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

Feeling restless

St Augustine wrote, “[God] you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

“Our hearts are restless”: that’s a great description of life today.

So often I feel restless. I’m rushing around making sure the kids get homework done, get to their after-school clubs, are fed and looked after.

I rush around with church activities, chatting issues through with my husband as he seeks to lead the church well, organising rehearsals and leading worship, trying to spot new people and welcome them as well as look after those who’ve been in the church for years.

I rush around with my work, meeting deadlines and thinking up new ideas for writing projects. Yes there is a bit of space for pondering within that, but too often it is pressurised, rather than restful.

I rush from one evening meeting to another – church meetings, governors’ meetings, music practices, even rushing to exercise classes.

I feel restless a lot of the time. I know the better way is to start by positioning myself at Jesus’ feet, learning from His wisdom rather than trying to do things in my own strength. But I find that so hard to do.

I wrote about finding the rhythm that works for me and my family recently; I’m still working on that if I’m honest!

I arrived at church a couple of Sundays ago totally at the end of myself, but with my keyboard ready to play. I could barely speak, let alone sing, so one of the guys helpfully suggested we prayed together before doing anything else. And what one of them prayed for me really stuck with me – here’s a summary of it:

‘Lord, Claire works so hard for you. Help her to learn to rest.

I’m one of those people who find it difficult to sit down and relax until all the jobs in the house are done. I simply can’t leave dirty dishes on the side or floors unvacuumed. That may be why our vacuum cleaner suddenly stopped working when I was midway through vacuuming one of the downstairs rooms that weekend. I still had the upstairs to do! But I simply couldn’t, which meant that, after church that Sunday, we were able to settle down and have a family film time.

I was forced to rest.

Does God ever make you stop, through circumstances or even illness? If only we’d rest more regularly without Him having to step in and force us.

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Finding a rhythm that works

Our children are back to school now and life is settling back into the recognisable term-time pattern. For me, the start of this particular term of each year is a time in which I take stock and look at my life’s rhythm.

This summer became of wonderful tapestry of visiting friends, enjoying holiday time as a family, reorganising my office and celebrating my daughter’s ninth birthday. Oh and we also managed to squeeze in our church’s big outreach event.

It was such a great few months – and yet we didn’t get a chance to draw breath at all. My husband and I commented that we hadn’t had any evenings on our own; we celebrated our 21st anniversary towards the end of the summer holidays and in my card to him I asked whether we could really try and pace ourselves this term!

I am now sitting surrounded by all the work I’ve kept simmering away while the kids were off school, but which I now need to tackle in earnest. I’m so grateful for the work, but taking a break to focus on the kids means there’s rather a big stack of it now!

Of course, the start of the autumn term is also usually the time that churches launch new initiatives and ours is no different. So, as I’m sure you can gather, it’s a busy time of year for us as a family.

With everything that has been going on, and which I know is coming up, I’ve had some moments when I have literally felt the panic rising up, trying to overtake me. I am, for instance, about to start a leadership training course. The material looks great but I’m wondering how I will cope with it all and fit in enough time to mull over and implement what I learn.

In those times of panic I’ve had to come back to God and ask for His wisdom. Of course, some of that is obvious common sense – I need to look after my family and myself in order to be able to serve consistently. So I know I/we need to look at the rhythm of our lives and make changes before we burn out.

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Accepting God’s adventures

In the run up to the school summer holidays our daughter was able to take part in the special celebrations the Guides were having due to their 100th anniversary. She has been part of Brownies for almost three years now. Her first weekend away with them happened to coincide with my 40th birthday so I endured a weekend of worrying and wondering how she was!

My daughter is so much like me it can be quite scary. Confident, chatty and sociable within circles of people she feels secure with, she becomes a totally different person out of her comfort zone; shy, fearful and so, so quiet. She won’t take risks, drawing back into herself to keep safe.

So when it came time for this year’s adventure weekend she wasn’t sure she wanted to go. I really encouraged her to because it was a special celebration and I didn’t want her to miss out (and we had paid a fair amount of money for it!). Well, she totally blew us away with the vigour in which she grabbed hold of every element of the weekend.

Her leader captured her mood brilliantly in a picture that shows her dangling from a harness having just stacked and climbed crates – her face is beaming with a huge smile and she looks like she’s full-belly laughing. It was a joy to see – and even better when she said that that was what she had been like all weekend. She commented, “I now know the real girl, the one you’ve been telling me about all this time.”

A few weeks later, the Brownie pack spent a day in Windsor, bungee trampolining and zorbing. Again, I wasn’t sure how much she would join in, but apparently it was all brilliant fun and “zorbing was the best”!

Knowing that our daughter grabbed all the opportunities set before her and enjoyed them so much gave us such pleasure. And that’s how God responds when we really enjoy something He’s invited us to partake in.

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How well do we support parents?

I recently attended a day at a nearby church focused on equipping Christian parents. Whole families were able to go, and the organisers did a fantastic job of keeping our children engaged and excited about the activities they did while we had teaching and discussions.

I was really struck by one of the questions we were asked:

“What is the best piece of advice you have been taught about parenting in church?”

We were then given a few moments to discuss it with the person next to us.

Those of us sat together all said the same thing – we couldn’t think of anything we had been specifically taught about parenting on a Sunday morning (apart from the few comments preachers had given about what they’ve learned about parenting from their own kids and their own mistakes). This made me wonder: how intentional are our churches about teaching and equipping parents?

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A journey of faith

As I’ve mentioned before, our church is in the process of buying the lease on a council-owned building. We’ve been in that process for over three years now. It has been a long, hard road…

It started with what seemed like a miracle. We were given the heads up about a community hall that is based right in the centre of the borough we meet in. And then, amazingly our (now retired) pastor was offered it at an incredible price (they were almost giving it away), he shook hands and walked away believing we had just acquired a home for our church.

You can imagine the celebrating that Sunday! We couldn’t believe how, after quite a few months of searching, that God seemed to have delivered something straight into our laps. What a blessing.

Then we heard back from the lease owners to say they had decided to open the process up to others. What seemed like premature celebrations ceased and we started to wonder why this had happened. And, of course, some of us doubted whether it was the right building. We also had comments from some of our members asking why on earth did we need a building anyway?

What followed was an intense period of fervent prayer and nail-biting waits. We lost out twice during bidding processes, pipped to the post at the last minute with bids only just above our own.

At the end of each of those processes we should have been automatically disqualified, and yet both times (praise God!) we were invited to continue on and bid again with an ever-smaller group of bidders. Finally, after an interview process where I was suddenly asked to help pitch (yikes that was scary), we were picked to be the next leaseholders.

I have to admit I have found the whole journey incredibly emotional. It has stretched my faith almost to breaking point at times. I can still remember the sinking feeling I had when we found out our first bid hadn’t been enough to secure the lease.

The very next morning I was at a women’s breakfast and I can still remember thinking “I don’t want to go. I don’t feel strong enough for all the questions there will be, all the disappointed faces. I can’t get my own head around it, I certainly can’t carry anyone else.”

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Life is short…

Memorial services are great for bringing perspective.

I recently attended one for a dear guy who, at one stage of our lives, was extremely instrumental in our continuing faith journey. He was the first small group leader we had in the church we attended more than 20 years ago. We’ve since moved on from that church, moving home to help start another church in a nearby community.

What shocked us about this situation was that his death was sudden – and he was so young (just four years older than my husband). So there we were, a group of people that had come back together from various corners of the country to celebrate and acknowledge the life of this unassuming man who had had an impact on us.

He had been a somewhat clumsy, awkward guy, but so friendly and gentle. Everyone who paid tribute to him recognised those qualities. But they also talked about his absolute assurance of the truth of the gospel. Although a scientist, he had had no problem marrying his faith with scientific fact, and his faith had been the stronger for it.

As I sat listening to people speaking that day, I suddenly heard a gentle whisper:

What would people be saying if it were you? How would people describe you?

I know that the word ‘gentle’ would certainly not be among the words used. Unfortunately that’s not a natural character trait for me…

But would there be the things I would hope for, such as: kind, loyal, honest, authentic, faith-filled, inspiring, encouraging? Or would there be, as I suspect I’m viewed as currently: over-busy, stressed, aloof, overbearing, difficult to approach, emotional?

I know I’m overstating the case somewhat, but sitting there that day made me take stock:

What is it I’m investing my time and efforts in, and are they worthwhile?

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Never lose the wonder…

… That was whispered to me, ever so quietly, this morning.

My husband had taken the kids to school and I was determined to curb my natural desire to get on and tackle chores and work emails before work. Determined to have a bit of ‘you and me’ time with God.

It wasn’t long, after the overflow of song in my heart had subsided (I would call myself a musician – of sorts – so there is usually some song or other bubbling up), that God spoke that little phrase.

There wasn’t anything else. Just a flow of peace, of affirmation. And those words, again and again.

“Never lose the wonder.”

I was reminded of how He had been trying to get through to me in recent weeks. It was while I was editing a fantastic new book by Carrie Lloyd, in which I read about that quiet voice speaking to her in her ‘secret place’. I have always enjoyed little moments throughout my day in which I’ve heard God communicate with me like that, but I suddenly realised that it had been a while since that had happened. I was really taken aback – how had I not noticed?

Do you ever get to that point?

You are so busy doing things for God, that somehow you miss Him completely?

Well, maybe not completely – you can point others to Him, feel His presence in corporate worship and bring words and scriptures for people, but actually your own close relationship with Him has somehow gotten disconnected.

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