When the cat’s away…

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Mia has been in school now for a month.  We have had our ups and downs but she is currently loving it. This picture is of when she got to go to McDonald’s because she didn’t cry for a whole week when I dropped her off…yes, I resorted to bribing (don’t judge me.) But after the first week-and-half she actually became happy to go to school. Her love of school even produced such statements as, “Mommy, I don’t really miss you that much anymore when I’m at school” and “Mom, I don’t just like school, I love school.  No, wait…I SUPER LOVE school”.  And I was pleased to find out how much she actually likes her teacher when on one day last week when he had to be out she came out of the school nearly in tears when I went to pick her up. Without any words she just ran to me with an anguished look on her face and arms stretched out wanting me to pick her up…even in front of all of her school friends.  When we got to the car it all spilled out, “Lillian wasn’t there, and I couldn’t find my bagel money….and, and….I just missed Mr. Roberts so much.” And then the tears came.  Never had her sad tears produced so much joy in my heart.  She actually loved her teacher enough that missing him would create such a horrible, awful day.  She is now so distracted by talking to friends and making sure to get the attention of her teacher that she doesn’t even care if I am there or not when I drop her off.

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And then there is this guy.  He is loving the fact that he can make decisions about his day and not have to compromise or share with his sister.  We go to the mall and the zoo with  his friends.  He gets to pick what shows he watches on TV.  And on one particular day, as you can see, he chose to wear nothing but his underwear, on Mia’s bed, playing her iPod.  When Mia is away, he definitely makes the best of his independence and temporary only child status.

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Summer Wrap Up

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Now that I’m back to a somewhat repetitive routine and we are settled in a more permanent location, I really thought a recap might be in order since I wasn’t able to blog for most of the summer. Here are some highlights from the months that were way to much fun to be spent inside.

In May we went to Disneyworld with my family. After moving in mid-April we were excited to be reunited with family again. The reunion between the four cousins was a heartwarming sight full of hugs and rolling on the ground. My sister did a fabulous job planning the week and crammed our visit full of character meals, fast-passing, great food and magical experiences for everyone. Zane could often be found asking the Disney characters to flush the potty. After a chuckle they would always oblige in their over exaggerated pantomime. I can still hear Mia’s squeals of excitement when she discovered she would be eating dinner with the princesses. It was a vacation that is still very much a part of my kids’ conversations, months after the experience was over. Zane still asks on a somewhat regular basis,”Mom, are we going to Disneyworld today?

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We spent much of the summer getting familiar with the Detroit metro area and with the people at our new church. The slower pace of the summer allowed us time to experience some of the exciting places and events that our city has to offer. We made a trip to the zoo as a family and were all intrigued by the polar bear exhibit…we have plans to visit often so that we might get to see the massive creature finally make its way into the water. The kids and I were able to explore so that we now know where to find lakes, splash parks, malls, libraries, and parks. And through the generosity of many people in the church we never had a chance to get bored…between swimming, birthday parties, graduation parties, backyard barbeques, and a visit to Greenfield Village we stayed busy almost every weekend.

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Our summer coasted to a close with an eventful July and August . Our church had their VBS in mid-July where the kids both got to sing, dance, play games, win prizes and make new friends. Only two weeks later they attended VBS with their cousins when we made a trip back to Ohio for Mia’s birthday. We spent the week at Nana and Papaw’s house and were able to visit with friends and family. It was a busy, fun and memory filled week that was capped off by a visit to a water park in Northern Ohio. Then we turned right around and came back to Ohio to finally move all of our stuff out of our house in Ohio. The movers came on a Tuesday…we cleared out our temporary house on a Friday and then Mia started school that next Tuesday. As our life has come to be…this summer was a whirlwind of work, play, excitement and exhaustion, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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…

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

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

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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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How Michigan Has Destroyed My Theology

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Moving to Michigan has totally destroyed my theology…but it needed to be done.  Having to pick up and move my life away from all that I knew and loved made me an emotional wreck. At any given point I would have done anything to be free of the soul crushing pain I experienced to have to give up my job, my family, my friends and my home.  But through the whole process I was looking for a way to get what I wanted.  I wanted to be able to go back.  I wanted to be able to erase everything that everyone said and did that brought us here and I wanted to go on living my life exactly the same way that I was.  But God had something better and that involved tearing down my theology…to rebuild it again in the way that He knew was true and right. Although I could say that I knew God and his ways…I wasn’t living in a way that proved that. God broke apart my life so that he could remove these wrong beliefs about life and about Him.

1. I acted as if man could thwart the plans of God. If asked I would have affirmed with certainty that God is always in control and that God’s plans could never be changed by the actions of man or any other force.  But in action, I was living as if one sin against me or one wrong decision would erase me from the good plan God had set, and send me on the path of darkness and defeat…away from Him.  When we left Ohio, I had a long list of “what ifs” that when followed to completion all seemed better than what was actually happening.  I was living as if God had been thrown a curve ball that he just could not hit and I was having to make do with what was left after choices were made and positions were filled and everyone else moved on.  Faced square on with the pain of all of this I had to make a choice…would I live in the misery of what could have been…or would I move on knowing that God knew exactly what he was doing all along even in the midst of mistakes and broken promises?

2. I acted as if Plan B was an option. In focusing so strongly upon what went “wrong” and what could have gone “right” I found myself living as if God’s Plan A had been thrown off course and I was then stuck with Plan B.  But if my theology was how it should have been, I would have seen that there was never any Plan B.  God’s plan remains as it always was from the beginning of time… all the days ordained for me were written in [His] book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16).  He is sovereign. But His plans aren’t just the way they are because He is in control and He can do whatever He wants (although that is true as well)…His plans are the way they are because He wants what is good for us and what will bring the most glory to Him.

3. But I acted as if God did not always have my good and His glory in mind.  My theology had become so rough around the edges that I was living as if having to do something I didn’t want to, meant that God was no longer looking out for my good.  It was absurd for me to be living that way because I knew that particular concept not even to be true in parenting.  I make my kids clean the living room because I want them to learn responsibility.  I punish my kids when they disobey because it is good for them to learn the submission that will later be reflected in their relationship with God.  I am not doing these things because I want to cause them pain…I am doing it because I know it is best for them.  I am doing it for their good. God doesn’t send me through an awful experience just to watch me suffer.  He does have my good in mind, even if it hurts…and ultimately His glory is seen through His sovereign actions.

In order for me to know God better and to form a better knowledge of Him, He saw best that I be removed from the situation I was in.  He saw that I needed to be broken and torn apart to be formed into a vessel He could use.  Most of all, He saw that my theology was wrong…so He used moving to Michigan to destroy it so He could build it again as it should be.

Portrait of a Ministry Wife: Part 1

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As I started receiving the answers to the questions I had sent out to other ministry wives, I became curious about how I would answer the questions myself.  I realized as I began reading back through the questions and contemplating my answers, that it was a difficult thing to answer some of them. They caused me to think hard and to draw out experiences and feeings that I hadn’t thought about for awhile.  And I decided that if I was asking other women to tackle such a challenging task, I needed to be willing to take on the questions as well. So here is my contribution to the ministry wife project I have been working on:

Tell us about your family and your ministry. My husband is currently an associate pastor at a church in the Detroit metro area.  We have a daughter who is 5 and a son who is 3. My husband is responsible for discipleship and counseling and provides guidance for the small group program. He also helps with the addiction recovery program as well.

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.  Through the first four years of my relationship with my husband, I fought an eating disorder.  I was in a constant state of anxiety over calories and exercise, I struggled with eating in front of people and I was perpetually weak from not eating.  We learned a lot about each other and ourselves during this time. I learned of his loyalty and his amazing ability to counsel others in difficult situations.  He loved and supported me even though I was always lying to him and hiding things. He helped me not only to see that what I was doing was destructive but that it was a also a sin.  God used this time to strengthen our relationship and to teach me the danger of putting something else before HIM.  I feel that in an interesting way the experience equipped me for our future ministry in helping people trapped in addiction.  I felt the unending spiral of darkness that came with giving myself over to a destructive lifestyle.  I felt the constant pull to give in to something I knew was terrible for me. I learned what it was like to want out but not knowing which direction to go.  I learned that addictions aren’t in behavior but in the heart.

What five words would you use to describe being a ministry wife? Frustrating, fulfilling, overwhelming, joyful, edifying

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? I feel that the most important role right now is to be supportive and edifying to my husband. I often fight this role that I know to be so vital.  I have always been very independent and goal oriented and I tend to lose sight of working with my husband because I am seeking my own desires. I feel that many expectations that are placed upon me are the expectations I place on myself. I want to appear like I have it together because people are always watching. But right now I am in the process of learning that people relate better to me when I don’t have it all together.  Trying to appear perfect only hinders my ability to minister to people and keeps me from living out the truth of the gospel.  I am not perfect, I cannot be perfect…so I must be in constant reliance upon Christ.   

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 in the past experienced the loneliness of being privy to all the in-depth details of what goes on behind the scenes of ministry and knowing that I cannot and should not share it with anyone.  But I also have been guilty of using this stereotype as a reason to avoid relationships.  If it is impossible to have friends as a ministry wife then I don’t need to try and I don’t need to experience the hurt and frustration of getting close to people.  But in doing this, I have often missed out on the joy and excitement of having close relationships.  I have learned in the last year that it just takes commitment…reminding myself, “I will not walk away from this relationship no matter how difficult it is”.  And I have also found how important it is to be friends with other ministry wives as well. I have experienced the openness and joy that comes from being close to those you are serving with and I have found how rewarding it is to seek out other ministry wives in the community or around the world and be able to ask questions and share information.   

How do you respond when someone criticizes your husband or when a conflict arises in the church that your husband has to deal with? In the last few years, I have had many opportunities to learn how to react properly to criticism and conflict.  I would like to say that I have done well in these situations but the truth is that I have found myself harboring bitterness, losing sleep over anxious thoughts, having difficulty facing people at church and even joining in the criticism of my husband.  Early in our ministry, our family was criticized for personal life choices and we ended up being excluded from a ministry we had put a lot of emotion and time into. I realized then how sinful my responses were.  When it was all said and done, I ended up locking myself in the bathroom and crying my eyes out on the floor, in physical pain over the emotions I was experiencing and feeling like I wanted to walk away from the church all together.  But in the midst of all of it, a friend had basically told me that when we worry so much about what people think and we get so worked up about what people do to us, God sees that not just as a character flaw but as sin that needs to be removed and He will do whatever is necessary to remove it.  He told me about a painful situation he had gone through and how it had caused him to see the wickedness that is in the hearts of men and how little their opinions mattered next to the holy judgment of God.  It was then that I realized I could not care about what people thought anymore…the opinion of my Heavenly Father was all that really mattered.  His work should be my main concern and everything else is just a place for Satan to get a foothold. I cannot effectively minister to people if I am constantly afraid of them.

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? After spending five years ministering in churches that were close to my family, a couple months ago we were called to move five and a half hours away from them to serve in the church we are currently ministering in.  It has been challenging to adjust to being away from my family…but also rewarding to be relying on the staff and congregation in ways that we never have had to before. To make the transition smoother, I have tried to say “yes” to a lot of invitations for play dates and to dive into a couple selected programs within the church so that I can get to know people quickly. I have also tried to view this time as an exciting adventure that God has graciously allowed us to have and as a special time for our family to learn and grow closer together.

In the coming weeks I will be sharing the responses of other women who I have had the priveldge to know and even serve along side of. Stick around to share in the joy and struggle of being a ministry wife.