Did you know that if you look up the title “pastor’s wife” in the Greek it is translated “busy lady?” (If you did know that, then I will completely in shock since I just made that up!) But I’ve yet to meet a lady married to a man in ministry who hasn’t found herself in a well-occupied pursuit of life. Here are a few things that, if they become a regular practice in our lives, will help us live more efficiently and more joyfully.
1. Say “No.”
You’ve heard it before. I’m certainly not the first to say it. But yet here we are, still too often, drowning in a sea of committedness because we couldn’t look them in the eye and reply in the negative. What has helped me in this pursuit is to understand that every “no” to one thing is a “yes” to another that is higher on my priority list. Saying “no” now will allow me to say “yes” to my family or another opportunity later.
One example that I’ve had to largely back out of in our ministry is attending showers. Saying “no” to these events is hard. I know that they will be fun, I’ll have a chance to fellowship with ladies from our church, and most importantly, I know that there will be CAKE! But I’ve come to realize that there is no way for me to manage the areas I serve in at my job at the church, care for my kids and husband, and keep the laundry done if these evening and weekend activities start landing on my calendar. So I choose to say “yes” to the former.
The other aspect that has given me grace in this area is learning to use the response, “I’m unable to at this time.” Life is full of seasons. That phrase helps me remember that someday life will change again and perhaps that door will be wide open for me to step through. It also conveys to the “askee” that I do want to be involved but have other obligations that prevent me from doing so. So take that phrase and prayerfully run with it! You can do it!
2. Feed Your Introvert.
Ministry is a people thing. Our lives are surrounded by formal and informal counseling situations, fellowships, prayer requests, and talk-talk-talk! Then we come home to more people in own little sanctuary – our home! For an introvert this can produce an atmosphere full of stress.
I love people, I really do. But I also am an introvert, and one of the things that the Lord has spoken to my heart about this year is to make small changes in my schedule to feed the introvert in me. Many times over the last few years, I would almost feel as if I was suffocating after seasons of lots of people time. I needed to breathe emotionally. I was exercising (most of the time) and walking with God. My spirit and my body were fine, but my soul was struggling. Then I realized: there was never a time of silence in my life; no time to just be.
This year, I am actively working on taking more opportunities when I can put the headphones on at work to block out noise, to make myself take a minute to pull out a journal and jot down what is going on in life and what I am feeling, to stop and intentionally capture a moment, or to step out of the room where the TV is on and read a short chapter of a book in a room by myself.
Now, I have started to recognize when my emotional tank begins getting low and I need to step away, if only for a few minutes, to a calm place to recharge. On a busy Sunday that may mean greeting folks after a service and then slipping away to a back office to chat quietly with a friend for ten minutes or taking five minutes to go and sit in a room alone with a book or a time of prayer.1 That is life-changing for me. Busy pastors’ wives may find that growing in awareness and practice of this concept may be the key to staying refreshed in a busy life.
3. Simplify Your Life.
Simplifying reduces stress. But simplicity has an unexpected enemy: pride. Here are a few examples of pride keeping us from the simple life.
TIME: “Using paper plates for dinner is a waste of money and not a proper family dinner. What will others think? What will my children remember about their childhood dinnertime? Good moms set the dinner table.”
FINANCES: “My kids must have the best sports equipment there is. It looks like we don’t care or know what we’re doing when they have to borrow a team mate’s item.”
PHYSICAL POSSESSIONS: “I’ve got to save these because they were a gift. I’d be so embarrassed if they ever came over and found out they were gone.”
Pride says, “It matters more what people think of me than that I am effectively following God’s plan for my life.” And not only is that sin, it is added stress to a busy lady’s life. So what are some practical ways to simplify? Ask the Lord to show you how you can simplify life in these areas. Here are a few ideas to get your simplified juices flowing:
TIME: Save time by growing in organization. Use bags for different places: a church bag, a school bag, a gym bag, an AWANA bag. Have a bag for church- maybe you have two Bibles- most Americans do. Make one your church Bible. Put it in there- along with any items you need for serving. When one of the kids or your husband hands you something that must get somewhere- have them put it in the bag! School items go in backpacks. Larger projects for school go in the car when completed, etc. Save time by organizing these things.
FINANCES: Debt is one of the greatest stressors. Financial Peace University is offered at many churches. Perhaps your church could offer this course and you and your husband could take it. Cutting extra services can be difficult, but also very freeing. A few services that I was apprehensive about cutting but found out it really simplified our financial lives and were just plain out unnecessary for us were our home phone service and internet. Readjust and reevaluate at different stages of life for what is best for your family.
PHYSICAL POSSESSIONS: Pastors wives typically tend to accumulate stuff. Supplies for ministries, random gifts that sometimes have no place, and pictures in abundance. I’m a bit of a hoarder anyway, so I have been shocked at finding the unexpected joy of throwing away.
My husband often makes deals with me on items he wants to throw away. Our negotiations often end with in a a two week period for that object to find another use or to be sold on Craigslist or it will risk the fate of our extra large garbage cans. That time limit motivates me to repurpose or actually post an item for sale rather than letting it linger in our way adding clutter to our home.
Realize that one day, you will die, and someone, likely your kids, are going to clean out your house. They’ll want that picture of Grandma, but will they really want that kindergarten graduation picture of a child whose name you’ve forgotten and whose family moved away years ago? If this is difficult for you, find a partner who is strong in this. I often text my clutter-purging friend Kimberly to see if she would keep such a thing. Sometimes her response “Trash it!” is the just the push I need to make the leap. And life is so much cleaner and clearer after I do. Give it a try. Feeling overwhelmed- donate or trash that extra stuff.
4. Just Get Started.
When we have a heavy task list or dreaded job ahead of us, sometimes the hardest part is actually just getting started. We may not feel like starting that project, assisting our child with his science experiment, and the thought of cleaning just makes us downright sad.
Recently I read a book called 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing. In it, Gary Provost, one of the most gifted authors I’ve read, states “For most writers the hardest part of any writing project is getting started. I often begin by staring at the typewriter as if it is some vile substance that has been spilled on my desk. Then, no matter how alert I was when I arrived at the typewriter, I become almost terminally drowsy. My eyes droop. My shoulders sag. Finally, I begin to think, ‘Well, maybe I should take a little nap first, then I’ll be well rested for writing.’ Usually my puritan conscience cancels that plan. So I take on the expression of a man who has just been strapped into a dentist’s chair and begin to write. As soon as I have words on paper, agony departs. I love writing. It’s getting started that I abhor.”2
Isn’t that fantastic? And do you relate to those words as much as I do? So do that dreaded ministry task or meal planning by just getting started. Set yourself a timer and just determine to at least work through that time frame or complete one small task.
Do the hard thing first. Wanting to pick up that book? Promise yourself a chapter after you vacuum that room. Need to write the thank you notes you’ve been putting off? Determine that after you do it, you’ll take the kids for some ice cream! My friend Jenni uses the Proverbs 31 mantra of “she worketh willingly with her hands.” She then goes on to tell herself how this work she is dreading will not kill her and then makes herself get on with it. And she’s not dead yet! Let’s live dangerously and see if we can survive it, too!
5. Partner With The Body.
Some of us carry a harried load of stress because we simply are trying to do it all ourselves! Believe me- I hated doing group projects in school. There’s a senior yearbook quote that says, “When I die, I want all the people I did group projects in school with to lower my casket into the ground so they can let me down one last time!”
I remember thinking, “Just let me do in my own way and on my own timetable. It will take me more time and energy to teach them how than to do it myself. Plus, when people fail to deliver, doesn’t that add even more stress?” There is some truth to that, but overall it’s a well-disguised issue of pride. (Don’t you love it when so many things go back to pride!?) For more detailed information on the practical how-to when you ain’t-never can be found on this blog post: Leadership & Delegation Blog
To summarize this, a pastor’s wife will be busy but she will be less stressed, more joyful, and more effective when she begins discovering the gifts and hearts of the ladies around her. I know that some will object to your requests, and quite often when I do a large request of “who wants to help?” the response is next to nothing. Insecurities and doubt keep women from jumping in. However, when I ask ladies if they’d be willing to work on a particular project, then I find they are usually really excited to be a part. The more I do this, the greater our team becomes and the more we accomplish. Start small, find some people, serve together; take note of their hobbies, their FB posts of activities, and what they excel at. Then ask them to join you in a project. I recently discovered that one lady who was willing to organize the food was highly gifted in and enjoyed getting donations! Next time I have an event involving food, I will be asking this lady to assist whoever is leading in the food department by getting donations. The added benefit is that you will discover a great way to get to know these ladies deeper and develop lasting friendships with them.
6. Read Short Chaptered Books in Spare Moments.
Busy women often struggle to find extra time to read. While audio is not my preferred learning style, the audio Bible has been a life-saver for me in getting my daily bread each morning. Check it out here: One Year Audio Bible
But I know that I need a bit more. I love reading. I usually have an extra Bible study book as well as some practical books on leadership or spiritual growth that I am in the midst of. Keep a book in the glove compartment of your car for those days you arrive at school pickup early or ball practice goes late. Keep a book in your bathroom, by your bed, in your bag, and hidden somewhere at the church. Find an audio resource to keep you engaged.2 Use the free app of Goodreads to keep up with what you are reading (or in my case to remember which books you read and what you thought about them- thanks mom-brain), see what friends are reading, or to make a reading challenge for yourself, or join or start a reading group!
7. Embrace Imperfection.
In the book series Anne of Green Gables, Marilla says, “You set your heart too much on foolish things, Anne Shirley.” I’ve found too often my heart is set on some detail and when it doesn’t meet that expectation, my heart crashes. And if you try to live in perfection, your heart will be in a perpetual talespin.
Once again, pride tells us that we should be able to control everything and to accomplish everything. Only God is capable of these two things. So rather than like Lucifer trying to be like the Almighty, I can rejoice that He is so great. I can magnify Him more for being all that I am not. When things don’t go as they should: the kids are a mess for a special event, I forgot to send a project in to school, the decoration for the church event didn’t turn out, or the cookies for the bake sale flopped, I have a choice: I can allow my unattainable standards to alter my attitude or I can choose to rejoice in the fact that God will use even my imperfect moments if they are yielded to Him.
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” II Corinthians 12:9
My children can learn more from a mom who can by His grace smile through a disappointing change of events than from a perfectly executed plan. Life is too short to spend it grieving over foolish things. Our time with our children, with those we minister with and to, and with our husbands is too precious to be sacrificed at the altar of what will all too soon be forgotten anyway. Take your disappointments and imperfect moments and rejoice. Rejoice that while you are not in control, your Heavenly Father is, and rejoice that you are now a bit wiser than you were before.
1. It is clear that there are a few moments we cannot step away, though a bathroom break can sometimes provide a moment’s sanctuary! In those events where you are needed and cannot step away, that is where we must rely on the Lord claiming the guarantee that we can do all things through Him. This post is simply to help those of a quiet nature realize that taking other times throughout the week to recharge will keep them from falling apart when life is busy.
2. Provost, Gary. 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing. New York, New York: New American Library, 1985. P;g 15.
3. Many friends of mine have started taking advantage of Hoopla. This is a free library site that allows streaming of digital resources.