I Didn’t Recognize You With Your Clothes On!

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One story my husband hates for me to tell – but I get such fun out of telling is the Sunday a visitor showed up at church.

My husband loved to get out of the office and into the community.  He felt just sitting at a desk all week was not the best way to be a help and influence to the community.  Since he is a Pepsi fan (I always said if he needs a blood transfusion they could just use Diet Pepsi instead of blood), he always stopped at the local Casey’s for a soda while he was out visiting.

Stopping two or three times a week at the same Casey’s, he became friends with the cashier and often invited her to come to church.  She always had some reason why she could not come.

Then one day she surprised my husband by showing up for the morning worship.  As my husband greeted her in the foyer, she loudly proclaimed, Pastor Paul, I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on!

I wish I had a camera with me that day to get a picture of the shocked look on his face.  Then, a second later, a picture of the woman’s face as she realized what her comments sounded like and her face turned all shades of red.

Looking around at the congregation that stood by very puzzled at her statement, she explained what she meant.  “I mean, I always see you in jeans and a t-shirt.  I have never seen you in your suit and tie.”

While my husband hoped that everyone who heard her first statement also heard the second one, I just stood there and laughed and laughed!  I still tease him from time to time that I did not know he made pastoral calls in the nude!

39 years Ago – He Met His “Barbara”

It was in January 39 years ago I walked into a church in Bethalto, Illinois, not knowing that I was about to meet my future husband. As Paul and I remember that special day, we still marvel at how God brought us together. So – once again, I share our story.

“We as a community of friends are gathered here in God’s presence to witness Paul and Barbara’s renewal of commitment to one another and to ask God’s continued blessings on them. Marriage, like our creation as men and women owes its existence to God. It is His will and purpose that a husband and wife should love each other throughout their life. Shall we pray?”

This was how our Pastor began the ceremony when my husband and I renewed our wedding vows on our 25th anniversary. We still love to remember that story.

Here’s the story!

While living in the state of Washington, my husband, Paul, found himself a single father trying to raise two teenagers. Needing support, he returned to his home town to be near family. He was very lonely and began to pray for a Christian wife. Since he was a minister and also loved to sing, he asked God if it would be possible that this wife would also play the piano and be able to work with him in the ministry.

Her name will be Barbara

While praying, he felt impressed in his spirit that God would grant him that request and that his future wife would be named “Barbara.” He was afraid at first to share that thought with anyone as he felt they would think he was crazy. But it was so real to him he needed to reveal it to someone. He finally related that information with a couple at the large church he was attending but no one else.

Four months later I walked into the church with my two young daughters.

While living in Southeast Missouri, my first husband was accidentally killed leaving me with two small daughters to care for. Everything I read about grief told me that I should make no sudden changes or moves for at least a year. However, after a year of trying to make it far from home, I decided to return to Illinois where my family could give me much-needed support. While it was great to be close to my family again, I still carried a heavy load of grief and sorrow. I tried to be strong for my two young daughters, but after a while I realized I did not want to continue living alone. Although I longed to find happiness again, I knew that my daughters’ happiness and safety were more important than my own. If I ever remarried, it would have to be a very special man who would love my daughters as well as me.

I asked God to give me a godly husband who would help me raise my daughters.

One year after moving back to Illinois, I decided to attend the church where my parents were members. When I walked in the foyer, I saw a couple that I recognized. They were friends with my first husband’s parents but I had not seen them in years. They seemed extremely happy to see me, but it was only months later that I found out why my sudden appearance at their church was so exciting to them. They were the couple that Paul had shared his secret with.

After greeting me, they hurried to locate my future husband and tell him, “There she is.”

He had no idea what they meant until they told him the red head that had just walked into the church was named Barbara. Paul told them to not say anything, but if this was the Barbara God had promised, God would work it out. A few weeks later Paul asked me on a date and the rest, as they say, is history.

And a good history it has been. Paul has proven to be a wonderful husband and, even more important, a wonderful father to my two daughters and grandfather to my grandchildren.

Today as we look back at the 39 years we have shared, we are grateful that God answered our prayers. I am no longer a red head, but he loves me anyway. 🙂

Aging With a Laugh

December was not a good month for me. It started off with a terrible head cold. My poor nose suffered from constant blowing.

When the cold was over, I had three to four days that were good – and then I got Covid.

Of course, being a good wife, I shared it with my husband.

After a couple of weeks of misery, we both looked pretty bad. I had cancelled my hair appointment when I got the cold and it was now almost eight weeks since I had a hair cut. I keep my hair very short and usually get a trim every four weeks. So with no makeup and my hair sticking out everywhere, I was not a pretty sight. My husband also was looking ragged with no shave for several days.

Then we heard a joke on TV and it has kept us laughing as we slowly recover from the effects of Covid.

Husband, looking in the mirror: “My arms are like little sticks, my chest is sagging, I can’t see my feet and my face is full of wrinkles.”

Wife: “Well, look on the bright side. Your eyesight is still perfect.”

Today I got my hair cut – and I have promised myself tomorrow I will put on my makeup. My husband has shaved and is looking good again.

Still, we are old and certainly are not the wonderful specimens of youth and beauty we once were. 🙂

But we are grateful to still love one another – even with our perfect eyesight.

Frustrations, Laughter and Joy

As another new year comes around, my mind races back to other new years and other times. Recently I was thinking about the life of a pastor and his family and the frustrations, the laughter and the joy that life brings.  Three different stories came to mind that illustrate all three scenarios.

THE FRUSTRATIONS

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One Sunday morning as my husband was greeting the church members after service, one man stopped him and said, “Pastor, you know what is wrong with this church?”  Smiling while thinking “I didn’t know anything was wrong – and who asked you,” my husband asked him what he thought was wrong.  His response:  “You are too organized.”

Continuing to shake hands with the other members, a woman stopped him and said, “Pastor, you know what is wrong with this church?”  Now my husband took a deep breath, smiled and said “What is wrong?”  Her response:  “You are not organized enough”

THE LAUGHTER

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There was a woman in one of our churches that bounced from church to church throughout the community.  She was a little slow mentally and when she came to our church we tried our best to make her feel welcome.

One Sunday my husband told the congregation that we would be out-of-town the following weekend as we were going to visit relatives in North Carolina.  He was encouraging everyone to please attend as members often stay home if the pastor is not going to be there.

This woman raised her hand and when my husband asked her what she wanted she asked him:  “Is Barbara going with you?”  Of course I was going and my husband replied in the affirmative.

The entire congregation tried so hard not to laugh when she said, “Well, if she can’t go with you, I can.”

THE JOY

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One morning as my husband and I headed across the parking lot from the parsonage to the church office a car pulled into the driveway and a young woman got out to talk to us.  She was looking for the church that was administering the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) nutrition program.  We gave her directions to the local church that had the program.

She lingered after we gave her the information and seemed as if she was troubled and wanted to talk.  We invited her into the office and she began to share how she was pregnant and wanted to keep the baby but her boyfriend told her it was either him or the baby.  If she did not abort the child, he was kicking her out of their apartment and breaking off their relationship. She clearly did not want to abort the child but was unsure if she could raise a child by herself.

We spend time with her discussing her options.

  • She could obtain an abortion and keep her home and relationship with her boyfriend.
  • She could seek help from others, give birth to the baby and then put it up for adoption.
  • She could seek help from others and raise the child herself.

While we tried not to judge her or her boyfriend we naturally advocated for the life of the child.  It was clear she really wanted that, but just needed some help in not only making that decision but being able to have resources so she could keep that choice.

I made a list of phone numbers of various resources that would help her including the local Pregnancy Resource Center.  We also gave her our phone number and told her we would do anything we could to help her with doctor visits, baby supplies, etc.

After prayer with her, she left saying she did not know what she would do but she would keep in mind our offer of help and the list of resources I had given her.

Weeks, months went by and we never heard from her again.  I agonized over whether we had not made it clear enough that we and our church were willing to help her.

Almost 3 years later we had a district meeting at our church.  Several other churches in the area were in attendance.   A young woman walked up to me with a beautiful little girl  in her arms.  She asked:  “Do you recognize me?”

I did not know who she was.  Tears of joy quickly came to my eyes as she identified herself as the young woman who we had counseled and prayed with over the decision of abortion.  Although she had never called us back she had gone to the Pregnancy Resource Center.  They helped her with doctor visits and baby clothes and gave her the friendship she needed to carry though with the birth of that little girl.

She thanked me that we had taken the time to help her walk through the options she had and offered resources to help her in her choice of life.

So – you add it up.  The joys and the laughs far outweigh the frustrations.

The frustrations are gone, but the funny things still bring a laugh, and the joys still make it all seem worthwhile.

View From the Parsonage

(This was my first post when I started my blog. Revisiting it still makes me laugh. Hope it will you also.)

For many years I was a pastor’s wife.  In many ways, it was a blessing for which I am thankful.  What a privilege to be allowed into the lives of families at those very joyous times:  weddings, baby dedications, graduations, anniversaries.  I have enjoyed providing the music for many a bride to walk down the aisle.

It was also an honor to share with families at those sad times:  deaths, divorce, sickness.  While “enjoy” is probably not the right word to use, I have felt blessed to provide music for the funeral of many a dear saint.

What a joy to share God’s Word in a class with the children or young adults and to see that moment when their eyes light up with understanding, to watch them grow in their walk with the Lord!

But if I am honest, I must admit that there are also times when being a pastor’s wife felt anything BUT a privilege and honor.  Times when I wanted to run from the parsonage and say, “I quit!”  It’s hard to hear your husband criticized and hold your tongue.  Frustrating when you have planned a date night, are all dressed up and about to walk out the door only to have it cancelled because someone in the congregation calls and needs your husband.  Or, you are just about to sit down to a family meal when the phone rings – and off he goes.  There were times I wanted to pull the phone out of the wall.

But along the way, I have had moments when I wanted to laugh!  Some silly and funny times.  I always said when my husband retired, I was going to write a book about “The View from the Parsonage.”

Well, there’s no book – but I certainly want to share some funny stories in my blog.  I promised my husband –

the names will be changed to protect the innocent – and the guilty.

For now, let me just share with you some thoughts –

You might be a pastor’s wife if:

  • You’ve ever had a church board hand you a job description with no attached salary package.
  • You are the secretary at the church.
  • You are not the secretary at the church, but people assume you are.
  • You think about burning down the church if that would give you more time with your pastor.
  • You used communion cups to serve your grandchildren orange juice.
  • People automatically assume you know the inside scoop on everything going on at church…and you do…but your lips must remain sealed.
  • You are expected to attend 2 baby showers, 3 birthday parties, 2 weddings and 1 graduation in a month (and, of course, brings gifts for each one).
  • You’ve ever had someone angry with you because you sent a card, but didn’t come to see them.
  • You’ve ever had someone angry with you because you came to see them, but didn’t send a card.
  • Your house sometimes feels like an extension of the church with all the traffic it gets.
  • Your husband always knows someone or someone always know him, everywhere you go.
  • Your husband is constantly excited to tell you something else he’s learned…and you struggle to remain as enthusiastic as you wish you could be.
  • You get roped into proof-reading or listening to the rough drafts of sermons…all the time.
  • You’ve resigned yourself to the fact that there will always be more books that your husband will want but will never read…but will buy anyway.
  • You could pay off your house if you just sold all the Bibles laying around the place.

There will be more stories to come!  Believe me, I have plenty.

If you read this and are a pastor’s wife, I would love to hear from you – to hear some of your stories!

Friday’s List – Thankfulness

Next week we celebrate Thanksgiving. As I began reflecting on my many blessings and making a list of things to be grateful for, I realized we often mention the “big” ones (which we should) like knowing Jesus Christ or our family. Then I thought how often we just take much for granted without stopping to be grateful. Things that are “small” in and of themselves, but that add so much to our life.

So, here’s my 10 things I am thankful for this year.

  1. The freshly fallen snow outside my patio window.
  2. The birds gathered around the birth bath.
  3. The sound of the children’s laughter playing next door.
  4. The leftover chocolate bar I found in my daughter’s collection of Halloween candy. (Don’t tell her I took it.)
  5. The smell of clean sheets taken from the dryer.
  6. Holding my husband’s hand under the covers as I drift off to sleep.
  7. Finding reruns of the Flip Wilson show on YouTube.
  8. The smell of the apple pie as it comes from the oven.
  9. Texts I get with pictures of great grandchildren who live in other states.
  10. My Amazon package bringing me more coffee from around the world.

As I look at this list I realize it reflects the many “big” blessings for which I am thankful. Eyes that can see, ears that can hear, the ability to taste and smell. Family. Finances enough to be able to have food, entertainment, a home.

How often do I just take those things for granted.

This week my prayer is:

Lord, thank you for my eyesight and the beauty I can see each day; for my hearing and the joy of my family’s voices, the music and the bird’s songs; all my senses that help me experience and enjoy the world you have made. Thank you for being able to get out of bed each morning, dress myself and take care of my needs. Thank you for my every breath that keeps me alive. For the love of family and friends which make life worth living. Thank you for another day of life. One more day to love and be loved. One more day to laugh and maybe even cry. One more day to know You better.

And may my gratitude not be a momentary thing as we approach Thanksgiving, but may I be more aware of all my blessings each and every day. Amen.

Our Father’s Love

Reading this week a familiar parable Jesus told about the prodigal son that took his part of the heritage of his father and then proceeded to waste it away on careless living. The Bible says “when he came to his senses” he went back home to ask his father to just let him be a servant.

It is a very familiar story to anyone who has ever attended church or read the Bible. Being so familiar, I truthfully began to read over it quickly.

But this time something caught my eye.

The scripture says that the father saw his son “when he was a great way off.” Imagine the father every day going out to the road and looking down the path in hopes of seeing his son returning home. Imagine every evening before retiring for the day, taking another look down the road. Hoping, praying to see his son coming home.

The days, weeks, maybe years of disappointment as his glances show no sign of his son. But he never gave up. He kept looking, hoping, expecting an answer to his prayer.

As I read that this week, I thought of those who I am praying for. Loved ones, friends who have walked away from fellowship with others – some out of hurt, some out of misunderstanding, some out of losing sight of a relationship with God.

Honestly sometimes I lose hope that they will ever return. But this parable reminded me that I must remain faithful in praying, expecting and never stop looking down the road to see them returning home to God.

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Going the Extra Mile

Nike created a tennis shoe they called “The Extra Mile” and their ad campaign said:

We take the extra steps to chase something bigger. Even better…we go the extra mile.

However, Nike was not the first one to share the idea of going the extra mile. While Nike was suggesting we get out there and move and physically run/walk more, Jesus challenged us to pursue something greater than just another mile on our walk/run.

He said in Matthew 5:41:

If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.

What exactly did Jesus have in mind when He made this statement? The Greek word used here refers to someone being forced to help someone. Jesus was talking about a common practice at that time. According to Roman law, any Roman soldier could order a Jewish civilian to carry the soldier’s baggage, often his heavy armor, for one Roman mile.

Obviously, this practice was resented by the Jewish people. But instead of resenting it, Jesus said to carry it one more mile.

So it is with us. Many times we are offended, hurt and we harbor resentment toward the one who has harmed us. Jesus is saying we need to deal with our resentment and go the extra mile. To seek peace and offer forgiveness. This verse was part of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus added that we are to love our enemies, pray for them and not turn anyone away if we can meet their need. All of these require us to go the extra mile.

Many times, we are quick to remember when someone has offended us, but we need to ask the Holy Spirit to make us aware of times when we may have offended someone else. Going the extra mile may require us to be humble and reach out and say, “I am sorry.”

May God help us to be people that will seek to go that extra mile in offering forgiveness, understanding, love and devotion in our marriages, with our children, our parents, our neighbors and yes – especially with that person whose opinions and beliefs are so opposite of ours.

A List for Wisdom and Laughter – In Honor of Mothers

I have shared some of the one sentence (or two) quotes that I have found either good for a laugh – or serious reflection.

So – in honor of our mothers, let me share some quotes that I hope will make you laugh – but also appreciate your mother.

Things mother would NEVER say:

  1. “How on earth can you see the TV sitting so far back?”
  2. “Yeah, I used to skip school a lot, too”
  3. “Just leave all the lights on … it makes the house look more cheery”
  4. “Let me smell that shirt — Yeah, it’s good for another week”
  5. “Go ahead and keep that stray dog, honey. I’ll be glad to feed and walk him every day”
  6. “Well, if Timmy’s mom says it’s OK, that’s good enough for me.”
  7. “The curfew is just a general time to shoot for. It’s not like I’m running a prison around here.”
  8. “I don’t have a tissue with me … just use your sleeve”
  9. “Don’t bother wearing a jacket – the wind-chill is bound to improve.
  10. You don’t want to eat your vegetables – just grab a hand of M&M’s.

Another list for Wisdom or Laughter

In my reading I love to collect those one or two sentence phrases that make me laugh or make me think. Here are a few I hope you enjoy.

  1. Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society…Mark Twain
  2. Why does a woman work ten years to change a man’s habits and then complain he is not the man she married?…Barbra Streisand
  3. The trouble with “A place for everything and everything in its place” is that there is always more everything than places…Elayne Bundy
  4. The reason they are called the opposite sex is every time you think you have fooled your wife, It’s just the opposite…Walter Winchell
  5. Before we work on artifical intelligence, why don’t we do something about natural stupidity?…Steve Polyak
  6. Three wise men – are you serious?…Author unknown
  7. You can learn much from children. How much patience you have, for instance…Franklin P. Jones
  8. Wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with age. Sometimes age just shows up all by itself…Tom Wilson
  9. If we’re not meant to have midnight snacks, why is there a light in the fridge?…Unknown
  10. I love being married. It’s so great to find one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life…Rita Rudner