Monday, December 1, 2014

Super Simple MINECRAFT Cake

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My son, Titus, loves Minecraft. He talks about it. A LOT. Creeper-this. Endermen-that. Steve and mines and iron and diamond and pic-axes and…

IMG_3690My head nearly explodes every time he starts in on the newest thing he learned, or built, or mined, or… whatever! But I love him. More than life itself. So, in all of my spare time (read: I have no spare time these days), I wanted to make him a Minecraft cake for his 9th Birthday without spending a great deal of time on it. 

It just so happens that he had no Minecraft toys prior to this weekend. Minecraft toys (when properly washed) make great cake toppers. So I did what any good mom short on time would do. I gave him his gifts from us early, washed ‘em up and stuck them in the cake!

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Lest you think one can just plop toys on a cake, and call it a day, however… you must first consult the Minecraft master. Because soon you will find out that you can only mine iron (or is it diamond?) on certain levels. And that block of iron needs to be set into the cake. And Steve must come at it from above. And the creeper needs to fall just so with whatever that black thing is, landing right in front of him. And the little brown guy needs to be right next to Steve for some unknown reason. And it’s okay to have more than one Steve on the same cake because everybody’s Steve. And the witch and the mushroom and the gold…

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Oh, the gold! The kids got so excited when they saw a few gold coins sticking out of the cake. Little did they know, I had washed up one for each of them to stick in the middle of their slice of cake. Forget sugary party-favors and cheap toys. Gold dollar coins are where it’s at!

Tutorial

This isn’t step-by-step and it doesn’t include pictures of the cake making in process, but if you’re trying to figure out how to make one of these for your own little munchkin, let me give you a few tips.

1. Bake 3 layers of chocolate cake (I used two boxes) in square pans. Let them cool, then use a serrated knife to cut off any cake doming that may have formed while baking. Do as I say, not as I do. I got lazy on this cake and didn’t think it would be a big deal to leave the small domes on the cake. I was so very wrong. When stacking so many layers on one another it really is best for each layer to be perfectly flat. I’ve made enough cakes I should have known better. I did my best to fill in gaps with extra icing, but simply making the squares flat to begin with would have saved me a IMG_3696world of trouble and the cake would have been more ‘square’. 

(Make sure you line the pan with greased tin foil so you can easily lift the whole square out of the pan and onto a flat surface to finish cooling. Also, make sure the flat-side is down to prevent cracking.)

2. Make 1.5 batches of the basic Wilton buttercream recipe and add cocoa powder to about half of the icing to turn it into chocolate.

The other half I tinted green, until my son approved of the “perfect” color.

3. Next, put one layer of cake on the bottom and cover it with chocolate butter cream.

4. Then cut a small square out of the edge of the next layer before placing it on top of the first layer. Save the little square for later as it will soon become the top layer.

5. Place chocolate buttercream on top of the second layer where the third layer will go. It acts as a nice “glue” to hold the IMG_3703-002whole thing together.

5. Next, cut the third layer into a smaller square, so the corner just perfectly meets up with the corner of the missing piece (where Steve is pictured on the bottom level). If you get it cut wrong you can just keep adding pieces with more frosting acting as glue. Perfection is not the name of the game with this perfectly imperfect cake! Frost that layer where the top little square will go. 

6. Add the final small square on the top corner to make the 4th and final cake layer.

7. Crumble some of the cake pieces you’ve cut away and smash the small pieces up against the wet frosting that is between the layers on the sides. I just left the crumble pieces on the tray for authenticity though my son has informed me that the blocks stay in tact so it is, in fact, unrealistic for their to be “dirt” pieces around the base. But, I didn’t want to clean it up and I thought it looked cool. Titus said it would be okay if I left it that way even though it isn’t realistic. So I did!

8. Use a wilton “grass” tip to pipe the grass on top of the layers.

9. Finally, let your smarter-than-you-Minecraft-obsessed child show you exactly where to place all of the special toys to make the “perfect” Minecraft cake. Or better yet, have him wash up and do it himself. With your gentle guidance of course… everything has to be properly spaced and all!

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10. Let your super-excited kid give you hug after hug after hug for his “awesome” cake. And make him pose for pictures with your combined creation. 

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I love that he helped make this cake. I think he will remember this one for a very long time!

I might make cute cakes, but I make even cuter kids. Look at this handsome guy! It’s hard to believe he’s already 9 years-old. Yes, friends, that is half-way to adulthood.

I have more years of mothering behind me than I do before me.

I only have a few more years until talks of Minecraft, Lego and Starwars turn into talks about music, girls and who-knows-what-else.

Lord, let me treasure these days, for I know how fleeting they are. Thank you for giving me the gift of motherhood.

Thanks for giving me this amazing son. I am so grateful for this precious gift! He is everything I probably never would have thought to ask for in a son.

But clearly, you know best. I look forward to seeing him fulfill what you created him to do but more importantly, to become who you created him to be!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Autumn (and Disney!) Inspired Rustic Wedding Cake

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This weekend I had the pleasure of making a wedding cake for a sweet young lady, Kayla and her (now) husband, Dustin. I got to know her as a teenager in our youth group. I’m pretty sure she’s still 16—only now she has a husband and a masters degree. Which, clearly is impossible, because I was her youth leader just a few days ago. Ahem…

The wedding was adorable. It had a gorgeous vintage feel with subtle (and not-so-subtle) hints of Disney everywhere. I thought I was a Disney fan—I don’t come anywhere close to being as big of a fan as she is! I should’ve taken more pictures, though truly, you would have had to have been there to really feel the magic. It was as if a little bit of pixie dust had been sprinkled throughout!

They had a gorgeous dessert bar and decorations in every nook and cranny that looked like they jumped straight off a Pinterest board. Every little detail was perfectly tended to. And the bride. Oh. my. She looked radiant! I hope this day lived up to every fairy tale hope and dream she’s ever imagined!

While she was putting the finishing touches on her hair and make-up, I was putting the finishing touches on this cake. I spent Friday baking, splitting, filling and stacking. Luckily, I had a friend, Phyllis, over to help me get through the tedious parts (and she did my dishes!). Friday night I frosted the cake and Saturday morning I assembled the cake on site and added the raffia with the help of my professional driver and schlepper (aka: Rob , my husband) and my baking assistant (aka: Leeann, my 11 year-old daughter).

This adorable cake topper was ordered off of ETSY by the bride months in advance, but through a series of unfortunate events it didn’t end up arriving until THE DAY OF THE WEDDING. I woke up on Saturday morning trying to figure out a plan B for the cake topper. I was trying to decide if there was any way I could manage to sculpt something similar out of clay in a few short hours. I think I could have recreated the Disney pumpkins but the replica of this couple’s dogs would have been far more difficult to perfect in a few short hours.  Luckily though, the topper showed up at the post office just before I was about to head off to Hobby Lobby to see what I could come up with.

Which is great, because I also had someone coming to look at my house that’s on the market that afternoon. We “cleaned up” in about a half an hour by literally throwing all of my baking things into the dishwasher, just to get it off the counter and out of the way. I am constantly amazed by how much of a mess I manage to make when I’m decorating a cake. Luckily, like I said above, my whole family pitches in to help when I’m in baking mode!

In case you are finding yourself here from Pinterest-land and you’re wanting cake details, here are a few specs for you:

The top tier is 8”, the middle tier is 12”  and the bottom tier is 16”.  Each tier is 5” tall. An 18” cake board is supporting the cake. The raffia is twisted upon itself and fastened together with shorter pieces of raffia used to create the bows in the front of the cake. The rustic icing finish was done free hand with a spatula.

If you are new to wedding-cake making, let me encourage you to make sure you support and stack the layers well. There are a lot of tutorials out there that show you how to use dowels and cake boards to make sure your cake doesn’t fall apart. As a wedding coordinator and photographer I’ve seen enough wedding cakes tilt, sink, split or crumble to offer you this unsolicited piece of advice!

I am already looking forward to trying my hand at another wedding cake. It’s a bit stressful, but the end result makes all the work well worth it! It is my prayer that Kayla and Dustin enjoy life together to infinity and beyond. May they enjoy married life—the wildest ride in the wilderness. May all their dreams come true and may they live happily ever after! Thanks for including me in your special day!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

10 Ways to Help a Hurting Pastor’s Wife

My heart hurts for a pastor who has walked away from his church, regardless of the reason. My heart is heavy for the churches who typically endure a great deal of pain when a pastor steps down. My heart breaks for the pastor’s wife. 

She gets stuck in the middle.

Her husband is deeply wounded. Her church family hurts.

 Her kids are devastated. She’s flooded with emotions and her friends

don’t know how to respond. Her support system crumbles from

underneath her just when she needs it most.

10 ways to help a hurting pastors wife

Pastors often end up deeply wounded in ministry. At some point in their career, statistics tell us that the pressure, the isolation and the expectations will overwhelm most pastors to the point of calling it quits. If you click on the image below you will gain some valuable insight into why so many pastors leave the ministry.

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It will lead you to a wonderful website called www.expastors.com that is both refreshing and heartbreaking. On the one hand it’s good to know we’re not alone. On the other hand, it’s heartbreaking to know that on a regular basis so many others go through the same pain we’ve been through over this past year.

I find myself resonating with this post pictured below, also on on that website. It’s written by a fellow Pastor’s wife who knows the pain of leaving her church under less-than-ideal circumstances.

exp-scars-newIt’s always hard on a family when someone loses a job. But when a pastor loses his job, the whole family loses their church. They get torn away from their support system. They get separated from their friends and alienated from their social network. Most of the time it also means they have to leave their community, which includes their home, their kids’ schools, the wife’s job, etc. Everything that is common place for them suddenly disappears or is on the verge of disappearing at any moment. 

Either that, or they stay in the community and she regularly has to face the pain all over again, every time she runs into someone at the grocery store who wants the details of what happened, who wants to share their own hurt because of her husband’s departure, or who simply doesn’t know what to do or say, and awkwardly turns the other way when they see her coming. 

There doesn’t seem to be a rule book on how to support a hurting pastor’s wife who suddenly finds herself no longer a pastor’s wife. But there should be. Because, I tell you what—it’s an extremely painful place to be.

When my husband resigned 10 months ago, I could barely articulate a coherent sentence on most days, let alone give a graceful response to the many people who said, “Is there anything I can do to help?”

So, on behalf of all of the pastor’s wives who don’t know how to answer that question for themselves—and for all of the people that want to know how they can support her in the midst of her pain—let me present to you in no particular order:

10 Ways to Help a Hurting Pastor’s Wife

1. Pray for her. A lot. And let her know that you are praying for her. Has God laid her heavily on your heart? There’s a reason. She’s facing pressures from every direction and I can assure you that she deeply appreciates every prayer offered on her behalf.

2. Serve her. Are you close enough friends that you can walk into her home, grab a mop and get to work? If so, do it. After my husband resigned, we decided to go through with our previously planned trip to Disneyland. We had cancelled it. Then rescheduled. Then cancelled it again. Then decided fairly last minute just to get up and go. Our family desperately needed to get away. When we came home some anonymous cleaning fairies scrubbed my house from top to bottom. We’re talking sparkling blinds, light fixtures and appliances. I was a little bit embarrassed to know they’d found out my secret of how little I actually do those sorts of things, but none-the-less, it was a blessing beyond comprehension for me. Chances are, whatever caused the pastor and his wife to leave your church has been brewing for a while and/or this change came on suddenly and has left them scrambling, or in shock. Either way, housework is, has been, and will be the last thing on her mind for quite some time. If you aren’t close enough friends to barge into her house and give it a good scrub, consider weeding her yard. Plant flowers. Lay bark dust. Wash windows. Wash her car. Bring her a meal. Offer to do her grocery shopping for her so she doesn’t have to fear running into people and having to explain herself. All. Over. Again.

Whatever way you can serve her will be so very appreciated. It’s priceless to know that people care enough to take action.

3. Offer a service. Are you a mechanic, a real-estate agent, a handy-man, a masseuse, a hairstylist, a photographer, an amazing cook, a gifted ________________? While some cleaning fairies were attacking the inside of my house, a fix-it crew was fixing some dry rot under our sliding glass door. This act of kindness was overwhelming to both me and my husband. Another friend replaced our car stereo since I accidently shoved two CD’s in there. Dumb move, I know, but the gift of the stereo and the labor to replace it spoke volumes to us about this particular family’s desire to be supportive of us.

Consider how your ability to provide a service (either yourself or through connections) might be able to bless this family. They may need to get their house on the market right away, see what you can do to help. They may need updated family pictures to attach to resumes for new positions. They may need help budgeting. Their car might be having issues and now the thought of taking it in to get serviced is enough to paralyze them because of the high cost. Are you gifted at writing resumes? Can you help look for jobs? Can you babysit or take her kids for the weekend so she can have some space to breathe and process? 

4. Give her a gift. I know for us, the second the “winds began to change” at our church, a year ago now, we immediately went in to survival mode. We spent only what we needed to spend, only when we needed to spend it. There were no luxuries to be had because we had no idea how long we’d be unemployed (I was also employed at the church part-time as the Children’s Ministry Director). A friend of mine paid for me to take a cooking class with her and another friend offered to pay for me to go to Women’s Camp. A previous pastor and his wife who know the pains of leaving a church all-too-well gave me two bouquets of flowers—one for mourning and one for new beginnings. I’ve had friends take me out to lunch or coffee—their treat. Our kids got well-timed hand-me-downs. It doesn’t have to be expensive. One of my favorite gifts given to us during this time is when another pastor’s family took a walk in the snow to bring us some fresh baked chocolate chip cookies.

All of these things and more, were priceless and filled very real, very practical needs for our family during a time of grief, trials and unknowns. And most of all, they all added up to regular reminders that people still cared about us and that our God is a God who provides.

5. Write her a note of appreciation. Tell her specifically how she’s impacted your life. Being a pastor’s wife is tough. An article I came across recently states that she’s the most vulnerable person in the church. When she’s just watched her husband either crumble or suffer great wounds at the hands of other’s, you can times that by 10. Either way the cookie crumbles, whether it was “his fault” or “their fault” or “everybody’s fault”, she’s left to not only deal with the grief herself, but also to try to hold her family together in the midst of it all.

She needs encouragement. She needs to know that the last ______ years of ministry she’s put in at the church haven’t been wasted. She needs to be able to cling to the good to have any hope of looking past the bad. But she won’t know what you don’t tell her. So please, please, please, let her know you care by writing her a note of appreciation—specifically one that tells of how she (or she and her husband) have impacted your life in a positive way.

6. Give her money. Churches aren’t always known for paying their pastors well, and most pastors aren’t eligible for unemployment benefits. Many pastors feel they have no marketable skills to provide for their family outside of a church setting and frankly, most aren’t ready to head straight back into a new ministry after leaving a church. Hopefully the church has offered some semblance of a severance package, but often that decision isn’t made for a while after they’ve left, or it’s conditional on things like not talking about what happened (sad, but true). Often, it’s simply not enough to carry them for very long and sometimes it isn’t offered at all. If you have the ability to help fill in the gap, please consider doing so. Cash is lovely, but so are gift cards, groceries, or anonymously paid bills (electricity, water, garbage, etc.). If God has laid this family on your heart, consider how He may be able to use you to answer their prayers for provision in their time of need.

Do you have the ability to help the pastor’s family “get away” for a little while? Do you have hotel points? A cabin? Connections to cheap places to stay and/or people who might chip in to make this happen? Trust me, this family needs to get away. This isn’t a want, this is a need, and it’s not a need most families can accommodate on their own—you know, since they are now unemployed. But the reality is, it’s needed now more than ever. They need space to clear their head. They need to think and pray. They need to process together. And they need to not run into people at the grocery store for a little while.

If a pastor’s wife is leaving both the church and her husband due to his moral failures, I implore you to wrap your arms around her in love and make it your personal goal to provide for her and her children. Be the hands, the feet and the arms of Christ to a woman who is devastated above and beyond what any of us could begin to imagine.  

7. Don’t talk about why she left. This one’s a little tricky. Of course you want to know the details of why they left your church, that’s human nature. She may want to tell you—in which case, listen attentively—but she may not. Don’t ask and don’t pry.  Sometimes the reason that she left is quite personal and frankly—none of your business. Pastors, pastor’s wives and pastor’s kids have struggles and failures too. Unfortunately, theirs are often put under a high-powered microscope and affect every aspect of their lives. Sometimes, however they are leaving due to misunderstandings, sometimes it was because of personality conflicts, power-struggles or even out-right deceit and malice on the part of someone else. Perhaps they are just burned out. Maybe God has clearly called them elsewhere and it’s just time for them to go. There are a lot of reasons pastors leave churches. It’s a demanding job that often has very little tangible rewards. If she wants to talk, let her do it on her own terms, with whomever she feels comfortable sharing.

8. Don’t gossip. Whatever you do, don’t repeat anything she’s told you in confidence. If you aren’t sure if what she told you is common knowledge, ask if she minds you sharing what you told her… or better yet, don’t say anything at all. To anyone. Ever. If you hear others talking about why they left the church, instead of correcting the misinformation, direct them back to her or her husband. I know for us, we were willing to answer direct questions people had, but we were not wanting to stir up strife so we just kind of quietly retreated. It has hurt to hear of so many rumors that have flown around about why we left, especially the ones that are completely untrue or really off-base. We made the determination early on that God would be our defender and we let our words be few. But, we were more than happy to address misinformation when it was asked of us directly. Don’t hesitate to ask if you really feel it would be beneficial for you to have a clearer understanding, but be mindful of not prying if the pastor or his wife aren’t wanting to talk. I know this flies in the face of #7 in some ways, but hopefully you can see the distinction.  

9. Be a good friend and don’t let her wallow. Have you ever just felt numb? There are two events in my adult life that have left me numb. One was when I lost a much wanted baby, and the other was when we resigned from a church we loved. I don’t know to accurately describe how I felt in the days, weeks and months to follow.  I felt weak. I struggled to put my thoughts together, let alone express them productively. I almost felt paralyzed.

I quite literally needed other people to come along side of me and help me process my grief. I needed friends to call and check-in. I have a friend who still regularly checks in on me on Sundays or Mondays because she knows how hard Sundays have been for me. I needed friends to convince me to get up and get out of the house. I needed them to help me find hope on the horizon. Yet, I also needed them to acknowledge my pain.

When trying to care for a hurting Pastor’s wife who has just left a church, let her grieve, but don’t let her wallow. She might not be a great deal of fun to be around, but friendship perseveres through sickness and in health. She doesn’t have much to give right now—so let me encourage you to be her friend selflessly through this season. Don’t give up on her. Drag her out of the house if you need to. Help her see the hope on the horizon. Point her back to the arms of Jesus. Be there for her, always.

10. Acknowledge her pain. There are very few jobs that a man can have that automatically obligate his wife to a certain role. Dignitaries and pastors. That’s pretty much it. Though she’s not (typically) employed by the church, she fills a very unique, very important role. Good, bad, or otherwise, a lot of who she is is wrapped up in this role that she’s held as the wife of the pastor.

And just like that—it’s over. She is no longer the pastor’s wife. I thought I’d always be a pastor’s wife. The call of God on my husband’s life seemed so clear. Believe you me, I wouldn’t be writing on a blog called Real Life Pastor’s Wife if I had any doubt. Because seriously, I haven’t figured out what to do with my blog title, and my header and my bio now that I am no longer a pastor’s wife, but I digress…

Like I stated at the beginning of this article, her husband is deeply wounded. Her church family hurts. Her kids are devastated. She’s flooded with emotions and her friends don’t know how to respond. Her support system crumbles from underneath her just when she needs it most.

It’s okay to not know what to say, but saying something, anything, is almost always better than saying nothing. Because saying nothing implies that you don’t notice her pain—or worse yet—that you notice but don’t care. Clearly you do care, or you wouldn’t be reading about 10 Ways to Help a Hurting Pastor’s Wife!

I hope you find these suggestions helpful. It is my prayer that God will use this experience in my life to help others, just like he has used other people’s experiences and pain to help me through my own. God has used so many people to be of support and encouragement to me and my family over this past year, and for that I am so very grateful!

If you’ve been a hurting pastor’s wife, or walked alongside of one as she’s grieved the loss of her church, what are some additional things you would add to this list?

Friday, October 17, 2014

My Dream is but a Dream

I’ve had several people ask me recently about opening up a bakery. Which makes sense, considering my recent post. However, perhaps I didn’t emphasize the last part clearly enough. We’re an anti-debt kind of family. And I currently have $30 in my bakery envelope. I’ll let you sit on that a bit and mull over the likelihood of me actually opening up a bakery in the near future.

Regardless, I have let myself dream a little bit about what it would be like to move into an unconventional space that would allow us to both live and run a bakery out of the same location. That would be cool. That, we would actually consider. That could actually make sense. Except for the fact that the likelihood of finding a space that fits that bill is about as likely as my $30 multiplying quickly enough to turn this dream into anything more than—well—a dream.

But still, I’ve tested a few recipes lately, like these delicious pumpkin spice scones. I’ve landed on a name for my ‘business’—I think. I’ve worked a little bit on logo design ideas and price lists. I checked out some books at the library and I’ve spent way too much time on Pinterest.

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Really though, it’s probably all a feeble attempt to figure out what’s next for our family. Rob’s job is a limited duration job and my job is phasing out over the next few months. We’re putting our house on the market to be ready for what’s next—whenever that comes about. Even if we stay here we know our home isn’t a good long-term fit for us, so that step seems to make sense. I feel so anxious to know what’s next that I’ll be honest—I’m having a hard time resting in what is. People. We’re so complicated, aren’t we?

So in some ways, dreaming about scones and cupcakes gives me something tangible that I can mull over during this stage of life when absolutely EVERYTHING is up in the air. It allows me to dream about the possibility of making money doing something I truly enjoy doing. Whether we try to replant our uprooted roots locally or plant them elsewhere, I can always count on the fact that I will have an oven. And wherever I have an oven, I can bake cupcakes. And if I can bake cupcakes, I can feed people. If people like the cupcakes I feed them, I can sell cupcakes. And if I can sell cupcakes, I can make money. If I can make money doing something I enjoy then I don’t have to fret about making money doing something I don’t enjoy. 

Rob’s been kind enough to indulge and encourage my dreaming and scheming lately while still offering his readily available voice of reason into the mix. I need that man. And he needs me. God couldn’t have brought together two more different people that compliment each other so well. Except, he doesn’t really like cupcakes. Ironic, isn’t it?

So, there you have it, folks. Don’t hold your breath for Robyn’s Nest Bakery to open it’s doors any time soon. But, I’m always up for baking you something beautiful! 

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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!