Friday, June 19, 2015

What Being Married Mothers in Ministry Means

This week I sat with rooms full of VBS kids and told them the story of God's love. I told them that He is compassionate, that He knows them, that He sees them, that He made them, and that He has a plan for them. I compared the miracle of grace to skiing. I admitted how easy it is for us to forget Him, just like we forget to pick up our dirty laundry. I told them the good news of the gospel is as exciting to talk about as the topic of bathrooms exploding because anytime you talk about bathrooms exploding, kids listen.

Little minds turned right in front of me all week, trying to understand a God who loves us no matter what. Their eyes glazed over when the stories got slow. Then light bulbs flashed on with brilliant joy when they finally "got it".

I was in the midst of a glory cloud as children responded with obedient hearts to God's call to salvation and lordship. Angels rejoiced in heaven because the Kingdom grew this week, and then I went home and fought my own exhaustion and sinful impatience as I attempted to keep up with my regular life as a mom, a minister, and a pastor's wife. 

My people are tired. My people are grouchy. We are straining against the currents of our weary souls. We trudge upstream every day, and we are making it through the week one bad attitude adjustment at a time.

All along the way, words keep accumulating in my heart. I know I have pages and pages to write before I am done. I feel the book growing inside me. It taps my shoulder and pulls my mind away from all this mothering and ministry. It is a beloved burden, and I treasure its presence in my life.

The burden I treasure the least is the call to subdue the mess in our house. That is a responsibility I would like to shirk completely, thanks so much.

Every night, Mr. Fantastic and I have strategic church conversations, strategic children conversations, and a summer schedule to organize. We sit close and cozy in the quiet of our home and focus on everything except that schedule so romance can catch us up above the crowded calendar.

Life is good. Life is full. Life is hard.

When I hear women say that their only real priority is their family, I want to applaud them. They seem so sure. It seems so obvious and simple to have a singular focus. I sometimes wish my own journey could be as clearly defined as that. Most days I am a piece of saran wrap stretched over a compartmentalized cafeteria plate that God filled a little too full. I'm just trying get through lunch with everything still in the spot God dished it.

God's loving call will not relent until the work is done- in my soul, in my marriage, in my kids, in my writing, in ministry, and in His Kingdom. Some days, it's more than I know how to manage.

But the truth is I love the spontaneity and unpredictability of our life. I mostly enjoy hopping from homeschooling to writing a chapter to baseball practice to baking cookies to reading for Bible study to planning meetings to folding laundry to blogging to painting the kitchen to praying with someone in need. I cherish each moment one role at a time: wife, mom, minister. I cram it all in but don't do it all at once- that would be soul suicide.

This method of living is insane and wonderful. Along the way, though, arises a general inadequacy in understanding what it means to be a married mother in the ministry. I've tried dumping a responsibility here and there, but it's impossible. God delights in creeping up on me and tenderly laying the responsibilities back at my feet every time.

Here lies the challenging part of the marriage+mother+ministry equation: there is no playbook to follow. Many of us are the first women in our families to attempt this hat trick of leadership.

We are the first generation of women collectively attempting to lead well as we submit to our husband's headship. We grapple with the strange call on our lives to bear the full glory of womanhood in the modern world. Hopefully our husbands see the tension we face, and can muster the courage to help us find our way when leadership roles, schedules, and church/family structures are difficult for us to navigate.

We are among the first to preach in the pulpit, to publicly lead men as well as women in worship and in wisdom. We have the eyes of our culture locked on us in search of answers to the dilemma birthed by the desire to mother well in the midst of other leadership roles and responsibilities.

It isn't that it hasn't ever been done, it's just that it hasn't ever been attempted so publicly by so many.

I stand in wonder at the sight of all the women who long to be everything God has called them to be.

I believe in all of you. 

It takes work and sacrifice and a magnitude of love to make your life happen. I see you up late writing sermons and up early packing lunches. I feel your despair when you have to choose who to lovingly disappoint: the woman who needs counsel or the child who needs his mama. I know the strain of laying aside your own plan because your husband has to work late after all. I can even smell the rottenness of criticism levied against you by people who could love you better if they tried. You are brave to patiently wait as they find their own way through the darkness.

You are all my heroes, and the words I spoke to 150 kids today, I also give to you: God's plan is to love you forever, and nothing can ever stop His plan. No matter what. Not even if you are Saran Wrap that has come a little loose and made a bit of a mess. You are a pioneer in the Kingdom, and if you follow well, Jesus will lead you right where you need to go.

It's a privilege to walk beside you and to be a small part of what God is doing in the earth through His daughters. May His Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven, and may our hearts thrill as His presence meets our perseverance and we see His glory expand.

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