Category Archives: For the Love of Authenticity

My Story: Part 1

Most of my friends know that I am adopted. I am very open about this part of my life. Over the years, some have said, “Jada, there’s a story there, and you need to tell it. People need to hear it!” For years, I have balked and drug my heels because several of y’all are real-life authors (i.e. you make your living writing books), and you actually know what you’re doing. And me? Well, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing or where to begin. Not to mention, I didn’t feel that it was my story to share. Well, at least it wasn’t only my story to share. There were other main characters, ya know? Now, however, I am rethinking it all, and taking a cautious, slow step into the unknown. Who knows if it will ever turn into something, or if it will simply be me engaging in creative, therapeutic journaling. Still, I’m putting pen to paper. Well, actually, fingers to keyboard, and I’m free writing. I don’t have all the details, there are gaps in the story, and holes in the timeline. But this? Well, this is my personal experience, and what I know to be true. Here’s the start of what I have.


My husband turns into the parking lot, finds a place to park, and cuts off the ignition. I glance his way. We briefly lock eyes. Then, I quickly turn to face forward. Staring out the window. Sitting in silence. Neither of us saying a word. My hands are trembling. And I am freezing.

Here I am, less than 100 feet from the man who gave me part of my genetic code, and I am seriously shaking, hardly able to catch my breath. I’m closer than ever to getting answers to the plethora of questions that have raced through my mind over the last forty years. Finally, in a place to discover whether or not I inherited ‘the nose’ from him, because it surely doesn’t appear to have come from my biological mother. But more than anything, I simply want to say, “Thanks for letting me live.”

See, I don’t want anything from him. I don’t want to ruin his life, especially if my birth was some deep, dark secret that he’d rather keep hidden in the past. And I surely don’t think he owes me anything. If that were the case, I’d have contacted him twenty years ago whenever I was first told who he was … who I was. But I didn’t do it then. And I’m not so sure I can do it now.

And so we sit. And we wait. In complete silence. Well, other than the sound of my heart practically pounding outside of my chest and the deep breaths I am taking to try and remain calm and grounded.

Thoughts are racing through my mind. What will he think? Will the shock of seeing me cause him to have some sort of medical emergency? I mean, he is living in an assisted care facility. So, he must have some medical issues. And there’s no denying that I am her child because I look just like her when she was younger. Well, except for that nose. From the photos I’ve seen of him, there’s absolutely no doubt I inherited his nose. For goodness sakes, why did it have to be the nose?

Twenty years ago this summer, I met my biological mom after one of my concerts. A concert that wasn’t even on the schedule at the beginning of the tour. Even more ironic, it was in my home state, which wasn’t even slated to be part of our geographical area, but that all changed two weeks into tour. And that’s how it came to be that I ever even got to meet her.

But I’ve never met him. In fact, I didn’t even know who he was. Then, two years after my biological mother and I met, she passed away. At that time, I was given his name. I’m quite sure he doesn’t know mine. Heck, he may not even know I exist. But how couldn’t he? I mean, all my life, we have lived less than 15 minutes from one another. And once, when my daddy pastored a little country church, we even lived in the same town. To my knowledge, we never crossed paths.

But that all changed a few years ago. That’s when our worlds collided, but I was the only one who knew.

Three years ago, my daddy who has Alzheimer’s was hospitalized with pneumonia. Part of his recovery time was at an assisted living facility. That’s how both of these men, each with significant connections to me, wound up in the same place at the same time. One lived on the residential side of the care facility. The other was temporarily residing on the rehabilitation side.

Two men. One who was my father. The other who was my daddy. One who shared my DNA. The other who shared my life. One who knew me well. The other who didn’t know me at all. One with whom I have shared many real-life memories. The other with whom I have only created imaginary ones in my mind. Neither of them had a clue who the other was, or how their stories intricately intertwined, but I knew.

And here I am. Sitting in the parking lot with my husband who takes my trembling hand into his and leans over to whisper in my ear, “Are you going to go in?”

Robotically, I respond, “I don’t know.”

© 2010-2017 JADA SWANSON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

18 Things I Would Tell My 18-Year-Old Self

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Recently, I was asked by a dear friend from Colorado to contribute a few thoughts for a special scrapbook that she was creating for her soon-to-be 18-year-old daughter and recent high school graduate. I was deeply honored. I’ve known this delightful young woman since she was about five years old. And last summer, she served as an intern at our church in the Worship & Arts Ministries.

As I put pen to paper, I reflected upon what I wish I would have known when I was 18-years-old. Those things I wish someone would have told me in order to be better prepared to navigate this new journey called Adulthood. Now, there may be some points on this list for which you don’t agree, but that’s okay. Not to mention, I’m sure I missed a few things, here or there. What might you add to the list? 

18 Things I Would Tell My 18-Year-Old Self

(in no specific order)

1. Set various types of goals: personal, spiritual, vocational, financial, travel, educational. Make them manageable. But at the same time, a little hard work is good for you, too!

2. If you don’t take anything away from these ramblings, please be sure to really understand and embrace this reality: You are and always will be enough, and you are absolutely never too much.

3. Begin now to establish healthy habits in order to take care of the temple that God gave you to steward: drink lots of water, eat fruits and veggies, get outdoors and enjoy physical movement, and go to bed at a reasonable and consistent time.

4. There’s a great big world out there: Go discover it! Seriously, take every opportunity that you can to see the world that God designed, meet the people He created, listen to their stories, eat their food, and take in the beauty of it all. It’s absolutely glorious!

5. Self-care is not selfish. No matter what season or stage of life, this is important. Doesn’t matter if you are a college student, a young adult, newly married, first-time mom, or a senior citizen, prioritize self-care. Take time for yourself, take care of yourself, and don’t feel guilty about it. (Check out Renewed by Lucille Zimmerman.)

6. Be purposeful about finding mentors: faith mentors, relationship mentors, even vocational mentors. One bit of advice: don’t ask folks to be your mentor. Usually, they’ll say no, because it sounds like too much work and/or incredibly time-consuming. Consider inviting them out for coffee to ask three pointed and specific questions. You might pose questions about their business/work practices; their successes and/or failures; their most trusted relationship advice or parenting tips; or their personal faith and spiritual formation practices. Depending upon their desired presence in your life, there’s many ways to engage in this type of connection. Face-to-face coffee chats are ideal. Conversely, much of my mentoring has happened via email or over Skype chats. Be respectful of their time, but learn all you can from them!

7. Establish and maintain healthy personal boundaries in all areas of your life. Trust me, there most definitely will be times when others can’t/don’t/won’t understand or respect yours. No worries. They are your boundaries.  (There’s a great series of books by Henry Cloud & John Townsend on this very topic. Highly recommended reading.)

8. People over productivity. Period. People are always more important. Invest in what matters most.

9. Be an engaged listener. Actively listen to what people are saying. Not merely to respond with your own thoughts, ideas, or opinions, but to intentionally hear what they are sharing.

10. Don’t merely make God a priority, but realize that He is absolutely everything. Make Him the center of all that you do. And understand that your spiritual journey won’t look like anyone else’s. Intentionally practice various spiritual disciplines, not just reading the Bible and praying. Consider implementing times of silence and solitude into your life’s rhythms, as well as purposefully practicing Sabbath.

11. Don’t neglect friendships for dating relationships. No matter how much you love him or how amazing the dating relationship may be, make sure to maintain your friendships. Cultivating a tribe of female friends and creating time and space to engage and invest in those friendships is essential during every season and stage of your life.

12. Don’t allow various media outlets to determine your sense of style, beauty, or self-worth. Be the unique individual that God create you to be. Like wearing stripes with your polka dots? Well, then, go right ahead! Don’t allow a number on a scale to hold you hostage or determine your self-worth. Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it’s reflected from the inside out.

13. Being married is not the ultimate goal for a Christian, male or female, following Jesus is. Pursue this relationship wholeheartedly and unapologetically. Unfortunately, the American church has not communicated an appropriate message regarding singleness. If many years down the road, you find yourself single, please understand there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you. You are not less-than, or second-class. And if this has been or ever is communicated to you, it is a lie from the pit of Hell.

14. In the same light, if it is God’s plan for you to get married, pursue someone who loves God more than you, makes you laugh, encourages you to dream big dreams, and definitely someone who views marriage through the lens of partnership and values teamwork.

15. Be a lifelong learner. No matter how much you know, you don’t know as much as you think you do. There’s always more to learn.

16. Financially, always live below your means. Even if you can afford more, bigger, or better, always ere on the side of frugality and generosity. Personally, I like how John Wesley puts it, “Gain all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.”

17. “NO” is a complete statement, a gracious response and a final answer. And it can be said without hesitation, explanation, or defensiveness–just a simple, “No.”

18. Learn from your mistakes, because there will be mistakes. Oftentimes, our greatest successes are borne out of our biggest failures. Don’t be afraid to try something new, to leap into the unknown. You don’t always have to have a plan. Take risks, even if they are more on the calculated side. But, mostly, enjoy life! 

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

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.

The Secret Life of a Pastor’s Wife (or Husband) #2: Pastors’ Kids (PKs)


bronze-children-statues
When I began dreaming and brainstorming about “The Secret Life of a Pastor’s Wife (or Husband)” series, my intention was to honestly and lovingly portray the realities of ministry life–the good, the bad, and (sometimes) the ugly.  What I desired most was for my friends in ministry to be encouraged. To know beyond a shadow of a doubt, someone saw them, heard them, loved them, and was praying for them. That was it.

In fact, the first post was written after having conversation after conversation (online and in-person) with pastors’ spouses who were barely treading water. Ready to give up, throw in the towel and be done with ministry. A few, even, wanted to be done with their marriages. This was not okay with me. And it shouldn’t be okay with the Christian church either.

And it definitely wasn’t my intent (or ambition) to go global. Although I thought I was writing to a confined audience,  I guess I sort of ‘struck a nerve’.  Up until the first installment of this series, I could probably count on one hand who read my blog. But this series has been viewed by people all over the world. I don’t share that to boast. I share it because this is obviously a topic that needs to be addressed. Somewhat of an ‘elephant in the room’, I dare say. So, I am either a little brave or a whole lotta crazy, but I say, “Pull up a chair, and let’s talk!” How about it?

The second installment of “The Secret Life of a Pastor’s Wife (or Husband)” is about Pastors’ Kids (PKs). After I posted a ‘teaser’ on my Facebook page, I was overwhelmed with responses, private messages and even face-to-face conversations with pastors, pastors’ spouses, and even fully grown pastors’ kids (PKs)! These folks thanked me for opening up this ‘can of worms,’ and encouraged me to write about this topic. I wasn’t surprise to hear from these folks; I knew they were out there. Many of whom desire to share their stories and experiences, even what worked and didn’t work while either raising or growing up a pastors’ kid (PK). (Some will be anonymous contributions, of course.)

However, there were a few conversations that did surprise me (in a good way). Over the last few weeks, I have been contacted by church members and Christ-followers from various parts of the county, even right here in my little neck of the woods, who desire to better understand the “Fishbowl Life”. Not to have ammunition against the pastor’s family, although that’s always a concern. (Just being honest here, folks!) No, they truly desire to better understand this life, so they might discover ways in which they can lovingly come alongside the pastoral family in order to offer support and encouragement. From our conversations, it was evident they want to see their pastoral family thrive, not merely survive while living the “Fishbowl Life”.

So, after giving it some thought, I have realized this topic, Pastors’ Kids(PKs), is one that needs to be addressed more fully than a simple, solitary blog post. Therefore, over the next year, each of the following points, which are listed below, will be a topic for an individual blog post (or more, depending upon who would like to contribute). Some will be written by me. Others will be written by pastoral spouses (husbands and wives). But I am most looking forward to the ones which will be written by adult pastors’ kids. Folks who  faced the realities of Fishbowl Life and lived to tell about it! Some of their stories will be heart-warming. Others will be real, raw and to the point. But it’s my belief that we need to hear them all.

The following is a list of topics that will be addressed in this series. Of course,  we might add a few topics here and there as it seems appropriate and necessary. If you would like to be considered as a contributor for this series, specifically this installment, please contact me HERE. Thanks! 


1.Family Boundaries:  The importance of giving your family your best, not your leftovers. No doubt, when one (or both) parents serve in vocational positions of ministry, the reality is that the work schedule is untraditional with various evening commitments and emergency situations. Even still, there can be a rhythm to the ever-changing rhyme of the work of ministry. 

2. Get REAL! Realistic expectations versus unrealistic expectations for PKs: Due to one or both of their parents’ pastoral roles, PKs may be in a highly visible place. Yet, they are not the “Christian poster child” for proper and pristine behavior for all kids within the church. This momma won’t allow that sort of pressure to be placed upon my kids! 🙂 

3. Church Wounds. We all got ’em: How to navigate them and heal, express hurt and anger in healthy ways and move forward in freedom without losing one’s faith. As well, discussing when it might be time for counseling or other professional support. 

3. Friendships. We all need ’em: Teaching our kids that all relationships require taking a risk, especially those within the church (Hey, it’s true!) So, we’ll discuss the importance of developing genuine friendships inside of the church, but also the importance of encouraging PKs to maintain relationships with friends outside of the church.

4. Not Yo Momma’s (or Daddy’s) Church: Dispelling the myth that kids are the ‘church of the future’. Instead, helping them to embrace the reality that they are the church RIGHT NOW, and letting them know their value, worth, and importance within the Body of Christ. 

5. Developing a Servant’s Heart: Demonstrating and instructing our kids in the ways of servanthood and stewardship. Not because they are PKs and are ‘supposed to’. Rather, because they are part of the Body of Christ and are truly delighted to do so. Helping PKs  learn the importance of stewarding their time, talents and resources from a young age, so that when they become adults, it’s a natural part of their expression as Christ-followers.

6. Personal Mission: Pastor-Parents, it’s your responsibility and privilege to help your kids discover, develop and deploy their unique personal mission within the Body of Christ and in their daily lives into every area and relationship. Helping them to realize the church isn’t merely somewhere we go on Sundays, it is WHO we are everyday. And ministry is a way of life, 24/7.

7. Real and Raw Faith. It’s Caught more than taught: Pastors and Pastors’ Spouses: Our kids need to see us living lives of authenticity and integrity before God and others. They need to see a real-life faith journey, up close and personal. One where the spiritual disciplines are embraced and practiced. Where we model a life of prayer and study of the Word, inviting our kids to join us. Creating opportunities to engage in conversations where no topic is off-limits, and all questions are welcomed.  To be sure, it’s gonna be messy, and that’s okay. Our kids need to see us work through struggles and successes. Admitting when we’ve messed up. Asking for forgiveness. And lavishing grace upon ourselves and others.

[Word of the Year 2015] FREE

For several years now, I’ve selected a Word of the Year. Last year, my word was STILL.  However, in reality and in practice, 2014 was more like a stand-firm-and-don’t-give-up-or-give-in sort of year. In some ways, I suppose that is a variation of the meaning of  the word ‘still’. Nevertheless, it was not the connotation or  the interpretation that I had expected or anticipated at the beginning of 2014.

Up until yesterday, I hadn’t really given much thought to a Word of the Year for 2015. That is until my friend, Sarah Bessey, posed a question on her Facebook page. Then, I took a few moments to ponder what it might be. As I recalled the events and experiences of 2014 and began to identify the areas where I would like to see growth, development and transformation in 2015, one specific word kept appearing before my mind’s eye.

What was the word? Well, it was…

metal-chain-link

The word free has a variety of meanings. Here are the ones that stood out to me:

-not under the control or in the power of another; able to act or be done as one wishes.

-release from captivity, confinement, or slavery.

-not controlled by obligation or the will of another: felt free to go.

-not bound, confined, or detained by force.

-not obstructed, restricted, or impeded.

-not taken up with commitments or obligations.

-to make free; set at liberty; release from bondage, imprisonment, or restraint.
to release, as from restrictions.

For me, there is so much, personally and professionally, that is wrapped up in this one word: free from fear; free to be my authentic and unique self; free to move forward in my pastoral calling; free to dream big dreams; free to make mistakes; free from perfection and control; free from other people’s opinions, unrealistic expectations, etc., etc.

So, my friends, 2015 will be a year in which I embrace freedom in all areas of my life. I am excited to see where this leads me in the coming year, what I will learn and discover about myself and how God will use all of this to transform my life and to fulfill his purposes.

In the coming months, I’ll be sharing more about what I’m learning and discovering about my 2015 Word of the Year: FREE. Already, I’ve found a few songs that relate to this word and theme (links provided, take a listen): (Come and Fill My Heart by Avalon, Redeemed by Big Daddy Weave, Free to Be Me by Francesca Battistelli, Break Every Chain by Kim Walker, Where the Spirit of the Lord Is (acoustic version) by Chris Tomlin, and Freedom Reigns by Jesus Culture.

As well, I’ve been reflecting upon various passages in the Bible along with specific verses, which I hope to memorize over the course of the next year.

It is for FREEDOM that Christ has set us FREE. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
(Galatians 5:1)

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be FREE.
But do not use your FREEDOM to indulge the flesh;
rather, serve one another humbly in love.

(Galatians 5:13)

So if the Son sets you FREE, you will be FREE indeed.
(John 8:36)

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is,
there is FREEDOM.

(2 Corinthians 3:17)

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you FREE.
(John 8:32)

Live as FREE people,
but do not use your FREEDOM as a cover-up for evil;
live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone,
love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

(1 Peter 2:16-17)

What about you? Do you choose a Word of the Year? If so, please share in the comment section or provide a link to your blog.
Happy New Year!