I can’t seem to bring myself to church more than three weeks in a row. On the fourth week, I wake up, and think, yeah, I’m so not going. I like to take Sundays off now and then from church, and I’m not sure that it’s as holy as recognising that the Lord made Sabbath for us, not the other way around, or if it’s because I’m just tired out from a full week of people-stuff, and I just want to go all pseudo-hermit, have a bit of worship that looks like soul-care. Even though I’m a proper church-goer, a provider of covered dishes, I don’t have an illusions about myself, I know I still like a bit of room, so I make that room for my own self, no one else will do that for me, I’ve learned.

I spent the morning in my kitchen with Evie while Brian took the older two to the garden and Home Depot. I turned on the soundtrack of Midnight in Paris, and I made a roast chicken and summer garden veggies for my friend – she just had the sweetest little baby girl. Sometimes the only ministry I can manage is the ministry of good food.

Then I gave my own family waffles and sausage for supper because I was tired out from all the healthy cooking. I hoped I wasn’t a big old metaphor for putting ministry first, but I was comforted by the knowledge that Joe would eat his body weight in sausage if I let him, and really, it’s just what they like, and honestly, who cares?

Evelynn sat on the floor while I cooked and danced and sang a bit off-key, she was banging pots and pans, and I kind of laughed because, you know, I always use that metaphor for calling others to freedom and wholeness, that image of myself standing in a field, calling everyone outside with kitchenware, truly appeals to me but, hey, did you know, that’s actually really noisy and obnoxious in your own kitchen? She’s a table top climber, she’s a for-the-fun-of-it shrieker, she’s a go-getter, a boundary-pusher, a look-you-in-the-eyes-right-while-you-are-saying-no-darling-and-do-it-anyway girl. I am always running with her, my mother thinks she’s a three-year-old trapped in a 16-month-olds body, and sometimes, when I see that intelligent and saucy look in her eyes, I’m inclined to agree. And then fast and pray about those pre-teen years, Lordhavemercy.

Brian spent the afternoon on a project with Joe. He has a big fold out work bench that he made for himself a month or two ago. It’s the project that I mentioned here in this [love looks like] post. (Brian is quite tall; the very first thing everyone says when they meet him is: “Wow. You’re tall.” So all the benches and counters and sinks are at least a foot too short for him.) He built this workbench that comes up to my shoulders, and it folds back into the wall like a murphy bed. Joe adores it, and so on Sunday, Brian made a little one, absolutely identical, for Joe. I couldn’t tell who was having more fun, Brian or Joe, but they were working together, making their own kind of art, Anne riding her bike, exploring, and I’ve noticed my tinies just like to be with us, it doesn’t matter what we’re doing, they just like to be there, and there is no greater longing of their hearts than to help, let me help, let me be a part of it all.

People keep asking me about my book writing. I have nothing to say other than: yeah, I better get on that, eh?

Then I made blueberry crisp. And organized the closet.

A few weeks ago, Brian lead a baby dedication in our friend’s backyard. It was so beautiful and regular, just a gathering of their friends and family, the many littles running around, swinging on the tree swings, while the adults visited and stood around. Back when Brian was a pastor, he would fold his Bible in half and stuff it in his back pocket, so that he always had it with him, and when he loped up to the stage to preach, he just reached around for his Bible and opened it up. I watched him in the backyard, with our friends, my sister was there, too, and he prayed, welcomed everyone, then he easily pulled that creased Bible out of his back pocket, an easy movement I hadn’t seen him perform in seven years, and some part of my heart didn’t fit in my chest any more, it was good – and sad – to see. He blessed that wee new girl, and her family, and it was that moment when the quiet unassuming one is revealed as their true identity in the movie, he’s still a pastor, still a teacher, even after all of the deconstruction and pulling apart and rebuilding of our faith, and our understanding of church and go-go-go-programs on the premise of compounds and build-it-they-will-come, coupled with a new understanding of vocation and ministry,  even with his business acumen, and the new normal life in the secular marketplace. But I can’t deny it, who ever could? He’s meant for this work, he’s a pastor, a teacher, a spiritual director, and there was something so good about seeing him in that role, in that office, for just a few moments in the backyard. Something good, and  yet it made me sad.

I mentioned this to him that night, I said, “Don’t you miss it? What do you think? Should we make it more of a priority to pursue some official kind of ministry life again?” And so, for the millionth time, we talked it through, and we yelled at each other, then: ssshhhhhh! the tinies are sleeping! and eventually, he was laying stretched out on the couch, his arm flung over his eyes, we needed to go to bed by now.

“I miss it, sure, Sarah, and I yearn for it, and I hope I do it for the rest of my life, someday, but today was today, and it was wonderful. I built a work bench with my son, and I wouldn’t do it anything different,” he said. “If all I ever do right in my life is love those kids down the hall, I’m satisfied, can’t you see?

And what can you do then, but go to bed together, it is enough, and this is glorious, and I brushed my teeth, he opened the windows wide, we like fresh air, and I kissed him kissed him kissed him under the red Ikea duvet.

 

In which I am surprised by friendship
In which I admit to being afraid of poverty
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  • This is such a beautiful post. In a world where we replace a rich understanding of vocation with simply employment, and we understand our value insofar as we create value in the marketplace, this is a breath of fresh air. Of course, we need employment and we need some degree of financial stability, but when we think of our lives, there is more to it than just this. Thank you!

  • This hits my right in the enter of me, because honestly ministry has beat the living crap out of Kel and I. Knocked the wind out of us with the pain of it all.

    He’s decided to go into PhD work so he can teach and prof. But yet really it’s all ministry, you’re right about that. The roast chickens and the little ones sleeping down the hall. It’s not how we pay the bills that determines it.

    I hate ministry fights and what’s next tension, super glad you ended it under the duvet 😉

  • Thanks for this. I’m at a season of life where “official ministry” doesn’t seem as important as it once was. I’m a missionary, always will be. Yet, I can not bring myself to go to church or to pursue another placement anywhere. God seems more present in daily life, in community, in risk taking, than in Sunday morning services and formalized outreaches. It makes me wonder if Christianity misses the point of ministry. Is what you’re doing now any less ministry than a pastoral role in a church? Surely, you’re pastors, teachers, ministers to your children. I’m beginning to think that’s what truly matters- being a follower of Jesus and loving those in our direct line of influence. If that isn’t ministry, I don’t know what is. Thanks again for sharing your story!

  • T&L

    Beautiful and sooo very familiar to us. <3

  • brie.

    first time here – but oh so wonderful. a fellow canadian, but transplanted abroad – i often feel that the only ministry i can manage is that of good food also!

  • Sarah, this opened up my heart today, freeing my, truly. So often we can feel trapped by the rules, the burdens of this life, and we forget that life, with the Father, is being open to love, with all that we are, whom is right in front of us. . . And it is so easy for me to feel weighted by all the “shoulds” that make me feel more secure about my choices being good ones He decides what is good, and what is good for me, and He gives me all that I need . . . And I love your beautiful words sharing what it looks like to have an open heart to our children and husband and friends. Beautiful. Thank you.

  • Sharon

    Your words breathe life! Thank you!

  • so there ourselves. Ministry is tough. People are tough. I want to feel the passion and excitement that I once felt ministering to others once again. Only trouble is people.

  • I have been crying reading your post since the words “Something good, yet it made me sad.” I cry because I identify. My husband went from Teen Pastor and Elder to Church Janitor. We were hurt, very hurt by “church” and God was faithful in his leading us to a place where we could sit together, which was nice and clean toilets together, which too was nice. We are at peace, we are free, and we know know grace. I ache when I see my husband ache to teach, yet we’ve recently realized that he will always be a teacher. It is part of who he is. Thank you for sharing. It captivated my heart. Thank you.

  • theblahblahblahger

    Wow, have you guys got it right… Your description of your Sabbath brings tears to my eyes and a smile to my face. And the way you string those words together, made me feel like I was there. Beautiful.

  • Diana Trautwein

    Beautiful, Sarah. Every word, every motion described, every color filled in. Yes. My daughter-in-law’s father was a worker with IV when she was born, with a calling to the pastorate. But they had three girls in six years and he still hadn’t done seminary, so he went to work in the business world, selling computers. And he did that for 20 years, while he went to seminary very part time. Now he is pastoring – has been for about 15 years – and will soon retire. He wouldn’t do anything different, either. Both lives have their pluses and minuses, both lives are rich with ministry opps. You live your life, you seek God, you find your way – and it’s all good. Even the hard ugly. Even that.

  • katie

    Gah. You always kill me with gorgeousness.

  • Jennifer Strope

    This is beautiful. Incredibly so.

  • Every time we feel antsy, the Lord reminds us that we are their Watchers, those little ones, and that is our ministry now, too. Sometimes it’s like a boom SIT DOWN DAUGHTER correction and other times it’s this gentle comforting “it’s ok, this is the plan” squeeze of my arm and pat of my back. I love this post so much.

  • Oh the ministry of loving God’s people and teaching the Word settles into a man’s bones. We’ve just opened the door to a new ministry and relocated our entire brood. We stepped away for a year to heal. I understand, all to well, the pain of ministry life and being hurt at the hand of the bride. I’ve accepted that in our life, we will have to endure a certain amount of pain to fulfill our calling. Not doormat kind of pain, but wounded people hurting people because they are hurting and someone must love them anyway. That’s where we are, giving up our right to be offended. It’s taken 10 years to get here.

    But for you and your man, ministry is no less ministry regardless of the vocation. Grace and truth and love are needed everywhere, especially the secular marketplace.

    Sarah, your words are music and I’m so glad you wouldn’t do it any different.

  • Your words always fill my day with such beauty. Thanks for this.

  • Maya Resnikoff

    Being clergy is one of those things- it comes and goes. Perhaps “it turns on and off” is a better analogy. It’s just a question of how often we turn it on, or it gets called out. I feel it- and I’m about to be a full-time chaplain…

  • I’m always astonished how I can set aside big chunks of my identity, my calling, for long periods, and still be me. How they morph and change and I’m still here. I’m trying to come to grips that _I_ am so much more than any one of my talents or passions or projects. That there’s space enough in my life for me to be me, simply, every once in a while.

  • Sarah. This, this is true. I know that moment of good and sad and the way it catapults thoughts back to “should we…?” I like your Brian and the way he thinks.

  • Steph H.

    You’ve described my Sunday-stay-at-home to a tee. Amen, the baby dedication was special. Your husband did go into pastor mode and it clearly is a gift of his. Your little Evelyn is a doll. Joe looks over the moon with his work bench. Waffles and sausage are soul food and you can never go wrong. I’m glad we’re friends.

  • Jen Hatmaker

    So lovely. And may I add that we’ve been in “full-time ministry” for every second of our adult lives since 1996, and so often, I hunger for the freedom of just loving Jesus and living for him rather than organizing religion. Because it is all the church and it is all beautiful and it all counts, and sometimes I ache for for the simplicity of not being a professional in the kingdom.

  • I know I have a picture in my mind what faithfulness looks like. I also have pictures of ministry. These pictures can be the greatest barriers to finding what God wants to do in my life.

  • Jacuzzi

    beautiful Sarah. Thank you for sharing Brian’s words. I learned long ago that you don’t need a pulpit and an official title for ministry to be performed. I have ministered and been ministered to, in some of the most unbelieveable places by some incredible people…. most recently through facebook by my beautiful 16-year-old niece whose faith is so clear love so pure and wisdom so profound it had me crying.

  • Woman, you floor me. Your spiritual gift is Words. This is amazing. I love that Brian knows that being a pastor doesn’t mean getting paid to be one. He just IS, in the same way you are a WRITER, even if you never write that book. (Although you WILL, right after you bake me a blueberry crisp. I’m holding you to that.)

    God made you both, together, apart, to glorify and to revel in glory. You do it so well.

  • stephsday

    I could have written that last part almost exactly. Tim & I have similar conversations almost nightly. It deserves a post, but I’m not sure how to write it all out when the puzzle pieces are still so scattered. Perhaps you understand?

  • Sarah,

    I think your ministry is official. You may not be getting monetary income from
    it but it seems official. I am sure by
    your words; you and your husband will always be pastoring, teaching and making
    an impact. I have often thought if God
    only put me on this dirt to reach one person or even if it was only to move one
    person closer to him would I be satisfied?
    Would I want to do that work only?
    I want the answer to be yes…. that when it is said and done I would have pleased the Master regardless if I
    reach one or one thousand. God may be
    using you guys to prepare others(you children and perhaps theirs) for his
    purpose. Or using this time to prepare
    you for some other purpose in the near future.
    I remind myself that I am
    responsible to “Love and Obey” and to respond to opportunities that are found
    along the journey. Bloom where you are
    planted.

  • shabel

    As a mom whose just decided to stay home after teaching for 7 years, this brought tears to my eyes. “If all I ever do right in my life is love those kids down the hall, I’m satisfied…” beautiful words.

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  • so beautifully true. Yes. And thank you. xx

  • Anonymous

    Ahhh the last sentence!