In Her Shoes is a series written by readers to give us a glimpse into their lives – what it is like to walk in their shoes. Today I am excited to introduce to you my lovely friend Stephanie. She is a mother to two adorable children, talented artist, and pastor’s wife. Let’s join our friend as she shares her story of what it is like to walk in her shoes. ~ Love, Ginger
When I was growing up, I remember all my friends telling me they wanted to be a veterinarian, doctor, ballerina, or fireman. I never really would answer back, except for the occasional desire to be a mermaid. Obviously, that didn’t work out well, especially since I’m not the best swimmer.
However, one evening I remember my mom asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I responded, “a Pastor’s Wife”! My heart’s desire never changed since that night. As the years went by, I met guys who were interested in me, but none of them impressed much or seemed to be heading into full-time ministry. I started wondering if I would have to let go of my dream of being in ministry with the man I loved…
I thought all hope was lost until a beautiful afternoon on August 2006 in Flint, Michigan when I met an incredible man who I now have called my husband for almost 6 years. Life with him has been an incredible journey of growing love, faith, and joy in valleys of hardship and on mountaintops of happiness.
I love my man 10,000 times more than I did when I became his wife in June of 2008, and my love for him as grown in each of the special moments that stand out to me; when I handed him a positive pregnancy test ONE month after our wedding, when I accidentally ran over the curb at our seminary housing and damaged our pick-up truck (our only vehicle) and he was just happy I was okay, when he laid beside me at the hospital as we watched our baby struggle to breathe and he promised he wouldn’t leave my side for those ten and a half days, when he protected me from false accusations, when he was my rock during both of my children’s births, when he let me cry on his shoulder as I miscarried our babies, and I could go on and on. We’ve been in full time ministry for over 3 years now (not including all of the years of single service we both did before we met each other, and then the part time ministries we were involved with in Dallas), and it just gets better and better. I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life, and there could be nothing better than serving God alongside this amazing man, who I not only call my husband, but my pastor (and how many women actually get to say they are married to their pastor?).
So you’re wondering how to encourage your young pastor’s wife? Are you unsure how to connect with her on a personal level? Perhaps you’re not certain how to “become friends” with the wife of your pastor – simply because of the unique role they have in your congregation? Does she sometimes appear a bit frazzled, worn or distant, but you’re not sure what to say in order to show her how much you really care? Here are some ideas and steps you might take:
A pastor and his wife will endure many hardships and difficulties that they won’t (or can’t) share with others. These struggles are also marked with aloneness – more often than not. Being a leader can be lonely. Remember this and pray for them. I know I’ve struggled with many things as my husband went through four years of seminary, transitioned to an associate pastor role for three years, and now serves as a lead pastor: miscarriages, loneliness, postpartum depression, and other battles; some of which I never shared with anyone. She needs prayer. You don’t always need to know the details, just pray and pray often! Pray for their marriage, children, parents, finances, etc. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16; see also Eph. 6:18; 1 Tim. 2:1; Col. 1:9; 1 Thess. 5:25)
Maybe she has little kids, or maybe she is struggling with infertility, or she is depressed, or missing her far away family. Pastor’s wives are real women with real struggles. Don’t just assume they have it all together just because they are in full-time ministry. Remember that a younger pastor’s wife is probably in a different season than the average older pastor’s wife whose children are grown. Most of the younger wives who have little ones are most likely overwhelmed and feel like they are in a fishbowl. Let her know you have been there. She might or might not want or need advice, but don’t act like she is a child or totally inept at parenting. Don’t treat her children with distaste because they are acting like most children. Come alongside her and be a support for her! “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Don’t assume she won’t come, or that she doesn’t want to come to different functions. Ministry can be very lonely, especially when you are not invited to things. But sometimes she is home with the kids because her husband is out on a call, or is at the office doing sermon prep. Pastors often keep hours similar to an ER doctor. Maybe offer to babysit her children so that she can go to a ministry event, or help find a babysitter for her (obviously ask her permission). Ask for her help on projects according to her talents but don’t get offended if she declines. I guarantee it isn’t personal. She is a human being just like you and needs friends too. A lot of people belong to cliques, and while it naturally happens that you want to be with certain people (and there is nothing wrong with that), remember that you wouldn’t want to be the outsider. “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” (1 Peter 4:9)
Is she free-spirited? Accept her. Is she disorganized? Definitely accept her. Is she super overly organized? Accept her with a smile. Is she opinionated? Be patient as you accept her. Is she type A and ultra extroverted? Accept her. Is she quiet and emotional? Accept her. Does she like contemporary music? Accept her. Does she wear clothing that you wouldn’t wear? Accept her. Period. Not much else to say here. Treat others as you want to be treated. “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Romans 15:5-7
I think this depends on the woman’s personality in how she best feels loved. Do research on what makes her happy. Does she appreciate hugs? Then hug her. Is she shy? Then don’t hug her, but tell her you love her. Let her know she is loved as much as you can and in a way you are able and that you know she would like to receive. Also remember what Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Obviously this is not a complete list of ways to encourage your pastor’s wife. Also remember that older pastor’s wives need encouragement, as well, so try to find ways you can do that, too. Remember to ask Jesus how you can encourage her, no matter her age or level of experience. We all need compassion, love, joy, humor, and acceptance.
I really appreciate the advice of godly and older women in my life. I’ve learned so much from them. We, as younger women, can learn a lot from these amazing ladies and I truly believe they are a treasure trove of wisdom! It doesn’t mean you have to take and apply every single piece of advice ever given to you, but listen to them anyway! You never know what gem you might take home.
And to all of those younger beautiful pastor’s and wives out there (and missionary wives too!), keep your chin up and be of good courage! Embrace your calling, but remember who you are… a daughter of the King, wife to a godly man, and maybe even a mother too. Don’t change your personality, likes/dislikes, etc. to put yourself into a mold of what people think you should be. Shine and sparkle and be yourselves!
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
Stephanie lives in Michigan where she daily laughs with her two funny munchkins and handsome pastor husband (of almost 6 years) and thoroughly enjoys life. She loves reading British literature, watching sci-fi and Jane Austen movies, thrifting, drinking tea and coffee, and trying to sparkle as much as humanly possible. She is immensely grateful for the beautiful and grace-filled people who she and her husband are privileged to minister to every day at North Park Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan. She is happy to say that she definitely feels prayed for, encouraged by, included, accepted, and loved by this body of believers. You can follow Stephanie and her husband through their website, Grace Exposed.
Thank you so much, Stephanie, for sharing with us your journey, and how we can encourage wives of pastors in our own lives. What an inspiration this has been, and I will be actively seeking ways to come along side those women and hopefully be an encouragement to them!
To read more stories, or if you would are interested in sharing your story, please go to the In Her Shoes tab near the top of the page. I love learning about the people in this series. Connecting with others seems to make the world feel not quite as big and scary. We’re all in this together. I can’t wait to hear from you, to read your stories, and learn more of what it is like to walk in your shoes. ~ Love, G
*Photo credit – Photo 1 is courtesy of Stephanie Breznau. Photos 2 and 3 are courtesy of Dieu a Créé Photography (Jennifer Bullinger)
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