PW Connect (www.pastorswives.com) is the sister blog of Pastors' Wives Thriving in the Fishbowl's website & message board. We support, encourage, and nurture ministry wives. Our contributors have experienced the fishbowl of ministry life firsthand, and we're here to come alongside you in all the joys and tears.

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Faith of a Child

by Nan Jones

"Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head…"

Young cherubic voices rang through the sanctuary. Mary sat by the manger, a slight slump in her shoulders indicated awkwardness. Baby Jesus lay very still—you might say rigid—in the trough filled with hay while Joseph stood stoically by Mary's side, trying to hide a smirk as he spotted friends on the back pew.

"Behold! I bring you tidings of great joy!" the four-foot angel declared to the shepherds. Mary looked up with wide eyes and open mouth as the loud voice boomed. The angel waved her arms up and down and flew away behind the curtain.

Shepherds began walking. Lambs began crawling. "Ba-a-a! Ba-a-a-a-a!" while the congregation giggled at the sight. The shepherds and some of the lambs made it to the nativity (others found momma) and bowed before the newborn King.

From the door of the sanctuary a song filled the air, "We three kings of orient are bearing gifts, we traversed afar…" Cardboard camels pulled along on wheels graced three regal kings wrapped in bath robes. One crown sat askew atop a young blonde and another one was held securely by a small kingly hand, but my goodness, weren't these boys proud. Kings, no less! Tommy was especially happy—he didn't want to be some shepherd boy like the others.

All the characters had found their place at the manger.

A holy hush fell among the congregation.
The pure faith of children touched hearts.
The power of tradition sealed the sacred message.

In the quiet of the moment, two teenagers walked down the center aisle, each carrying a lit candle. Stopping at the end of each pew, the boys passed the flame and watched the light spread as person after person lifted their candle high. The sanctuary filled with candlelight. The overhead lights were dimmed. And within minutes, the sanctuary transformed into a starlit night.

"Silent night. Holy night. All is calm, all is bright…"

A sweet, sweet spirit bound the people together.
Christmas tradition linked generation to generation.
Strife, for the moment, ceased. Love prevailed.

And the children led them, mesmerized by the miracle of Christmas.

About the Author:

Nan Jones is an author/speaker who uses the words of her heart to assist fellow Christians in discovering the Presence of God in their darkest hour. She has been published in several anthologies as well as the online inspirational sites Christian Devotions, and Inspire a Fire where she is a monthly contributor. She is also a monthly contributor to PW Connections, a blog and forum to encourage pastors' wives. Nan has had the honor of being featured as a guest blogger on several sites. She is thrilled to announce her debut book, The Perils of a Pastor's Wife released June 30, 2015 by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. This memoir was a 2016 Selah finalist. When Nan isn't writing, she enjoys leading prayer retreats, bible studies or sharing God’s love as keynote speaker for special events. She is becoming known by her brand: "Even so, I walk in the Presence of the Lord" as she teaches her audience to go beyond the veil to find God's Presence. You may visit Nan at her website: www.NanJones.com. Nan has also created a facebook community page, Seeing Beyond The Veil, to provide a place for folks to go and get away from the chaos for a few moments and focus on Jesus through scripture, worship, testimony, and inspirational quotes. For personal communication you may email Nan at nan@nanjones.com

The Perils of a Pastor's Wife is available on AmazonBarnes and Noble, and LPC Bookstore

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Embracing the Gift of PW Friendships

“My best friend is a pastor’s wife so I know exactly how you feel,” Gina said to me one Sunday morning before church. She continued on in conversation about what her friend had shared with her but my mind stayed locked on her first sentence, and while I smiled and nodded anger was growing inside me. I spent the rest of the service distracted by her words.

When I shared our interaction with my husband, he assured me she was only trying to find common ground on which to converse. I’ve replayed the moment in my mind and still feel the same as I did then.

To say she knows what it’s like to be a PW because her BFF is one is like saying I know what the ocean is like because I’ve seen it on TV. But until I smell the sea air, taste the saltwater on my lips, feel the way the sand changes as I step from hot and dry to wet and sloppy, step on a crab or another unseen creature beneath the surface, get knocked over by a wave I’d under estimated, experience the tide rushing in and out, or feel the breeze through my hair there is no way for me to know what it’s like. Not. At. All.

No matter how many times Gina’s friend has shared with her what it’s like to be married to a pastor, Gina will never know the reality of it because she hasn’t experienced it herself. Only another PW knows how it really is. That's why it’s important to find friendship in like-minded women. We need each other. We struggle with things that few others do. We can laugh about things that many people in our churches wouldn’t understand. We can shoulder one another when things get ugly.

In this season of thankfulness and gift-giving let’s remember to be thankful for the gift we have of each other. Some of my closest friends are PWs, many of whom I’ve not met face to face. Online communities can be safe havens for us, such as the message boards at PastorsWives.com In the fishbowl we find acceptance without pressure, love without judgment, and fellowship without fellows. What we go through on a weekly basis can be shared with women who have experienced the same thing. And that is the greatest gift of all.

If you are a pastor’s wife I encourage you to find friendship in another pastor’s wife. Whether in your community or out, in your denomination or across line, we need the support we can get from each other. I can (and do) share things with my closest friends and they offer the words I want to hear, but when I share with another PW words aren’t needed. A hand on my shoulder or a hug can give more encouragement than words because it means she’s been there. If you prefer to share in a more intimate setting then I encourage you to find an online group you can participate in. There are many, from Facebook groups to message boards. I was an active member of such a group for over a decade until social media changed the way we shared with one another. Over the years I’ve been blessed to be able to meet some of these ladies as I’ve traveled the country. Their hugs have been some of the sweetest I’ve known, alongside the ones I receive from the ladies in my denomination during our yearly retreats and other ministry meetings.

Do not take these friendships for granted.
For me, they are one of life’s greatest gifts.

Merry Christmas my sweet sisters. 

About the Author:

Suzanne Schaffer has been in full-time ministry with her husband Wayne since 1992, pastoring in Pennsylvania and Illinois. She has two grown children and spends most of her days either writing or reading with a cup of tea close by. She enjoys attending auctions and sometimes brings home more stuff than she knows what to do with. She believes life is too short for mediocre food and insists on having good chocolate in the house at all times. You can connect with Suzanne at her blog, www.notenoughchocolate.blogspot.com

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christmas in the Tropics

It was our first Christmas overseas. Not our first Christmas in ministry, but our first that far away.

Our coworkers had returned to the US for the holidays, so we were alone. Not actually alone; there were many people around, but none who observed Christmas and definitely none who celebrated with traditions similar to our own.

It was scorching hot. Not the hottest (that was January), but super-hot. I don’t think the temperature dipped below 85 degrees all month.

Postage to our location was really expensive, so while we did receive packages from home, they were small. And a Christmas tree? Ha! Palm trees aplenty, but no conifers of any sort grew there.

You can feel sorry for me later.

Not really. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me at all! I hope you see from my description that Christmas was different and maybe even difficult, but it wasn’t bad. It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?

Of course, we did several things to reach out to our community with the love of Jesus, but I want to look inside our home right now. We observed some of our usual traditions, like making cookies and reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever in the week leading up to Christmas Day. We played Christmas music—sacred and secular—every day. We made piles of paper snowflakes and hung them in all the windows. The paper snowflakes became a new tradition, and we did it every year we lived there! Because the packages were small, our kids were really pleased with a new sippy cup or DVD. On Christmas day, we ran the a/c all day so it would be cool enough in the house to drink hot chocolate.

Please let me share a few things I grew to appreciate during that and subsequent sweaty Christmases:

Know what you can handle and when you need a break.
Christmas is an emotion-packed holiday for almost everyone. I’m not the type to get homesick, but I had to be extra-aware of my emotions during these days. I learned to give myself permission to step away, to take some extra time for myself or my family, and to reminisce.

Celebrate the ‘perks.’
We enjoyed going to the beach or pool, grilling out instead of cooking a ham (which wasn’t available anyway), and the lack of runny noses. We found the things that made our present location enjoyable and focused on those.

Be thankful for the quiet.
By celebrating differently, we missed the hectic pace and the commercialism of the holidays in America. We were thankful for that, and we spent the extra time re-welcoming our Savior.

I learned so much that first Christmas in the tropics. Most importantly, I learned to distinguish Christmas traditions from the celebration of Jesus’ birth. I also learned I don’t need cozy sweaters and church pageants to ‘experience’ the holiday. And I learned not to play “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” because it might still make me cry.

What have you learned from celebrating the holidays differently? We would love to hear from you in the comments below!

About the author:

Carole Sparks is passionate about God’s Word—about how it can change our everyday lives! After years of globetrotting, she now lives, learns, and loves (plus a good bit of writing) in the hills of East Tennessee. Connect with Carole through her website, http://carolesparks.com or her blog, http://notaboutme1151.wordpress.com.

You can also find Carole on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Fellowship Idea: How to Start Your Church Ornament Collection

As a introvert, I am not always the most creative person when it comes to planning extrovert-type things.  And church can be FULL of extrovert-type things!  Even as a pastor's wife, I don't always feel equipped to host exciting parties, showers, or events in my church for the ladies.  I want them to have fun, but--what to plan?

I decided several years ago that *maybe* I could combine my God-given, introvert gifts with an extrovert activity--our annual ladies' Christmas party.  I decided that first year to take a vintage sequin ornament I had on my tree, handmade by my great-grandmother, and teach the church ladies how to replicate it.  At first I was afraid it was a total disaster, because the craft took much longer than I anticipated.  But soon I realized that the ladies were happy and relaxed, chatting and working on their ornaments.  It had been a success after all--even after three hours of crafting!

In subsequent years, I decided to make the Christmas ornament craft our special annual tradition.  (And I also tried to cut down on the assembly time!) Of course, we still have gift exchanges, games, devotionals, and other traditional things; but every year we also make a brand new ornament.  We started calling it our "Church Ornament Collection", and the ladies look forward to finding out what design we will make each year.  They love adding to their collection, and when new or visiting ladies see what we have created over the years, they get excited, too.

So far, we have made an angel sequin ball, Mary and Joseph clothespins, a glass ball cupcake, and a hymnal page snowflake.  We always make sure there are a variety of different colored supplies so the ladies can choose to create an ornament that will match their decor.  Each year, when we trim our trees with the ornaments we created together, memories rush back of the chats and laughter we shared while making them.  This year we will create our fifth annual Church Christmas ornament, but shhh--the design is still a secret!  

Why not make 2016 the first year of your "Church Ornament Collection"?

About the Author:

Suzy Vanhoose is the wife of Pastor Danny Vanhoose from Grace Independent Baptist Church in the suburbs of Philadelphia. They have four sons, and have served at their church for over fourteen years.  Suzy is also a high school teacher at a local Christian school. When she isn't busy with church, school, and family, Suzy enjoys reading books, writing poetry, baking, and anything else that isn't housework.

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