Wednesday, October 16, 2013

10 Ways Marrying a Pastor Will Change Your Life…


I recently read a blog entitled, “10 Ways Marrying a Farmer Will Change Your Life…” and as the daughter of a farmer, it certainly gave me greater appreciation for my parents!

But I also got to thinking that being married to a pastor (which I am, otherwise this blog post would be kinda pointless) will change your life, too. Just mulling it over one evening as I did the dishes while my pastor-husband was away at a church board meeting, I thought of several ways my life has been shaped by who I married. So just for the fun of it, here’s my own list:

10 Ways Marrying a Pastor Will Change Your Life…

10. You will probably be the only person in church who reads the bulletin religiously because if you don’t take initiative to find out what is going on, you won’t have a clue because your husband won’t remember to tell you. He spends all day talking about it at work that he will assume he’s mentioned it to you.

9. On that note, you must always be ready to fill in for the volunteer that doesn’t show up. I have filled many a last-minute role to cover everything from the nursery to the coffee counter.

8. You can plan for him to be home for dinner, but don’t be surprised when he’s not. He may call and say, “I’m walking out of my office right now,” only to take an hour to make the normally three-minute trip home because someone caught him before he could walk out of the building.

7. Get used to Satan showing up at your house on Sunday mornings just about the time your husband leaves for work - typically before the rest of the family even wakes. He loves to make sure your kids turn into complete hooligans so that you lose your cool and are screaming at them the entire trip to church. You’ll spend the first 15 minutes of church begging God for forgiveness for your impatience and anger. I can almost guarantee it.

6. You will receive random gifts of appreciation in the form of food. Bread, zucchini, hot dishes – one church even offered to supplement his meager salary with a side of beef. But you will learn to be grateful for even small acts of kindness because of #5.

5. You will develop a thick skin. There will no doubt be times when you will fight the urge to punch a critical parishioner in the teeth in defense of your man. While you know he’s far from perfect, you also know he works hard, loves what he does, and does not take the job lightly – he has a calling. You will struggle with people who do not honor that.

4. You will get used to living in a fishbowl. You will know that eyes are always on you, and sometimes you will act like it and other times you just won’t care – like when your child is throwing a tantrum in the church foyer and you drag him away, kicking and screaming.

3. At that point, you will find it very handy that your husband has an office at the church. My children may or may not have spent some time-outs in it. While most families may skip church completely if the morning has gone sour, you will power through it because you never miss a Sunday.

2. If he’s out until 2:00am, it isn’t because he’s living it up with his buddies. It’s more likely he’s consoling a grieving family who just lost a loved one. My husband was even pulled away from Thanksgiving dinner once to rush to someone’s bed side. But even though you will want him home, you will understand that God needs him there.

1. You will never understand how someone can go through life without a relationship with Jesus because you’re reminded daily of how desperately people need grace and peace.We love our church family and community, and we hurt when they hurt. But in all things, God really is good.


While I was told before saying “I do”  that marrying a pastor wouldn’t come without some sacrifices, 20 years later I can say with confidence that I had no idea what I was walking into – but I am glad I’ve made the journey with this man. We’ve plodded through the valleys, but also rejoiced at the mountaintops together. While the road hasn’t always been smooth, we’ve held on tight to our commitment to each other because of our commitment to the One who brought us together.

It may have been by chance that I married a pastor. But it was no accident that I married this pastor. I love him and will have his place set at the table tonight…just in case he makes it home on time.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Forty, and Falling Apart?

I turned 40 today!! E! Gads!

As the youngest of eight children, I do know I'm still considered about age three to many of my siblings, so that helps soften the blow.

Nonetheless, the clock is ticking. It's no secret that the human body weakens or just plain deteriorates with age, and mine is no exception. Earlier this week my kids and I spent a gorgeous day at the river. The college-age population was well represented, however, so I had the misfortune reminder of what "used to be" with young women in bikinis and their I've-had-no-babies-so-my-tummy-is-still-taut-and-I-don't-eat-since-that-guy-is-so-cute-I-can't-possibly-let-him-see-me-put-food-in-my-mouth bodies.

Meanwhile, the squishy-ness of my own body has reached disturbing proportions. But then again, I'm not afraid to eat. I don't care how cute ya are.

What's bumming me out the most is that as I join the 40s club (there is a club, right? I'm expecting some membership perks, so there better be a club.) is that I'm already heading to a doctor because I'm falling apart.

Here's the deal: I've been coughing since the beginning of March. I caught a cold. I got over the cold. But Mr. Cough didn't care to leave me. He's like a leach.

So I broke down and finally went to the doctor this week. He gave me some medicine and then told me if I wasn't better by Monday, to get an appointment with a lung specialist.

Just what I want to hear as I hit a milestone birthday. I knew my body would sag and the knees would creak, but I didn't expect to have vital organs falling apart. I like my lungs. I'm sorta attached. I'd hate to have something bad happen to them.

So I ring in the ol' 4-0 spewing birthday cake from my mouth as I am coughing. But I'm pretty sure when you're old you get away with a lot of stuff.


And least that's what I'm banking on.

So here's to the big 4-0, and crumbs in your eye! Cheers!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Just One Tiny Shoe.

Oh how I wish it was just one child who lived in poverty, or was addicted to drugs, or couldn't bear to go home to an abusive parent.

But sadly, our society - my own community - is filled with them.

A few weeks ago, I was privileged to join a local agency's special event to serve families in great need by providing free hygiene products, clothes, and social services-type assistance all under one roof. I brought my daughter along and we had a fun time fitting children with shoes and clothes. We did discover the joy that comes from helping people, but we also got a glimpse of a truly different world.


As I had been doing all day, I approached a child to slip off her shoe in order to find out her size (more often than not, the parents had no idea what size shoe their child wore). I held back a gasp as I turned to my daughter and told her to grab shoes off the rack that were a whole two sizes bigger. This little girl's feet were being squeezed into shoes much too small for her. I rubbed her squished little toes as we strapped on an adorable pair of white sandals. You would have thought I'd handed her a tiara the way she lit up. We also found some sneakers in her size and I told her to wear them home. I struggled to avoid taking the tiny shoes and hide them so they would never be forced on her feet again!

Shoes that fit. It's a simple thing. But a rarity amidst kids who are not even sure where they'll find their next meal.

So I went back today to this agency because I want to do more. I showed up for a prayer meeting where the director gave us her "top 10 list" of requests. Each story worse than the one before.
 
A teen desperate for acceptance, only to be dragged down by despicable insults and lies on social media.

A 14-year-old girl gone missing, possibly out on the streets or shacked up with a much older man.

A drug addict finding ways to abuse even as she's in a treatment center...and pushing her "secret" on others fighting to stay sober.


Two kids under age 10 missing since their mother was taken away by the authorities a few days ago.

These kids are fighting for survival while mine fight for the last bowl of sugary cereal. The contrast is gut-wrenching.
 
I was told a story of a young girl who came to a club meeting, and while stringing colored beads onto a string, she said, "Black, blue, black, blue...that's the color of my Mommy." ...and then blushed as she realized what she just admitted out loud for all to hear.

I cannot meet these people or hear these stories and just hope they get their lives on track someday.  Sure, I could plop back into life as usual and just be thankful for what I have. But that's like walking away from the scene of a tragic accident hoping everybody gets out okay.

It's absurd.

So I'm going to dive in again later this week and do what I can to give kids the chance to...

...know love.

...know safety.

...and know hope.

Because every child should know these things.

It shouldn't have taken a tiny shoe to remind me of it.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

How I discovered my kids don't need me after all.

News flash: I'm not nearly as needed as I thought I was.

Well, some in this house may debate me on that, but I discovered my children truly can survive on their own when necessary.

Like when I am nearly comatose in bed for an entire day from influenza.

A couple weeks ago, I crawled into bed on a Saturday night not convinced I would be a functioning human being by morning. Turns out, I was right.

Since my husband was working and wouldn't be home until roughly 6pm, it meant I was still responsible for three young children. That whole, "Moms aren't allowed to be sick" thing is painfully true.

But I was. There was no picking myself up and powering through. I was down for the count. Body aches, fever, throbbing headache, coughing, congestion, sniffling, sore throat...yes, I sound like a cold medicine commercial. I really had every imaginable symptom. I didn't think it was possible.

And the EXHAUSTION. As if I had been manually plowing fields all night long. I was throwing up the white flag but the universe was merciless.

Meanwhile, I can decipher enough information coming from downstairs to realize my children are watching television in mass quantities with bowls of cereal to match. Around 2pm, I muster up enough energy to get up and stumble downstairs to check on the state of the place.

It isn't pretty.

The children have polished off two boxes of cereal, leaving a trail of crumbs and chunks from the kitchen to the family room. This includes much of it crushed and mashed into all couch crevices and cushions. The milk jug has been abandoned on the counter and something wet was splashed across the kitchen floor. I look up to see my three cherubs glued to their sixth hour of television.

Annoyed and disappointed, I ask, "Would you ever turn that thing off if I didn't tell you to?" They all turn around to face me and immediately begin to complain that there is nothing else to do...I should get out of bed and feed them...they had to take care of themselves and it's so unfair...and on and on.

As I put the now-disgusting-room-temperature milk back in the refrigerator, I motion to them to get the vacuum and start cleaning up. I also insist the television be turned off. Indefinitely.

Once the place looks a little less like Red Cross could show up at any moment, I send them to the playroom to actually be children - you know, the little people that have imaginations and actually enjoy a room full of toys? They gripe and complain as I mosey back up to my bed. At this point, my body obviously can only maintain an upright position for 6 minutes.

I vow to only arise for a catastrophe.

It's not long - or at least it doesn't seem long because I'm in and out of consciousness - when the first catastrophe presents itself. My 5-year-old hurries up the stairs in a bit of a panic.

"Mom. MOM. You have to wake up and help me. This is bad. This is real bad."

I open one eye.

"I have gum in my hair," he says.

I close my eye and mutter, "Lord, have mercy."

I manage to get up and locate the Goo Gone under the kitchen sink. Within seconds, the gum is out and my little boy is convinced I'm a genius. He runs off to play.

Or, rather, join the fray.

Apparently 'play' is going to mean 'torture and torment siblings' today. I no sooner get the covers pulled over my body when my screaming, fighting children have brought their wild animal antics into my room.

I am dangerously indifferent, so I call their father. He asks me to put our oldest on the phone and shortly thereafter, with much whining and complaining mind you, all three are headed outside to run off their energy - Dad's orders.

As soon as the last grumbling child is out the door, my muscles relax again and I drift into the sleep I desperately crave.

But I'm abruptly awakened to clomping booted feet on my bedroom floor.

Again, the little one has come to disturb the beast.

I only make out about every third word. Something about "Bad." "Caleb." "Roof." "Fell."

I shake myself awake to get more detail.

"Caleb used a chair to reach an icicle off the garage roof and he slipped and fell on his butt," he informs me. "He's crying and he needs you."

I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that the key word in that statement to me was "butt" because I quit trying to shimmy out of bed and instead asked, "You said he fell on his butt?"

"Yes."

"Good. He'll be fine. That's padded." (I realize this puts me no longer in the running for mother-of-the-year, but since I feel near death, I'm not convinced I would be alive to accept the award anyway.)

I then sent the little reporter back outside and my head hit the pillow.

I'll admit at that moment I was so weak I was searching for any reason to avoid having to throw on a coat and boots to head outdoors. Had he fallen on an arm or leg, perhaps I would have experienced greater alarm, but I figured a bump on the hind end wouldn't kill him.

I was right because he apparently recovered just fine. I never heard another word about it. In fact, I can't even be sure it wasn't all a hallucination. The illness was clearly taking over.

Fortunately, my husband eventually came home. And fed them. And let me sleep in peace. Hal. le. lu. jah.

The next morning I awoke to numerous hand-written Get Well notes from my children. I suppose they truly did feel bad that I was sick, but they also fully expected me to bounce back like a cartoon character and serve them breakfast.

What they didn't realize was that NOW I knew what they were capable of! So by the time I was finally able to resume most of my duties in the household, I determined that I do waaaaaay too much for my kids. They somehow found sustenance while I was out of commission, so they will now step. it. up.

Case in point:  when my 10-year-old asked for a glass of milk a few mornings later, I handed her a glass and pushed the milk jug toward her.

She got my point. And we all learned a valuable lesson from my brush with death. (Yeah, I'm gonna be dramatic here. I am not rational when sick.) 

There are capable hands in this house, and they don't just belong to Mom.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Just One. (Entry 1)

I'm naming this blog series Just One. Why? It takes just one person to make a difference sometimes. Or just one smile can brighten someone's day. Or just one act of kindness, just one effort, just one thought can change everything.

So, on that note, I will share another one of my 'good intentions.' One evening last week I met up with some other well-meaning friends at the library. Since this is a popular hang-out in town for the homeless, we decided to approach some of these people and get to know them.

On a side note, I had no idea the library had such an extensive selection of magazines. Seriously, forget about subscribing to anything! Unless, of course, you're one of those people that must rip out the coupons or draw mustaches on celebrities. Then, by all means, buy a subscription and have at it.

As I scoped out my options, I noticed several gentlemen in a seating area toward the back of the library (by all those amazing magazines!). Two guys were plugged into their electronics, so I ruled them out after a bit of contemplation. I eyed an older guy who looked to be losing consciousness.

I sat down next to him and asked him how he was doing. Though a little confused to be approached by a stranger, he perked up quickly.

He wondered if I was a college student doing research at the library. When I told him I was nearly 40 and a mother of three, he was shocked and figured I was merely in my 20s.

I love this man.

Which also begs the question - do college students even go to the library for research anymore? Isn't everything you ever wanted to know online now? Eh, I digress.

Soon he was diving into a variety of topics. He wasn't homeless, he was just waiting for his wife to finish her garden club downstairs.

(Personally, I think when you'll drive your wife somewhere so she can spend time with her girlfriends and be willing to sit in boredom for two hours waiting for her, you're a gem. Did I mention I love him?)

Turns out my new friend Duane is nearly the same age as my Dad, with a similar take on life. He wasted no time sharing his political and religious beliefs. Even making me a bit uncomfortable speaking about the oil boom bringing in a lot of "undesirables" while two or three of those so-called "undesirables" sat in chairs within earshot.

I steered him off that stereotype faster than a parent snatches a falling pacifier.

I let him do most of the talking though. He seemed to prefer that. I learned he's been ranching for years and he's obviously proud of his son but not his son-in-law. (The term deadbeat may have come up.) He is no fan of Obama and little old widows are the most generous givers in church.

Yeah, we covered a lot of topics.

By the time I needed to get  up to leave, he seemed genuinely disappointed that I had to go. At least I cut his boredom in half.

Truth is, I think Duane was thrilled to have someone take an interest in an old guy nodding off at the library.

And I realize I don't thrill people nearly enough.

I need to change that, because it's really quite fun.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Start of Something

Good intentions. That's my defense.

With the influx of people into my community in recent years (thank you, oil boom) comes an increase in our homeless population. Not a great reality, but a reality nonetheless.

So I've been trying to become more aware of who these people are and, if nothing else, offer a smile and a 'hi' to assure them they are at least noticed and recognized as another human being. I have observed enough human behavior that indicates we are either annoyed or downright fearful of someone with a duffle bag containing every meager possession thrown over their back. (Truth be told, they're probably more afraid of us than we are of them. For good reason.)

At any rate, I was headed to the public library shortly after noon today to retrieve some books to ward off my daughter's boredom. (She's currently grounded from play dates, so her weekends are burdened with the self-inflicted torture she calls "nothing to do.") Arriving at 12:30, I discovered doors do not open until 1pm.

Hmph.

At this point my stomach tumultuously reminded me of the time of day. Since I didn't down my usual doughnut at church this morning (score one for self-control! woo hoo!), the piece of toast I ate around 8am was obviously long forgotten so my noisy belly was getting downright hostile with me for neglecting it so. 

But then I noticed a few men outside the doors, waiting to be let in out of the cold. Though I had no 'real' proof, I suspected they were homeless based on the bags strapped to their backs and the quantity of layers they were wearing.

I couldn't help but wonder if their stomachs were in a rage of their own. I was slapped with the conviction that I can go home and choose from a refrigerator full of choices, but these men may not know when their next meal will come.

My immediate thought was to go get some restaurant gift cards to hand out, but I only had $10 in my purse and it doesn't take a mathematician to realize that's not enough to give decent gift cards to three people. I had a half an hour to kill until the library opened, surely I could just go grab some value menu items to feed them.

Off I go to the closest burger joint. As I walk into the restaurant, there are three people who appear to be making a day of it. They also fit that 'I'm carrying everything I own' description. I greet them, and they're all smiles. I catch almost a hint of surprise that someone paused to say 'hi' to them.

I proceed to the counter and order some food and three bags to separate the items into individual meals. As I'm walking out the door, a woman from this homeless trio I greeted a short time ago says, "Boy, that sure took a long time to get your order!" I shrugged it off as no biggie and said something like, "It must have taken a little longer to cook, I suppose."

I bid her farewell, and brave the cool wind to my car. I arrive at the library and offer lunch to these men only to find out they're not hungry - they've all eaten. Seems the gas station got their patronage on this chilly Sunday afternoon.

While I realize fast food offers questionable ingredients as well, I can't help but cringe a little at the thought of gas station food providing sustenance to these fellas.

Okay, I'm glad they're not hungry, but I'm a bit disappointed that I have food to give away and no takers. So I start tooling around downtown looking for anyone who might appreciate a meal. I stop and ask four others, and get the same 'I'm okay, thanks' response. (I have to admit, everyone was quite appreciative that I even offered, so at least I felt that maybe I wasn't completely off my rocker.)

Feeling a bit defeated in my attempt to help my fellow man, I headed for home. While not the intended recipients, I've got three kids who will be thrilled to chomp into a chicken sandwich and some fries.

I couldn't help but wonder if I got it all wrong. I had such a prompting to get those men some food, but I can't help but shake the thought that maybe I was just supposed to sit down and visit with that woman at the restaurant. She seemed to want to strike up a conversation. Was she lonely and seeing a smiling face gave her hope for more?

Maybe I messed it all up. Maybe God just wanted to get me to that restaurant - not for three bags of food, but to notice her. 

I’m a slow learner when it comes to life lessons, let me just state that right here, right now. And I’m na├»ve. There. I said it. I must accept the fact that I'm not going to grasp the needs of my community within an hour or two.

So I'm launching an idea - a project of sorts - to open my mind, my heart and my resources to the needs around me.

I want to do more than just take up space on this earth.

So I'm going to strive to become a better citizen, a better reflection of the One who gives me purpose. Maybe – gasp – attempt to be worthy of the calling1. (Sure, I'm a little slow on this - 39 years into it and I'm just grasping the fact that there's more purpose to my life than just keeping three offspring alive.)

So follow along on my journey if you're so inclined. I will document my progress (let’s hope it’s progress) right here on my blog.

++++++++++++++++++++++

 
1 Ephesians 4:1-6: "...live as people worthy of the call you received from God. Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. You are one body and one spirit, just as God also called you in one hope. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

More Than a Trophy



Maybe I’m getting too sentimental in my “old” age, but this year’s Super Bowl turned into a bit of a “Cry Bowl” for me.

The announcer begins with an introduction of Sandy Hook’s elementary chorus. The camera pans the group as they sing a few bars, and naturally, the tears well up in my eyes. That wound is still so fresh. The sight of those children – excited and smiling – well it was a poignant example of our country’s resilience.

It was enough to make this Super Bowl partier cry.

As the game moved ahead, the media did their part to accentuate the competitive dual between brothers. 

The fact that the head coach of each team grew up together with Mom probably frequently scolding, “Don’t throw that ball in the house!” made it a little tough to root against either one of them. When a videographer zooms into Mom and Dad seated in the arena a rush of emotions overwhelms me.

These are their boys!

I’ve got boys. I know the competitiveness that can rip them apart and the unshakeable love that brings them back together.

Both teams can’t win. One of their boys will be undeniably crushed after that game. As I stared at Mom Harbaugh, I couldn’t help but think of all the times I’ve had to console a child who, despite all their hard work, didn’t achieve their goal.

In a Huffington Post article about the parents’ role in their sons’ pinnacle game, Dad Harbaugh admitted they got a taste after a Niners loss at Baltimore on Thanksgiving.

Here’s an excerpt from that article describing the parents’ post-game experience:

After leaving an office in the stadium where they watched the game — in private and emotionless — the first locker room they walked past was that of the Ravens.

"We've all experienced that excitement of victory-guys jumping up and down, the smile on John's face. They were just ecstatic. ... Then you realize that you're not needed here," Jack said. "You walk across the hall, and you went into the 49ers locker room and you walked and you saw the players walking about — that look in their eyes, that look of not being successful and coming up short. We opened up a couple doors and finally saw Jim all by himself in this room, just a table and a chair. He was still in his coaching outfit. His head down in his hands and you looked into his eyes and you realized that this where you're needed as a parent.”


"Where you're needed." Ugh.

It was enough to make this Mom cry.

If the game itself wasn’t turning me into a blubbering pool of tears, a few well-placed commercials certainly would.

Enter a two-minute Jeep ad honoring returning servicemen and women. 

Come on, now. Pass me the tissues...AGAIN.

Family meals… a dog waiting to be walked… a lonely wife. And suddenly a framed portrait of a soldier comes into focus. 

“You’ve been missed,” Oprah says.   

Throw in some heart-wrenching music and you know what you get.

It was enough to make this American cry.

Surely this would be the end of all my gushing. I was running low on tissues, for heaven’s sake.

But nope. The big daddy of them all was still on the horizon, unbeknownst to me.

The late Paul Harvey’s hypnotic voice grabs me. “And on the 8th day…”

Gulp.

God said, "I need somebody strong enough to clear trees, heave bails and yet gentle enough to yean lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink combed pullets...and who will stop his mower for an hour to mend the broken leg of a meadow lark. So, God made a farmer!

It had to be somebody who'd plow deep and straight...and not cut corners. Somebody to seed and weed, feed and breed...and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk. Somebody to replenish the self-feeder and then finish a hard days’ work with a five mile drive to church. Somebody who'd bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who'd laugh and then sigh...and then respond with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life "doing what dad does". So, God made a farmer!

It was enough to make this Farm Girl cry.

So I’d just like to offer my congratulations to the people who made this year’s Super Bowl a memorable one. Honestly, not even a week later and I don’t recall the score of the game. I don’t remember which call was unjustified and which player took the hardest hit.

What I vividly remember is how the world saw those few hours as an opportunity to grab my heartstrings and tug.

Hard.

But when you’re simultaneously reminded of what it means to be a caring citizen, a comforting Mom, a proud American, and the humble daughter of a farmer – that’s worth far more celebration than a tall, shiny trophy any day.