by Anna Maschmeyer
A ministry family seems to either exist in the assurance of their mission and longevity of their position or in a state of uncertainty and desire for transition. My ministry family recently took a leap and moved to a new church and city across the state. Transition means many things in the ministry, but for me it meant an opportunity to move in faith into untried territory.
For years I served the church as pastor and volunteer and taught full-time in a public high school. It was the most rewarding and exhausting life. The students are apathetic, curriculum is challenging to implement, assessments are labor intensive, actual learning is complex to assess, and federal and administrative regulation is exhausting. I loved teaching, but the all-encompassing nature of my pastor life and my teacher life took everything out of me.
Roughly three years ago, I began to pray for a better way to do life. I wanted to devote more time to our family and serve the church in a healthier capacity. Our family deserved more of me than it was getting. I intensely wanted to reserve the best of me for my girls, husband, and church. As I sought the Lord for a way to accomplish this, two things became clear. First, God spoke deeply into my heart that my calling was not about my career, but about being more like Him. I had preached this for years. Yet suddenly, it wasn’t just something to say. Jesus did not need my effort at school, my worries over the job, my time preparing lessons and grading; He needed my heart. My job was distracting me from giving Him my full attention. I was in essence serving two masters.
A year ago, we began thinking about transition to a new position. One of the things I wrote in my journal as we began to pray over the transition was, “Lord, I want to be free of the classroom.” I was not trying to be a stay-at-home-mom. As a driven, independent woman, I champion college and career ambition for my female students. So I looked for a position in a school, but out of the classroom. I thought just being out of the classroom would be enough.
When we relocated, the timing of the move meant teaching jobs were not available. As I’ve sought the Lord and explored options, more and more I was called to walk away from my career to be more like Jesus. Since August, I have started teaching our oldest to cook and do laundry. We finally have a regular chore schedule (something I never had time to put together before) for all three girls. My husband and I have been on a date every week since we’ve moved. I've written a 5-week Sunday School curriculum and taught it. The girls and I have had deep conversations about real things like politics, Jesus, and how to make friends. A couple of times my husband has asked, “Who are you?” because I am not falling asleep on the couch at 7 PM or cranky for no reason.
Don’t get me wrong, many of those things I listed above happened in small doses while I was teaching. My girls had chores; we did homework together; we read at night sometimes. My husband and I did date. Our family was not falling apart, but there wasn’t the structure or purpose in our home that I wanted. It was good, but not great. I had two masters constantly pulling me in different directions. The message is that there are good things we can do in our lives and there are God things. Our family was doing good things, but the God things were being squeezed out by exhaustion, stress, time, and mess. Although the budget is tight, I have not been this happy, nor this at peace, in a long time.
The lesson I am learning is that discerning His will is seldom about finding a place or a career, but it is always about becoming more like Him. Peace is there for us when we finally submit every area of ourselves, including our careers, to His Lordship. Our obedience even in the anxiety of transition makes us more like Jesus.
QUESTIONS: What have you learned in a ministry transition? About your faith? About yourself?
What do I know about forgiveness?
Enough to know that it isn’t easy. Enough to know that it is a process. And enough to know what it is not.
I was raised to know the importance of forgiveness. It was an easier principle to put into practice as long as I was in the loving home of my childhood. However, as an adult, I have had more reasons to forgive and more years to face its challenges. When it comes to forgiveness, I’ve lived it, accepted it, given it, and messed it up.
It has been decades ago, but I will never forget the feeling I had when I first realized forgiveness would be a constant presence in my life. I’ll never forget where I was sitting. The way the air felt. The feeling that the bottom had just dropped out of my world. The knowledge that things would never be the same.
My husband--the love of my life, the man I saved myself for, the only man I had ever known in the Biblical sense--had just told me that he had “known” another woman. Not just any woman. A close friend.
He cried. He was SO sorry. He begged my forgiveness.
God did a healing in our marriage.
I did not believe in divorce. However, I did believe in forgiveness. He promised it would never happen again. He told me if I really had forgiven him, I would not talk about it or bring it up.
Then a few years later, it happened once again. Again, he begged my forgiveness. By then, we had a precious baby girl and pastored a large church. Again, he begged me to tell no one.
We went to six months of marriage counseling which resulted in his promise that it would never happen again--and a promise from me that if it did, I would leave. We stayed together and had another precious baby girl.
God did another healing in our marriage.
Two years later, he confessed to me that he had been involved in three additional affairs over the period of one year. Once again, he begged my forgiveness and wanted to stay together and work it out.
Something inside me broke. I was done. Done covering up. Done having my heart torn to shreds. The divorce was difficult with years of drama and pain.
So you may ask, what do I know about forgiveness?
We cannot balance the scales. Forgiveness means the scales are forever out of balance. It means that one person is always going to owe a debt. It’s only when we forgive the debt that we can heal.
Several years ago, after we had both remarried and re-established our lives, a deep healing came. As we sat visiting on the front porch after he had visited our daughters, I shared with him that although the intellectual decision to forgive him had been made years ago, only recently had I felt that I had emotionally forgiven him. I told him he did not owe me anything and I wanted him to know that I released him to be happy and free in his life. He in turn asked my forgiveness. This time there was such a feeling of peace. I am so grateful the Lord allowed us to have this conversation, because he tragically died two months later.
What do I know about forgiveness?
I know that forgiveness allows you to put the pain and hurt behind you, release it, and move beyond the hurt and heal. With all we have been forgiven in our own lives, how can we not offer forgiveness, love, and mercy to those around us?
If one word could depict a life, Julie Davenport’s would be “redemption.” As a child in the Perkin household, Julie’s character was forged within a legacy of faith, godliness, and ministry. So when she married a charismatic young pastor on the fast-track to prominence, life was everything she’d dreamed it would be . . . on the outside. But inside, alone and hidden from view, Julie endured abuse, betrayal, and infidelities that spiraled to include miscarriage, cancer, divorce, mental illness, and eventually suicide. With a BA in Art Education from Southwest MO State University, Julie served as a parent educator with the Independence MO School District for many years. She is now an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God. Today, through speaking engagements and two daughters continuing the legacy of ministry, God is using Julie’s life-story to validate His immeasurable grace and prove His power to redeem what Satan tried so hard to destroy.
Adoption is a very exciting thing! On June 15, 2018 our lives will forever be changed. We will become an official on- paper family. The course of a 9-year-old boy’s life will forever be changed. That is something to celebrate!
But a couple years ago, a mother made a decision that forever altered her life. She signed away the rights to her son, her flesh and blood, in the hopes that he could have a better life. She knew that someone else could provide the things that she could not. In those moments, a piece of her died. And that is something that I mourn over. I sure did not plan on feeling this way.
Throughout this adoption experience, God has been teaching me what His command to love really looks like. It is really easy to love the people who are kind to you. It’s not hard to show you care when someone is treating people that you care about correctly. Having compassion on the woman who gave away her child, my child, is not something I thought I could do. But I am doing it.
Jesus said in John 15:12, “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” He didn’t say “this is my suggestion.” He commands us to love. And he doesn’t just stop at love. He says to love them as He loves us. Jesus laid down his life for me.
"As I continue to walk out compassionate love, it gets easier with each step."
Would I lay down my life for my son’s birth mom? As time goes on, I find myself thinking about her, praying for her, and wondering how she is doing. Does she know that God loves her? As I continue to walk out compassionate love, it gets easier with each step. Jesus saved me just like He one day will hopefully save her. His love is the same for her as it is for me. Humble our hearts Jesus, if we ever think of ourselves as better than others.
Yes, on June 15, you better believe we will be celebrating! We will have some kind of party and enjoy the day that God has divinely brought together. Every year we will celebrate the day we became a family. But on that day, I will also be remembering and praying for someone who is hurting, because in my situation, that’s what loving like Jesus looks like. Sometimes things don’t turn out the way you plan. I did not plan to have such a love for this woman, but with God in control, things always turn out better.
Matthew 22:37-38 “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Who is Jesus calling you to compassionately love?
(All scriptures were taken from the New Living Translation.)
The Southern Missouri District recognizes and supports churches in the crucial and viable ministry to foster and adoptive parents. The following organizations may be of help in the development of this type of ministry:
Things certainly don't turn out the way you plan.
God knew what he was doing when he brought Kris into our lives. He planned everything out right down to the very last detail. He laughed as we bought cribs and strollers. He waited patiently as we begged him for a baby. And I know that He must have smiled the day that we moved all of our son's stuff into our house for good.
Our licensing worker actually laughed at us the other day when we came to a foster care training and dropped him off in the babysitting room. She asked how things were going, and when we said they were going great, she said "Age range zero to one? Hah!"
Jeremiah 29:11 says, "I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for." (The Message)
Yes, things certainly don't turn out the way you plan...they turn out better!
The Southern Missouri District recognizes and supports churches in the crucial and viable ministry to foster and adoptive parents. The following organizations may be of help in the development of this type of ministry:
Every day, I get to do what I love. Create, teach, equip, resource, and encourage.
I could live by the motto: Eat, breath, sleep, repeat, when it comes to my vocation. Events, training, collaborative meetings, serving, new ideas, emails and social media messages seem to come as if I am playing a rapid fire game of Minute-to-Win-It.
It has never been my desire to create an on-demand life, but some days, I find myself fighting an uphill battle of firefighting instead of purpose making.
Looking back, an on-purpose fixed schedule is the only way I have ever accomplished big dreams, like graduating from college, writing books or running a marathon. When I finished my masters program a few years ago and had more space in my schedule I decided I would try an on-demand schedule (say yes to every invitation). I do not regret that choice. Saying yes to every opportunity or need is how I discovered what was next. It has led me here.
Over the last six months as God started putting bigger dreams of what was next on my soul, I knew it was time to put down the fire hose and have a calendar makeover.
That means this leader needs to quit playing whack-a-mole (thank you Carey Nieuhwof for the analogy), responding immediately to every need or dust bunny that appears and go back to an on-purpose fixed schedule like the one that led me to success in school, writing and running. If you are not already doing this and have a dream, I hope you will join the adventure.
Here are five ways to live a life on-purpose:
Living on purpose is how we offer our best selves to the world.
When our focus is intentional and single focused, people will know we care.
Angelia Craig is a wife, a mom, a daughter, a friend, a writer, a minister, a coach, and a social justice and non-profit junkie. Angelia says, "Not necessarily always in that order. In my role as director of the Women’s Department at the Northwest Ministry Network, I get to do what I like to do best: create, teach, write, and learn through others. I am also passionate about helping people discover and live out a passion—and purpose-filled life in my role as a certified Gallup Strength Coach and president of the Give Good Awards Foundation. My favorite quote by author Paulo Coelho: “To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only real obligation” encapsulates my mission in life." This blog was posted on June 19, 2017 at hergreenroom.com.
Recently, a church planter’s wife asked me for advice on her situation. I didn’t really premeditate my answer; it just came barreling out.
“Be flexible or die … those are your options.”
Her eyes got big, and so did mine. The advice was a strong blow to me, too.
But, if anyone is looking for a more thought-out word from a pastor’s wife today, this might be it.
If we are going to survive the tumultuous waters of ministry, we will have to be flexible.
According to Google, the definition of flexibility is, “the quality of bending easily without breaking.” To be honest, this word hurts my stomach right now. Growing up, I took pride in the range of motion in my joints. I stretched constantly and could bend in any direction. But recently, I tore the cartilage in my hip joint which has robbed me of all flexibility. I’m in pain just watching my daughters during their gymnastics classes.
Each group of joints in our body have different levels of extensibility. We may be flexible in our hamstrings allowing us to touch our toes but not in our quadriceps which affects our posture. See, you might think of yourself as flexible, but this isn’t really an all-or-nothing issue.
Let’s think about the different areas where we, as ministry wives, need to stretch in order to develop flexibility:
1. We must be flexible about scheduling. When something comes up that is unplanned (and it will), are we willing to let our preferences go? Or will we hold on with white knuckles or learn to trust God with every moment?
2. We must be flexible about family time. Yes, we schedule Thursday night as “family night.” But if “X-Y-Z” comes up, couldn’t we as easily protect a Sunday night?
3. We must be flexible in our expectations of others. We have both legitimate and illegitimate expectations of the people around us. While we may argue about which category it falls into, we can all agree that people will sometimes fail us. So, how will we respond? We’ve got to stretch far enough to reach grace.
4. We must be flexible in our expectations of ourselves. Even as I’m typing this, I’m frustrated because I was supposed to finish this blog post before picking up my daughter from class. I guess I need to adjust what I think I can accomplish in an hour. Anyone else with me?
5. We must be flexible in our patience. Not every season is equal. When my husband first started at Pillar church, he needed more space to figure things out. If we want our churches to flourish, we’ve got to stretch ourselves to develop patience ... especially when our husbands are stressed and fatigued under heavy loads.
6. We must be flexible in our ability to take criticism (real or perceived). Maybe criticism is coming from someone in the church or from someone in your home. We’ve got to stretch in our ability to not be so easily offended. After all, “It is to one’s glory to overlook an offense” (Prov. 19:11).
7. We must be flexible in our desires. We want too many things. Some of our desires are good, but some are bad. Many times these desires conflict (I really want to finish writing this blog post, but I also really want to exercise this morning). Everything becomes hard when we don’t bridle our desires, and we allow them to sneak in and compare our lives with those around us. We can’t have it all, so we’ve got to learn to "be content with what is in our hand" (I Tim. 6:6).
8. We must be flexible in our moral commitments. (Just kidding … just checking to see if anyone is still reading this.) We know there are things we can’t be flexible about. Knowing the difference is key!
Our husband’s job (and therefore our lives as pastors' wives) can be so unpredictable. This is not something we can control. The only thing we can control is how we respond to it. There is great freedom in this. But, we have to get our workout clothes on and do the hard work of training in righteousness.
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Prov. 19:21).
Let’s trust our God, and put all our confidence in Him instead of our perfectly constructed plans.
No matter how great of a minister, husband, leader or father he is, he’s not immune to adversity.
Church dilemmas erupt, leaving his leadership landscape shaken. Sin happens, either committed by him or against him. A friend that was life-giving awkwardly leaves the church. Exhaustion eventually affects his emotional stamina. The list continues.
Whether his struggle is private or public, as his wife you feel a version of his pain and walk in the aftershocks of his struggle.
How do we walk wisely with our husband in the landscape of his suffering?
Resist reacting with emotional solutions that bring temporary relief.
When he hurts, you hurt. Any path to relief, even if temporary, seems right in the moment. Job’s wife could only think of one thing to relieve her husband from his suffering – quit! “Curse God and die.” Let’s not rush to be too harsh on her. I’ve entertained saying, “quit” to my husband, too. Everything they had built together was gone! She had been the wife to the “greatest man of all the people of the east” (Job 1:3). They both lost children, financial security and reputation in the community. And now she’s watching her suffering husband and probably thinking, “ENOUGH!” Yet, temporary relief doesn’t change reality.
Cling to the reality that God is sovereign in our suffering.
Pain in the present distorts our ability to comprehend anything beyond our present circumstances. Job and his wife didn’t have a clue that a conversation had occurred between God and Satan. While their circumstances were incredibly painful, there was another reality they weren’t privy to. And no amount of logic attempting to answer the question, “Why is this happening?” would have unveiled the real reason. God’s sovereignty shadows our suffering.
Recognize his vulnerability and the value of your strength.
In suffering our husband is more vulnerable than he may admit. He may flirt with quitting or react by isolating. Chuck Swindoll confessed, “Men are weakened when times of affliction hit…In our weakened condition we lose our objectivity, sometimes our stability. We become vulnerable and most men don’t know how to handle themselves in a vulnerable state of mind. We become – hard as it is to admit this – afraid. So in light of all this, hear me – we need your clear perspective, wisdom, and spiritual strength. We need your words of confidence and encouragement. We even find it hard to say, ‘I need you right now.’”
Be present, but don’t always talk.
A loving presence that is courageously resolute and unconditionally available speaks loudly. Sometimes, there are just no words that need to be said. Give him a safe place and space to process. At times he needs be alone. Other times, he needs you near without words. If he speaks, listen. A safe space is comfort to a hurting soul. Your presence in pain creates a deep, unspoken intimacy.
In the shadow of our leader-husband, we often default to his initiation in spiritual intimacy. However, we are in partnership on this journey. When my husband was in his own pit of despair I asked him, “What do you need from me?” His first answer was, “I need you to initiate praying because I just have no words.” Don’t ask if he wants to pray, just start praying out loud with him. Initiate ushering both of your hearts before the throne of God.
Discipline yourself to build-up strength reserve, now.
Adversity will come. You can’t fake strength. Those who possess it have built it from a disciplined conditioning of the heart. Build up strength and you will walk wisely beside him in his pain.
My church body is currently in the midst of one of the greatest tragedies I’ve ever seen. Our community is suffering, mourning and asking difficult questions.
It’s been one of the most exhausting weeks we’ve ever experienced in ministry. In many ways, we have felt unqualified for the task before us. Yet, my husband faithfully visited grieving family members, counseled church members in office and by phone, led our church staff through their sorrow and preached a funeral—all in a span of five days.
As a pastor’s wife, when tragedy strikes your church body, it strikes your husband’s heart and mind. In the overflow, it strikes your home. When so many have experienced a personal loss, your sufferings might be overlooked during a time of crisis. Rightly so. However, it does not diminish the difficulty of the days for you and your husband.
As we weather this current storm, we are clinging to truth in order to minister well and take care of our own bodies and souls. I pray these five actions we're taking provides you encouragement in whatever you also may be facing.
1. Recognize the spiritual battle.
Begin with Ephesians 6. Every tragedy involves people. At times, it’s easy to see a person as an enemy that caused your sorrow. It's better to avoid this temptation. The truth found in Ephesians 6 allows us to remove antagonists and protagonists from the narrative and rightly focus our eyes on and prayers against the devil’s schemes.
"Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand" (Ephesians 6:11-13).
2. Soak in the gospel.
My husband and I have read and re-read Romans 8 together. Its reminders of what Christ has done for us, that the Spirit is alive in us and of how the Spirit and Christ intercede for us offer such sustaining grace.
No matter what we may face, “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38).
And this too is what we have to offer others in their grief. As C.S. Lewis wrote in the introduction of The Problem with Pain, “when pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.”
3. Create temporary boundaries.
When your church body is in the midst of crisis, many are affected. Everyone and everything feels urgent. However, there are logistical and physical limits to you and your husband’s ability to respond to all requests for counsel while still maintaining your own rest and emotional energy.
Likely you and your husband will need to set boundaries with people for a period of time in order to minister to those truly affected. Tragedies will reveal those who are ill-equipped to handle trials. You will need wisdom to discern who they are and set boundaries.
My husband and I have done everything we can to rest well these days including cancelling some morning appointments and leaving housework undone. Some evenings, my husband turns off his phone for a few hours to be with our children. We do this because we know we will need physical strength to sustain our emotional strength.
Even though I spend most of my days at home, I ask for help on weeks like this. I call the sitter. I order take-out. I simplify our life as much as possible so that when my husband is home I can give him my emotional energy.
"But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one" (2 Thessalonians 3:3).
5. Call in the troops.
This might not be able to happen right away, but as soon as possible, I seek to create life-giving scenarios for me and my husband. I invite over friends who are easy and understanding. I sit at a friend’s kitchen table and let the kids play. I ask our parents to come to town. Whatever others offer, take advantage of it. We are made for community and are strengthened by community.
In the midst of such sadness, God provided people who encourage me and my husband. We have seen how He sustains us through the prayers of those we didn’t know were praying. We have seen our church body serve and love and encourage each other in ways that blessed us as well. We can see God working in so many lives through this experience, redeeming what was meant for evil. We are left knowing He “will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Genesis 50:20; Philippians 1:6).
But, those who have not been so fortunate, may still be seeking approval from authority figures even as adults, never quite feeling they measure up to others around them.
Words kill, words give life; they are either poison or fruit . . . you choose (Proverbs 18:21, MSG).
If we are honest, even the best parents can give a mixture of blessing and cursing, healing and hurt within moments. Florence Littauer, author of Silver Boxes, inspires us to weigh our words knowing the value of encouragement and the pain caused by criticism. She shares an illustration of how many building blocks it takes for a child to construct a castle, yet all it takes is one kick to knock them all down. I was challenged that even when giving so many compliments and words of support, all it took was one sharp word of correction and my children would experience pain. I am not saying we should not give instruction or discipline, but we can ask God to show us how to encourage positive behavior rather than focusing on the negative.
Watch the way you talk. Say only what helps, each word a gift (Ephesians 4:29, MSG).
...In the Old Testament, God tells Abraham that his offspring will be instruments of blessing to the whole world both in their deeds as well as with their words (see Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:16-18). From these early examples, the power of blessing began to develop, and we see it became a practice for generations. Their very names were often used as a form of blessing and prophetic promise based on the meaning of each name. This was evidenced by the names Zelophehad gave to his five daughters, declaring their individual gifts and abilities which he prophetically spoke over them (Numbers 27:1; Joshua 17:3-6). A patriarch’s final blessing was important in biblical times as a matter of inheritance rights. In addition, some final blessings included prophetic statements that revealed God’s supernatural power at work in and through those that received the blessing.
...The principle is clear: God has given parents and grandparents the privilege and authority to speak blessing over their children and, with that blessing, to advance life, health, growth, joy and self-confidence! We need to learn to incorporate this privilege as a dynamic aspect of raising our children and blessing them in every way we possibly can.
In the same way we are admonished to speak blessing over the next generation, we also feel that God is pronouncing His blessing over each one of us in a powerful and prophetic way, blessing our lives and our future. As a spiritual leader to the women placed under my care, I speak God’s blessing over your lives and His favor for you to be used mightily in these last days...read more
My husband is currently a bi-vocational church planter. This means that he has a full time job while planting and pastoring a new church plant. In the past the balance of family and ministry has always been tricky, but now more than ever. Balancing the demands of ministry on the family can feel overwhelming and complicated. I have had two sides drilled into my head. As a result two personal rant/pep talks have emerged:
Talk number one: "Tish, put family first! If your family is in disrepair your ministry is valueless. You cannot minister to others with full gospel impact unless you are making your marriage and your home priority over all."
Talk number two: "Tish get a grip and stop being selfish! A ministry calling demands sacrifice. Your time is not your own and your home is not your own. Pour yourself out generously for the sake of the gospel and for the health of Christ’s church."
How do we reconcile these two?...continue reading