Days 18-31 {When A Church Doesn’t Take Root}

DSC_0395DSC_0381DSC_0402I’ve come to the front porch to write and to escape the billowing smoke from the fire pit.  The Man’s tending the last few flames with the handful of boys still circled up around him and the girls are swinging from every bar on the tree house. The 18 wild ones who came for “a story about Jesus” ate 48 donuts in 30 minutes and 1 boy said that this was his best thing of the week.

His words made my heart well up in the best kind of way and I let my eyes meet the Man’s. He smiled at me because we were both thinking the same thing.

We’re going to be okay.

DSC_0382DSC_0396Y’all, it’s been a roll coaster of a week. Emotions have run the gambit, from despair to audacious hope and back down to confusion and sadness. We’re 19 days into this series of marriage and church planting  and although I’ve been committed to this, things are tough round these parts. This is just the nature of planting a church.

I began this series with all 31 days planned. Each day was designed to set up the next day, all the days moving towards a grand finale something much like the scene in Braveheart where William Wallace cries FREEDOM! as he is being murdered.

Seriously. That was the plan.

But 15 days ago, I trashed the whole plan and went rogue.

I scratched the plan and reverted back to what I do best: Write exactly the story God is writing, right as it is happening.

For two days now, I’ve been feeling the need to wrap up my 31 days early. I thought I could write through the dark parts and end on day 31 with the whole truth, but y’all I can’t.

I can’t write through this dark part because the writing is not giving space for some much needed heart healing. And my heart is not the only one in need of healing.

Our entire church needs time to heal.

DSC_0398DSC_0390On Monday of this past week Fellowship Bible Church Rocky Mount closed its doors.

In the earliest parts of 2011, while living in Dallas, TX, we began to pray that Jesus would burden our hearts for a people and a place. And in the summer of 2011, He answered that request with one place and one people: Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

We moved to Rocky Mount  in December of 2011 with only one direct mission from Jesus: Love the city of Rocky Mount and make much of My name.

And today, we still have only one direct mission from Jesus: Love the city of Rocky Mount and make much of My name.

The Man and I have spent the better part of the last 12 months, wrestling through our call here. We have prayed and sought council and read more books than we can even count. We have spun plates and moved our congregation and done all the things we felt Jesus wanted us to do to serve His church and make much of His name here.

We had people filling chairs and carrying out the tasks of our church. We had people showing up early and staying late. We had people writing checks and loving on our community.

But we did not have spiritually mature co-elders laboring with us.

As a result, our enemy has sown seeds of distrust to such a degree that makes leadership, without spiritually mature co-elders, impossible.

DSC_0385Going forward, our hope is that the people of Fellowship would find strength and wholeness in Christ in another healthy church in our city.

Our hope, for our family, is that we would be renewed in Christ and given clear marching orders as to how we are to fulfill our one clear directive from Jesus: Love the city of Rocky Mount and make much of Him.

My desire is that this post not be the end of this conversation about church planting and marriage and all the things that fall in between. The Man and I are still church planters. We plant the Gospel of Jesus all over our city. But our thoughts about what the church must look like are evolving. This weekend, church looked a lot like 18 kids around the campfire eating donuts. Next weekend, it may look like PBJ sandwiches across the picnic table.

But the Church is wherever we are.

And today, we live on Avent street.

 

 Going forward, all neighborhood ministries, including MOPS, will continue in fullness of health.  We will still Feed Our Neighbors, and round up the neighborhood for donuts and OJ, and make plans to host the IF:Gathering in the spring. God is doing good things here and we desire to join Him in what He is already about.

And one more thought...I did not know that when I began this series that Fellowship would close its doors this month. But over the last year, the Man and I have become increasingly aware that we were unhealthy. Only recently have we become privy to the severity of the unhealth in our body.

I will continue to write this story as I feel led by Jesus to do so. Writing through the dark is hard and scary. I covet your prayers and I thank you for continuing to love us through this hard part.

Days 16 and 17 {I Interrupt This Series…}

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Lisa-Jo is the mama who is takes the mundane and magically spins it into bittersweet strands of sugar. She is the mama who encourages my heart and a bazillion other mama hearts all over the globe.  She is the mama who lost her mama at a young age and wrote a book about her journey into motherhood.

She is The Mama, if you know what I mean.

So when you get a Voxer  message from Lisa-Jo Baker, the cheerleader of moms everywhere, your tummy does a flip flop and you sit down on the floor before you take a listen. You think surely she has the wrong person, that surely, Lisa-Jo must have made a mistake.

But then you take a listen and smile with glee because you realize that you are the right person. Lisa-Jo wants to chat up motherhood with you.

And she wants to chat up motherhood because she believes that mothers like me, the ones who mother in the hood, have something to offer to the glorious community of mothers everywhere.

I’m sharing my humble offering to this conversation over at her place today. Join me there?

{psst…This is sort of a big deal. Yippee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!}

 

 

Day 15 {Mourn}

DSC_0376DSC_0376DSC_0376DSC_0376DSC_0376DSC_0256DSC_0766Two weeks ago, I flew to Atlanta to attend the IF:Gathering one day lab at Catalyst. It was a quick 36 hour trip with online friends who share my heart and live similar lives in different parts of the country. We ate fish tacos outside by candle light and then chatted until late in the night and it was hard not to try to hang onto the hours knowing this time together would not likely happen again anytime soon.

On Wednesday, after coffee on the porch, we drove 30 minutes to the convention center for the full day event. We put on lanyards and circled up around tables to share lunch with the IF team. It was fun and informative and needed. But after lunch and before the first session, we found ourselves in a standing room only worship center.

And the tears immediately welled up and spilled down my face just like every other time I’ve been in the midst of a corporate worship service in the last three years. I tried to dam up the streams of tears, embarrassed by my shaking shoulders and heaving chest, but the tears kept coming.

Before one word was spoken, my heart was splintered in a million little fragments, each fragment a sliver of all the things my soul longs for in these dry years of our church plant.

DSC_0177DSC_0313When the Man and I date each other on the front porch, we sometimes find ourselves in a place of mourning.

We mourn for the life we used to have. We mourn for the dreams we used to dream.

We mourn for the loss of people who saw our babies grow for 7 years.

We mourn for the loss of ignorance that comes when you’re climbing the ministry ladder convinced that serving the church is the highest calling, each rung climbed indicative of God’s blessings upon us.

We mourn for the loss of the privilege of sitting in a corporate worship service where the music is the art that God uses to speak to your soul.

We mourn for the loss of time spent under the teaching of a pastor whose weekly words spur on droves of people to live their life on purpose, with purpose, and for the good of others, always making much of Jesus.

We mourn for what we think our kids are missing.

We mourn for the loss of oneness lived out when living on mission with a group of people.

We mourn for the loss of unity and for the loss of like-minded people and for the loss of  lifters of arms that we can reach out and touch.

We mourn for the loss of an established, local church.

DSC_0319DSC_0796No one told us that when we said yes to planting a church, that the first two years would be a period of deep mourning. And no one told us that even after the joy of planting began to set in, there would still be days of mourning to come.

Mourning doesn’t exactly pair well with the hip, cool, and sexy image that is often attached to church planting. It doesn’t make for good conversation when trying to build a team to help do the work.  It doesn’t spur others on to want to come and die with you- Who wants to do that?

But church planting is a kind of death.

Actually, it’s a lot of small deaths, one right after another, for many months. Or like in our case, over several years.

Planting a church is an invitation to come lay down all of the comfortable, meaningful worship experiences, all of the stability and predictability of an established church, and the people with whom you have done life.

It’s an invitation to come and lay down all your hopes, dreams, expectations, preferences, and desires.

It’s a walking away from something good and life-giving and soul-filling in order to go to a place where people need the Gospel.

And y’all, it hurts.

All of it. Every last little piece of the giving up and walking away and dying the slow small deaths of preference and personal hopes.

But can I let you in on a little secret?

When the Man and I sit on the porch and rest in moments of mourning, he always asks me one thing:

Would you do it all over again?

And I always respond with the same thing:

Absolutely.

Because I would. I’d die all the little deaths all over again because there is joy after the mourning.

And after mourning, the JOY is so much sweeter.

xo~me

{I am loving this series with you. Thank you for all the emails and messages and Me, Too’s. You ladies are a beautiful bunch and I’m blessed by your presence in this space.}

 

Day 14 {Hold It Loosely}

508We were seventeen months into our church plant when our mentors drove in from Dallas for a four day visit. We were starving. We were starving to be seen and heard and known by people who loved us no matter what we were capable of doing. We were starved for deep conversation and gentle correction and we needed specific direction in a church plant that we felt wasn’t going to make it.

Just a few months prior to their visit, we had moved our church gathering from the house into the local YMCA. We had seen some growth and the house set-up had proven to be too much to handle for our 16 adults and 19 children. Our church was limping along and things were messy, but surely we could make it work. We had fifteen years of church work under our belts and a core group of faithful attenders who were giving and showing up and serving our community. We even had one guy on guitar. What else was there?

We were on the back deck, on day two of their visit, and after hours of listening to our mindless dump of thoughts and questions and fears, it was our turn to listen.

“It’s not yours,” he said. “And if you don’t learn to hold it loosely it will become your idol. This church belongs to Jesus.” He had his palms up, resting them on his knees. “You care way too much about what happens with it.”

Nineteen months later, that is the only thing I remember from their visit.

Fellowship does not belong to us. It belongs only to Jesus.

DSC_0226In the last few months, I’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time pondering the thought that Fellowship is not ours. In my head, I’ve always known that, but in my heart remains a remnant of hope that we can fix it or make it work or see this church flourish.

But it’s sideways thinking, really, to believe that if we work harder, love fiercer, serve better, create more worship experiences, and spin more plates in the name of Jesus that we have the power to build a church.

We never planted a church believing that we could actually build it. We’re church people and have been Jesus followers since grade school and we know the truth.

Only Jesus can build a church.

But in the thick of planting the Gospel and seeing little to no life change, we began to believe the lie that we weren’t doing enough or at least not doing it (whatever it is) right.

And we took on a burden that was never ours to carry: We tried to build a church.

We spent two years laboring in vain and using every church growth trick in the book. We even tried things that aren’t in the book. The Man and I toiled and fretted over people leaving and the people staying not moving towards personal growth. We launched initiatives and have been like clapping monkeys you wind up and then turn loose.

And the only thing we ever built was a three ring circus with two tired conductors trying out the next thing.

509It’s been ten months since we gave Jesus back His church.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Give Jesus back His church. As if it were ever ours.

But that’s what we did.

We opened up our hands and let Him have it and you know what happened?

Nothing spectacular.

Jesus didn’t shoot off fireworks or throw party or kill the fattened calf.

He just sighed and put His arm around us and whispered one thing:

Go do what you love and belong to me and I will build My church.

And you know what the Man and I did?

We obeyed.

Days 11and 12 and 13 {On Parenting Through}

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Tonight, over a thrown together meal of frozen pizza and Ramen noodles, the Man and I had a couple of hard conversations with our two oldest girls. We forget that these girls are no longer our little girls, but girls on the brink of becoming women and women, by God’s design, are intuitive creatures. We pick up things and develop thoughts about the things we pick up.

And sometimes,when the DNA of two parents collide just right, the girls who pick up things and develop thoughts about things, wind up being people who don’t talk about the things they pick up.

We have two girls that don’t talk. They simply observe and stuff and then observe some more. And when their growing hearts cannot hold one more thing, the things they’ve stuffed deep down inside spill out in rivers of tears.

In the last few weeks, we’ve seen a steady stream of tears in our home. We’ve assigned the tears to a new school and hours of homework. We’ve tried to pin the tears on lack of sleep and weird classroom dynamics and fears of failure. We’ve even tried to blame budding hormonal changes for the weepy sadness in our home.

But tonight, after the youngest four kids lost themselves in front of the television, I asked Elli a series of hard questions, each one building on the one before it. She answered each question with a smidgen of bravery and after a few minutes, we were able to find the source of all the tears.

And the source was not what the Man and I were expecting.

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As I write through the hardest parts of our church plant, the Man and I find ourselves immersed in church talk. We’re consumed with figuring out how God is working His plan and how we fit into it. We wring our hands and run our fingers through our hair and I cry over the kitchen sink. The Man spends entire evenings in prayer and complete weekends on the porch swing lost in thought and after the kids have been sent to bed, we delve into the murkier waters of heart things.

We hold mirrors up to one another and call out the things we believe breaks the heart of Jesus. We spend time on the phone with mentors who shed light into our dark parts and we listen to godly counsel. We devour truth and books about truth and when we’re alone, we pray with no words.

There are no words for this time spent walking through the dark.

And all the while, even when we thought we were alone, our girls have been picking up all the things we’ve been saying and all the things we’ve not been saying and stuffing every bit of it down into their small, soft hearts.

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DSC_0345DSC_0687If you spend any time here, you know that I don’t write much about mothering. It’s not that I have nothing to say, but the context within which I mother is messy. We’re a ministry family, rearing our children in the hood, and our children have a mother called to write the grittiest parts of our life.

Because we’ve parachute planted a church, meaning we strategically moved into an area with no appointed team and planted, we currently have no elder board, no on the ground strategic planning team, no staff to help set direction, and no monthly stream of outside resources being poured into this work.

This also means that from day one until today, nearly all the behind the scenes ministry, as well as most upfront ministry, has happened in our home.

The Man and I host meetings, counsel couples, and invite people who need to have hard conversations with us into our home. We plan and dream and hope for big things for our little church around our farm table. We porch swing and drink coffee and talk the hard things out while the kids play volleyball in the side yard. We have messy conversations with our neighbors and heated conversations with our church and brokenhearted conversations with ones leaving our church in the heart of our home.

Our home is the hub of our church and the hot spot for our neighborhood  and the safe haven for our family.

But sometimes, in the midst of good things, our children get lost in the crossfire of all that’s happening and their little hearts and minds have a hard time knowing what to do with what they have heard and seen.

It’s messy.

And to be honest with you, the Man and I have not yet learned how to parent in this season. At best, we’re muddling through it begging Jesus to fill our gaps. And at worst, we’re slapping band-aids on gaping wounds while crying alongside them, telling them this won’t last forever.

DSC_0325DSC_0169DSC_0247This morning as the house sleeps, my chest aches with the weight of ministry and parenting and writing and marriage and life.

I have no answers for you as they pertain to church planting and marriage and family. Actually, right this minute, all I know is that Jesus is good and trustworthy and mighty enough to shoulder all the things I don’t know.

And I know that whatever He has called us to, I can trust that He was called our kids to it as well.

Kingdom come,

No matter the cost to us.

Days 9 and10: Love Your People

DSC_0093It’s early September and in Boone, the air around us is gray like smoke. Rain pours from the low hanging clouds above us and below us and for the moment we find ourselves alone on the porch. We share wicker chairs and blankets while the kids roam the woods surrounding the cabin. There is just enough nip in the air to encourage the snuggling and just enough space between us to be lost in our own minds.

“Hey, if I could do one thing to love the church planter in you a little better, what could I do?” I ask him. He’s resting his eyes and he answers without looking at me.

“Love my people,” he said. “And always say yes to sex.”

“No, really. As your wife, how can I best love the church planter in you?” I ask again.

“I’m serious. Love our people,” he answers. “And say yes to sex.” He’s grinning but his eyes are closed. I hit him with a throw pillow.

DSC_0087I’ll admit that when I asked the Man what I could do to love the church planter in him, I fully expected his answer to include sex, but he threw me when he said love our people.

Love our people? I do.

Or at least I think I do.

I host things and give encouraging words and dream over coffee with them. I lead book studies and bible studies and show up to the birthday parties. I invite our people to dinner and take meals when new babies have arrive. I hug lots of necks although I’m not a hugger and I drop everything to have heart to hearts.

I love our people.

But when I consider that Jesus has placed them in my care, for an unspecified amount of time, to shepherd, to lead, to love, and to care for, even if they choose to leave our fold six months later, it is hard to keep showing up wholeheartedly in each relationship.

Every time a visitor comes through the front door of our school building or sends me an email asking about our church, my heart leaps into my throat because I am keenly aware of what loving this person will cost me.

This person will cost me time, energy, and evenings of coffee dates where I get awkward and weird with a new face. She will cost me hours of conversations about why our church is the way that it is and why we’re non-denominational. She will cost me moments away from my family.  She will cost me sleep and much needed alone time for my introverted soul.

It takes time to draw a person out, to get to the inner workings of a heart, to hear a lifetime of stories, to know a person. It takes time to build trust. It takes time to learn to love a person the way they need to be loved.

Each time a person tries our church on for size, I am faced with two options: 1. Do I hole up and self preserve? or 2. Do I lay down my life for the sheep that Jesus has given?

And even if I lay down my life for the sheep, the sheep still may choose to leave the fold.

This is the hard part of loving our people and this is the thing that the Man was telling me:

Love our people even if it may cost you everything.

DSC_0101Tim Kimmel says this: Love is the commitment of my will to the good of another no matter the cost to me.

He’s right, you know?

Love means that I take a chance with each man and woman and child that crosses my path. It means that I lay my whole heart out, trusting Jesus to be the keeper of it. Love means that I become all things and do all things so that some may come to know the Jesus living in me.

Love says that I come and die.

And sometimes, in planting a church, the loving feels a lot like dying.

 

Can you guys feel the angst I’m having in writing this series? I feel like I’m bleeding all over the keys, trying to make sure I say it so perfectly that Satan can find no margin to twist these words. I don’t think such a margin exists. I’ve been mulling over this post since 8am yesterday and at a little after noon yesterday, my world got eaten up by way of text messages. And if you don’t know this already, text messages are not the way to have a conversation. It’s messy. Bleh.

At 7:30 last night I boarded a flight to Dallas to attend a Jen Hatmaker retreat with our sending church. I’m staying with my mentor, a lady whose soul work in life is to walk alongside people in crisis, particularly pastors and their families. And after a hard afternoon, I found myself in the center of the compassionate heart of Jesus. He’s good like that, isn’t He?

When the plane landed last night, I told you that I’d be taking a three day break to let something marinate before jumping back into this series. It’s hard to write through the dark when you know the enemy is looking to devour every word you write. It makes my chest hurt. But this morning, after a nine hour night of sleep, I got up with the words I couldn’t find yesterday.

My prayer is that they meet you, right where you are, and that your heart hears them as I’ve intended them to be heard. And guys- I love hearing your stories. I’m catching up on emails, so keep them coming. Your stories encourage my heart.

xo~me

Day 8: On Speaking My Peace and Submitting

DSC_0933“Talk it out with me,” I beg him. “I need help finding the thread in all that I’m feeling and sensing and seeing. Something’s not quite right.”

The Man wears his reading glasses because he can’t see to read the book unfolded in his lap and I know I’m like a gnat in his ear. He’s reading about multi-ethnic congregations and I’m sitting on thoughts about our single-ethnic congregation and something is not settling right with me. I ramble on, talking in a circle, and he’s got a glazed over look about him.

He’s lost. I’m lost. And together, we’re circling the forest of things we can’t quite put our fingers on, getting more and more lost together.

But he takes off his glasses and he listens with his whole face, giving me permission to speak my peace.

And I do.

Until he begins to rub the last bit of hair off the top of his head and leans forward in his chair.

“You need to let this go,” he says. “And you need to let this go because I’m asking you to.”

“But, I think you should just,” I keep yammering. “Just think about it. I’m discerning and I think you’re missing something.”

“I said let it go and I mean it. You’ve made your thoughts loud and clear, but the decision isn’t yours to make,” he says, louder than usual. “I’m responsible to Jesus for how I lead this church. And you are responsible for how you choose to follow my leadership.”

I swallow the rest of my words down and puff myself up in the privacy of my own mind, but I submit to his leading. Again.

DSC_0764I can’t even count how many times we’ve had similar conversations in the last three years.

I’m discerning and he’s a pray and let Jesus drop an exact plan of action letter in the mail kind of person.

I’m quick to shoot from the hip whatever I’m thinking and he’s methodical and a muller-over-of-things.

I’m a just get ‘er done leader and he’s a pull up alongside and draw into the game leader.

I’m a do something now reactor and he’s a long suffering, patient, methodical {did I already use that word} planner outer  responder.

And I’m an in your face, how dare you holler-er {I hang my head in shame}. He’s a quiet, hand on your shoulder, lover of souls.

And when the Man asks me to let something go, I do.

Because he’s right and good and true and he is the leader of our home.

He’s also my pastor and he is responsible to Jesus for how he leads his church,

And his wife.

And I’m responsible to Jesus for how I choose to submit.

 

This post is not to diminish my gifts or contributions to our church plant. Rather, it is meant to stand alone as a reminder that the church belongs to Jesus and He has appointed Thad as shepherd over this flock and I am simply a sheep in this fold, submitting to Thad’s leading.

And if you missed it, I was invited to share a bit of our church planting story at Outside the City Gate earlier today. You can read the post here. So grateful to be invited into this gracious group of writers.

Day 7: The Only Thing That Stays the Same

DSC_0819We’re renting the dream.

And we have been for nearly every day of our 15 year marriage.

I’d not planned to tell you that, but our streak of rental homes are indicative of a larger truth about us and the calling on our life:

The only thing that stays the same is change.

Some nights when I lie awake in bed long after my people have gone to sleep, I feel shame flush my cheeks. Owning a home is sort of a grown-up thing to do and we’ve piled our kids into rental home after rental home after rental home. Every time Jesus has asked us to move, we’ve simply walked away with half of our life on the street tagged with For Free signs.  Honestly, the fact that we own nothing but a couple of cars and some seminary debt really yanks my chain in all the bad ways.

There is a constant tape playing in my head that responsible adults own a home, two cars, one dog, a perfectly manicured lawn, and a couple of kids who attend the Christian private school across town and on a hard day, when my world tilts crazy, the tape plays a little louder.

The fact that our life is so loosely rooted to this world by way of material possessions should be freeing. But if I let you into my whole heart, the freedom scares me a little.  It’s hard not to want the American Dream, y’all. It’s really hard.

The only thing constant about our little family is that we all keep piling up together in rental homes and piling into the same old Suburban that grows cultures of our leftover peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

And Jesus. He’s pretty constant.

DSC_0265We’re been in ministry together longer than we’ve been married and if I’m honest right now, this church plant has kicked my hiney from here to Dallas and then back again.

In 2011, the Man and I felt called to Rocky Mount, NC. We felt called to the city and because we know church, we did what any church knowing people would do:

We planted a church.

And we’ve probably re-planted this church a dozen or more times in the past three years. With the same group of people,mind you.

It’s been an epic adventure.

We’re nearly three years in and we’re still a hot mess, mainly because the Man and I are human beings and well, we’re human beings.

We’ve started and stopped at least twenty good things trying to find Jesus’ dream for this little church. We’ve moved from our home to the local YMCA and most recently to a local elementary school. We’ve done Grace Projects and passed out loaves of bread and packs of diapers. We’ve fed our neighbors and taught the bible in large and small groups. We’ve even done prayer walks and prayer circles and entire prayer services.

If you can name it, we’ve probably done it.

And you know what? It’s hard not to want the American church. It’s hard not to look at what we have and not feel shame creep up the back of our necks. It’s hard not to see the constant stream of change and wonder why we can’t seem to get it right like every other responsible church in town. It’s hard not to strive and do and build it so the illusive they will come.

It’s hard being so loosely rooted to our preferences and hopes and dreams that we let Jesus move us and change us as He sees fit.

It’s hard letting the only constant be Jesus.

But He’s proving Himself to be enough, y’all.

 

 I am overwhelmed by the responses I am getting with each post in this series and I am quite behind in responding to all the emails and comments. I apologize. My desire is to respond to each one of you in a thoughtful manner! I’m loving all your thoughts and comments and bits of stories being shared.  I love you guys and the way you think about Jesus and His church. You encourage my heart.

Day 6: On Not Listening to Others Critique Your Husband

DSC_0145Over a Southwest chicken salad and un-sweet tea, she unloaded three hours worth of thoughts about our church, her old church, and what her hubby thought about mine.

“He doesn’t click with Thad,” she said. “Nothing personal really, he just really loves the preacher at that other church. Your Thad is intense and my husband doesn’t do intense. He’s sorta not into what you guys have going on over there at Fellowship. And neither of us have any sort of calling to your neighborhood or the neighborhood that the church is located in. Like I said, nothing personal. Just a difference of calling really.”

I nearly choked on a mouthful of lettuce and my hand shook as I tried to put down my fork. “Hey. The more you talk the more I want to cry, but I’m not going to cry in here. I know those folks sitting at the table across from us and they’ve seen me out at another restaurant crying into my chips and salsa. I don’t want them to think all I do is cry over people leaving our church.”

“Leave the church?” she said. ” We’re not leaving the church. My husband just doesn’t like Thad’s style and we don’t feel called to what you guys feel called to, but we’re not leaving. I still love you, you know?”

“How can you stay if your husband wants to be somewhere else?” I asked her. “It’s not good for you to stay when he’s made it clear he wants to go.”

I listen to her response, but I’m not altogether locked into the conversation. Her husband is already gone, she’s flattering me with a smile on her face, and I’m dying on the inside. Why would she invite me to dinner just to tell me all the things she doesn’t agree with or like about our church? How could she watch me tear up and still keep chatting away like every word she was speaking had no effect on my heart? How can they stay? How can I choose to love them knowing what I know?

And how do I go home with a heavy heart and hide our conversation from the man who is going to be able to read my face before I ever speak a word?

DSC_0141I wish I could tell you that when I got home, I slapped a smile on my face and spoke sweet words of love to the man working on his sermon well into the night time hours, but I didn’t.

I tried to avoid the conversation. I wouldn’t look him in the eye. I hid out behind my laptop. I tried to wait him out.

But he knew something was up so he did what I expected him to do. He asked about dinner.

“It was fine,” I said. “Just fine.”

“You don’t use the word fine,” he said. “It must not have been fine. What happened?”

“Everything was fine, really. Just fine,” I lied to him. My face was flushed and my eyes were wild and I knew I’d been caught.

“Everything is not fine. He doesn’t like you and she wants to stay, but they’ve been visiting somewhere else and he really thinks you’re intense and he doesn’t do intense, and she’s not into our calling and he’s not into our calling and he really doesn’t like you. Like at all. And I didn’t cry, but I was dying and I just took every word she said and I wanted to just get up and walk out.” I rambled on and on and on, coming clean with all that I’d just learned and I watched as my man retreated within himself.

“Why did you sit there listening to her? Why didn’t you tell her to come to me?” he asked. His face was downcast and his eyes never met mine.

“I don’t know. I couldn’t muster up enough courage to stop the onslaught of words. It was painful and I was trying not to cry,” I said. “I don’t know why she felt the need to tell me all that stuff. I’d never take her out and talk about her husband.”

We talk for more than two hours before we crumple into bed and I’m broken up from the inside out and he’s broken up from the outside in.

And we don’t know where we go from here. So we say nothing at all.

DSC_0136I’ve struggled with months on whether or not to share this fresh wound with you guys and I knew going into this series, I’d feel compelled to go there now.

But after yesterday’s post on how not to be your husband’s critic, it felt only right that I share this bit of our story today.

Not only should you not be your husband’s critic, you should never sit quietly by while someone “lovingly” tells you all the things they don’t like about the man you love.

It’s never loving when someone shares a meal with you, gains your trust, and then pulls out the laundry list of things that they just don’t find all that great about the man of your dreams.

The man they’re talking about is not just their pastor. He’s your beloved, your babies’ daddy, the man you share your life with. He’s your person, your other half, the man chosen by God to take part in your sanctification.

It’s not okay.

And you have the responsibility, as the keeper of your husband’s heart, to quietly and lovingly direct all critique back to the man who keeps your heart.

Stand firm and boldly love your husband out loud.

{And if you’re special like me, you may just need to buy a t-shirt with these words on it:  If You Have A Bone to Pick With My Man, You Gonna Need to Matthew 18:15 That.  Jesus Said.}

Day 5: Be His Wife

DSC_0724The Man and I sit at opposite sides of the table from one another and I smile big and broad at him. It’s the weekend and Sunday is prime real estate for flirting. This may be too much information for you, but in the spirit of transparency, Sunday afternoon lends itself to all shades of flirting and so I flirt over last night’s leftovers.

He makes eyes at me while the kids roll theirs and then asks the question he asks every Sunday: “How was the sermon?”

I skip over his questioning, pretending I can’t hear him, and I mention how the color of his shirt brings out the color in his eyes. “You’re one hunk of a man and I’m one lucky lady,” I say. “And those jeans, I mean, really? Can they accentuate your best asset any better?”

He chokes on his General Tso’s chicken and I laugh out loud. This is fun and he knows I’m messing with him.

“I’m not going to say what I thought of your sermon,” I say. “Every week I tell you what I think of your sermon and every week we talk it to death. I’m done.” I wink at him for good measure. “Today, I’m just your wife and I think you’re one amazing man.”

“But if no one tells me, how am I supposed to know how to improve? How am I supposed to get any better?” he asks. His face is flushed and I know I’ve rattled his cage.

I shrug my shoulders. ” I don’t know, but I’m done with being your critic. I want to be your wife,” I say. “I want to look at you with the same eyes that see you on a Saturday night. No more critiquing.”

He says nothing, but I know he’s heard me. We’re the only ones left at the table.

DSC_0717For three years now, I’ve been the Man’s sole sounding board. I’ve been his right hand gal, his first mate, his you’re-okay-keep-preaching-the-word- person. And I’ve been good at it.

Actually, I’ve been more than good at it. I have been the tell-the-truth-and-let-the-Lord-love-you wife to this man since 1997. I mean I tell the truth, in love, and then some.

But today I quit.

I quit because I’m tired of the knock down-drag out conversations that come with the soft critiques. I quit because when I knit pick his sermon delivery I lose the man I crawl into bed with on Saturday night. I quit because my words weigh heavy and cut deep and count more than anyone’s words.

And I quit because at the end of the day, he is still my husband and I am still his wife and his delivery of a sermon on Sunday morning should have no bearing on our Sunday evening.

The entirety of my husband’s life is subject to critique and as his wife, I choose to love him as is, no critique necessary.