Saturday, September 6, 2014

Ask a pastor 's wife: My answers

Here was the one and only question I received from last week's blog post:


"I'm sure you were proud and excited when your husband stepped up and...realized it was his calling and decided to be a full time pastor how did it make you feel? What were the initial thoughts versus current?


The children are probably too young but did the girls have any thoughts or questions about it? Do u you think their opinions will change when they are teenagers?"
-from Exception2theRule

I love this question.  It's funny, my opinions on how I feel about my husband being a minister are rarely solicited. 

Had you told me over twelve years ago that the man I married at age 21 would not have a career in politics/public service/public policy like he was persuing at Albion and beyond, I would have called you a liar.  But politics and ministry share a remarkably and disturbingly similar skill set.

When Todd decided to persue the ministry full time, I was not shocked.  The United Methodist Church had been a formative influence in his life, and I figured he would serve in a lay capacity at some point in his life, just like his father (hi, Opa!). It wasn't too big of a stretch to see him as a pastor.

But at the time we were discussing his future plans for ministry, I probably would have agreed to literally ANYTHING that made him happy, or at least less unhappy. He had been unemployed for nearly two years.  I was working full time to support my family on a Catholic school teacher's salary. I had been watching him try, and fail, to get a job, any job, for most of that time.  He was miserable and lost.  I was stressed and overextended.  But we both had such a peace about this career path, it was clear we were making the right decision.  We knew it wouldn't be easy, that finances would remain tight, that sometimes the only interaction we'd have in a 24 hour period would be a high five in the driveway on my way home from work and on his way out to class. We had no way of knowing that he'd be appointed as a pastor and I'd leave my job (and my support system in MI) to be the at-home parent, something I'd always desired, halfway through seminary.  But that's another story.  

My current feelings are mostly pride at what Todd has managed to accomplish in the last 4 years and gratitude that I've been able to be a part of it.  I also know that it was not just Todd that was called into ministry, but the children and I as well.  I hope that I support him well, serve others by using my God-given gifts, and raise my family the best I can.  

Which brings me to the second part of the question.  The girls were young when Todd entered seminary and ministry.  Maddie remembers her daddy doing jobs other than being a pastor, but Ava and Harper will have no memory of Todd other than being a seminary student and pastor. 

But it isn't always easy to be a PK (Pastor's Kid).  Sometimes people place unrealistic expectations on PK's behavior (and mom and dad's parenting abilities!). Todd and I have gathered a little group of ministry families around us, so that the girls can have friends like themselves.  We are active in the UMC connection and are always meeting new people.  But we are a normal family.  We love hard, we fight hard, we play hard, we fail hard, but we emphasize forgiveness and new starts, just like Jesus would want.  

As we approach the teenage years, we expect some measure of rebellion like every other parent.  But our focus will be on our kids' hearts and minds, not hair color, clothing choices, or other means of self-expression and identity.

One of Todd's seminary friends recently told a story that stuck with and inspired  me. She retold that she had dyed her hair for the first time, a lovely shade of blue.  One of the older ladies at her church was shocked and asked her mother, the pastor, what she was going to do about it.  Her mother asked, "Was my daughter rude or disrespectful to you?"  The older woman replied that she was not.  So the wise pastor said, "Then we don't have a problem here.  Her appearance is not her behavior."  

Todd and I know that our kids will make mistakes.  Unfortunately for them, their failures may be more public than those of their friends.  We always hope they make good choices, but we know they will occasionally fall short.  We try not to "sweat the small stuff".  We are most focused on creating kind, compassionate, justice-seeking, hard-working, service-focused women.  What they wear and the color of their hair, while important, is not more important to us than having a heart for Jesus. 

The hardest part of ministry so far for them has been itinerancy.  Our last appointment lasted two years.  Our current appointment will likely last between 4-8.  No one knows for sure. Leaving homes, schools, friends, and familiarity behind is hard for everyone.  It never gets easier.  We've been warmly welcomed wherever we've been, but it always takes awhile to feel like home. 

Will they grow up resenting the church?  Maybe.  But I am OK with that as long as they still love, serve, and seek Jesus.  And if they reject church altogether?  Well, we all have seasons of our faith, don't we?  God's love for us is wide, Jesus' reach is far, and the Spirt is ever present.  They will always be able to come home.  

So, I hope that answered your question, Exception2theRule! 

Coming soon to the blog: a new look and layout, and maybe even a new name.  Keep following!

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