Monday, May 28, 2012

Created for Community

By Monique Zackery
(Ministry-wife friends. [We didn't plan to all wear Toms Shoes that day.]
A picture of our commonality and uniqueness: community.)

We sat around the dining table in celebration of my birthday. These ladies, pastor’s wives and female servant-leaders in the church, who have become some of my cherished friends, assisted my husband in throwing me an intimate, surprise party that brought me to tears.

“Wow. I feel cared for.” I thought to myself as I thanked them for their kindness.

Birthdays have never really been a big deal to me. Besides, this was a random year anyway. It wasn’t year twenty-one, or thirty, or the big 4-0. I was celebrating an odd number. But there was something special to me about this gathering. It spoke to my heart. It confirmed to me that I had a place to belong. I felt embraced by my community—a community I love just as deeply as they love me.

Of course it hasn't always been this way. There have been seasons of loneliness, seasons of wondering where I fit in,  moments of rejection that cut deep to the heart, and lengthy prayers of pouring out before God. But this day represented a longing fulfilled and what a sweet day it was. 

A young friend who was visiting from out of town joined us at the table while we ate silky chocolate cake, and drank milk to wash it down. Amidst laughter and smiles the subject of authentic friendship in ministry became the center of our focus.

“If you could go back in time and encourage your younger self before entering ministry, what would you say?” I asked the ladies. A number of responses came.

“I would teach myself that 'it’s okay to not be okay' sometimes. You don’t have to pretend that everything is perfect when it’s not.” One pastor’s wife said.

“I would tell myself to be uniquely me, and not to feel the need to change myself to meet everyone else’s expectations of a pastor’s wife.” Another said.

“I would say to live authentically in community with other women, to have accountability and to be open to it…”

Reflections of wisdom-learned-through-the-years were bouncing about the table.

“I would say to myself, ‘You’re not alone.’ And choose not to believe the lie that ‘I’m the only one going through it.’ There are countless pastor’s wives facing the same types of challenges as me.”

We talked about the freedom that comes with being real, and at times even vulnerable, through story and confession in community (with safe people, of course).

The young woman visiting from out of town sat quietly as she listened intently. Later, when the party was over, she pulled me aside and shared that she had never seen authenticity and community like the one she had just witnessed around the table. To see pastor’s wives and leaders in the church embrace each other and talk about taking off the masks and just being ourselves, weaknesses and all, in order to give God glory, was a foreign concept to this precious one who was raised in the church. It was a picture of grace that she had never known before.

This is how it should be,” I thought to myself. “…Real and full of grace to give God glory.”  

I grieve at the thought of the many ministry wives who have felt alone on this journey. I grieve for those of us who have struggled to meet expectations and find our place, or experienced a crisis of faith with no friend to turn to, for those of us who have longed for authentic relationships, and who have fought dark battles in isolation. 

We were never meant to do this alone.

I recently came to this understanding. We were created in God’s image and God is community. He consists of three incredible parts in community with one another, making up the One Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If we were created in His image, what does this say about us? I believe we were created for community. Without it, we wither.

Let us embrace real community, with grace and authenticity. Let's ask God to reveal the people He has purposed to be our community in this season. Let's be courageous and ask God to lead us to the ones we are to adopt as our extended family, showing them grace and acceptance through Jesus Christ. Let's be a safe place to foster true friendships. This is the body—living, loving, and working together—the way He intended it to be.

So, what would YOU tell your younger self before getting into ministry? It’s your turn to share, friend. I invite you to write your words of wisdom with THIS community. Let’s build each other up in this place, authentically and genuinely. Please comment for your fellow Garden readers to see and be encouraged.

Sincerely,

Monique Zackery
__________________________________________________________

Monique is a pastor's wife in Northern California. When she isn't glueing her fingers together in a D.I.Y. project, you can find her worshiping God through music and everyday life. She is the author of the blog Finding Me in You, where she openly shares and encourages others with the lessons God is teaching her on identity and fulfillment in Christ. Furthermore, Monique has a passion for abolishing modern day slavery in this lifetime. She is currently working toward a degree in Leadership in Ministry and hopes to complete a Masters in Counseling as a tool to aid in the healing of her community and rescued victims of slavery. Above all, she desires to be an arrow, pointing others to the ultimate Healer, Jesus. 


Author Website: Finding Me in You

Monday, May 21, 2012

Too Busy Not to Have Friends

by Shannon Milholland


Resident Best Friends -
Carynne and Clara
I armed myself with good reading. I gobbled up Rachel's Lovingood's In Our Shoes. I devoured Susie Hawkin's From One Ministry Wife to Another. As a brand new ministry wife, I pondered their talk of loneliness but summarily rejected the idea. I'd moved 17 times over four decades and never had difficulty making friends.


It won't surprise you that making friends in ministry has been a struggle. So many things battle - walking the line between openness and protection of our families, a multitude of priorities, and a desire to avoid hurt.


In truth we are all too busy not to have friends. Here are four ways to grow our ministry relationships.


Be Authentic - Our comfort level in sharing intimate details of our lives with congregation members will vary from one of us to the other. What doesn't is our need for authenticity. Each of our hearts longs for deep connection. Let's not wait for the other to open up. Take the lead in authenticity and relationship will follow.


Understanding - Often to develop the friendships we need, we will have to cross man-made barriers such as denomination or geography. To do so, requires understanding. It reminds of the familiar quote by St. Augustine, "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity." Be the first to offer understanding.


Stop and Listen - We need to be heard. We need someone to stop and listen below the surface to the near silent beat of our hearts. To truly hear, requires us to press the pause button on our thoughts and schedule and listen with an undivided heart. Set the example with active listening.


Yield Your Desire - Friendships unfold slowly like spring's flower. We have to give our desire to God and pray for patience. Yield your desire to God and watch Him work.


Are you ready for ministry relationships? I am! I'm too busy not to have friends.
_______________________________



Shannon is a morning runner, an afternoon carpooler and all-day lover of Jesus.

She is the author of Jesus& My Orange Juice, a fresh-squeezed oasis for ordinary living. Shannon finds joy among piles of laundry and miles of carpools and delights in leading others to this place of contentment in life. She presents the gift of prayer in her free 30 day prayer guide PrePrayed: Preparing for Life’s Events. She is a frequently published author. Most recently, she was a contributing author to Always There: Reflections for Mom’s on God’sPresence.

As a speaker, Shannon is straight forward about her own struggles. She is a compassionate advocate fighting for victory in the life of her audience with a message of hope and encouragement.

When not writing or speaking, she enjoys her favorite job of wife to Scott and mom to four daughters from preschool to high school.

Connect with her online at ShannonMilholland.com or on FacebookTwitter or Pinterest.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Gangrene: A Lesson on Friendship and Forgiveness


By Christy Fitzwater*
 
It was after 11:00 on a warm summer evening, and I had laid in bed for over an hour. Seething. Rehearsing over and over in my mind the things I would like to say to her. 

For several years the infection had spread. We were doing ministry together, this other woman and I, and the way she was doing things was making me nuts. She likes things nice and predictable. I like to mix it up. Week after week my discontentment grew, until it became anger and filled my thoughts every day. 

There were other things. How she did this started to bother me. How she did that got under my skin. What had been an intimate, sweet friendship and ministry partnership became a splinter in deep tissue that slowly festered. 
 
It was infected by Gangrene.

Then came talks. Me saying too many words unseasoned by tact and thoughtfulness. Her feelings hurt and each one feeling like the other didn’t understand. This followed by distance. Cold bitterness.

That’s where I found myself on that summer evening. That’s where the Holy Spirit said enough. He said the words grace, forgiveness and love. No matter which way I tossed in the bed those words wouldn’t go away. Then He said get up. 

So I did. I got up, got dressed, and shocked my husband as I came downstairs, grabbed the car keys, and left.   

I knew she was a night owl, and sure enough, through the screen door I saw her sitting at her kitchen bar. I quietly spoke her name. Then I entered and literally got down on my knees in front of her and apologized for everything – the words, the bitterness, the hard heart. 

I confessed my love. I remembered out loud all the things I had always enjoyed about her. In her kitchen she spoke forgiveness. It would take a while before it got to her heart, but she spoke the words to me - the first drip of a potent antibiotic to the veins. After that night I packed the bitterness and anger away, and every time I saw her I would confess love through my body language and my words.   

Being a pastor’s wife doesn’t make us immune to all the nastiness we women seem to inflict on each other. But we CANNOT indulge our feelings worn way out there on the tip of the sleeve. Colossians 3:13 says “Forgive whatever grievances you may have…”   

I don’t know what kind of deadly infection you have spreading with some other woman at church, but gangrene has to go. As pastor's wives we have a responsibility to paint a picture of health for our church families to see.

In the power of Christ, even a nasty, oozing wound can be healed and made new. It starts with you. You have to be the mature one.  Do something about it today. 

Today.


* To read Christy's bio and her previous blog, "A Scandalous Blog Post About Marriage and Ministry", click here

Monday, May 7, 2012

Discovering The Gems

By Carla Adair Hendricks



Today I am full.

I've just returned from a trip to Nashville, Tennessee, where my husband Anthony and I lived for nearly ten years. I experienced an incredible amount of growth and adventure during my years in Nashville. My husband began his ministry career there at Strong Tower Bible Church, so that's where I became an official PW (pastor's wife).

Our family increased quite a bit while in Nashville too. We adopted two of our children and I gave birth to our baby girl while living there.

And I enjoyed so many wonderful friendships there.

So this weekend was like a family reunion, talking to girlfriends into the wee hours of the morning. You know, the kinds of conversations where you move from insignificant small talk to deep heart conversation in less than five minutes.

That kind of conversation fills me to the brim.

That kind of conversation is rare.

And so are deep relationships.

In this fast-paced, social media, virtual culture, people rarely take the time to develop deep, authentic relationships. In a day where we're more connected than ever -- through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and so on and so on -- we are actually lonelier and more detached than ever before. Throughout the day we post the cute things our children say, our dinner menus and pics of the adorable platforms pumps we found for a steal at T.J. Maxx.

But where do we post our heartbreaks?

Where do we share our failures and sins?

Where do we pin our rejections and disappointments?

There's absolutely nothing wrong with Facebooking, tweeting or LinkingIn. I'm personally a fan of each. But along with Facebook, why not share a meal with a girlfriend face to face? In addition to LinkedIn, why not link up with another lady at work, church or in your neighborhood? Alongside Pinterest, why not take interest in a woman that's very different from yourself, be she of a different race, culture or socio-economic background?

You might find that lady as starved for genuine, heartwarming relationship as the rest of us are.

See, we minister's wives know a little something about loneliness. Because we're married to the guy who stands in the pulpit each Sunday, we tend to be rather popular at church. But often that popularity resembles that of the prettiest girl in high school. Everybody knows her, but few move close enough to really know her. A few zealous souls attempt to win the title of that girl's BFF, but the girl's always left wondering, "Would she want to be my friend if I wasn't the prettiest girl in school?"

But then a real gem of a girl comes along that likes the girl for who she is. The girl relaxes and opens her heart. And true friendship begins.

We ministry wives need those gems in our lives. We women need those gems in our lives.

So let me encourage you to prayerfully seek out the gems around you. The "Son" shines through women like that. Open your heart to them. And by all means, nurture those precious gems that you've known for years, decades even.

And most importantly, be a gem in someone else's life.

The dividends are priceless.



* About Carla: 


 Carla is a pastor's wife, writer and adoption/foster care advocate. Understanding the unique challenges that pastor's wives face, she created A Pastor's Wife's Garden to encourage ministry wives of diverse ethnicities and backgrounds. Visit the Garden here every Monday morning to hear from a diverse, passionate group of ministry wives and visit Carla's personal blog at www.carlaadairhendricks.blogspot.com.
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