Love in The Lean Days.

You just pulled the loaded-down Saturn out of our driveway and pointed it North. North to your first weekend at your new, out of town, pastoring gig.  But it’s not a gig, it’s a call, we both believe this to be true, but right now it’s a tough call which is taking you out of town every weekend.

This is a different side of ministry, where you do it because you love it, because you’re called to it…  but also because you need to buy milk, eggs and bananas.

lean days main pic

You’re camping in a dome tent for the weekend, and likely every weekend for the rest of the summer.  We laugh that it’s because you need to dust off your Eagle Scout skills but we both know it’s because it’s cheapest and allows us to retain a bigger chunk of your housing allowance.

I smiled at you from someplace deep last night as I watched you pack a the car, wash off the camping gear and pack a cooler with hot dogs and eggs.

These are the lean days baby, where we’re running on fumes and thankful for the simplest, smallest pleasures.

photo The sweetness of a on-sale watermelon.
The simplicity of a family walk after dinner
The joy of our kids as they ride the penny horse at the grocery store

It’s not easy, sometimes it’s awful, but there is sweetness to be found in the lean days, they’re fraught with simplicity and I think we needed the return to simple and sweet.

Something beautiful is born when we meet eyes across our sticky old dining-room table, running on just enough sleep to be kind and just enough money to keep our kids in peanut butter and apples.

That look speaks volumes, doesn’t it?

it’s one part “we’re going make it”
one part “this small, simple life is what really matters”
and another small part “I’m a little freaked out right now.”

Through it all I’m amazed at you, the man I get to share my life with, the one sleeping in the little tent up north while I sprawl out alone in our king bed after puttering around the house after the kids fall asleep in a daze because my evening buddy is up north in a tent.

I love that we’re make it work people, I love what we’re learning in the lean days and I love the future I see before us.

When we’ll look back and smile about how intense it was when we moved across the country with two kids and a lot of question marks.

We’ll tell stories to our kids about how you preached on the weekends and got ready in a tent.

We’ll remember how God provided and how deeply we relied on him in this season and then we’ll whisper thankful prayers for all the simple love and gratitude we learned in the lean days.

Have you been through a lean season?  As tough as it was/is, what good gifts did you find there?

The plea of the pastors wife

I wrote this last fall, in the middle of a situation in Oklahoma that was too charged to handle this important post, these words of truth that must be said.  So I’ve let it simmer for months until enough time had passed to spare Kel any additional criticism at work… something we didn’t need any more of in that season. 

It does not speak to where our family is today per say, but it certainly speaks into the lives of ministry families everywhere.  

I reach back for Noelle’s hand as we drive home from church, just the three of us, another Sunday with me and the kids at our home church and Kel off preaching somewhere else.

I know deep down that this right here, this palm to palm family love is the sustaining work of our lives.  It will endure long after this job, this year, this season.

Yet I wonder in my heart: what are we putting them through with this church-world lifestyle?  I pray the good will far outweigh the bad.

As I make the straight drive down Arlington my head is a mess of confusion and pain.  I pause at a red light and remember my high school oath, the one where I swore up and down that I would never be a pastor’s wife.

The one I always joke that God challenged me on, laughed at.

I didn’t want to endure all the criticism and ugliness that comes with a life called to serve full time.  Or whatever you formally call people and families that draw a paycheck from church or para-church ministry.  

I’ve spent another week in utter confusion, trying to sort through the jabs and comments.  How the man I love is not ______ enough or how my family is too ______.

We spent a broken Saturday realizing that yes, in fact it is coming between us, getting into our skin.  Another night passing out, hardly talking, because truly the whole thing is just. that. exhausting.

pastorswife

This is a sad part of the rhythm of most ministry families, healing at home when the people of God tear you apart.  

I’ve spent Sunday mornings in church and dozens of trips to the grocery store wondering which smiles were genuine and which could not be trusted.

There are certainly moments of “screw them all!” where I find my steely resolve and declare that flaws or not … our ministry was genuine.

Moments of clinging to the truth that God is good and here and woven throughout our flawed human attempts at loving and living like Christ.

I recite impassioned monologues about how God never calls us to gossipy, private bashing but to genuine face to face counsel and relationship.  

These usually stay in the bathroom or are seen only my the mini van’s rear view mirror.  I’m never bold enough to burst into the board room and yell… what the hell people of God?  Why are you tearing us apart in hate?  Have you read the bible lately… all the parts about correcting privately, in love?

I’ve been angry, I’m still angry, but I’ve humbled my heart to realize that out of ignorance and pride I have sat in the critics seat.  Foolish enough to pick apart something genuine and spirit filled because I felt some consumer right to.

Out of ignorance I’ve sat picking at something I’m too lazy to get involved in or bring a change to.

I want to make a flow chart of church commentary.  Something that helps people realize how much better things would be if they would use their hands to help more than they use their mouths to criticize.

If you’re think this then perhaps you should get off your ass and do A) B) or even C).

Oh church: we are just as human now as we’ve ever been.  We stumble, we fall, we wound the hearts of those who serve us and scar the hands of those who sit washing our feet.

You’ve done it, so have I.

But those of us who have found ourselves startled and bruised after offering hands of love, sweat and tears, we’re … slower to speak.  We have scarred hands of grace which we are quicker to offer as hugs over fists.

So much quicker to look for the heart of God, the genuine spirit led love behind it and when we see it to consider the viewing of it, a gift, a grace.