Are You The “Typical” Pastor’s Wife?

According to my VAST research 😉 a typical pastor’s wife has been described as…

  • Having perfect hair, perfect children & a perfect marriage…
  • Leading the women, leading the children or leading the music… PW Expectations
  • Always having a biblical answer for every question, always bringing the most delicious homemade dish to the potluck dinners, and always keeping a smile on her face…
  • Always supporting her husband quietly from the background, able to lead up front should the need arise, and always being available to help with any ministry…
  • Friendly to everyone but not so friendly that anyone feels excluded…
  • A perfect singer or musician, a perfect Bible study leader, a perfect church member, a perfect housewife, a perfect…

Yeah. Needless to say, no one can live up to those kinds of expectations! But whether those expectations come from our church people, our community or just our own idea of what we ought to be as a pastor’s wife, trying to fit ourselves into such an unrealistic mold is very harmful to our health, our family and our ministry! So what do you do if you find yourself in the position of pastor’s wife but feel like you don’t fit the mold of what a “typical” pw should be?

  1. Shrink in fear. At our very first church I was so afraid. I was afraid of messing things up and afraid of not being good enough to be a pastor’s wife. I lived in fear of what people thought of me all the time. God made me to be someone who loves music, color, creativity, and sparkles. But I was afraid to stand out. I wanted to hide who I was because I was different from the congregation around me. For years I hid myself behind bland hand-me-down dresses and quietly tried to blend into the community by learning to knit and sing old-timey gospel songs. But I hated it…and I began to hate myself, too. Then God reminded me that I am His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). God did not make a mistake when He made me! I am His masterpiece! By no means am I perfect, but the way God created me is the way He wants me to live! I must embrace who God made me to be so that I can accomplish the purpose for which He has created me! I learned to stop shrinking back in fear and step courageously into my calling!

 

  1. Work to Exhaustion. When God called us to our second church I was determined to be my creative, expressive, fun-loving self. And, surprisingly, people liked that! And I definitely liked being liked by everyone. But soon that, too, became a burden. It became my goal to please everyone, which meant I never said “No” to anything. I did every ministry that needed to be done- even if others were willing and able to do it. I worked myself to exhaustion. One day a fellow PW asked me what all I did in the church. When I finished listing all of my responsibilities I was exhausted and she was astounded. She spoke truth to teach me that I was only supposed to be doing what God had called me to do, and I should be letting others do what they were called to do. My goal should not be to please everyone, my goal should be to please God. When I learned to step back and simply obey God instead of trying to do it all, I was able to see others become part of the body, working together to fulfill God’s purpose for our church (Ephesians 4:16).

 

  1. Rebel. Somewhere in the midst of all the people-pleasing I began to resent the expectations of those around me. I began to resent the spotlight, resent the lack of privacy, and resent the input people thought they deserved in my day-to-day choices. So… I dyed my hair blue. (Read the story of my Quiet Rebellion here). Now, I know that blue hair is certainly not the most rebellious thing I could have done. I’ve known pastor’s wives who completely stop attending church, cuss out members in the parking lot or even walk out on their husbands & families in rebellion against the expectations of being a pastor’s wife. And, honestly, there have been days when I wanted to just walk away from it all. But God created me for the purpose of leading others closer to Him. Instead of letting the pressure cause me to rebel, I need to let the pressure shape me into a better follower of Christ. I need to embrace my calling like the Apostle Paul did and say “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Yes, I see you watching how I raise my kids, and you may disagree with my choices, but I’m following Christ in the way I parent. Feel free to follow my example. Yes, I see you checking out what’s in my grocery cart at Walmart. Feel free to gossip about what movie I’m preparing to purchase, but I am not ashamed because God sees what’s in my cart and He’s fine with it. I cannot use my freedom to sin, but I can be FREE from the expectations of perfection! (Ephesians 5:1)

Instead of shrinking in fear, working to exhaustion, or rebelling against expectations, let’s walk worthy of the calling we have received! (Ephesians 4:1)

Walk worthy of the calling you have received~ Ephesians 4:1

God created you for a purpose, called you to marry your pastor husband, and placed you in the church where you serve. He did not make a mistake in doing so! He knows what your church and community need in a pastor’s wife, and He created you to reach them in a way that no one else can! Be You! Embrace your calling! Walk worthy! THAT’S what a typical pastor’s wife should be!
How are you not the typical pastor’s wife? How are you embracing your calling today?

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Churches Are Like Gardens

When our first church called my husband as pastor, we were thrilled. It was time to finally make some changes to tradition so a new generation could experience church in a better way! But after several years of working, persuading, and fighting with absolutely no lasting change, we realized we were missing something. We were missing the fact that God is the one who truly changes and grows things. Jesus said, “I will build My Church.” I knew this truth in my head, but in my heart I believed it was up to me. If I have innovative ideas, boundless energy, and leadership skills, change will happen. I wish I had known transitioning a church is like growing a garden.

 

Transition takes time.

In our first garden we planted watermelon, our daughter’s favorite. Days after planting she hurried outside expecting to see watermelon, but found there wasn’t even a sprout! It was the last time she was interested in the garden.

Isn’t that like ministry? We’re called to lead a church who wants to grow. We make plans, tell our people, do the work…but nothing happens. It’s feels frustrating and pointless. But in Scripture we see that God often takes time to bring about His plan. God promised that He would make Abraham & his descendants into a great nation. This promise wasn’t fulfilled until 600 years later- after the people first were slaves in Egypt, wandered in the wilderness and fought battles to take the Promised Land!

Sound familiar? Ever feel like people are slaves to tradition? Like you’re wandering in the wilderness with a bunch of complainers? Fighting battles to fulfill the God’s calling? Transitioning a church is not for the faint of heart. Be patient. Keep trusting God’s promises. He hasn’t forgotten you. He hasn’t rescinded His calling. But God is not in a hurry. He grows things.

 

Transition takes a personal touch.

The year we planted our garden, we bought a timer sprinkler to water our garden while we were unavailable. But after a summer of VBS, mission trips and family vacations, our garden was dead. Some plants had received too much water while others were parched, and weeds completely choked out our little plants!

As leaders it may be easier to stand on a platform or sit behind a desk to dictate change, but true and lasting change comes through the foundation of relationships not through a position of authority. When God called us to our second church we wanted to be intentional about building relationships. We opened our home for meals with the families of our church. We accepted invitations to birthday parties, ball games and cookouts. We shared our story and listened to theirs. We laughed and cried together for over a year before we started making changes. By then our people didn’t dig in against the discomfort of change because they loved & trusted us. They knew we were making changes based on God’s leading and our love for them rather than just our own ideas. God loves people, and when we love people, and give them time to love us, true and lasting change can happen.

 

Transition happens organically.

Traditional gardens are full of tomatoes, cucumbers & green beans. But we were determined to be different. We wanted to grow blueberries, but the soil wasn’t right and they refused to grow. Meanwhile, we tossed out an old pumpkin from Halloween which took root and grew a vine that produced six giant pumpkins!

We come into leadership with plans for what we would like to grow within our ministries. We plant the seeds and work hard to produce growth, but never see any fruit. What if God wants to grow something totally organic in our ministry, something we would never expect, but something our communities desperately need? We have to let go of our own dreams for ministry and embrace the dreams God has for us. Our churches must reflect where we are planted. God knows what our church and our community needs. Imported plans don’t last but organic growth is from God.

 

Growing a garden takes time, as does transitioning a church. We must be patient, personally invested, and understand of the environment where we are planted. Then we can trust that God is the one who will produce fruit that lasts.
Are you in ministry leadership? What have you learned about leading a church through changes? Are you a church member? How have you felt when going through changes in your church?

Making Me Brave

wasp redI sure do love summertime! But I sure do NOT like the wasp invasion that comes along with it! Recently we’ve found ourselves killing at least one wasp a day in various rooms inside our house! It almost makes you afraid to go to sleep at night or, at the very least, afraid to go anywhere without a flip-flop handy. A few weeks ago, though, I broke down and invested in some serious wasp killer spray. I even splurged on the name brand- that’s how dire our situation was! This stuff shoots fairly accurately up to 20 feet and kills the wasp almost instantly! Now when one of the girls squeals over a wasp in their bedroom I’m able to charge in and take care of things. I am fearless in the face of these demon insects! Wasps beware! I am armed and dangerous!

 

The other day I read the story of Elisha & his servant who were surrounded by an enemy force. The servant was overwhelmed and afraid, but Elisha faced their adversaries with confidence. When the servant questioned his master’s boldness, Elisha asked God to open his eyes to the supernatural. Suddenly the servant was able to see the source of Elisha’s bravery: the mighty host of heaven’s armies were surrounding them! The source of Elisha’s faith was vastly greater than the source of his fear!

“I can live without fear when the Source of my faith is greater than the source of my fear!”

I am working to move from living a life of fear to living a life of faith. One of the best ways i can do this is to recognize the spiritual battle that is going on around me. My enemies may be overwhelming me, my situation may be a struggle, and fear feels like a natural response. But if I can focus on the supernatural, look past the physical to “see” the spiritual, my response can be one of faith because “Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world!” I can face things that used to scare me because I know that the Source of my faith is more powerful than the source of my fear! The Word of God is living and active in my life, and I have no need to fear because I am armed and dangerous!

 

What are you fearful of today? How can you let God make you brave?

Keeping It Simple

Not an actual picture of my event... just what I pictured it would look like in my mind!

Not an actual picture of my event… just what I pictured it would look like in my mind!

Years ago…when I still imagined it was possible to be the perfect pastor’s wife… I started the tradition of having the Shouse House Open House. Every Christmas I would invite the entire church into our home/parsonage for food and “fellowship” (the Christian word for sitting around eating, talking, and trying not to gossip or cuss in front of the preacher). And every Christmas I would spend the days leading up to the big event cleaning, cooking, and completely stressing out over ever single detail.

My very first open house I had a menu plan that would rival Martha Steward AND Rachel Ray, a housekeeping list longer than the long-dead Santa’s fictional naughty & nice list (sorry if I just ruined the magic for you), and a stress level higher than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs (picked that one up in Kentucky- feel free to add it to your repertoire).

Christmas is always a busy time of year for pastor’s families, and adding this high pressure event always made it worse. In those years I found myself yelling more, sleeping less, fretting, crying, bossing, arguing, whining…it was certainly not pretty. Peace on earth, my foot! Who’s idea was this open house, anyway? My dear sweet Jeff was always quick to remind me that this was all my idea. Thanks, sweetheart.

This year we’re in a new house, with new church people, and new traditions, but I sorta wanted to keep some of my familiar traditions going. So I started planning our annual Shouse House Open House…but this year I decided to do something different. I decided to keep it simple (Novel concept IKR?…Sorry…I have teenage daughters…). Anyway… It’s part of a new set of principles we’re starting to live by personally as well as within our church ministry. There are 4 principles, actually:

  1. Cover everything in PRAYER
  2. Make the GOSPEL the center
  3. Focus on PEOPLE rather than programs
  4. Keep. It. Simple.

In order to live by these principles I had to re-think my open house event. I stopped and prayed- God, do You truly want me to do this again or am I only doing it because I’ve always done it (ever heard that? Yeah, we don’t want to be one of THOSE people…). Once I got the go-ahead from Him, I had to remember that my purpose in life is not to impress my friends with my cooking or housekeeping skillz (yes…that’s a Z…don’t judge). My purpose in life is to Know Christ & to Make Him Known (aka “Gospel-centered”). So I made sure to invite people outside my church family- people who may need to know the real “reason for the season”- who may not go to church even during Christmas. I also wanted to make sure to be people-focused during this event. What’s the point of inviting people into my home if I’m too busy keeping the meatballs warm and the layer cake from slipping to sit down and have a conversation with any of my guests? So… I decided to keep it simple.

This year instead of an elaborate menu, we made six double batches of Easy Cookies (see recipe below).  Instead of Pinterest-worthy punch, we had red juice with ginger ale. And instead of a spotless house with a worn out family, we swept the kitchen, straightened the living room, and closed the doors to all the other rooms in the house. (We no longer live in a parsonage, so no one needs to be inspecting the bedroom closet, right?) 🙂 Keeping it simple resulted in over 400 cookies to share! (Sounds like a lot, but it actually only took a few hours on Saturday…and we were able to use the leftover cookies for neighbor & teacher gifts.) Plus I still had energy to visit with my guests AND my family still liked me when it was all over! Voila! Simple, meaningful, joyful, fun- not just in theory! 🙂

During this busy and often stressful season- what are some ways you’re keeping it simple?

Shouse House Open House~ Christmas 2015

Shouse House Open House~ Christmas 2015

EASY COOKIES

1 box cake mix

2 eggs

1/2 cup oil

1/2 bag candies or choc chips

Mix well. Place by small spoonfulls on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets. Bake at 350 for 10 min or until set but not hard. I doubled this for each batch and used a teaspoon so I could fit 20 cookies per cookie sheet. The doubled recipe made about 75 small cookies.

Variations I used:

Yellow cake mix with chocolate chips (why mess with the traditional chocolate chip cookie? This is always the most popular at any gathering)

Chocolate cake mix with milk chocolate & semi-sweet chips (so rich and delicious)

Spice Cake mix with cinnamon chips (this year Walmart was not carrying cinnamon chips for some reason so we used butterscotch… not nearly as good…but no one complained- they were still cookies) 🙂

Yellow cake mix with peanut butter chips & butterfinger crumbs (Enough said- YUM!)

Chocolate cake mix with caramels (found a bag of little caramel melts that I didn’t have to unwrap or anything. They were so good and didn’t stick to the paper or burn out like I expected. Win- win!)

Red Velvet cake mix with white chocolate chips & peppermint candies (This is our all-time favorite combination for Christmas! Soft, beautiful & oh so delicious!)

*For spring events I’ve used lemon cake mix and rolled the cookie dough balls in powdered sugar before baking. They are perfect for a baby shower or Mother’s Day tea*

What other combinations would you try?