Category Archives: Help I’m now a pastor’s wife!

Celebrating mothers – and my mum in particular :)

mum and ClaireAs we approach Mother’s Day, it felt appropriate for me to focus on motherhood – and the huge impact our mothers have on us. When I wrote about International Women’s Day, which we also celebrated this month, I spoke about what a privilege it is to be a mother to my own daughter, but what a challenge it is to bring her up in today’s society too.

I’m so grateful for the wisdom of the other women I have around me – who not only help me when I’m in those ‘tearing my hair out’ moments with my kids, but who also challenge me and push me not to settle for the mundane status quo. They continually urge me to seek hard after God and His purposes for my life and not to allow my insecurities to stop me from being all God wants me to be.

Those women include some great, close friends within my church, who I simply couldn’t cope without (hence I view them as God’s gift to me) as well as those I’m privileged enough to work with within my Christian publishing career. As women I think we often do a brilliant job of supporting one another. I mentioned in a previous post too that my sister also often ‘tells it like it is’ to me – while we may not see each other that often we speak words of truth into each other’s lives, and we know we are always there for each other.

Today, however, my focus has got to be on the one woman who has not only influenced me the most but also inspired me the most too: my mum. What a testimony she is to a life of faithfulness in the midst of suffering.

To read the rest of this, please click here.

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Learning to be vulnerable

Our church is currently doing a preaching series based on Phil Moore’s brilliantly provocative book Gagging Jesus: things Jesus said we wish he hadn’t. Last Sunday my husband preached about sexuality and what Jesus said about it. We looked at sex within marriage (how different a starting point we have to our society on this subject), same-sex attraction, lust, adultery and pornography. Possibly not the most usual material for a Sunday morning sermon! And yet how important.

I was struck about how little we Christians talk about sex (and in our small group during the week so many people said they are saddened that the Church doesn’t celebrate good sex). We also don’t like engaging with the ‘hot potato’ issues such as porn or homosexuality. And yet what does that do to our churches? They are so often places that are rife with hidden sins – but why? I was leading the worship times before and after the preach and at one point I heard myself saying, ‘Church is full of sin because we are all too scared to open up and admit our failings. And so often when others do we judge them. Shame on us. Shame on us for creating an environment where no one feels comfortable enough to be open.’

Shame on us, also, for allowing sins to go on either undetected or unchallenged. Of course this isn’t just about sexual sin, but every other sin too (another point made in the preach). What about anger, bitterness, gossip, fear, making money an idol etc? Every single one of them takes us further away from God. Surely the point of being part of a church family is that we are able to walk closely with those we see regularly (I’m not saying we should be shouting our sins out to the whole congregation!). We are there to support but also confront our friends when necessary. But that isn’t going to happen if no one is willing to take off their ‘I’m fine’ mask and be real.

To read the rest of this post please click here.

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A picture of God’s faithfulness

As a church this month we celebrated our 10th anniversary – I can’t believe how the time has flown by (yes I know that’s a sign of getting older!). It was rather hilarious to watch clips of our launch service, spotting those who have been with us since the start (and noting how much younger and slimmer we all looked!)

We had a fantastic anniversary service, praising God for bringing us this far and re-dedicating ourselves to His vision. We then enjoyed a feast of international food prepared by everyone in the church. But what has struck me most during this time of celebration is how faithful God has been throughout the journey.

The church almost lost two of its leaders before we even really began as our marriage began to unravel. I remember my husband saying to the pastor who was mentoring the team at the time, ‘but what about the church?’. His answer? ‘God will build His church – you focus on your marriage.’ Wise, true words.

To read the rest of this post please click here.

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Leaders need to look after themselves too!

Earlier this month my husband and I were able to enjoy a weekend with the other leaders from the network of churches we are affiliated to. It was a great time catching up with those we know but don’t often get to see. But the thing that struck me most was what a privilege it is to be led by such honest, trustworthy and transparent leaders.

The first session covered something the speaker said isn’t often spoken about in conferences: a leader’s health. He talked about the fact we have a responsibility to ensure we are spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically fit so that we can continue being passionate as we work out our calling throughout life’s seasons.

Obvious huh? But actually we don’t talk about it much – although I think he probably got every leader’s attention when he said that very few leaders finish the race stronger than when they started.

This is actually taken from my latest Help! I’m now a pastor’s wife! column for Christian Today. To read the rest please click here.

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My new column

Sorry for the plug – actually, I don’t know why I’m apologising because I’m really excited about this! I’ve just started writing a column for Christian Today called Help! I’m now a pastor’s wife! It will be appearing on the second and last Wednesday of each month. Please do check it out – and feel free to add comments, ask questions or start discussions in the comments area at the end. I’d love to see you there :) To read the first one click here.

Thanks!

Claire x

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Taking a break

It seems a little ironic that I’m talking about taking a break from posting here. My blog entries have been sporadic at best over the last year. I’ve found juggling my increasing workload alongside my son (who has only been in nursery a few hours each morning) rather difficult at times, and it has meant that anything other than the bare essentials has had to take a back seat. But I’m hoping to get back to regular posts from September/October time, when I will also have more time to expand my work and church commitments further.

I’ve got mixed feelings as we approach the autumn. I’ve spent many moments looking forward to it, feeling it will ease a lot of my stress. But I am sure that the new season will bring stresses of its own. And it is also beginning to dawn on me that I will no longer have pre-school age children. While I may be relieved in some senses (I had a reminder this Sunday of what it is like to juggle church and a baby as I was looking after a friend’s baby during the service), I also have a little pang of how quickly they grow up (I NEVER thought I’d be one to say that!) I have been very intentional about not taking on much work for the summer, as I want to enjoy focusing on my kids for this, the last summer before my youngest starts full-time school. If I’m honest, so far it has been a bit of a struggle. The kids are very emotional, and my son seems incapable of playing on his own with his toys for longer than two minutes (so there is a constant ‘what can I do’ going on in the background). But we will be taking them abroad for the first time soon and I am hoping (and praying vehemently!) that getting away from it all, and having a break abroad, will be great for us all. As a couple that is so busy with church activities we need this time to hide away and focus on our family before the next term’s changes. Not only is our son starting full-time school, but we will have a building project to plan and undertake as our offer has finally been accepted on the building our church has been trying to purchase for two years! With only my husband working full time for the church it is obvious that the coming months are going to be intense, to put it lightly.

I think what we need most of all in this time away is rest. Fun and rest without distraction and pressing needs. Rest that allows us time to draw near to God to hear his voice directing our paths in the coming days. There are so many big decisions coming up we need to hide away and hear him as all wisdom and knowledge is found in him. That’s what I’m hoping for most during this break time. As well as enjoying time with my family – that part certainly won’t be quiet! ;)

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Almost there now… 40

At the end of this week I finally reach that big milestone – turning 40. I have to say earlier in the year it caused me to think a great deal about goals, where I’ve got to and where I expected to be – as well as courting some unhealthy comparisons with those around me. But, now it is almost upon me, I’m not so phased by it. So many others I know and admire have turned 40 this year, and embraced it fully. After all, it is but a number. Having said that, I can now see 50 within my reach – and that seems terrifying! ;) But I’m not planning any fanfare celebrations. Just quietly turning a year older. And hopefully wiser…

This week has too many other focuses for me. The first time my daughter will be going to Brownie camp (that’s what I’ll be doing on my birthday – driving her there!). It’s been an emotional roller coaster to get this point so I know I’ll be doing a lot of praying, and missing her, over the weekend. My son has also been given his class for full-time school in September. He’s been split up from his best friend. So that’s another emotional milestone I’ve been dealing with. So 40 doesn’t seem so important anymore. It’s all about perspective. But, I’ve decided I must do something on here to mark the fact that I’m turning 40. So I’m going to spend a bit of time ‘googling’ my mind on the subject (for an explanation of what this is, please see my earlier post on the Association of Christian Writer’s 40th anniversary day here). Hopefully some of it will strike a chord with you. Here goes:

40 is the new 30!
Not so bad – not looking forward to 50 though!
I can’t believe I’m here already, it only seems like yesterday that I turned 30… But wow, a lot has happened in the last 10 years. Would never have thought my husband would be running a church for starters! We were barely hanging on by a thread then – it’s amazing to think about God’s faithfulness to us.
Reaching 40 and 20 years married. Wow I actually have been around quite a while now.
Shouldn’t I be wiser by now? More confident?
What do my kids think when they look at me? Am I the sort of mum they can be proud of?
I’m not sure I’m anywhere near where I expected to be at this point in my life.
Why haven’t I achieved as much as some of the others who’ve turned 40 this year?
I wish I’d celebrated being younger, fitter and slimmer rather than hiding away in my shy little shell.
Comparing myself to my younger friends is hugely dangerous.
Will I ever get back to that smaller dress size, or is this it now? Weight is so much harder to lose these days.
I should be happy in my skin by now. An extra bit of weight isn’t all that bad – I’m still well within the healthy range for my height.
I want to enjoy life – and that includes all the yummy food that is out there. Is weight so important? Why do I put so much emphasis on how I feel about my body? What is that teaching my daughter?
I should have been a better wife – I wasted a lot of time struggling with my situation rather than being grateful.
I wish I had cultivated the art of being thankful a lot earlier.
I have a lot of dreams I’m still working on, but God has also taken me to so many places I never expected. I’ve been stretched and used in ways I never thought I would – He has been amazingly kind to me.
I want to help release others into their giftings, celebrating them rather than feeling threatened. I hope my character and personal hang ups don’t get in the way of other people.

All I can say is God has blessed me, and kept me, through many happy moments and huge trials too. I’m hugely grateful for my life. Just walking along to the library after school today with my kids and husband I felt an overwhelming sense of God’s grace. I can’t believe I get to partner in this life with such a great guy, and have the privilege of bringing up such wonderful kids. What’s 40 to me? A chance to reflect, perhaps re-focus, but, more than that, remember to be grateful. It’s too easy, in the busy-ness of life, to forget to do that…

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Giving it all… whatever the consequences?

It was only a few years ago that I fought against my husband’s calling. I didn’t want to become a pastor’s wife and, at the time, wrapped up in my own depression and sin, I didn’t love the people he felt called to. I certainly didn’t want to be involved at all…

But then God did a deep work in me, and made me view the church as He does – full of wonderful, complicated, imperfect individuals who are each on their own journey with Him. I began to love with His love and count it a real privilege to be serving among them.

Today I realised that I was beginning to lose some of that viewpoint. As I struggled with frustration and annoyance it suddenly dawned on me that I was getting upset because of things that were having an impact on me – on my time, on my pocket and on my emotions. But if, as the song I’m listening to says, I’ve ‘given it all to Him’ then those things aren’t my own anymore are they? So, however what I am doing is received, whether my efforts are appreciated, my time and point of view respected, shouldn’t matter. I should be continuing to give my all because it isn’t about the consequences, it’s about offering myself as a sacrifice daily to my God and King. And if part of that is pouring myself out for those in His church, then so be it.

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Injustice… and hope

These are two words I’ve been considering very closely over the last few days. I’m doing a lot of background reading on hope, as the next set of bible reading notes I’m writing are based on it. But I didn’t expect to be able to link it with the word injustice. However, both bible reading notes I’ve looked at today have spoken so clearly into my own personal situations that that is exactly what has happened. So I’m going to attempt to unpack some of the mass of thoughts going on in my head right now!

I hate injustice. It makes my blood boil to learn the terrifying facts about human trafficking, for instance, and I love the chances I get to write about charities and individuals really making a difference, raising awareness on that issue. I also can’t believe that in our own country, half a million people rely on Food Banks. I think they are fantastic – but so many people shouldn’t be in the state of poverty that forces them to need Food Banks in order to survive. Something is going horribly wrong in our society… I am also supporting the IF campaign – and think it is wonderful how many ‘known’ people have gotten behind it. Perhaps, just perhaps, governments will sit up and take notice – and make some changes.

But enough of the big issues. Each one of those merits a lot of discussion and action, but the injustice I’ve been feeling is far nearer to home. And, while it is a tad embarrassing to admit it, especially after all the things I’ve just listed, it is the injustices against me personally that I’ve been riled about this week. Do please be honest though, because I know I’m not alone in this – and don’t want to keep feeling as sheepish as I do writing this! You know what I mean, it’s the actions that other people choose to take, or the words they decide to say to you, that really affect your day. I’ve been struggling, deep down in my soul, after some words and actions others said and did on Monday. I’ve really been looking at what that says about me, and my responses to it all, but then there were some further actions done yesterday that have affected me too, and I realised this morning that I’ve allowed a large burden to settle on myself. I’ve had little rants about the injustice of it all – how unfair it is, how it affects me and makes my life a lot harder as I’m now exhausted. And, while that is all true, my bible readings this morning helped me take a step back and see how like a toddler I was behaving, stamping my foot and shouting ‘it’s not fair’. Because while it isn’t fair and there ARE people who need to think about what they do and say, they aren’t the ones who’ve allowed themselves to get twisted up inside about it all – that would be little old me. Even as I write this part of me is screaming that I’m the one with the thick, heavy head, a sore throat I can’t get rid of and a sadness that is making it hard to work. BUT, then I consider what I’ve read this morning:

The Lord is faithful in all he says;
he is gracious in all he does.
The Lord helps the fallen
and lifts up those bent beneath their loads. (Ps 145)

The example the bible notes gave alongside this psalm was of a former slave meeting a master who had beaten them in the past. When the master asked if the slave had been able to forgive them the slave said that they had left the past long behind, thanks to the God of love that they serve. Wow.

That hit me hard. My circumstances – and trials – seem quite ridiculous alongside something like that. And then the response section invited me to meditate on the unmerited goodness God has shown towards me – the way in which he has rescued me. And that’s where the link suddenly came flooding in. It is so obvious, but do you ever have those days when the ancient truths just hit you again in a totally fresh way? Powerful, oh so powerful. It doesn’t mean it will suddenly be easy to walk in the truth of it all, but that’s the tension we live in day by day isn’t it? But I’m running ahead of myself. Because it was the hope that hit me once again. Jesus Christ is the ultimate hope for us all and listen to how he lived his life, full of hope and expectation about what was coming:

Let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterward… Think about all he endured when sinful people did such terrible things to him, so that you don’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. (Hebrews 12)

Well scripture certainly socked it to me when I turned to that passage in Hebrews, as instructed to by the next set of bible reading notes! Later in that chapter it talks about discipline – and I know that part of the way we interact with one another and respond to people when they mistreat us is about developing our character. And listen to the promise that comes with the discipline:

God’s discipline is always right and good for us, because it means we will share in his holiness.

Amazing.

Talking of character, I was immediately taken back in my mind to the very well known passage in Romans 5:

…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

I was going to share what focusing on hope these last few days has brought to mind for me personally too, but I think I’ll have to save that for my next post as this one is now rather epic! But, to finish, I do want to say that living as a pastor’s wife, and being a leader in various roles in the church etc does bring an added pressure to deal with difficulties, disappointments and sins quickly and efficiently. So I can feel like a real failure when I do struggle with something as petty as personal injustices. But God knew how I was feeling about that too, and encouraged me with the following lines, found at the end of my second daily reading today:

So take a new grip with your tired hands and stand firm on your shaky legs. Mark out a straight path for your feet. Then those who follow you, though they are weak and lame, will not stumble and fall but will become strong.

Another great promise to cling to :)

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I would rather be a doorkeeper…

My body and mind are still trying to process the amazing, but frantic, week of conferences I had last week. I was at the HTB Leadership conference, then the ‘All that we are’ conference for women at the Christian Resources Exhibition and at the end of the week we travelled to Nottingham to hear Dave Fellingham speak on deliverance ministry. I had such a blessed week and learned a great deal. I had hoped to blog about my thoughts throughout the week, but it was all so intense I know I’ll simply be filtering through the things I’ve picked up and am mulling over during the next few weeks. And so much has already been tweeted and blogged about that I’ve decided to avoid going back over old news now!

Today I woke up feeling pretty under the weather and, in a manner so unlike my usual busy Martha self, I surprised myself by deciding to send the kids off to school with my husband and crawl back into bed with my bible. I just felt that small, still voice, pointing out that yes, I only had a couple of hours free before my son would need picking up but no, there was nothing I desperately needed to get done for work so I could actually simply relax and spend time catching up on a little bit of sleep and then catching up with God ;)

The passage of scripture that really struck me today was from Psalm 84:

How lovely is your dwelling-place,
Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young –
a place near your altar,
Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.

10 Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favour and honour;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose way of life is blameless.

I realised that yes, my soul was yearning for that place of rest only found in Him, and that I can trust His provision for me personally. The mention of the sparrow immediately made me think of the passage in Matthew that urges us not to worry, reminding us that the birds of the air are looked after by God and the flowers of the field dressed more finely than Solomon. That is certainly a challenge to me as I am naturally a worrier. I’m learning to lean more on God though as the amount of stress we’ve been under recently would have caused me to explode otherwise!

The next part of the passage that really spoke to me was the part about being a doorkeeper. I was really challenged by that – would I rather be a doorkeeper in God’s house than be someone more noticed and important elsewhere? One of the things I’ve been wrestling with recently is where my role lies and exactly what I’m supposed to be pouring my time and energy into. That was mainly borne out of the tension of trying to support my husband while he works as the only full-time member of staff and looks after the church, as well as me working and being a mum. As I said, we’ve had a particularly stressful few weeks so that has caused me to think about everything I do – and both of us to realise we need to take a long, hard look at our priorities. Another part of it, though, came out of a disappointment over a long-term freelance job I went for. It was something I felt led to by God, something we prayed about and agreed I should go for, and also something I was told I almost got. So, understandably, I felt some disappointment, also questioned myself – and asked God a few questions too! I also saw many women at CRE last week who have a higher profile than me in the writing and editing fields and, while I know in my heart I’m not running after recognition or position, it is a lot easier to get work when you are ‘known’. I loved catching up with all the women I saw, but I also knew I had to let go. Let go of any striving to get to a certain place, to be a certain type of person – and to trust that God knows my future, knows where I am going and only asks me to be faithful with what I see put before me each day rather than worrying about what work I may or may not have two months down the line.

I was really encouraged by particular words I received last week that affirmed some of my heart’s desires – I had been getting to a place of wondering whether God was asking me to lay down my dreams for now in order to concentrate on building the church alongside my husband, but that burden has now been taken off me. A lot of what is on my heart does involve my ministry within the church, often working alongside my husband, as well as encouraging and equipping people in the wider Church through my work but I realise now that God is cheering me on in all of that. And, while I don’t know what form it is all going to take, I do realise that being a doorkeeper in His house is far, far more precious than trying to be something I’m not. I may never be as ‘recognised’ as some of the other people I work with – but that’s okay. I have my Father’s approval and today I’ve realised I am actually totally content with that. :)

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