Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What it is Like to be a Pastor's Wife

I have come to know that pastors can be kind of an interesting mystery to some people. Because of that I sometimes like to use my blog to let you in on what it is like to be married to one.  With that in mind, I decided to share a few memories with you.

You know how there are some days in your life that stick in your memory? One of those for me was my first official day of being seen as the pastor's wife. Mike's first parish was in Harlowton, MT. Mike was interviewed over the phone and we moved there sight unseen.  We moved into the church parsonage about a block from the house and we were able to easily walk to church.

Mike's first Sunday was an exciting day. He left for church first and so I followed later with Maria and Ben. Maria had just finished 2nd grade and Ben was about to turn 4.  It was a big day for us and I felt happy as we set off for church. I was wearing a pretty red dress. That probably isn't significant but I felt good in it.

As we approached the church and started up the stairs, I began feeling kind of odd. I looked around and noticed everyone was looking at us. What an weird feeling!  I suddenly didn't feel quite so confident in my pretty red dress! I remember wishing Mike was with us because then they'd be looking mostly at him, the new pastor. I am not saying that I felt like I was going to panic, but I sure was nervous! I think I can say with certainty that I wouldn't feel too comfortable if I were a famous person.

The people at our new parish were kind to me, though. Most just accepted me as another member of the congregation, at least that is how I felt. We did have a few who kept pretty close track of us but we came to love them and didn't really mind...eventually.  One lady, who could see the parsonage from her living room window, kept an especially close watch on us. She would call me if she thought I needed to tend to Ben. I got a call when she saw him climbing on the fire hydrant on our corner and again when she saw him using sticks as guns. Ben was oblivious to her concerns, though. I suppose it upset me a bit at first but eventually we saw the humor of it.

One week my brother and his family were visiting us. It was a hot summer night and we had all the windows open. The watchful neighbor lady and her family, as well as another family, were sitting outside with chairs pointed toward our home. That happened many Summer evenings.  Anyway... my brother got up and went into the bathroom and through the open window heard someone say, "Yes, he's gone into the bathroom now."

You know what, though? Those people became precious to us and we missed them when we left that place.

We lived in Harlowton for 6 years and I cried buckets of tears when we left. There you have it.

OK, now go forward another year after we'd moved away.  We returned to that congregation for a visit. Mike was talking with someone outside and I and the kids went up those same stairs into the church and once again, I felt like everyone was looking at us. This time, though, the faces were familiar. This time they were people I knew and loved. This time I felt safe as I was with people who'd allowed me to just be myself.  Do you know what happened then? They started clapping! And then they stood up!? We got a standing ovation!?  That was a remarkable experience. Maybe I could be comfortable as a famous person.  NO, not really, but it did feel kind of warm and cozy to receive such an astonishing reception.

When Mike was in seminary I attended a couple of sessions of advice-giving from pastor's wives for those of us who were about to become pastor's wives. I heard a lot of stories about how hard it would be and how criticized we would feel. I remember one telling us how we'd have to endure so many, many of those horrible potluck dinners. I couldn't believe what they were telling me. For one thing, I LOVE potluck dinners!

There were some things they forgot to tell us. They forgot to tell us that when we moved to a congregation, we'd be met by a lot of people just ready and willing to be friends. They didn't tell us that we'd be given plates and plates of cookies for Christmas. They didn't tell us about the folks who would invite us into their homes and their lives. They didn't tell me that people would trust us with their secrets, their fears and their joys. They forgot to mention the gifts of money collected as a surprise for Mike. They didn't ever say that when one of us was sick, we'd always have others praying for us and offering their help.  We were not aware that people would spend hours redecorating his office in time to surprise him one day. They didn't tell me that even I would receive gifts during Pastor Appreciation Month. They certainly didn't tell me that it would be heartbreaking whenever it was time for us to leave a congregation, how we'd miss parishioners who were also then our friends.

Are there hard things about being married to a pastor? Sure. We've had a lot of family times interrupted when someone else needed Mike's care.  We've planned many vacations to fit around the needs of others. We don't go out of town for Christmas or Easter. We don't get two day week-ends like most people. Really, though, any profession has its drawbacks. In the end, I have to say being married to a pastor is mostly a rewarding experience.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas 2014

We have developed a weird Christmas Eve Tradition. We go out for Chinese Food.  It started about 10 years ago. As you know, my husband is a pastor.  Our church used to hold two Christmas Eve Services as so many people came, they didn't all fit in the building at the same time. Since our home is nearly 1/2 hour from the church, it was not feasible to go home for dinner between the two services. We resolved that problem by going just a few blocks down the street to a Chinese Buffet.

Things have changed. We are now in a big building and can all attend one Christmas Eve Service together. Still, the Chinese Dinner Tradition continues.

We go to a nicer place where there are plenty of vegan options for our vegan family members.

We feel all fancy and nearly have the place to ourselves as we go pretty early.

We aren't always all there but those of us in town gather for that bit of family time to kick off Christmas.

From there we go on to church. I love Christmas Eve! I and our son-in-law, Eric, are on the Worship Team and we begin singing about half an hour before the service. I love it! I love the whole service. Often there are people back in town that we've not seen for awhile.  Many of the little kids are dressed up in their finest and they look like sweet angels. It always just makes me feel so warm and happy. I am always a bit disappointed when it concludes.

When I get home Christmas Eve, I put together cinnamon rolls for the next day (I will do a separate post and give away all my cinnamon roll secrets). After that, there are always some last minute things to do before falling into bed.

When I was a kid, we often were at my grandparents house for Christmas.  My Mom had 4 sisters and a little brother and usually at least 4 families were staying there at my grandparents. I usually got to be one of the kids that got to sleep in the living room. I really loved sleeping in Grandma's living room. That way, I was sure to be a part of any of the action!

Early Christmas morning my brother and I would each go into one of the bathrooms and start flushing. For some reason, we were allowed to be obnoxious on Christmas morning. Grandma and Grandpa's plumbing was really noisy so the flushing produced some pretty good results in that everyone started waking up. That, of course, was our goal. Sometimes we had everyone up by 5:00 or so!

My last year staying there for Christmas Eve I think I was 19. My brother wasn't there but by then there were a lot of younger, much younger, cousins.  I don't know what came over me but I got them all in on my evil plot. I had a nice little talk with them before bedtime. I was much too cool for the toilet-flushing by then. I had bells! Yep, I walked around shaking little bells and that was their cue to wake up their parents (the kids were sleeping on the floor in their parent's rooms). Why the relatives let me get away with that, I'll never know. I do know that there were a lot of photos of sleepy adults at my grandparents house on Christmas mornings.

Anyway, we no longer open presents quite that early. In fact, we let Sam sleep in and wait until our daughter and her family come by.  My apologies to my aunts and uncles.

 Cordelia got a new doll. Little girls and dolls... too precious.

Eric and Elise

You really should bop on over to our daughter's blog for a second to read about the gifts the little girls gave to us.  It is pretty adorable.  I hope you went and read her post as it will make this picture make more sense.

This is our Advent Wreath. Each candle is lit for meals during the four week prior to Christmas. I added that center candle as our "Christ Candle". It was a gift from some sweet friends at church and I just thought it looked right to have it in the center of our wreath this year.

The girls have been wanting dance classes and we also got them the clothes to wear. Elise's class is actually a tumbling class, set to music. Instead of new ballet shoes she got Hello Kitty Sneakers but she was just as delights. I'm sure the tumbling teacher will allow her to wear her ballet clothes...I hope! Anyway, I couldn't stop taking photos of those sweet girls, dancing around amidst the Christmas mess.  It was great!

I hope your Christmas was as sweet as our's.

Do you have any weird Christmas confessions such as our toilet-flushing trick?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Nativity and the Farm

I am kind of proud of this photo. I started out taking photos of the Nativity Set that Mike grew up with when he lived on the farm. It has a cardboard stable but we can't quite make it stand up anymore so we have the characters set up like this. 

As I was photographing it, I realized that hanging above it is the painting our daughter did of the farm. Mike grew up there and we lived there for about four years early in our marriage. It was also Maria's first home and I love that she painted it.

Anyway, I hope you all had a lovely Christmas Day. I will post photos of our's in a day or so.

for KING & COUNTRY - Baby Boy (Official Lyric Video)

Wishing you "Endless Hope and Relentless Joy"!  

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Super Christmas Program

Did any of you get to see a children's Christmas Play this year? Our Sunday School Children gave us a fun one Sunday morning. Cordelia' part was to be Super Girl!

Yep. That is right. We got to see her be a little tiny Mary one year but this year she was Super Girl. The play had all the usual characters... Joseph, Mary and shepherds and such. 
I remember one of the shepherds complaining about his friends being at Starbucks while he was there cleaning sheep poop.  It maybe wasn't your typical Christmas Play.

The play was about the Super Heroes worrying because they had heard of a new super hero to be born. Like all of us, they were worried about how the newcomer would affect them.  Besides Super Girl, we had the Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man,  and others. 

As we know, Jesus is the Light of the World. I enjoyed Cat Woman talking about those lights you can never catch.  Get it? Think flashlight shining in the floor and wall... A kitty chasing it? 

The best part of the play for me was seeing Cordelia...

And Elise exclaiming, "Delia is a Super Hero! She saves the day!" She said it all with such adoration, it was adorable. I wish you could have been there.

Happy Christmas Eve!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Cardboard Mountain

How are doing with your Christmas shopping? Almost done?

Last Saturday I was pretty close to hitting that PANIC Button as I really had not done much Christmas shopping. Mike calmed me down, though, and we went shopping. I generally hate shopping but we actually had a good time. We are both rather overcommitted this time of year, going in opposite directions, so I liked just spending time with him. 

Anyway, Mike had some good ideas for gifts and we managed to get a lot done. We celebrated by getting a drink at Sonic and driving around for a bit. We planned out gifts to be shipped to some of our out of town loved ones as well. To finish it off, I did a significant amount of online shopping as well. Sam works for UPS, you know. We do our part to ensure his job security!

Well, it has been a very busy week. As the packages started arriving, I just tucked them into my craft room. It got all those boxes out of sight, as well as the plastic bags.  As you see, it piles up into a pretty big mountain!

I can't even remember what all we have in that pile! 

The time has come for me to conquer that mountain so I am going to see what I can find on Netflix and have me a sweet little evening. As I open those boxes and wrap those gifts I am going to say thankful prayers for each of the recipients.  I am also going to remember that these gifts and  all good gifts come from God.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Has Christmas Become Generic?

Yesterday I was at a store looking for a little gift card holder type of Christmas card. They had lots and lots of them! I was pleased to see such a big selection, 3 or more separate racks. I set out to make my choice.

I looked and looked.... and looked for one that had something to do with Christmas. Yes, I see that Santa one right there, but I found NONE, ZERO, ZIPPO that had anything to do with Christmas. 

I'd better stop right now and warn you that you may not agree with my point of view on this issue. I say that because most people do not. That was very, very apparent as I shopped for cards. Also, I feel a bit of a rant coming on so feel free to click off my post right now if you'd like.  This could get ugly. It's been building up for a long time.

Are you saying to yourself, "What's her deal?"  Well, my deal is, I am wondering when Christmas went generic. 

Hear me out. Christmas is a Christian Holiday. It is about God sending his son to live a human existence, to teach us, and eventually to die in our place. The story is about a young woman who was pregnant with the Son of God. She likely suffered torment and taunting from those who did not believe she was telling the truth about her pregnancy. Good grief! She had to ride on a donkey only to end up going into labor when she didn't even have a place to lay down. It is about Joseph, who really had to step out in faith to support her and to accept the role of helping raise the Son of God. It is a gritty story. The shepherds were likely a bit rough around the edges but they were chosen to receive that first announcement. They knew to respond with adoration and an attitude of worship.

What happened to that sort of attitude?

Now, back to Christmas today. Recently I heard someone tell what Christmas was all about. They mentioned sharing and giving and caring and things like that. They were absolutely right! Yet, they didn't mention Jesus. 

You probably don't want me to get started on Santa.  

Sure, he is about fun and presents and all that, but he isn't real. SANTA IS NOT REAL. Who's idea was it to make him the center of Christmas? It was a very effective plan, wasn't it? That is, if the plan was to push Jesus aside.  

Tangling them all up together, Santa kneeling down at the manger scene for instance, kind of bothers me as well.  I realize that was someone's idea of showing that Jesus is more important than Santa. I appreciate that and maybe it was a good plan. I don't know. What bothers me is this... what happens when kids learn that Santa is not real? If he and Jesus are buddies, doesn't that mess with their faith in Jesus?

I don't hate Santa. I just wish he had his own, make-believe holiday.

I'm almost done with this rant.

I don't know of Ramadan or Hanukkah being taken over by secularism.  I think people are still allowed to say Happy Hannukah, not Season's Greeting or Happy Holiday. We Christians could learn a thing or two about protecting our holidays.

One last thought...

When medications go generic, they are cheaper. 

I don't want to cheapen Christmas.


I feel better.

I'm done...

                                                                       ...until Easter.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Decorating the Tree

Sunday night we got around to decorating for Christmas. Do you have any weird customs surrounding the decorating process?  Well, we sure do.

For years and years and years now Mike has played John Denver and the Muppets singing Christmas Carols as we decorate. Yes, it is weird. It suits us, though.

This year we had two new players participating. Laura, our friend-that-is-like-family came over. It turns out she is just as weird as the rest of us so she joined right in. We also had the pleasure of welcoming Alaysha, Sam's girlfriend, to the chaos. She, too, didn't flinch at all the weirdness.

Our living room is not large so picture three dogs there first of all. Bumblebee recently had surgery and was wearing one of those charming cones to keep her from licking her wound open. So, there were three largish dogs barking and wrestling and doing what dogs do. Add two adorable little chatty girls to the mix.  They were loving hanging things on the tree. We did not guide them and I have left it as they did it. We have some areas very, very well decorated and one big area with no ornaments at all. I think it looks good that way.

Sam and Ben were always famous for hanging one or two ornaments and then watching as big sister, Maria, did the rest of the work. That really hasn't changed much, I suppose. Sam did announce that he'd hung 5 ornaments before he gave out. Ben didn't hang any at all, but that was maybe because he is living out on the East Coast. We miss him. Instead of going all gloomy over the absence of Ben and Sara, I'm just looking forward to the next time we can be together.

I recruited Eric to help take photos so we could always remember our goofy decorating adventure. At the end of it all we sat around in the dark, enjoying the Christmas lights. I snuggled with little granddaughters and felt such gratitude for a life so full.

I used to dream of decorating our tree and house with a lot of fancy, matching decorations. I'm over that. In the end, our house doesn't really look much like the photos we see in the magazines. I just don't care about that. We have an angel on top of our tree that is made out of a plastic cup. Her head is now held on with tape. Sam made her in preschool and we think she is perfect! Many of the ornaments on our tree come with stories or memories from the people who gave us the ornaments. I love that! I'll tell you about some of those as the days go by. For now, I just want to share the photos from Sunday night.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pajama Party

Our church has undergone some big changes over the last couple of years. Some of those changes came with a lot of sadness and left us feeling a bit discouraged. Recently, though, we've seen healing and growth that is heartwarming.

One if the changes was a loss of a full-time youth director. She had previously done so much work and organized many great events for the kids. With her resignation came a lot of reorganization, which is not always an easy thing. What I've noticed now, a year later, is a lot of people stepping up to the plate, so the speak. 

New events keep popping, organized by parents and other volunteers. This past Friday night they organized a Polar Express Party. As with many of these events, entire families were there having fun together. We all wore our Jammie's and went as groups from one station to another. 

We followed train track to lead the way to stations where we decorated and ate cookies...

... Played in piles of shaving cream "snow"...

... Made decorations and had coloring contests. 

 I am showing close-up photos of only our granddaughters and not the faces of other kids since I didn't ask for parental permission to show the others. There were over 60 kids there!

There was a white elephant gift exchange. I was worried Elise , at age 2, wouldn't quite understand the funky gifts but a small miracle occurred as she received a My Little Pony. She was so very excited! I was so relieved!

Cordy received stationery cards and wasn't thrilled at first but later was planning how she could leave secret letters to make people happy. I love that girl.

At each "station" the kids received a mark on their ticket. At the last station they realized their marks came together to spell JESUS.  

They all sat down while Mike told a story that brought home the message that Christmas is really all about Jesus.

Then, things got wild with an indoor snowball fight. Ok, the snowballs were made out of newspaper. The kids loved it!

The adult leaders then had a contest to see which team could clean up the fastest... A stroke of genius!

I love when a congregation serves as our larger family.  In January we will be having Saturday Talent Sharing Day. Different folks will be teaching others such things as Intro to Drumming, How to Play Cribbage, Crocheting, How to Improve Your Golf Swing, and more! Doesn't that sound wonderful?  The week after that we are going cross country skiing together. 

It is so wonderful to see so many people maybe stepping a bit out of their comfort zone to do more together. Do any of you have ideas you'd like to share of events your congregations sponsor?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Showtime on the Prairie

I spent the last two nights with my Mom, about two hours from our home. I didn't want to leave last night so I just left from there early this morning to drive to work. Mom was worried about me doing that but I love that drive and see something beautiful every time. 

As the sky started to lighten up I could tell I was in for a treat.

The thing about the prairie is, there simply isn't much to get in the way of your view.

I could see such a wide panorama of this beautiful light show!  

It was so beautiful I had to pull over to enjoy it. I knew I could not take it for granted. I am aware that many never get to see such a wide open view of those magnificent colors. 

The blue sky soon took over the sky and it was over... For today.

What a wonderful way to start a new day. I thanked God for the experience.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

for KING & COUNTRY - Hope Is What We Crave [Live]

Happy Advent!      

Do you attend a church that observes the Season of Advent?  It is one of the most difficult times of the church year. Why? Because the world around us does it's best to keep us from taking time for it.

Here is what Wikipedia says about Advent...

  1. Advent is a season observed in many Western Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. The term is an anglicized version of the Latin word adventus, meaning "coming".
That is a pretty simplified explanation but you get the idea.  It is hard to focus on this, though. During this past week some of the thoughts that have flitted through my head (and likely your's as well) include:

  • I wonder if I will really ever get our Christmas cards sent.
  • Good grief! I have no great ideas for gifts for my family.
  • Ooops, I ate more chocolate.
  • We have events nearly every night of the week! 
  • I need to slow down.
  • I need to get more done.

You get the idea, right? 

Still, I am trying to spend more time this year on thinking more of the anticipation of that first Christmas. The people were needing a relief from despair.  They were expecting that relief would come in a big, flashy new king.  At the same time, Mary was big and pregnant and I doubt that many believed what she knew, that she was carrying the savior of the world.  Joseph was likely enduring ridicule from some of his buddies.  What about Mary's parents? I wonder what they were thinking. Did they believe? 

See, there is so much more to this time of preparation than worrying about all the commotion going on around us.

When I heard this song, it made me think that although centuries divide us, we are really not any different than those living during the time of Jesus' birth. Despair is still a part of the fabric of the days we live in. We still need hope.  

We still need Jesus.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Paint Night

I am enjoying an evening with the little girls. Their parents are out celebrating their anniversary. It isn't their wedding anniversary but the anniversary of when they realized they were to be more than just close friends. Want to hear my version of that time?

Well, They had been friends for quite some time. Like many of Maria's friends, Eric was in and out of our home a lot. Since most of the others were girls, I had even asked Maria if she was dating Eric. She had let me know they were just friends.

Time passed and they were together more and more. One day Maria was talking to me and said, "I really like Eric." I replied, "I really like Eric, too." I just wasn't picking up what she was laying down for me. Finally she said, "No, Mom, I REALLY like Eric!" I said something profound like, "Oooh!"  The rest is history!

Anyway, while they have been out, I have been having fun with their little artists!  I love watching their little faces as they created their masterpieces.

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