Sunday, January 22, 2012

Surrendered to More

by Shannon Milholland

Carynne, Scott, Clara, Me, Hannah and Hayleigh 
I wasn't sitting that far from the speaker but I questioned whether I was hearing her correctly. Anne Graham Lotz was poised at the podium and delivering a God-inspired message. Somehow no matter what words passed from her lips, my heart heard one message. Shannon, don't teach women's Bible study this spring. You need to be more available to your husband.

I wrestled with God. I didn't want to relinquish to this message. Wasn't there another way?After a couple stubborn days, I yielded my will to God's. I placed an uncomfortable call to the women's director of our church and mumbled something about not teaching a class in the spring.

That night brought sweet, sound sleep for me while rest escaped my dear husband. For about five months he had been fervently praying about one day entering the ministry. A new hobby accompanied his faith-filled prayers. He often surfed the web looking for articles on church leadership and administration.

This wakeful night he "stumbled" upon a job posting for Hope Church in Memphis. As he read the job requirements his heart stirred and his mind doubted. By morning he had sent his secular resume and texted me to ask me to pray for him.

Three weeks later we found ourselves on the way to Memphis from Dallas seated right next to the Senior Pastor of Hope Church. He "just so happened" to be returning from a conference on the same flight. Before the wheels of the plane touched down, I knew God would call Scott to this church.

My first 24 hours of our weekend interview in Memphis confirmed I did not want to relocate. Once again I was at odds with God. I knew with certainty God was calling Scott to Hope but was God calling me?

Sunday morning found me alone long enough to pray. I needed God to make me okay with moving. I asked Him what this move meant for me? Did I have to surrender "my" ministry to Scott's calling?

My heart wasn't the only one God was talking to that morning. Our Senior Pastor arranged for the first and only time in the history of our church to have our Director of Women's Ministry meet privately with a candidate's wife. Within moments of meeting me she looked me straight in the eye and said, "Shannon, I want you to know God isn't just calling Scott to Hope. He is calling you."

I thought following my husband into the ministry meant the end of my ministry. It was the beginning. Through the loneliness of our early days in ministry, I heard God's call to write. Through writing, God has increased my opportunities to speak. I surrendered by heart to God's call. In return, God gave me more ministry than I could imagine.

I wonder about you. Are you like I once was feeling lost and hidden in your husband's shadow? Let's surrender together. Surrender to more.
____________________________


Shannon is the author of Jesus & My Orange Juice, a fresh-squeezed oasis for ordinary living and the free 30 day guide PrePrayed. She finds joy among piles of laundry and miles of carpools and delights in leading others to this place of contentment in life. As Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine, she shares her arsenal of secrets about how to be successful in the sometimes intimidating world of social media. She is a dynamic speaker who authentically shares her struggles and delivers a strong 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. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Beginning was Simply...Grace


Jared, JJ, Susie and Abby Alleman :: Global Venture Staff :: Campus Crusade for Christ {Cru} ::
Soon to move to long-term assignment in Budapest, Hungary

If there is a beginning for my husband, Jared’s, and my ministry journey, it is simply one of grace.

Before we met, we both sensed the Lord’s calling on our lives.  I began a seminary degree and an ordination process and thought, then, that I would co-pastor with my husband and believed in my heart I knew who that would be.  Well, all of my clarity and dreams were gone in an instant and I was left broken and unable to pick up the pieces.

That is also when I experienced Real Grace; the Abba Father Love to a depth that has left me changed forever.  It is when I surrendered every plan I thought I had for my life {and I thought He had too} and followed the only thing that I knew clearly...that I was to go home.  This in itself was a gracious gift that I had been unwilling to receive previously.

Almost immediately, a job teaching at my old high school fell into my lap and after much coaxing I agreed to take it. A year after I started that job my mom was diagnosed with cancer and shortly after that I met Jared.  He was simply and beautifully my friend through the most difficult time in my life. We met through co-leading a Bible Study for students at the high school where I was teaching and we both attended.

At the end of that school year my mother went Home to Heaven with the firm belief from the two times she met Jared that he was ‘the one’ for me.  It was her{partially}answered prayer to the Lord one day in the hospital that she could ‘see each of her children happily married’ and THEN she would be 'ready to go.' I was the only one still single, and a month after she died Jared and I started dating. Six months later we were engaged and six months after that, we were married.

The only thing we knew on our wedding day was that we needed the Lord desperately to love each other for a lifetime.  However, during a time of prayer at our wedding, my college mentor prayed prophetically for the countries we would go to and the people who would hear the Gospel through our lives.

Then, shortly after we were married, we heard about the amazing opportunities to work with public school students in Hungary.  It was at a youth group meeting and a couple, Zach and Julie, were sharing about the English Camp there, hoping that some of the youth would serve as tutors.  Both Jared and I were stirred in a place deep within about this incredible ministry that brought together our shared passion to reach young people outside of the church. 

After the meeting, I asked Julie if there were any longer opportunities for us to somehow join this ministry. She mentioned a year internship.  For the next two years I continued to teach and coach and Jared worked at a local bank while we both served in the church and school.  During that time, the Lord kept reminding us of this opportunity in Hungary.  We began our application a little less than a year after we heard about the internship. 

A year later, following a lost application, the resignation of my teaching job and the miraculous provision, in three months, of everything that we needed for that year, {approximately $40,000 for the passports, visas, flights and all of our living and travel expenses} we boarded a plane in August, 2005 and our journey officially began.

However, it began long before in great grace.  Grace to make each of us His at a young age.  Grace to love me in all of the brokenness of shattered dreams and to heal me with His Abba Father touch.  Exceeding grace to give me a husband who models that Abba love profoundly to me. And the grace to allow me to know His heart of love for this man, my beloved husband, an oh-so-faithful preacher of the Gospel.

As his wife, the Lord has humbled me greatly and given me the privilege to journey with him as we cling desperately to His Infinite Grace, in all of our inadequacy and messy-broken faltering, and step hand-in-hand into this amazing calling of boldly proclaiming the Good News to the nations.

And so, this Grace, for us, is the beginning and the end and the everything-in-between.

All Because of Him, All for Him,


Abby

{p.s. I write regularly about Grace, The Journey and staying close to His heart at my blog Fan the Flame and there's lots more about our journey to Hungary at the Our Story page.}


Thank you to Carla for reaching out so beautifully to us, the ministry wives, and to Monique my blog and true friend for inviting me to be a part of it!

Monday, January 9, 2012

We're Not Alone...

Monique and Curtis Zackery, Living Hope Neighborhood Church, Richmond, CA

Hello Fellow Ministry Wives!

Welcome back to The Garden. I'm so thankful that the first month of this blog is focused on "The Beginning"--sharing the beginning of each of our stories of ministry. 

As I read Carla’s first blog post, I realized I wasn’t alone.

I never dreamed of being a pastor’s wife. As a child I remember pretending to be a school teacher. I set up my stuffed animals and instructed them through make believe. At times I pretended to be a secretary. I piled papers high on the desk in my room and I envisioned myself being busy at work as I “answered phones” the way I saw my mama do it. Other times I pretended to be a famous singer, belting out songs into my hairbrush. As I got older, I dreamed of my wedding day. I imagined being a bride--being a wife. Through the years I dreamed of and hoped for a lot of different things. Interestingly enough, however, "Pastor's Wife" never made it's way into my childhood fantasies. 

After my husband proposed I found two truths at war within me. The first was the fact that he was undoubtedly the man God was calling me to marry. The second was the fact that he was called to ministry, which meant that I would eventually become a pastor’s wife. “ME? A pastor’s wife?” That idea seriously intimidated me since, in my mind, I was clearly not pastor’s wife material. 

All the pastor wives I knew seemed to have it all together. Granted, my view was a completely skewed, outside-looking-in perspective. But in my eyes P.W.’s were always kind, graceful, confidant and knew just what to say at the proper time. They knew how to dress appropriately. They were wonderful moms and they knew how to host, how to cook, how to decorate a table, how to lead Bible studies, how to quote scripture, how to mentor other women, and how to home school their children. In essence I thought they were the June Cleavers of ministry.

I knew none of those pastoral things. I had no training in Pastor’s Wife 101. I was terrified!

Yet God chose me…. inexperienced, unqualified, broken me.

I imagine His decision had something to do with the fact that His strength is made perfect in weakness. I’ve wrestled much in finding my place under this mantle of ministry. But I praise God for His grace and patience as He shows me security, identity and freedom in Him.

Just before getting married, we received a lot of advice from different people. I remember one particular friend saying, “Marriage is a ministry. It’s not just for the two of you. When God calls you to be married, it is because He knows your ministry will be more powerful with each other than it would be without each other.”

Now I see so much truth in that little bit of advice offered to us. I praise God that He chose me to be part of ministry with my Husband. God is intentional. He doesn’t make mistakes. He purposed me to be in this role and He’s done the same for YOU…

You, with all of your gifts…

You, with your unique passions…

And yes, even you with your weaknesses... those weaknesses that God continually uses to make known His mighty strength, as you follow Him.

I thank God that I am in the process of growing. I’m thankful for this season of learning who I am in Him and who He is calling me to be, which isn’t June Cleaver. (Praise the Lord!) Furthermore, I thank God that you are here with us in this Garden. We welcome you to this mini, weekly retreat, where you can find encouragement and community, right where you are. You are not alone.

Blessings,

Monique Zackery

Sunday, January 1, 2012

In the Beginning...

Pastor Anthony and Carla Hendricks, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas

For weeks I've toiled over what I might share in this first blog post for A Pastor's Wife's Garden. I've thought about sharing the dismal statistics surrounding pastors and their families. I've considered writing a devotional on women leaders in the bible. I've also thought about sharing the story of how and why I began A Pastor's Wife's Garden. (You can actually read that story here.)

But I've decided to start with the beginning of the story.

In 2001, my husband and I packed up all our belongings, including our four-year-old rambunctious redhead Kalin, and moved to Franklin, Tennessee to join the pastoral staff of Strong Tower Bible Church. We had been praying for years that the Lord would direct us into ministry of some sort, and were thrilled to have finally received our "orders."

Although I was excited to walk with my husband in his new calling as a pastor, I also felt anxious and unprepared. What did it mean to be a pastor's wife? What was my role? What were my responsibilities? I had no answers, but lots of questions.

Maybe you felt the same way I did when you became a pastor's wife. Maybe you had a mix of emotions similar to mine. Maybe you worried about doing the wrong thing or saying the wrong thing. Maybe you worried that somehow God got it wrong.

I sure did.

I looked at my husband with his extroverted personality and ready smile, and thought, "Wow God, what a perfect man you chose to minister to your people. I totally get it."

I looked at myself with my introverted personality and downright fear of people and their opinions of me, and thought, "Wow God, You couldn't have chosen a worse candidate as a pastor's wife. I don't get it at all."

I thought a pastor's wife should have it together. I thought I should be uber-confident and spiritual. I thought my adjustment to my new life, new town and new role should be immediate. Unfortunately, all of these things were far from my reality. On the outside I tried my hardest to smile and pretend that things were fine. In reality I was falling apart on the inside.

And this was the condition of my heart when I stepped into the role of pastor's wife.

Today I look back on that period of my life, and I smile. I learned so much in those years about pleasing God first, and not man. I learned how to be comfortable in my own skin. How to be myself and not anyone else. And you know the most interesting thing? I actually started to like myself.

I have grown under the healing balm of God's grace. He continues to speak words of love and acceptance of me. And He's speaking them to you today.

He loves me. He loves you.

He affirms me. He affirms you.

He has called me. He has called you.

And yet our callings may look different. Some of you are musically gifted and lead your churches in worship, while others of you teach bible study. Some of you lead your children's ministry, while others of you manage administrative responsibilities. Some of you co-lead your churches alongside your husbands, even carrying the title of "co-pastor."

I rejoice in the calling God has specifically placed on your life. He didn't just call your husband. He called you too.

The Lord has called me to assist in women's ministry. He has called me to teach in the children's ministry and teach our children interpretive sign language and praise music. And He's called me to a bunch of ministries outside of our local church: serving The CALL foster care/adoption ministry, writing and editing for Christian and mainstream publications, and blogging my heart out throughout the week.

And now He's called me to encourage you, my pastor's wife-sisters, as we stroll through A Pastor's Wife's Garden every week on Mondays. Can you feel the grass of the Garden crunching between your toes? Isn't it amazing?

Love,

Carla
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