Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Dear Pastor’s Wife Without a Church

Leeann Still Life

I’m getting ready to visit yet another church this morning. In the past 5 months, since my husband resigned, we’ve visited many. A new one nearly every Sunday. Some have been near to our home and some far away. Some with pastors or people we know and some full of entirely new faces.

Some churches have been overwhelmingly friendly and we’ve been to others where we’ve been able to slip inphoto and out without being noticed. Some have great children’s programs and some hardly have any children at all. We’ve visited churches big and small, some ultra-conservative and others a bit more charismatic than we’re used to. We’ve worshipped to hymns accompanied only by a few select instruments and choruses played by full on bands.

We’ve seen services that operate like well-oiled machines and others that looked more like a thrown-together three-ring circus. Mostly, we’ve seen whole lot of everything in between.

Each church has it’s own flavor, it’s own style, it’s own… personality almost.

They all have one thing in common though, without fail they almost all bring me to the brink of tears. Some have left me in a puddle of tears the moment I walked through the door, some in the middle of service and others have brought me to tears before I even walked through their doors.

They’ve all been great to visit, but none of them are my home. I’ve been accustomed to having a church family. A family is so much more than a Sunday morning experience. It’s not about the preaching, it’s not about the music, it’s not about the building. It’s about the people. It’s knowing that once a week, we will all gather together and learn how to love God, love others, grow in Christ and serve the world a little bit better because of each other. The preaching, music and location seem like inconsequential details, really. But loving God, loving others, growing in Christ and serving the world seem harder to do when I’m not surrounded by people I know and have grown to love. I’m convinced God uses community to grow us. We learn to love deeply, care selflessly, give sacrificially, and forgive completely within the context of doing life alongside of others. 

This week my husband is guest-speaking for a local pastor. At least I get to hear my favorite speaker preach this morning—I’m excited about that! I’m looking forward to visiting another church, and meeting new people, but I long for the day that we once again have a church home—a family of our own.

The problem is, we’re currently in a state of unknowns. Will my husband get a non-ministry job locally? Will he be called to pastor another church? Will we spend another 6 months in this place of the the perpetual unknown? God only knows. I don’t say that as a pithy expression, but as an honest, legitimate statement. Clearly, he hasn’t revealed to us what’s next. We just sit and wait.

It’s taking a toll on me. My physical health seems to be dwindling by the day as I deal with nearly constant low-grade tremors that have no obvious cause. The other aspects of my health (emotional, mental, spiritual, etc.) don’t seem to be faring much better on most days. We’re in a frustrating season of life. Most days we just keep on keeping on. Some days, if we’re being “real” here, we’re just barely hanging on.

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I wrote this one morning a few months back, before we headed to church. When it was time to leave I just sat on the couch and burst into tears. The kids came and sat down on either side of me, snuggling in for a hug and looked up at Rob, asking why mommy was crying. “She misses our church,” he said to them, knowing that they too have had similar days. I piped in, “It’s okay to be sad and it’s okay to miss people.”

Rob asked if I wanted to stay home, or go to the church that we’d more-or-less decided we’d probably plug into in the near future. I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t feel like being the “Pastor’s Wife” that day. I wasn’t interested in forced smiles or small talk.

But I decided to go anyway. It was only his second time preaching since the day he resigned, and I really did want to hear him, support him and learn from him.

We pulled up in front of the church where we were met by the Pastor’s wife and her two children. We began talking. Though we just met we all shared a few of our “battle wounds”, the kinds of wounds that only another pastor’s family can truly understand. If you’re a pastor’s wife reading this, and you’ve ever left a ministry, I know you understand what I’m talking about.

I blurted out, “So you know what it’s like to fall into a heaping pile of tears on Sunday mornings?” The empathetic look on her face told me she knew this feeling all-too-well.

We had a surprise visitor from our old church who lived right across the street from where Rob was preaching that day. She’d caught wind that he would be there and showed up to support him. She gave me the kind of hug that told me that it’s okay to be broken.

Then the pastor’s wife came up to me as I stood in the back to grab communion and slipped me a piece of paper with her phone number and email address, as she had to leave before the service would finish. My husband preached about forgiveness, a message that I struggled to hear, but I was so grateful to see him “come alive” as he did what God clearly created him to do.

It was as if God just opened up a window of brightness in the middle of the storm we were in. We left that place encouraged as a family, and I’m so very grateful that I followed my husband and kids to church that day. I was blessed because of it and I realized that even in this season of life where I don’t have a church home, nor a church family of my own, I belong to a greater church body, the body of Christ himself.

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I write many posts I never publish. Some I write, then leave unpublished, only to bring them back up again. This is one of those posts, literally, months in the making.

Recently, we have settled in to our new church. We even joined a small group a little bit reluctantly, but I’m so glad we did. I’m beginning to look forward to Sunday mornings again. I’m beginning to recognize faces and my kids are slowly beginning to make new friends. I’m beginning to let down my guard a little. I’m beginning to breathe a little bit deeper and smile a little more freely. It’s been a long “season” of life for us.

I know this “season” is just beginning for some others, and my heart is heavy for them. In these past few weeks alone I personally know of at least three pastor’s wives just in the Willamette Valley that have said good-bye to their church family for the last time. All of these were under difficult circumstances. My heart breaks for these churches, for these pastor’s and for their families. But I have a special place in my heart for their wives. My heart aches for you, deeply, friend. I wish I could sit down across the table from you over a cup of coffee. I wish I could hear your heart and give you a safe place to just be you—brokenness and all. Please allow me to share just a small glimpse of my heart for you: 

Dear Pastor’s Wife Without a Church,

Any words I can write to you in the middle of your storm are futile. I understand this fully. You are currently in some stage of the grief cycle. Maybe you are in shock and denial, perhaps you are flat-out angry. You might be in the depths of despair battling depression and detachment or perhaps in the dialogue and bargaining stage where you simply want to tell your story and make sense of what just happened. Perhaps you’ve come to a place of acceptance where you are exploring your options and looking to put a new plan in place for your life, even if it looks different than what you were originally anticipating. You might cycle through these emotions and back again in any given week, day, or even hour. It’s been eight months since my husband resigned and I still have times where a whole range of emotions overwhelm me and the denial and bargaining, the shock and depression, or feelings of anger and acceptance wage war in my soul. Sometimes it’s simply impossible to describe how I feel, other than to say that I feel deeply. And some days it feels like it’s too much to bear. Yet other days, I see hope on the horizon and I am reminded of how good my God is and how deeply he cares for me and my family.

Wherever you’re at in this cycle, it is my prayer that you will recognize that it’s okay to grieve over the loss of your church home. You and I know that the church you left behind was more than just your husband’s employer. It was your source of support, encouragement and belonging. It was your home. It was your family. It’s okay to grieve.

Regardless of the reason you left, you cannot deny that you’ve left behind a church full of people that have impacted you greatly. You take with you some great memories and lasting friendships. You also take with you some hurt and some frustrations. Time will either make sense of, or magnify the negative experiences you had. Be mindful to dwell on the good things, and beware of letting bitterness take root in your heart. It’s so easy to let the devil get a foothold into your life through bitterness. Too easy. Give a friend permission to point it out when they see it rear it’s ugly head. Continually give it over to God and let him examine your heart. He’s gifted at redeeming the ugly things in this life. At turning ashes into beauty. At making beautiful things out of dust.

Speaking of… some days I just put the song Beautiful Things on repeat. “You make beautiful things out of the dust. You make beautiful things out of us…” 

I have created a free playlist on Spotify that I continue to add songs to that speak to my heart about this season of life. Sometimes I will hear a song at church, or on the radio that really tugs at my heart. I add it to my playlist and I let so many of these songs become the cry of my heart when I don’t know what else to say.

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Dear friend, let me encourage you to pour out your heart before God. Whether it’s through song, through scripture, through tears or through the deafening silence.

Photo: My words fall short every time. For those who need hope and refuge today, may you be encouraged by the words of a God who loves you deeply.God is your refuge. He is your rock and your salvation. He is your fortress where you will not be shaken. Your salvation and your honor come from God alone. Safe in his refuge no enemy can reach you. Wait quietly before God, for your hope is in him.

I confess I’ve done more fretting and less waiting quietly before God than I ought over the course of this year. I don’t know where you are right now, but my soul is weary. I feel like a toddler who is so full of emotions that I can’t help but fuss and cry and writhe about in a screaming fit.

This verse that encourages me to wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him—this I will cling to. I feel like I’m winding down. I have no energy left to throw a fit. I am like a small child who has been crying so long over so many things that I no longer even know what I’m crying for. But I want rest. I want rest for my soul. I want my Heavenly Father to scoop me up his arms as a father would to calm his fussy toddler. He wants me to find rest for my soul in his presence alone. He is my rock. He is my fortress.

Draw near to God, sweet sister, and he will draw near to you. He understands your emotions and the depths of your heart and soul like no one else ever will. Rest in that. Rest in his promises. Rest in him.

Love,

Robyn

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For those of you who are Pastor’s Wives, or have walked closely with a woman who is, what advice would you give, or wisdom would you share to a hurting Pastor’s wife who finds herself without a church home? Please share in the comment section below, as it is my deepest prayer that these words will be of comfort to any Pastor’s wives who stumble upon it. Thank you for sharing your heart!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

One Step Toward a Dream

All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them. ~Walt Disney

I dropped the kids off at school today. It’s the first day in months and months and months that Rob’s been at work, the kids have been at school and I’ve been home with nothing to do. No work. No plans. No obligations. Nothing.

For the first time in what feels like forever, I have the freedom to think. To breathe. To relax.

To dream.

One in particular dream has been swirling around in my mind lately. Any time my mind has time to wander, it seems to wander to this particular place.

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My bakery

This dream is still its infancy stage, but my dream is a dream none-the-less.

On my way back from dropping my kids off at school this morning I decided to take a detour. There’s a store closing in downtown Albany that I’ve driven by many times each week. I decided to stop by today and got a chance to talk with the owner and poke around the building. It would make a wonderful location for a bakery, in my humble opinion.

By the time I left, my brain was already arranging furniture and designing my commercial kitchen.

But alas, I recognize this dream is still far off. I’m sure this particular building will be rented by a new tenant before I have another free day to even think about turning my dream into reality. But still, I think taking the time to let myself dream a little is further solidifying my desire to open up a bakery someday.

Slowly but surely I think I shall develop a plan. I shall do some research. I shall let my mind wander. 

Here is a list of things I can think of off the top of my head that it will take to make my dream into a reality:

  • A dream

  • Retail space

  • Bakery name

  • Business plan

  • Website

  • A business license

  • Price lists

  • Capitol for start up costs

  • Commercial kitchen

  • Logo

  • D├ęcor

  • Furnishings

  • Display cases

  • A bazillion incidentals that all cost money, like a cash register, coffee supplies, pans, boxes, shelving, displays, etc. 

Well, at least I got one thing crossed off the list. It’s the most important thing, if you ask me. Okay, maybe not the most important thing, but it’s an important place to start, for sure!

As for the rest of those things—unless the people who can make those things happen accept payment in the form of cupcakes and scones, well… the rest might still have to wait a while.

But today, I’m going to take the first step. I’m going to put aside the $30 I made from making and delivering 4 dozen petite maple pecan scones this week. I’m going to see what I can do about using that $30 to make $60. Then I will see what I can do about making that $60 turn into $120… until someday I have enough set aside to fund my dream.

Cupcakes anyone?

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Family Update

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Today officially begins a new chapter for our family! After 7 months of unemployment/underemployment, Rob begins a new job this morning. He will be working for the State’s employment department, essentially as a case-manager helping dislocated workers re-train for a new field of employment. The irony isn’t lost on us, either! 

This job is only temporary (through June), but it could certainly lead to other opportunities down the road. We are thankful regardless. IMG_2331

(He let me snap a quick picture of him on his way out the door this morning to commemorate the first day of this new adventure. The things he puts up with -----> I love this guy!)

Rob has been able to spend a wonderful summer with the kids, and that time has been precious for everyone. He’s definitely rocked the stay-at-home dad role these past few months. I think we’ve both come to appreciate the role each of us has played in our family, as I’ve been the one juggling work and home life and he’s been juggling home life while looking for work. I hope I never forget how nice it feels to come home worn out to find a tidy house and food on the table. I will definitely plan to make that a priority in the future. It’s a small way to make my spouse feel loved in a big way. I’m writing it down as a reminder to myself!

I have been working since March at the medical school in Lebanon. I have worked as a Standardized Patient off and on for the past three years, but I have had the opportunity to fill-in for a few different leadership roles within the Standardized Patient Department over these past 5 months. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity, as it’s been nice for me to have something productive to focus on and the income has certainly been able to help fill in the gaps for our family.

An opportunity recently came up for me to come on permanently, but it just didn’t seem like the right thing to do. The opportunity on the table was more hours than we felt I could maintain without sacrificing too much as a family. So I will continue on as a Standardized Patient, but not take the permanent position. I will continue working in my current role until they fill the new position, however. So, starting today, we are juggling Rob working full-time and me working part-time, with both of us commuting to nearby cities. Good thing the kids start school in two-weeks!

Speaking of kids, they are doing well. Jade moved in with her youth leaders at the beginning of the summer, so our family dynamics have recently changed a bit. We’ve also decided that with so much uncertainty in our own lives, that it’s time to close the chapter on foster-care for the foreseeable future, but we are grateful to have gotten the opportunity to know and love so many kids over the past five years. 

IMG_2164Leeann will begin 5th grade and Titus will begin 3rd grade in two short weeks. I still can’t figure out how my kids have gotten so old. I vividly remember those years of my own education… 20+ years ago. Seriously?

( <---- This picture is classic Leeann trying to sneak a ‘cuddle’ from Titus while posing for a picture with him pushing her away. I’m keeping it real here folks, it takes 100 of these types of shots to get one ‘perfect’ one!)

Speaking of keeping it real, I’m not going to sugar-coat things and imply that these past 7 months have been anything other than difficult for all of us. When a pastor leaves a church you say good-bye to so much more than just a job, you also lose your support system, your ministry, and to some degree, even many of your friends.

Not only for you, but for your whole family. It’s been hard on the kids to not see their friends each week. It’s been hard for us to watch them hurt while we are hurting ourselves. It’s also been hard on all of us to be a in perpetual state of unknowns. Until Rob got this job we didn’t know if we were two short weeks away from up and moving anywhere in the world at any point in time. We haven’t known if the kids would return to their school. We haven’t known if we would need to sell the house. We haven’t known if… well, anything!

However, with all of that being said, God’s goodness and faithfulness hasn’t changed. All things considered, we are doing well. We are certainly looking forward to settling in to a routine that’s a “new normal” for us—even if it’s only temporary. We are holding onto God’s love and unchanging character. 

We have chosen a local church to settle in to, even though our attendance has been hit-or-miss this summer. Rob has been doing a fair amount of guest preaching (see his new website www.RobBuhl.com for more details) so we’ve been visiting a number of churches near and far. The kids and I don’t always join Rob when he guest preaches, so it’s nice to know that we have a place to return to when we are home on Sundays.

There’s so much more I could say, but I’m going to wrap-up our family update for now. I know so many of you have been praying for us and caring for us in so many ways. We have felt a great deal of love, support and encouragement from so many of you and for that we are grateful beyond what our words could ever adequately express.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Pink Ombre Wedding Cake—Tips, Tricks and Shortcuts

IMG_1081As much as I love baking sweet treats and making beautiful (and yummy!) cakes and cupcakes, I’ve always steered clear of saying yes to making wedding cakes. Something about the pressure of doing a wedding cake has always frightened me. It’s not like you can just quickly whip up a new one if something goes wrong, ya know?

But, when I received a request to make a wedding cake for a former foster kiddo of ours, I knew that it was time to learn the art of filling, torting, stacking, refrigerating, packaging, transporting and assembling on site. All things I was a bit afraid of before this—simply because I’d never done it.

Thanks to You Tube, and a few significant time-saving tips and tricks, I was able to create a special cake that the bride loved and if I’m being honest, I’m pretty proud of the way it turned out!

I wouldn’t say it was easy, but it wasn’t nearly as complicated or troublesome as I had imagined it to be in my head. And I learned so many things this time around that I can honestly say I’m looking forward to trying another wedding cake at some point in the future!

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Renee is one of the few foster kids I’ve written about here on my blog. You can read about her in my post She’s Gonna Make It (The Blessings of Being a Foster Parent).

I was delighted to get to be a part of her very special day. She reminded me so much of myself when I got married at her age—the ripe old age of 19! At the end of the day she just wanted to be married to the love of her life and the rest of the details were just… well… details.

So she gave me some general thoughts on what kind of cake she wanted but gave me the freedom to embellish it as I saw fit. She wasn’t picky (which certainly helped my stress level), she was just grateful for whatever I could come up with.

And I was grateful to help make her special day a little more special! In fact, I was also able to rope in a few friends (an officiant, a sound guy, a D.J., some flowers for centerpieces and a wonderful woman who helped make them) who were happy to be a blessing to this young college student and her husband who is currently serving in the Army.

In addition to making the cake and the centerpieces, I also coordinated this wedding. That was probably the most stressful part because this was an outdoor wedding and the forecast for the day was rain. But, I honestly saw the grace of God pour down along with the rain because there was just enough time for the ceremony before the rain came pouring back down. Then there was just enough time for pictures. More rain. Then there was just enough time for the dances. More rain. Then there was just enough time to cut the cake before another downpour started.

Here are the bride and groom on their very special day.

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They sure do make the cake look good, don’t they?

 

Tips and Tricks

 

  • This video was very instrumental in teaching me how to properly stack and support the cake layers. I followed these instructions to a “T”.
  • My cake layers are 10”, 8” and 6” double layer cakes, each cut in half and filled with raspberry filling.
  • I used Wilton’s Basic Buttercream recipe. I did one double batch for the crumb coat and 3 double batches for the cake itself, as well as an additional 6” cake topper for their wedding anniversary.
  • To achieve a gradient look with the frosting, I used a round tip to pipe one color at a time, starting from the top center and working my way down in a circular motion. I used the lightest color first then I tinted the whole batch of icing a slightly darker color. I repeated this process, piping a color, texturing it, then tinting the next color, adding it right back into the bag I just used and repeating the process again.
  • To achieve the textured look you see here, I use a top-secret expensive tool. My fingers. Clean, of course. Once I piped a layer of frosting on I used my index and/or middle finger to create this messy texture. Ideally, you would do this with a cake decorating spinny plate thingy. I’m sure there’s a technical term, I just don’t know what it is. Basically, you almost just keep your fingers still and turn the plate, dragging your fingers through the icing. Slowly drop your fingers once you return to the place you started to do the next layer. Stop every so often and scrape the excess frosting that has accumulated up your fingers into a small bowl to use later to fix accidents, glue layers together and to cover the transition between layers once the cake is assembled.  

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Shortcuts

If you are new to cake making, here are some ways you can lower your stress level by taking some shortcuts.

  • Feel free to embellish your cake with silk flowers or fresh (edible) flowers instead of frosting or IMG_1089fondant flowers. The ones pictured here cost me a total of $2 from the Dollar Store.
  • Use some cool beads, ribbon, candy or other embellishments instead of frosting between layers. I actually got these ones from the upholstery section at Hobby Lobby and just washed and dried them before I placed them on the cake over a fresh coat of icing to seal the layers together. The fresh icing makes a perfect glue to hold these beads in place.
  • Instead of fussing with making fruit or chocolate filling when you’re already stressed out about all of the other aspects of building a wedding cake, just see if you can buy some from a local bakery. I called my mom in a panic over raspberry filling and she gave me this priceless suggestion. Picking up some cake and donut filling from my local Mega Foods ran me $10. It’s cost in saving my sanity: Priceless. 
  • I almost don’t want to confess suggest this, but for the sake of transparency and “shortcut tutorial” fodder, you could always use boxed cake mix. I “ahem” may or may not owe the success of this cake’s tastiness to my friend Betty. Betty Crocker.

True story: Some friends of ours were providing music for the wedding and they were raving about this being “seriously the best cake they ever tasted”. I just grinned and tried to keep my mouth shut (my husband encourages me just to say “thank you” and let it be). But I couldn’t help but confess my secret. They were genuinely surprised. And now I’m confessing my secret to the world—he would be mortified! Sorry love! 

And this is the real-life part of the Real Life Pastor’s Wife. I make gargantuan messes when I bake. As in, my whole kitchen is layered in a fine layer of powdered sugar. Frosting is everywhere and cake paraphernalia can be found strewn throughout my kitchen and dining room for days.

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This is what I woke up to the next morning, my KitchenAid mixer, just as I left it. Unfortunately no cleaning elves invaded my kitchen in the middle of the night. *Note*, don’t leave pink frosting sitting over night on your white counters. Trust me. Not that I would know all about how it stains your counters or anything. 

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But the end result of seeing this cake come together, and of getting these two wonderful young people married off, was well-worth every bit of the mess and stress. Mission accomplished!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Dr. Seuss Themed Giant Cupcake Bouquet *Graduation Style*

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Is there any better way to display several dozen cupcakes?

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This was a graduation “cake” request in pink, turquoise and lime green. I was quite pleased with how it turned out. I really liked these colors together.

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I enjoyed getting to use my silhouette cameo for a few parts of this cake, including this fitting quote from Dr. Seuss.

I was also able to cut out these cute little flower pieces to perfectly fit on crazy straws that I cut down to size.

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I was going for somewhat of a whimsical theme. If you want more details on how I constructed this giant cupcake bouquet, you can see this post for a rough idea of how it’s done. This particular one requires a great deal of tissue paper, crazy straws, round toothpicks and a cutting machine. However, I was just introduced to Hobby Lobby which opened in my city this weekend. I found tons and tons of ideas that would create a similar look without the machine. Think ting ting, floral sprays, glitter balls, butterflies, lollipops, etc. Really, I must have found a zillion things at Hobby Lobby that could have worked to embellish a cupcake bouquet like this. I’m not sure I’m exaggerating! <------ Okay, maybe just a tad…

 

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I used this buttercream frosting, and made the roses with a 2D tip. I have officially decided I prefer this tip to the 1M, though they both work just fine.

Did I mention we just got a Hobby Lobby? They have so many cake decorating supplies that I am beside myself. I’m sure there will be another Giant Cupcake Bouquet in my future.

They have fake flower embellishments in every color you could imagine.

They have myriads of cupcake liner colors.

And icing colors.

And pretty things that sparkle. Lots of pretty things that sparkle.

I told Rob he could pretty much buy me anything in that store and I’ll probably love it. There will be no need for him to ever go to another store to purchase gifts for me.

The signs.

The stamps.

The party supplies.

The decorations.

I’m seriously so in love. With a store. Which is pathetic.

But I own it. Not the store, my pathetic-ness.

Could you imagine if I actually OWNED the store?

It’s a beautiful thought, but for your sake one that I will not expound upon.

I need to get going and get back to reality, unfortunately. 

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Feel free to click here to see more cakes and cupcake bouquet ideas.