Back Row Pew Experience

I laughed a little as I sat on the second to back row with an unexpected friend who came to church on Sunday. I overheard an older woman behind me say to her husband; in what she thought was a hushed whisper: “Is the preacher wearing a vest? Is that a vest he’s wearing?” I resisted the urge to turn around and join in the conversation about the preacher’s clothes. Ha! I just thought that was pretty funny. Anyways, it just struck me funny and reminded me of the visibility of our family.

The other sort of funny thing I noticed sitting that far back was watching a few wives give the dig claw to their snoozing husbands. I watched the long painted fingernails dig hard into hubby’s arm and every time like clock work the man’s head would pop up.

It’s almost like a different church service in the back 1/4 of the church….like a whole back row culture or something. But if you’ve been sitting back there for your entire life you probably don’t think anything about it. As a back row newbie I found it a bit entertaining and semi distracting.

The other not so funny thing was that Sophie, our four year old, was sitting with me and my friend. She was having a hard time going to Sunday School and Children’s Church for some reason…..crying, pouting, pitching a preacher’s kid fit, etc. So I sat her down and told her that if she didn’t go to children’s church she would sit with me in big church but she would not color, draw, lay all over the pew and play around.

She did great for the first ten minutes. But then she wanted to lay in my lap and I wouldn’t let her so she got all pouty. We are a good ole’ Baptist church that does a five minute hand shake time and if Sophie ever loved this time it was now. The sweet little sucker thing asked me if she could go shake hands with a lady across the aisle. I thought that was rather friendly of Sophie since she had been all whiney britches just seconds earlier and so I smiled like a good back row preacher’s wife and sent her along saying, “come back when you’re done”.

Little did I know this was her first attempt at being an ecclesiastical escape artist. I shook a few hands around me and then started singing the next song that the worship team was leading us in. It was about the second verse that I realized Sophie was not with me. I looked over to where the lady was that she was going to shake hands with and sure enough she was over there. It was the other side of the church. The woman was mouthing to me, “Can she sit with us?”  And while I didn’t mind, I knew Sophie had just totally manipulated me.

I didn’t much feel like crawling over the people I was sitting in the middle of and I couldn’t really have a conversation over three aisles so I just gave her the affirmative and watched Sophie grin with complete mischievous glee. I would deal with it after church….after the people around me cleared out which might be a while. But I was wrong. As soon as my long winded preacher hubs prayed and said the words “Amen” the back rowers vanished. Gone. If I wasn’t certain of my salvation I’d swear the rapture had taken place and I was left behind. Full on regret of not reading the famous Lahaye series would forever haunt me. But indeed the rapture had not taken place. So I made a b-line for Sophie and when I got to her a church member was oohing and awing over how cute she was. They had entertained her through the entire Sunday morning service…..let her play with their hair, offered up every pen, pencil and marker in their purse, turn their bulletin into drawing paper, gave the last piece of gum, etc.

Oh, she had a big ole time back there on the opposite side of the church, on the back row….in the ghetto. (That was a total joke, ya’ll. So don’t be yelling at me if you’re a back row lover. ) I know you can worship Jesus just as much back there as in the front. But for ADD-ers like myself, I have to sit closer otherwise peripheral things like fingernail dig claws and conversations about the preacher’s clothes would distract me. Anyways, those were just a few funnies from sitting in the back of church.

An open letter to our church

Dear Church Family,
It was just three years ago that we pulled in to our new little town with all our belongings on those U-haul trucks. You remember the ones. Ya’ll sent a huge tractor trailer truck from NC for us and we all thought that would suffice but it actually took a few more U-hauls (hey, a girl has got to have a few pairs of black shoes). This meant a few more U-hauls you graciously unloaded for us. Twice. Yikes! So sorry guys.

As a woman moving to a brand new place it takes time to settle her nest, prayerfully evaluate her place in ministry and build relationships with people she’s never met before. And I appreciate the fact that you gave me the gift of time to figure those things out. You have never made me feel pressured by undo expectations. I came with the freedom to be who God created me to be and you have accepted me for who I am. Thank you for that. I hear it’s not always that way in some churches. My heart aches for the wives of pastor’s being forced to be someone they are not – feeling the pressure to act a certain way because of their “position”. Can I tell you that I don’t take it lightly that my husband is our pastor and that I am his wife. That we are a team and that God called us to this church. Together we pray for, we dream about, we grieve with and for our people. We celebrate with you and we challenge you. We get it right and we get it wrong at times. But this I know, we serve a God who loves the church and her people. God is crazy about us, His people, and even though we mess up and make gangly, awkward mistakes He is constantly picking us up and moving us closer to Him.

I’ve seen God work in our church and grow us up in these three years. He has given us a heart for our community and helped us think outside our own walls. We are able to rejoice with and celebrate with other churches who are also seeking to follow Christ. They may do things differently than us but that’s okay, we’re actually better because of our interaction with them. Do you remember how we had the Community Thanksgiving service at our church two years ago? That was different for us but how God used that in our church to let us see different expressions of worship. And if we’d admit it there was a part of us that wanted to stand up, shout and clap with our African American brothers and sisters in Christ. But we didn’t and that’s okay because we’re all different in how we express to God our worship. But I do see us changing and becoming a little less reserved. And I kind of like that…. a whole lot. I pray for us to have the complete freedom to worship from our hearts – unrestrained, fully devoted, unconcerned with what the pew behind us thinks. That might include clappy hands, shouting, raising hands and becoming more vocal in a service and it may not. God accepts the sincere praise from our hearts at whatever stage of growth or level of expression of worship we are in. He loves us right where we are and yet in His grace he keeps moving us towards him.

I see God’s heart for true Koinonia taking place – community is happening at Community Baptist. People investing in people’s lives. Doing life together outside of Sunday morning and Sunday night. Community is evolving and forming. It’s not happen stance. It’s God sweeping over His church with His Spirit, His Word, and His power. It hasn’t happened over night. And we have a long way to go but I see buds of community life shooting up all over the place. The Word of God is being taught and we, His people, are responding because His Word is alive and active and powerful. And it’s changing us. He is changing us.

Thank you church for loving us. Thank you for trusting my husband’s leadership when it might feel scary or untried before. Thank you for praying for our family. Thank you for allowing us the privilege to shepherd you. I would never pretend it’s easy or pie in the sky – this church leadership thing. It’s not easy. Change is never easy – personally or corporately. Any work that is on mission will try to be attacked by satan and this is not to be taken lightly. But it’s all worth it because Jesus is worthy of following. He is worthy of bringing others along with us in our pursuit of following Him.

So sweet, growing church, let’s continue to grow in grace together and let’s bring others with us and may we always give God the glory for what He’s doing.

“Man of the Cloth”

After sharing my testimony at a church one night a lady came up to me afterwards and asked, “So what’s it like?” A little confused I said, “What’s what like?” She leaned in and almost in a whisper said, “You know, what’s it like being married to a ‘MAN OF THE CLOTH’?”

The first thought that came to my mind when I thought of “my man” and “cloth” was his underwear on the floor and I certainly did not want to discuss that with her. I didn’t even know her!

I tried so hard to come up with something spiritual because I had just learned that I was married to a “MAN OF THE CLOTH”.

It sounded so royal-ish-ish and important. How was the wife of a “MAN OF THE CLOTH” to speak? I wondered if I should start speaking in an English accent. I have a really good one. I once convinced an entire cruise ship that I was from England with my fake accent. (My Mom made me tell everyone the truth on the last day)

But the only response I could come up with was, “Uhhhh, I think it’s just like being married to my husband but I’ll get back with you on that.”

And it’s true. For me, being a pastor’s wife is  being Randy’s wife. God called me to Randy to be his wife and help mate. God also called Randy to shepherd a group of believers and I get to be a part of that calling. What a privilege and joy it is. I take it seriously. I don’t want to minimize it in any way. But I also want to  remember that I’m just a normal (well, that term is relative) chic following Christ, leading others and stumbling along the way.

First Impressions are off with a bang

I had a missed call on my cell phone so I returned the call and the man (one of our church leaders) said with a laugh, “I really liked that voice mail on your phone.” I said, “What voicemail?” He was quiet and then I said, “For real, I didn’t know I had voicemail in place yet.” Then I suddenly had this thought of pure horror as I recalled trying to record a new voicemail sometime the week prior because we had our numbers changed. Well, I tried like a million times to record a new message and it never would record. And at one point I recorded but got tongue tied and just yelled “BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH” and then spoke in this really weird voice and at the end said something like “This is utterly ridiculous.” Well guess what? It got recorded and has been playing for over a week without me even knowing it. Niiiiice one, Mel. Looks like I’ll be replacing that one with some nice elevator music and a Bible verse quoted in Hebrew just to make up for the drama. Geez! I’m such a dork sometimes.

As if that’s not bad enough I was at Walmart the other day and Sophie was at her height in whining and complaining and I was OVER. IT.  She had just yelled in the most whiney little girl voice you could ever hear “I wannnnnnntttttt that Pineapple, Moooooom!” I squatted down to her eye level and said with the tightest lips I’ve had in a long time, “Sophie, that whine has got to go down the toilet right now. I’m sick of it!” I stood up only to look square in the eye of a church member’s son. I wondered if I quickly asked Sophie if she had to use the toilet if the church member would just assume they had misunderstood the communication between me and Sophie. Instead of the pastor’s wife just telling her daughter to flush her words down the toilet surely she had just asked her if she needed to use the toilet. But no, that’s not what I did. What did I do? Oh, I just took my cart and practically ran the other way burning up Walmart rubber all the way down the aisle. Now that’s classy. Yell at your kid, use potty language, and run away from a church member all in a half a second. I am making grand impressions at our new little church.