Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I'll tell you the truth...

Aaron might tease about my confessions here at Happiness, but I decided some time ago that this would be the true story of being a SAHWAM, child of God, and church planter, and not the Disney version of it. I have tried to be really honest so that if any of you are out there contemplating oh, say, leaving all you know to start a church from scratch, you will have a real image in your head of what that will look like, and not just the propaganda they hand out at the PDCPC (...which I am not going to link up, but if you lie awake at night long enough, you will decipher.)

So anyway, I've purposely left out a big chunk of what has occurred here in Marriage-land. It wasn't a very inspiring tale for some time. For about two years (we moved two years ago?) things have been spiraling downward, just as Vintage Fellowship has spiraled up. Last fall, I issued an ultimatum...if things weren't better in a year, I was giving up on it all.

I'd like to say for the record that ultimatums are not the healthiest way of relating, but I was worn pretty thin at that point, and drawing a little chalk line was actually a pretty healthy way of establishing some mental release from the question "How LONG will it be this way?"

A year ago, Robb was still working retail, we were paying both rent and mortgage on our still-unsold house in MI, I had no friends here, and we were sinking into credit card debt to the tune of $1000.00 per month. Somewhere, we had crossed the line from "Anything for the Kingdom" to "Just plain stupid." The Better I was referring to was somehow related to...oh...being able to pay our bills, spend some time together as a family, and the church being something other than the place I spent all my best energy and got sucked into doing stuff I really didn't want to do.

The week after I issued the ultimatum, about 35 new people showed up at Vintage. Robb and I exchanged glances that meant something like this:
"Maybe these people will be the difference between this church and consequently...our marriage making it..."

Not all of those people stayed, but several did, and it really was a turning point. Vintage has steadily gained in momentum since that day, and my doubts about the viability of this church faded. Time and experiences together have knit my heart with these people in a rare and wonderful way.

Unfortunately, our marriage did not magically heal. It seemed, actually to grow more brittle. There was no money or time or room for us. All of the good we had built up between us over our first 10 years together seemed to evaporate. I can't tell you how many nights I sat up awake at night praying that God would fix us. I bargained with him, reminding him that I had been willing to give up a lot for this church, but I wasn't willing to give up a good marriage for it. Outwardly, we seemed to circle each other...doing the same things, going through the same motions we always did, but with no heart for it. We didn't fight, and if we did, it was quickly tucked away, since we were just too tired to go there. "This is what couples mean when they say they've grown apart", I thought.

In July, the guys started the series on Transformation. Robb asked what we wished we could change. I didn't even have the heart to think "my marriage." They talked a bout how Truth, Relationships, and Accountability are the ways God uses to change us...all of those things working on us simultaneously. They were preaching Truth. I was forming relationships. One night, I decided to take the plunge and make myself accountable to the girls. Over coffee, I told two close friends, "I am 32 and I feel like my life is over. I don't feel anything for my marriage. I think if somebody else was nice to me, I would be so tempted by that."

That's as much as I could figure out. I didn't know what that meant or what to do next. My friends just listened and sympathized. They didn't say bad things about Robb. They didn't make assumptions. They didn't launch into a weird-feeling prayer session in which they simultaneously preached the marriage passages of scripture.

The next morning was strange. I wondered what I had done...I had made it all real by saying it out loud...because if I could admit that to my friends, I was going to have to admit it to myself and maybe even to Robb. I stopped saying the words, "I love you." I couldn't pretend anymore.

For four days, we lived side by side without touching one another...which was outwardly no different from the way we had been living, but now it had become very explicit.

At midnight on Monday night, Robb asked me if I was awake. It felt like the zero hour...we were either going to get things set straight or we were going to fail at our marriage.


********

Eleven years ago today, we stood in a hot auditorium and made some promises to one another in front of some of you and a lot of other people. Dr. Carter printed out every reference to marriage and family life in the Bible on one long, continuous print-out, with his personal notes scrawled on the margins, which Aaron was commissioned to hold throughout his 40 minute talk. He told us that our day was, he believed, "a milestone in redemptive history." That in the long and winding story of what God does to reach people, he believed our marriage was a kind of chapter heading...that because we were together, other people's lives would be changed for the good. He cast a great vision for what our marriage was supposed to be about...not just our love for one another, but for our purpose in marrying one another and the "ever after" that would dictate.

********

We talked all night.

As morning dawned that day...minutes from the time that Vin usually wakes up, we had reached another milestone in redemptive history. We had updated and perhaps even re-written our old marriage contract to include forgiveness, honor, and a thick and heavy blanket of love to cover a multitude of sins. On the surface, our problems were a jumbled mess with no end and no beginning, which felt pretty overwhelming. But at the heart of things, we had found some very specific issues that needed to be made right. Twenty four hours earlier, I would not have believed it was possible to set those things right, but for us, there was a root issue that needed to be dealt with, and the rest followed. We spent the week without the kids totally engrossed in one another and our church community. Better than a honeymoon.

And this morning, Robb woke me up with a tray of donuts and strawberries, coffee and roses. Tonight, we'll join our VF friends at a concert in the park. I'm happy to include them in our celebration of 11 years together....they are, after all, part of the glue that holds us together.

32 comments:

12-arrows said...

Could you possibly send me your email address? I would love to share with you but via blog is too long? Mine is lutztribe@yahoo.com.

Amy said...

You must be posting as I'm reading b/c all of a sudden a pic popped up. Weird.

I'm not going to preach, just to let you know that we went thru the exact same things a few years back.

I hear this from other women, especially serving in any capacity "in the ministry," all the time and I'm beginning to wonder if this happens to everyone.

I had a woman a few years older than me, whose marriage was much older than ours, who I had the courage to open up to and ask some questions. She, even without knowing it, probably saved our marriage. I was pretty much done with our life circumstances, therefore "him" at that point. I knew I loved him but couldn't find that love anywhere no matter how hard I tried.

We had a 24-hour talk too. We became accountable to each other for areas in our lives that nobody even told us existed. We probably wouldn't have listened had they told us anyway.

They're live and learn areas.

So, I'm just here to say, "been there/done that". You might fall back down but now you sort of know how to get back up.

Glad you guys are figuring it out for now. I don't talk out loud much but my head seems to always be buzzing in conversation with Him--I'll mention you occasionally, k?

Have a great day!

ness said...

Thanks Amy!

I woke up one morning with this thought in my head..."I betcha EVERY married couple gets to the point of wanting to chuck it all."

It was a weird thought, but a good one. It made me feel like I had a choice and wasn't justs going to be sucked into something I didn't want to do....

yeah, I think ministry forms another crucible that we don't always see coming....

kendra said...

Thanks for sharing, Vanessa, and letting us all know that it's not just us that feel that way. I was a marital counselor for a long time, and I, of course, have struggled just as you in marriage. (I've wanted to chuck it several times. There's a lot of marital hurt out there. Dedication, forgiveness, honor to God and perseverance with a will to redefine love as an older person and not the teenager I once was are the successful components for me. Kudos to you for sharing and hanging in there.

tammi said...

I find your honesty so refreshing. This strikes a chord with me this week.
This month.
This year.
I needed to hear that.
It was encouraging.

klasieprof said...

I am so happy for you.
I have tears running down my face.

It takes guts..you did it.

I can't talk anymore right now. I think I am going to go puke.

you are loved,
Donna

Amy said...

Wow, thought I'd check back to see how things were going...any responses, etc.

HUGE, just huge.

Why does nobody tell us how lonely the ministry is? How you can be in a church/gym/field full of believers and feel so alone. How a wife feels torn b/c the family needs the father home but doesn't feel right putting her family in front of, well, the church. After all, you gave yourself to "the ministry", right? Worse yet, you desparately need the money.

Have you read the book, "Choosing to Cheat" by Andy Stanley? I have not but a good friend of mine did, then made her hubby read it and it changed their marriage, basically their whole life b/c when the hubby told his "bros in Christ" that he would start putting his family first, THEN the ministry, the bros quickly said, "Goodbye". They're in a much better place now and so are many of the people that worked under him b/c of his decision.

I don't know your exact situation or what led you to the circumstances that led to the subject about which you posted but for everyone out there, I feel that when we are called to ministry, we know (sort of) what we're willing to give--alot.

What God asks us to give for him and what people expect that we're supposed to give are usually totally different ends of the spectrum.

You give yourself to God, you even give up your family to God but never anywhere does God ask us to give our family to the church. The church is NOT God and the ministry, as high a calling as it is, is NOT God.

Yes, we're willing to give up alot financially when God asks but that doesn't mean that we should be cheated out of fair wages or live in poverty or our children have to wear hand-me-downs from church members. Where that mentality came from...I have no idea. People grab onto that idea b/c they're NOT willing to give all they have to support the cause. He calls on ALL believers to give in faith not only those that "run" the church.

I should just post a blog. Can you tell I feel strongly about this?

Sorry. I'm probably totally off subject.

Does this strike a chord with anyone out there or am I totally off my rocker?

Amy said...

Sorry, just one more thing.

I realized after I re-read my rant that I might have lumped all church people as misers that don't give all out of faith.

I did not mean to imply this and thank you, deeply, to those that understand that most in the ministry don't get a housing allowance, free babysitting nor live a cash-only, debt-free existence.

I probably should have just deleted my comment but I need to step out of my comfort zone. :0)

Hannah said...

Thank you for sharing your journey. I have, of course been there also. Your openess has been a refreshing taste of a new kind of "ministry". Never get back into your fishbowl. No one belongs there. Love you friend.

ness said...

I have no idea what you are talking about.

note heavy sarcasm.

I used to feed Mattie the baby food that the church gave us when it expired from the food pantry. Nice, huh?

The ministry and the God are two separate entities for me, for sure. It's just that most of the time, you can't say to the church, "Please leave us alone so we can be a couple." That feels selfish. And I think church people (past churches, not currently) took us for all we're worth because they like to think that somebody "out there" or "up front" has more faith than them. They want to live dangerously in the hands of God... vicariously through their leaders. That's why I work hard at ripping away any "pastor's wife" platform anybody is tempted to put me on. Damn it.

: )

I hate to say it, but most of the time, for us, we got dumped on because we let people dump on us. "Yeah, we'll take your expired baby food. No, we're not busy. Yeah, we can take your phone call during dinner or sex or our family vacation. " Well, duh...they aren't mind readers. And we did it because we were scared.

For us, though, ministry was just the pot the whole thing was boiling in. I think we might have had the same problems in a different context because it boils down to our character and how God is trying to shape us. Everybody who is married is being shaped by that marriage for good or for evil. We are all facing situations that are either opportunities to express our faith or to express our fears. What makes it horrendously lonely and isolating is when we all try to act like we've done it right, or that we aren't struggling, or even that it is not okay to struggle.

The great lesson I see in telling our story is that we are not alone. And it wasn't pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps that saved it. It was trying to obey God, failing, and asking for His grace. The best thing I could have done was to just admit it.

Intentionality is a big part of it.

Blog away, Amy. Your kids are at school already....whew.

ness said...

Hello my Hannah Friend.

Amy, I replied before seeing your PS. Feeling guilty for the free babysitting and housing allowance all of a sudden... :) Just kidding...

I'll say this, and it's a little weird...I've kind of enjoyed not being paid staff these past few years. I feel a lot more independent in some ways. I'm admittedly nervous about being paid ministry professionals again...something to explore I guess....

ness said...

just a couple more things...and then I GOTTA WORK!

Kendra, thanks for your thoughts...I loved what you said about the teenager thing...That was a big thing for me too...I missed that "just falling in love" feeling and found it hard to believe that moving forward could be as rewarding and satisfying as the new part of a relationship. Maybe it's a media thing, but I told the girls...their aren't too many romantic chick flicks devoted to THIS part of marriage.

And Tammi...what...being in ministry and moving and having a couple unplanned pregnancies is stressful or something???? (Insert grin). I pray for you, Girl.

okay, so seriously, gotta work. Will feel very foolish if hubby returns to a dirty house and a long , long list of comments on my blog....

Anonymous said...

I've been there too. And our marriage didn't make it. So many times now, I wish we had put the extra effort into getting "us" back on track but we were both too busy with life, which also included church ministry. Marriage isn't easy for most people. Add to it that you're in the spotlight with the church activities, the kids, the finances and it's almost an impossible situation. I'm so proud of you for talking through it and I hope more than anything that you two will be happy together forever. Years from now I think you'll look back and be so happy that you went through the extra effort to make it work.

courtney said...

I think you struck a chord there, Sis. ;)
You know the conversations we've had; you know the happiness I have in my heart right now reading your post and knowing you're moving up from where you have been. I love you guys both so much and I'll never understand why, in a million years, you ever wanted to be a pastor's wife :) But that's never changed the fact that I'm proud of you, proud of your battles, and proud of both the wins and losses.

Anonymous said...

Girls...here's a word from an older woman....I identify with all aspects of this conversation.....I think where I find it turning off is the assumption that just because you are in ministry, that everything is going to work out perfectly because God is a good God and people in ministry know how to make God handle everything so that everything just has to work out perfectly and that you have all the answers because of Him......here's the deal.......We....and I do mean .we.....are all in the same package.....we communicate in our marriages the same way....if we don't find the right words or can't say the right things at the right time .....it don't get done......it is work.....it is work....it is work......but....eventually, you really do start to figure it out...and you start to really understand the motivations of your mate and the things that you found attractive to you in the first part, hold there place and mature, so that if you let the years continue to be and you extend and let grace be extended to you, you find this person that you would not want to change, replace, or get rid of no matter what the circumstances would be. We ALL and I do mean, all struggle, but eventually accept the differences and the hardships and count it all good. Dad and I are in the good stuff.....I don't think I have ever been happier and more sure of where our marriage is at than right now......hang in there and I know you will.....the best is yet to come ......Mommy

Amy said...

I often secretly wonder if they tell our husbands the truth in "ministry" school and then tell our husbands not to tell us b/c who'd be crazy enough to marry them then???

The funny thing about that statement is this:

I had never thought of my husband as being in the ministry. I just thought of him as a teacher who is called to Christian education.

We contemplated a few years back possibly starting our own church but I told him I didn't know if I was cut out to be a minister's wife.

Through reading a few blogs of minister's wives (one of them Happiness), I came to realize, "Hey, that sounds just like us; how weird."

Then, I came to the BIG realization that we WERE in the ministry in most people's eyes.

We've really only been in the ministry through teaching in Christian schools and it's opened my eyes to what my Aunt, and many other ministry wives, has probably gone through all these years (her husband being a Minister of Edu. all over the country).

I always assumed that life was easy-going for them--working in an environment where everybody thinks the same way and they're all best of buds. It's a church, after all.

Ha.

How lonely my Aunt has probably been. I always wondered why she seemed to cry harder every time they left the family after the holidays. I thought she was just tenderhearted.

I totally agree. Our marriage too had it's own problems that would have caused issues no matter what our lot in life; part of that being the metamorphosis from young romantic love to mature love. But thinking everyone else was getting it right was so isolating. When that older woman told me that she and her spouse had almost divorced, I thought, "Hmmm, maybe this is normal; we're not in a minority. It doesn't say anything to my testimony b/c our marriage is going thru serious problems".

Because, as everyone knows, true believers don't even get close to divorce. If your heart is truly right w/God, everything falls into place. :0) *wink*

And, definitely, we do let people dump on us and say "yes" to things we have no idea saying "yes" to; there is a different spirit about people that take on ministry--I suppose there has to be (that feeling selfish). Our churches, though, need to protect their leaders by writing into their bylaws sabbaticals, vacations and the like. Even further, they need to make sure that these are followed and plans are in place for adequate replacements during these times.

Even Christ himself took breaks many times to be by himself w/his Father to refresh. Endearing to think that even our Lord was sucked dry also.

We're in a great place now and it's not perfect but they are willing to listen and eager to change. To change people's ideals is hard--especially "church" people.

Love to read your blog b/c of your honesty and humor. Your commentors often crack me up too. It makes me wonder their background--where they've been in life up to now.
There should be some sort of "blogger girls weekend" or something.

BTW, I'm jealous that you had access to expired baby food.

courtney said...

Amy, I think your conspiracy theeory on whether they tell the guys is pretty funny! I always assumed that the women who agreed to this sort of life were either mentally unstable or had a severe vitamin deficiency. For Vanessa, well, she always liked a challenge! ;)
How little do our leaders and counselors realize that they can help others most not by being perfect, but by being flawed.
And Amy, I wonder too about meeting some of these other women. I've been blessed to know several of these women personally but I'd like to show up on Donna's porch step sometime :)

courtney said...

...but not when she's gonna puke maybe

klasieprof said...

The puking part...awckk...it's just sometimes..I get so misrable I can't think.
Then..I puke. I was married before (twice to same guy)...was a Preacher type wifey...made sure to buy the right brand of butter that the Holy Spirit led me too, the right toothpaste..the Right nylons, the Right version of the bible..but..somehow...He didn't have to follow the good hubby rules. I usually don't think about it..however(its been a lifetime too ..but failure in marriage in Churches is a "Brand"..that people NEVER forgive), this last week at Camp (I was cooking and am very exhausted)...there were the SEVERE bible thumpers...the "good" wife's in obedience, slapping their kids in their 9 hour services to keep them quiet For God..in their suits and culottes, Cause everyone knows God listens to you better that way.
UGH. Been there. Literally, gave it all ..and still didn't work. Neither did therapy evidently.

My doorstep is wide Tammy...I'd even feed you Like I used to the stray cats. Ok..Maybe NOT the dollar store food--you'd rate CANNED.

I'm all for a blogger weekend.

We could do it at my house. WAIT.....what about CHICAGO In NOVEMBER???....Magnificent Mile in Holiday lights anyone?

kgnkkla= the feeling of throwing up by too much reality talk of how crappy marriage can be

klasieprof said...

SOrry...Courtney...(and Tammy hee hee)

12-arrows said...

WOW! I am blown away by everyones honesty. I don't even know how to comment at this point, because each one said something I have lived. I remember the phrase, "keep 'em poor, keep 'em humble" (while everyone else goes on vacation, is able to purchase their "needs", eat the fun stuff, we were sometimes wondering where our next meal might come from or how to pay a utility, or do we have enough gas to get back and forth to church. . . . .I am so glad to know that I am not the only one who has experienced "ministry at its fullest". We have had awesome opportunities of ministry and we have had some pretty ugly ones, with people saying, "don't let your kids touch the door windows as they leave, I have to clean those," or "where did you get that expensive dress, we don't dress like that here, (not knowing that the dress I wore was purchased by a family member. . .) to "your kids are a hinderance to your ministry". That was the straw that broke the camels back for me. I have met more generous, moral,non-judgmental non-christians, than I have Christians. My husbands "day off" was always interupted by someone who just couldn't wait until Tuesday, and that was in the day before cells. I am to the point that I get tired of my cell phone. We have no privacy, no family time, no personal time because someone is always calling. I remember when ministering in Colorado, our boys were expected (not asked just expected) to mow the church lawn. One Sunday morning the chairman of the deacon board took my son aside and totally riped up one side and down the other about what a lousy job he had done mowing. Fortunately for my son I just happened to walk in on the conversation and in no certain terms said, my children will no longer mow, you can do it yourself. Oh my gosh was that guy mad. . . . from that day on my two older sons copped an attitude about ministry, they were in high school, they saw what went on, they heard people talk, etc. It took several years for God to work through their hearts of stone. Sad to say my second oldest still cops an attitude about church people. I understood where they were coming from because many times I felt the same way only I had to develop thick skin and let it not penetrate. Its tough living in a fishbowl. We were out of ministry for over a year and I totally loved it, it felt so good not to have to be at "everything" to participate in events that I didn't think were of value, I am so not about filling the pews but touching the lives of those I rub elbows with on a daily basis. Most churches are about numbers, get your friends to come to church, to a social, etc. Here is aperfect example. A couple of Sunday nights ago we had our once a month evening service at the bandstand in our city. Afterwards we met a couple who looked familiar but did not attend our church. We were chatting and realized that we knew each other from our boys coaching pee wee basketball. We had a good visit, they thanked us for some awesome music and left. As we were walking away our pastor came up and said, "did you know those people?" we said, "yes" and he said, "did you tell them what time SSchool started on Sunday." Oh my gosh that thought never even crossed my mind. Its not about the building but about the relationships. Loneliness. I have been alone for the past 8 years. Oh I have my family, but not any close friends. I don't know how many nights I cried myself to sleep over the loneliness, the lack of being able to just pick up the phone and call someone and just chat or get together with kids, etc. Its awful. . . . heartbreaking. . . .I have come to feel like I am a reclcuse. Its almost easier to stay in my home and deal with my own little world, now, than step out. I have done it for so long I sometimes feel as if I don't have the confidence any longer to meet new people, try and even build a friendship, or anything. My husband talks about having a passion for ministry. I knew way back 30 years ago that I had a passion for serving God in whatever He chose for me, but somewhere along the way it got squelched, stomped on, degraded, exhaustion set in and moments of wondering if ministry was really worth it. It was nice not being on a staff for that year. We could take a weekend and go somewhere, without guilt, we could take a day and just enjoy the weather, like so many others do, but pastors dare not miss a Sunday. My passion for ministry got left somewhere, it just got plain worn out. I am, at this point, in my walk, on the road to recovery. Its slow, somedays I take giant steps backwards, my guard goes up very quickly when I hear certain phrases, certain tones. I don't volunteer to do much of anything, not even nursery. Isn't that awful? There is a very small part of me that wants too yet when you get your hand slapped over and over you tend to not reach out any longer. We are in an awesome church now, my husband is part-time (yeah right, there is no such thing as a part-time pastor), the people are loving, friendly, kind, thoughtful, helpful, and encouraging, yet I still tread water very lightly. I am still afraid of dropping my guard. I still struggle with having people over, its easier to stay in my comfort zone; but I am taking baby steps, with so many kids my days are filled with them and their activities, which can be helpful to keep myself busy and out of the church "business". Thank you to all who took the time to blog about this. I have so often wondered if anyone has ever flet like I; or is it me? some words my mother-in-law said to me years ago before my husband and I married still haunt me, "you will never make a good pastors wife. . . ." some days she is probably right, somedays I want to prove to her she is wrong, some days are good and some days are bad!

kendra said...

12 arrows, wow, there is so much that I would love to comment on. I am not a pastor's wife. I went to a Baptist school, taught there and attended church, there knowing that I could never do the job. So you are already a gift to God. I want you to know that I had tears reading your blog as it hurts me to see Christians in direct service feeling so alone and struggling. Recently, my husband and I are redefining our needs and thoughts on God versus the church. We are focusing on just loving and accepting people and are guarding ourselves from "doing" so much that we are not "feeling" anymore for God's true purpose. There is so much I would love to say, but tis only a blog.

Heidi said...

Wow...and people wonder why we've given up on church. Not THE church as in the body of Christ, but Sunday-go-da-meetin kind of church.

I don't post this stuff on my blog because I'm not sure who reads it and it would scare the crap out of my family.

When did "church" become God? When did committee meetings, programs and penniless pastors become God? Sad.

This all comes at an interesting time. I've been emailing a good friend wondering if I was crazy. Having been involved with Pilgrimage for so long and being involved in true, Biblical community we are always left disappointed with what other people call community. A bunch of people getting together on Sunday morning so the girls can give each other warm fuzzies and the guys can be heard in their pontification isn't what I'm looking for. I want friends who can look beyond what I'm saying and see whats really happening in my heart, and perform the surgery necessary to remove whatever cancer is threatening to take over. My friend described it perfectly...not just living and acting "Christian" but living and acting according to the truth of Scripture...Biblically. She told me to expect a life of loneliness because most people don't want to do that.

All along I thought I was crazy. I thought if I found just the right church that would be happening. Sadly, many of our friends are pastors or training for the ministry and we still don't find that. (There are always a few exceptions to the rule).

Not to be completely depressing or anything, but my friend didn't stop at the loneliness part. She reminded me that I do have friends who are only a phone call, email or in this case-a blog away.

Cindy, if my kids weren't sick I'd ask if we could come over this weekend.

Ness, you guys are experiencing the very love that God has for His children...love in spite of our sin. I think it will take your ministry to a whole new level.

ness said...

oh you girls....

I just wish I could give you a hug. There is obviously no way I could adequately reply...like Kendra said...it's only a blog. :(

But I will say that you are all safe here. I don't think you are crazy or whiny or inadequate. I value your contribution to this discussion and I pray it was of benefit to you...

Cindy, I hate that you have had to take so many hits. I remember how in our last church it felt like walking down a dark hallway where people took swipes at you, and you never saw it coming...and the worst is when they are nasty to your kids...oh how foolish of them to awaken Mama Bear!!! Your mother in law was NOT right. There's a reason that leadership roles in the Bible never include a description for the pastor's wives...They need only be a good teammate for their husbands and you are most obviously that...

Donna...I'm calling you...

Aaron called this kind of talk the "ritual of lament." I think he's totally on to something here : )

I'll try to wrap it up with a couple of thoughts...and then I'll post on this again....sometime when the kids are back at school and I can stop losing my religion every time they open the front door letting in a swarm of flies and letting out the good cold air....

Marriage: it's a trip if you are in or out of ministry. Like I said, ministry was just the pot our problems were boiling in...I'll bet we would have had similar stuff come up if we were trying to be part of a family business (you know who you are) or get through law school : )

Ministry: There is definitely a kinship among ministry folks...it is a strange life, I suppose. I suppose you can minimize the strangeness sometimes, but it will never be all gone. With God and each other, we just do our best and as Dr Carter used to tell us, "Remember who you really work for."
I do often find myself asking the question about some church people that Wayne Watson asked in one of his old songs..."How'd the friends of Jesus ever get so mean?"

Community: This is part of what God uses to change and grow us and if you don't have it, you gotta get some...even if it's just a tiny taste here in the blogosphere...I'd be lost without it...

obviously.

Anonymous said...

WOW! You all are hitting hard! No whimps in here... Not sure how I got here but thanks for all your honesty. It sounds more like "real church" in here than out there!

12 arrows not really knowing you I'd say you, in spite of what any have said, are the real deal! Keep loving and living girl you rock!

Thanks again to all! I may never find you again

Amy said...

Everytime I log back onto this blog, the comments have doubled.

Cool.

To think that I hesitated blogging b/c I was afraid I might lose myself in writing and reveal too much.

Just one more thing from me. Regardless of all of the politics, legalism, naivete' and bad that my family has experienced, I would not give it up. We've determined to be in this for the next generation of believers that need things changed. For the kids like the sons of 12-Arrows that are jaded to all things church. It's a generational epidemic, going all the way back to MY generation.

We've ALL had it with hypocrisy and mercilessness.

I've grown as a Believer and I have a relationship with Christ b/c of other believers that were willing to be real with my husband and I. Divine intervention brought about our move to Florida, where we met our best friends in the world.

We all went thru good times there for a very short year and then it all went to hell in a handbasket b/c our best friend stood up to "church" and said "enough". But we were all able to go through it together--that was God's gift of Grace. His timing all made sense then.

I fought with God over the fact that we had to move our children again, that my husband and friends' husband's reputations were put thru the wringer, and that, in the end, we all were called to separate parts of the South.

He DID bring us all to a better place in our lives (right, Tam?) and although it's far from perfect (as we all are), I realized he was teaching us lessons thru all the bad, to prepare us for "such a time as this".

Way back when, I was trained in a legalistic school where all I learned about Christianity was "don't do this, don't do that, you're not a true Christian if..."

I didn't want that; it turned my stomach. I have to say that I was still at that point when God brought us to Florida; he provided us with friends that SHOWED us, by their relationship with us, what Christ is. Now, I have caught His Passion and I don't let it go--no matter what "Christians" do or say to me, my family and friends.

I get down but not out. All I have to do is look at my kids and know that I don't want them to EVER know the "Christianity" I knew growing up.

And it's my vow to fight church stupidity, naivete' and legalism b/c "church," I believe, has become the worst enemy to Believers.

Last, I feel such a kinship here. You're mostly all strangers to me and yet I know more about your hearts than I do about my own family. It's heart-wrenching, passion-driving, scar-healing and a fresh drink of water all at the same time. I see His Branches working all over the country and it is truly exciting.

Thank you, Ness!

"For where two or three are gathered together..." Can you feel The Spirit too? Awesome!

I'm done. :0)

A said...

Fighting the urge to run out of this room filled with women and so . . . much . . . estrogen . . . as I have several times over the past 24 hours. But since I've been mentioned twice I figure I should at least weigh in.

First, can I just say, holy cow we look like kids playing dress up in that photo, with the notable exceptions of MJP and Theo who appear as the token "old enough to know better" people who were present.

Now, on to the reason for my wading into this pool of gritty and honest confession.

I want to say congratulations. Congratulations to Robb and Vanessa for weathing the storms of 11 years of marriage. Congratulations to Vanessa for not "chucking it" when she felt like perhaps that was the path of least resistance. And congratulations to all of you who continue to grind it out every day in search of marital bliss.

I say all of that because I have experienced firsthand a marriage in which someone did decide to "chuck it." We too attempted the tradional ministry marriage in somewhat suffocating churches that favored legalism over grace. Do I blame ministry or the church for my failed marriage. Hell no. Was it a factor, probably. But I think what happened had much more to do with who "we" were than the context in which "we" attempted to do it. As V has stated, ministry happens to be the "pot in which we boiled" but non-ministry couples go through similar struggles, challenges, highs and lows. Ultimately, the untimely demise of my first nuptials would have happened regardless of our career path. Of this I have become convinced. However, it certainly was difficult, and perhaps exponentially more so, to navigate those waters in that context. Frankly, the marriage was over for 6 months and "we" were the only ones that knew. We kept it from the church, from our friends, and from our families because we could not "risk" the fallout of anyone knowing we were struggling, or worse yet, doomed. So we faked it. Yes effort was expended to try to recover and fix things, but it turned out to be too little too late and when it finally became clear that Jimmy Hoffa had more of a chance of resurfacing than our marital happiness, then and only then did we let the cat out of the bag. I have wondered if anything would have been different if the same situation took place in "our" current context. I doubt the end result would have been any different, but perhaps the process would have been radically different.

So, all that is to say, congratulations to you all. And, keep doing what you're doing. Be honest with your spouses, your friends, your churches, and your blog friends. Find strength and encouragement where you can. Keep grinding it out and striving for the true partnership that transcends your circumstances. Fortunately, I've found a true partner in life that can and will weather the storms with me. Even though we've only got 3 years under "our" belt, I am confident we will blink and it will be 30 and we'll look back on the journey together, hand in hand, with a bit of a chuckle and a sigh and say we're better for it all.

. . . running from the room quickly . . .

Jae said...

WOW! . . just WOW! . . . My hat is off to you for "saying it out loud and making it all real" something I am not ready to do yet.

Robb said...

In.

akr said...

Ok...so I'm coming on a little late...but wow!! The ironic thing is Kevin picked up a book about the start of willow creek and lynn shares alot about her loneliness and marriage struggles too and now this. I'm just in the beginnings of it sometimes. I don't want out but am afraid of the toll it is going to take...especially now adding a child into the mix. It seems like he likes touching my belly more than me. I get scared about the comments that will come to my children about their behavior. But more than that...I get scared that we can sit in the same house sometimes and feel so far apart...that all of our conversations are about church and I am more of a sounding board than anything else. I get lonely...there aren't younger couples in our church and I have a friend across the street but she is a young christian. I also see the impact ministry has had on my mom and dad. We left bible college all charged up believing there was no higher calling and thinking we were going to change the world...and we probably are in some ways but when you are picking up dishes and getting ready to run out the door to prayer meeting in the midst of a stupid arguement and get a phone call for the hundreth time about someone or fight off another bat (see my blog) you wonder. I have a huge heart for people in the ministry...maybe it's growing up in it...but man...we need support!

Michele said...

Wow! This was an awesome post. Thank you for being honest! Our pastor and his wife are also are our dear friends. This actually helped me understand more of why they use our home to "run away" where they say they can just be themselves and be accepted for whatever. We were just thrilled to have friends that are so open and honest and accept us for who we are! Now I feel so needed! And all in a good way!

Sara said...

I don't have anything of great importance to say but I Love You guys!

I turned 27 today and thought to myself that this was around the age you and Robb were when you met me. And I thought "what would my life be like now if they hadn't been there."

Love you

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