Ceilings & Floors

“How long have y’all been in ministry?” people ask us. “Well…” we answer “it’s a little hard to say.” You see, Jeff has been a full-time pastor for almost 17 years, but before that he was a traveling evangelist…and before that he was a youth leader…and before that he was a preacher’s kid who watched his mom & dad do ministry together just about since he was born. He learned so many things simply from watching his parents- things that his fellow seminarians had to learn the hard way.

My parents were not pastors, but we were still in full-time ministry. Serving in the Christian school as well as in our local church gave lots of opportunities to learn & grow as God prepared me for life as a pastor’s wife.  Opportunities like being the first to arrive & the last to leave, navigating various groups within the group, cleaning toilets… all the important things they don’t teach you in Bible college. 🙂

Jeff & I both were raised by godly parents who taught us right from wrong, where to find the answers to life’s questions, the fact that God loves us unconditionally, and how to live by faith. We were blessed to have parents that challenged us not only to live our lives completely sold out to Christ, but also to love God deeper, know Him greater & serve Him even more boldly than they had in their own experience. And that’s what we want for our daughters. We want them to go even beyond what we’ve experienced in our relationship with God.

The other day I was speaking with a Christian leader and he was asking about our girls and their service in the church. I was telling him about how both girls already serve in ministry according to their gifts and talents- and they’re only 12 & 15! He was amazed! And then he made the following statement that has stuck with me: “Your ceiling is their floor!”Um… what? Thankfully he went on to explain that he meant that our girls are following in our footsteps but that they have the privilege of starting even further along the road than we did. I like that!

Isaac Newton is attributed to saying “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” I could change that to be true in my life by saying “If I have gone further it is because I am standing on the shoulders of giants.” I am thankful for the giants in my life… and that they’re letting me stand on their shoulders.  And I’m thankful that my girls are choosing to stand on our shoulders as well. Can’t wait to see how much farther they will go!

Whose shoulders are you standing on?

shoulders

Help! I’m Almost 40 and Still the Youngest Lady in My Church!

I cannot believe that I just described myself as “almost 40″ just to get you to read today’s blog!  This statement was actually made by a PW friend of mine and she asked me to write my thoughts on the subject. (For the record I am a very young 37!)

As a new Pastor’s Wife, I found myself leading in a church where the next youngest woman in the church was old enough to be my mom (no offense Mama) and the majority of our women were old enough to be my grandmother… or great-grandmother. As a PW in a small church I was automatically elected to lead the women’s group since I was the only one who felt comfortable praying aloud. But even though I was officially the leader, it was rather intimidating to be leading or giving advice to women who had lived twice as long as I.

Also, it was hard to find ways to connect with people who didn’t share my interests or stage in life. I’ve been to many rocking chair/knitting/tea party events when I would rather have been to a playground/roller skating/Dr.Pepper event. I’ve listened to many a “Gaither Gathering” concert when I would rather be totally rocking out to Toby Mac… but I’ve also learned a lot about leading in a church where most of the members are much older than you. Here are a few of my thoughts:

What to do when most of your congregation is much older than you:

1. Love them like your Grandma. I know it’s frustrating when you & your husband want to do something creative and modern in the church, but you can’t because the “little old ladies” will have a cow. It would be easier to ignore their feelings based on the greater good or cast them aside because they can’t contribute to the church by keeping nursery or teaching at VBS…but is that how you would treat your grandmother? More than anything these ladies want to be loved. Talking to them, visiting them, getting to know them, letting them share about their life experiences: all of those things show them that you love them. When they feel loved, they will love you back. And since “love covers a multitude of sins,” they will become much more flexible when it comes to church things. When you show them that you respect the things they love, they will come to do the same for you.

2. Learn from them like your Mom. The ladies in your church have had many more life experiences than you. They may have lived in the same town their whole life, dropped out of school after the 8th grade, or never worked outside their home, but they know a lot of things that my well-traveled, college-trained life has yet to teach me. When we refuse to listen to ladies with this much experience, some of them decide that they must not be speaking loudly enough. So they become the squeaky wheel that you dread running into on a Sunday morning because they’re coming to tell you to change the thermostat, the volume of the music, or how you dress your kids. That kind of advice is annoying and subjective. However, I’ve learned that if you take the time to ask them for advice about the things they know, it makes them feel valued, and they get the “advice-giving” itch out of their system in a way that is beneficial to everyone.  Ask advice about how to make a layer cake that doesn’t fall, how to trim my bushes where they will still bloom in spring, what to do about the mysterious rash on your child’s arm, or even how to get the kids in Sunday school to settle down for the lesson. These ladies have a lot to offer, so take the initiative to ask for the things you want advice with so that when they give advice about other things, you don’t feel bad about not taking it.

3. Lead them like your Sister. In childhood the oldest person in the group gets to be the leader. But that’s not how it works with adults. It’s OK to take charge of situations and give direction to get things done in ministry even if you are the youngest person in the room. People are often relieved when someone else takes charge! Statistically, most of the women in your church are followers looking for a leader. You will find that if you lead them like you are their sister, with kindness, love, and respect, they will follow you. You can lead with confidence, knowing that God has put you in a position of leadership and He will equip you to lead even if you don’t have experience doing so. Ask advice from the godly ladies in your group, show love to the ones most resistant to your leadership, and then LEAD. They may be skeptical at first but they will follow even if it’s just because they don’t want you to quit and leave all the work in their laps. But as you continue to show love, respect, and confidence, they will love you, trust you, and follow your leadership as you form those bonds over time.

Doing these things probably won’t get your elderly ladies to take a white water rafting trip this summer or join you at Winter Jam. But perhaps you will find that they will want to do more to help you draw younger people into the church now that you’ve shown them that younger people are nothing to be afraid of. Besides, the Gaither Vocal Band has great hair, and knitting is surprisingly fun once you get the knots out of the yarn!

If you’re a PW, what have you learned about leading women of different ages? If you’re a church lady, what advice would you add to this list? If you’re reading this and feel as if you’ve heard it before… you have… it’s a re-post from several years ago… but thanks for reading all the way to the end again! 🙂

Snow Storm Survival

We’re facing yet another snow day, and I found myself complaining a little about all the bad weather we’ve had lately. I even offered to go out and scrape my own road if the schools would just LET MY KIDS GO TO SCHOOL!

Then I remembered The Ice Storm of 2009. In case you don’t live in Kentucky, this was the year we had the most brutal ice storm I’ve ever experienced. It was so bad that life came to a halt for the entire month of January. Trees split and crashed into houses, even the main roads were closed, and we were without electricity for 17 days!  The first few days without power we stayed with various friends and relatives, mooching off of their gas or kerosene heaters. When we decided to return to our own home it was so cold!

That first night both of our girls, my husband and I all piled into our king-sized bed along with every blanket, sleeping bag, and beach towel we owned. We stuffed hand towels under the door and around the window. We bought every candle left on the shelf in Wal-Mart and lit them along with every candle we found hidden in our bathroom cabinets and Christmas storage boxes. We slept as best we could but the temperature in that room dipped down into the 40′s. It. Was. Miserable. We had no way of getting warm: no heat, no warm food, no hot water…Wait- did I say no hot water?

Oh, yeah. We discovered later that we actually DID have hot water. Our hot water heater is gas-powered, and, therefore, we could have taken a hot shower any time we wanted during the ice storm. (Seriously?!?) Instead of warming up with steaming water, we went the entire 17 days being cold and traveling great distances to “borrow” a shower from someone else.

(In our defense…we live in a parsonage and had only lived there a couple of years. We don’t receive any of the utility bills or take care of any repairs, so we had no way of knowing…right?)

That is so bad. We went through all that for no reason.

But isn’t this what we often allow to happen in our spiritual lives? We go about our daily lives struggling to do things on our own, in our own strength, when we actually have a great Source of power directly within our grasp. We try to get over our own hurts when the Healer is standing beside us. We stand in the bitter cold of this world when our Father longs to gather us into his warm embrace. Why do we do that? Maybe we just don’t know what is available to us…or maybe we’ve forgotten.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. 2 Peter 1:3 NLT

Snow at The Shouse House 2014

Snow at The Shouse House 2014

Don’t forget to connect to the Source of everything you need in life…I’m sure that the next time we lose power in an ice storm I will not forget that we have hot water! 🙂

 

Happy New Year! So Much To Do…So Little Time

It’s a new year! There’s so much I want to do better in 2014:

  • Eat healthier (but first I must get rid of all the Christmas candy left in the house…and it would be a total waste to throw away all those chocolate covered cherries…give me a few days to “work through” all of that…)
  • Exercise More (I’m thinking of training for a 5K coming up in the spring…but I hate running… but it’s supposed to be good for you and is a very effective way of losing weight…unless you follow it up by eating a box of chocolate covered cherries…)
  • De-clutter the house (so many hidden…and not-so-hidden corners that are full of things we don’t need or no longer use…outgrown clothes, old gadgets, broken items I will never get around to fixing… I’m going to get right on that!)
  • Get into a housecleaning routine that keeps our home sparkling and clutter-free at all times!
  • Memorize Scripture (one verse a day should be easy!)
  • Read more non-fiction books in addition to my daily Scripture reading and devotions. (There are 15 books in my Kindle queue waiting for me right now…plus 8 more by my chair…probably part of the clutter problem…)
  • Keep up with my non-local friends and family through e-mail and Facebook with personal messages and funny anecdotes posted bi-weekly
  • Keep up with my local friends and church peeps with hand-written letters, personal texts and meaningful phone calls daily
  • Do more for my husband by cooking his breakfast, helping him with ministry tasks, preparing healthy meals and snacks, and always having his laundry clean and accessible…
  • Do more for my kids by researching study techniques to help my oldest not flunk AP Government, learning Spanish so she and I can study together, gathering plenty of resources so our youngest can complete her science project with ease and enthusiasm, but also by making life fun and meaningful and not always about school… I will teach them to knit, crochet, and sew without using bad words. I will teach them to cook, clean, and be more organized…as soon as I learn to do those things myself… We will memorize Bible verses together, have family devotions, do community service and ministry together, have meaningful conversations about life, dating, and God, and we will make crafts and memories and scrapbooks every night after finishing homework, eating a healthy dinner, taking showers, laying out clothes for the next day, cleaning the house and completing our chore list.

Whew! Looks like I’m going to have to be the literal Proverbs 31 woman: getting up when it’s dark and going to bed after everyone else, too! I’m tired just thinking about it all! How am I ever going to do all these things and not lose my mind in the process? Then I remembered a verse I read recently:

“And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you can determine what really matters…” Phil. 1:9-10

LORD, give me wisdom to know what really matters…which of these things on my To Do list are most important and which things should I let go?

He pointed me to another verse:

Romans 12:12

Romans 12:12

Ahh…so that’s the key: God wants me to BE rather than DO. BE joyful, BE patient, BE faithful, BE obedient. I cannot DO it all but God does not expect me to. He simply asks that I allow Him to make me who He created me to BE.

Now THAT I can do… I mean… BE! 🙂

What does God want you to BE this new year?

Written On His Hand

The other day a friend texted me and asked me to pray for her. She was having a rough day and needed prayer all day long. I often find myself saying that I will pray for someone and then promptly forgetting all about it as soon as something else grabs my attention. Because I knew it was important to remember to pray for this special friend all day long, I wrote her name on my hand. Throughout the day, whenever I noticed her name on my hand I would breathe a prayer for her. It was a good reminder of one of my favorite verses:

Jerusalem says, “The Lord has deserted us;
      the Lord has forgotten us.”

The LORD says “Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child?
      Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?
   But even if that were possible,
      I would not forget you!
See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.”

Isaiah 49:14-16

I must admit. There are times when I feel like God has forgotten me. Maybe He has lost my file. Or maybe He has gotten distracted with something more important. I’m just one small person…easily forgotten…right?

NO! God has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us! He has a plan for our lives! He loves us! He has not forgotten. Can a mother forget her child? (Well…speaking from experience…yes…that’s sometimes possible…if the mother has not slept in several days because the child has colic…and the child is finally sleeping peacefully…and the mother has to run to the grocery store…and the phone rings…and…well…let’s just say…yes: occasionally a new mother may ACCIDENTALLY forget her new baby…but only for a moment…) But God says that even if a mother could completely forget about the child in her arms, He will not forget about us! He even goes so far as to write/inscribe/engrave/tattoo our name on His hands! His wonderfully strong hands that shaped the world and brought life into existence. His holy hands that covered Moses in the cleft of the rock as His glory passed by. His loving hands that stretched out on the cross and were pierced by the nails of my sin. Those hands. My name is written on those hands.

What a comforting thought! No matter what you feel like today: God has not forgotten you!

He has written you on His hands!

That’s how important you are to Him!

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