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“The only one who could ever reach me was the son of a preacher man The only boy who could ever teach me was the son of a preacher man Yes he was, he was Ooh, yes he was…”

Around seventeen years ago, a young girl barely out of her teens got up early on a Sunday morning and got dressed for church. She could see the steam rising from the street from those rare and quick summer Abilene storms, and it was already hot enough to fry her eggs on the sidewalk so she chose a modest sundress and sandals. She always got to church early because her husband was the music minister. She wandered around the blue carpeted building, dodging the wasps that always made a home inside the sanctuary, like they were searching for redemption for all the kids they had stung. She also dodged that one sweet old lady who insisted on asking questions about how marriage was going *wink wink*.

She went into the bathroom before the service started and while in the stall, a group of women came in. They were all in their seventies and eighties, maybe even older, she didn’t really know because to a barely 20-year-old, 40 seemed ancient. Either way, these were the ladies who knew everything about everyone. And if they didn’t know, they’d ask. And bless your heart if they didn’t approve of your answer. She listened quietly as they talked about how they hoped the piano would be softer this week, and how they understood that we needed to sing that newer music for the “young people”, but how they just knew Jesus REALLY loved the hymns best. Then she heard this bomb.

“Did you see Wes’ wife this morning? No minister worth his salt would let his wife wear open toed shoes to church!”

 

Dear Wesley,

The twenty year old me went home that afternoon, cried, and promptly went out and bought old lady shoes to cover up my offensive and ungodly toes. The thirty-seven year old me wants to give her a hug and tell her to show up that next week with clown shoes on. We spent two years serving at that church, then three years at another, and monday marked ten years serving at Watermark Community Church.

When I went to Hardin-Simmons University back so many years ago, I decided that I was NOT interested in marrying anyone who might want to be a full-time minister. Or a part-time minister. Maybe not even a Baptist. An unfair opinion, but I thought that would be a world of being alone, being judged, having to perfect a fake smile, moving around frequently whenever the deacons decided they didn’t like you, being poor, and having my life slowly dissolve into a world of homeschooling my 17 children while learning to sew the floor length skirts I would be required to wear. But there was another reason I didn’t want to be a pastor’s wife.

I was terrified that I would disappoint.

I was a big faker. I mean, I had the right clothes and the bible with the flowery cloth cover and the full Point of Grace songbook memorized. But by myself in my car, I listened to Pearl Jam. I didn’t feel patient or kind and wanted nothing to do with being involved in college ministries. I didn’t have a “gentle and quiet spirit” and what’s more, I didn’t want one. It wasn’t that being a christian was boring, but serving in churches certainly seemed to be. It seemed like an odd sort of political career, where you show your best face to get elected, hope for good pay and benefits, enjoy some twisted form of celebrity, hope you don’t screw up too badly to get fired, and likely get fired anyway over something dumb.

It breaks my heart to know there are pastor’s wives reading this right now who are nodding their heads in sad recognition because this is their reality.

So it should say a lot about how cute and charming you are that you convinced me to marry you, knowing that you would be serving in churches. And not everything in being in full-time ministry lived up to those awful expectations, but some of it did. I’m glad we can both laugh at our first fight over you wanting me to use a certain book for the children’s choir and me sweetly telling you what you could do with that book. You gently reminded me that technically, you were “my boss” and I, full of grace and meekness, told you to shove it. It was a long time before we chose to work together again. I remember another fight, one that I still cannot laugh at, where you felt the oppressing weight of people’s whispers and expectations that your wife would serve as a teacher of youth, and I would have rather been eaten alive by sharks than teach teenagers. This ended in cruel whispered words in a church hallway, and a loss of trust for years. So I can admit, my love, that when we moved to Dallas, I halfway hoped you might find a new passion for being an accountant or something.

And then you began an internship at Watermark that turned into a full-time job. And we had babies. And our marriage imploded. And I braced myself for the impeachment and the stares. And it never came.

Ten years later, I am so honored to be not only your wife, but a wife of a man on staff at Watermark. There is nothing magical about Dallas or the building, but Jesus has changed you, me, us. And He’s used so many of the men and women on staff to do that. And I am so proud of the work that you do. You love authentically, not politically. And you teach me so much about Christ, by the way you and your leadership have allowed me to be…me. Pearl Jam, open toed shoes and all. I am not expected to be an appendage of you. My gentle and quiet spirit can also be funny and authoritative. And while I completely understand the seduction of image, I wish I could adequately express the relief that comes with the freedom of letting go of the image.

Ten years ago, I thought that there was a good chance that we would not stay married or I would be forever miserable in a fake happy marriage. Ten years ago, I would have said that I would be happier if you never wanted to work for a church again. And ten years later, we are not in a perfect church or a perfect marriage, but I am so blessed to be called yours and to be a member of this body.

You’re totally worth your salt, babe. Happy 10 years.

Love,

Me

 

Would these have been better, old lady committee? They look sort of Old Testamentish.

Would these have been better, old lady committee? They look sort of Old Testamentish.

Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

Follow me on Twitter @brandyb77

 

“I got caught up by the chase and you got high on every little game, I wish you were the one that got away, Oh if I could go back in time when you only held me in my mind, just a longing gone without a trace…”

A few days ago, the band The Civil Wars announced that they were no longer Ross and Rachel on a break, they were officially totes for real this time over. They are never ever ever getting back to together. Like, ever.

I had several friends check on me that day, because this is/was my favorite band. If you haven’t heard them, spend some quality time with YouTube and check them out. And although the composing has been on the wall for a while, fans hoped for over a year that they would fix the problem, resolve their differences and keep making beautiful music together. So seeing that they are my favorite band, what I am about to say will sound crazy.

I’m glad they broke up.

The first time I heard them perform was online, and I watched this video-

My first thought was “what an adorable, in love couple”

Pretty soon I realized from comments that they were not married to each other, they were both married to other people. John-Paul also has four children, and Joy had her first child last year. It was an odd love for me, because you’d have to be crazy to say they aren’t musically outstanding…but I always feel a bit uncomfortable listening, like I was participating in something that I wasn’t quite sure was right. It almost felt voyeuristic, and I wondered sometimes if it felt that way to their spouses too. I wondered what it might be like to be John-Paul’s wife, at home with four children while my husband was touring the country, being adored by fans and spending so much time with a gorgeous talented woman in the same business.

I’m not stupid. I know sex sells, and all you have to do is read the YouTube comments for five minutes to understand that John-Paul and Joy’s chemistry onstage and off had contributed to this sense that they were a couple- acknowledged or not. Sexual tension, a sort of will they or won’t they, crept up to not only become an unfortunate byproduct of a woman and man singing together, it became almost part of marketing. Perhaps I am cynical, but I just can’t believe that wasn’t intentional. Watching the above video after finding out that they were married to other people made me feel like I was contributing to something seedy and wrong. Oversensitive? Maybe. But then the break-up happened.

When they announced that they were taking a break, Joy continued to speak publicly while John-Paul disappeared from social media. Of course everyone wanted the story, and the most information I have read came from Joy, where she told the Associated Press- “If you want to know what happened to the band, listen to the new album.” This made me angry, honestly. It made me angry because it is almost impossible to listen to the entire album and not walk away wondering if they had an affair that went sour.

Maybe they didn’t. Maybe it has nothing to do with their relationship. Maybe they just hate each other and can’t work together. Maybe they have legal obligations that keep them from really talking about what happened. Maybe they wanted to not talk about anything and keep the suspense to boost sales. But the point is, they have been polished and marketed as two people with amazing chemistry, both musically and personally, and everything about them screams that they are secretly in love.

And there are five innocent children who are in homes that did not choose this life. 

So I know it’s strange for me to say that I am glad they are no longer a band. I sincerely hope that if they ever choose to create music together again, they will completely reject this notion of blurring the lines to create drama and intrigue into their relationship. The sad thing is, they are almost musically perfect. They didn’t need that junk. I hope that if a second chance ever happens, they will let the music speak for itself, and leave the saliciousness to reality television.

Marriage and parenting are big deals. The choices we make in our marriages and with our children affect the future far longer than the music plays. And it is tempting for all of us, me included, to take a good thing and make it THE good thing. But if John-Paul walked away from this level of success to fully invest in his wife and children, he’s got nothing but respect from me.

I still pray for them both. They ARE my favorite band, after all.

 

Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

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“All my instincts, they return and the grand facade, so soon will burn without a noise, without my pride I reach out from the inside…”

If you are a man who has spent much time in churches or reading christian books about marriage, you’ve probably heard the following advice-

Take your wife out on dates.

Give her a break from the kids.

Study her love language and speak it. 

Make yourself accountable to other men so that you can learn to love your wife like Christ loves the church. 

This is not bad advice. But if you are anything like me, sometimes when you hear the same words over and over again, it is easy to nod and smile- date, break from kids, serve her, don’t be a jerk. Got it. I want to talk about the not as obvious ways you can love your wife this year. The secret ways. The things we women talk about on our group trips to the bathroom and on commercial breaks from Downton Abby. The things John Cusack would think of.

So here you go…

10 ways to love your wife in 2014

1. Give your wife a day off. I know, this has been said before, but I mean a REAL day off. Think of it this way- if you took a day off of your job, and your assistant called you every hour to ask a question, and then your boss called you to ask if you’d be home later to do some work, and then when you went in the next day, your co workers made you feel guilty that you missed a day…would you really feel like you’d had time away to relax? I’ve been around girlfriends who answer their phones every few minutes with mediating arguments from the kids, answering shoe finding questions from husbands, and I see their face fall at each ring. Please understand, husbands, when we are away from our kids, we are already feeling some level of guilt. Our society tells moms that they don’t really need a break and if they do, it’s probably because they are selfish or not managing their time well. So commit to giving your wife real time off- don’t call her to ask if she left dinner for you, or if she knows where clean socks are. When she gets home, don’t tell her how terrible the kids were without her or complain about how exhausted you are. Realize that your wife might be struggling with some guilt and make a commitment to not make that little voice in her head sound like you. Give her small and big chunks of time. Give her time alone in your house- sometimes the only thing we want to do is sit in silence in our pajamas and read a book.

2. Pay attention to her Pinterest page. Open an account (you don’t have to use it, but opening an account and following your wife will let you see what she is pinning). Paying attention to what your wife pins is an easy way to get a glimpse into her mind and heart on any given day. Is she pinning a bunch of vacation sites? Maybe she’s feeling a need to escape and relax and you have an opportunity to help meet that need. Is she pinning fitness tips and diets? Sometimes this is healthy, and sometimes this happens when we are having one of those days when you feel less than beautiful. Pay attention. Are you one of those guys who struggle with gift giving? Pinterest needs to be your new best friend! *ps-you might think Pinterest is dumb. That’s okay. I think fantasy football is dumb. And a little bit of real football. But don’t spend time mocking it to her- trust me, women hear plenty of messages that things we like are frivolous and stupid. Be different. 

3. Intentionally cultivate and deepen friendships. I hear something consistently with my girlfriends, and that is that we tend to wish our husbands had a best friend. I want to be clear- I am not really talking about being accountable to other men, although that is incredibly important. I’m talking about having best friends- guys that you go on camping trips with (away from the kids), go to movies with, hang out and watch games with, the ones you laugh with. Why does that bless your wife? Well, laughter and fun is healthy so the more you are able to do that, the healthier you are, emotionally and physically. It’s also a blessing because if you are a woman who has close deep friendships with other women, you know how fulfilling that is, and you want that for your husband as well. So go, make a man-date with a friend.

4. Commit to learning to do something she does. This doesn’t have to be huge- not saying you need to learn to make Beef Wellington or learn how to crochet. (but if you DO learn to crochet and you make her a blanket, that is SO John Cusack.). I mean, learn your kid’s shoe sizes and take them shopping the next time they need shoes. Make sure you know who your child’s doctor’s are and take them to an appointment. Handle a parent teacher conference by yourself. Fix your daughter’s hair. Go grocery shopping- and stick to the list. Take the kids to the pool and get sunscreen on everyone. Handle the science project. Chaperone the field trip.

5. Learn to recognize the sad pants. Most girls have them- pants we wear when we are feeling a certain way. It may be hormones or a bad day with work or kids, or no reason at all. If you come home and the sad pants are on, you have a chance to give your wife a little bit of love. Put the kids to bed a little early, and ask her what would make her evening more relaxing. Make an effort to tell her something you love about her, something unique to her. Remind her that she is loved and created by Him.

6. Stop calling her your smoking hot wife. Forgive me, woman who loves that. If you love this, tell your husband to feel free to ignore this one. But seriously, stop it. One, it’s now a cliche that means nothing. Two, there are seasons when being outwardly beautiful is the very last thing on my to do list and I need to know that my husband is okay with that. Three, if you want to compliment beauty, don’t be lazy- choose something that is unique to her. Fourth, this phrase can feel like a real slap in the face when you are feeling the opposite of “smoking hot”. We are not dumb. We know that yogurt covered sad pants and two day old unwashed hair is not smoking hot. We know that it’s an attempt to compliment…but if you want to compliment, hug her and say “the way you serve our family even when it gets difficult is incredibly beautiful to me”. Then watch the kids so she can shower.

7. Have a conversation about sex, and then don’t have it. Ask your wife to talk about you about how she feels about your sexual relationship, and then when you are done, go take the trash out or something. Here’s the thing- talking about sex can be intimidating and nerve-wracking. Sometimes it takes a lot of courage and choosing to trust the other person. So knowing that there’s an unspoken expectation that sex is going to happen after a conversation about it just adds to the pressure. This is especially true if there is a lot of tension in your marriage already. Some women will avoid talking about sex, not because they don’t want to have that conversation, but because they don’t know how to handle the expectation of having sex afterwards. So tell your wife, “I just want to talk about this with you and hear how you are feeling about this part of our marriage”  If trust has been an issue with you in the past, just listening to her and not expecting her to act will help her to trust you. And I think it goes without saying- listen and pay attention.

8. Make it your goal to make her laugh at least once a day, and screen laughter doesn’t count. Sharing funny videos, tweets, or status updates is great. Watching Jimmy Fallon together is awesome. But just decide that if it comes from a screen, it doesn’t count. You might be surprised to realize how much we have relied on social media and television to make up the content of our conversations. Don’t fall for it. YOU be the funniest person in her world.

9. Realize your privilege. If you are a white straight male, congratulations- you have the most power and privilege in our society. People probably don’t ask you if you have a real job. When you are in public, people probably don’t talk to your wife and ignore you until she introduces you. You are probably not leered at or spoken to in a sexually suggestive way when you are out in public. While walking to your car, you probably don’t have a moment of concern for your safety. If you get pulled over for speeding, it’s likely you don’t assume your car might be searched. People probably don’t express surprise when they see you in your job because they were expecting to see a woman. When you get upset, you probably aren’t accused of being hormonal. When you go to the grocery store, you don’t have a difficult time finding hair or skin care products. Look, there are many things that are amazing about being a woman, but there are also things that our world makes difficult. As a husband, you aren’t going to be able to control or change many of those things, but you can try to not contribute to them as well. Take an honest look at the messages you receive for any unhealthy attitudes against women. Pray and ask Him to reveal any ways that you might be contributing that the idea that woman are less than men. Ask your wife- and be humble and open to hearing her answer- if there are ways she feels less than in your marriage.

10. At the beginning of each month, ask your wife to name one thing you could do by the end of the month that would make her feel loved. Put it in your phone, ask for accountability to do it- then blow it up. If she asks you to remember to take the trash out, gather all the trash, sweep the kitchen floor and then take it out. If she wants you to bring her flowers, buy her a rose bush. Be creative and be extravagant. Don’t ask her if she’s noticed. Don’t point it out for credit. Just do it, and watch her face light up.

And a little boombox holding over the head wouldn’t hurt either…

john-cusack-in-say-anything

Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

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“I got this emptiness inside that got me fighting for approval ’cause I missed out on my daddy saying, way to go… So now I’m looking at the media and I’m following what they feed me… Even though they lie they still tell me that they love me, They say I’m good at bad things, at least they proud of me…”

Get ready. It’s about to get mushy up in herr.

When Wes and I started talking about having kids, I am going to be honest- I kind of viewed kids like little pets. They were cute and sweet and sure, they caused trouble and were expensive, but they look good in pictures and buying tiny clothes was fun. I’d had plenty of experience being around kids and loving kids deeply, but I had no frame of reference of what the daily grind of actually parenting would be like.  I also really didn’t have any concrete ideas of what my husband’s role would be in parenting.

Donald Miller, one of my favorite authors, wrote a book that I love called “To Own a Dragon- Reflections on Growing up without a Father” and this is one of my favorite quotes. He speaks about listening to fairy tales with knights and princesses and dragons-

“I bring this up because in writing some thoughts about a father, or not having a father, I feel as though I am writing a book about a dragon or a troll under a bridge. For me a father is nothing more than a character in a fairy tale. And I know fathers are not like dragons in that fathers actually exist, but I don’t remember feeling that a father existed for me. I know they are real people. I have seen them on television, and sliding their arms around their women in grocery stores, and I have seen them in malls and in coffee shops, but these were characters in other people’s stories, and I never stopped to question why one of these characters wasn’t living in our house. I don’t say this out of self-pity, because in a way I don’t miss having a father any more than I miss having a dragon. But in another way, I find myself wondering if I missed out on something important.”

Man. That is some stupid good writing.

So for me, when I pictured being a parent with Wes it was sort of like picturing co-parenting with a dragon, to use his analogy. I was reasonably sure of the basics- he’d stick around.  I knew he would be involved with teaching our children about God. I knew he would provide for us financially.  I had observed Wes around kids and teenagers, so I knew he was playful and energetic and could relate well to kids. But still, when I pictured our family, I imagined that I would be the main character in this play, and Wes would be a willing and capable supporting actor. I didn’t consciously think this of course, but like a kid who has never seen a dragon, I couldn’t wrap my brain around a world where dragons come off of paper and into the sky.

This weekend we had Josiah’s birthday party. It was casual, as he is way too old for anything themed and cute, MOM. Just some boys, a soccer ball, and some cake. A cool cake. Not a baby cake. Heaven forbid.  As I am running around getting ready for this party, my husband walks into the living room looking like this hot mess-

photo (21)

Meet Jeffaree the Referee.

Jeffaree went outside and greeted all the guests, and then took all the boys over to the park to play soccer. And basketball. And football. And whiffle ball. He then took all those boys up to our church to play Gaga ball. Then he came home, put on a movie for them and helped them get snacks.

As I was watching him play, I saw people tweeting about the A&M game.  Now, don’t freak out, but I had no idea there was a game on, much less an important game on. I’m not exactly what you’d call a sports fan. Trying to explain football to me is like trying to explain anything to a muffin. But I realized how this was a big game that apparently everyone except me was watching.

He never complained. He didn’t even mention it.

There’s a ton out there talking about choosing a man who will make a good husband, and it’s true, choosing a good man to marry is important. But as I sat there and watched Jeffaree be completely silly, I was thinking about how in some ways, Wes has become my dragon.

I spoke to a group of students at SMU last week about viewing God as a father, and how that can sometimes be difficult at best and painful at worst. I spoke about how becoming a parent was a huge piece of my healing towards being able to see God as a Father, and especially adopting our youngest. Loving and serving our kids despite their imperfections has given me insight into the fact that God doesn’t love me out of obligcation, but He loves me with affection and adoration. And yet my perspective is still as a mother. So watching Wes over the last ten years (as well as other faithful men) has given me a glimpse of what God is like as a dad. Not only father.

A Daddy.

Wes is the guy who doesn’t do that fake sleeping thing when the baby cries. He’s the guy who purposfully arranges his schedule so he can walk the kids to school, because he wants to take advantage of that time to speak wisdom to them. He’s the guy volunteering at school. He’s the dad who looks neighboring kids in the eye and invites them over for dinner. He’s the dad that plays a game with the kids almost every night and reads them stories. He’s the dad who has taught Josiah to do this-

photo (22)

and modeled a passion for teaching others about Jesus.

Wes has far surpassed all expectations I had of what a father is like, and he continues to do so. I know that not every woman struggles the same with understanding God as a Father, but I think we all do, to some degree? (if you don’t at all, let’s have lunch. I have questions.)  So when I counsel my daughter about how to choose a spouse, I will be sure to tell her that choosing a future daddy is just as important as a future husband. Not only for her happiness, but because watching a good daddy can give you a picture of God that is more vivid, more full.

It’s being able to see the scales of a dragon shine in the sun instead of just imagining what they’d look like.

Wes isn’t a perfect dad. (ask him about the time he let Josiah roll off the changing table and then taught him a new word) But because of him, I now have a picture that someday, my Daddy might make me pancakes with extra blueberries and real maple syrup, because He knows that’s the way I like them. I imagine that my Daddy might makes jokes because He likes the sound of my laugh. I imagine that my Daddy would throw me a birthday party not because He has to, but because He can’t imagine not celebrating me.

That’s the happily ever after I can get behind.

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

Follow me on Twitter @brandyb77

“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

“I do” are the two most famous last words, the beginning of the end, but to lose your life for another I’ve heard Is a good place to begin ‘Cause the only way to find your life Is to lay your own life down, And I believe it’s an easy price for the life that we have found…”

Dear 19year old me,

I sit here, thinking about that day sixteen years ago when you slipped on that heavy white dress, the one you regretted having long sleeves the second you stepped out into the Abilene sun.  You will look at the adult staring back in the mirror, and hush the scared child inside. When you steady your shaking hands with flowers, you’ll carefully arrange your expression to look calm, serene, bridelike. Girl, I’ve looked at the pictures often-the fear is hidden pretty well, but slips through occasionally. You mean the word forever, but…it’s going to be great, right? Right? I mean, you know you’ll have fights, you’ve already had them, but you love him and you are sure that whatever happens couldn’t possibly that serious. And ministry? You feel ready. You know it won’t always be easy, but you also think how great it is to be marrying someone who is steady, so sure of what he wants. You don’t realize it now, but you crave security, both emotionally and financially. You are convinced this man, this boy, will give you all of that.

I know you wouldn’t believe me if I told you, but if I could take you to lunch and give you a glimpse of what is to come, I’d tell you that the man you love will show his hand early on, on the way to the airport for your honeymoon. He will lose his temper over some lost travelers checks. You’ll be confused and hurt, but you’ll reason that he’s stressed and tired and the wedding probably overwhelmed him. This will be the first of many times you will reason away the little voice that whispers that these displays of anger aren’t right. I’m going to be blunt- you have no idea what loving someone means. Don’t get me wrong, you love people, you have family and friends, but you’ve never had to deal with conflict or confrontation in a loving biblical way, so you will do what  “feels right”, and I can tell you unequivocally that almost every time what feels right is what feels the most comfortable. At this point, you don’t realize that you believe that if you have conflict with someone, they will leave you, so you will work hard to keep peace. You also believe that the boy you love might not love you as much if you expressed that sometimes you aren’t sure you agree with what he believes about Jesus. You will automatically assume that based on the differences in your backgrounds, it’s much more likely that he is right and you are wrong, so you will keep these thoughts locked away in your heart. You’re also about to painfully misinterpret some scripture, and it will cause you great suffering.

“Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.” 1 Peter 3:1

You will decide, quite conveniently I might add, that this means that if Wes does something that is painful or harsh towards you or others, you should not talk to him about it. You will cling to the “without words” part, and place great hope in the idea that Wes will be overwhelmed by your love and change. Honey, it’s not going to work, and you will convince yourself that it’s not working because you aren’t being kind enough, hospitable enough, submissive enough, not enough, not enough, not enough. You’ll change the way you dress, the music you listen to, the language you use, future goals…all in an attempt to become “enough” to win him over. This hamster wheel will never be satisfied. And with each turn of the wheel, a small brick of Bitterness and her sister Despair will build up around your heart. There will be a point when you decide that if you can’t be good enough for this imperfect boy to love you, then surely a perfect God couldn’t either. And you decide that while you might be failing the wife test, you’re going to ace the mom test. If we sat together, I’d hold your hand and brace you for what is coming.

In the next seven years, you’ll trudge down the quicksand road of infertility. It’s a twisted upside, a silver lining made of poisonous mercury, that infertility gives you and Wes something to blame your marriage problems on. I know, I know you won’t believe me now as you smile and pose for pictures, but there will be days when you sit on the floor late at night after he is asleep and cry as quietly as you can, and make mental lists of what you would need if you left him. It’s not that you don’t love him. You just feel like you are drowning in this ocean of expectation and shame and anger and apathy.

At this point, you’d probably roll your eyes and tell me what a fun and uplifting lunch date I make. I don’t blame you. You’d probably look at me and say if things are going to get so bad, why even bother getting married? Surely this means Wes Butler isn’t the right man for you, he can’t be your soul mate, right? Surely this means you got duped into marrying a man who somehow hid his temper and legalism until after the rings. I mean, it really doesn’t seem like there’s much hope, and who wants to live like that?

You’re going to have kids. You’re going to get your master’s degree. You’re going to move to Dallas and attend a great church.

You’re going to smile and tell people that sure, sometimes you argue, but things are really just fine.

You’re going to stand in your living room after putting your two babies to bed and scream at your husband about who is going to get custody of those babies.

You’re going to tell Wes that you don’t think there is any hope left.

You’re going to really believe it this time. 

And then…you’re going to humble yourself, set aside your arrogant pride and speak up.

Years later, you’ll sit at a computer as you watch your husband sleep, and just close your eyes in complete awe at what God has done.  You’ll think through all of the tools that were used to rebuild what had been lost, and thank Him that He used all those imperfect tools, imperfect people, imperfect timing and methods, to resurrect your marriage. You’ll smile when you think about how hopeless you thought your marriage was, forgetting that He parted the sea, He fed the thousands, He created the earth, He raised the dead…and you thought you were beyond His reach.

Do you want to know the best part? It’s not even a happier marriage. It’s not the kids or Wes. It’s that through all this pain, you will learn that you. are. loved. You will learn about the nature of Jesus, and how He sees you. You’ll get to take all this mess and pour out into others who are suffering to give them hope.

You’ll get to know your Daddy.

So, take a deep breath, pick up your flowers and get ready. You don’t know what’s coming, but He does. And sixteen years from today you’ll laugh a Naomi and Sarah laugh, grateful and amazed at how He restores.

Love,

Me

p.s.- You are gonna regret that Rachel haircut. Think it through.

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