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Monthly Archives: August 2013

“Its been like this from the start, One piece after another to make my heart, You mistake the game for being smart, Stand here, sell this and hit your mark…”

I like the new Miley better.

I know. I can hear the outrage. Who says they prefer THIS-

New Miley

over THIS?

Old miley

But I do.

I don’t mean that in the blog world way of using a controversial statement to draw traffic in, and then turn it around with some pithy soundbites about the sad state of the world. Every where I’ve turned this week, I’ve read articles, blog posts, and tweets about Miley’s performance at the Video Music Awards. They range from snarky and shaming to apathetic to compassionate. But a theme I read over and over again is- what happened to Miley? We miss Hannah Montana! It’s such a shame what she’s let herself become.  If she were MY daughter, I’d…

Now that I’m a parent, I view these events through the lens of what can I teach my kids (and myself) about this? As I watched Miley on sunday, I was thinking about my little girl asleep upstairs, the one who loves to sing and dance, the one who loves fancy clothes, the one who talks about being famous someday. I thought about my oldest who only has a few more years until girls enter his radar, a boy who wants very badly to do the “right thing”, be the good kid, and not disappoint anyone.  I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to think about their child and wonder how to shepherd them through our 50 shades of twerking world, where a bad reputation is better than no reputation, and where often the church sits back, rolling their eyes in disgust and quickly firing off ten tips for keeping our daughters off the pole and five methods to make sure you don’t raise a Miley.

And it all just makes me wonder if we realize that we are asking her to take off the plastic bikini of the Prodigal and quickly and quietly return to the buttoned up dress of the Older Brother.  When Miley was Hannah, she was a little girl who was polished and shined to be “wholesome”, while in reality, she was the most important cog in the machine of making money. She was a child who was told she was a role model to girls everywhere…but what she was modeling is that it’s okay to be average and brunette, but what’s REALLY desirable is to be a pretty blonde rock star.

I don’t want Miley to stay in the older brother or the prodigal role. But the misery of eating with pigs draws you to a place of realizing your need for the Father in a way that is more difficult for those who comfortably tend to fields. Raising prodigals can be a source of deep reflection and conviction for parents in a way that is more difficult for those who raise “good examples”.

I am sad that we weep for Miley now and call it darkness…and we watched a girl long ago just as lost and we applauded and called it good.

So why do I say I like Miley 2.0 better? Well, I suppose the hopeful part of me thinks that she’s been controlled and manipulated and shaped and manufactured for her entire life and she wants out.  Is “it’s my mouth I can say what I want to dancing with Molly only God can judge us” better? No. But my prayer is that her desire for freedom will bring her to a place where she can experience REAL freedom. That her striving to shed expectations and just be real will be filled with an understanding of grace and authenticity within her world of glamour and PR.

Because let’s be honest. If people could see into my heart sometimes, they might make this face too.

will smith

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“The mountains are steep and the valleys low, Already I’m weary But I have so far to go, Oh and sorrow holds my hand and suffering sings me songs, but when I close my eyes I know to whom I belong…”

Today, a mom and dad woke up to the clamor of three kids vibrating with nerves. They eat a special breakfast designed to say goodbye to the summer. New clothes and teeth, pictures and kisses. Mom cries while kids squirm because it’s so embarrassing, mom! They will watch the retreat into the building and decide how to make sense of the quiet.

Today, a father listens to the screaming quiescence as he sips his coffee. She left with the kids this summer. Regrets woven with anger flash behind his closed eyes, but both of those are drowned out by an overwhelming sorrow. He wonders what his daughter’s backpack looks like and if it’s made the transition from barbie to boy bands. His gut churns as he thinks about his son, the one starting middle school today, and thinks about how he’s probably scared, but acting like it just doesn’t matter.  His son comes by that honestly. He wonders if he will ever get another first day with them, with her.

Today, a teacher slips into her classroom to have a moment of peace before the kids arrive. She’s tired in a way that coffee can’t help as she finds herself bracing for the day. She thinks back to just after college when she walked around with the green glow of confident inexperience, when the smell of laminating got her high and her loss of sleep was due to excitement. Not pain. Not resentment. The politics of teaching, the lack of support from her principal, and the capricious demands of parents have drained her of that love. The bell rings and she sends up a quick appeal for help, please Lord, just help me love this again.

Today, she avoids Facebook. She usually can handle it. Not today. It’s been five years and the baby clothes she gleefully bought then have long been put away. Her husband gives her a sad smile, his thoughts on the baby who would have started Kindergarten today. Tonight he will hold her as tears fall, and they will pray for a chance to see the first day of school.

Today, a child walks down the hall, grateful that she picked out the shoes that don’t squeak. She thinks that if she hurries, they might not see her. She lost weight over the summer and got a new haircut, but it probably won’t matter. That group of girls will see what they choose to see, and their own insecurities paint her with a bulls eye. The bruises from last year have faded, but the blisters on her heart are just as fresh as they ever were. She decides going to her locker isn’t worth it. She decides the library isn’t such a bad place to eat lunch. She decides maybe having friends is overrated.

Today, a teacher heads into her classroom and takes a shaky breath to quiet the memories of huddling with frozen children as an unthinkable tragedy occurs just outside her door. She misses her colleagues. She still mourns the children. She can’t help it- scanning the classroom for possible hiding places and escape routes. Shaking her head and breathing in and out, she gets ready to teach and protect and love.

Today, a boy will be comforted that school has started so he can escape the smell of alcohol and the slurred shouting of a father.

Today, a girl will promise that she won’t make herself throw up. She will fail by lunchtime.

Today, a mother is terrified because this is her baby’s senior year and she doesn’t know who she will be when he leaves home.

Today I send my kids off to school.

Jesus, open my eyes to the ones who hurt! Don’t let me sit content in my own little world. Thank You that in the middle of all the chaos and pain, You are there and we are not forgotten. Change my heart to be more like You, so that those around me don’t see me anymore, they just see You.

Have a question for Mama Mondays? Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

Follow me on Twitter @brandyb77

Dear Ms. H…

Dear Ms. H,

I probably won’t tell you this, because I’m way too cool to show major excitement, but I am really glad school is starting. I’m in your class this year, and I think fourth grade is going to be my best grade yet. I was nervous this summer because I didn’t know any of the fourth grade teachers, and when we got the letter, I asked my mom if she could look you up on Facebook. She said no, but I am pretty sure she did it later when I wasn’t looking. My mom is funny like that, sometimes she lets me do grown up stuff, but then she cries and stuff because I’m growing. I don’t understand it. Girls are weird!

I bet you want to know what kind of kid I am, huh?  Well, I am the oldest, and that probably will tell you more than anything else about me. I love my brother and sister, and we play together pretty well, most of the time. We don’t get along when they don’t follow what I think the rules are. This probably happens the most with my sister, Selah, because she….well, she pretty much makes up her own rules. I walk to and home from school with her (and now my little brother), and sometimes I get in trouble for being bossy with her- but mostly it’s because I want her to be safe. My mom has told me often that I am not in charge of her, but it’s hard to remember.  This summer, my mom and dad and I worked hard on practicing how to be a leader. Sometimes I think being a leader is just telling people what to do, but I am learning that it’s really more about being humble and serving. I practiced saying “you might be right” A LOT this summer. Last year, my teacher asked me to help some of the other kids with work. I liked doing it (because I love helping my teacher out!) but sometimes the other kids would get mad at me for telling them that their answers were wrong. Mommy taught me about using a “sandwich” with people- it’s where you say something encouraging to someone, then you tell them if they’ve made a mistake, and then you say another encouraging thing to them. I tried it and it works!

Another thing you should know about me is that I have asthma. I learned this summer at camp that lots of people say they have asthma too, but that doesn’t mean they REALLY have asthma, it’s just kind of a word people use, but I have real asthma. I take lots of different medicines in the morning, and a couple of different inhalers. I also use a breathing machine when I need it. Right now my asthma is pretty good, but when it starts getting colder, it will probably get worse. My mom and dad are doing some things this year to try to get my asthma more under control, but for right now, I might struggle. I am allowed to keep my inhaler with me at school, and I know when to use it and how to use it. If I use it and still can’t breathe or keep coughing, I will probably need to see Nurse Patti (who I LOVE). Sometimes when my asthma gets bad, I have to start taking steroids. Steroids make me feel jumpy and restless and HUNGRY. I promise to try to sit still and be nice in class, but the steroids kind of make me feel grumpy too. Sometimes my mom has to come get me because of my asthma and sometimes I have to go to the emergency room. It stinks, but I am pretty used to it. But this year, I kind of got embarrassed when kids would ask me a lot of questions about why I missed school or why my nose was running all the time. I think they thought I was sick and they would catch it. It made me feel bad so that’s why sometimes I didn’t want to talk about it.

The hardest part of school for me is this- I love Jesus. I really really do. I love talking about Him and learning about Him. Last year I bought these cool things that tell about Jesus and I wanted to give them to my friends, but I wasn’t allowed to. I cried because I didn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to and I cried because some of the kids told me they didn’t want to hear about it. I guess I understand, but it makes me really sad when people don’t want to hear about how much Jesus loves them. Mom tells me that what I tell people about Jesus isn’t as important as the way I treat people so that they can see Jesus changing my heart. It’s also hard because, I’m almost ten and sometimes my friends talk about things that make me uncomfortable or do things that I know I am not supposed to do. And sometimes I think maybe I should join in so I won’t make them mad. It’s really hard to figure out this leader stuff!

My family and I are praying for you this year- I bet fourth graders are hard. I hope I learn a ton of math and finally finish the Harry Potter series. They are my favorite books and my mom and I talk about them a lot. She’s kind of obsessed.

I hope you have had a great summer and I will see you on monday!

Love,

Josiah

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Dear Ms. A….

Dear Ms. A,

I know you already know this, but my name is Selah Nicole Butler the First.  I just like to call myself that.  I am so excited to be in your class this year, because you taught my brother last year and he said you are really nice and a good teacher. When my mom got the letter in the mail, I was upstairs and I was crossing my fingers and praying “PLEASE let it be Ms. A!” and I guess God said yes! I think we will have so much fun this year, because Josiah said you are fun and I know I am fun. I have so many ideas of things we could do this year. I have so many ideas all the time. When I wake up in the morning, I usually go into my parent’s room and say”Mommy, what if we did _____ today??”  Sometimes she says okay, but sometimes she says something about it’s not time to wake up yet. Sometimes I even have ideas in the middle of the night and I wake up and tell mommy about them. Then she usually says something like we can’t play in the sprinkler in the middle of the night or whatever. Sometimes I get frustrated that I can’t do all my ideas, it’s like my ideas are sometimes just too big for my head and even too big for the world!  Mommy and Daddy say that they think I am going to change the world. I don’t know if they mean because of my cotton candy idea (I invented a button in your car that gives you cotton candy to eat while you are driving but it stops if you drive over the speed limit. Then no one would speed and get into car crashes because everyone loves cotton candy!)

I told my mom something this summer that I am scared of. See, something you might not know is that Josiah and I are very different. He likes school A LOT and he really likes homework. I think he likes homework because he can do it alone and he does it really fast. Sometimes he does it so fast that mommy makes him go back and do it again, just so he can do it more carefully.  I think Josiah is the smartest boy I know, and he thinks school is super easy. I don’t know what his grades are because mommy and daddy don’t let us see them yet, but I bet his are really good. I like school too, but it is not easy for me. Have you ever been to a rock concert? With all the crowds and the loud noises and the lights and smells and everyone is bumping into you and it’s easy to get lost and confused and scared? School feels like that for me most of the time. Sometimes I can’t tell if someone is really my friend or if they are making fun of me. I like to believe the best about people, so sometimes kids make fun of me and I don’t even notice. School is also hard for me because all my ideas take up all the space in my brain and it crowds out all the other things like reading and math. Word problems are especially hard for me. I always forget what they are really asking because I get distracted by what they are eating or wearing or how I think they are feeling. Those are important things! Mommy says it’s not important to understand if Sally is angry or sad that Johnny took some of her apples, but I think knowing how someone feels is ALWAYS more important than knowing what happened. I reminded mommy that she always tells me that people are more important than things. She mumbled something about not ever homeschooling after that, but I don’t know what that means. It’s kind of sneaky, but I also figured out that if something is hard and I don’t know how to do it, it’s just more fun to think about the things I DO know how to do. And sometimes I DO know how to do a problem…but then the air conditioner turns on or someone comes in the room and it distracts me, and then I forget about what I am supposed to be doing and then I think about how pretty it is outside and I hope I see a bunny at recess and I wonder how Malachi is doing at school and did you know we are having spaghetti for dinner tonight??

Mrs. A, I told my mommy that one thing that scares me is that you won’t like me as much as you like my brother because he’s so good at school. When I told mommy that, she looked right at me and hugged me super tight and said “God gave you an amazing brain and I can’t wait to see all that He’s going to do with it!” She also cried a little. She thinks I didn’t notice, but I notice EVERYTHING. But I am a little scared that you might get frustrated with me because Josiah always knows where his things are and he never forgets his homework. I might need you to help me remember to take my folder home and where my locker is. I might need help knowing if someone is being nice or mean. I might need you to tell me that it’s okay that I don’t read as fast as my brother does. If you do these things, I will teach you all the Taylor Swift songs.

You and I are going to have so much fun this year. I know that for sure- I’m Selah Nicole Butler the First, EVERYONE has fun with me!

Love,

Selah

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Dear Ms. M…..

Dear Ms. M,

My name is Malachi and I am in your kindergarten class this year. This is my very first time in a school before, so I am very excited but a little nervous too. I have a big brother named Josiah and a big sister named Selah. They’ve told me lots of things about kindergarten! Some of them sound fun but I think some of them are not true. Josiah told me that there are not any snacks in kindergarten. I probably will ask you a lot about snacks. I’m sorry if I forget your answer, I just really love snacks! Also sometimes I think if I ask a lot of times, you might change your answer! Selah told me that if you get in trouble for talking in class, you have to go sit inside your locker but I KNOW that’s not true because mommy gave her a look when she said it. She also told me that in kindergarten, you have to eat mashed potatoes if you get in trouble. Mommy made her go to her room after she said that, so I bet it’s not true.

I guess I should tell you some things about me. A long time ago, my mommy and daddy wanted to have a very cool little boy, so they prayed and asked God to help them. God looked around and He found me in Ethiopia. I needed a family, so mommy and daddy flew on a big plane to come and get me. I was so scared at first that I wouldn’t even look at my daddy but then he played soccer with me and made me laugh. I love my mommy so much but my daddy is my favorite. I got to fly on a plane and come home to Josiah and Selah. Sometimes I think I like Josiah even more than mommy and daddy!  We call each other “best buddies” and I love to sneak into his bed and sleep with him. I am very glad that Josiah will be at my school too. I might ask you if I can please go see him if I get scared. Josiah makes me laugh and keeps me safe. He always looks out for me when we are around other kids, especially if kids ask silly or mean questions. Sometimes kids ask if he’s my real brother. Sometimes they say that I am lying if I say he’s my brother and that makes me really mad. Mommy and Daddy told me that if I get really mad, I can talk to you about it but I should be kind to the other kids. Josiah is my very bestest friend, and I might cry if I miss him. I love to play with Selah too. Selah always has the BEST ideas! My mommy and daddy think we need another girl in our family, and I’m excited because she will have brown skin like me. I like to know if people have brown or peach skin, so I ask that question a lot. Another thing about me is that I really like to make people laugh. Everyone says that I have the best laugh in my family. I think lots of things are silly, but I also smile and laugh when I get nervous. Sometimes people think I am being sassy, but I’m really just nervous. Sometimes mommy has to remind me to try other things to feel less scared because we can’t be silly ALL the time. Also sometimes when I get nervous, I fall over a lot and get clumsy.  I don’t know why I do that, but mommy has to remind me how to sit and walk like a big kid. Here are some of my favorite and least favorite things-

Favorite food- pizza

Least favorite food- mashed potatoes. I will literally throw up if you ask me to eat them.

Favorite book- Kiss Goodnight

Favorite movie- “Tangled”

Favorite activities- singing, talking, playing Xbox, riding my bike, talking, soccer, talking.

Least favorite activities- cleaning up, wearing socks, sleeping

I bet being a teacher is hard, so I have been praying for you this summer with Mama. One of the hardest parts of being a kid is obeying my parents and I bet one of the hardest parts of being a teacher is parents too. My parents are very fun and we laugh a lot in our house. My mommy and daddy like to help, so you can ask them for help with me or with the class and they will help you. I know a secret about my mama too- when she bought my school supplies, she cried a little. She’s glad I’m going to kindergarten, (especially after last week when I dug holes in our neighbor’s yard to make swimming pools for Selah’s barbies) but I know she’s going to miss me. She didn’t say this to me, but I know she’s nervous that someone might be mean to me or ask me mean questions about my forever family or my birth family.  She’s a little nervous that I might feel hungry at school.  I’m a very big boy now, but mommy still thinks about me when I was living in Ethiopia and I didn’t always get to eat very much. My hands are very strong now, but she remembers when my hands used to shake because I was scared of people with peach skin. I get so many hugs and kisses now from my family but my mama sometimes still thinks about when I didn’t get any hugs or kisses. That might make her want to come up to the school just to give me a hug. Don’t worry, my dad will probably talk her out of it. He’s great like that.

I’m so excited- only four more sleeps! I promise to try my best and work hard! I will also bring you flowers and invite you over for dinner. I’ll see you next week.

Love,

Malachi

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“No divorce cause what God brought together, we will never tear apart, gonna fight and never let up, and when I get up, I’m back down on my knees, thank God my rib’s the best part of me…”

I posted this as my Facebook status yesterday-

Selah-“Malachi, you need a shower!”
Malachi-“No! I don’t like showers!”
Selah-“Too bad, stinky boy. I will make you.”
Malachi-“You CAN’T make me”
Selah-“Yes. I will use the divorce and make you”
Me-“Uh, I think you mean the Force?”
Selah-“Right.”

A little later that day, a lady messaged me on Facebook. I asked her if it would be okay if I shared her question here and tried to answer it and she agreed.

“Just curious, but I am surprised your daughter knows the word “divorce”. It’s just my opinion, but I don’t think kids should even know that word. That word doesn’t even exist in my marriage, and he and I have always said it’s not even an option. I was just curious why your kids know what that is.”

So I’m going to say this, knowing that it goes against a very popular saying in Christian circles, and something I read in almost every marriage book. It’s not that I’m trying to be rebellious or argue semantics, but this saying has always bothered me a little, and it’s taken me a while to figure out why.

“Divorce isn’t an option. Remove that word from your vocabulary”

I get it. We want to commit fully, to remove the temptation to pursue another person, another life, another dream. We want marriages to last. We want the security of looking at our spouse and knowing- you aren’t going anywhere.  I am loved. I am trusted. I am safe.  None of these desires are wrong. We live in a world of “starter marriages”, where vows mean I’ll try for better or worse…as long as worse isn’t truly the worst. Divorce today is met with a sad shake of the head, but without a hint of surprise.

Maybe it’s leftover baggage from a legalistic past. Maybe it’s from sitting with those who have fought tooth and nail for their marriage and it still falls apart. Maybe it’s that I’ve fought for most of my life to understand a God who loves me for absolutely nothing I have done or not done, but simply because I am His child. That’s not a comfortable head space for me- I am much better at the concept of equality, and the idea of being unable to earn more favor by my actions is confusing. The idea that I can’t lose His love over my sin is almost offensive. But what I love the most about this is that He has a choice. Christ doesn’t HAVE to love me. He chooses to…even in my most wretched, unlovable days. And He doesn’t force me to love Him either. I spent so many years bearing the weight of never feeling like I could do enough to prove I loved Him- my days were defined by how long I was able to have a “quiet time”, or if I remembered to pray before I went to sleep. It was a strange sort of prison, lulling me into quiet comfort with the sound of old hymns (that I could sing from memory but never really examined the words), but quick to reach up and choke me when I messed up.

There was no grand moment of epiphany, but in small consistent ways, He has changed my heart to understand that He had a choice and so do I, which changes this from a contract to a relationship.

I love my husband, in action and in emotion. And I know he loves me. But he is not forced to love me, and he is not forced to stay committed to me. He chooses to love me, and he chooses to stay committed to our marriage. There are many options I face every day regarding my marriage- I can choose to die to self and serve him because I love him and I love Christ. I can choose to be apathetic, be “undivorced” and be content with that. I can choose to be contentious and critical. And I can choose to leave.

I can choose divorce. But I won’t.

I can choose to scoff at God and decide to go my own way. But I won’t.

To me, love isn’t the removing of options. It’s a full awareness of what those options are and choosing to love and endure and serve, even when everything in me wants to go my own way.

The reason my children know what the word “divorce” means is not an accident. I have explained what a divorce is because 1. they have friends with divorced parents and I didn’t want an explanation coming from them and 2. Ignoring a word doesn’t make it less real, and doesn’t make it less scary for kids. My reasoning for explaining what divorce means is the same reason I have explained what sex is and what suicide is. This world is limping along in desperate need for a Physician, and while it may feel loving to shelter my kids from these realities, the truth is that it only takes a day of volunteering at the school to have those realities hit you in the face. If I want my kids to be a light in a dark place, they have to know what draws people to the dark in the first place. I want my kids to love Jesus. I don’t want them to just know who He is.

“I can see it now – at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’  And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’  “These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit – but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.”- Matthew 7:22-25 (The Message)

Have a question for Mama Mondays? Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

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Mama Mondays- “Stand by your man, and tell the world you love him Keep giving all the love you can, Stand by your man…”

“My husband just left his job in finance after feeling like he is called to full-time ministry. He’s now on staff at a church, and I was wondering what advice you’d give to a new pastor’s wife?”

Let me preface this by saying- my experience comes from being raised in a mid-sized traditional southern Baptist church, and then serving in small Baptist churches in small towns and now a very large non-denom/bible church in Dallas. I am quite sure the culture of other enviromentn and other denominations have different expectations and norms.

I love this question. Partly because I truly love being married to a pastor and partly because it makes me look back and giggle at some of the crazy things I thought I had to be or do to be a “good pastor’s wife”. My idea of a good pastor’s wife wavered somewhere between a stereotype of tall haired Christmas sweater wearing children’s minister and the wife on Footloose. My ideas were not much worse than my husband’s. A story that we can laugh about now is that when he got his first job in a church, we were both twenty. It was the summer, and we were serving in a very small, very traditional Baptist church with a large senior adult population. One sunday, I got cornered by the blue haired mafia, a group of three ladies who went to high school with Moses. They affectionately asked me how I was enjoying married life and told me how much they loved that we were there, and then told me that I was a beautiful young lady but “no music minister worth his salt would let his wife come to church in open toed shoes!” If this had happened today, I would remind them that Jesus wasn’t rocking Hush Puppies, but back then, I wanted badly to be liked and be approved of, so I nodded meekly and cried in the bathroom for the shame I had bought upon my family. Later that week, Wes said “why don’t we go get some more conservative clothes for you?” and I agreed. He chose this-

elaine

Mine was just a little bit cooler because I also had the Rachel haircut, so I think we can all agree that I was quite the stumbling block.

I wore that dress a grand total of two times before I submissively told Wes what he could do with it. While we can laugh about it now, the truth is, I really struggled for a very long time about my identity as a pastor’s wife and a lot of that struggle was done in complete isolation. I didn’t really know anyone my age who was married to a pastor, and unfortunately, I didn’t really have any older women invested in disciplining me. I also operated most frequently out of a place of fear and people pleasing, which sent me into a pattern of feeling like I had to have it all together and be all things for all people. Please trust me that you can’t keep that up for very long without some serious damage to your emotional health, your relationship with your husband and friends, and your intimacy with Jesus.

Some things to consider BEFORE accepting a position…

*Your relationship with Christ and your marriage are first. This means that if you are serving in an unhealthy, unbiblical church, these relationships will suffer. It is so easy for couples to accept the first church position that they are offered, especially for newly married couples or couples right out of school, but this is a real mistake. You are not only serving in this job, you are being discipled! You cannot give if you are not also poured into.  It’s not enough to simply agree with a church’s statement of faith, you must also get a good feel for the culture of the church and of the staff and leadership. Asking questions like-

How do you handle conflict as a church and as a staff?

What is in place to build up and strengthen marriages for your staff members?

What sort of accountability is set up for staff members and how are sin issues handled when brought to light?

Pay attention to how the leadership speaks- if no one ever talks about their own personal marriage or struggles, this is a huge red flag. If they say they really don’t have much conflict, run. (they do have conflict- they just have it in secret) If they say that sin struggles are between you and the Lord, this is unbiblical and will cause you and your husband pain. Vocational ministry is a great blessing, but it can also be difficult and if you or your husband do not have others to help you and your marriage be what Jesus desires it to be, you will find yourself isolated which is a great path to more sin, pain and even divorce. I’m not saying these things can’t happen if you have others around you, but I am saying that isolation is like a great big room where you can only hear your own voice.

So you’ve found the right job and church…what now?

*Forget the schedule. I think this is especially difficult for those who have come out of the corporate world, but even for those who have only done ministry, sometimes it’s hard to remember that ministry just isn’t 9-5. People and lives are messy, and sometimes that messiness comes at the most inopportune times. It’s great to have boundaries for your family (hint- your husband’s leaders and accountability are your biggest ally in helping set those boundaries), but also know that sometimes life happens and it will bless you and your husband to be flexible. There will be midnight phone calls. There will be hospital visits that last for hours. There will be those meetings where he can’t answer any calls or texts. There will be out-of-town funerals. Pray for compassion for yourself for these “interruptions”, knowing that the Lord is also teaching YOU something through them.

*Don’t believe the hype. This is one of the oddest aspects of ministry that I’ve encountered, but it happens sometimes where people just decide that they want to be friends with someone on staff.  I’m not sure why, other than just the false perception that somehow it’s more cool to be friends with someone “with power”. Sometimes this looks like someone acting like your new best friend five minutes after you meet. Sometimes it looks like someone being super friendly to you so that they can then complain to you about everything they hate about the church. Sometimes it looks like someone not being very friendly until they find out who you are married to and then they are extremely friendly (this one bothers me the most). It’s easy to get discouraged, but remember that these people are not  trying to hurt you, and likely they are hurt themselves. Invest and be intentional with those who are your real friends- these people are invaluable. I cannot stress that enough. Don’t put too much stock into compliments or praise. Those who give easy compliments are usually those who will quickly turn and talk about you behind your back.

*Don’t forget that “she” is out there. Just being frank- there are women who, for multiple reasons, target pastors to try to seduce. It’s probably a combination of being attracted to a Godly man, being jealous and dissatisfied with their own lives, and the thrill of being with someone unattainable. Be aware of these women. Don’t be paranoid, don’t assume, but be wise and don’t be afraid to speak up to your husband if a woman is making you uncomfortable.

*Find your place. Your natural gifts and passions may line up completely with your husband’s job…and they may not. For years, I felt like I had to be right next to Wes, doing exactly what he was doing. Don’t get me wrong, you may be asked to serve in ways that stretch you, and that is a good thing. But if you break out in hives at the thought of singing in front of others, and your husband leads worship, this doesn’t mean you HAVE to be on the praise team. God created you as a fully formed person, not just an extension of your husband. You have gifts and abilities that you probably don’t even know about yet. Make sure to explore those, you will be blessed by developing new passions.

*Remember your purpose for your husband. Ladies, this has been the singular most challenging thing for me in 16 years of being married to a pastor. On one hand, he may have people yelling at him all day and angry at him for his job. On the other hand, he may also have people telling him how amazing he is all day. Both are false and both are dangerous for him and your family. Pray for your husband. Pray for him some more. Ask him how you can serve and encourage him. Don’t be afraid to say hard things to him. Pray about when to keep your words inside. Bring others into your marriage. Encourage him (and at times, I have made Wes) to take off his pastor hat and just be a guy. Make sure he has men around him who are NOT “yes men”. You and your husband need people who will tell you when you are acting foolishly. Make your marriage (not just your kids) a priority. Model transparency. It’s such a lie from the pit that pastors have it all together, that someone they are less sinful or smarter sinners than others, but it’s a lie that many many people believe. Guys look, it’s not comfortable for me to speak in public or write about our marriage issues. It’s just not. But I do it because it’s good for us and because of the many emails and messages I get saying “Please pray for my marriage” or “I thought I was the only one”.

Last thing- it’s so helpful to have some friends who are also in ministry. My best friends are also on staff at our church, and it is a comfort to know that when I talk about a certain aspect of ministry life, she understands. That can be difficult when you are in a smaller church or town. Nothing replaces real live friendships, but in those instances, I think that is a blessing of the online world.

If you are a staff wife, I’d love to hear how I can pray for you! Leave a comment, or email me and I will add you to my prayer list!

Have a question or subject for Mama Mondays? Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

Follow me on Twitter @brandyb77

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