Fancy at the Library and A Water Fight Before Bed

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Mia headed to the library, completely decked out in fancy shoes, matching headband and coordinating outfit for her doll.  She is definitely my daughter.

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I have to catch Zane when I can.  He doesn’t usually hold still long enough for me to get any good pictures of him but I certainly get a lot of action shots.  He was busy playing at the library and I snapped a quick, blurry picture of him.

20130626-084639.jpgWe were all feeling lazy after dinner and Daddy had to run off to a meeting so I filled up every container I could find with water and sent the kids outside.

20130626-084646.jpgEverything was pretty calm…

20130626-084654.jpg…just measuring and pouring…

20130626-084700.jpg…until Mia discovered a more mischievous purpose for the water.

20130626-084706.jpgZane didn’t seem to mind getting wet.

20130626-084712.jpgAnd Mia thought it was pretty funny

Portrait of a Ministry Wife: Part 3

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This week I am featuring Amanda Lockyer. She and I have known each other since we were children as her father pastored my childhood church for many years as we were growing up.  I have been inspired by her perseverance as she and her family have experienced many trials over the last few years.  Her unflinching reliance on God has strengthened my faith and has touched the lives of many.  

Tell us about your family and your ministry.

After 8 years of Bible College while working full-time, my husband graduated from Calvary Baptist Bible College in 2010 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Studies.  Following the Lord’s leading that May, we stepped out on faith to be “church planters” in NE Kentucky in a 100-year-old church building.  We began holding services in September of 2010.  We have seen many children in the area come to know the Lord in the past 3 years.  In July of 2012, we merged our ministry with a small group of people in South Shore, KY that needed a Pastor.  So, my husband Todd is now the Pastor of New Hope Baptist Church.  www.newhopebaptistky.com

This Church is still a mission work in many ways.  We have a very small group of attendees, a bus ministry and we are not “officially” a year old yet.  Daily, we are praying and trusting that God will continue to bless and “build the ministry” in His way and in His time.  Currently, my husband works full-time along with being the Pastor there because the church is unable to support us financially at this time.  They do pay us a small weekly salary when they are able.

Is there a single trial or event within your ministry that you feel has helped to make you who you are or that taught you a necessary lesson? Tell us about it and explain how God has used it to help your ministry.

There is no other event that has affected our family greater or changed our viewpoint of God than the 7 month struggle we had with our daughter Gracie being in intensive care and then passing away.  You know, every individual has a “plan” for his or her life that they scheme or dream or try to make happen.  Ours was to have children, healthy, 3 years apart, with a friendly church, full-time support, and “happy ever after”.  Wow.  The scripture that resounds in my ears is when God says, “My ways are not your ways” “My thoughts are not your thoughts”.  (Isaiah 55:8)

Our ministry and life has been a picture of constantly yielding and TRUSTING in the perfect plan of the Lord for our lives.  What looks like chaos to us is what He had planned.  What seems totally wrong to us is totally right.  But, if a believer can get to a point where he/she says, “Lord, I trust you; I know you love me and want the best for me.  I’ll quit trying to do it my way.”  Then, that is where we feel the peace of the God in the storm.  Many times in our lives we have questioned God and said, “Are you sure about this?”  But, when we bow to His plan and give our burdens to Him, then we do well.  Whether it be by the bedside of a dying child or in front of a suffering ministry, we have to surrender to Him.  I still struggle with this surrendering daily.

What five words would you use to describe being a ministry wife?

“Honor, Pressure, Responsibility, Difficult, Calling”

It’s an honor, but often difficult, full of responsibility and pressure and must be looked at as a calling of God.

What would you say is your most important job(s) as a ministry wife? What expectations do you feel are placed on you as a ministry wife?

It is hard to nail down the most important job as a ministry wife.  Often, we have many “expected” jobs and if we are willing, most of the church people will let us do them all! From teaching the kids to cleaning the bathrooms to typing the bulletins to being hospitable to always smiling and having it together to never letting your “sinful nature” show to singing in the choir to shaking every hand to loving every person and always be content with all things.  Always support your husband, too.  All of these are “good” things when done in the right spirit.  All of these are great things when not forced but done for the Lord.

But, I believe the most important job of a Pastor’s wife is to stay right with God!  We have got to be so in love with the Lord Jesus, so in the Word and learning and growing in Him, that we will be ready to do or respond in ministry in whatever the Lord leads.  If our prayer life is weak and our heart is sinful, everything else we do will be in vain and often we will fail.  We need to earnestly pray for our selves, our husbands, our children. And, we need to pray that God fill us with His love so that we can love others. 

I have been told over and over by many pastors’ wives that it is very difficult for a ministry wife to have close friends and to form relationships. Have you experienced this? Why do you think this is a problem and what do you think ministry wives can do to change this? Do you feel relationships are different for a ministry wife? If so, how?

 I can honestly say that my best friend is my husband.  I have some really sweet ladies in my life who would be there no matter what.  But, there is always the temptation to share our burdens with ladies who love us in our church only to have it used against us later.  This is not a fable.  I have had it happen several times!  Even those friends we love with all of our heart have sin natures, too.  A slip of the tongue or saying too much can come back and bite us with a vengeance.  It may not happen right then—but one day, the devil can plant the hard words in the heart of a “friend” and it cause many problems. 

I truly do feel extremely lonely at times and wish so much for Godly friends outside of my ministry.  I believe a fault of many “Preacher’s wives” is they feel they have to look “all together” even for other Pastor’s wives.  That is not so!  The Bible says to bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)  The way I have prayed is that God put me into contact with Godly ladies who are also open and want a friend that I can be myself with.  Sometimes, I try to find a Pastor’s wife or Christian lady with whom I have like tastes, like burdens, like ministries, etc. and then I reach out to her for fellowship.  Not all of the ladies I’ve asked to share with have been willing, but God provides who He wants us to share with.  And, if we pray specifically for a friend, He will answer.

I do believe that Preacher’s wives should have “monthly” meetings just like the men do.  Not all women feel comfortable or are outgoing in this way.  But, I know that it would be a blessing to me.  If you know of any Ministry Wives’ fellowships….let me know!  Maybe one day I’ll start one.

Lastly, when the burdens are heavy, we feel that if we can just share it with someone else it will help!  If anything…maybe they will just pity us!  But, then I am reminded that God is the one I need to tell the most to…and I often don’t.  I love the song that He reminds me of that says, “Are you weary, are you heavy-hearted?  Tell it to Jesus.  He is a friend that’s well known.  You’ve no other such a friend or brother.  Tell it to Jesus alone.”

How do you respond when someone criticizes your husband or when a conflict arises in the church that your husband has to deal with?

There are 2 answers to this question.  One being, how do I respond in a conflict; and secondly, how should I respond?  I can say that there have been several conflicts and criticisms and times where I have responded to in the wrong way.  I believe all conflict should be bathed in prayer and words spoken in love.  I believe we should specifically pray before confronting any person and we should consider our motives as to why we are confronting the person.  Many times, it is to “force” an outcome, soothe our anger, or rush to a “fix” when a person is not ready. 

I have responded many times by “head-on” confrontation and it has yet to be a success.  Many times, people are offended and leave.  Every time I fail, I ask God to help me have grace, love and patience.  If we continue to be Godly, loving and faithful in the midst of a person who is not right with God, that is the best way to deal with the issue.  If the person has a problem that is an unspiritual complaint, we have every right to speak the truth of it being wrong in love.  However, conflict is often avoided by people.  You may know they are upset with you.  You may even know that they are talking about you behind your back. But, if you try to handle it on your own, it always has the potential to be a worse outcome and leave you looking like the one with the problem.  If the person is a believer, God will convict—and in His time, either they will make things right, or God will resolve the issue.  My #1 problem has been learning once again to give my anger and hurts to the Lord and waiting on Him to work them out.  Instead, I try to take matters in my own hands with face-to-face confrontation and often I lose control of my emotions and I fail.  The Bible says to have joy and be “happy” when reproached for the name of Christ.( 1st Peter 4:14).  There will always be attacks when you are living for the Lord.

Do you ever feel like you are living in a glass house…like someone is always keeping an eye on you and your family? Does that change how you act?

There is no doubt that people will watch a Pastor and his family closely to see how they live and what they do.  I believe the way we handle it will help us to deal with the feeling of being in a glass house.  While being a Pastor’s wife is a leadership role, we are still humans with sin natures and faults.  Often times, Pastor’s wives feel that they cannot admit their weaknesses and struggles because they have to appear “super spiritual”.  It’s not about being perfect—it’s about being right and confessing when we are wrong. 

If you are humble and tell people that you will make mistakes and that you are on this “Christian life journey” just like them, I believe it takes some of the pressure of.  But, be ready!  Because, even though God forgives when we “blow it”—church people aren’t as forgiving.  It’s hard for them to see a Pastor and wife fail spiritually and sometimes it can cause them to stumble or offend them even if you make it right.  Because of this, we should try to live above reproach and cautiously, knowing that while we cannot be a “fake”, we need to be sensitive to our testimony and how it affects our “sheep” or church people.  But, you must answer to God and not a person’s “idea” of what you should be, or you will drive yourself crazy.

Be honest…have you ever felt like just walking away from ministry and never looking back?  How do you stick with it when you want to give up?

Honestly, many times I have questioned my calling, my strength, even my personality and have wondered if I am really able to be used of God in the ministry.  Sometimes I feel like I do more damage than good.  How do I stay with it?  Well, I tell myself that as long as God has kept me in ministry, He wants me there.  That means that He still has a use for this unstable, doubtful, emotional, faithless woman that I am.  I pray that God would do something in my life for His glory—and I know He is able even when I don’t feel able.  I love the saying that “God doesn’t call the equipped…he equips the called.”  Also, we have a promise that he will continue the good work in us. Philippians 1:6-“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”  That’s a relief!  It takes the pressure of me to be successful because I know that if I just let Him be in control, He can use me.  Also, when I want to walk away I can tell that my priorities are shifting towards my personal needs and not God’s plan.  I know He will not give me more than I can bear and if I can’t bear it, He will take me out of it.  Though some days I think, God, are you sure you have the right person here?  I don’t think I can take anymore.

Has ministry forced you to move away from family and friends that you were very close to? How has that affected you? What have you done to make such a transition easier?

That’s where I am now!  For all but 2 years of my first 7 years of married life, I lived where my parents were.  During this time, I had a child and had grandma and grandpa right there.  We had Sunday dinners together and saw each other almost every other day.  When God moved us 3 years ago, I asked my mom, (who is also a Preacher’s wife and has been away from her mother her entire life) what I was going to do??  She said, “God will work it out!  He will put ladies in your church to be “grandma” and He will give you people to love and care for you like family.”  And, that is true.  He has! 

As a matter of fact, the rubber “hit the road” 1 year after we moved away.  I became pregnant!  The past 19 months I have had a child for the first time without being near any family.  Often times, I have to take him with me when I run errands, get groceries, etc.  I don’t get as many “date nights” and I have to plan appointments around my husband’s schedule so that I can have help.  God has given me ladies who have helped in wonderful ways through the past 2 years.  And, visits with both sets of grandparents have never been sweeter

In the end….you just kind of deal with it!  I always see ladies who have it worse off than me—no family living, single mothers, etc.  I could be across an ocean; I’m only a day’s drive away.  So, it’s not that bad in the grand scheme of things.  It’s not like being by family; but God’s grace is there.

Has your husband ever had to work outside of the church while also serving in the church?  How did that affect you and your family?  What did God teach you through that experience?

We are still right here.  My husband is bi-vocational.  We are living by faith and he is busy!  Having to work full-time greatly limits his opportunities to visit, minister, follow-up on visitors, etc.  God knows this and right now, this is how He has seen fit for our lives to be.  But, the Lord has given my husband a loving employer who knows his priorities and the job works around his ministry needs in an amazing way.  So, God is definitely in the details.  Also, it is a good thing for preachers to experience the “real world” and what it is like to work 9-5 in the world with sinners.  It gives you a taste of what your people who are “employees” have to face in the world with the dirty comments, the sin, the conflict, etc.  That way, they will know you have been there and will not resent you for not having a “real job”…..even though we know the ministry in itself is work enough!!  😉 

Confessions of a Child

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Sunday night I as I was tucking my kids into bed, I was given a clear glimpse into my children’s hearts.  As I lay snuggled up with Mia, I heard a scuffle of feet and the whispering shuffle of Pull-ups being dumped out of a bag.  I glanced from the top bunk to see Zane, defiantly disobeying our request for him to stay in bed, scurrying quickly into his bunk below. I crawled down to confront the problem.

“Zane, did you get out of bed?” I asked, already knowing the truth.  “No”, he calmly answered.  “Are you sure?,” I asked,”Because I actually saw you with my eyes and heard you with my ears. Did you get out of bed?” And again he answered, “No”, smiling sweetly and giving me the most adorable stare.  We then had a discussion about how lying is a sin. I told him that when he sins it hurts God and it hurts Mommy and Daddy and sin is deep in our hearts and only Jesus can take it away.  The whole time I am trying to have this conversation I could hear Mia calling to me from above.

It started out soft and calm, “Mom.” And as I tried to proceed with my conversation with Zane, it got louder and more urgent. “Mom! Mom! I really need to say something.”

“Ok, Mia, what is it?” At this point I was relatively annoyed.  Between Zane’s inability to listen and my tired, scattered thoughts, and Mia’s interruptions my plans for a rewarding conversation about Jesus was falling apart.

“I have to tell you something.” Her eyes were brimming with tears and she fumbled awkwardly with her blanket. “I heard what you were saying to Zane and I just had to tell you that…I lied.  I lied a lot of times.  Daddy told me not to tell anyone that we were going to move and I did.  I forgot and I told some people. I’m sorry I did that”

“It’s ok, sweetheart.  That’s not really a lie…that is more like disobeying.  Daddy asked you not to do something and you did it anyway.  But I forgive you and we don’t have to talk about it anymore…that was quite a few months ago. It would have been best if you talked to me about it then.”

“Well, then…I also I have to tell you that I lied another time.  I drew on some papers at church with Carly and then I was afraid I would get in trouble so I hid them in the trash. I’m sorry, Mommy, I won’t ever do it again.”

“You should never feel like you can’t tell me things.  If you feel like you did something wrong, don’t hide it from Mommy.  It is so much better to take care of it right away.”

She continued to empty her little heart of all the wrong (or perceived wrong) she could think of that she had done in the last year.  Everything that had been stored up came pouring out.

I began to see my own tendencies in dealing with sin being reflected in each of my children.  When I know I have done something wrong I tend to, like Zane, cover it up and hide it.  I can deny it so much in my heart and to other people that I actually convince myself I have done nothing wrong. But God has seen and heard what I have done and by the time everything is said and done, I have received more grief and frustration because I did not deal with my wrong right away.

Or, like Mia, I repress every calling of the Holy Spirit and avoid every opportunity I have for confession until everything spills out in a flowing mess of guilt.  And then my own guilt is what ends up punishing more than anything else.

I fail to see that God is a loving God.  God is a merciful God.  Hiding and procrastinating does not make confession easier.   He hears the confessions of our heart and deals quickly and fairly…sending our sins as far as the east is from the west, giving us a peace and comfort in place of guilt of shame.  Why would I want to prolong the wait for such peace? Why would I want to procrastinate when I can be free?

He’s Got the Whole World…

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As I look at this picture that I took of my daughter outside of her new school on kindergarten registration day I can’t help but think of the sovereignty of God.  That tiny girl, in front of that big school, in a huge city, in a giant country on a monstrous world is in the mighty hand of the great and loving God that created her.  And He has a magnificent plan for her…

for her to grow and learn and struggle and triumph….

for her know suffering and joy and excitement and disappointment…

for her to have faith and doubt and for her to worry and to trust…..

But no matter what happens in her life, she is constantly and forever in His hand.

Portrait of a Ministry Wife: Part 2

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jenniferThis week I am featuring the answers provided by Jennifer Duncan.  Her husband formerly pastored the church that my family attends and she and her family have been friends to my family for years.  She has been a great example to me even if often times it has been as I watch  from afar.  She has prayed for me and given me opportunities to grow in my faith through her guidance.  And her sympathy and strength in hard times has helped me to keep going.

Tell us about your family and your ministry. 

My husband is an Associate Pastor in Huntington, WV and we have three children.  Their ages are 10, 8 and 3 and I homeschool the oldest two and will be starting pre-school with our youngest this fall.  Scott’s ministry involves discipleship, counseling, preaching, teaching and whatever else he needs to do to support our Senior Pastor.

Is there a single trial or event within your ministry that you feel has helped to make you who you are or  that taught you a necessary lesson? Tell us about it and explain how God has used it to help your ministry. 

Our infertility taught us so much.  Through this we learned that sometimes quoting Scripture is not always the best idea.  Instead, if someone is hurting, just hurt with them and love on them.  Let them know YOU are going to be God in flesh for them.  Not that we can replace the sufficiency of Christ in their lives.  However, we are the arms and hands of Christ.

What five words would you use to describe being a ministry wife? 

Exasperating, rewarding, time-consuming, enjoyable and valuable.

What would you say is your most important job(s) as a ministry wife? What expectations do you feel are placed on you as a ministry wife?  

My most important job as a ministry wife is solely to support Scott in his ministry.  That could be me providing hospitality to someone he is ministering to, keeping the kids calm on Sunday morning before he preaches, getting involved in a ministry where he needs a woman or providing encouragement when he feels down.  I don’t think there is a certain role I have or certain tasks I do. 

As for expectations, sometimes I feel like I place more expectations on myself than others do.  I feel like I need to have it all together.  One thing that Scott and I are both adamant about though is being sure our kids know the importance of the role the family as a whole plays.  Some people have told us that we shouldn’t put that pressure on children.  The way we have explained it to the kids is that God placed them in our family knowing the life Scott would have.  Not only did He “call” Scott, He also “called” the rest of us.

We do try to stay as involved as possible with different ministries.  We try to keep our children involved in things going on and we try to be at the various services.  Although there are times that I miss for different things.  If one of the kids ends up sick, Scott goes, but I do not.  If there is a special service of some kind and I have a previous engagement, I sometimes miss.  We just try to use wise judgment.  We want the people of our church to know we support our different ministries and our church.  We also want them to see us involved so that they know they are cared for and loved.

I have been told over and over by many pastors’ wives that it is very difficult for a ministry wife to have close friends and to form relationships. Have you experienced this? Why do you think this is a problem and what do you think ministry wives can do to change this? Do you feel relationships are different for a ministry wife? If so, how? 

I have several friends at the church where we are and I feel like that not having friends is an expectation sometimes placed on ministry wives that shouldn’t be.  However, I don’t limit myself to one person when we meet as a body.  I try to talk to as many people as I can as the opportunity arises.  Usually, the closest relationships I have within the church are people I am ministering beside and with.  I will add that even when you have close relationships within the church, you sometimes have to watch divulging information that you shouldn’t.  As a ministry wife, there are times that I know things the average church attendee or member does not.    These are the things that I keep to myself as I support my husband in his ministry.  Scott cannot have a fruitful ministry if his wife is a gossip.

How do you respond when someone criticizes your husband or when a conflict arises in the church that your husband has to deal with? 

Oh my…this one is so hard.  There have been times that Scott has been hurt.  Sometimes, what people don’t understand is that when they hurt him, they hurt me also.  It is so easy to feel vindictive when someone hurts him.  Although there are times I would love to be able to vindicate him, I find that what he needs most is for me to be his support and encourage him where he might feel inadequate because of what someone said or did.

I was also a ministry kid and as I grew older I became aware of the struggles my dad had in ministries.  So, it can also be hurtful to the children if they are aware of what is going on which can make it doubly hard.  We haven’t experienced that much yet because our children don’t always sense when there is conflict.  Our oldest, Ben, is the one that would sense it at this point and so I know the day will approach that they will either hear or observe their dad being criticized.  If that time ever comes, I will do my best to help them not blame “the church”.  I don’t ever want to see them quit worshiping with other believers because of past hurts which I have seen happen time and time again.

Do you ever feel like you are living in a glass house…like someone is always keeping an eye on you and your family? Does that change how you act? 

I have felt that way before but I did not feel like absolutely every member was watching.  You can usually tell who is keeping close tabs.  I try not to let it change how I act but that can be hard at times.  Someone once gave the advice that if we aren’t being ourselves then there is no way that Jesus can show through us.  I took that to heart when I heard it and have never forgotten.  I think it helps people in your church if they see the pastors and their families struggle with this world just like they do.  We have to show them that through the struggle, God carries us through.      

Be honest…have you ever felt like just walking away from ministry and never looking back?  How do you stick with it when you want to give up?

That would be a resounding YES!  These times normally come though when there is conflict.  I honestly feel like the want to walk away comes from the enemy and that it is spiritual warfare.  There is nothing Satan would like better than for Scott to quit.  Satan could use me for that.  When conflict comes and I feel like we are fighting a losing battle, I force myself to remember times when I have been amazed at the way God uses Scott in his ministry.  That is normally how I stick with it.

There was one point in his ministry when I asked him to step back and that was during our time of infertility.  Instead of Scott having to step out of ministry altogether, God graciously provided a ministry that was very low-key.  I could take the time when I needed to be alone or could be scarce if I was having a particularly hard time.  I am very thankful for that year!

Has ministry forced you to move away from family and friends that you were very close to? How has that affected you? What have you done to make such a transition easier?

Yes.  We have moved twice but the most recent move was in 2003, seven days after my oldest was born.  We were only an hour from my family but to a new mommy, it might as well have been 10 hours away.  I remember the day my parents left after my mom and grandmother stayed with me to help me get unpacked after my c-section.  It was Sunday evening and Scott had already left for church.  When my dad and mom walked out the door, I sat and rocked Benjamin and cried until Scott returned home that night after church.  I had no friends, I no longer worked outside of the home and I didn’t even know how to get to the grocery store by myself.  It was a very lonely feeling.

I don’t know that I did things to make the transition easier.  That first year, we only had one car so visits were few.  We didn’t have cell phones and my mom would send me long distance cards but those just didn’t seem to have enough time on them.  Eventually, the transition just became easier.  I got to know some people.  I got lots of reading and Bible study done.  I figured out where I could buy milk.  The five years we spent away were some of the most rewarding years we have spent.  We loved the slow pace where we were and loved the community.  Eventually, God blessed us tremendously with the use of a van the church owned.  This allowed me to visit home some when Scott had busy weeks or when I just needed to spend some time with my mom.

The times we have been away from home were always growing experiences for us.  Scott and I became friends even more so than when we knew tons of people.

Has your husband ever had to work outside of the church while also serving in the church?  How did that affect you and your family?  What did God teach you through that experience?  Yes.  He did bi-vocational ministry until 2002 which would have been the first seven years of our marriage.  At first, I thought this was what I wanted for him in ministry.  But looking back, I see how wrong I was and how him being available for people and ministry throughout the day is better for all, even our family.  Also, ministry can be stressful at times and so can a secular job.  Imagine the load he would have trying to care for his family while caring for a church and working another job.

Fun at “The Dog Mall”

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My mom came to visit us this week for a couple of days.  We went to the mall that my kids affectionately (or possibly, fearfully) call “the dog mall”.  It is an outdoor mall where people can walk their dogs, dogs are permitted in some of the people stores and there are stores just for dogs.  But in addition to all the dogs, there is also a really fun splash area for the kids.

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Mia jumped right in…fearlessly facing the adventure.

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 Zane decided he did not want to take his clothes off, so he ran through the water completely clothed….which created an interesting scenario to deal with later.  

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