It Isn’t Just Me: “The Harvest Raise” on Being a Pastor’s Wife

I’ve recently finished reading Katie Schuermann’s new book, The Harvest Raise. I enjoy Schuermann’s Anthems of Zion books because they aptly reflect the life of a Lutheran congregation in a small, Midwestern town (although seeing how Bradbury has a college, it would be much bigger than our little town here in Iowa). The books are good for a quick read with some clean laughs along the way (with sound theology!).

What I wasn’t expecting in The Harvest Raise was a peek into my parsonage life–but there it was. Several times I felt shock as Pastor and Emily Fletcher struggled to balance church and family in the same ways I struggle. Those were my struggles, my emotions, my sins. But clearly I am not alone in those thoughts and actions if they were in a book.

For example, Schuermann succinctly described the unique stress of a pastor’s job by explaining,

“Church Stress was [Emily’s] nemesis. It stole her husband’s thoughts and robbed her of his time and attention. It was an invisible thief, and she felt so helpless against its advances. Other than offering up prayers to God for mercy, all she could do was watch from the sidelines as it paralyzed her husband and ate him alive from the inside out,” (91).

Speak to almost any pastor’s wife about the difficulties of life in the ministry and one of the first thing she will mention is how hard it is to watch her husband struggle with things he cannot discuss with her. I know that pastor’s wives struggle with Church Stress but it’s refreshing to be clearly reminded of that.

Likewise, Schuermann has her characters tackle the balance of one man being a pastor and husband. When Emily comes home crying after an altar guild meeting, Pastor quickly tries to figure out the best way to comfort her because,

“He also knew better than to say anything too pastoral in the first inning of the game. Nope, an early swing would most definitely result in a foul ball and an irreversible call made from his ump of a bride: ‘I need you to be my husband, not my pastor!'” (147).

I have certainly shouted at my husband before to stop “pastoring” me because I needed him to be my husband.

One of the biggest surprises I learned from the Fletchers is that pastors and pastors’ wives having fights on Saturdays is actually a “thing”. Schuermann writes,

“The spiritual battle in the parsonage was real. It often was on Saturday nights. Whether it was the devil and his minions sabotaging the upcoming Sabbath with attacks against Pastor’s peace of mind or simply the sinful humans in the house indulging their nefarious natures, there was no doubt that powers and principalities and even people–small and tall–were opposed to God’s servant of the Word having a good night’s sleep before preaching in the pulpit,” (318).

I am not a patient woman. Far too often I lose my cool as church work eats away at our Saturday and my anger flares up while making dinner (apparently the witching hour isn’t just for children). I honestly thought I was just the Worst Wife Ever for letting my temper loose on the one evening a week I know my husband is preoccupied with fine tuning his sermon and Bible study. Nobody ever mentioned that this is a common struggle, yet here it is in print proving that I’m not the Worst Wife Ever but just your average sinful pastor’s wife.

These are just a few examples from the inside of the Fletchers’ parsonage that are oh-so-common for pastors’ families. I am so thankful that Katie Schuermann wrote The Harvest Raise–I desperately needed the reminder that my parsonage life isn’t so unique after all.


Book Recommendation: “God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It”

Looking for a great baptism gift for a little one? Have I a book for you!

God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It illustrated by Jonathan Mayer shows the lifelong gift that baptism provides through the text of the hymn “God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It.” The book journeys through a boy’s life, from the baptismal font as an infant to the end of his earthly life and start of his eternal life in Heaven. The illustrations are beautiful and engaging and the hymn text is the same that is found in the Lutheran Service Book.

We got this book for Sweet Pea for Christmas. She’s rather indifferent towards it (as she is to most things since she’s only 2 months old), but 2-year-old Babykins loves it. She asks me to sing it 3 or 4 times whenever she pulls out the book. A good bonus to this book is that I’m in the process of memorizing the hymn just from sheer repetition (I find this much more useful to me than memorizing Chicka Chicka Boom Boom). Likewise, my husband used the book while teaching about baptism to his confirmation students. He said that they actually enjoyed having the hymn illustrated so clearly despite them being in 6th and 7th grade and past the age of picture books.

God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It: Buy it, sing it, enjoy it!

 


Babykins’s Favorite Thanksgiving Book

Babykins’s favorite Thanksgiving book is Over the River and Through the WoodsShe loves hearing Lydia Maria Child’s poem sung and observing woodcut illustrations by Christopher Mason. My parents bought her the book last year for her first Thanksgiving. At 2 months old, she didn’t care one bit about it then, but this year she pulls it off the shelf and has me read through it a couple of times per reading session. I highly recommend this book!


Book Review: Boob Hell

I’m a little late to the game with this book, but last week I read Boob Hell by Rebekah Curtis.  The book is the true story of a Mrs. Curtis’s breastfeeding journey with her firstborn.  As the title indicates, feeding her daughter wan’t a joyfully magical time that books like The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding portray a breastfeeding relationship to be (to be fair, I did read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding before Babykins was born and it is a knowledgeable resource.  I just had to separate myself from their romantic notions about breastfeeding).

Boob Hell is a quick read.  While sometimes the character names are difficult to follow (she refers to her husband as “Dad”, her mom as “Grandma”, and so on) and the conclusion could have been longer, I found myself laughing at many of her humorous descriptions of the difficult aspects of breastfeeding.  I also found myself almost in tears in some parts as she aptly described similar situations Babykins and I have dealt with.  From the difficultly of dragging your postpartum self to your newborn’s baptism to utilizing equipment that you didn’t know existed before becoming a mother (*cough* breast shells *cough*), her story relates to my own (although I think I’m going through what she labels “Boob Purgatory”–I haven’t had anywhere near the amount of pain she has described, mostly because a lactation consultant gave me a nipple shield on my second day of breastfeeding).  Most of all, I found myself relating to her anger about how unprepared new mothers often are for the physical and emotional toil to feed our children.

One of her last comments about breastfeeding shows how widely women’s experiences can vary:

Some people have nursing easy and some people don’t.  Some people quit and some people don’t even start.  Some people love nursing and some people hate it.  Some people get skinny nursing and some can’t.  Some babies get huge nursing and some are tiny.  Most people without any personal experience of breastfeeding don’t get how it completely takes over your life, and you just have to be nice to them about it.  Those are the things everybody should know. (pg. 137)

So who should read this book?  Aside from anyone who wants to, women who have experience breastfeeding would probably enjoy it the most–Be that someone who only breastfed for a few weeks or months, are currently breasfeeding, or have breastfeed numerous children.  It would not be helpful for an expectant mother because it may terrify her.  Rather, give her a book like The Womanly Art of Breasfeeding, help her build some sort of breastfeeding support system, and be ready to sympathize with her once the baby arrives and breastfeeding isn’t going perfectly.


Anne Shirley on Being the Minister’s Wife

I recently read Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and wonder why I haven’t read the book before now.  At any rate, Anne is a vivacious character who has no problem stating her opinions on any topic.  In chapter 21, she meets the new minister and his wife.  Upon coming home, she told her guardian, Marilla, this:

“And besides, we met the new minister and his wife coming from the station. . . His wife is very pretty.  Not exactly regally lovely, of course–it wouldn’t do, I suppose, for a minister to have a regally lovely wife, because it might set a bad example.  Mrs. Lynde says the minister’s wife over at Newbridge sets a very bad example because she dresses so fashionably.  Our new minister’s wife was dressed in blue muslin with lovely puffed sleeves and a hat trimmed with roses.  Jane Andrews said she though puffed sleeves were too worldly for a minister’s wife, but I didn’t make any such uncharitable remark, Marilla, because I know what it is to long for puffed sleeves.  Besides, she’s only been a minister’s wife for a little while, so one should make allowances, shouldn’t they?”

The good news for me:  I wouldn’t describe myself as “regally lovely”, nor do I wear puffed sleeves.  At least I’ve got that going for me!


Introvert Monday: When Children’s Books Understand Introversion

It’s been awhile since I’ve written an “Introvert Monday” post.  Sorry!

Last week I was reading my youngest nanny charge One, Two, Three! by Sandra Boynton.  Since many of Sandra Boynton’s books weren’t published until after I had outgrown board books, reading her books are new to me.  Consequently, I had no idea that One, Two, Three! understood introversion.  First, the book took us counting up to 10 while looking at illustrations of animals doing funny things like having tea or exploring a cave.  *Spoilers*  But the last few pages went like this:

Ten makes a celebration LOUD, LOUD, LOUD!  And ONE is WONDERFUL after a crowd.

I smiled as I finished the story.  I might be trying to glean too much from a children’s book, but I felt that here was an author encouraging young readers to spend time alone and not to feel like they always have to be having fun in a crowd.  The illustrations also encourage this idea.  On the “Ten” page, nine animals march around with noisy instruments while the tenth animal (a little cat) gives a bug-eyed look to the reader.  On the last “One” page, the same little cat gives a relaxed smile as he stands alone on the page, because one is truly wonderful after a crowd.


Degrees in the Liberal Arts: What Value Do They Have?

Earlier this week, an opinion column from the New York Times was floating around on my Facebook newsfeed.  In the column, the author makes a case for the humanities, specifically English majors.  She (at least I think she is a woman.  I’ve never heard the name Verlyn before) easily points out the benefit of an education in the humanities by stating, “What many undergraduates don’t know–and what many of their professors have been unable to to tell them–is how valuable the most fundamental gift of the humanities will turn out to be.  That gift is clear thinking, clear writing and a lifelong engagement with literature.”

I have a degree in Sociology and Linguistics and a minor in English.  Technically sociology is a soft science, but it provides many of the benefits the author discusses in her article.  My husband is an Ancient Civilizations major.  Consequently, we both see the value of degrees in the humanities and liberal arts in general.  We both learned how to read well and think deeply through our studies.

However, we both realize that none of our majors and minors directly feed into a job.  My husband has often said, “I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t decided to go to the seminary.”  When people ask me what sort of jobs sociology brings, I truthfully answer, “Grad school.”  Even the author of this article admits that, “Undergraduates will tell you that they’re under pressure — from their parents, from the burden of debt they incur, from society at large — to choose majors they believe will lead as directly as possible to good jobs.”  Humanities and the liberal arts just don’t do this.

Take the education section of my resume for example.  This is what I see when submitting it:

my resume

This is what potential employers see when I submit my resume:

others resume

When employers only glance through resumes to narrow down the applications, it’s hard for degrees in the liberal arts to show their full potential.  Consequently, there is a strong incentive to get degrees in majors that lead to jobs or even skip the bachelor’s degree and go to a trade school.  Truth be told, if I were to do my education over again I would probably choose a major that provided more hard skills–or at least get my TESL certification.  While I enjoyed my studies in college and can often see the ways those classes shaped my thought process, it certainly hasn’t helped pay the bills.

movies

Yes, this is me preparing to bludgeon someone with a book.

I don’t have an answer for our society’s education conundrum.  Perhaps it would be best to forget about educating students in the humanities.  After all, even if a college requires it as a gen. ed., students are prone to just complain about wasted time and money.  I’ve heard many(not all) engineering students claim that they should be exempt from classes like rhetoric and introductory literature classes because they have more important classes to take.  With an attitude like that, they won’t get anything out of the class.  You can lead a horse to water. . .

Perhaps it would be better to educate employers about the advantage a degree in the humanities provides.  Maybe it would work to encourage college students to pursue two degrees:  one to provide the hard skills to catch employers’ eyes and one to provide the soft skills that will eventually be valued.

Or maybe the answer doesn’t lie in degrees and employment at all.  The best solution may be to raise children to appreciate and love the humanities so that they are inclined to learn on their own well after they are through school.


Introvert Monday: This Is So True

My sister linked me to this comic the other day.  Her depiction of introversion is spot on and her drawings are, well, actually drawingslife like instead of doodles.  And her character even has red hair!

In other news, I finally bought The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D.  I’m very excited to reread this book!  I hope to highlight some of the important points from her findings and share them with you.


Our Book Table

table of books

My husband and I have a coffee table in our living room, but we never put coffee cups on it.  Instead, we use it as a bookshelf.  It started innocently enough–at first we only put books on there that we were currently reading.  However, as this year has gone on, we’ve started piling books on the coffee table that we are reading, think that we might like to read, or books that we have pulled out for reference.

Yesterday I realized that we had cluttered up the coffee table with a huge pile of books (again).  Likewise, I noticed that we had an interesting conglomeration of topics.  Consequently, I decided to note all the titles of all the books on our coffee table:

-Xenocide
-The Highly Sensitive Person
-The Lutheran Service Book (Gift Edition)
-The Two Towers
-ESV Bible (Note taking edition)
-The Lord Will Answer: A Daily Prayer Catechism
-I Trust When Dark My Road: A Lutheran View of Depression 
-Cooking for Geeks
-And She Was Christian: Why Do Believers Commit Suicide?
-The Introvert Advantage
-The Introvert's Way
-Blogging for Dummies
-I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar
-The Silmarillian
-Broken: 7 "Christian" Rules that Every Christian Ought to Break as Often as Possible
-The Lutheran Study Bible

I didn’t even count the books that had piled up on our end tables.  Sheesh.  Anyway, as I put away some of our books, I decided that perhaps a better way of keeping books out is to have an empty bookshelf (or at least an empty shelf or two) in our living room.  That way we could put books were weren’t immediately reading on the empty shelves and not clutter up the coffee table.  There is a practical aspect to this solution as well–it’s easier to pull a book off a shelf than to move around piles of books to get to the one I want.  I would try to implement this system immediately, but it seems silly to rearrange our books since we’re moving in about a month.

And for those of you concerned that I don’t understand the joy of being surrounded by books, don’t worry–There are still six or seven books strewn across the coffee table (even after I “cleaned up”).  🙂

What do you use as a pseudo-bookshelf?  


Book Review: Broken

talking to people

Well, I’m technically not busy right now, but between some in-depth post ideas, trying to help pull together the seminary wives newsletter, and this weird thing called “actually interacting with people,” I feel like I have about a million things whirling through my brain.  Consequently, today you’re getting my review of Broken:  7 “Christian” Rules that Every Christian Ought to Break as Often as Possible by Johnathan Fisk.

I read Broken several weeks ago, quickly calling “dibs” on it as soon as my husband bought it.  It was awesome!  Pastor Fisk takes a close look at our culture today and discusses the root of the problems within our churches instead of attacking the symptoms.  Additionally, he shows that these root problems (a.k.a. the “Christian” rules to be broken) are not new to our culture, but are commonly old heresies that deviate from God’s Word and hide under the guise of modern ideas.  The opening chapter states, “This [disappearance of belief in a pure Word from God] is nothing new.  It has happened before, and it will happen again.  But every time it happens, every time Christianity declines in a society, it happens for the same reason:  because genuine believers tried laying a foundation on something other than God’s Word,” (pg. 14).  With topics like mysticism and prosperity, Pastor Fisk shows how easily we Christians wrongly try to replace God’s Word with something of our own creation.

While Pastor Fisk’s metaphors get a bit long at times, his proclamation of  the Gospel at the end of every chapter bring comfort to any Christian struggling to make sense of our chaotic world and the disturbing trends we see in American Christianity.

Image from amazon.com