of the window. You’re either flashing the whole restaurant, or flashing the whole parking lot. Unfortunately, Liam was at the age where everything distracted him and he wouldn’t eat very well. So I gave up and gave him some dry Cheerios from the diaper bag. Maybe he would eat some apple sauce, I thought, while I tried to keep him from grabbing all the silverware off the table.

Well, while I attempted to feed one hungry mouth, Brad attempted to feed the other two hungry mouths. Our plan was to get the boys eating, and then we would take turns getting our plates. So he took the boys up to the buffet to get their food. I could hear them clear across the restaurant. “No, not those noodles!” and “I don’t like mushrooms!” and “I want broccoli!” etc. When you are desperate, as Brad was, you sometimes forget which kid likes what. I pitied Brad, and said to little Liam--not expecting a response, of course—“Your brothers are giving your daddy a hard time.”

The response I got was not from Liam, but from the lady at the neighboring table, “Yes they are, aren’t they?”

I looked up and saw a sympathetic smile coming from a older woman. She looked much like a lot of other women her age here in the Pennsylvania Dutch region. Friendly, but forthright. What I saw in her was not condemnation, however, but understanding. Sometimes you just aren’t sure how to take comments from “well-wishers”, but she was genuinely amused by the antics. She offered to hold Liam while I helped Brad with the older boys, but I wasn’t comfortable enough with that idea. So I politely said that we would be fine.

Brad brought the boys back and they did settle into their meals. I got my food—yummy spring rolls, bean curd and vegetables, lo mein. Brad loaded his plate up too. It was good food. Then the multiple trips started: more lo mein for Adam, more broccoli for Mason, more napkins, more forks (Adam dropped his), more spoons (Liam threw his), more napkins, etc.

By this time glasses were spilling, and patience was waning. Adam wanted more rice noodles so I stood to let him out of the booth. As he emerged from behind the table I saw a vision of the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Noodles were hanging from his arms, his legs, his chin, his shirt-front, his hair, and I think even his ears. You know how sticky those noodles can be? I guess they need to be so the chopsticks can pick them up. As I tried to wipe Adam off the noodles just clung harder.

Well, Mason found this to be very humorous, and he proceeded to throw noodles all over himself. Adam, not wanting to miss out on the fun, started grabbing noodles to stick on Mason. Then they squealed, and began dressing Liam in noodles too. Needless to say, noodles were flying.

Brad and I, as if synchronized, both attempted to catch the noodles mid-air, each grab a sticky hand, and cover a giggling mouth all at once. However, we didn’t have enough hands between us to accomplish the tasks, and we quickly realized we were losing the battle. Again, in sync, we plopped down in our seats with heavy sighs—his angry, mine defeated.

“Why do we even try?” I said to no one in particular.

With stares from the nearby customers, and glares from the restaurant’s servers, I sent up a “prayer flare” to God, asking for patience, wisdom, and superhuman power. Amazingly, the kids immediately settled down and sat back in the booth. Brad called out the familiar escape plea, “Check please,” and the waitress hurried over with a little black tray holding five fortune cookies and the ticket. The boys greedily reached for the cookies and tore into the wrapping.

“Read mine! Read mine!” Adam begged as his wrapper ripped open and his little cookie broke into several pieces. A outcry ensued, and I quickly switched his for the baby’s cookie, as Liam would only gum the broken parts anyway. But I promised I wouldn’t mix up the little slip of paper, because Adam was adamant that the first fortune belonged to him, and not to his little brother.
In frustration, I grabbed the slip out of his hands, and began to read aloud the message. “Your future is as high…” I stopped midsentence, a lump in my throat developing and choking my words.
“What’s the rest?” Adam asked.
Your future is as high as the lofty heavens,” I whispered contemplatively.
“What does that mean?” Mason questioned.
“It means,” I answered, with tears in my eyes and a warmth flowing through my heart, “that no matter what happens here on this earth—no matter how crazy and chaotic and frustrating it may be—our future is in Heaven with God. His plan is to take us to live with Him forever in Paradise. We can deal with anything if we just remember that.”
Adam seemed pleased with the words, while Mason replied with a shrug, “Oh.”
As we left the restaurant and went back to our busy day, I sent up a thank you to God for that little fortune cookie--out of all the millions of fortune cookies in the world--that He shaped and filled with His message just for me, as if to gently say, "That is why you try.”
© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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on being a winner

>> April 26, 2010

A few months after settling into our new church, I found myself at a women’s ministry cookie exchange.  I was tired that week and, honestly, didn’t put much thought into it… I just baked a recipe I enjoyed and was off to the party with my 3 dozen in tow. 

Partway through the evening we returned to the sugar-laden table to discover ribbons on 4 tastefully chosen platters.  Wow…there was a ribbon on mine!  And I hadn’t even tried. Nonetheless, I had earned “Yummiest Cookie”.   

It feels good to be a winner.  Mind you, it wasn’t the Olympics, but I was still a winner… and I could go home knowing I had at least held my own with all the talented cooks in the church, right? 

My winning was unintentional.  But I’ve been contemplating the way many of us (even as PWs!)  go about our daily life in an unintentional way.  It’s super easy to do! I know I get lost in the expectations and routines, and forget to live intentionally for the people I love!  

I forget to put foremost the things that really make me a winner…the lasting things in life, the relationships, the things that make or break you. Being a winner with life…it has to be intentional. I’m freshly determined to be a winner as a spouse, parent, and friend…and to do it intentionally. 

The prize is tangible, it really is!

Libby is a PW in the Midwestern USA, with two beautiful little girls and a son on the way. She's a photographer, and her column on CLUTCH documents various moments in her PW life through her pictures.
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the good stuff #6

>> April 23, 2010

... knowing the funny/weird/crazy side of that serious guy in the pulpit. No matter how real he is, no matter how genuine, there's always a private side to the preacher. And as PWs, we know the man he is at home. (Of course, for some of us that picture may sadly not always be pretty - but it can often be good, too!)

And sometimes it can be incredibly endearing to know the softer, gentler, funnier, crazier side of the preacher!

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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mole infestation

>> April 21, 2010

A few weeks ago we had a baby mole infestation at our house. We live in a country neighborhood, and often see examples of nature in and out of the house. We also have a predatorial house cat, and she prides herself in bringing us gifts.

Well, I’m not sure how these moles came into our house that day—whether the cat brought in a pregnant mother, or the mother or the baby moles came in on their own—but they were definitely in my kitchen under the refrigerator. Four of them. One by one they appeared. It was easy to distinguish them from mice because of their slowness, their stumpier tail, their internal ears, and their claws. They have very limited eyesight, so they couldn’t see us and weren’t afraid of us.

Not that they needed to be afraid of us. We usually just try to take critters that have made it inside, for one reason or another, back outside. But, they DID need to be afraid of Leah, our Queen cat, as we like to call her.

Well, let me recount the story to you. One morning two little moles introduced themselves. They just meandered under our feet, as if it was the most natural thing to do. Upon a few shrieks from us, and apparently catching the scent of the nearby cat, they scurried (if you can say that?) behind a large basket on the floor in a corner. My husband rather easily scooped them up in a large cup and carried them outside.

The next morning, we saw another one walking across our living room floor. And then yet another in the kitchen again. Now, these two creatures could have been the brother and/or sister of the original moles, or perhaps they were the same brave creatures venturing back into dangerous territory. Regardless, they were back. And it seemed each day they grew larger and faster and braver.

We lived with these moles for about a week. They would shuffle just out of reach when we would try to capture them, and we had a difficult time trying to keep them out of our cat’s way. However, one poor soul met his fate in the middle of the night. I heard the battle from my sleeping bed, unsure if it had been a dream. The next morning, though, I happened up the dead body on the floor of our living room. Dear Hubby rather unceremoniously threw it in the woods, leaving its brother or sister alone in the house.

The remaining mole, in its newfound independence, decided to explore the house. It adventured into my closet, under the vanity, under my nightstand and bed, and finally, down the steps into our school room. My eldest son saved the day and the mole when he caught it in my sneaker. He covered the shoe opening with a cloth and carried it outside. We were finally mole-free! Yea! (Later that day a mole was lying dead in our driveway—I can’t say which one it was.)

Now what did I learn from this experience?

First of all, don’t leave your exterior doors open, no matter how nice the day is. Secondly, just like these moles, we tend to venture into dangerous territory sometimes—whether by chance or choice.

For me, I have to stay out of clothing stores and book stores, or else I will spend way too much money. I also have to avoid turning on the TV late at night when I’m preparing for school. The shows I find myself watching (criminal and justice shows) do absolutely nothing to edify me. I also have to guard myself from being alone with chocolate or potato chips.

These temptations for me are strong, and Satan especially knows my weaknesses. He knows how easily I stumble in these areas, so he is relentless in tempting me. For other people it may be some other urge or even addiction. We all have our vices.

So what can we do to avoid these temptations? What should we do when these urges strike? First of all, we should stay where we are safe. In other words, don’t put ourselves in a risky situation.

And if we end up by accident in a precarious place, we should not avoid God’s help. The moles ran from us when we tried to help them, and we often run away from God even though He is so ready to help us out of our perils.

And let’s face it, ladies, as PWs we are being watched, as unfair as it may seem. Not only are our children watching and imitating everything we do, but so are our church members. We have a great responsibility to not stumble ourselves, and to not be stumbling blocks for our congregants.

For me, memorizing and quoting scripture is a powerful tool. And prayer, of course, avails me to God’s amazing strength. I also must carefully listen to His leading, because He promises to not lead me into temptation.

What are some of the spiritual weapons you use to keep yourself safe?

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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the garden

>> April 20, 2010

It wasn’t anything to look at, really. Just an ugly patch of land next to an empty cow pasture, scattered with scruffy weeds and a few dead tomato plants from last year. Scraggly, leafless branches from a peach tree pretended to stand guard on one side. There was a reason the house stood with its windowless wall toward the hard, lifeless ground. 
Slowly, almost imperceptibly as the days passed, the cold began to melt into the warmth of early spring.

One day the gardener came to tear away the old dead plants and turn the soil. With sharp, painful strokes, his till slashed through the hard surface, grinding the weeds and leaving the flesh of the earth exposed and vulnerable. The children came and sunk their bare feet into its rich, soft warmth.

Before the weeds had a chance to reclaim their forbidden ground, the shovel began his work of forming the pliant surface into hills and valleys and furrows in preparation for the unseen plants that would someday take root.

The shovel gouged pits then tossed in the black, foul-smelling steer dung. Back and forth, in and out, up and down it went in that lifeless ground, always with a vision of what would be.

At long last the first little green tomato plants were put in place. They hardly looked like anything worth getting excited about, dwarfed as they were in the midst of their small craters, and the great expanse of brown stretching out around them. By sundown their little leaves looked sadly down at the ground, seemingly overwhelmed by the job ahead of them.

Small packets of seeds were brought. There were little wedged sunflower, squash, and cucumber seeds, round peas and okra, flat peppers and eggplants, none of them much bigger than the tip of your finger. There were seeds so small a light breeze could have carried them far and away, never to be seen again. All were dry as bones, some hard as little stones. They disappeared into the deathly darkness of the earth with only a whispered hope of return. And there they lay.

And as they lay invisible, I waited. I waited and wondered what, if anything, was happening. Were their dry little hearts being stirred to, or were they lost forever? Was a teeny sprout forming, even now, drawing strength and life from the drop of rich food in the seed?

Each day, the water soaked the unbroken surface, calling through its liquid voice for life to come forth. Day after day only the silent brown face looked up into the sky. The little tomatoes and other seedlings began to gain a little strength, but the seeds seemed lost.

After seven days, wonder of wonders, a tiny bit of green showing through the brown! Then two more, then three, and the first one had become two tiny leaves! The peas pioneered the surface. They grew quickly, soon reaching tiny spiraling tendrils into the warm air, looking for something to climb.

After many days came the squash, with bigger, bolder leaves breaking the surface, and then the sunflowers. They all looked nearly the same at the beginning, just two plain little green leaves, some smaller than others. There wasn’t anything very special or distinguishing about them. But, ah, they were life, green life coming from brown dirt, black dung, dry seeds, clear water, yellow sunshine, and the miraculous hand of God.

From a distance, what was once a patch of dull brown became speckled with these bright spots of living green. Many many days passed. The blossoms came to the fruit trees and then the leaves. The sun became hot in the afternoons. The weeds surrounding the plot began to age and yellow. But on that once ugly, dray patch of ground, the green was overtaking the brown.

The leaves and stems stretched and stretched and stretched towards the sunshine, some faster and some slower. From those tiny seeds, sunflowers shot skyward, drinking in every drop of sunlight that came their way. Pumpkin vines began to spread their fuzzy arms along the ground. Squash plants sprouted like green fountains.

The sun beat down with all its might. But for all its withering fury, the plants only responded with stouter gladsome greenness. At the end of the hottest of days, they seem to be only bigger and lovelier for all the torment.

And then, between the leaves little blossoms opened their happy faces. Bright yellow, white, purple, all of them stating a silent promise. As they withered and faded, their bases began to grow fat. Next came skinny flat pea pods, tiny green tomatoes, thin cucumbers, and shiny purple eggplants. They grew and they grew. Some of them changed color. Above it all the tops of the tallest plants began to swell and grow fat, fuzzy bulbs.

And one day, without warning, their protective leaves opened, and bright yellow and rusty red faces of sunflowers appeared. In the morning they watched the sun rise in the east, following it through its heavenly course until at last the witnessed it sink into the west, with colors to match them.

The plants draw the water and nutrients from that dull brown earth, and as they drink in the sunshine, they work a miracle in their members, and out comes the beautiful, rich fruit, red, green, yellow, purple, orange….

What machine could ever compare? What factory has made anything so magical and sweet and refreshing as a tomato straight out of the garden? Or what man-made process produces anything that snaps like a fresh bell pepper or cucumber?

What can money buy compared to standing in the middle of the greenness on a warm summer evening just after the sun has set, breathing in the special smell of tomato leaves, plucking a handful of cherry tomatoes here, a fat zucchini there, a bouquet of fresh basil there, watching the moon’s brightening reflexion shimmering in the watered troughs?

"And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and make your bones fat; you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not." Isaiah 58:11

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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on dating your kids

>> April 19, 2010

What does: 
  • eating out at Denny's and talking about crushes, 
  • finding a way to get lost coming back from Taco Bell, 
  • and going into my bedroom to eat Ramen noodles and play memory all have in common? 
They're just a few of the memorable dates my hubby and I have had with our kids. In fact, the Ramen date was so enjoyed by my 6-year-old it's been requested more than once!

Once we knew my PH was entering the ministry, we talked about how we could find a way to connect with our 4 kids on a regular basis one-on-one. 

We looked at our schedules and figured that if each of us goes on a date with each child once a month, then they would get focused one-on-one time with both of us every month. It's probably one of the best decisions we've made for our family health!

Here are a few reasons I'd encourage you to find a way to tuck some of these special moments into your week…
  1. The kids TOTALLY look forward to it! We’ve had lapses here and there when things get busy, but they don’t let us go for long… they WANT to spend that special time with us!
  2. WE look forward to it! When the weeks include so much of just regular living… tackling the never-ending Mt. Washmore, refereeing sibling fights, trying to get something edible AND attractive on the table once in awhile... it's easy to forget that our children have been given to us to train (yes), teach (yes), BUT also to just enjoy!!!
  3. As our kids get older, we’ve seen this “date time” become a perfect opportunity for questions to get answered. Just last week, my oldest son confided in me about his first crush. (WHERE did the time go!?) Our date was a great place to chat about it…no little brothers or sisters interrupting or eavesdropping around the corner! In 2 weeks, when I take out my oldest daughter, it’s gonna be for her first bras! (Oh man, I’m feeling old!)
There are lots of other reasons too, but those are some of the most important. The wonderful thing about children is that it isn't so much what you do, but that you’re spending time with THEM. Some dates aren't even about spending money… like the times we go for walks at the park, feed the ducks, visit elderly church members, work on a cool science kit, or eat cold pizza and watch Youtube videos! 

The rewards of “dating” your kids can be so special… plus, it keeps them connected with you so that you will become one of their best friends throughout life. 

Soooo, I challenge you to get out your calendar and pick some times when you can date your kids. Start the tradition as young as you’d like… In the beginning you may actually be training yourself to get into the habit, but eventually your kids will be so grateful you took the time!

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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dear abigail::what about when the other PW is invisible?

>> April 16, 2010

Dear Abigail,
I am a young lead pastor's wife (at a university campus church plant).

Eight months ago, our church hired a part-time pastor who has a wonderful family: wife and four children, ages 5-12.

The new pastor's family does not come to church. 
On very rare occasions, the wife will join her PH at services, but she is not involved in any way outside of that.  They attend another church on Saturday evenings as a family, saying that it meets their children's spiritual needs. 

Our attendance runs from 35-90 (depending on school breaks), and we do have families with children in our church.  We had a children's class when this new pastor began, but he wanted it turned into a nursery for toddlers and babies only. Now this pastor's family says that they do not come because there is nothing for their kids to do.  I asked the wife if she would be willing to serve in the nursery so that the other moms and volunteers could spread out.  She says that because her children don't attend, she'd rather not help.

I am ten years younger than this PW and have much smaller children (my oldest is 3). We attend every service (except when ill), and I am involved in mentoring many of the young women... even though I'm only 3-5 years older than most of them.  I support my husband any way I can, even if sometimes it means (during pregnancy and right after birth) we only come for the actual service. 

I feel bothered by the other PW/family's absence. Is it normal for pastor's wives to be invisible to the extent of not attending the church the PH leads? When questioned, this PW has said she is not used to being attached to her husband's hip in ministry. My thoughts are:  "How can he invest himself fully if his wife is not part of the equation?"  

I definitely don't expect her to be attached to her husband's hip, but I do think she should share the vision of the body and be part of it.  My PH and I have had many people ask us why this PW doesn't come to church. We don't know what to say. My husband has difficulty trusting the other pastor's commitment and potential for longevity without his family's investment.  

My PH has had to take on a part-time job (he gave up a portion of his salary to hire the new pastor), so their lack of involvement is also frustrating because of the time my husband's new job takes away from our family.

This PW has so much to offer the young ladies and young moms in our church!  I'm befuddled as to why she wouldn't want to share her wisdom from being a follower of Jesus, a wife, and a mom for many years!
I have tried to talk to her, and she says she wants to be involved, but won't force her children to come to church or serve when there is nothing for them, so she has to stay home with them unless she has a babysitter. This was a month and a half ago and she has been to church only twice since.  

I don't want to be legalistic. But I see that the body has a hard time respecting this leadership style. What would you do? ~ Name Withheld

Dear Name Withheld,
I sense your frustration and longing to see things change in this sticky situation. Of course I hope you have been seeking God's wisdom in prayer and study as you decide how to interact. The behavior and attitude of any PW has a profound impact in her congregation, for either good or bad. This goes for you just as much as for the new PW in your church.

First, let's talk about you: It's obvious that you are dedicated to your role as a PW, that you love your PH, and that serving in ministry is highly important to you. You are willing to make service a priority even at the cost of your own comfort and convenience. It can't be easy to be this active with small children. Kudos to you for publicly supporting your husband and setting such a great example for your kids. 

Now I have to ask you a tough question. How much of your frustration at this PW comes from feeling that she should be doing at least as much as you are? After all, she is older and her children are not so small, right? Did you have dreams of gaining a PW partner in ministry that are now shattered? Are you sure that you aren't the tiniest bit jealous that she stays home while you are working so hard? I'm not saying this to condone her absence - just to make sure that you have searched your heart and that your motive for addressing the issue isn't rooted in envy or a similar negative emotion.

Next, let's talk about the other PW. Do you know her story? Was she once heavily involved and then got burnt out? Is there a private health issue? Does she see this as a season of life where she is most needed at home? Were the expectations very different in her husband's last church? Or is she perhaps ignorant of how her absence is diminishing her husband's leadership and eroding the respect of the body?

True, it is crucial to protect our children from being overburdened as PKs. On the other hand, every child (who will become a successful adult) must learn at some time that there are things in life that we do to serve others, whether or not they are "fun" or designed for our convenience. Going to church with a community of people of all ages and backgrounds is an excellent training ground to teach children that we do many things for the good of others. This holds just as true for PKs as for any other family in the church. (Check out the phenomenal book "The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement" by Twenge and Campbell, to read more about this.)

It was once unheard of for a PW to stay home when her PH was at church. Sadly, there is a growing trend of faceless PWs who feel no calling to support their husband's ministry. While shared ministry looks different for every pastoral couple, and while every PW has her own personality and gifts and interests - the basic components of loving people and being willing to serve according to her gifts are absolutely imperative for any PW. Without these, her husband's ministry is guaranteed to stagnate. Yes, it is important to achieve balance and keep adequate family time, but when the pastoral family focuses only on meeting their own needs the ministry will wither.

When a PW is consistently absent (except when ill or perhaps traveling for work), the body begins to worry. Is the pastor's marriage solid? Is there a secret problem? Does she have an undisclosed illness? Does she hate us? Have we somehow offended her? Can her husband be trusted? It sounds as if your congregation is already beginning to ask these questions. (And when members inquire, I suggest telling them to go and ask the other pastor directly. It may help him to realize how his wife's attitude affects them.)

Certainly the PW should hold herself to the same (if not higher) expectations of attendance and involvement that is shown by every other active and dedicated member. Scripture also places an imperative on female leaders to engage in mentoring and teaching younger women (Titus 2:3-5). No pastor can effectively lead a church, or convince members that their service is important, if his own wife and family refuses to attend and be engaged. It may not show for a while, but her disinterest will take its toll on his credibility.

I believe that, rather than being between you and her, this is a matter for your PH to address with her PH. Scripture implies that the state of a church leader's family is crucially connected to their eligibility to serve (see 1 Timothy 3:2-5). Has your husband had a frank conversation with his assistant pastor about how the absence of his wife and family is negatively impacting the body? Perhaps your PH should address this as a matter of growing concern, including the fact that this pastor's commitment and longevity are unclear as a result of his family's failure to connect with the church body.

If your husband's discussion reveals a legitimate reason for the PW's absence (i.e. a private illness, or  severe depression), then the situation should be tactfully expressed to the church in a way that engages their prayers on her behalf. That way the body can sympathize and minister to her. Otherwise, your PH - as the senior pastor - may need to gently explain the repercussions on the body if this trend continues. 

I would suggest that you and your PH work together with the other family to help them understand the importance of regular attendance and involvement, and to get creative so that they also feel their needs are met. Of course, if you choose to address the issue, you must be prepared for the possibility that they will decide that this ministry is no longer a good fit for their family. However, it is appropriate to make it clear (especially since your husband has given up part of his salary to bring this family into your ministry) that there are some basic expectations in your church's local culture, such as the regular attendance of the pastors' families.

May God bless you and your PH as you prayerfully consider how to best communicate in this situation so that Scriptural principle isn't compromised, and yet the needs of both the congregation and the pastoral families are fulfilled.

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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the good stuff #5


Yes, our beloved PH's spend a lot of time helping other people, listening to other people, caring for other people, and fixing other people's problems. 

Fortunately (if your PH is willing), all that experience with others can give him the incredible gift of empathy.

(If you're like me, you may wonder what empathy is, and is it the same as sympathy? So I looked it up to be sure. 
empathy |ˈempəθē|  noun
the ability to understand and share the feelings of another
sympathy |ˈsimpəθē| noun
feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune
Sympathy is great, but empathy is even better!)

As I've watched my husband minister over the last 7 years, I've seen his empathy grow for problems at home and within our families as a direct result of being so involved in helping other people. It has strengthened our family harmony and to me, that's a real PW perk!

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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yay for tax day... (or not!)

>> April 15, 2010

Filing taxes as a member of clergy can be complicated. There are so many extra receipts to track, allowances to consider, and numbers to crunch. 

A few years ago, my husband spent hours and hours every year poring over our tax returns to make sure he hadn't missed anything. Then he got a stroke of genius and began hiring an accountant to do it instead. The peace of mind that comes with having a good tax guy (who is familiar with all the latest clergy tax policies) more than makes up for the expense of his fee. 

I'm guessing that different pastors have different arrangements, but another frustration we've faced with clergy taxes is that we have to pay them ourselves. So when we get that (already minuscule) paycheck every two weeks, we have to always set aside a certain amount for the quarterly tax payment. When the taxes are already removed, you don't necessarily notice so much - but when you have to take them out yourself, it can be almost physically painful. 

So what do you do to get ready for Tax Day? Go online? Fill out the forms yourself? Send it off to an accountant? Got any tips to make the process easier? Fill in the rest of us on your strategies!

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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downsizing and unloading

>> April 14, 2010

Here I go again…It is the middle of April, and my life is about to go into a tailspin. There’s my Family Presentations for the evangelistic series to prepare for, VBS to plan, campmeeting to direct, the school year to finish, Eager Beaver Investiture to coordinate, Pathfinder Camporee to attend, etc….. Am I a “typical” PW, or am I the only that does this to myself?

This came to mind after reading Rachael’s post about simplicity (see Monday’s post). I love the Dick and Jane books, and I truly appreciated Rachael’s reminder to live simply. The main reason I quit my job as a teacher 2 years ago was to simplify my life. My hubby and I both felt like life was out of control, and that we and our children were suffering. We found we were just reacting to life, rather than living purposefully. We wanted to be more intentional and proactive with our boys’ upbringing, as well as our ministry. We knew that living off of one income would be tantamount to financial suicide, and that we would have to downsize. In fact, we lost our home over it. However, my husband and I agree that our lives are much more peaceful and simple now than ever before.

Yet, I find myself filling my plate with too many church responsibilities. When I was working full-time, I could excuse myself from duties without guilt or explanation. But now that I’m “not working” people expect more from me. The fact is, even though life may be simpler, I am busier now than I ever was! And to top it off, my house is even messier because we are home (there’s more opportunity to mess it up!). Yes, I am loving the quality time with my children and husband. But I have to constantly pray to God that He will help me to “downsize” my agenda.

As PWs, we fall into the trap that in order to be a part of our husbands’ ministry, we have to be actively involved. I do believe we have the responsbility to work in our churches, as much as every believer. But we need to remember that (in most cases) our husbands are the ones getting paid--not us. The most essential role we have as PWs is to support our husbands, holding them accountable to God and their family, and to bring up our children in a loving, godly home. We have to guard ourselves from the guilt of saying, “I’m sorry, but no.” But easier said than done, right?

God doesn’t want us to overload ourselves so that we can feel important, or because we think we can do it better than anyone else, or because we need to feel validated and affirmed. He does, however, want us to serve where He leads us to serve. So my challenge to myself, and to my fellow PWs, is to downsize and unload. Downsize the to-do list of meaningless tasks. Unload our shoulders of unnecessary responsibilities. Unload our minds of the guilt of not doing enough. Unload our plates of the burden of meeting everyone’s expectations.

Jesus said: "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Matthew 11:29-30.

What has God led you to downsize and unload in your life?

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
Use allowed by express written permission only.
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in praise of cockroaches

>> April 13, 2010

If there is one insect I really hate, it's a cockroach. I spent some time in a village in the Philippines, where there must have been a dozen different kinds.

One morning I woke up excited about my new stash of fresh apples that had been delivered from town the day before. I was horrified to find them COVERED in inch-long roaches, having a regular fiesta! I didn't want to spray bug spray on my precious apples and I was too mad to let them live. In a flash I grabbed a fork and had 6 of them impaled before they knew what hit them (pretty impressive, since cockroaches see the world in slow-motion).

So you can just imagine that when we moved into our new home here, I was not at all impressed to find fat black roaches infesting my new garden plot. I am going to get RID of these roaches! I thought. I used bug spray on a lot of them and then turned to google for answers. You can find anything online, right? What I found wasn't what I had expected. I was sure there was no good purpose for roaches, but I was wrong! I was surprised to discover that roaches are good for composting. The roaches and I would simply have to coexist, because I love gardening.

This year we had a compost pile for the first time. It was rich, smelly, fluffy, red-brown. And FULL of roaches and other insects. I must confess I can't say I LOVED getting in the middle of it with a shovel, but I knew that if my plants could talk, they would take one look at it and say, "YUMMY!"

I had plenty of time to contemplate on this in the warm sun of that early spring day. It's really neat how God's taken so many of the ugly things of this world and used them to make something beautiful. Just like 1 Corinthians 1:27 says God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise.

I only pray that He will use the little irritations in my life to work within me the kind of beauty that will come from my garden in a couple months.

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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ordinary jane

>> April 12, 2010

Lately, Dick and Jane books are spread across our home. They are usually the first book picked up when we enter the children's section at Barnes and Noble. I love how my daughter thinks she's conquered the world when she gets done reading these simple yet profound books. 

Did I just say profound?

Yup! Think how simple her life is: "See Jane go." "See Jane run." "See Jane get in the car." 

Simple, huh! Jealous? Uh, yes! 

But Jane represents every woman, girl, mother, sister... every single chick out there! We can have a simple life, too!

I imagine that if Jane were a big girl like all of us, her big girl book might read something like "See Jane serve. See Jane lead. See Jane nurture. See Jane mother. See Jane love her neighbor. See Jane adore her husband." 

Things that are so simple, yet so profound.

I don't think big girl Jane's book would read: "See Jane throw a temper tantrum. See Jane ignore her husband. See Jane toss her kids aside. See Jane curl up in a corner when she doesn't want to be a pastor's wife."

So how can we equip ourselves to be ordinary Jane's? 

Do life simple! 

I know, it's easier said than done. But we can start by narrowing down to what REALLY matters. Love God, love your family, love those around you, and serve the world!

Simple life means being an ordinary Jane, and being fulfilled through what God has called you to be and to do. So the next time things start to load up in life, think "I'm an ordinary Jane with something unique to offer and I'm going to do what God has asked of me and nothing more!"

Keep it simple. Start by making sure you have time for Jesus every day!

Plan ahead for meals, laundry and outfits and other family needs so you can actually spend quality time with your family versus "doing" with your family.

Love those around you! Serving others can be so simple. Help with carpool, make cookies for a neighbor (do it together as a family), help someone out with groceries at the store. Just find a way to serve and love others around you... maybe with words or a nice note.

So my fellow Jane's, what would your big girl Jane book say about you ? Would it be "See Jane Be Simple"? Or "See Jane Run Around Crazy"?

Leave a comment to share how you live life as an ordinary Jane!

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
Use allowed by express written permission only.
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the good stuff #4

>> April 9, 2010

Jana writes:
For us the GOOD STUFF includes:
We take Monday's off as a family.   It is great for going to the movies, shopping without crowds and trips to Disney Land.

Having a church family who love and encourage us on a regular basis.

Going to the beach as a youth activity!  Who else gets paid to splash in the waves and tan all day?

Being in the youth ministry also helps me stay up to date on music and fashion. That is always a good thing... no "mom jeans" here!

We have seen so much of the world on missions trips!  I would have never visited those amazing places if we weren't in the ministry.

Ministry conferences...need I say more?  Those are the BEST!

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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bon voyage (part 2)

>> April 8, 2010

Lessons From the Bus: there's always room for more

“That bus is too full to bother stopping for more people!” I exclaimed as I watched the crowded to overflowing bus slow down at the bus stop. The doors can barely close around those already on the bus. As we walked the city streets, we would look at these buses in wonder. Even when temperatures are boiling, walking seemed a better option.

Yet we found that going downtown is the easiest bus system to figure out from our house and in the middle of the day, there are not too many people. Anyway, once you pay 25 cents per person on the bus it is hard to take a taxi and pay three dollars.

One day we were invited to some friends’ house on the other side of town, we thought we would try a bus instead of our usual taxi ride to their house. We needed blue bus #8. After waiting by the road awhile where we thought this bus would pass, we asked a nearby vendor when that bus would pass. He told us it did not pass on that road, but gladly told us which white bus would take us to where we were going.

So, along came white bus #34 and we were faced with a dilemma. It was shock full of people. I was convinced that there was absolutely no room for us on there. But, we had already waited a long time and we needed to get going. We bravely stepped up into the bus with faith that we would fit. Sure enough, with a little wiggling and pushing we got on.

It was so full you didn’t really need to hang on, everyone held each other up by just being there. A grandma who was sitting near me offered to hold our son for me. That was a relief, but a bit disconcerting to him. The lady jabbered to me in her dialect about our son.

Suddenly I realized a man three or four people over was talking to me, wait, he was translating into French what this lady was saying. Warmth flooded over me as I realized how kind people were being. Here we had squeezed in, for sure making it a bit more uncomfortable for some, and yet kindness was extended. As soon as a seat was empty, others pointed to it and offered it to me so I could have my son with me.

It was at that moment, as I contemplated the kindness on this overflowing bus and reminisced over past bus experiences, that I got the idea of writing about lessons learned from the bus.

How often do I get overwhelmed if there are more people needing to be invited for dinner than I prepared food for? What about a kids program that I must run and 10 visitors show up and I don’t have enough materials for everyone?

I realized there on the bus that as daughter of the King, I have all the resources I need by just spending time with Him. After that, there will always be room for one more in my class, in my car, in my house, at my table or in my friendships. Not only is He my bus driver, but He is also my bus walls and doors and tires. And just like in the bus, there may be times when it feels like there are too many and yet it is only uncomfortable for a bit, and then someone gets off the bus.

“And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” 2 Cor. 12:9,10 [Emphasis added]

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Eph. 4:32 [Emphasis added]

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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a sabbath rest

>> April 7, 2010

by Julie

I'm sitting in Books A Million in Gulf Shores, Alabama. We are on vacation with my parents, and having a wonderful time. My mother has a friend who owns a beach house here and offered to let us use it. What a blessing! It seems those are the only vacations we ever take--those that are free. A friend invites us somewhere, or we go to visit out-of-town family, or as in this case, extended family takes us with them on their vacation. The payscale of a pastor doesn't lend itself to frequent elaborate vacations at sandy beach resorts or tourist hotspots, does it? In fact, because I am a stay-at-home mom, the pastor's pay doesn't lend itself to ANY vacation! But we are blessed to be able to take advantage of the generosity of friends and family.

The unfortunate thing about utilizing such vacation opportunities is that it may not be a "true" vacation, in the sense of getting away. In our case, we are with my parents and my brother's family (who happens to be on the opposite extreme from us politically and doctrinally). But we are also with church members. You see, my parents belong to our local church. Now don't get me wrong--I love having my parents as church members. They help me with the boys during church service (because we PWs are in fact single mothers at church!), and I can always call on them to "volunteer" when no one else will step up to perform some ministry duty. However, for my PH, this kind of vacation is not really a true vacation. He attempts to set boundaries,such as not discussing church matters, doctrinal issues, etc. However, he just can't get away from it entirely. So his way of dealing with it is to play all day riding the waves on boogy boards with our boys.

This reminds me of our "Sabbath" day. As ministers, the day we worship is no day of rest. Our families are going usually from sun up to way past sun down the entire weekend. We are weekend warriors for our churches. So we have to take a "Sabbath rest" some other time during the week. For our family, that day is Thursday. My oldest son is actually the one who instituted it in our home. It is our family night. Each week one person decides what we will do for that night. It may be board games, playing the Wii, renting a movie, going to the park, making cookies, etc. We are not allowed to complain about what was chosen because it will be our turn to choose another week. The time we spend together is precious and uniterrupted by others. We have come to treasure and guard these family nights.

God instituted the Sabbath in the Garden of Eden, before the Fall. He spent six days creating a perfect paradise, and then He rested. He didn't need to rest from working. It wasn't like He worked so hard that He tired Himself out. Instead the Sabbath was a gift to Adam and Eve so that they could enjoy with Him what He had made for them. The Sabbath is a gift to us too. It is a time when we can stop working to enjoy with Him and with our families and friends what God has created and done for US. We all need to have a time to stop "working" and to "rest."

Now, I am by no means saying that as pastoral families we should make our Sabbath another day during the week than the day we worship with our church family. I am truly blessed by the "work" we do on our Sabbath day. However, we MUST take some time off during the week to just rest: to be free from church responsibilities, school and work. A time to just enjoy being together as a family without church members calling, or sermon prep looming. It is probably more important for pastoral families than anyone else. With out this rest, Satan will be able to use stress and exhaustion and burn out to tear our families, our ministries, and our lives apart. God wants us to take this time off. That's why He gave us the weekly Sabbath. It is up to us to make it happen!
© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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Some Home-Makin's

>> April 1, 2010

So last week I got all creative and made some yummy things in the kitchen. It seems like no matter what else I let slip through the cracks, I always manage to spend a good deal of time with sculpting tasty (and some NOT so tasty) inventions. This time my batting average was so good, I thought I'd share a few recipes.

The "No Knead Bread" recipe was really an exciting discovery, because while I love home-made bread, I hate kneading. I know, I know, someone already asked me why I don't use it to get my aggression out, but as I told them, it just won't work unless I can knead on the floor, and not only is the floor not clean enough, but neither are my feet and knees! So, with that appetizing picture in your heads, here is the link (I'm not going to write out the recipe here, because the directions are long) The dough must sit 12-18 hours, but compared to regular bread, this is very easy.

This recipe is something of a template you can do all kinds of exciting things with! I made one loaf with 2 cups whole wheat flour to 1 cup white, and with a tablespoon of brown sugar (would have used honey, if I had it). For the other loaf, I chopped up fresh thyme, oregano, and sage from my garden and mixed it in. It was DELICIOUS warmed and dipped in spinach dip. In the future I want to try rosemary bread, kalamata olive bread, roasted garlic bread, cheese bread....

The recipe calls for a covered oven-safe pot, such as a dutch oven. I don't have one, but I'm definitely on the lookout for a deal on one now! I just put the dough in a pan and covered with foil, rounding it out to give the bread room to rise a little.

My next trick was coming up with a quick potluck dish after I burned the beans. So here's a rough recipe for the pasta salad I made that actually turned out quite tasty:

On package spiraled pasta (or whatever kind you like)
One bunch asparagus, cut into spears and steamed gently
A handful of sliced red and yellow sweet peppers
A bunch of fresh spinach, chopped into big squares
1 small can mushrooms (I didn't have any fresh)

--The rest you'll just have to use your judgement on amounts, since, as you can see, I cook by dashes, pinches, and splashes:
vegetable oil
sesame oil
balsamic vinaigrette
(Might be better with an asian style vinegar, like rice vinegar?)
Soy sauce
Roasted sesame seeds
(I'm crazy about these. I do them in a skillet or under the broiler, mixing frequently. I put them in all kinds of things because they're so flavorful and healthy)

Seasoned Potato Wedges

3 red potatoes washed and cut into wedges
1-2 Tbsp olive oil, depending on how low-cal you want them
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp salt
2-3 Tbsp ground rosemary (if you don't have any ground, just throw it in the blender)
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and spread on an un-greased cookie tray. Bake at 350 until cooked through, turning occasionally. Increase temperature to 450 and brown on both sides to your preference. Again, these are estimated amounts, so you might play with the recipe to get it just how you like it. My PW loved these so much, he's making them right now!

Home-made Yogurt

This is an easy one to find a recipe for online, but some of them are so complicated and I just don't know why. Most recipes recommend using a candy thermometer and following very strict guidelines for temperature, but I know the yak-herders in western Tibet don't have candy thermometer and they seem to manage alright. The first time I made it, I had no candy thermometer and it came out fine. Here's what I do:

1. Pour as much milk as you want into a pan. I haven't noticed much difference in flavor between low-fat or regular milk. Bring to a boil SLOWLY, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. If you use a candy thermometer, temperature should be at least 180 degrees.
2. Remove from heat and let cool until it's the temperature of a nice hot bath, but not burning (110-115 degrees). At this point you can add sugar, if you like your yogurt sweet. Personally, I like it plain. Add a dallop of plain yogurt with live cultures (it will say on the container).
3. Maintain this temperature for 6-8 hours. I know, this is the tricky one, since burners and ovens and crockpots don't go that low. What I've done is wrap the pot in towels and put them in a warmed oven (i preheat oven to "warm" then turn off, do this a couple times before retiring for the night), and then I leave it 'til morning.
4. In the morning, it should be set up. If you've made it sweet, you could add fruit or jam. Tastes great with homemade bread....

Chocolate chip Oatmeal Cookies

Last but not least, must have some cookies! This isn't my recipe. I just used the first recipe I found online and they turned out so yummy! I actually used carob chips in and attempt to be healthy, but I can't say they were all that healthy....

Preheat oven to 325.
Whip with egg beater:
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar

Add and whip:
2 eggs followed by 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix dry ingredients together, then mix with moist ingredients:
1 1/4 cup white flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Stir in:
3 cups quick oats
then 1 cup chocolate chips and 1 cup *chopped walnuts

Drop by spoonfuls onto un-greased tray. Directions say to bake 12 minutes, but I baked them at least 15. Supposed to make 3 1/2 dozen.

*Chopping walnuts is another thing I find a hassle. Put your walnuts in a ziploc bag and run a rolling pin over them a few times until they break into the size of pieces you want.

Someday when I can work out ingredient amounts, I'll share my tabouli recipe. In the meantime, happy cooking and eating!

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
Use allowed by express written permission only.
Tweets, trackbacks, and link sharing encouraged.

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