Sunday, June 24, 2012

Life in the fishbowl

By Dorena Williamson

The Williamson family jumping for joy

I have spent 30 years in the fishbowl. That amazes even me! Fellow Pastor's wives know all about being in that bowl: the one where people look at you, and decide what they think of you, all based on the job your husband does for a living. I've been a "PK" since age 11, and then the gifted guy I married just happened to be called to do what he never planned to do. He started a church. So there I went, out of the frying pan, and into the fire!

But looking back, I can honestly say that my "PK" experience had more good than bad. And I credit my parents for so much of that. Sure, they were imperfect like any other parents trying to do their best. But we kids always knew we were top priority.

Even to this day, I can call my dad at any random time, and after patiently listening to me rattle on about whatever I called for, he may carefully interject, "Sweetie, I'm in a board meeting now. Can I call you back in a bit?" (That really tickles me!) We parents know that more is caught than taught, and my parents' consistency at home went far toward me embracing God and the work we were called to.

Even still, there were - and still are - the battles of people pleasing and comparing myself or my family to others. I'm a "rule keeper" kind of gal, so knowing that people are watching my family, and knowing they are "proud" of our walks with God, easily leads to self righteousness. But the Holy Spirit continues to prune my heart to believe the gospel for myself - that I am nothing apart from the work Christ accomplished for me!

When Chris first started our church, I was 4 months pregnant and had a toddler. I thought about what I should "look like" as a Pastor's wife, and since I didn't know any others in their mid-twenties, I realized I had to pave my own way. Wearing comfortable clothing to keep up after my active toddler, or having to pause a choir rehearsal to step out and nurse my baby, didn't fit in any paradigm I had seen for Pastor's wives!

My gifts are more in leading worship than leading women's ministry, so again I had to let God shape me into how I best represented His work in me, instead of trying to fit people's stereotypes. I am sure that our church's multicultural setting has helped with that. But God is so kind and if we live focused on His pleasure, the eyes of people don't mean so much. They can't all be pleased anyway, and Scripture is true - "Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe." (Proverbs 29:25)

So I keep swimming in this "fishbowl life" we call ministry, knowing my life is not a performance for the church, but a daily offering to the Savior who created me for this purpose. By God's grace, I tell my four kids to focus on pleasing God - no more than, no less than any other Christ-follower should. God is faithful and His truth endures to all generations!

Dorena Williamson is a pastor's wife and a mom of four wonderful PK's: Dante, Christa, Chase and Charis. Her husband Chris founded Strong Tower Bible Church, a multicultural ministry in Franklin, Tennessee seventeen years ago. Today they are leading their community in growing "God's Diverse Kingdom." Dorena's passion for worship has led her to serve in Strong Tower's worship ministry since its inception. She also lovingly supports and encourages her husband through the ups and downs of  ministry.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

An Inheritance of Shame, or a Legacy of Grace?

By Abby Alleman

Jared, JJ, Susie and Abby Alleman ::
Serving with International High School Ministry through Cru in Budapest, Hungary

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
~Ephesians 2: 4-10 {emphasis added}
As a missionary, it is not the work that could call us anywhere in the world that rocks my deepest moorings.

Rather, it is the all-of-life calling as a wife and a mother. My husband and kids are the ones who see me at my worst, yet love me still.

They love me because we are family and even at my son’s and daughter’s tender ages, they know that we belong together. A good God is knitting our lives, our stories, so that they are deeply intertwined.

And this is overwhelming. I know that as long as I am this side of Heaven, I will sin and fail and fall and they will see it and experience the consequences of it.

As we walk in the mess together, I am modeling the great choice I have to accept the inheritance of shame that has plagued every human since the Fall OR invest in the legacy of Grace that is mine in Christ Jesus.

And I am convinced that I can pour nothing greater into the lives of my kids than an intimate knowledge of the Grace of God that flows from His loving heart.

Although my children are still quite young, I have been working with teenagers for almost 20 years. Many of them have been PK’s or MK’s*. I have seen some never stray and I have seen some walk long, long prodigal roads. Both have had to battle that hissing lie of shame. They often choose the hiding or the defeat and giving in that it brings. And as much as it might seem easy to judge their parents, the reality is that many prodigal sons and daughters in ministry have parents who love them deeply and daily.

And this is the truth that humbles me more than any other as a parent, particularly as a parent to MK’s. It is not my performance that could ever save them. And, I truly believe, it is not my sin or failures that will lose them.

It is Grace, perfect, complete, sustaining, enduring, finishing-the-work-begun Grace that keeps and brings Home.

It is the same Grace that I must daily behold and cling to in every step of my own life. It is the Grace that asks for theirs and their Daddy's forgiveness, because I know God, in Christ, has already forgiven me. It is the Grace that looks into their eyes and sees their heart, not the lie that shame bore. It is the Grace that bears the heart of God in me and gives me a strength to love them in everything. Just as I am loved.

It is the Grace that will bring victory over shame every time. It is the Grace that in the final hour, leads the wayward to the Abba Father’s loving arms. It is the Grace that holds tenderly after a major fall and is enough to always and ever fully restore.

In all of the unknowns of our ministry journey, marriage, their lives, there is absolutely no other foundation for our family, our home, our individual yet intertwined stories and no greater legacy than ‘the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus’.

How do you model Grace to your children?

Do you, like me, need to search your heart to see if you are bearing too much shame for your failings, instead of receiving the immeasurable riches of His Grace?

* Note: PK means Pastor's Kid and MK means Missionary's Kid

I am Abigail Alleman and I share my heart and this journey overseas and mostly, what it is to love God with everything and fight for that love at my blog, Fan the Flame. I will be sharing more about this new life in Budapest in the coming weeks and months and beyond and I also share about our family's journey and life and times at my other blog Abby Avenue.  

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Reflection...of Him

by Shannon Milholland

Do you remember those first words? The first acknowledgement that your child was a reflection of you?

The four I hope most reflect His beautfy
He has your nose.

She has your smile.

He has your musical inclination.

She has your athleticism.

That moment is thrilling. Your heart swells with a mixture of pride and awe. This little person really is a reflection of you. But then you recognize other traits in your child.

He has your shyness.

She has your stubbornness.

He has your rebellious spirit.

She has your tendency to lie.

The joy of the initial reflections are equaled with sorrow for the latter. This issue is made only worse when your child's faults and failures are so...public. Is it possible to raise a child in the arena of ministry and not fall to the temptation to put undo pressure, spoken or unspoken, on your child towards perfection?

Yes, but first we must change the mirror.

What if we viewed ourselves and our children from a different reflective surface? What if our children weren't a reflection of us as much as a reflection of Him? 

He is strong enough to deflect the worst temper tantrum. 

His character is refined enough to absorb the longest season of rebellion. 

His loving eyes diffuse the most critical of spirits.

When we look to Him, we give our children freedom to fail. His grace is a secure landing place. His face is the reflection I most want to see on my daughters' faces. 

How can you pray or act differently today to give your children freedom to reflect the One worthy of reflection?

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’s Presence.

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 or on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Parenting those PK's

The Hendricks Clan

With June being the month of Father's Day, May being the month of Mother's Day and both months being filled to the brim with high school and college graduations, our minds inevitably turn to those little -- and not so little -- people that God has given us charge over.

So this month in the Garden we'll take a look at mothering our PK's -- or pastor's kids.

Since this blog began in January of this year, we ministry wives have shared a lot about the unique challenges that come with our roles. We wives of those men on the front lines of ministry enjoy countless blessings as we minister alongside our husbands. We also experience frustration and trials that oftentimes only we "get."

But it has to make you wonder... If I, a fully-matured woman of God, struggle in my role as the pastor's spouse, how must my children struggle at times? They are young and immature. They've not fully matured emotionally, mentally or spiritually. They are only kids.

Every now and then, God gives us a glimpse into the hearts of our children. Just yesterday, I had the blessing of a glimpse into my 15-year-old son's heart. A precious gift indeed.

With his permission, I'd like to share my son's Facebook status about being a PK:
"I wonder how different church people would treat me if I wasn't a pastor's kid. Idk [I don't know], and maybe other PK's can relate. There's a stereotype of pastor's kids, which is: either super snobby and rebellious OR Goody Goody Christian kid. I wonder what it's like to just be me, and erase the big billboard over my head that's labeled "PASTOR'S SON" and have the church folk treat me as I am. But what am I? I guess ya'll can decide that one for yourselves. Either way, I'll just keep on following this God dude that every single person in this congregation can't wrap their heads around."
Wow. That's all I can say.

Actually, I've got an idea how he feels. But then again, I don't know how a 15-year-old boy feels what he feels. It's got to be frustrating. It's got to be trying. It's got to get old at times.

And yet all I can do is encourage my son -- and all my children -- to continue to walk with Jesus, seeking to please Him first and Him most. We humans are fickle anyway. You can never please all of us all the time.

But God's love is unconditional, compassionate and never-ending.

I've been studying the Old Testament book of Jonah, and just today I came across this beautiful reminder:
"...You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity." Jonah 4:2b
God is a perfect parent, unlike myself. He gets it right every single time. And He loves our children more than we possibly could.

So let's release our precious ones to Him. Let's bathe them in daily prayer. Let's allow them to fail and get back up, all the while being consumed by the grace and mercy of our heavenly Father.

And let's remind them that before they were ever a PK, they were a GK -- God's Kid.

And thank the Lord, so are we.


Carla Adair Hendricks *

Do your children struggle with being PK's? Or has life been rather status quo for them? We'd love to hear your stories in our comment section!

* Carla Adair Hendricks began A Pastor's Wife's Garden weekly blog to encourage and empower other ministry wives. To read more of her personal story, click here.

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