guest post:: Brenda Black

>> January 24, 2011

We are delighted to present a guest article from Brenda Black, the wife of the United States Senate Chaplain. She wrote this article for CLUTCH with young pastor's wives in mind. 
 ~the CLUTCH chicks

Brenda Black is the wife of Dr. Barry Black, Chaplain of the U. S. Senate.
In addition to supporting her husband, her own ministry projects include volunteering as a mentor and advisor at an urban community center and middle school in Southeast Washington, D.C., and serving as an elder in the Woodbridge Seventh-day Adventist Church, where she coordinates women’s ministries and teaches a study class.
A Navy wife for 27 years, Brenda promoted networks to encourage and mentor Navy wives and families. For 34 years, she taught writing and literature with a specialty in developmental education for under-prepared college students.

She still ministers by hosting “Girls’ Night Out” (sleepovers), “GirlTalk” parties, and other activities  to encourage connection and support among women. She writes and presents seminars at churches, conferences, and retreats. And she loves reading and shopping.

The Blacks have three sons: Barry II, director of marketing for the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization; Brendan, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Michigan; and Bradford, a senior at the University of Chicago.

It’s an awesome responsibility to attempt to shed some light on the path of those coming behind you.  As an "older" minister’s wife, I’m painfully aware of how quickly the time has passed. I remember when I first started out, asking older wives for advice at a Shepherdess Wives’ meeting. The best advice they could give was always go door to door to solicit the Ingathering offering (a seasonal fundraising tradition that used to be common in our church), and don’t just donate it myself.

Times have really changed. I do hope what I have to say is a bit more useful. Nevertheless, my word of advice to young minister’s wives is to lighten up!

I often look at young women today and compare (I suffer badly from comparisonitis) their lives as wives and mothers to mine at that phase of my life. From a distance they look like they’ve got it all together. Girlfriends are working it. I’m amazed at their ability to balance careers and homelife.

Some are homeschooling, some are pursuing advanced degrees. They are busy with church life, and some are heavily involved in community affairs. And miracle of miracles, some actually get their young husbands to contribute responsibly in the care and upkeep of the family---cleaning up after dinner, getting groceries, preparing meals, doing laundry, and bathing and putting kids to bed.
      
But when we get up close and personal, and I ask them how they do it, they pour out their hearts and bare their souls. The truth is, some things don’t change. I see that young women today aren't that different from where I was as a young wife and mother. They say they are tired—bone tired—of trying to be everything to everybody. This kind of tiredness can bring a barely submerged anger at your husband, your kids, your church—your life.  Like that talking parrot commercial, the consistent repetition is “I shouldn’t have to do everything.”
      
The truth is you shouldn’t have to, and you don’t have to do everything. You don’t have to be in church for every service. You don’t have to teach children’s church. You don’t have to lead women’s ministry. You don’t have to always have the guest minister stay in your home. You don’t have to be Super Minister’s Wife. But you can be an example to the stressed, the weary, and the worn-out.
      
The years are teaching me that so much that I allowed to burden me as a young wife and mother was totally unnecessary. I can now see so many ways I let the devil keep me on his treadmill—whispering his lies and cracking his whip—“You got to  keep up”, “What will people  say?”, or “How is that going to look?”, or” What kind of minister’s wife are you!!”

I was constantly fearing that I wasn’t measuring up—not having people over enough, not being serious enough, not sharing Jesus enough, not having a nice enough house or car to represent the church.
      
There is no such thing as having it all. Life is made of trade-offs. If marriage and parenting is a full-time job, and I think most of us would agree that it is, then you have to decide for yourself what will get traded off. But be honest with yourself — something has to go. Don’t even delude yourself into believing that you can cover all the bases.
      
When we try to do it all, we are trying to accomplish something God never intended. The fact of the matter is something and someone is going to suffer. The guilt you feel is there for a reason. Don’t try to rationalize it away. Ask God to show you His ways and give you wisdom to choose wisely. Jesus says, “Come to me, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke, and learn my ways, and you will find the rest that you so desperately need.”
      
Many people know me only from my husband’s sermons. They know his funny stories, and when they meet me, they tell me of how highly my husband speaks of me. Some have read From the Hood to the Hill, and they know our love story. Naturally, many want to know the story from my perspective.  And I'm ready and willing to give my testimony. “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.” But I wouldn’t trade anything for what God has taught me about His faithfulness and sufficiency.

When my husband was deployed for six-month periods, being there for our three sons was a challenge for me. I wish I could say I covered all the bases and did it all. But, in so many ways, I often failed miserably—as a wife, as a mother, as a college English teacher, as a woman of God. When people hear me introduced as having 37 years of marriage and three successful sons, they want to know how I did it. My standard answer is “Grace and Mercy!”

Two of my favorite Bible verses promise that God will be a father to the fatherless (Psa. 68:5), and that He will restore the years that the locust has eaten (Joel 2:25). I claim these promises for my marriage, my family, and my career. You see, I never will be able to do everything, be all that I need to be for everybody, or have all that I think life requires of me to earn its label of success.  But God is sufficient. He is my Resource, and He will redeem and restore. And what’s more, there are no time limits with God. He’s in my past, my present, and He’s already in my future.
      
It has taken me a long time to apply this truth to my life in a very practical way. As I have shared my heart with you, I pray that you will consider my advice seriously.

Lighten up.
Lighten your load.

Jesus says the life He plans for you is easy, and with Him in it with you, your burdens are light. Work on seeking only to please Him, and you’ll find that it really simplifies life.

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2 comments:

C.J.L.,  January 25, 2011 at 7:06 PM  

I just ran across this post today and it was EXACTLY what I needed at the right time! I am so happy to have read Mrs. Black's advice to young pastors' wives. Thank you all for ministering to ministers' wives. It is such a blessing!

taylor noel January 31, 2011 at 12:40 PM  

Wow... I truly appreciate your words, Mrs Black! Thank you for your encouragement and advice. I find it so inspirational and helpful. :) Blessings to you in your life!

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