Wrecked, Ruined & Working


Seven years ago today, April 12, 2009, our family launched a church plant. I say family because it was most definitely a family affair. That season wrecked and ruined us in the best possible way. Had we not said, “Yes” to God, we wouldn’t be where we are today. 
Recently, I was asked to share at my church’s women’s retreat about how God has worked in my life. That question caused me to thoughtfully reflect upon the specific moments in my life over the last several decades when it was undeniably God leading, directing, working, and moving in my life.

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Wrecked, Ruined & Working

How had she seen God working in her life?


Perhaps, it was on that random day in the Spring of 2008 when she was an adjunct professor at a university. In the dim lights as she listened to one of her voice students rehearse for their final voice recital, tears slowly began to stream down her face.

“Why am I crying?” she thought.

Although the song that was being sun was beautiful, it wasn’t one that would result in this type of emotion, especially since she’d heard it hundreds of times before. Yet, the tears continued to flow. At this point, they were uncontrollable. Thankfully, the room was dim, so others didn’t notice her tear-stained face and bright red nose.

As she turned her attention back to the stage, it wasn’t the singer’s voice she heard. Instead, it was a still, small voice, which she knew to be God’s. Oh, it wasn’t audible to the human ear, but it clearly spoke these words, “About that meeting you are heading into, don’t hold it closely to your heart. You won’t be a professor here next year. You’re going back into ministry and you will be pastoring again.”

She remembers thinking, “What? We have no plans to move. Dreams? Oh, we’ve got lots of dreams, but no plans.”  She turned her attention back to the singer on the stage, and didn’t give much thought to the voice in her head. Well, until about an hour later.

Sitting in the office, she listened to Dean of the School of Music share with the group his hopes and dreams for the future. Plans were discussed. Dreams were dreamed. And possibilities presented. She walked out of that meeting realizing she would have a place here for a long time, if that’s how God led.  But now, she couldn’t stop thinking about what the still, small voice had said.

After the meeting, she walked back to her office to teach a voice lesson. As she arrived at the door, her phone rang; it was her husband. Before she even had time to say hello, he said, “You’re not going to believe this! The superintendent just called me, and they want us to plant a church in Washington. Not just me, but both of us.”

Stunned even more, she fumbled for her keys, unlocked her office door, and made her way to the chair by her desk. She collapsed into it as her head spun with all of this new information coming at her from every single direction. Quietly, she thought to herself, “Now, I know what that still, small voice was trying to tell me about not holding that meeting closely to my heart. I am not going to be here next year.” She tried to explain all of this to her husband who was equally excited and overwhelmed himself.

Being told that God was going to once again open doors for her to pastor shouldn’t have been surprising, but it was. In fact, it was shocking. Even more amazing because God was moving her family back to a place that they considered home. Yet, a place they never ever expected to return.

But maybe she had experienced God working in her life just two years prior in November 2006.  Her family was sitting at a stoplight in Johannesburg, South Africa.  After wrapping up the first worship and arts conference in that country, they were headed back to their host home. Next week, they’d be headed to a church near Durbin. But first, thanks to their gracious hosts, they would celebrate Thanksgiving. Her kids couldn’t believe they were going to swim outside in November on Thanksgiving Day. Not to mention, celebrate an American-style Thanksgiving in another country–complete with a tur-duck-ken and Martha Stewart’s Sweet Potato Casserole!

As they waited for the red light to turn green, her husband looked over at her and said, “Either we are moving to South Africa, or we are are going to plant a church where we can both pastor and fulfill our pastoral callings.” She looked at him in stunned silence. No one saying another word. She knew they weren’t moving to South Africa, so this must mean he was serious about church planting. She had talked about it for years, but he’d never said a word. Well, that is until now as they were sitting at a stoplight in another country! What the heck?

For the next two weeks in South Africa, neither of them uttered a word about that brief, but significant conversation. However, once they got back home to Denver, it was all they talked about, dreamed about, thought about and planned for. Yet, there really was no plan, because God hadn’t opened a door. And she wondered if it would ever really happen.

She went about the usual rhythms and routines of her daily life. Parenting two kids under the age of three and working in fulfilling work environments. She really loved her job as at the university. Yet, with each passing semester, it truly felt as if her calling to pastoral ministry was getting stronger and stronger. However, in many ways, she was pastoring these students–meeting with them outside of class time and encouraging them in their personal walks with Christ. Still, she couldn’t shake how God was leading and working in her life.

Possibly, she had most experienced God working in her life in 2005, shortly after her daughter was born. One evening after the kids were tucked into bed, her husband turned to her and said, “We need to talk.” With cups of coffee in hand, they made their way to the couch and sat down. He shared how he knew she was called to be a pastor, and that he would be responsible to God in how he helped her steward her pastoral calling, her talents and and her gifts.

He recalled when they had first met. She was the one who had been called to vocational ministry. At that time, he was studying to be a medical doctor, and he desired to support her in ministry. Yet, here they were, many years later, trying to figure out what it would look like for both of them to walk faithfully in their pastoral callings. Surely, it was non-traditional, but nothing about this couple was typical. They sort of live life outside-of-the-box of tradition.

Or could it be that she’d really experienced God working in her life during college? She thought back to that Sunday at the end of her freshman year of college when she walked the aisle of the Baptist church. Stepping out into the aisle, she took the first step. Then, another step until finally making her way to the front of that sanctuary where the pastor was standing. Years before, when she was just a little girl, she walked the aisle to make public her decision to accept Jesus as her Savior and Lord of her life. But this time, well, it was different. This time, she was walking the aisle to surrender her life to full-time vocational ministry. She knew whether she married, or not, she was called to ministry. Maybe even to be a pastor.  And if she didn’t make it public, she wouldn’t be walking in obedience to God.

In the moments and months and years after making that decision public, she recalled all the doors that God had opened for her to minister, to lead, to serve and to learn. She sincerely wanted nothing more than to do God’s will, so she accepted most every opportunity she was given: working with college students, youth and children, and, of course, singing and leading worship. After all, music was her college major (and minor).  

Then again, maybe God had most strongly and specifically worked in her life when that young woman, now a wife and mother, was standing on a stage.  But not just any stage. Once again, she found herself standing on the stage at Wenatchee Free Methodist. However, this time, instead of performing a concert, she was taking her ordination vows. As the Bishop spoke, she recalled the first time she walked through the doors of this church as a tour member preparing to perform a concert. Like any other night in any other city in any other state or any other country, this church was just one of the many stops on that tour. 

As she got off the tour bus, this small-town Louisiana girl thought about how she’d never even heard of the Free Methodist denomination. And she was quite certain after that concert was over she would never step foot into another Free Methodist church in her lifetime. After all, she was a Southern Baptist pastor’s kid! My, oh my, doesn’t God have a sense of humor?!

Yet, here it was seventeen years later–17 years–and where did she find herself? Standing on that very same stage of that very same church in Wenatchee, WA. Only this time, she was flanked on either side by her pastor-husband and her pastor-dad, because she was being ordained an elder in the Free Methodist denomination. As she knelt down and placed her hands on the Bible, it was a holy and sacred moment. It was almost too much for her to take in. Overwhelming was an understatement. God was surely at work. 

Or possibly she most experienced God working in her life at that first official church service of their church plant back in 2009. Selah, it was called. She thought back to how they’d even come to that name for the church. On a bright and beautiful spring day–ones she’s only seen or experienced in Colorado–her family was driving home from a friend’s birthday party. When all of a sudden, she said, “Selah, that’s it! That’s the name of the church we are going to plant. It’s from the Old Testament in the book of Psalm. Do you know what it means?”

With a big grin on his face, her husband said, “Yes, it means, ‘to pause, to rest‘. And I agree, Selah is the name for the church.”

Although hard work and long hours, their season of church planting was very much a pause and rest for her and her entire family. After navigating the hamster wheel of busyness and chaos of what they had personally discovered to be Americanized-Evangelical church ministry, they realized it was not the life they desired. Nor was it the ministry to which they felt called to serve. Now, here they were setting up church each and every Sunday: chairs and tables and church signs and kids’ classrooms–the whole shebang.

And that season was life-giving and fulfilling and transformative. Not only for them, but for many others. People who’d never stepped foot inside of a church before and others who’d been deeply wounded by the traditional church experiences were attending. They were coming to the services, and their lives were being transformed by Jesus. During that time of her life, God was surely working. 

Even still, as the case often is with church plants, their’s became a statistic. The doors were shut and the church was closed. There was doubt and confusion and, if I am honest, a bit of anger, too. But that’s another story for another day. Suffice to say, that season gave her a new perspective on success.

Success is not always determined by numbers or buildings or programs. Neither is success always the completion of a dream. She learned success wasn’t defined by man, but by God. In her life, success meant saying YES to God and trusting his plan even when the outcome was uncertain or unknown. Or when things didn’t turn out they way she had envisioned or planned. 

Church planting ruined her and her family in the best way possible. And she’d do it again…in a heartbeat. 

But when had she really seen God working in her life?

Maybe it was back in 2013 when her husband told her he needed to recharge for the next ministry season? He wasn’t at the point of burnt out, but he knew that if he didn’t intentionally take a season of rest, he would be. In some ways, this was a sabbatical, but in this case it was voluntary unemployment. In our faith tradition, pastors are usually granted a sabbatical every seven years. However, due to moves and various other transitions, they both had been in ministry for nearly 20 years without ever taking, or being granted a sabbatical.

To some, taking this season of voluntary rest didn’t make sense. Still, in faith, they walked in obedience to God. For her, specifically, this was another lesson of trust and relinquishment. This decision should have freaked her out, because she is planner–a serious planner who likes to have her ducks in a row. Yet, it didn’t freak her out. In fact, she experienced peace like never before. And she thought, “No paycheck, no problem.” God will provide.

And God did provide in many overwhelming and extraordinary ways. During that season, her husband was intentional about resting and restoring himself—body, mind, soul and spirit. He also took on all the responsibilities of home schooling their kids and managing their home while she continued to work. And it was amazing to see God work in and through their lives.

In less than three months, God multiplied her music studio by three fold. She was flabbergasted. As such, her sphere of influence widened. She had students and families from every walk of life and background coming into her home each and every week. She may have been their music teacher. But she knew for many, she was the only Jesus they would ever see. And she took that seriously.

As a result, she began to see ministry differently and more clearly. Ministry was not only when she served on the staff of a church, or whenever she had the title of pastor. It wasn’t an official program or position. No, ministry was her very life, 24/7/365. Living and loving like Jesus, wherever she found herself in the many spheres of influence that God placed her.

As the season of sabbatical (unemployment) ended, they really had no idea what their next steps would be. Would she be hired at a church to pastor? Would her husband? Would they be serving together? Or in separate locations? Would they move? Or would they be able to stay in a community where they felt called to establish roots? No matter what the future held, they were going to be obedient to God. And they would walk through whatever door he opened or down whichever road he directed.

Then, one day, that couple got another call from the very same superintendent who had called them a few years before. Remember? 

Perhaps, that was the day when I most experienced God working in my life.

And here I am. A pastor on staff of a church. A church I dearly love. Serving alongside of my husband, because he’s on staff, too. Writing these words in the very office where my husband sat and worked way back in 2000. The very office that I helped him to paint (And it’s the same color, mind you, from over 15 years ago.)
The very office where we had many tearful talks. The place where I told him about yet another negative pregnancy test. (Unfortunately, we had that particular talk a lot.) But it was also the place where I was able to tell him he was finally going to be a daddy for the first time.

It was in this very office where our then-lead pastor looked at me and told me, “Jada, you should pursue pastoral ordination and take classes, because you are already a pastor, but you should make it ‘official’.” And now, it’s the place where I fulfill my pastoral calling from so many years ago. 

Yes, I do believe it is in this season that I am most experiencing God working in my life. Right now, in this very moment. But I wouldn’t be in this season had it not been for the many, many others. For you see, each one is intertwined and connected together to create exactly who I am and where I am today.

And in this one, I’m fulfilling a little girl’s dream. A little girl who “played church” with her stuffed animals and “preached” on the front steps of her parents’ home in the Deep South. Only now, I’m not pretending to be a pastor. I am one. And I love it and my Church, the people, as well as the community in which I reside and serve.

Recently, we were on a family hike. During the hike, my daughter exclaimed, “Mom, I don’t like straight paths. I like to make my own way.” Her comment got me to thinking–really thinking–about my life and the paths that I have journeyed over these last four decades.

Now, I can’t speak for everyone. But for many of us, God’s plan for our lives doesn’t always include a straight path. Oh surely, sometimes, it might. But usually, there are many twists and turns and detours along the way. At least on my journey, there have been many.

And there were times when I thought the dream and the calling would never be fulfilled. But God had a plan. A plan I would have never, ever dared to dream, or hope for, or imagine. Whenever I thought the door was closed, he was simply saying, “Not that one,” or, “Not now.” God was with me and stays with me every step of the way. In some ways, I’ve come full circle. And there are many days that it leaves me absolutely breathless.

What about you? Has God given you a dream? Has he called you to a unique opportunity? Surely, it doesn’t have to be vocational ministry.  God calls his children to all sorts of endeavors and experiences. And he only asks that we faithfully serve and represent him wherever we find ourselves.

The book of Proverbs tells us, “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”

So, if God has given you a dream or a calling don’t become discouraged when it doesn’t come to fruition overnight or within a human’s finite timeframe. Allow him to work and to move and to do what only God can do in and through you. For you see, it’s really not about the destination; it’s about the journey.  If I could encourage you in any possible way, it would be to keep your eyes on where he’s leading, but mostly, I encourage you to enjoy the journey–each and every step, every twist and  turn, and even the roadblocks.

Clergy Confessions: Brain Farts [What’s Your Name?]

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Over the course of my time serving in vocational ministry, which is nearing the twenty year mark, would you care to guess what one of the most difficult tasks I have found to be?

Remembering people’s names. 

Seriously, even though I can memorize dozens of pages of musical lyrics in various foreign languages (Russian, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Hebrew, etc.), it is difficult for me to remember folks’ names. Now, when I’m memorizing musical lyrics, I am sitting with those pages of music for many hours each and every day. Yet, as typical with church attendance, most folks don’t attend church each and every Sunday. Statistically speaking, it’s usually two out of four Sundays a month. So, that adds to the challenge of remembering names. Not to mention, most pastors have multiple hundreds of names to remember (if not multiple thousands). It may not be popular to admit this, but even in trying to do my best, I make mistakes and have “brain farts“. And don’t tell me you don’t occasionally have them, too! Because if you did, we’d have to talk about lying then, wouldn’t we?!

In all sincerity, I am STILL learning folks’ names at the church where I am on pastoral staff, and I have been working there for two years (and this is my second stint at this very church, so there are a few carry overs from my previous tenure). However, I am trying to show myself some grace, and hoping others will do the same. As a church shifts and changes during staff transitions and, especially, when a church is growing (and praise God our church is!), it takes time for pastors to get to know folks. And, it’s all the more difficult when folks dart out quickly after service. On those occasions, we hardly have time to say, “Good morning!” much less engage in an actual conversation and make polite introductions. Then, of course, there’s football season, when pastors around the country wonder, “Where’s my congregation? Did I miss the rapture and get left behind?”

Between preaching and/or leading worship, putting out fires or filling in for the volunteer who didn’t show up, managing emergencies that arise (sometimes, church-related, but other times family-related, because pastors don’t cease to be parents on Sundays), praying for people (which we absolutely love and live to do) and, then, engaging in a bazillion and one conversations in between services, please know that we, pastors, sincerely do our best to remember each and every detail–including your name, your spouse’s name, and all of your children’s names and ages, too. Seriously, we are trying. But, sometimes….it’s just not there. And we wonder where it went, because we can recall every other random detail or unnecessary fact that’s rolling around in our brain. But your name, for whatever reason, is gone. It’s like a system failure, and we have no clue when it’s going to happen. It’s just like POOF!

Unfortunately, it all comes back to one very real, but annoying fact: We are human. Shocking, I am sure. But pastors are not and never will be super-human. Instead, we are simply run-of-the-mill-boringly-ordinary-nothing-special-about-us human beings. As such, we have limited brain capacities, especially on Sundays. Which, as a reminder, happens to be our fullest and most fatiguing workday of the entire week. And, sometimes, we are simply tired. Occasionally, those of us pastors  with kids haven’t gotten one single wink of sleep the night before church due to sick children (Three cheers for dual-pastor families!). Or because we may be dealing with aging and elderly parents ourselves. Or, perhaps, we were at the hospital all night long with a grieving family. Or we may have been tossing and turning throughout the night in fitful sleep; finally giving up on it and, instead, begin to fight a spiritual battle through prayer on behalf of someone (or several someones) in our congregation.

Yet, we are up bright and early on Sunday mornings, because it’s our job to show up, to serve you, to share God’s Word, to pray with and for you. And we take all those things ever so seriously. But the brain farts continue to happen. It’s like they are uncontrollable, unstoppable, undeniable. They are unexpected and unbelievably annoying. And, sometimes, they cause pastors to forget names. (Heck! Sometimes, brain farts cause me to forget my own kids’ names! What’s up with that, huh?) 

So, might I make a humble request, dear church member, regular attender, or cherished guest: Please, oh please, if we are talking with you at church, or if you happen to run into us while out and about in the community, and you can tell that we can’t quite recall or remember your name, please don’t be offended (or leave the church). Instead, would you be ever so kind to show us some grace and, perhaps, even remind us of your name? It would really help us out a lot.

It may come as a surprise, but most pastors have already figured out that we are not perfect, we make mistakes, we (occasionally) say stupid stuff, and we forget things. (Sometimes, we forget our kids at church. True story!) And we put an enormous amount of pressure on ourselves to get things right, to serve you well, to represent God in a worthy manner. So, a simple, but gentle reminder, would be absolutely amazing. And if you forget my name? Well, just make one up! Tommy or George, Sally or Sam, doesn’t matter to me. I am sure I have been called worse!

With many thanks and much grace,
A Pastor, who dearly loves her congregation

{September} Meals for a Month

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Where did summer go? Seriously! It seems as if the kids were finishing up school yesterday, but this week we started school again! So, it’s time to get back into the swing of things when it comes to meal planning and preparation.  In addition to helping us not waste food, meal planning has helped us save money by not going out to eat on those crazy nights!

Typically, I keep a running list of what’s in my fridge, freezer and pantry. I find this helpful not only for meal planning, but also for grocery shopping (stocking up, shopping sales, etc.). However, this summer has been really laid back (read: we have rarely cooked, eaten a lot of smoothies and salads, and fired up the grill a lot!) Last week, I finally took inventory of what I had on hand. With this information, along with my family’s input, I made up September’s meal plan.

As I have shared before, instead of planning exactly what we’ll eat each day, I simply plan by categories. This offers a bit more freedom and flexibility for meal preparation. Whoever’s cooking simply takes a look at the plan and decides what they’d like to make.  Since I only meal plan for 25 days, we usually have at least one night each week designated to eat leftovers or to clean out the fridge. Of course, they’ll be some tweaks and changes along the way, but it will help us get off to a good start.

{September} MEALS FOR A MONTH

Soups/Stews:
Slow-cooker Pumpkin & Black Bean Chili (CP),  Mama’s Pot of Beans (CP),  Chicken Noodle Soup, Zuppa Toscana, Creamy Chicken and Wildrice Soup (CP)

Meatless Meals:
Mujadara,  Sloppy Lentils (meatless Sloppy Joes), Chili Cheese Lentils

Poultry:
Chicken and Dumplings,  Herb-Roasted Chicken Thighs, Uzbekistan Chicken Plov 

Seafood:
Grilled Fish Sandwiches with Homemade Tartar Sauce, Butter-Basted Halibut Steaks with Capers,  Honey-Garlic Salmon,  Pesto Glazed Salmon

Beef/Pork:
London Broil,  Homemade Chili-Cheese Hamburger Helper, Spaghetti with Meatballs and Red Sauce, Homemade Pizza, Pasta Carbonara, Kale, Sausage, Lentil Skillet, Grilled Hamburgers, Italian Sausage with Gnocchi and Butternut Squash Sauce

Freezer Meals:
Taco Soup, Chicken Piquant with Steamed Rice, Thai Chicken Noodle Soup

Vegetables,  Side Dishes & Salads:
Corn, English Peas with Creme Fraiche and Bacon, Roasted Broccoli, Roasted Brussels Sprout, Green Beans, Southern-Style Green Beans, Roasted Potatoes, Sauteed Zucchini, Honey-Dill Carrots, Butternut Squash Risotto, Couscous Pilaf, English Peas, Quinoa, Wild-Rice-and-Quinoa Pilaf, Green Onions and Cranberries, Spinach Salad w/ Raspberry Vinaigrette, Cesar Salad, Tossed Green Salad w/Balsamic Dressing, Middle Eastern Carrot & Feta Salad, Veggie Tray w/ dip, Moroccan Carrot Salad

Breakfast:
Pancakes, Smoothies, Hot/Cold Cereal, Eggs/Bacon or Sausage, Fruit with Cottage Cheese, Baked Oatmeal, Spiced Pear Baked Oatmeal, Homemade Muffins and Fruit, Sweet Potato Scones, Toad-in-the-Hole, Slow Cooker Multi-Grain Hot CerealCrockPot Egg Casserole,  Refrigerator Oatmeal, Breakfast Burritos

Baking:
Homemade Aussie BitesNo-Knead Bread, 30 Minute Rolls, Pumpkin Bread, Zucchini Bread, Fresh Pear Cake, Bread Machine Bread, Glazed Lemon Zucchini Bread

Snacks:
Quinoa Bites, Veggies and Hummus,  Sliced Apples and Peanut Butter, Monkey Plate (fruit), Granola Bars, Cheese, Energy Bites (NaNa’s recipe), Smoothies

 

God Bless America!

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During this time of year, it’s not uncommon to hear people say, “God Bless America”. Or we need God to bless America again! Especially after the events of the last few weeks, the use of this phrase has escalated. Yet, I wonder, do we really know what we are asking for when we say, “God Bless America”?

After traveling the world, I have met folks with little more than a shanty to live in, the clothes on their backs (and, perhaps, one additional outfit) to wear, and a meager ration of food to eat for their daily sustenance. I have looked into the faces of people who’ve experienced real persecution, yet whose countenance continued to radiate with joy. And whose lips continued to express sincere thanks and gratitude. Even with so very little, these people considered their lives blessed! Blessed, I tell you!

As a result, the word ‘blessed’ has taken on an entirely different meaning in my life. At least as compared to the typical American connotation of the word. Personally, I rarely use the word ‘blessed’ anymore. It’s depth of meaning resonates deeply within me, and I can no longer use the word flippantly. It’s one that I use sparingly, cautiously, and carefully.

So, you may be asking, “Well, do you or don’t you want God to bless America?” Well, I guess it all depends.

Please understand, I’m thankful to live in this great country. I’m proud to be an American. Yet, I wonder if we, Americans, specifically American Christians, realize how flippantly we use the word ‘bless’. Like the word ‘love,’ I fear it has lost its depth of meaning, and original intent.

You see, to me God’s blessing has little to do with material possessions, problem-free living, getting what you want, or even America, for that matter. To me, God’s blessing begins when His children, those of us who identify as Christ-Followers, fall to our knees in humility, pray, seek His face and turn from our wicked ways.

If we sincerely want God’s blessing, then, Christ-Followers, it’s got to be all about Him! Period! Worshipping the Almighty God, not idolizing the almighty dollar, the flag, patriotism, or even our own preferences. It’s got to be about following his ways, not ours. It’s got to be about living a life of faith, not fear. And our worship must be about Him, and Him alone. Sadly, I wonder if we’ve created idols for which we are unaware. Remember: Good is the enemy of the BEST.

If we want God’s blessing, then, it’s got to be all about the One who breathed all of this into existence. The One who sent His one and only Son to earth to take on the sins of the world, to die on a cross, so that our sins would be forgiven. This must be our singular focus.

So, if this is what you mean when you say, “God Bless America,” then, I’m all in.

What about you, Christ-Followers, are you really ready to receive God’s blessing? It may come in ways you don’t expect. Be revealed in ways you may not clearly see at first. Most likely, it will bring His children to point of significant surrender in order to experience His blessing in it’s fullness.

“…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

The Secret Life of a Pastor’s Wife (or Husband): Ministry Marriages

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This morning, I was  made aware of a headline about another prominent Christian leader who resigned due to an affair (Actually, both husband and wife had affairs). My heart aches for this couple, their extended family and their church family. Unfortunately, this seems to be occuring more and more. Or at least being made public. Which is both good and bad. Good because coming clean with God and others is best. Bad because who wants their ‘dirty laundry’ aired for all to see?

What causes a pastor, minister, or their spouse to have an affair? How is this prevented? How can we be proactive to invest in our marital relationship? How can we be more protective of our marriages? I don’t pretend  to have the answers. Yet, I continue to ask the questions.

Although I have never personally been in this situation, I have journeyed alongside of dear friends who were on either side of this scenario. And some things just don’t make sense, can’t be figured out, or easily explained. All I knew to do was to love them, to listen to them, and to pray for them (and their kids). It wasn’t pretty. It was messy. It wasn’t something that was easily forgiven or fully forgotten (by either party). It was heartbreaking and gut-wrenching. And the casualties were many and varied.

Absolutely no one is immune to relational difficulties in marriage, not even pastors.  The reality is that ministry life can be a pressure-cooker of unrealistic expectations, never-ending demands and prioritizing work over marriage and family to ‘get the job done’. There’s a fine line between doing your job well and sacrificing your marriage on the altar of ministry. Sadly, many cross this line without even realizing it.

And I’m well aware that folks who work in professions across the spectrum experience these to some degree. Yet, unlike other professions and vocations, when one works in vocational ministry, a marital impropriety not only altars the marital relationship–oftentimes, dissolving the union–it brings about relational carnage with extended family, especially children; as well as causing disillusionment and mistrust within the congregation of which the pastor was shepherding; not to mention, potentially sidelining the pastor from ever working in vocational ministry again. Thus, leading to a plethora of other issues to navigate: financial, vocational, relational. And at the top of the list: spiritual.

Just last week, I was listening to a podcast where Donald Miller was sharing about how to avoid the “performance trap”.  He, specifically, related this to pastors and ministers. Addressing how they feel the pressure to perform, or to always ‘be on’. Never giving themselves permission to go unmasked.  Never having found a safe place to land. Never having developed relationships with safe, trusted friends outside of the ministry context with whom they can share their dark side in a healthy manner. Therefore, they seek out expressions and experiences which are unbiblical, unsafe, and unbecoming of the ordination vows for which they took.

Both the news of which I heard today and the podcast that I listened to last week, hit home with me. Why? Because both my husband and I are pastors. He is the Lead Pastor (full-time) of the church where I serve as an Associate Pastor (part-time). In addition, I also maintain a piano/voice studio of 20 students. And we share the responsibilities of homeschooling our two kids (ages 10 & 12).

As much as we adore our pastoral responsibilities and church family, we don’t allow the work of ministry (or other vocational endeavors) to come before investing in our marriage or nurturing our children. Of course, there are ‘busy seasons’, but it’s just that: a season, not constant. During these types of seasons, we are in on-going discussions. Giving one another the opportunity to express concerns and needs. Together formulating a plan how best to navigate our vocational responsibilities without sacrificing our marriage or family on the altar of ministry.

It’s been a journey to get to this point. One that has required each of us to listen both to what is spoken and to what is unspoken. In marriage, we’ve discovered what one doesn’t say is much more important than the words that are voiced aloud. It’s also been a time in which we’ve learned to give and take. It’s not just about me, or my husband, or even our kids. We have learned to make decisions for what is best for our family unit, not merely an individual.

So much so, that during a particularly trying season in our lives, we resigned from a church position where the leadership expected my husband to work 60+ hours, in addition to being out four nights during the week with work responsibilities, meetings, etc. Quickly, we realized this pace wasn’t healthy for him, our marriage, or our children. Was it scary? You bet! Were we misunderstood? Yep! Did we care? Nope! Early on, we realized if we don’t fight for our marriage and make it a priority, no one else will. Not even the church we serve.

Years ago, one of my mentors shared with me that you train others how you will allow them to treat you. And it’s true. We realized it was necessary to have and maintain healthy boundaries, to invest in our marital relationship, and to prioritize the needs of our family. Do we always hit the mark? Absolutely not! Nothing is ever perfectly balanced. EVER! We don’t always get it right, but we are committed to never giving up!

So what have we done?

TAKE DAYS OFF
Perfect, we are not. But we make sure to take our days off. For us, those are Monday and Tuesday. In ministry, emergencies do arise. But thankfully, our church staff doesn’t call us unless it’s a true emergency. Likewise, we don’t call upon our staff on their days off unless it’s a true emergency, and their presence is absolutely required.

Mondays are our Sabbath. We rest. All of us, even our kids. No work, no homeschooling. As a rule, Tuesdays are for running around, doing errands, completing house/yard work, etc. By prioritizing and setting aside these two days, we are better prepared for the demands of ministry, the emergencies that do arise, as well as day-to-day responsibilities of home and family.

Although I have another job (music studio), I have made the decision to organize my work schedule to match my husband’s to where we have our days off together. This has prohibited financial gain and reduced the number of students I’m able to accept into my studio. But once again, my marriage and family are more important. In the midst of it all, we’ve learned to live below our means, maintain a creative budget, and to be frugal with our finances, especially with residing in a high cost-of-living area. This affords us the opportunity to work lower paying jobs because we are called to them. As a result, quite a bit of stress has been taken off of us.

FAMILY MEALS
Gathering around the table is just as much (if not more) about nurturing relationships as it is about nourishing appetites. Even though we have non-traditional work schedules, we make family meals a priority. The meals we eat together isn’t always dinner, but it’s at least one meal during the day. No matter how busy we are with work or kids’ activitivities (this is another discussion, but we keep these to a minimum), each day, we eat at least one meal together. This provides us the opportunity to check-in, communicate, and simply enjoy a nice meal with the people we love. Sometimes, we have to get really creative. Case in point: This past Christmas Eve, both of us were on pastoral duty at church. So, I made a crockpot of soup, and we enjoyed a Christmas Eve family dinner at the church in the conference room.

DATE EACH OTHER
After 16 years, we continue to date. Even when our kids were much younger, we made sure to have a weekly datenight. Since we have never lived near extended family, specifically grandparents, we’ve had to purposefully and specifically budget for babysitting, date nights. We’ve been blessed by having two college/seminary students live with us who gifted us a weekly date night for a few years. Best gift ever! And one that we never took for granted. We also got creative with date nights at home after the kids go to bed. This was much easier when they were younger, and their bedtime was 6:30/7PM.

You do not have to “keep up with the Joneses” when it comes to date nights. Get creative! Breaking the bank or busting the budget doesn’t have to happen when it comes to date nights. Can’t afford an expensive restaurant or dropping $50 at the movie theater? No worries. Cook a simple meal at home, then enjoy it on the deck or at the table with fine china. Then, watch a Redbox movie! (It’s only $1). This is totally what we do!  It’s still a date, but much less expensive.

Sometimes, we take a walk in our neighborhood sans kids! Can I just say there’s a newfound freedom since they can now be home alone for a small amount of time. Occasionally, we go out for a coffee. Or simply make coffee at home; then, sit around the fire pit talking, dreaming and connecting. A couple times a year, we do it up right, and go into the city to catch a show and enjoy a restaurant meal.  Mostly, though, it’s smack-dab in the middle of the ordinary and mundane that we purposefully connect with one another. 

HAVE NO SECRETS
Although I trust my husband implicitly, and he trusts me, we don’t keep secrets from one another. We may have surprises as in a special gift, or celebration. But we don’t keep secrets in our family. If our children tell us something, and ask that we not share it with the other parent, they know that we simply can’t do that. What you tell Momma, she will tell Daddy, and vice versa. Unless, of course, it’s a surprise.

In the age of technology, how is this practically applied? Well, we simply give each other access to everything. We share log-ins, passwords, everything. Rarely, do we feel the need to ever read one another’s texts or emails, but we know the other as complete access. We are open with one another. We are honest with one another. And having an intuitive spirit and being a confronter, if concerns ever do arise, they are nipped in the bud pretty quickly.

Over the years, my husband has learned to trust my instincts. We have been in a coupe of churches where certain ladies were getting a bit to clingy and flirty with him. To be honest, he was a bit oblivious, but my radar zoned into it almost immediately. And he trusted my instincts. He trusts me, and I trust him. In the same token, there have been folks who gave me the heebie-jeebies and he listened to me, and never left me alone around these particular individuals. Don’t have secrets. Even if it’s awkward to share, or you are concerned about overreacting, it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

And for the record: This no-secrets and open-access policy within our marriage goes hand in hand with ministry. However, because I work for my husband on his pastoral staff, there are things I simply don’t need to know about regarding people in the congregation, or don’t want to know for that matter. Although, we don’t keep secrets, as an associate pastor on his staff, I am on a need-to-know basis. If I need to know, he tells me. If I don’t, well, there ya go!

GO TO COUNSELING (OR A MARRIAGE RETREAT)
You don’t have to be at the point of no return before you make a counseling appointment. Pastors, worried that your congregation might see you in the waiting room? Good! If you see them you know they’re working on their marriage. If they see you, they know you’re investing in your marriage. Be proactive. Don’t wait until a minor problem has snowballed to seek help!

Over the years, my husband and I have attended a couple of Marriage Encounter Weekends, and are now part of the ministry team. Marriage Encounter is for every marriage. Regardless of whether you have been married for five years or fifty-five, you will benefit from attending one of these weekends. You will gain new insight, new communication tools, and find new levels of closeness as you and your spouse examine your relationship to each other, and to God. ClICK ON THIS LINK for more information about Marriage Encounter. 

SAFE PEOPLE
Having served in various roles in vocational ministry for the last twenty years, I totally understand that as a ministry family, you can’t share all your ‘junk’ with people in the congregation.  No matter how close you are. And for the record: I believe (and know) you can have good friends in the church. Some of you may have been told otherwise, but that’s HOGWASH!

Even still, you have to be smart about what and to whom you share. Therefore, it is imperative that you have friends, mentors, and safe people—known to both husband and wife— who are not in your congregation. In these relationships, you can ‘take off the mask,’ get real, and be yourself. Not having to ‘perform’, be the pastor (or pastor’s spouse), or have all the answers.

For the last several years, I have met monthly with a spiritual director who works with Soul Formation, an organization who is committed to the spiritual and emotional health of Christian leaders. My spiritual director,  listens to me, and, sometimes, sits in silence with me as we listen to God; prays for and with me, and seeks God on my behalf. Personally, I don’t think anyone in ministry leadership should go this road along. And I would highly recommend that all who serve in vocational ministry meet regularly with a spiritual director. Someone needs to pastor the pastor (and the pastor’s spouse).

GIVE ONE ANOTHER SPACE TO SHARE
Especially as a ministry couple, it is important to give your spouse space to express his/her needs and concerns. Even if, or especially when, you do not want to hear it. If either husband or wife is feeling as if the church is the ‘other woman/man’ in the relationship, something has got to change. That’s not how God ever intended for it to be.

I’m a confronter, so I’m quick to express my concerns. On the other hand, my husband is a stewer. Nevertheless, we have learned the importance of giving one another space to express our concerns, our hurts, our fears, our failures, our needs, our wants, and our dreams. And we are able to share how our work – specifically the work of vocational ministry – may be negatively impacting our marriage relationship.

In closing, please know, we know we don’t have it all together. Neither do we have it all figured out. These are simply a few things we implemented in the early years of our marriage, and continue to practice to this day. Ministry friends, your marriage is important. More important than a position, a job, or your image. Invest in it! Prioritize it!  Protect it! 

{April} Meals for a Month and Menu Planning 101


mealsforamonth

Well, as y’all can see, I haven’t menu planned since January. Still, we’ve eaten; I’ve just been winging it! It helps that during the winter months, we eat a lot of soup. So, leftovers have been plentiful! However, it’s time to get back to planning out menus. My husband and I both work, as well we share in the responsibilities of home schooling our kiddos. Over the years, we’ve discovered that menu planning provides a bit of sanity in our lives. Plus, it allows the kids to help out with preparing meals.

On Facebook, a few friends asked me how I go about menu planning. Now, keep in mind, we all have different personalities and strengths.With my menu planning, my nerd flag is flying high! I keep a grocery list on the fridge. Whenever we run out of something, whoever notices it first is kindly asked to write it on the list. This helps me to keep track of what we need, specifically when I find an item on sale. (Rarely, do I pay full price for things. You can read more about that HERE.)

As well, there are so many things to take into consideration when you begin to menu plan: What is your food budget? Have you created a price list? Pantry/Freezer Inventory? What foods do you and your family enjoy  eating? Do you regularly have folks over to share a meal? And how will you menu plan?
There are so many ways: paper/pencil (calendar or notebook), digital (calendar, document, blog, etc.); by the week, every two weeks, by the month; rotate only a few family favorite meals, or include some new and different recipes .

Personally, I like to menu plan by the month. Even though I like lists, order and structure, when it comes to cooking, I like it to be a bit more spontaneous. So, I don’t dictate which day we make specific meals. Well,  unless it’s a Sunday, and we are having folks over after church. On those occasions, I always stick to the K.I.S.S Method (Keep It Simple Sister). Then, the choices for lunch are some sort of crockpot soup, Spaghetti and Meatballs or Jambalaya.

With menu planning, I begin by taking an inventory of my kitchen pantry, fridge and freezer, as well as my overstock pantry and garage freezer. Having an overstock pantry and garage freezer allows me to take advantage of sales on items that we use regularly. In no way am I an ‘extreme shopper’ or ‘hoarder’. However, I do like to manage our food dollars wisely and stretch them as much as I can, in order to have a well-stocked pantry and freezer with healthy foods for a variety of reasons. Obviously, I like to feed my family nutrient-rich, real foods with the occasional treat and splurge thrown into the mix. But this also makes it possible for our family to regularly invite others into our home for a meal, to share our bounty with those in need in our community, and to have ingredients on hand to quickly put together a meal for folks in our church who are sick, expecting a baby, or who simply may need an evening when they don’t have to cook!

So where should one begin when starting out meal planning? Well, there are probably a million and one ways, but I complied a few of my ideas. Here ya go:

1. Begin by taking inventory of what you have on hand, so you know what you have to work with, what needs to be used up, and what items need to be purchased. By doing so, you will be throwing less food out, but also will be able to purchase those regularly used food items at their best prices, instead of at the last minute when they aren’t on sale.

2. Then, decide how you will create your menu plan. As I shared, I make up a monthly menu plan.Some folks do it by days of the week. Keeping in mind their personal schedule, as well as their family’s schedule.

3. Decide how you will categorize your menu plan. I like to compile my menu plan by categories.  The categories I use are: Soups/Stews, Meatless Meals, Poultry, Seafood, Beef/Pork, Freezer Meals (When I make certain soups and sauces,  I double/triple the batch to have some to stick in the freezer.) I also include a category for Vegetables, Side Dishes, and Salads, Breakfast, Baking and Snacks.

4. Use any and all available resources that are available to you. Some of the meals I make I know by the back of my hand. No recipe needed. But my kids or husband may need one. So, I still try to tag a recipe, or let them know which cookbook to find it. I also take advantage of Pinterest (Check out my boards HERE), AllRecipes  (I appreciate this site because there’s an area that allows you to put in the ingredients you have on hand, and it supplies you with a few recipes using those specific ingredients.), along with treasured recipes, which I keep in a notebook, and well-loved cookbooks that I have collected over the years. (Recently, a dear lady from our church passed away and her daughter gave me some of her cookbooks. These are gems and treasures to me!) There are so many other resources to choose from, use whatever you like and those which help you the most. 

5. Create you menu plan. From the pantry/freezer inventory that was created, you can easily see what items need to be purchased to round out the menu. For most of us, we have to weekly or bi-weekly purchase produce and dairy items. However, once you get into a groove of purchasing regularly used items at their lowest prices, you will begin to have pantry staples and even some freezer items on hand because you purchased them in bulk when on sale. This has made my menu planning so much easier.

You’ll notice on my menu plans, there are more meals than there’s month. I do this so we have variety and options. As well, since we are fans of leftovers, there’s usually at least one night each week where leftovers are on the menu. Another option is “CAN DINNERS”. A friend from church gave me this idea, which simply means, everyone CAN have whatever they CAN find and/or make. (And they are responsible for cleaning up any dishes and/or messes they make.) This appears on the menu at least once a week, too.

6. But mostly, please know that all of this is trial and error. What works for me may not work for you. Over the years, I have implemented various strategies before landing on one that really works for our family. In a few years, we might go with something else. Who know?! And some recipes may sound good when you read them, but once made aren’t what you hoped they’d be. Others ones, you and your family will greatly enjoy, and they become part of the regular rotation. As well, some months, you might purchase a new food item that everyone loves it. But the next month, you realize you wasted some money and have to throw the item out! It’s okay! Still, if I can suggest something: be bold to try new things! There are so many amazing food items, combinations and recipes to try.  Each month, I try to include a few new ones.

If you have young kids, one thing we did that I think was beneficial was to have our kids pick out one new vegetable and fruit to try each time we went grocery shopping. This expanded their food pallet, and they were more apt to try something new because they had selected the item. If I am making a new recipe, they have to eat what is served. Sometimes, they don’t like it. But more often than not, when I make it again (and again), their tastebuds get used to it, and it becomes a normal flavor and food item they recognize.

If you have other questions, I can’t promise that I have the answer, but I will try to help or point you in the direction where you might find the answer. Happy Menu Planning!

{April} Meals for a Month

Soups/Stews:
Slow-cooker Pumpkin & Black Bean Chili (CP), Creamy Tomato Soup,  Mama’s Pot of Beans (CP),  Chicken Noodle Soup, Zuppa Toscana

Meatless Meals:
Mujadara,  Sloppy Lentils (meatless Sloppy Joes), Chili Cheese LentilsPinto Beans & Cornbread (CP),  Shakshuka,

Poultry:
Hawaiian Chicken (CP), Moroccan Chicken Thighs w/ Lemon & Olives*Chicken and Dumplings**,  Herb-Roasted Chicken Thighs, Slow Cooker Sticky Drumsticks (CP), Uzbekistan Chicken Plov (This is an amazing dish! Try it! I use whole thighs, instead of cubes.)

Seafood:
Red Curry Poached Cod,  Butter-Basted Halibut Steaks with Capers, Cajun Shrimp Cesar Salads, Honey-Garlic Salmon, Salmon Burgers with Caper & Sun-dried Tomato Aioli, Grilled Shrimp** w/ Brown-Rice Cakes with Sautéed Fennel, Broccoli Rabe, and Ricotta

Beef/Pork:
 Crockpot Roast Beef w/ Vegetables* Homemade Chili-Cheese Hamburger Helper**, Spaghetti with Meatballs and Red Sauce**, Pasta Carbonara, Kale, Sausage, Lentil Skillet**, Homemade Lasagna**

Freezer Meals:
Turkey-Sausage Gumbo, Chili, Vegetable-Beef Soup

Vegetables,  Side Dishes & Salads:
Roasted Broccoli, Sautéed Broccolini, Carrots, Roasted Brussels Sprout, Green Beans**, Scalloped Potatoes, Sautéed Kale w/ Garlic, Corn**, Honey-Dill Carrots, Butternut Squash Risotto, Couscous Pilaf, English Peas**, Quinoa, Wild-Rice-and-Quinoa Pilaf With Pecans, Green Onions, and Dried Cranberries, Spinach Salad w/ Raspberry Vinaigrette, Tossed Green Salad w/ Balsamic Dressing, Middle Eastern Carrot & Feta Salad, Veggie Tray w/ Hummus, Baked Butternut Squash

Breakfast:
Pancakes, Smoothies**, Hot/Cold Cereal, Eggs/Bacon or Sausage, Fruit with Cottage Cheese, Baked Oatmeal, Homemade Muffins and Fruit, Sweet Potato Scones**, Toad-in-the-Hole, Slow-Cooker Steel Cut Oats (CP)

Baking:
Homemade Aussie BitesNo-Knead Bread, 30 Minute Rolls, Grasshopper Brownies, Pumpkin Bread, Zucchini Bread, Pear Cobbler**

Snacks:
Quinoa Bites, Veggies and Hummus,  Sliced Apples and Peanut Butter, Monkey Plate (fruit), Granola Bars, Cheese, Energy Bites (NaNa’s recipe), Smoothies, No-Bake Cookies

(CP)Crockpot Recipe
**Ingredients in kitchen freezer

The Secret Life of Pastor’s Wife (or Husband): Holy (h*ll) Week!

Picture Credit: Public Domain Pictures I’m sure some of you cringed at the title of this post. Even still, this is truth for many pastors and their families.  In addition to regular work and family schedules, the additional services and programs can quickly turn Holy Week into Holy (h*ll) Week!  Most pastors and their families dread church holidays because they are anything but celebratory or relaxed. If truth be told, they’re exhausting, and not just for the pastor-parents or spouses, but also for the pastor-kids.

A few years ago, our family found ourselves in this place. Passing one another like two ships in the night on the hamster wheel of ministry: going and going and going. Just like the Energizer Bunny, only not so much. We were tired! No, we were physically exhausted. We read our Bible and we prayed, but spiritually, we were dry. Actually, personally speaking, it was more like completely and utterly parched. We laughed when we read the verse, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” That just wasn’t our reality as we navigated the journey of ministry. Still, we continued to keep at that pace.  Erroneously justifying it all by believing since it was “for Jesus,” then, it was okay.

But, one day, my husband and I looked at each other and said, “If this is what vocational ministry is all about, we don’t want any part of it! There has to be more to life, more to ministry than this. What’s this business about ‘missional living’? Heck, we don’t even see each other, much less our neighbors because we are never home! We are always at church! Something’s got to change.” And something did: We did! In fact, many things changed.

We realized Jesus never called pastors to sacrifice their marriages and/or families at the altar of ministry. And that boundaries weren’t  merely nice, they were necessary. No, actually,  imperative. Even if others didn’t respect them or understand them. We discovered we could love and serve our church and community with our whole hearts without burning out or ignoring our marriage and family. After all, what good is it to have a thriving ministry if our marriages and families are dying and going to hell in a hand basket?

Oh, yes, something changed! Our hearts changed. Our schedules changed. Our jobs changed. Our ministry philosophy changed. Our priorities changes. And while change can sometimes be a four-letter word, in this instance, it was a welcomed oasis in the desert that was our lives during that season.

Since then, we have been on a mission to simplify all areas of our lives, but especially the excessive busyness around holidays. Now, some may say the holiday schedule that pastoral families face just comes with the territory. Others may think our efforts to bring about change is futile. Still, simplifying is our goal. (Have you read the book Simple Church written by fellow La. Tech Alumni, Eric Geiger and Thom Rainer? If not, definitely one to pick up!)

It’s our desire to change the paradigm both within our nuclear family, but also within the church(es) that we serve. You see, we don’t believe that busyness = godliness. And we have vowed not to sacrifice our marriage or our family at the altar of church ministry. Ever. It’s our belief that effective, Kingdom-impacting ministry doesn’t have to result in complete and utter exhaustion for anyone: pastoral staff, lay people, or even the congregation.

Although we we are proactive to guard our family time and purposefully include ‘white space’ on our calendars, the nature of our jobs requires that we work church holidays. As pastors’ kids, our children know the days leading up to holidays can be all-consuming for the parental units, and not really family-friendly, if truth be told. Easter Brunch doesn’t happen around here. (Well, unless, they’re noshing on the free donuts in the foyer at church.) And Christmas Eve dinner is usually take-out in between services. But this year, instead of Chinese food, I actually cooked. Well, my crock pot did: Vegetable Beef Soup! Our holiday traditions may not be of the Normal Rockwell variety, but we still try to make them fun for our kids because they have not one, but two, pastors for parents!

Due to the nature of my job(s), I work several evenings a week either at church or in my music studio. As such, I’ve never attended a Maundy Thursday service. However, I just found out that my last three piano/voice students are unable to attend lessons today; so, after 6PM, I’m free! In texting back and forth with my husband, we have put together a Maundy Thursday service and dinner menu for our family this evening.

Lamb (Pesah): No lamb in the house, but I’d already defrosted chicken legs. So, baked chicken, it is!
Bitter Herbs (Maror): Covered! Thanks to the big ole bag of mixed power greens in the fridge.
Unleavened bread (Matzah): Well, in a pinch, saltines crackers are gonna have to suffice.
Wine: Instead of grape juice, the kids will have Martinelli’s Apple-Cranberry. That’d be a good substitute, don’t ‘cha think?
Haroset (Charoseth): Now, this sounded complicated at first, but I discovered it’s simply apples and cinnamon with raisins tossed in. Got it! Tonight, it just might be cinnamon-flavored applesauce and raisins.:-)

This evening, we want our kids to know–now more than ever–as much as we both adore our vocational roles as pastors and the church we serve, we are their parents first. And they are our priority. Along with an improvised Passover Meal, we are creating a Maundy Thursday service. With a simple internet search, I found a few service templates to pick and choose from, in order to create our own family service. Two elements that we are including are Communion and foot washing. Our kids are familiar with Communion, but foot washing will be something new for them. Jesus instituted this ordinance for His disciples, to illustrate His willingness to unconditionally serve and love us. In washing our children’s feet, I hope they realize our love for them, but more importantly, the depth of Christ’s love for them.

Easter Sunday is just around the corner. For our family, the buzz of the alarm will go off early in the wee hours of the morning to begin a day of work and service.  But this evening, we are going to slow down, simplify and savor the moment. And as parents, we are going to serve our kids and share with them The Story that changed our lives, the gift that was freely given, and the grace that continues to flow over us even though we don’t deserve it. To us, training those two up is of more importance than having a church filled to the brim on Easter Sunday or any other Sunday, for that matter. Sometimes, we have to take a step back ourselves, ya know, to regain perspective of what matters most.

So, to my ministry friends, I know this week has been full and, quite possibly, frantic for you and your families. It is my prayer that you, too, can slow down, simplify, and savor the reality of this week. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.