Archive for September 2016

Not a Job: Redefining Life as a Spouse

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     Several days ago I was teaching in a high school classroom. A female student was bemoaning the fact that when she returned home in the afternoon, she would have to clean the house. I told her, "if it makes you feel better, I also have to clean the house."
     A boy chimed in "well, yeah, of course, that's because you are the mom." To which I said "I'm not a mom."
    His response, "well, wife, whatever, it's still your job to clean the house."
    I took a deep breath for a second with a follow up statement, "I need to rephrase what I said earlier. When I said that I had to clean the whole house I meant, my husband and I have to clean the house. We are equals. It's neither my job or his job to clean the house, it's both of our responsibility because we both live there. We both cook, we both clean, we both are responsible, because we both live there. We are partners."
    The boy shook his head and rolled his eyes a bit, but the girl, her eyes got big and a smile broke out as she said "that sounds like an amazing relationship."
     It seems a bit odd to me that in 2016 I am having this conversation with high school students. This idea that women and men are equals, that our roles are not defined by some sort of biological mandate. That my husband and I can co-lead in our home, and co-care for our home is noteworthy seems strange, because to us that is life, and it just makes sense.
    This idea of co-responsibility was pronounced after hearing a pastor's spouse reference that being a pastor's wife is "the best job in the world".
    I asked my husband in the car later, "Is being my husband a job for you? Do you see being a pastor's husband as a job?" He laughed with a hearty no, to my great relief.
     Because the language of job sounds like a chore (this is also why I often refer to the work I do at church as a vocation, because it is something other than a job for me in many ways), like something one must do out of obligation, versus out of love, care, and respect. I don't want to be someone's job, least of all my husbands, I want to be his wife.
     While I am not a fan of doing dishes or laundry, and neither is my husband, I don't want those to be seen as jobs either, as much as I want them to be seen as things we do to make our lives better, to support one another, and to love one another. To be good stewards of our belongings, we take care of them. I am not always great at this and often bemoan the fact that I have to restart the washing machine, again, because I forgot the clothes while attending to the 50 other tasks on my to do list. It is a goal I strive for.
      There are issues with the language of a spouse as a job outside of these initial issues as well.
      First, there is still this prevailing issue in the church that when you hire a pastor, you get the spouse free! The old joke about asking at pastoral interviews "does your wife play piano?" still rings true in many places. This places an extreme burden on a pastor's spouse, to do just as much as his spouse does, but to get little to no recognition for it. There have been multiple articles and blog posts written (mostly by pastor's wives, I have yet to find a pastor's husband one, though I am sure they exist) about the alienation and frustrations they feel by this phenomenon. My own husband has referenced his own frustrations at times, at feeling like he in a sense has to punch a time clock, when he has been expected to show up at every single church event, and even more so, when things he says on social media are judged as being a reflection on me, without considering that he and I probably discussed the topic before it even made it to social media!
      The language of job also lends itself into complementarianism. I have heard women time and time again talk about the job of being a wife and a mother, but I haven't heard the same rhetoric used by men (the exception being that I hear men speak about "babysitting" their own children, and I don't hear moms say that.) "The most important job I have is being a mom." Is a common phrase I've heard from women of all ages. I 100% get what they are saying, raising children is an incredibly important task, but sometimes I fear the language of job supersedes the language of relationship. Where the relationship between men and women are concerned, it lends itself to saying that it is the woman's job to take care of the children, to be a good wife, to take care of the home, while the husband has a job outside of the home, to provide for the family. This really diminishes both women and men. While seeking to elevate being a wife and mother, it makes it seem the same as punching a clock each day. It does the exact opposite of what it is trying to achieve, while also placing men and women in distinct gender roles.
      I prefer to say it this way, being a wife is the most important relationship (after God) I have right now, and if I have children, they will be the second most important relationship. A relationship goes 2 ways, it must be fostered, cared for, and nurtured. There is no time clock to punch, there is no day off, because relationships are different than jobs.
     When we have relationships with friends, our expectations are that there is give and take, that we are equals, that we are there for one another, that we care for one another, etc. We would never think to call being a friend a "job", despite friendship being a less important relationship in our life than what we have with our spouse. Our expectations with our spouse should be the same, that there is give and take, that we are equals, that we are there for one another, that we care for one another, even MORE so than we do with our friends.
     It might seem minuscule or unimportant, but I realized that day in a high school classroom how closely those who come behind us are watching us. They are watching and defining their value, they are defining what relationships will look like for them, and I hope that in this small way, we will learn to think less of our family as a job, and more as... well... a family.

Back to School Block Party

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(This is long past overdue, but I wanted to be sure to have tons of pictures of this event. I've also been incredibly busy. Such is the life of a bi-vocational pastor! Thank you all for reading! For your patience, for your prayers, for your love. I promise to be back to blogging more regularly from now on!) 
       I lost count of how many 12 hour days I put in the 2 weeks preceding our block party event. It was the biggest event I have ever attempted in my entire professional career. I'm not a big event person, and so I tend to opt for intimate settings where deep discussion has room to cultivate, but I made an exception, because I so deeply care for the kids in my neighborhood (and city), and I know the difficulties of paying for school supplies, plus I do like a good party.
        The idea of a back to school block party was formed, in order to just really celebrate with our neighbors, to get school supplies into the hands of students, and say thank you to any teachers who might attend.
        Our goal was to see 150 people walk through the door, just to know they are loved and that we are here in the neighborhood. Filling 150 grab bags was no small feat, and I am so grateful I had tons of help to do it. We wanted to ensure that every kid that walked through the door had at the minimum, basic school supplies to start school.
     We were overwhelmed by the generosity of others as we were able to fill all 150 bags with a pencil case (including pencils, erasers, pens, etc.), a folder, and a notebook, as well as some candy and other treats. 

       Another goal of ours was to bless any teacher that came through the door with a thank you gift. Whatever we got that could go in a bin for teachers, we would put together. The outpouring of love from others enabled us to fill 30 bins with kleenex, dry erase markers, hand sanitizer, post it notes, pens, pencils, rulers, motivational stickers, a stocked pencil case to give to a student in need, AND a gift card to get coffee. These were beautifully put together by a high school volunteer.

  During the night we had 3 Chinese teachers (they teach Chinese language and culture in our school system) wander in. They told me they were just walking by and had only been in the country for 2 weeks. Two of them had never been to the United States before. I gave them their gifts, and they kept saying "oh no! We can't accept this! What did we do to deserve this?" We just smiled and told them that we wanted to say thank you, and help them in their new classrooms this year. They were overjoyed and I was so blessed to meet them. 

      But this story is more than just a story about a successful event (how do we define success anyway), it's really a story about the faithfulness of God and what can happen when God's people come together. You see that guy overseeing the cooler filling? He pastors at another church on our district, and he and another pastor from their church, brought a bunch of volunteers to help us with this event. It wasn't a competition, it was just God's people helping each other out to do great things. Not only that, their church, Duneland Community Church, did a beverage drive for us which enabled us to have so many awesome drinks at our event. The kingdom of God looks like churches coming together to love others. 

     We also had live rap music by amazing artist Da Mac, who drove here from Missouri to bless us with his talent and gifts. The audience was overjoyed, the oldest to the youngest were dancing, and we saw a glimpse of the kingdom of God through rap music in a 70 year old sanctuary. It was beautiful. 
    We made new friends and partners in Faith, who has a non-profit called Purple Diamonds Inc, and Moe, who owns and operates her own barber shop. They prayed over our event, and partnered with us, passing out flyers, donating supplies and time, and giving free hair cuts to nearly every student that came through the doors. Sometimes the kingdom of God looks like haircuts near the platform in a sanctuary, and strangers becoming friends.

     Our church hosts Al-Anon a couple nights a week, and our ladies were at the door to greet all of our attendees. They were our greatest cheerleaders of the night, telling everyone about our church, and talking about hope and healing with our neighbors. Sometimes the kingdom of God looks like neighbors helping neighbors. 
     We put a big bounce house in the back of our sanctuary and it was a hit! Kids would walk in with faces lit up, and the laughter and shouts resounded through the building. Sometimes the kingdom of God shows up in the noise of children. 

     That night the kingdom of God looked like chaos and laughter, like yard games and hot dogs, like hair cuts and bounce houses. It sounded like rap music and laughter, squeals and conversation. It sounded like a beautiful cacophony of neighbors coming together, of the Church coming together to be the Church, in perfectly imperfect and messy ways. God showed up, and the biggest way God showed up was through the people of God. 
      Through people who gave money, who gave time, who sent box upon box of school supplies, who prayed, who volunteered. God showed up through all of you, and our lives, and the lives of our neighborhood will forever be touched because God showed up through people like you! 
      The kingdom of God is alive in Hammond, we are just grateful we got to see a glimpse of it on a hot summer night this August. We are excited to see where the kingdom of God will be glimpsed next.