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It Felt Like Home

Weddings are a great time to reconnect with friends.  This was especially true this past weekend when my family made a long haul by planes and automobiles  to attend the wedding of two very dear people. Readers of my blog know that my family just went through an “upsetting of the apple cart” transition.  First, both of my children graduated from high school (you can read my thoughts on that here). Next, both of my children left for Baylor University (you can read my thoughts on that here).  While we prepared to take my kids off to college, they helped us pack up our home of nearly twelve years and assisted in our move 400 miles west from Minneapolis, MN, to Bismarck, ND.  You can read about my thoughts pre-move here and my thoughts post-move here and here.

While we have been back to Minneapolis a few times in the past months, we have only seen a handful of our friends on those visits.  This past weekend, we saw many, many of our friends (and missed those we didn’t!).  To call them “friends” does not completely describe them as these people are truly family to us.  When a pastor and family serve, learn, live, and love along with their church, their church becomes their family.  We have grown in our faith together.  We have grown in our understanding of serving those around us together.  We have worked on projects together, have raised children together, and have built supportive relationships.

In the same way that leaving our biological family to attend college, to pursue a great job opportunity, or to follow the man of our dreams is hard, the leaving of the pastor is hard on everyone involved.

The wedding was beautiful.  The reception was fun – seriously fun.  The bride and the groom were joyful and clearly thrilled to be together with so many people whom they love and who love them.  Their families were gracious and generous.  The sermon honored God, and the wedding service itself drew us all into worship.

Side note: I love my new life.  I enjoy my new jobs, and I have an amazing house.  We knew people in Bismarck already, so we had some instant community. Other new friends have reached out to us in ways that make me hope that I have done the same for others. I am so thankful for this because being lonely is so awful.  I am also thankful that my children enjoy Baylor University.  They are in a program that allows them to tailor their college class schedules to their liking in ways that most schools do not.  My husband’s position is challenging and exciting. I have never been more certain that we are exactly where God wants us doing exactly what God prepared for us.  We are all where we should be.  However, none of these truths make it easy to be where we are instead of with our beloved church family.

At the end of reception (yes, we closed down the place along with other “closing” types – you party animals know who you are!), I had a brief conversation with dear man while waiting for the elevator to arrive.  He and his wife, along with several others, are talented musicians at Faith Baptist Church. Along with the worship minister, these talented friends have created a recognizable worship service “sound” that ministers my soul as I worship God with them.  The bride and groom had asked a handful of them to be the wedding musicians.  As they led the congregation in Beautiful by Phil Wickham, my voice blended with voices that have been part of my weekly worship experience for nearly twelve years.  Tears of joy mixed with tears of grief.

The brief conversation with my friend ended as he said, “Tonight felt like home.”

Tears sprung in my eyes, and I quickly tried to wipe them away.

We worshiped God, we sang together, we witnessed the marriage of dear friends, and we celebrated together. I was home – even for just a brief afternoon and evening – and I am so thankful that I was.  We are family even though we will not see each other as often or do the same things together that we have done for years.  But we are family united in our devotion and belief in a God who loved the world enough to send His Son to reunite us all to Him.  And through that, we will be family forever regardless of the distance and experiences between us.

Home has many different meanings to many different people.  And even for me, home has many nuances.  But I can say without a doubt that I was home this weekend, and I love those family members.  As the days go on, we will all get more and more used to this change in how we function as family.  We will change, we will grow, and we will do the good things that God prepared for us to do.  One day, we will be together with Him in eternity, and all of the tears we shed today will be forgotten…because we will finally be home.

Revelation 21:4: He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

 

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Love Those Pastors’ Wives!

On Monday night, Kerry and I attended the 2011 version of what has become an annual event: Pastors and Wives Appreciation Dinner.  Held in August for the past four years, this event is hosted and provided for by the Minnesota Association Executive Board members who treat the pastors (and wives if they have them…in Minnesota’s case all of the pastors at the moment are men – with wives) to a beautiful spread of food that includes yummies from the grill.  My personal favorite this year happened to be the mushrooms.  Is that weird?

As usually is the case at these events, the men migrated to one another and started talking shop while their wives migrated to each other and asked about updates in life.  Although the pastors get together once a month for prayer and support, we wives rarely do.  Our schedules do not tend to mesh well.  Two of us work in public education, one is the church secretary and recently started working a bunch of hours at a flower shop, and yet another is a daycare provider.  None of our time off seems to overlap, we are spread out from one another, and our jobs do not give us release time to get together like our husbands’ jobs do.

Being the wife of a pastor is different than being the wife of just about any other man with an occupation.  While every other job has its own family “requirements,” few people understand the exceptionally unique elements of the pastors’ family.  I find that being in the company of other pastors’ wives relaxes me.  They understand our strange rituals, odd hours, and secret handshakes.  Ok – that one might not be true!  What is true is that we do not have to explain much.  A knowing look communicates so much when we are together.  Needless to say then, it was great to chat with these fabulous ladies.

Typically at these dinners, we sit as couples for the main course; this time was different.  As ladies, we had been sitting in sort of a semi-circle in close proximity to a table.  When the “servers” (they are wonderful people!!) announced that it was time to gather around the tables, the wives sat at one table.  After some jabbing from the pastors (I am not sure if they were jealous that we were laughing so much or what), they sat at their own table as well.  The hosts gave us a bit of a hard time, but the women would not budge.  Some might say that I was a ring leader in this whole thing; I do not know where that idea comes from!

I cannot recount every conversation in this blog post – in part because of protection of my dear friends and in part because some of it may have only been entertaining in the moment.  Our conversation covered a grand pendulum swing from updates on our children’s lives to a performance of “The Wiggles” live to the costs of weddings and funerals and the various ways that they could go badly.  One of the most entertaining conversations recounted the strange unwillingness of a wedding caterer to serve decaffeinated coffee at a reception.  Yet another spoke of inconsiderate, though well-intentioned, actions of funeral attenders.  “The Wiggles” conversation had me laughing so hard that I wiped tears from my eyes.

These encounters, though infrequent, are precious to me.  My fellow Minnesota pastors’ wives are not cut from a specific mold.  Our approach to how we support our husbands differs in each of our lives.  They represent, though, a strong back-bone to each of their husbands ministries.  Everyone present last night has lived longer than I, has been married longer than I, and has been in ministry longer than I.  They have seen their struggles and their joys in their marriages, in the raising of their children, and in their churches’ ministries.  They march in front me and encourage me to keep marching.

I love our church; I would not trade it for another at this point in my life.  However, being in ministry, no matter how much one loves her church, can stretch us out of our comfort zone.  Few of us thought “pastor’s wife” would be one of the many hats we wear.  But we do.  And those women sitting around the table with me last night model for me what I can become and, at times, offer their guidance and support as I stumble along the path of the pastor’s wife.

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