the good stuff

>> May 28, 2010

5th weekends!!

In many denominations, when pastors serve more than one church they alternate weekends between congregations.

Three or four times a year there will come a month that has five weekends instead of four. Those weekends are "off". They get to be spent with the grandparents, or on a romantic getaway, or just sitting through a worship service together as a family/couple in another church listening to someone ELSE preach!

No matter what you do, if you get 5th weekends off it's special. Especially when they coincide with long holidays like Memorial Day!

© Sarah K. Asaftei, 2009 unless otherwise sourced. Use allowed by express written permission only.

(Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone.)


positive discipline - part 2

>> May 26, 2010

OK, there were no comments on my last post about positive discipline. I don’t know if that means you didn’t read it, you disagree with what I said, or if nobody wants to talk about how we discipline (or should) our kids. I invite you to comment on today’s post just so I know you are out there!

Last week we discussed how it is our responsibility and duty to discipline—to make disciples of Christ out of—our children. I also shared how it is one of my least favorite aspects of parenting. However, when your children respond positively, and exhibit the qualities that you are trying to instill in them, it is sooooo rewarding! We all know how it feels when they misbehave, especially in front of those gossiping church members. Well, it feels equally--if not even more—impacting when they behave like we want them to.

Today let’s talk more about the aspects of positive discipline. We learned last week how “PD” should be prayerful and proactive. A third principle is consistency. PD should always be consistent. Some of the biggest problems in our home has been because my husband and I haven’t always dealt with our children in the same way. I am not criticizing my dear PH in any way, but I have had more opportunity to “hone and perfect” my disciplining skills, simply because of my studies, and because I am with the kids more often. Kids easily learn how to manipulate and navigate a team of two disjointed parents. My hubby is doing much better in this area now, and we more unified.

However, lack of consistency doesn’t have to be between two parents. It can also be an issue for one parent, in how they handle discipline from one instance to another. I personally have struggled with this because of health issues. I have fibromyalgia, and I am not always well. Sometimes I haven’t felt like putting the energy forth to handle a situation in the manner that I knew it should be handled. Consequently, my kids may push the limits more often, because they know sometimes they might get away with the misbehavior. And my kids aren’t alone! Every child will cross boundaries that are not consistently enforced.

Fourth, PD should be firm. This goes along with consistency. Wimpy discipline is as ineffective as inconsistent discipline. God is certainly not wimpy in His discipline of us; neither should we be in the discipline of our children. With that said, we should not be overzealous in the area of corporal punishment. Whether you believe in spankings or not, I’m sure we could all agree that it should be the last resort. And when you do utilize corporal punishment, do it prayerfully and slowly. I remember as a kid watching on Little House on the Prairie how Pa would take the kids out to the barn to spank them. It was a slow, deliberate process, rather than just an emotional reaction.

And fifth, PD should be swift. This is not in contradiction to what I just said about corporal punishment. Swift means that when something happens you deal with it immediately. Younger children, especially, will not remember what they have done wrong, and the teachable moment will have passed by. However, there is nothing wrong with “suspending judgment”. By that I mean when something happens, you address it immediately, but delay the “sentencing” for a later time, after you have had time to pray and think about it, and perhaps discuss it with your husband. My PH likes to call it the “icing time” (where you put them on hold--or on ice) and it does have its benefits. The child has time to think about what he/she has done, and we have time to calm down and prayerfully come up with an effective punishment.

So to recap, positive discipline is prayerful, proactive, consistent, firm and swift. Next week we will continue our discussion on this aspect of parenting, and how it should be positive and constructive, rather than negative and destructive.

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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>> May 24, 2010

Four times a year our church celebrates the Last Supper with a foot-washing ceremony and partaking of unleavened bread and grape juice. Every time we show up and I see that white cloth draped over the dishes, I stop in my tracks for a minute, suddenly feeling exposed at the core of my selfishness. I guess that's why a lot of people don't come to church when we're celebrating Communion.

I stand in that moment of vulnerability, wishing I'd done my repentin' before I got to church and had showed up with my heart bleached and starched with nothing to be remorseful of. What's amazing is how many times it's right after a fight with my husband or a fall to temptation. I want to run away. I don't measure up. I deserve a spanking, not to partake of this symbol of purity and selflessness. And every time, in that moment of shame, I remind myself that this is exactly what it was meant for. If that blood was shed for the chief of sinners, certainly it was shed for a disgruntled pastor's wife who never quite feels like she makes the cut.

And it's not just a reminder that forgiveness is always mine. It's a reminder that Jesus measured up, and I can stop bearing the shame of my own shortcomings. It's a reminder that He finished the fight and won the race and He holds out the victory cup as a free gift to me, the guy who straggled in last. It's all there, symbolized by that sip of red juice and that crumbly cracker. All that's left is for me to remember the lesson more often than four times a year. Four times a day might be about right....

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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bon voyage (part 3)

(Read part 1 and part 2 here.)

lessons from the bus
life revolves around waiting

“Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” Ps. 27:14

When I hear the word "wait", and half a dozen Bible verses come to mind along with a dozen Bible stories.

It was a word I heard often growing up in regards to vacation, holidays, visitors coming, getting some desired item, learning to drive, etc. It is now a word I say over and over to my 2 1/2 year old son.

And yet, I find it incredibly hard to follow the command myself. In the Western culture of get-it-now, it is increasingly hard to comprehend this small word. Not only are we, as adults, given little reason to practice waiting, but we are encouraged to meet every need and desire of our children, almost to the point of removing the lesson of waiting.

One day recently, needing to run several errands down town before lunch time, our Western cultural mindset about waiting had a head-on collision with the cultural mindset where we serve as missionaries. My husband and I headed out to find a bus. We decided to go to a different bus stop than our usual because we'd discovered that this new bus would get us downtown without all the traffic problems of our regular route.

Proud of our new knowledge, we sat down at the bus stop to wait. And wait we did. No one else on the street was waiting for the bus. We watched up and down the street for the bus, but there was none to be seen. It seemed that when we did not need the bus, it was on this street, and now we needed it and it was missing in action.

My husband finally said to me, “It is a whole different mentality here isn’t it? For most of the people here, there is no jumping in your car and getting stuff done on your time frame. Life revolves around waiting…”

Life revolves around waiting. Isn’t this one of the many themes in the Bible? 

God wants our life to revolve around waiting on Him. When we wait, we have to let go of our time frame and our priorities, and just chill out.
Wait, watch, enjoy the process.
Life is a journey.
Today is not my destination.
God’s desires for me are my destination.
Now is the journey, and that means now is the time to develop the art of waiting on God.

Amazingly enough, about the same time as our bus adventure, we received a book entitled “Waiting on God” by Andrew Murray. What a blessing this book has been to me! The author bases each chapter off of a Bible verse that relates to waiting. How easy it is to wait on God and how hard I makes it sometimes! Yet, God sends rain in the right season and He causes all things to grow.

I am thankful for a convoluted bus system and a language barrier to remind me to wait on God, connect with my community, and open my arms to one more.

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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the pastoral family and money (part2)

>> May 21, 2010

getting out of debt

The average American has more than 3 credit cards and is over $16,000 in debt! Sadly, Christians and pastoral families are often in the same boat with everyone else.

Just a few decades ago, if you wanted a car, you saved until you could buy one. If you wanted a house, you saved up for a big downpayment. If you wanted a new pair of shoes, you had to have cash in hand.

Now, if we let him, my 7-month old son could open a credit card and go on a spending spree.

Debt is bondage. Solomon knew that way back when he wrote "...the borrower is a slave to the lender." (Proverbs 22:7) The bible urges us over and over to be debt-free, and to live within our means. That can be a real challenge - especially when pastors don't usually make a lot of money.

About 5 years ago, my PH and I decided to get out of debt. We had the average American credit card balance, plus a car payment, school loans and a mortgage. We got on board with one of the great bible-based money management programs out there called "Total Money Makeover" and changed how we looked at spending money.

Since then, we lived on beans and rice for a while, and paid off our credit cards, cars, and so on. We're selling our house (since we moved to a new church district anyway), and put a big dent in the school loans. It's tough at the moment, because I'm not earning a paycheck since our little guy came along last year, but having a cash-only mindset made the transition to living on one salary MUCH easier!

We've cultivated habits of watching for sales, clipping coupons, buying in bulk, and skipping pricey indulgences - and it has made a huge difference!

What about you?
Have you decided to go biblical and be debt-free?
How did you do it?
How does your family model biblical money management as spiritual leaders?

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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positive discipline - part 1

>> May 19, 2010

What do you think of when you hear the word “discipline”? Punishment? Spankings? Groundings? I think of the most unpleasant task of parenting. But the word discipline actually means “to make disciples.”

In other words, it means to train and teach our children about the character of God. The Bible tells us that it is our responsibility to teach our children the commandments of God, and we are to do so diligently (Deut. 6:6-9). The Bible also says in Proverbs 13:24 that if we fail to discipline our child, then we are failing to love them!

Discipline doesn’t have to be unpleasant. It should be positive in nature. Positive discipline? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Those two words don’t seem to go together in the same sentence. But they should always be together. Discipline shouldn’t be anything but positive.

What is positive discipline? It is discipline that is encouraging and uplifting in nature, designed to constructively teach the child the ways of the Lord.

Today I will give you an overview of some of the principles of positive discipline. These ten aspects make the difference between positive, constructive discipline, and that which is negative and destructive.

Positive Discipline should be:

· Prayerful
· Proactive
· Consistent
· Swift
· Firm
· Honest
· Clear
· Appropriate
· Fair
· Level-headed

I will deal with the first two aspects today, and then the other principles in later posts.

Prayerful – We should first have a consistent prayer life in order to stay in tune with God, and constantly pray for our children’s growth and development. We should also pray everytime we are confronted with having to discipline our child, so that God can lead us according to His will. Additionally, we should make prayer with our child a part of the discipline process; and finally, we should always follow-up with prayer that the imposed discipline will be effective and constructive.

Proactive – The more proactive we are in discipline, the fewer problems we will have to deal with. Children thrive on structure and boundaries. If those boundaries and expectations have been made clear to our children, then we won’t have as many problems. Also, children will tend to misbehave when their structure is interrupted.

It is especially important to be consistent with mealtimes and bedtimes, as hunger and fatigue are major causes of bad behavior. Additionally, if we affirm good behavior, and communicate our love to children in ways they can easily understand (i.e. using their love languages), then we have gone a long way to alleviate many problems.

As pastoral families, we are watched in how we handle our children. Unfortunately, PKs are often seen as the worst behaved kids in church. I believe it is simply because church members expect more from PKs. That may be untrue and unfair, but the fact is, we can model the positive disciplining of our children. Let’s give them something good to talk about!

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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my first 1/2 marathon

>> May 17, 2010

I'm a runner.

It's a relatively new thing for me; I started for the first time last year. Since then I've run a 5K and a 5.7 mile marathon relay leg. I'm not fast, but I'm gettting faster. Just a couple of weeks ago I ran my first 1/2 marathon! 13.1 miles! From the girl who somehow got away without even running a mile in high school, this is big!

My experience in this 1/2 marathon was such a metaphor for life! Some quick background info... The day before I ran, my PH preached about Gideon. About how God stripped away all the "support" Gideon had (all those soldiers He filtered out to leave him with only 300 against 132,000) so the credit for the victory could be given 100% back to God. It was to help me in the middle of my race the next day.

I trained well for the past 2 months and really felt strong going into this. I had no doubt that I could do it. And I felt that I would be able to do it faster than before. I felt pretty confident. But about halfway through, I pushed up a hill and it was all downhill from there! And I don't mean elevation. Somehow I messed up the tendons in my left foot and suddenly I could hardly walk, much less run. I was ready to cry! (Actually I did.) For 3/4 of a mile I limped my way to where my PH and kids were waiting to cheer for me. I was afraid I was going to have to quit after I had worked so hard!

After I talked with them and decided to just keep going, as slow as I needed to, I limp-walked another mile or so. Then the song on my iPod encouraged me to try and run. It was one I put on my playlist just for variety and because the background beat was steady - Twila Paris's "Do I Trust You Lord?" The words really hit me... "Sometimes my little heart can't understand what's in your will, what's in your plan. Sometimes I'm tempted to ask you Why?... Do I trust you Lord?" and so on.

I realized that I had been stripped of my own strength (for whatever reason) and I had nothing to rely on now except what God could help me with. I proceeded to run the last 4 or so miles with pain in every step, finishing the 1/2 marathon in 2:40. And... I give all the glory to God!!

So, what does this have to do with everyday life?


Do you feel confident that you have what it takes to meet the day? Do you figure you've got it all under control? Then, have you ever had everything fall apart? Life just unravels and you can't figure out why?

Maybe God is letting us be stripped of our confidence so that we learn to truly trust and rely on Him. He lets the bottom fall out so we have nowhere to look except to Him. We often want to give Him glory in our lives, but with our own plans and our own methods. That doesn't cut it! Especially in the pastor's home, we each have to learn to live so that we can't help but give God the glory because we've specifically depended on Him in each situation.

I really want to live the words in Proverbs 3:5,6. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not onto your own understanding. In ALL your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths." Let's lean on Him for everything... before we twist our ankles or fall flat on our faces!

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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the pastoral family and money (part1)

>> May 14, 2010

living the high life... (or not!)

My PH likes to spoil me. 

It's one of the (many) reasons I love him so much. That, and the fact that he's truly a great preacher - so I don't have to listen to boring sermons every weekend just because I'm married to the pastor and can't go anywhere else!
And this week was a big one in our family. On Sunday we celebrated my very first Mother's Day. Yesterday was our 7th wedding anniversary. Two very good occasions for spoiling, if I say so myself! 

And like the wonderful and generous man he is, he got me an iPad. Not ridiculously bank-breaking extravagant, but definitely a nice gift. Something I'd been drooling over for a while now, but didn't think we could afford - so I hadn't bothered to ask.

The thing is, I'd really like to show off my fabulous new gadget - but I'm not sure I should. You know how it goes...

People start to wonder how the pastor will wisely manage the church's money if it looks like his family is too well off. Nobody wants to trust a man who's wife appears spendthrift. 

You can drive a brand new Honda and nobody will blink. But if you decide to save a lot of money and pay cash for an $8,000 BMW - the congregation will think you're high-maintenance. (And yes, we drive Hondas - but we buy them used!)

Maybe in some churches, money isn't an issue. But the majority of pastoral families I know tend to be on the lower end of broke. Ministry just isn't a career for making money. And that's fine with me. I'm the queen of bargain shopping. I love finding an outfit on the $14.99 clearance rack at TJ Maxx that looks like it cost a lot more.

So when my hunny takes our unexpected tax return and uses it to make me happy, I don't feel guilty. I do, however, feel obligated somehow to let people know that it wasn't a wasteful purchase. Because I know that plenty of members gauge their trust in God's church by their observation of God's ministers. But honestly, it gets exhausting to explain over and over again.

I'm thinking maybe I'll just leave it home and delight over it in private. 
How about you? How do you handle inquiries or observations from your members about money? 

Next Friday: "the pastoral family and money (part2) - getting out of debt"

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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dear abigail::what about when gossip comes straight to me?

>> May 13, 2010

Dear Abigail,
I love to talk to people in our church, but it seems like often times they think that I need to know every detail about everyone else. People will complain about the last pastoral family, or fill me in on the latest scoop of other members' trials or scandals. 

I'm uncomfortable listening to gossip, but I don't want to be rude. I'd like to know how I can let people know that it's not okay to be gossip to me about others, without making them feel like I don't want to chat. 
It's really important to me to be trustworthy with the information I'm given, and I don't want to betray people's trust. How can I put a stop to all the gossipers without damaging my relationships?
~Desiring To Be Discreet
Dear Discreet,
Gossip isn't new to our generation. King Solomon wrote that "A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy [wo]man keeps a secret." (Proverbs 11:13
Paul wrote about people who know God but choose to keep on being evil - and yes, he calls gossip evil. He lumps gossip in with envy, murder, and deceit. (See Romans 1:29-32).  The Apostle John made it a point to deal with gossip straight on, you can read about it 3 John 1:9-11.

Try creating a standard answer that you can always fall back on when conversation turns into gossip. It might sound something like:
"Have you talked to ______ (the person in question) about this? Because I'm really not the person to help you with the situation. It would be better to just talk to so-and-so about it."


"You know, I've been really trying to make sure that I don't talk about anyone who isn't here to defend themselves, so if it's alright with you, can we change the subject?"


"I don't want to judge, but this sounds like gossip to me. It isn't my place to hear this, but maybe you should talk to them directly about how you feel!"

Whatever you choose to say, be kind yet firm. If they keep right on gossiping, then excuse yourself from the conversation and walk away. If they didn't mean to be gossiping, your statement will be a gentle rebuke and they should be happy to change the topic. And if they get mad at you even when you've been kind, that's okay too - it just shows their heart. 

If someone continues gossiping relentlessly, perhaps it needs to be a matter for your PH to deal with. He might make a personal visit, or take them to lunch, and help them see the damage that they are causing.

Some great scripture texts about gossip include: Proverbs 16:28, 18:8, 20:19, 26:20, 26:22; 2 Corinthians 12:20 and 1 Timothy 5:13.

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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the family ebenezer

>> May 12, 2010

My mother has a small rock, about 3 inches long and 2 inches wide, sitting on her dresser. On it is written the word, “Ebenezer.” Now I don’t know what would come to your mind, but I always think of Ebenezer Scrooge when I see it—you know, the grumpy old man who had a life-changing experience on Christmas Eve. I know that isn’t what it means, but I tease her anyway about having a rock with an old man’s name on her dresser.

What it actually means is “stone of help.” She keeps it there to remind her that God is her help. It all comes from the Bible, when Samuel placed a stone at Mizpah after the Isrealites defeated the Philistines rather miraculously (see 1 Samuel 7:12). This ebenezer was meant to be an altar, a monument, a place to help the Isrealites remember God’s help.

Each family, especially each pastoral family, should have their own ebenezer. I don’t mean placing a big stone in the middle of your living room and praying before it. I mean that we should each have a family altar, a place where we worship and honor God for his help. I mean that we should each have a regular family worship time. Here are the 5 W’s of family worship:

Why should we have family worship?

It is a time where the family gathers together and worships God. The family altar is extremely beneficial because it is a place to discuss your faith, to worship together, to discover God, to transmit your faith and values, to build memories, to listen to each other, to pray together, and to address relevant issues.

Who is involved in family worship?

Everyone. The entire family. It should ideally be led by the father, as he is the priest of the home. However, everyone should be involved. Once the kids get old enough, it is fun for them to sometimes plan and lead a worship. And we all know as PWs that our hubbies are not often around in the evening, so we might have to lead out when he isn’t there.

When should we have it? 

Preferably in the morning and evening. But our schedules are often so crazy, that any time your family can consistently have family worship is the time you should plan for. Maybe around the breakfast table. Maybe after baths at night, before the kids go to bed. Even if you can’t have a morning worship because everyone is rushing out the door, at least have a family prayer before everyone leaves.

Where should we have it? 

Anywhere! It could be around the table, or on the couch in the living room (wouldn’t a crackling fire make it cozy?). Maybe gathered around the piano. Or perhaps snuggled up on the kids’ beds before bedtime. How about going outside to worship (there is a stream near our house where we like to go)? In the car on the way to a church service. However, even though it can take place anywhere, the best place is somewhere consistent.

What should we do for family worship?

This, of course, depends on the ages in your family. The purpose is to discover God, so the best place to start is the Bible. However, Bible story books or family devotionals may be a great bet for younger kids. Share your own stories, or share objects from nature. God has written His character all over creation! Every family worship should include prayer, but music is usually included in our family worships. We also like to play Bible games, perform skits or role plays, or other active learning activities.

The beauty of family worship is that you can tailor it to fit your family’s needs and tastes. Make it fun and meaningful. Vary the format at times. Consider the ages of your family members and create it for them. The important thing is to keep it consistent, purposeful, relevant, and godly.

But I must warn you—as soon you start to have family worship in your home, Satan will try to stop you, and put all kinds of distractions and disruptions in your way! Don’t let him! Treasure your “family ebenezer” and do whatever it takes to be faithful with it. When we worship God as a family, and honor Him for the help He brings us everyday, we will draw closer to Him, and to each other. Isn’t that what we all want in our homes?


© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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mother's day poll...

>> May 11, 2010

What's the nicest thing anyone's ever done for you on Mother's Day? 

C'mon girls, 'fess up!

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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a mother's prayer

>> May 9, 2010

I need You - Lord,
So often through the day. 
For tiny, mischief-making hands, 
For little feet that play. 

I need You - Lord,
 Especially at night when they fear,
 To fill the darkened corners with
 Your steady, quenchless light. 

By their sick beds - Lord 
I need you always to be there. 
Bless this anxious mother's heart, 
As well as each of these small ones. 

You taught my heart to seek You, 
 Helped my stubborn knees to bow, 
Then entrusted these little ones to me. 
Now, I need You - Lord, to help me 
Bless each day for these little ones.

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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dear abigail::how can I adapt to PW life in a foreign culture?

>> May 6, 2010

Dear Abigail,
About 3 years ago I came to France on a teach-abroad program, planning to stay here for 7 months. Seven months turned into a lot longer because I met my husband, a French-American pastor in downtown Paris. 

We've been married about 8 months and in some ways it's been the most overwhelming time I've ever experienced. Relationally we're really enjoying married life, but on every other level I'm really struggling. 

I find myself resentful of so many things: attempting to minister in a language that's not my own, pressure to entertain in a way that's up to French meal standards, missing friends and family back home (feeling very lonely!), unspoken pressure at church to be more involved in church activities, disliking my church's style and wishing I could have chosen my church, and alternating between feeling invisible and like a celebrity next to my husband. 

All this is added to stress of learning a new language and culture. Sometimes it just makes me want to scream or cry, or both!  I want to rise above these feelings and really love the church rather than resent my new role but I just don't know how. Any advice? ~ PW in Paris

Dear Paris,
I know firsthand how it feels to marry into a another culture. The different ways of communicating, the unexpected expectations, the feeling that you are always stepping on eggshells to keep from unintentionally offending someone at church or in your extended family. After 7 years in a cross-cultural marriage, I can tell you that the first years are the hardest - and if you work at it together as a team the culture shock will eventually fade.

When it comes to being "the foreign PW", sometimes it can feel like you're wearing a bulls-eye. Everyone watches the PW in a normal church, but when you're crossing cultures it seems that the expectations can be even higher! You are not alone!

Here are a few ideas for making your new life a little easier:
  • Make sure you stay connected with the "folks back home". Use Skype to webchat for free, or keep a blog to show them your photos of daily/weekly life and share what has been happening.
  • Check around to see if there are any other non-French PWs in your area. Contact them and ask if they'd be willing to get together sometime. See what advice they may have to share (if they've been living there for a while), or they might become a partner in the process if they are new at it too!
  • Observe the ladies in your church and ask one or two to be your "French mentor". Ask them to teach you the art of French cooking, or if they'd be willing to have a coffee date once a week so you can practice your language skills. Pick women who are great at the things you want to learn, and ask them to help you "become more French"! They'll likely love the opportunity to "improve" you, and you can gain new friends and cultural insights in the process. 
  • Don't give in to the pressure to do or be more than you are able right now. Those abilities will come as you grow. Try selecting just one (two at the most) church activities to involve yourself, and politely decline other requests. (You may need to solicit your husband to be your protector in this. People will probably take it from him much better than from you if he is the one urging the members to respect your boundaries.) 
  • Remember that going to a church that's "not your style" isn't unique to ministry in another country. That's just part of being a PW. Lots of PWs show up every weekend to minister beside their husbands in churches that they wouldn't pick if they were just a member. And almost every PW on the planet has probably had to do it at some point or another. Remember that this congregation isn't necessarily a lifetime assignment, but your relationships with the people in this church can be for life. Eventually your husband will pastor elsewhere, and most likely you'll miss something(s) about this church very much.
  • Focus on the things you can change. You can't change living in France. You can't change being a PW. You probably can't change how much you desperately miss home. But you can change the way you cook for others, and the language you speak, and maybe even your fashion style - in order to become closer to the people around you. Try to make those things as enjoyable and social as possible, and you might even learn to like new ways of doing things! Most of all, don't let other people's cultural expectations come between you and your PH. 
~ Abigail

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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families under fire

>> May 5, 2010

Do you ever feel like your family is under fire? Well, that’s because it is. Satan is attacking families, especially pastoral families. We, and the families in our churches, are battling financial stress, work pressures, infidelity and abuse. We are dealing with addictions, safety concerns, health problems and special needs. And probably the most pressing, but the most challenging, is raising our children in a difficult world.

Why does Satan target families? Because that is where it hurts. Because that is where we are most vulnerable. Because that is where he can be the most destructive. He knows that a family is where we build our society, where we develop our sense of self, and where we are affirmed and loved. A family is where we strengthen each other, where we transmit our values and faith, and where we shape the future. If our family life is hurting, it is hard to function successfully in other areas of our lives.

The Bible shares with us in Malachi 4:7:

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”

This text predicts family troubles and break downs at the end of time, but it also offers HOPE!

I am offering a series at our church, as part of an evangelistic series, entitled Families Living with Hope. We are focusing on strengthening and encouraging families. I thought I would share with you in my next several posts some of what I am sharing in my series. And hopefully it will help you in your own families first, but also in dealing with hurting families in your churches.

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
Use allowed by express written permission only.
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breaking out

>> May 4, 2010

I always thought of myself as an outgoing person before I became a pastor’s wife. I dove head first into being a partner to my husband, attending meetings with him and trying to pull together events. I quickly became discouraged and disillusioned by “culture shock” and found it harder and harder open myself up and play the social butterfly. After three years in our district, I’m ashamed to say there are many people I’ve never gotten to know.

I recently experienced a pangs of guilt as watched the familiar figure of a single dad with his two bored-looking kids file into the pew in front of me. I had never talked to them. The boy, about 12 with freckles and spiky blond hair, had made himself infamous by making rude and disrespectful comments to some of the other patrons. The girl always looked like she had just crawled out of bed with a vacant stare and rumpled hair.

After the service I overheard the father trying in vain to talk his kids into coming into the fellowship hall for lunch. The kids sauntered around like they didn’t care. “Are you guys going to come in?” I asked.

To my surprise they immediately said, “Sure,” and walked right inside.

I found myself near the girl once inside. I guess I’d been too intimidated by these kids to be friendly. So I forged ahead and started asking the girl questions. I had never ever learned her name. I was again pleasantly surprised by how easily she opened up, and by what I learned about her. It was so neat to see how the kids and the people sitting around them opened up and chatted during lunch.

The same afternoon we went out to a grassy spot by the lake with some other church members. In attendance was a family we hadn’t gotten to know well. This particular church has been divided by prejudices which had prevented some valuable friendships from forming. It was beautiful to watch walls begin to come down after so much strife and prayer.

A few days later I was surprised to get an e-mail from the couple’s daughter, a girl who came across as sullen and superior. Even though I always suspected she was just shy, I’d never been successful in drawing her out. Now she was writing me a little note, a casual hand reached across the gap to make friends. I felt honored and motivated to pull down my own barriers and try harder to find the hearts buried in the people around me. Why does it take so long?

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


HOW TO::buy more local veggies without breaking the bank

>> May 3, 2010

My last post was all about becoming a vegetarian and not shaving your legs ever again.  Just kidding... I know all good PWs shave and get their nails done at least once a week!

Actually, my last post was about being a better steward of our earth by eating meat more eco-consciously.  In our home I've successfully added more veggie-based protein meals in our diet.  But that's not the only way to save money and be a better friend to nature.  It's important to include happy veggies in our diets, too.  I don't mean drawing smiley faces on your carrots with a Sharpie, but I am suggesting that you think a little before grabbing that bagged salad shipped from 2,359 miles away. 

We all know that buying local veggies and fruits (which isn’t always practical in Minnesota in JANUARY - where we live) is the eco-friendly way to go. But how do we do this?

Do you have to grow your own garden or move to a farm? Well, you can -- but that’s not the only option. A few years ago my PH Craig, and his ├╝ber-green friend Keegan, decided to grow an organic garden in our driveway a few summers ago.  It was a dismal failure.  If “driveway” doesn’t scream D.I.S.A.S.T.E.R in LED headlights to you, then you need a vacation away from church/kids/housework even more than I do!
So how do we buy local?  How can we afford organic veggies for our families? Here are a couple ways we can be better friends of the earth -- and save a little money doing so:

find a local farmer’s market
Even our small town has a farmer’s market open during the spring/summer/fall months on Saturday mornings and Wednesday afternoon.  If you've never frequented a farmer’s market, you are missing out on a wonderful microcosm of American culture. 

There's something amazing about buying cucumbers from the hands that grew them. You might also discover a community of people and friends you didn’t know existed. As my kids are enjoying their honey sticks and cupcakes, we often run into friends and vow to meet up for a play date or a grill out later in the day. In our family we are ALL OVER building relationships with the community where we live. Farmer's markets are a super easy way to do that.

I guess you could do the same thing in the produce section at SuperTarget, but there is something definitely more earthy about chatting about how big the kids are getting between the locally made cupcake table and the young high-schooler selling beets from her family’s farm.

support a CSA
I bet you have no clue what the heck a CSA is!  No, it doesn't stand for the Club for Sunday-haters Anonymous, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  Usually, it means you buy a “share” in a local farm.  The actual dollar amount can vary a lot depending on where you live, what produce the farm is growing, length of growing season, etc.

In return, you get a box of produce every week during the summer months. Done. You are buying locally, supporting local farmers, eating what’s in season, and building a better community.

Sometimes CSA's can be an expensive option up front (one of our local farms charges $640 for a share for the season) but you will save money in the long run.  Sometimes these farms also have the option of you actually working for your food.  In lieu of cash, they will let you actually put in time on the farm helping them grow their veggies.  Most of these farms are very eco-conscious and use very few- if any chemical pesticides and herbicides.

For more information, check out

buy what’s in season
This is one of those things that’s really tricky for me.  I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s when you just ate what you wanted when you wanted to.  Nobody really cared about organic things or being “green.” If it was the middle of the winter and you wanted tomato on your burger, you just got one from the grocery store, no matter how pink-ish it looked or how flavorless it tasted.

Its sad, but I never really thought about what was in season or not, or even how those factors affected the food's taste.  That is, until I moved to Italy to do an internship when I was 21.

I never really liked fruit until I tasted fruit in Italy. It was fresh. It was amazing. It was full of flavor. It didn’t taste like the inside of a cardboard box. I'd never thought about how food could really taste if it wasn’t ripened while sitting in the back of a semi truck. I still long for juicy tomatoes, luscious peaches, and basil grown on an Italian balcony.

So back to eating what’s in season.

First, get a subscription to a good food magazine.  My favorite is Everyday Food (it’s a Martha Stewart publication, check out for more info). It has a section in every issue that tells what’s in season and how to cook it. Not only will you have yummier tasting fruits and veggies, they will be a whole heck of a lot cheaper.

Secondly, buy things when they are in season and stock up.  You can freeze things, or if you are really daring - can them!  (I'm a canning pansy but secretly I want to learn this lost art.)  We make freezer jam from strawberries and raspberries.  I make lots of tomato sauce in the summer.  I even found yummy things to do with squash in the fall!   

I hope this helps you think a little bit more about how we PWs can become better stewards of this amazing world God has given us, and set an example for our parishioners as well.  If it all seems overwhelming, just remember that anything you do helps.  Take it one “bite” at a time!        

Got a HOW TO question for Jenah? 
Ask her to post about it by sending her an email with the SUBJECT "HOW TO" at clutchtalk (at) gmail (dot) com. 

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

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