My husband gets 3 Sundays off a year. While 3 Sundays off is more than some pastors get, we still have to consider carefully how to best use these Sundays. Last year we used 2 of the Sundays for vacations (because we’ve found that a vacation isn’t really a vacation when he still has to write a sermon) but saved the third Sunday for after Sweet Pea was born. That way he could take a full week off as we tried to settle into our new normal.
Unfortunately, the week Sweet Pea was born was a Sunday that my husband hadn’t lined up an “on call” substitute (it was Thanksgiving weekend and his go-to subs were either already booked or out of town). My husband suggested that he take the following Sunday off but I was anxious to get Sweet Pea baptized on that Sunday. I came up with a different solution: He get a substitute pastor to preach but he would do the rest of the service, including the baptism. My rational at the time (which was just a few days postpartum, so not thinking clearly) was that not writing a sermon would free up time in his schedule during the week and that Sunday could still seem vacation-like. It made sense in the moment. :p
At any rate, the night before the baptism we were under a winter storm advisory. Several inches of snow was predicted to fall overnight and continue until late morning. I spent that Saturday fretting about the possibly of church being cancelled and not being able to get Sweet Pea baptized. I started asking my husband if we could still do the baptism even if church was cancelled. One of the in town elders could witness it for the sake of good order and whatnot. Worry, worry, worry. Fret, fret, fret.
Sunday morning arrived and while the roads weren’t great, members who lived in town could still safely get to church. The service was still on!
We arrived at church about 20 minutes prior to the service. I rushed to get Babykins settled and Sweet Pea dressed in her baptismal gown. However, since family members were there to help, we were actually settled into the pew in time for the pre-service announcements. As my husband read through the announcements, he casually mentioned, “Well, Pastor M. hasn’t arrived yet, so let’s hope he gets here in time for the sermon. Otherwise, I’ll be preaching off the cuff!” Since I have a terrible poker face, my husband glanced at my face and stated,
If you read the title of this post, you can already guess what happened: Pastor M. didn’t make the service. So my husband preached a five minute sermon without any preparation. I missed most of the sermon because I was feeding Sweet Pea but apparently the congregation liked the content. Definitely not a Sunday off for him, but it made for a memorable service!
Note: Pastor M. was fine and had a legitimate reason for missing the service (as could have been assumed since pastors don’t just forget to go to church). His car had slid off the snowy road and got stuck in a ditch. He had texted my husband to tell him this but my husband had already locked his phone in his office.
Despite not having a summer break anymore, it’s hard not to feel like life will be a little less chaotic when we flip the calendar to June. The town becomes alive with happy children pedaling their bicycles to the pool and neighbors taking longer walks around town. Even my husband’s schedule gives the appearance of calm. Confirmation is on break for the summer and he doesn’t have monthly chapel duties at the Lutheran school 20 miles away. And, for a moment, we think that we’ll have a little reprieve from the rigors of pastoral life.
But June is a trickster month. While children are on summer vacation and confirmation class isn’t a weekly obligation, June is the month of VBS and weddings. Illness and death also don’t take a summer break and still strike when they please.
So, here we are, midway through June: 2 funerals completed, a wedding and VBS still coming. My husband and I are giving each other frazzled looks asking, “How did June get so busy?!” And I would like to say that we were naive and didn’t know to expect this, but the June did the EXACT same thing to us last year. In fact, I remember telling myself, “Next year we’ll know that June isn’t a quiet month.” How could I have forgotten?!
Now, don’t worry about us. We’ll survive June and we’ll go on a family vacation later in July (because nothing says “relaxation” like driving across 3.5 states with a toddler). The end of July and August do promise to be our calmer time of year (it was last year as well), so we’ll get our reprieve. And next year we’ll remember that June isn’t a quiet month and it won’t lure us in with its false claim of summer calm.
The last funeral my husband had occurred the week of Thanksgiving. And can you guess what happened a few days ago? Yup, another member died, meaning there’s a funeral Saturday, church Sunday, and the start of Lent next Wednesday.
I hope this isn’t the new trend for the start of midweek services.
It’s one of those weeks when extra duties for the church and a holiday crash into one another. An elderly church member died Thursday night, so my husband has a funeral service tomorrow afternoon. He also has an extra service this week on Wednesday night for Thanksgiving. We’re traveling a couple of hours on Thanksgiving to visit family. And then Sunday comes again and all the preparations that come with it.
Yes, it’s one of those weeks where my husband is busy at work and thinking about work when he’s at home. It’s one of those weeks where the majority of travel preparations fall on me. It’s one of those weeks were quality time for my husband and me is limited. It’s one of those weeks that the upcoming chaos of Advent and Christmas looms over our heads.
But you know what? This is okay. Not ideal, but okay. We will get through this week. We may be a little more tired than normal and our patience may be a bit short. Our routine may not operate as smoothly as usual. But we will live.
Being able to have this perspective is one of the advantages of being done with my husband’s first year in the ministry. I know now that there are just going to be weeks like this. Most people have them, even if their husbands aren’t pastors. Likewise, I understand that most likely it will be over a month before we can catch up on rest and relaxation, but there will be a quieter time eventually. It may not be when we think it should come and we may have to purposely set aside time, but it will arrive. That is the ebb and flow of our parsonage life.
P.S.–Lest you think I have this whole pastor’s family thing figured out, feel free to check in on my attitude in a few weeks when the craziness of Advent is in full swing. My guess is that I’ll still have a breakdown or two. 🙂
July 6 was my husband’s one-year anniversary of his ordination. Not to sound cliche, but this past year has flown by–it took my by surprise to realized that we are no longer in the first year of his ministry!
Obviously after only a year, I’m no expert at this whole “Pastor’s Family” thing. However, having gone through the first year has given me some unexpected insights.
1. I often don’t think of myself as a “Pastor’s Wife”. I spent the seminary years taking advice from many pastor’s wives on how to handle this vocation. I was prepared to build my “Pastor’s Wife” persona with whatever congregation called my husband. However, I now realize that I rarely think of myself as a “Pastor’s Wife”. If I were to tell people about myself, I would first say that I’m a wife and mother. I might even mention that I fancy myself something of a writer. But a “Pastor’s Wife”? At most, I might mention that my husband is a pastor.
2. The congregation members let me keep to myself. Again, after spending the seminary years learning about what the life of a pastor’s wife would look like, I was prepared to say no to many church activities. However, the people here mostly leave me alone. There’s been minimal pressure to join the LWML and no one has asked me to do anything like teach Sunday School or head up social events. I’ve been given my space, and I appreciate that.
Of course, having a baby during this first year probably help lessen the pressure. 🙂
3. It’s hard to adjust to the “forever home” mentality. During the seminary years, I became skilled at not becoming attached to places. Now that we’re not moving this summer, I realize that I still feel like an observer of the church’s and town’s going-ons rather than a member.
4. I’m still not sure what to call my husband when talking to other members. Prior to arriving at my husband’s call, I was very adamant that I would not call him “Pastor”. After all, I wash the man’s clothes, budget his paycheck, and bore his child–I would think that would prove that we have more of a relationship than just Pastor-Member!
However, I didn’t realize that people have a tendency to pick up on what I name I call him and use it in conversations with me. I still don’t refer to him as “Pastor” often, but I have become careful not to call him by his first name in front of members. Usually I call him “my husband” or tell something about “us” or “our family”. There have been instances that I opted not to include part of a story simply because I couldn’t figure out what to call him!
5. Learning to filter the questions I ask my husband is difficult. As a couple, my husband and I desire to share most things about our lives with each other. While I can freely tell my husband everything I do during the day, he cannot. Despite my inclination to ask for details about his daily work–after all, I care about him and what he does–sometimes vague answers are necessary. It’s not my business to know details if he only tells me he is “meeting with someone”. And when he has a bad day, sometimes the only reason he can tell me is “church stuff”. Asking questions puts him in the uncomfortable position of having to tell me I can’t know the details.
Of course, not all parts of his work is taboo. I can certainly ask things like how a Bible study went or if so-and-so is home from the hospital.
6. Trying to balance my husband’s needs and my needs on his day off is still a work in progress. In order to fully relax, my husband prefers to leave town because of the fishbowl issue. However, I’m a homebody and would prefer to stay home and do things around the house. We’re still working on finding a balance.
7. Nothing can fully prepare you for your husband’s call. It doesn’t matter how many pastor’s wives panels you attend or how many pastor’s wife blogs you read, you can’t know how your life will look like before arriving at your husband’s church. There are just too many factors: Your husband’s personality, your disposition, the experiences members have had prior to your arrival, the town’s dynamics, and so on. All you can do is trust that this is where God has called your husband–and consequently, you–and make the best of it.
Before dinner tonight, my husband found out one of his members had a heart attack earlier today and was in the the hospital. Consequently, he donned his collar after we had eaten and headed “to town” to go visit her.
So my Friday evening went as follows:
-Cleaned up dinner while Babykins scooted around on the floor
-Put Babykins to bed
-Vacuumed part of the house and tidied
-Tried to finish budget and decided my brain wouldn’t work with money at this time of night
-Get Babykins back to sleep
-Write blog post about my very exciting Friday night
There you have it; the secret life of the Pastor’s wife: Friday night edition. Really, it’s not so bad. Of course I wish my husband was here and of course I’m saddened that a member is so ill. However, I am enjoying putting a sizable dent in the Easter candy stash.
It seems to happen to every pastor’s family at some point. As a vacation approaches, death comes.
My husband has a conference at the seminary in Indiana next week. Babykins and I were going to tag along and visit some of our seminary friends. Technically, this is continuing education for my husband, but it was also going to be a vacation for our family. My husband would get a chance to focus on studying and take a break from the daily grind of parish life. I would have the opportunity to have rejuvenating socialization with people I’m comfortable with. Perfect.
But a member has been fighting terminal cancer. Last week my husband no longer referred to him as “terminally ill” but as “dying”. By Tuesday, my husband had made his decision–he couldn’t leave for the conference. We cancelled our trip.
The man died yesterday. The funeral is on Monday.
Our family can’t complain about the cancelled vacation. It’s a disappointment, but there are people in our congregation mourning the death of their husband, father, grandfather.
We’ll just count this as one of those “Quintessential Pastor’s Family Experiences”.
Christmas Day has come and gone and pastors take a breather before the chaos of Lent starts.
At least that’s what I always assumed what happened. Then I looked at January.
Apparently there is a small window of rest after Christmas Day and we used it to go see family. While visiting family is important, it’s also not restful (especially when traveling with a baby. I tried explaining to Babykins that we were going on vacation, but she continued wanting to eat and needing diaper changes). Then I took a closer look at our January calendar and realized that my husband starts his full schedule of Bible studies and meetings on Monday. Since he has to actually prepare for these things, as well as continue writing sermons for Sundays, he went back to work yesterday. Additionally, Lent will begin in about 6 weeks. Our little family will be back on the triage schedule that we had during Advent.
Maybe we’ll take a break after Easter. Maybe.
My Husband’s First Sunday as Pastor
This past Sunday was the first time my husband led a service as Pastor. He was naturally a bit nervous when leaving for church Sunday morning but was also excited. However, the start of the service set off a dazzling sound system failure.
First, he couldn’t get his microphone to turn on. He had to awkwardly stand in front of the congregation as he fiddled with the pack. When he finally got it on, the sound wasn’t balanced correctly. Have you ever listened to an old speech in front of a large crowd? It echos across the masses, almost repeating the words of the speech. Now think about how that would sound in a small sanctuary. That’s how my husband sounded.
I’m fairly certain that there were some members frantically trying to fix the problem throughout the first half of the service. However, the strange auditorium echo remained when my husband started preaching. About 5 minutes into the sermon, the sound system gave up and created an eardrum splitting round of feedback. My husband asked to have the sound turned off at the point. On the bright side, everyone was quite awake for at least part of the sermon.
The worst part of all this was that several of the same problems occurred at the ordination service, so some members of the congregation worked on fixing the problem this past week. They thought they had everything sorted out, so to have the same issues occur again was frustrating for everybody.
Naturally, the glitches on Sunday didn’t fall completely on the sound system. There were the usual hiccups that occur when a new pastor does a service with a congregation for the first time. My husband forgot to tell the organist about using a seasonal antiphon. The congregation (myself included) got confused about what we were supposed to respond with during the prayer of the church. Overall, it wasn’t the smoothest service. When he got home, my husband shook his head and said, “I was just waiting for a dog to walk in.”
The good news is that Bible study seemed to go much better. Despite my husband using a Power Point presentation, there wasn’t any technological snafus. Nobody stormed out of the study deeply offended. That’s not saying much seeing how we’re Midwestern Lutherans and such a public display of emotion would be unsightly.
My First Sunday as Pastor’s Wife
I had been dreading this first Sunday in a new congregation ever since we returned from vicarage. Since attending services the first few months of vicarage was a horrible, anxiety-inducing struggle, I was concerned that I would wind up in the bathroom stall with a panic attack at our new church.
However, Sunday turned out to be surprisingly peaceful. Well, at least it was only uncomfortably awkward and not panic-inducing. I believe part of this relates to how sound carries inside the church. Our vicarage church’s fellowship hall was loud and often had 60-80 people milling around between service and Bible study. The noise overstimulated me, leaving me confused and anxious. Our new church’s fellowship hall isn’t nearly as loud; it is also a smaller congregation than our vicarage church.
Leave it to me to feel relieved that there are less people attending church.
Another helpful factor was that two members from our vicarage congregation surprised us by attending service (they were vacationing in the area). It was a comfort to see a pair of familiar faces.
Overall, I left Bible study feeling like maybe, just maybe, I could swing this pastor’s wife thing after all.