Ready to Act

I see you.  Kneeling.  Taking your frustration – and maybe even some personal pain – and channeling it into a peaceful gesture meant to draw attention; hoping to start a dialogue.

I see you.

I’ll admit – my initial reaction when the very first athlete knelt was visceral.  I watched a millionaire – who made his millions at a job he wasn’t very good at, or so I’ve been told by those who know far more than me – kneel and then give an interview about how tough his life was.  I didn’t think clearly right away.  But I’ve educated myself.  I’ve talked to those who have been suspected/pulled over/judged/doubted simply because of the skin they wear.

I’ve learned.  I’ve educated myself.  I’ve admitted that, in quite a few ways, things have been easier for me because of the color of my skin.  And now?

I REALLY see you.  Not just the gesture.  I see your frustration.  I don’t claim to understand it, but I see it.  I see the desire to make the world a better, safer place for absolutely everyone.

So how can I help?  I know that you, as a millionaire athlete, can donate large quantities of money to worthy causes.  I don’t have those funds so that’s not an option for me.  Maybe you have the skill, the drive, the passion, the connections to establish a foundation that will allow others to donate their financial resources.  Again, not my skill set.

So what can I do?  As a woman, nearing 50, who has limited financial resources but an unlimited capacity to love people from all walks of life and all skin shades, what action can I take?

I’ve educated myself and will continue to do so.  I’ve talked to those who have lived with issues I’ve never faced.  I’ve acknowledged privilege.

So what can I  DO?  

Tired and Proud

Every town in America has it’s issues.  Crime, a high rate of high school dropouts, a larger-than-average number of auto accidents . . . the list could go on for days and the issues vary from one town to the next.  The size of the city doesn’t matter – they all have problems!  But I have one question – why do SO MANY of us seem to focus on those negatives and run our towns/cities/villages down as though that is the ONLY thing happening?

In December of 2009 my family moved to a small Iowa town we had never heard of till hubby got a job offer from there – Fort Dodge.  Now I grew up in a town so small that it is technically classified as a village in the state of Michigan – 650 people or thereabouts when I graduated in 1986.  It’s grown a little but the population is still, I would wager, in the three digit range.  Fort Dodge has a population of about 25,000.  They talk about how small they are and I love to tell people how small MY hometown was just for the sake of perspective!

We have a couple of art museums, a symphony that has a handful of concerts a year, a choral society that does the same, a faith related singing group (made up of members from different churches in the community) that performs a couple of times a year, three different theater companies, very active arts and sports programs at the local high schools and the community college in town, and some local bands that perform from time to time at local bars.  As if THAT isn’t enough, there is an annual concert called Shellabration that has brought in groups like Foreigner, Styx, Boston and more.  Oh!  And I almost forgot – there is a blues festival every year called “Blues Under the Trees” and the people that organize that event also regularly bring in blues musicians to entertain at the bars in the area.  So we have ALOT going on.  A Fine Arts Association that is very active, beautiful parks, trails for hiking and biking, an academy that allows local citizens to work with city police officers to gain a better understanding of the training and preparation our officers go through . . . I could go on for a while but suffice it to say that I have come to love my new “hometown” and what she has to offer a whole bunch.

But, like a lot of cities, she has a past.  (Don’t we all?!)  This past has earned her the nickname “Dirty Dodge.”  Every time a crime is reported in the local news, my Facebook blows up with comments like “Well, what can you expect from ‘The Dirty’.” Or “Business as usual in Dirty Dodge.”  Are there people who make lousy choices living in this town?  Yep.  They might even be just downright awful human beings.  I don’t know.  But is that ALL the citizens of Fort Dodge are up to?  Not by a long shot.  I already mentioned a whole bunch of good things about our community in the previous paragraph so I won’t repeat those.  But let me tell you about some amazing human beings I know in and around this town.

I got back in to two at 4 a.m. – yes, you read that right – from a trip to Branson, Missouri. The instrumental music department from Fort Dodge Senior High takes a trip every two years alternating between “big” trips – like bowl games in the south over Christmas Break – and “small” trips – like the one we just took to Branson.  We left last Thursday at about 1 and got back Monday morning at about 4 a.m.  In those few days we packed in a lot – spent a day at Silver Dollar City, the marching band marched through “The Landing at Branson” (think “outdoor mall”) and did a performance of some of the pep band tunes after they marched, the orchestra got a private clinic with a string instructor, the jazz band played as a sort of “opening act” on the Showboat Branson Belle, we went to the Dixie Stampede, hit an outlet mall, spent time in the pool, rode the ducks . . . believe me when I say we packed ALOT into those four days!

On the way home, I got about a 10 minute cat nap on the bus and fell into bed exhausted a little before 5.  And I’d pack up and do it all again tomorrow if they asked me to.  At each location where we ate as a group, at least one of the chaperones/directors (and sometimes more) were approached by waitstaff who wanted to complement our kids on how respectful they were.  One waitress even went so far as to tell me that they were just fun kids to be around because they knew how to – and I’m quoting her, here – “handle themselves like adults”.  Were there some minor irritations between students?  Well, we spent many hours on charter busses and hanging out at the hotel together – teenagers + lots of time in the same space = of course there are going to be some moments!  But they were relatively minor and, for the most part, handled pretty wisely.  When we did room checks each night, they were where they were supposed to be without fuss.  They were ready when they were supposed to be, they made sure an adult was accompanying them to the pool (as the hotel had requested) and they kept each other in check when it came to their volume so they wouldn’t disturb the other guests in the hotel.  This group has its “loners” like every group does – those kids who will never insert themselves into a group but will gladly go along if asked – and these kids took care to make sure that those individuals were being included and looked after by their “family.”

I guess what I’m trying to say – in a very wordy, roundabout way – is this:  more than 100 high school students from the band and orchestra programs at FDSH went to Branson for four days and they were INCREDIBLY positive representatives of their school, their community, and their families.  It was an honor to share the trip with them.  When I, as a chaperone, made a request of a student they did it.  No fuss, no whining, no questions asked.  When expectations regarding check out time, departure time, etc. were shared they got business taken care of and were ready when they were supposed to be.  Many of them were often ready a little early!  Are those kids perfect? No.  But will they carry themselves with class and excellence when those around them have those types of expectations of them and communicate those expectations clearly and positively?  Yep.  Saw it with my own eyes this weekend. Repeatedly.

I’m not saying problems don’t exist in my town.  They do.  And solutions need to be sought, conversations need to be had, and those that care need to get involved.  But maybe . . . just maybe . . . this idea of setting the bar high, expecting excellence from our citizens, and letting those around us know how much we appreciate the good they are doing . . . maybe that’s a part of the solution we need to talk more about.

Care and Feeding of the Pastor's Family – Part 2 (REBLOGGED!)

I am reblogging some past thoughts about the “weirdness” of life as a Pastor’s wife.  If you missed part 1, you can catch it here.  Read on for Part 2!

Are you ready for part 2? I’ll be honest – this one could be tough.  Are you sure you are ready?  Okay – here goes.

Say “Thank you”.  Often

Sound simple?  Or maybe a little ridiculous?

Let me explain why it matters.  Your pastor is on duty 24/7.  Literally every day of the year.  Sure, he may take a vacation.  But I assure you that if a major crisis came up – for example, the death of a church member or an illness that put them in serious condition – there is a strong chance that your pastor (and his family) will lose their vacation so he can be there for the person in crisis.  Those big family holidays that so many choose to visit family for?  Your pastor can’t exactly do that.  He has to work on Christmas Eve, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day. . . you get the idea.  In the last post I mentioned the fact that a Pastor and his family may live several hours away from extended family.  If he’s working Christmas Eve and the family lives several hours away (in our case, 10 or 17 depending on which family we would visit) he will either have to fly ($$$) or spend most of Christmas Day driving.  His family too.

I’ve had date nights cancelled because a church family member had been rushed to the hospital. Other dates have been interrupted (sometimes repeatedly) when we ran into members of the congregation around town and hubby stopped to chat.  Same goes for family outings.  It’s just the nature of the “business”.

And Sunday?  Craziest day of the week in my house!  I was once chatting with another pastor’s wife when someone joined our conversation.  Somehow we got on to the topic of Sunday and this third person made the comment about Sunday being a day for slowing down and spending time with family.  My pastor-wife friend and I looked at one another for a moment and, at the exact same moment, burst out laughing.  Sunday is pretty much the complete opposite of slow and family-focused in my house!  Most pastor’s families would say the same thing.  I love hearing my hubby preach so that’s the trade-off for me.  But he is busy working, connecting with church members, etc. from the moment he arrives in the building (before 8 a.m.) until we get home four hours  later(or thereabouts).

In every congregation, there is that one person who is just never completely happy with the pastor (or his spouse or his kids) and is very willing to let the pastor know when he or a family member has failed to meet expectations.  My hubby once got a complaint because my son was slouching in church.  My son runs the computer that is hooked up to the projector and it sits on the pew next to him so sometimes he slides down in the pew to be able to see the screen and click the arrows at the right time.  To me, griping about slouching is silly and petty but hubby still has to field those complaints and I’m so grateful he does!

I’m not sharing any of this to gain sympathy or point fingers.  There is no other profession that I know of that requires a person to be on-call, ready to go at a moment’s notice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  In a discussion with other pastor’s wives about this very issue, one of the women said, “Since we can’t change the 24/7 demands of the job, what do you think would make it easier?”  There was a moment of silence until one of the wives spoke up and said, “Thank you.”  We looked at her, confused, until she explained:  “It would be nice for hubby or the family to hear a ‘thank you’ now and then.  I’m not looking for more money or more days off.  Just some appreciation.”

Want to ease the strain of a 24/7 on-call lifestyle for both your pastor and his family?  Let them know how much you appreciate his willingness to be so available and how grateful you are for the families willingness to roll with the schedule changes that happen at a moment’s notice.  A simple “Thank You” means more than you can possibly know.

A Strange Place to Live

No, it’s not an exotic location or a bizarrely shaped house.  The strangest place I’ve lived is in a Pastor’s Home.  I was a Pastor’s daughter for most of my teen years and am now a Pastor’s wife.  Believe me, it’s different.  DISCLAIMER – the church hubby is currently Pastoring is a great bunch of people!  We have been very loved on and truly feel at home.  These statements are generalizations that come from being a Pastor’s kid in two different churches and a Pastor’s wife in four and not our current church!

I am expected to show up weekly – or sometimes multiple times a week – to my husband’s work.  When hubby worked at UPS, I used FedEx, the Postal Service . . . whatever shipping option worked best for me!

In many congregations, there is the expectation that the Pastor’s wife will serve on certain committees (whether those committees fit her gifts and interests or not!).  Thankfully, I haven’t had to deal with that!

Occasionally, the Pastor’s kids are held to a higher standard than the other kids in the church.  (My amazing hubby usually responds with “If you want to have expectations of my family, put them on the payroll.)

With hubby Pastoring a church in a small town, we can’t go out a date night in without running in to someone hubby knows which means he “goes to work”.  I’ve just come to expect those moments.

Kiss Christmas Eve goodbye!  And that occasional year when Christmas is on Sunday?!  Mom has to get creative so the kids still get their Christmas traditions!

But when you are blessed with a congregation who values their Pastor, there is some “upside” to the weirdness!

There are those in every congregation that understand the sacrifice of having a family member who is on call LITERALLY 24 hours a day seven days a week and they are sometimes more protective of the families vacation time and the Pastor’s day off than his wife!

Members of the church family tend to be generous with left-over produce in the summer and have been known to drop off Christmas gifts.

Those members of the church that are of the right age, have been known to step in as surrogate grandparents when the Pastor and his family are living far away from the biological grandparents.

I get to see my husband do something he is really good at every single church service.  I LOVE his passion for preaching and his preaching style!

Yes, it’s weird to be married to a man whose job is simply a part of his life, not something he leaves behind when he comes home each day.  But my hubby is really good at what he does and I respect the heart he has for the congregation, his desire to see God work in the life of each individual in the church, and his skill for teaching the Word.

The Pastor’s home is a strange – sometimes stressful – place to live but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!