The Power of a Song

It’s late, I’ve had a long day and I should be in bed.  But there are some thoughts I just have to share.

This was family weekend at Luther college so I was off early Saturday morning to go see my youngest daughter, Nessa, who is a freshman at Luther.  I brought two of her friends, one who graduated with my daughter and is now in culinary school up in the Twin Cities, and another who is a Senior in High School.  My travelling companions were in choir with Nessa when she was in high school an there are two other “choir alumni” at Luther college as freshmen this year.

At the end of the day, the music department held a concert featuring all but one of the choirs.  I loved getting to see Nessa and the two other freshmen I mentioned earlier perform with their respective ensembles.  The friends I had brought with me were enjoying the concert as well.  When Nessa’s choir had finished singing, she (and her roommate who is in choir with Nessa) came and sat with us for a bit before participating in a massed number at the end of the concert.

One of the choirs began a piece titled “Ubi Carits” by Ola Gjeilo.  The three Fort Dodge Choir Alum sitting near me gasped – they had done the exact same piece the year before and it had been a choir favorite!  Two of them simply closed their eyes and enjoyed the moment.  One of them mouthed the words along.  There were even a few tears.  I saw one of the other freshman from Fort Dodge after the concert and she admitted to shedding some tears as well.  I don’t know this for a fact, but I would wager that all five of the FDSH students/graduates that sang that song were taken back to treasured performances of that piece.

That’s how it is for us performing arts geeks.  You hear a choir sing a song that you did “once upon a time” and you instantly transported back to that moment in time.  But you also feel an instant connection to the ensemble performing the piece just then.  The members of that choir may never know that they inspired a moment but it doesn’t matter.  The moment happened and now that “new” ensemble has a tiny piece of your heart because they helped you remember a precious moment.

That, my friends, is the power of a song.

The Care and Feeding of A Pastor's Family – Part 1

Disclaimer #1 – The stories (and possibly frustrations) I will share are not necessarily my own.  I was a Pastor’s daughter whose father served two different congregations and am now a Pastor’s wife whose husband has served as a Youth Pastor, an Associate Pastor in two different congregations, and is now a senior Pastor,  In other words, I have encountered 6 different congregations as a member of the Pastor’s family.  A majority of the people I have encountered in that capacity have been wonderful.  Unfortunately, there are those who just don’t get it.  Some of the stories I share will be from other pastor’s wives/kids I’ve encountered over the course of my life.  Don’t ask me why, but we tend to find one another because there is a level of understanding that exists between us that others just don’t get.

Disclaimer #2 – The Pastors I have been related to have all been men so I tend to use male pronouns to refer to men, female pronouns to refer to their spouses.  This is not a statement of my attitude toward female clergy, simply a habit born from my personal experience.

Part 1

The most important thing you need to remember is fairly simple – you hired a Pastor.  One person.  Unless you put his family on the payroll, they don’t work for you.  I know that sounds harsh and I’m sorry but I just couldn’t think of a more subtle way to say it.  Every Pastor’s kid I’ve ever talked to (or given birth to!) feels the same way.  As a Pastor’s wife, I am committed to being involved in the life of the congregation my husband ministers to. But I need to be sure that I am involved in ways that allow me to use my gifts and passions and that may not agree with what the congregation wants.  True, I’m a piano player which is stereotypical “pastor’s wife”.  But that’s where the stereotype stops.

A Pastor’s kids are kids.  They will behave quite a bit like the other kids of similar age in your congregation.  It’s tempting, I know, to set your expectations for them higher but may I lovingly suggest something?  Don’t.  Expect nothing more or less of them than you do any other kid in their age group.  The best way to help them become amazing young men and women is love on them.  Lots. Attend their games, concerts, plays, musicals, etc. and love them. If your Pastor’s family has moved a significant distance from their extended family, those kids can use surrogate Aunts, Uncles, and Grandparents to love on them in the absence of their biological family.  As a matter of fact, they NEED you.

Let me be very clear – there are aspects of being a Pastor’s wife that I absolutely love.  The most notable is the fact that I get to hear one of my two favorite preachers speak every Sunday AND I’m related to him! (Funny thing is, I’m related to my other favorite preacher too!)  I love planning and putting on the annual Open House that we put together each December for our church family.  I truly feel that we – our family – were called to Fort Dodge and I believe that we each have a purpose in this community.  And I deeply value those members of our congregation who “get it” – they love on me and my kids and they value my husband’s work but they realize that his job and his family are two separate things.

Have I been too blunt and harsh?  If so, I’m truly sorry.  It is my belief that the vast majority of church members are eager to do right by the Pastor’s family.  With this series of posts I am hoping to share some real stories from the lives of Pastor’s spouses/kids I’ve met to help shed some light on the very weird existence that is the Pastor’s family.  I hope we can laugh together, maybe cry together a little and gain a better understanding of how to work together in the family we call “church”.

The Passing of Time

Being on vacation visiting family has been one long experience of “When did I get this old?!”  Let me give a little bit of background – I’m the oldest of three and there is a pretty significant age difference between us.  I’m 6+ years older than the next sister in line and nine years older than the baby (we were actually ten years apart in school).  I may be unusual in my tendency to “freeze” people at a particular age or place in time.

We are on vacation, visiting my baby sister and her family in San Antonio, Texas.  She and her family just welcomed baby Harley, making them a family of five so we’ve enjoyed getting acquainted with him to say nothing of the chance to love on his older brother and sister.

But life is full of reminders as to just how much time has passed.

My oldest child will be 21 in just 6 days.  What?!

Hubby and I will celebrate our 24th anniversary in January. We’re only a little over one year away from our silver anniversary.  Am I really that old?!

One of the “must do” tasks on our vacation was getting the Senior pictures taken for child number 3.  My third child is going to be a Senior?!  When did I give permission for that to happen?!

My baby is 16.  No, I’m not okay with that!

My baby sister has three kids and just celebrated 9 years of marriage and her number two child will enter kindergarten. How is that possible when she was just born like a year ago?!

The older I get, the faster the time seems to fly.  So I will enjoy the newest members of the family, celebrate the big milestones, and realize that these big changes are how life is SUPPOSED to go!

Excuse me but I have little ones to go love on!

Trying to Live up to the Legacy (Warning – may cause tears!)

10 years ago today, I lost one of my favorite people ever.  My grandfather never lost his “inner child” and, as a result, he was able to connect with not only his six granddaughters, but also the great-grandkids he got to meet.  When strangers visited our church, he made a point to not only introduce himself but also to get to know them – their names, where they were from, what their connection was to our little community, etc. – and then he’d make sure to introduce others to the visitors.

In the community, he served on the school board, farmed, drove a school bus, delivered furnace oil, and volunteered his time to the church he’d grown up in.  He spent hours sitting at sporting events involving kids of all ages – little league baseball games, high school basketball games, you name it, and my grandparents watched it.  They attended every arts event that the school hosted as well.   And my grandfather took every opportunity he had to let those student athletes and performers know how much he appreciated their hard work.

He never made a fortune.  He never published a novel.  He didn’t cure a mysterious disease, travel the world, speak to crowds of thousands, play a professional sport or perform with a band (although he was a pretty decent drummer in his day, or so I’ve been told!) He did so much more than all of this.

He was madly in love with his wife right up until the day he died and flirted incessantly with her (much to the grandkids chagrin at times!).

He took his granddaughters on “dates” and set a tough example for future boyfriends to follow since he pretty much treated you like a queen on those outings!

He hugged me ferociously after each concert, play, etc. and told me that he was very proud of me and couldn’t believe how talented I was.

He squeezed himself into a child’s sized chair just because his first great-grand daughter batted her big brown eyes and said “Gwampa, will you come have a tea pawty wif me?”  He did a lousy job saying no to invitaitons like that.

He allowed his oldest great-grand son to fall asleep on him at more than one Christmas get-together.

He let us tag along when he worked in the garden, took us for tractor rides, kept a swing in his tree at all times (a tire swing in the last few years), kept corn on hand so my kids could feed the mule and horse that lived next door, hung Christmas lights on the house every year and was the biggest kid on hand when it came time to open the Christmas gifts.

When he passed away, one of my cousins said it best – “He loved well and was well-loved for it.”

At the funeral home visitations, the line of mourners went out the door and down the block.  Among those who stopped to pay their respects to the family were former hired hands that worked on the farm, classmates of his grand daughters who had just always known him and current students who didn’t really speak to the family, choosing instead to shed silent tears at the casket.

The funeral was held in the school auditorium and ended up being standing room only.  The captain of the high school basketball team asked the family if he could speak on behalf of the students who had been touched by his concern and a woman who had ridden my grandfather’s bus years before shared a poem she wrote in his honor.  A six year old that he had bonded with asked for permission to leave a flower and a picture that she had colored in his casket.

A few years before his death, the football stadium at my old high school was named “Redfield Stadium” in honor of the commitment that my grandparents had demonstrated to the community they loved so much.  But I am almost positive that my grandfather would say that a name on a wall is not the most important thing he left behind.

He touched people. When you had a moment alone with him, you had his complete focus and attention.  And in that moment he made you feel as there was no place he would rather be.  He laughed often, loved to tell jokes, snuck M&M’s to my kids a little too close to meal time and would drop just about anything if a child said, “Grandpa, come quick!”

You knew Grandpa loved you.  He showed it and he lived it.

I only hope that when my time comes I have touched a fraction of the hearts my grandfather did and left behind people who knew beyond any doubt, that I cared.

I Blinked

When I wake up tomorrow morning, I will be the mother of a 16 year old boy.  This isn’t the first child in my house to turn 16.  It is, instead, my last.  Yes, my baby turns 16 tomorrow.  “Big” birthdays like this tend to make me reflective.  So bear with this sentimental mom as she waxes a bit nostalgic.

Children have made me so much more aware of the fact that life is full of phases. They’ve also made me aware of how quickly time passes.  The first day of school, the first “teen” birthday, first dates, first dances, entering middle school, entering high school . . . these events and so many more give us pause and make us reflect on the rapid passing of time.  With each of my kids, these events have had an impact on me and my awareness of just how quickly the days are running away.  But I am still a little surprised by how intensely I am impacted by the “lasts” – the last 16th birthday, the last “first day of high school”, the last . . . you get the idea.

My baby turns 16 tomorrow and my oldest turns 21 in August.  Talk about two biggies close together!  My oldest has been out of high school 3 years now and my second born starts her sophomore year of college in the fall.  Child number 3 is a High School Senior this year – with all of the “extra” activity such an important year brings – and the youngest will be a Sophomore in High School.

When I read over the previous paragraph, I think to myself ‘How on earth did that happen? Just yesterday, I was bringing my youngest home from the hospital, right?’ I blinked and my four children five and under now range from 16 – 21.  One more blink and my husband and I will be the only two living in our house. So I will cherish every silly moment with my kids, every goofball conversation we have, every random outburst of singing that occurs, every argument over who the best superhero is . . . all of the craziness that is a part of our family.  I will cherish the insanity of graduation festivities this year, knowing I only have to deal with it once more before I’m done with it forever.

And you’ll understand, won’t you, if I try not to blink!