a father's love

>> July 28, 2010

This past week I have had a terribly tragic reminder of the beauty of love. It has been gutwrenching for our church and community.

A 46 year old man and his family were vacationing in Wyoming, and had stopped for a picnic on the bank of the Snake River. The 10 year old son was playing on the edge of the river and somehow got pulled into the current. The father went to his rescue, and they were both swept into the strong pull of the river. After floating together for a short distance, Dad was finally able to push his son into the slower water where he could climb out safely. The son was rescued and unhurt. But the dad was pulled underwater, and never seen again. Rescue crews still have not been able to find him after 5 days of searching.

This family was a precious example of stability and love. Dad, Mom, Son (10) and Daughter (7). Father was incredibly engaged with his children and wife, and extremely active in his church and school community. He was an elder in the church, and the chair of the school board. He was well respected and admired by all. And he will be extraordinarily missed by all.

The son is dreadfully heartbroken, of course. He will live forever with the knowledge that his father died trying to save him. The challenge for his mother, and others who love and support him, will be to help him see that his father loved him so much that he gave his life for him, rather than his father died because of him. As he grows and matures, will he let that knowledge eat at him and discourage him; or will he let that knowledge uplift and encourage him?

That is exactly what Jesus did for us, too. He loved us so much that He gave His life for each of us. He willingly died on the cross for our sins, to save us, so that we could live with Him in Heaven forever. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Our purpose, as mothers, pastoral wives, daughters, sisters and friends, is to help others see how much God loves them, and what He gave for them. Our job is to help others be encouraged and uplifted, and even challenged, by that love.

I ask for your continued prayers for this family. Thank you for lifting them up to their Heavenly Father during this tragic time of their lives.

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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milk & honey

>> July 26, 2010

Dear Girlfriends,

Today I'm writing you a letter, normally I have an article but I felt a letter was needed.

There are times in ministry where it's just plain ugly and hard. Summers can be one of those times. (I think I just heard a chorus of amens across the internet.)

Summertime brings amazing memories and laughter but also sometimes tears. So many times in ministry Summer beats us down... way down. People are gone on vacation, they sleep in, they are busy with activities and church becomes an afterthought. Tithing drops, attendance fluctuates and your hubby can get discouraged. If God has promised great things for your family and your church, then you need to keep reading, and stand on this in discouraging times.

Numbers 23:19 says "God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promiseand not fulfill?"  When summer makes other people flaky, don’t evaluate God’s reliability like a human’s. God will never lie, never deceive, never mislead, and God will not change His mind. You can trust God, you can rely on Him, to keep His promises in every detail.

Joshua 23:14: "Not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed."

I truly believe that there are times that are so hard in ministry. So I want to encourage you to use the slow summer months to spy on your city.

Go see that your city is flowing with milk and honey, but don't be discouraged by that fruit. The city is powerful with lots of people, issues and things to overcome, but use this time to ask God to direct you and your husband where he may lead.

Pray over your city. Instead of fighting against the things that seem so heavy, flow with it, change it up, and speak life over your city, your church and your marriage.

Spend your influence wisely and leave your sweet smelling scent wherever you may go! Meet new people, and develop relationships. Enjoy your family!!!

And go read Psalm 48!!!

Embrace your summer, ladies, it goes so fast!

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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on VBS programs...

>> July 22, 2010

Last week our church held VBS. 

We had about 50 kids, ages 3-11, and another 15 teenagers as assistant staff. About half of the kids were from the community, and quite a few returned this year because they came last year. 

It was my first time doing VBS in this church district, since we moved here last winter. This was also my first time using a pre-packaged set of materials. In the past when I've done VBS, we've always done it the "hard" way - you know, where you make all your own crafts, come up with all your own decorations, and create all your own program elements. There's definitely something to be said about the ease of a fully packaged set, but I've enjoyed the uniqueness of having original material as well. 

Every church, in every country, has a different experience and unique ideas to offer. 

A friend of mine is a youth pastor in the UK. She does an adaptation of something called "Messy Church", a hands-on, whole-family church service once a month. She says it's kind of like VBS, but every month, all year long. 

So what does your church do? What's your favorite way to minister to children through VBS or something similar? How do you make it scriptural yet engaging?

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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going home

>> July 21, 2010

Ahhh…the feel of coming home. As we drive around the serene Pennsylvania countryside, with the peaceful cows munching on grass, and the gentle rolling hills dotted with farmhouses and barns, a sigh escapes my lips. My husband asks, “Why the sigh?” and I honestly don’t know the answer.

You see, we left Pennsylvania four years ago to take a call in Georgia. We have come back to visit family. His family. He is the PA native; I am the GA girl. Of course they are my family too, as I love them with all my heart; but my family is all in Georgia. So why this sigh of nostalgia, of longing? When I lived here I longed for Georgia. But now that we are living in Georgia, I long for here.

“Do you wish we could come back?” my husband asks.

Do I? Yes, in many ways. However, things have changed here. People have moved, new people have come. Places are different, dynamics are different. We could never recapture now the way it was then.

I turn my thoughts to our current home. I love the people and the church dearly. I love the Georgia way. I love the vibrancy of our ministry. I especially love being near my family. My husband and I have grown so much over the four years we have been in our new church, and our children have thrived. So why am I so melancholy at this moment?

I ponder this question, and quietly pray for an answer.

The answer comes to my spirit in a whisper:

Because that was your home. But where you are now is your home. Every place I have put you is your home. I have grown and developed you in each place, and each place has become a part of who you are. And I will continue to grow you where I plant you in the future. However, you will never be fully content, because your true home isn’t here on this earth—it is in Heaven, with Me. That is where your Home is, and that is what your heart longs for.

Perhaps this combined sense of longing for the past, but yearning for the future, that I live with--that I thought plagued me—is straight from God. It doesn’t mean I’m not content where I am. It means that I am always ready for whatever God has in store. Each place, each new adventure, is just one step closer to our final destination.

Ahhh…the feel of going home!

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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>> July 14, 2010

A few weeks ago the mail carrier came to our door with a package. I LOVE packages, and since I’m a homeschooler, the package is usually filled with books. Well, this package was SUPPOSED to be filled with books, but the box was ripped and torn, and there was nothing in it. The mail carrier looked apologetic, and said that the box had apparently broken, and the contents had fallen out somewhere between here and Denver. She gave us a form to fill out, and left me with not only a broken box, but a broken heart.

You see, inside this box was about $500 worth of books, a year’s curriculum for my boys. The thought of all those beautiful books lost in a some postal warehouse--or even worse—dumpster, just about brought tears to my eyes. My son was equally devastated, because he loves books as much as I do, and he was especially interested in the subject of many of these books (world history through the perspective of transportation).

However, I did have some consolation: I had purchased insurance! Even though the contents of the package were lost, I knew that I would be reimbursed the monetary value of the books, plus the postage price. Now, considering that the USPS is a government agency, I knew that it would take some time to see that money, but I would see it nonetheless.

I was reminded immediately of how our lives are broken and lost forever, but God has given us insurance as well, in His Son, Jesus. When Jesus died on the cross for us, He purchased an insurance policy, if you will, on each and every one of us. We each can choose whether to “cash in” on that policy, but it is available to every. single. person. Yes, we may have to wait a while until He returns and takes us home to Heaven, but we have the assurance of His return. Insurance. Assurance. What a beautiful thing.

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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on getting credentials...

>> July 13, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, my PH was ordained. In our church, that means he has proven himself during several years of ministry since his graduation from Seminary, and is now fully credentialed in our denomination for service anywhere in the world.

It was a special event. A milestone in his ministry. Bigger than his graduation from college or university. More than 175 friends, family members, old classmates, colleagues, mentors and church members gathered from across the country and overseas to celebrate with us. It was kind of like a wedding actually, and I'll admit I had no idea what I was getting into when the plans got started. I hadn't attended any similar ceremony for other pastors before, so I was clueless.

Before it was done, I was involved with planning a reception supper, decorations, centerpieces, special musical numbers, rides from the airport... You get the idea.

But it was beautiful. He cried during the blessing service. I cried watching him cry. His mentors showed up to walk him down the aisle and to pray over us as partners in ministry.

The congregation stretched their hands forward to join in the blessing.

The mentors and church leaders who spoke made a special point to include me in the blessing and consecration. They reminded us that while my hubby is "the Pastor", our lives are knit together and we both serve equally - if differently.

It was unforgettable. Sobering. Joyous. And a little intimidating, too. I was reminded of something that often gets lost in the minutiae of everyday routine - being a PW is big stuff.

We have the privilege and obligation of sharing life with men who's calling is to serve people. Who, by the nature of their existence are constantly touching people's lives in ways we may never fully know in this lifetime.

Pretty humbling notion.

What about you? What does your church/denomination do to recognize and credential pastors? Are you involved in the ceremony? If your husband has already experienced a similar ceremony, what was your favorite part? If not, what are you looking forward to about it?

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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complete him challenge - post #4

>> July 12, 2010

What do you admire most about your husband?

Whether you're participating in the Complete Him Summer Challenge on your own blog or not, it can't hurt for you to take a minute or two and ponder the things you like best about the most important man in your life...

Last year, I was going through a really rough patch. And, while it has always been our marriage policy not to whine about each other to outsiders, at this moment I was venting to a friend about my husband. (Hey, I'm not proud of it, but I'm being real here.) I was so frustrated, so my friend asked me straight out: "Tell me the worst thing you can think of about him!" I went on for a minute about socks left on the bedroom floor, and shoes scattered occasionally in front of the garage door, and... and...

"There are women getting beaten, and being verbally or mentally or physically abused all over the world," my friend said, "And you are in a snit over dirty socks?!? You should be ashamed of yourself! Go count your blessings that you are married to a godly man who loves you."

And so I was duly chastised. Then my friend made me recite some of my favorite things about my husband. It was a great little exercise, which I highly recommend. Here's a few of those things:

  • He's punctual. Often early, almost always on time, rarely ever late. It inspires my trust!
  • In 7.5 years of marriage, I can count on one hand the times I've had to actually ASK him to take out the trash. Most of the time it just magically disappears when the trash can is full. 
  • He's learned to fix things. Even though he didn't have a dad to teach him, he figures out how to make stuff work. 
  • He swapped nights with me when the baby was born - for months! No way you can't love a man who shoulders his part of the parenting load!
  • He has a great singing voice. 
  • He's a really great preacher. I can't imagine having to find something nice to say every weekend if I couldn't stand to hear my PH preach! Fortunately, he makes it easy...
  • He spends lots of time on his knees. When things get tough, he goes to God, and I admire that deeply.
  • He's doggone funny. He unwinds my "uptight" and makes me laugh, and he's spontaneous and happy without being unreliable - a hard balance to strike!
  • I could go on... but I don't want him to get a big head... Just kidding...
Your turn! What are some of your favorite things about your PH?

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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the name game

>> July 7, 2010

Top Baby Names of the Year, Celebrity Baby Names, etc. These, and the like, are threads I see frequently on Yahoo news (OK, I know it is “McNews”). How many of you have agonizingly deliberated for 9 months over the name choice of your children? For my husband and me, we never argued over it, but we could certainly get frustrated with each other. Choosing a name for your child is an important task—one you and your child will have to live with for the rest of their lives. For us, we chose family names mixed with names we just both liked. I still love the names we ended up with, and I thank God for leading us through that process.

Selecting a name for your child is serious business. Perhaps that is why this tip I am about to share with you is so important. I have found in ministry that if you remember the name of someone’s child, you have just exhibited your care not only for that child, but also for their parents. It is a simple task (sometimes easier said than done) that can mean the world to parents. When you are greeting a family at church, make sure to get down on the level of the child, and greet them using their name. The child LOVES to be greeted in such a fashion, and the parents will know that you care.

Now, with that said, it is also good to learn the name of the parents. Since my children are young, I often know people by who their child is. “Oh, you’re Caitlin’s mom.” Or, “Oh yes, Justin is your son.” Most parents are okay with this. But if you go the extra step and learn their names too, you will make a powerful impact.

I am blessed to be able to usually remember most names fairly easily, but my husband is not. So he is always asking me before we get to church what someone’s name is. (Isn’t is great how God puts us together with our complement!). But I am having to work harder lately. Perhaps it is because I am getting older, or because our current church is very culturally diverse, so I don’t have the “anchors” to link a name to.

So what if you are like my husband and can’t remember a name to save your life? Here’s what I do, and what I recommend for him to do. When I meet someone, I ask them to repeat their name to me, and perhaps even spell it. I look them in the face, and I repeat their name. In my mind, I see the name spelled out. I also try to make a connection to the name (the “anchor”), such as a former friend, a place, a Bible or literary character, etc. These tricks help me to usually be able to recall the name later on. And these tricks have helped me to touch lives in a very simple, yet powerful way.

A name is important to a person. It is who we are. So, I challenge you today to start learning the names of those in your church, especially the children. Try to learn a name or two a week, and see if it makes any difference in your ministry.

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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HOW TO::be ready for guests at a moment's notice

>> July 5, 2010

A few months ago, I was whining to my parent educator (yes, I am lucky enough to have a parent educator at my beck and call) about the week I was having.

In typical ministry-family style, our week had been completely nutty. I'm sure we had been sick or traveling or one of the kids was acting up or we were all fighting or the car had crapped out, or some other disaster had occurred. You know the drill. Maybe all those things  had happened at once, which is just as likely, but I don't remember.
Anyway, I do remember that my next complaint was: “...And to top it all off, Craig just called and said the in-laws are coming for an overnight visit in TWO HOURS.  Can you believe it?!”

I was expecting to see her grimace and give a sympathetic, “Oh geez…” but instead Katy’s earth shattering reply was, “You’ve got this.”

“Huh?”  I said.  I just sort of stared at her while it sunk in.

 “Jenah, I bet you have 4 meals frozen in your freezer right now, your house is completely picked up, and the sheets for the air mattress are probably clean and folded in your linen closet.  Go home and bake a coffee cake and you’ll be set.”

It was at that moment that I realized that I've learned to be ready for stuff like this to happen faster than you can pop microwave popcorn. As a PW, I've worked really hard to get to the point where I can handle this sort of thing -- no sweat.  If 10 people need to be fed at the last minute, I’m good.  If we have someone who needs a bed to flop into for a night, no biggie.  (As long as they’re ok with the bed being more like a couch or an air mattress.)

I walked away from our conversation feeling empowered, calm, proud of myself, and thankful that Katy pointed out this particular strength. And glad that she had the guts to give me the proverbial smack that I needed.

So how did I get to this point of amazing Zen-like calmness akin to that of those rock gardens with the sand and the rake?  Two words: work and preparation. Really, it isn't too hard to be prepared. It is more like anticipating that something is going to happen (whether it does or not) and being ready for it.  So here are a few things that I do to have my home ready for any guest, at almost any moment:

have tons of meals frozen
I probably have at least 25 meals frozen at any given time, but of course that’s just me being ridiculously over-prepared. And that’s the way I like it. (And I’ll share more about that at a later date.) I do have a deep freeze, it was a Christmas gift (one of the best gifts ever) but you don’t have to have 8.8 cubic feet of sub-zero frozen space to have meals ready.  Before Vienne (our third) was born, I didn’t have a deep freeze.  But I had about 4 dozen home made bread rolls as well as 5 freezer meals frozen in my little fridge freezer.

It's easy to double a recipe, and I have this awesome book called “Fix, Freeze, Feast” that is full of recipes to make bunches of meals at a time. I usually just make one of these recipes a week and before I know it, I have a plethora of feasts to choose from.  Just add a leafy (locally grown) salad and some bread -- you’re all set!

find a good cleaning system and stick to it
One of the best days of my life was the day I found MotivatedMoms.com, a website with a downloadable schedule for cleaning and keeping your house tidy. It costs about $9 for a year. It will be the best $9 you spend this week (besides the grande frappuccino and People magazine)! The moms who started this were busy moms who hated spending 23 ½ hours a day keeping up with the housework. They wanted a system that got stuff done, but left time to enjoy other things, too.

This system is so awesome, I want to marry it. Just kidding -- sort of. It breaks up everything you need to do into little “jobs” that usually don’t take more than a few minutes to complete.  Each day has daily jobs and weekly jobs.  Daily jobs would be wiping out the bathrooms sinks or washing dishes.  Weeklies would be cleaning toilets or dusting the master bedroom.  The thing that I like best about this system (besides the fact that I get to check things off a list -- awesome!) is that you are always in a state of clean.  You don’t do all your cleaning on one day of the week, you do a little everyday.  And if you happen to miss a day, no biggie, because the jobs will come around again soon.  

If you keep up with the jobs for the most part, you won’t have that oh-no-they’re-gonna-see-my-HOUSE moment every time your husband decides to invite a new family over for lunch after church.

buy stuff
This may sound like the dumbest statement I’ve ever made, but bear with me. I can’t tell you how many times I have averted disaster with a box of brownie mix.  Every time they are on sale (meaning boxed cakes and brownies) I buy a bunch.  Like four or five.  Then I know I can whip up a cake or some of my famous brownies in a minute or two.  (If you tell me you don’t have the things to pull boxed brownies together at the last minute, you’ve got more problems than I can help with. My deepest condolences.) And they freeze nicely if you have leftovers.

Once again girls, a little forethought goes a long way.  I also take advantage of the huge packs of canned chicken, craisins, and cashews at Sam’s.  Oh yes, you DID just pull together some chicken salad in the time it took you to update your status on Facebook.  

between the sheets…
When you have guests that sleep over, take that bedding and wash it… RIGHT AWAY.  I don’t know how many times I have thought, Oh no biggie, I’ll just wash this stuff later….  and then totally forget about it. Until my husband calls and says we’re have guests in an hour- FOR THE NEXT THREE DAYS. This one little tip will save you much strife. You’re welcome.  
find something you’re good at whipping up, and make it your signature
...and always have the supplies on hand to make it. If I have two things I'm known for, they would probably be brownies with homemade chocolate frosting and my guacamole.  So you know what?  I almost always have the supplies to make these things at any given time.  (And NO, I am not telling you what the top-secret recipes are. Go get your own.)

People ask for them. People try to recreate them. And I have them in my hands as I welcome people into my kitchen.  My friend Sara’s signature dish is something called “fluff” (I think it has to do with Jell-O and Cool Whip, but I'm not sure). She likes to bring this to potlucks and I'm pretty sure she has about 38 boxes of Jell-O in her cupboard. It's her thing. I have another friend who makes something called “dump cake.”  Dinner at their house was not complete without a dump cake. 

The woman who made dump cake is a PW herself and I remember her telling me, “Jenah, if you’re gonna be a pastor’s wife, you gotta know how to make dump cake.”  I've stayed away from the cake of the dumping because I just can’t get over that name, but I thought long and hard and took her advice to heart.  And it stayed with me for years.

In a culture that has lost much of our focus on creating welcoming atmospheres at home, we can be prepared to be hospitable at a moment’s notice.  It's what being a good pastor’s wife (not to mention being a good friend) is all about.

© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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