Songs

IMG_4245We had the honor of having the 3rd – 8th graders at our kid’s school sing at our senior’s luncheon this afternoon.  For a little school with teachers that wear so many hats–they sounded AMAZING!  I am grateful for our teacher’s dedication to the arts especially music.  That they can share it with others.

The Duggars: The Cost of Being On TV

I remember watching the Duggars before they even had a show.  They were a large conservative family with kids dressed in red and white outfits (most of which looked handmade) traveling the country in a motor home.  Their lives looked happy and simple.  They had TV specials on once in awhile highlighting what life is like with 14 to 15 kids (not sure how many they actually had at that time).  It was feel-good TV and better than some of the reality garbage on the other networks.  Who can argue with living debt free, frugal living, shopping at thrift stores, good wholesome family values?  Apart from homeschooling and strict fundamentalist Christian principles, I find myself adhering to many of the Duggar’s lifestyle choices.

Then the Duggars became TV stars. I was watching an episode years ago from Season Three:  Duggars New Addition where the Duggars layed concrete on their basketball court and the younger kids were forced to play inside.  They were struggling to find things to occupy their time.  I remember thinking, “This is so boring.  There is no depth or meaning to this.  But why am I still watching it? And why do I want to watch the episode that follows it?”

In a later episode from Season 5, Duggar In Danger, young Jason Duggar falls twelve feet into an orchestra pit and an ambulance is called.  In a later interview Michelle Duggar says, “Now we have so many adult children that they have a phone with a camera on it.  So everyone was getting this on their cameras.”  I asked myself, “Is this normal to pull out your camera and start videotaping when your little brother gets hurt?”  Of course it is if you are a reality star.  This makes for great TV!  You cross that line from living your life as a simple family to being a performer or TV star basking in the perks TLC has to offer.

What family of 21 can realistically travel the world?  Jill Duggar had 1,000 people at her wedding including media reporters–this is not normal!  Jessa Duggar took a honeymoon to France. Josiah Duggar invited 400 guests to his graduation party. The Duggars have a barred fence around their home to keep fans out–this is not normal living either.

Now they have followed the demise of the reality stars who have gone before them.  Since Josh Duggar’s struggle with sexual molestation and most recently addiction to pornography and infidelity was made public. Should we even be all that surprised?  There is a cost of being on TV.  Allowing cameramen into your home documenting your daily life shrinking your privacy is exhausting.  The Duggars chose this, but unfortunately their young children did not.  They will have to deal with the consequences of these scandals the rest of their lives.  Even though it may not be ethical to conduct a witch hunt delving into police records violating somebody’s privacy etc., it is a dire consequence to choosing the reality star route.  Nothing is hidden anymore.

The Duggars feel they are different from other reality families.  They don’t watch TV and limit all their exposure to music, the Internet, movies etc.  They see their reason for being on TV as a family ministry.  Being a person in the ministry, I see “ministry” as sharing the gospel message of the saving grace God freely gives through Jesus Christ.  It really can all be summed up into that.

The Duggar’s share family moral values and living.  There is nothing wrong with that, but that’s not the heart of what ministry is.  If we have this attitude of “Look at the Duggars!  We want our family like the Duggars!” we are setting ourselves up to feel insecure, ashamed, and now severely disappointed.  They are not a perfect family and have their hidden sins (that have become not so hidden) and I don’t even think they are the best Christian example.  Psalm 146:3 says, “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings who cannot save.”

Fame was not something Jesus Christ actively pursued.  He walked humbly on earth and lived His life with His ministry pointing to the one true God.  His sacrifice was not fame and fortune but rather his death which paid for our sins.  So let this Duggar scandal be a gentle reminder that even the perfect looking are far from perfect.

December 21: Kids in Worship

1-2014-12-22I love our church’s Christmas program.  Actually it is not a program at all.  The children help lead part of the service and help the congregation understand the meaning of the Advent season.  They do this readings, songs, and symbols.  It is a beautiful thing.  I loved watching my three kids be worship leaders with their Sunday school friends.

My Child Care Journey…

DSC09085If there is anything I have learned in life, it is that you should not say, “I will never do that.”  OK maybe if it is something crazy like bungee jumping off a bridge…but don’t put that one past me.  I am the type who might actually do that.

We make our plans, of course.  God often has a better one that leads us through twists and turns, mountain and valleys, and to places we swore we would never go to.  Child care was one of those for me.

I was a child care sub in a public school district in 2002.  It was a second job and “my real job” was youth director at a local church.  Child care was secondary in my life.  So when I lost control of a group of 20 preschoolers, I knew this was job was temporary.  The following year I took a job as an after school care leader in a small Christian school.  This job was a better fit and I worked it for two years.  However, my passions were with the youth in my church and it was always a “second job” to supplement my part time income.

The following year we moved to Indiana and I had a brief stint of working in an actual day care center located in a business park.  I felt claustrophobic in the small classrooms with twenty four year olds.  The playground was a quarter of the size of the school playground where I worked previously.  When I lost control of a group of four year olds, I knew I could go longer work there.

I was a little too preachy about child care after that year, yet I was also confused about my calling.  I took on some traditional values even though I am not your typical stay-at-home mom.  I was never one of these college girls who wanted a “Mrs. Degree” and be a stay at home mom.  I wanted a career of some type and wanted to work outside of the home.  My desires and my values were all conflicted with one another and it is something I struggled with for years.

I stayed home for several years after having children.  I felt like it never came naturally to me, but I found my style eventually.  Two years ago a friend of mine wanted to send her daughter to our little Christian school we send our kids to.  Kindergarten dismissed an hour and a half before the time she finished work.  With no after care program at the time, I offered to watch her daughter until she finished work.  I only did child care about six hours a week, but I learned quickly that 1)  I loved having extra children in the house.  2)  I grew up on a neighborhood where there were always children to play with.  My kids do not.  This would be a way for them to develop friendships.  3)  God does not call everyone to be a  full time stay-at-home mom.  My friend was doing amazing work in God’s kingdom.  God was using me to help her do her work.

So come that spring I had a few families ask if I wanted to watch their kids the following school year.  I knew it was from the Lord.  Last year I had four regular child care kids.  This year I doubled that to eight.

Yes, now I am your typical stay-at-home mom.  I hang up my laundry on the clothesline outside.  I do crafts with my kids.  I bake muffins.  I sweep the floor at least four times a day.  I am OK with it.  Because I am supporting some amazing moms out there doing kingdom work.

I don’t think in terms of “real job,” “real career,” etc.  anymore.  And by the way I still do lots of youth ministry…mostly volunteer.

But this is me right now.  I love owning my own business.  I love having a loud chaotic house full of kids.  I love having a baby in the house.  I love watching my three kids love on these babies and toddlers.  So it’s a win win for everyone.

So my friends, never say “never.”  Your “never” might be your next adventure.

I Gave Up Complaining for Lent

6:45 AM is not early for me.  On many mornings my alarm goes off at 4:45 AM and I get a workout in before a day of homemaking/child care giving/everything else I do begins.  But 6:45 IS early when your kids do not have school, your husband has the day off, and YOU do not.  Crankiness done. Over.

And actually complaining especially about my schedule and responsibilities is something I gave up for Lent.  My husband often said how we should not give something up during Lent (such as chocolate, pop, Facebook etc.) but rather focus and tackle something we struggle with.  The year he gave up worrying he was hit with particular issues that caused tremendous “worry.”  Like he had to walk through a valley to make it back to the hillside.

That is exactly how I felt this week.  I thought it was going to be a light easy going week.  Especially with the kids being home extra days and the weather absolutely perfect.  But that instant need to complain is always on the tip of my tongue.  The things I want to complain about about are constantly in my sight–and no I don’t mean my children.

I mean the little cluttery pieces of toys spread everywhere.  I mean half colored pieces of paper all over the floor.  Shoes (including mine!) spread all over the eating area.  Toothpaste spots all over the sink.  Laundry where it should not be thrown–socks all over the family room store get to me even if they are mine.

And it’s not just clutter.  It’s the little jobs on the “to do list” that get carried over week to week because they never seem to get done.  It’s the desire to not want to do anything but bum around on Facebook (or write blog entries). It’s the fact the kids broke the space bar on my keyboard and typing has become a slow tedious task.  Or they ripped their Sunday pants.

Yet I ask myself, “Amy is it really that bad?”  Is it so bad you need to broadcast it to everyone?  The toys get picked up.  The paper gets recycled.  The shoes get put away.  The laundry gets done.  The kids are old enough that they actually help with this.  A lot.  The little jobs get done…sometimes on the brink of a deadline…but they do. Goodwill sells keyboards…and pants.

And isn’t God good ALL the time?  He know what we need, what valleys we need to walk through, and what hillsides we can rest on.062-DSC09008

My trip to the Midwest by myself

I’ve been home from Indiana and Chicago three weeks.  And I have not posted about my trip yet…so here I go…

I flew into Chicago and the next day we drove to our old hometown of Lafayette, Indiana.02-IMG_9198

This was the first time ever that my parents and siblings were together without our spouses and our kids. It made me realize how much I miss my brother and sister (and thankfully and hopefully have plans to see them again in 2014–don’t have to wait another year!).  We all drove in one car to Lafayette.  The joke was that Mom would bring her candy bag (a small Zip Loc bag with Brach’s candies she always took on trips) and we would fight in the backseat.  We had lunch at Triple X restaurant which was featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-In, and Dives.  It’s on the outskirts of the Purdue University Campus.

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We had the honor of eating lunch with some of my parent’s friends–one couple who was our next door neighbors.  I remember them as forty something parents juggling their three kids, carpooling to sport activities, and volunteering at our school.  Now that’s my phase of life!  My parents friends are all grandparents and it’s a little weird.

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But some things change, others stay the same.  My dad is still goofy and the life of the party.

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We visited our old church, Lafayette Christian Reformed Church.  I am somewhat in a state of awe when I am in the church sanctuary where I grew up.  The first row on the right hand side of the balcony was our family pew.  Almost every seat was filled right to the very back of the balcony.  The church has changed greatly since the 1980’s, but I will have always have a special place in my heart for it.  Sunday School, VBS, racing under the pews after evening service, pot lucks–all part of my childhood.

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The church put “a wall of pastors” in the basement.  This is the younger 1980’s version of my dad who served from March 1982 until August of 1989.

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The church I grew up in was an amazing beautiful building constructed in 1929.  I always remember the huge stain glass windows.

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I attended Lafayette Christian School from kindergarten until sixth grade.  I lived next door to the school so the playground was my prime hangouts before and after school and during the hot sticky summer months.

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It was a tremendous blessing to see Mrs. Buchman.  She was my first grade teacher for the last quarter of the year and my sixth grade teacher.  She is still teaching!  Obviously you have teachers that are memorable and that touch your life a little more than others.  She was one of them.  I always felt safe and cared for in her classroom.  She threw a surprise going away party for me right before I moved to Michigan and I’ll never forget how much that meant to me.

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This was our house.  The current pastors (husband and wife couple) live here.  We felt a little intrusive going in their house while they were on vacation.  They have fixed it up nice.

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I felt a little guilty taking this photo because it’s not my house, but this is my former bedroom.  It didn’t look anything like this.  I had greenish yellow walls, yellow curtains, and yellow shag carpeting left over from the 1970’s.  The closet door, however, was the exact same.

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For some reason when I think of our old house, I always remember this banister.  I think I used to sit on the stairs and stick my head through the posts.

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Then back to Chicago.  My uncle came and visited us.  We have a picture of us three kids approximately ages 3,7, and 11 wearing Chicago Cub baseball caps sitting with our uncle.  My dad tried to reinvent the photo to 2014.  The only problem is he doesn’t own Cubs hats–since when did my family all become White Sox fans?

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Our real reason for all meeting together was to celebrate my grandma turning 89.  I have fond memories of visiting Grandma in Chicago as a child.  I remember her serving large scoops of chocolate ice cream, playing Ker Plunk in the basement, riding the “horsie swings” at the park and listening to the trains come through on the tracks behind her house. When I was in college she had a heart attack and I really thought the Lord was going to take her home.  It’s hard to believe that was sixteen years ago.  It was a blessing to celebrate her birthday with her!

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While I was in the Midwest, Oregon got hit with a major snow blast–the most snow we have seen in years.  The whole city pretty much shut down.  At one point you could not leave your house unless you had chains on your tires.  My kids had two snow days in a row, church was cancelled, and my husband could not even order a pizza.  Meanwhile I had left the van parked in a car pool lot and this is what it looked like when I got back into Oregon.  I don’t own a snow brush so I had to put a plastic bag over my hand.  I was grateful the day after I came home was another “snow day” (although now we don’t get Good Friday off and go an extra day in June) so I could get some cleaning and organizing done before the child care kids return.

What a blessed trip!  I’m grateful I got to be a part of it.  I even got to go running (on treadmills) with my dad and sister.

How to be an even better pastor’s wife

 

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I have read quite a few articles in the past year about how churches can better treat their pastor wives.  I am going to turn it around and share with you how pastor wives can better treat their church.  I know,  I might take some flack for that one.  The truth is if we wallow in self pity about how hard ministry is, how we are Sunday morning single moms, and how we can’t be friends with anyone in the church–we can’t serve effectively.  We will sink.  Sometimes we have to look outside of the walls of our church and look deeper within ourselves.

1)  Just because you tackle it alone Sunday mornings, please don’t think of yourself as a single mom.  I know how it is.  Baths, showers, finding clothes, socks, shoes, breaking up sibling rivalry–there have been times I have showed up to Sunday School emotionally exhausted.  But we have a husband again when we return home again after church.  Before thinking of yourself as a single mom, remember the single moms who are going at it alone every single day…not just Sunday mornings.

2)  Don’t always expect people to pursue a friendship with you.  Sometimes you need to make the first move.  Have people over for pizza.  Invite ladies to a movie.  Meet at a park with your kids.  Friendships sometimes takes some patience and some effort.  Yes you will have seasons of loneliness, but some of your dearest friends can be sitting in the pew next to you.  You might just need to work at it.

3)  Venting might not always be the right way to handle your frustration.  Ministry is tough and working with people can be messy.  If you are struggling, where are you sharing your frustrations?  Are you seeking the Lord?  Is it burdening your husband too much to talk about it?  Do you have a trusted friend?  Do you know of a good counselor.  While the Internet has its place, I have honestly found prayer, counseling, and sharing things with my husband and/or one dear friend the most helpful.

4)  Remember the impression you are making on new pastor wives.  Soon after my husband graduated seminary and we were officially a pastor’s family, I attended a pastor’s spouse conference.  I was surrounded by some newbies, but also some seasoned PWs.  One thing I learned very quickly was there was lots of frustration, depression, and strong anger towards the church.  Had I not grown up as a PK and knew somewhat was I was getting into, I might have been anxious about my new role.  New PWs needs lot of encouragement.  Be careful what you say around them and the impression you are leaving on them.  Watch this especially at conferences, facebook groups, forums and other churches etc.

5)  Don’t be afraid to listen to other sermons or attend a Bible Study outside of your church. Don’t feel guilty about it.  Except for two short years, my pastor has always been my dad, my supervisor, or my husband.  Yes, there are some things about that situation that are absolutely wonderful.  But I do enjoy listening to other pastors and once in awhile attending a different church.

6)  If you are getting fired up, take a step back.  Some of my most difficult times in ministry as a youth director and pastor’s wife are when I get upset about what I am not getting, what others are not doing for me, and how everything seems to be against me.  This is a terrible way to serve especially if you constantly feel like a victim.  Think about out what you need.  More volunteers?  More money?  Better space?  More time?  Maybe a break?  If you ask for what you need in a diplomatic way, you’d be surprised how people respond.  If your need is not met, maybe it is time to take a step back.

7)  You aren’t the glue that holds the church together.  Many of the comings and goings of church members are totally out of your control.  It’s hard to see people go.  It’s even harder to not take it personally when there was some kind of conflict that involved your husband, or worse yet…you.  Make amends, apologize, forgive…do what you need to do.  And know that people will ALWAYS leave and knowing you can’t really control it is the first step.

8)  When your husband takes a vacation, take a vacation from church projects too.  I would recommend attending a different church that Sunday too.

9)  Know you aren’t much different from other women.  Sometimes we think we have it so hard because we’re pastor wives.  Don’t forget about military wives, doctor’s wives, or small business owner’s wives.  And your husband is not the only one who works on Sundays.

10)  Most people don’t mean to offend you.  Sometimes they just don’t know better.  The older generation might have a different view of the pastor wife and her role versus the younger generation.  It also may vary culture to culture.  While comments or criticism hurts, take it with a grain of salt.

11)  Remember the joys and write them down.  Unfortunately so many pastor wives discussions are problems.  Think of the joys and keep “a joy journal.”  Maybe it’s something simple like a smiling baby in the nursery or a choir singing at Easter or the chance to pray with someone in need.

12)  Parsonages are not all bad.  Everyone regardless of what home they live in deals with repairs and updating.  Sometimes pastor families have the advantage of someone else taking care of the problem for you.  Every church handles their parsonage a little bit different…some better than others.  Don’t forget to show love to your Buildings and Grounds people–make them cookies at Christmas.

13)  Maybe the problem is deeper.  Are you dealing with anxiety or depression?  Marital issues?  Maybe your struggles in the ministry is a symptom and not the underlining cause.  Counseling can help tremendously with that.  Maybe you don’t know why certain things trigger anger or depression–maybe you can figure out why.

What it all comes down to is we have to have humble hearts if we are going to wade through the trenches of ministry.

Sunday Reflection: Are we showing our kids how to know God?

I spent a good part of Christmas Break cleaning the house and getting rid of “stuff.”  I was reflecting on how when we moved into this house seven years ago we did not have enough furniture or items to fill at least two of the rooms–they were empty.  Now seven years and two more kids later, we have more beds, dressers, tables, etc.

It reminded me of a mission trip I went on Spring Break of 2000 to North Carolina to do clean-up from hurricane Floyd.  We spent a full day at a house severely damaged from flooding water.  In the front yard were piles of soiled furniture, soaked mattresses, and filled trash bags with destroyed items.  I remember saying to one of my team members–“This could all just go away.  Just like that.  You lose everything.”

God put this verse from Matthew 6:19-21 on my heart:

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

I always thought of material items when studying this verse.  Don’t be overly dependent on your “stuff.”  Computers crash, car engines give out, and clothes get holes in them.

But maybe it’s not just “stuff.”???????????????????????????????  Maybe our treasure on earth becomes other things in our life.

This morning my husband was preaching from Ecclesiastes 1.   Verse 11 says:

No one remembers the former generations,
and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow them.

My husband said Ecclesiastes is more questions than answers.  We ponder similar questions such as–Why do I go to work every single day?  What is the point of this schedule?  What matters in this life the most?  What is most important?

I began to think more about the spiritual muscles Kim from His Hands His Feet  (I posted about yesterday) was referring to.  I am great at developing my physical muscles–but what about the spiritual?

Does my strict running regimen become my treasure that it takes precedence over the real treasure?  Does my need to have the house so orderly and organized (which I’m so not good at anyway) become a treasure?  How much is my life KNOWING Jesus and how much is it chasing after treasures that will not last.  I won’t be able to run forever.  I won’t be able to take care of a house forever.

How does this affect me as a mom?  Do my kid’s activities become a treasure?  Am I more concerned about my daughter being able to make a basket in the next game than I am about her knowing God?  Am I more concerned about my son making friends on the playground than I am about loving Jesus with his whole heart?

Why do we get so committed to things that don’t last but we run from the things that do?

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Because one day the activities will end.  The playground days will be over.  These days will not last forever and they seem to move faster and faster.  They will graduate, maybe marry, move away.  What will we have left?   How did I use this time?  Did I help them KNOW Jesus?  Or was I too preoccupied with other treasures?

I leave you with these words to this well known hymn…

  • My hope is built on nothing less. Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame,But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

  • On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;All other ground is sinking sand,  All other ground is sinking sand.

Source: http://www.hymnal.net/hymn.php/h/298#ixzz2pZXtez6K