We are now officially finished with sports for the season, and now we transition to the indoors, to food with friends and family, to memory making, and to a season of various festivities. Our Thanksgiving guest list is still coming together, but I've started planning and cooking for Thursday. Even now as I type here at the table, I am surrounded by open cookbooks and multiple lists. It's a fun (and sometimes overwhelming) challenge: Not only am I still learning to be at ease in the hosting department, but my kitchen has a number of limitations. After many years of working with tiny or dysfunctional ovens in rental homes, I at least have a functional standard size oven to be thankful for (although two would be nice on certain days of the year!), but now I only have two small burners to work with. If my pot or pan is large-- and they usually are-- I can only use one burner at a time. So, the challenge comes in being creative and well prepared!
But the rewards are good, too. I sincerely hope they go beyond what is known and felt by me.
The kids and I spent one afternoon in town this past week. I got a nice hot coffee and tiny treats for the kids, then Olivia and I oohed and awed at some really fun, girly things in one of the shops. From the corner of my eye, I caught Michael purchasing something he saw as I was looking through the racks on the other end of the store. I guess he has started his Christmas shopping. Sweet guy. I had to convince him I didn't see what he bought.
We then took a stroll through a little antique store. It's full of small items that the kids like to look through, and they enjoy talking to the gentleman-owner. I imagined what I could do with a dish full of old chandelier crystals, and now I think I may go back and buy them for Christmas tree or garland decorations. They would look classy, I think, and they were less than the price of an average Christmas ball.
After our shop perusing, we made a bee-line for the beach before the sun set. Oh, how we are still so very thankful we get to live here!
Kisses from the boys, all at once!
The wind was so still that evening. Olivia and I just sat and looked, mesmerized, while the boys ran and had their fun.
We went to a wedding yesterday. It was one that Jon did not officiate, so it was nice to sit by him for a change. In fact, I feel the same way sitting in church when he is not preaching, though I don't think the overall experience of going to church as a family is ever the same as it would be if Jon was not the pastor. It's hard to explain, I guess, unless you already know what I mean! If you are married to a pastor, you know that he is always "on" in church, always aware of a myriad of details unknown to others, always available to the needs of congregants and visitors.
I suppose it OK to say this, too: At home, the thoughts and emotions of a pastor are often diverted or affected by all the details and situations of people's lives, not to mention the mental work of preparing multiple messages each week. I love that Jon has the desire and ability for the relentless work of full-time ministry. I am thankful to be his quiet cheerleader, a partner that tries to free him up and support him in some small way.
But truthfully, it isn't always easy.
I typically shy away from talking about being a pastor's wife. There are many reasons for this, but suffice it to say that it has been both a wonderful experience and a very difficult one, too.
Throughout the years, Jon's position has been a huge challenge for me personally. It would often seem that the skills and personal disposition required of me are the ones I possess the least! Marriage to a pastor has pushed, and pulled, and pressed me in so many ways. I hope I have learned more because of it, and that my character has been refine in the process!
The thing is, I don't really like to think of myself as the "pastor's wife," because there can be such a bizarre identity and list of expectations associated with that title. Rather, I think of myself more in terms of the "wife of Jon, who is a pastor." My biblical requirements are the same as any other Christian woman, that is to be a godly wife and mother, living above reproach and unstained by the world. It's not that I resent the role, it's just that I won't elevate it above my other duties. The bible has plenty to say about wives and mothers, but the term 'pastor's wife' does not exist.
The fact remains, though, that Jon's ministry affects nearly every aspect of our life. I'll even say that it has been a huge test of our marriage, and an impetus to fight hard for each other and for our relationship.
On one hand, the visibility of our life and the expectations to be and do have been pressures I've had difficulty with on occasion. There's this pressure (internal and external) to be and to do what is not comfortable or natural for me.
On the other hand, it has sometimes been a lonely experience. To some degree, a comparison could be made to having children. Whenever there is constant and significant competition for emotional, mental, and physical energies, the other spouse can often feel that there's hardly anything left over for them. We can be completely spent by the duties of our day, then we expect our spouse to understand and be patient with our role. However, this sort of patience and understanding in the long term eventually comes at the expense of closeness and unity in a relationship. Over time, we can begin to feel/ cause our spouse to feel over-looked, unappreciated, and unloved. Over time, the relationship can begin to erode. In deed, it's a difficult thing to meet the constant pressing needs of others (whether in the home or in the church), and still keep the best of ourselves for our spouse in the midst of it. It just is.
Some decide it's too hard and they pour themselves into their work/children instead (the visible, more pressing needs), and live in a fragile marriage of silent survival. Some leave the ministry, some get divorced, some wait till retirement before admitting that the relationship is so terribly fractured. Don't we all know how common this scenario is in our extended family and friends, and in the church? I'd venture to say all married individuals experience some sort of neglect (being neglectful or being neglected) at some point. I am certainly guilty of being and doing things wrong, and of causing harm.
Probably every marriage has it's hardships, it's fiery tests. Your tests, I am sure, are different from mine. I trust God knows what each of us needs, and lovingly ordains our story. And so with this understanding, we know that God intends trials and difficulties to purify and strengthen us, and we look to Him for the grace to obey in spirit and in truth, not in a manufactured, robotic type of obedience. I trust Him with the method in which He chooses to sanctify me.
I came across this quote a while back, and the gist of it was recently brought to my memory as I worked through my own feelings:
“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” Timothy Keller
We have this basic need for love. At least I do. I want to be known at the deepest level-- my quirks, faults, and insecurities included-- and still loved. I need to know that I'd still be chosen given the choice again.
It makes me think of the beauty of God's love, because He really does know me perfectly and still loves me unconditionally. In fact, He didn't choose me on the basis of my own worthiness or loveliness, but He chose me despite my wretchedness and based only on the righteousness of Christ. What a thought and a comfort!
So we press on in our pursuit and love for each other, each striving to obey as we are conformed to the image of God. There's no one I'd rather do life with than my husband Jon (who is a pastor)!