Remember that song from the Sound of Music? “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. When you read you begin with ABC, when you sing you begin with do re me…” Ah yes, now I have everyone singing it, right? *sigh* I love the songs from that movie! But, this post isn’t about a movie. Or a song. It’s about life in the ministry.
Way back at the beginning, my beginning – around age 9 or 10 – I sat in my pew at Victory Baptist Church in Benton, Arkansas. I listened to the lovely music being played and sung, the lively congregational songs, the touching solos and the occasional guest singing family or group. I listened to my pastor, Bro. Ken Graham, preach convicting sermons and then I got to fellowship with my friends after it was over. People were smiling. Buses full of little children pulled up alongside our gymnasium, the children running out as though they were headed to a circus. Bro. Randy Witham was our children’s church director and he was amazing! We had puppet shows, skits, songs, games, snow-cones and Bible stories. He sometimes used kids to help him illustrate something and I desperately wanted him to pick me! Each year we had a huge Halloween carnival as well as huge Christmas tree on Christmas – seriously, it almost touched the gym ceiling! We had revivals every summer under a tent, and when I was a teenager, we began hosting our own teen camp. That was church as I knew it, and I couldn’t wait to grow up and marry a preacher and do church stuff all the time.
I felt this way until shortly after I said “I do” to my dream man, who just-so-happened to be a preacher.
The next day, reality set in. Okay, maybe not the next day, but soon after our wedding. I found out that life in the ministry wasn’t always singing and smiling. And sometimes, problems came and stayed a while. Not all churches had huge children’s ministries or lots of instrumental or special music. Not all churches were like my home church. Hmmm…not what I had hoped for. It wasn’t just an eye opener to be “behind the scenes” in ministry, but married life was a challenge, too. As a kid, I didn’t know about bills that needed to be paid or what to do when the fridge went out. Dad and Mom took care of that stuff. Now it was my husband and I taking care of that stuff! Eeek!
My life had been turned upside down – all for good reasons – but, still, it was an adjustment. Somehow, we made it through our first year of marriage and still loved each other, and the ministry, very much.
By the time we were expecting our first baby, my husband had finished Bible college. He would be looking for a ministry very soon. How EXCITING! New places, new faces, and lots of church work to do! However, I wasn’t prepared for the major life change that re-locating 950 miles from my hometown would bring, or for the challenge of first time motherhood. I was still more “kid” than “adult” even though I was 21 years old! We moved when I was 7 months pregnant. I gave birth to our beautiful seven pound baby girl, Lauren Kassidy, in Clarksburg, WV, on August 27, 1999. And that same day, I unknowingly began the toughest journey of my life. One that almost took my life – postpartum depression. You can read more about that HERE. I spiraled downward and would have lost a great deal, had it not been for the love and sacrifice of my husband.
One change during those days that was not good, and that I could have controlled, was that I stopped faithfully reading my Bible. When I was 12 years old (before I even trusted Christ as my Savior), I began reading my Bible everyday. I read it through every year, till that year we moved. I had seen my parents reading their Bibles everyday. Usually Dad would read it aloud to mom while she got ready for work, or they’d read it aloud at the breakfast table. I decided I should do that, too. So I did. But somehow, with the moving, the changes, the pregnancy, I got off track. I skipped a few days each week. Sometimes, I missed a week or two in a row! That was bad. Christians need to be reading God’s Word every day. We need to study it, memorize it and mediate upon it – all of us, not just preachers. I often wonder if the outcome of that year might have different if I hadn’t strayed from God’s Word. I’m happy to say, I haven’t missed a day of Bible reading in a very long time. I finally got back on schedule and stayed on it.
Also, during this time, when I was struggling to find my way in this new life, some friends and relatives criticized me. They corrected me, not in love, but in anger and pride. The marks of those words are still with me, scars that hurt even today. I do my best not to dwell on those words, (Phil.4:8) but, in the dark times, their critical remarks do come back. From that, I’ve learned not to judge someone else in the ministry. My friends and family members had no idea I was suffering from PPD; that I wanted to take my own life. Their words at that time almost convinced me that ending my life was far better than living it. I don’t want to hurt someone that way. Ever. And you know, I’ve wanted to criticize others in the ministry! I might think, “Why doesn’t Mrs. so-and so get her attitude right!” Then, the Holy Spirit reminds me of my early ministry life. He says to me, “Don’t judge someone else, you don’t know what they have been called to bear.” And I stop that line of thinking. Again, I wonder what difference a loving friend might have made? Someone who prayed for me, instead of critiquing me? A Titus 2 woman who might have stepped up and lovingly taught me the things I needed to know?
One thing I do know: In spite of my faithlessness to God’s Word, He remained faithful to me. He saved me from making bigger mistakes than what I’d already made. He rescued me from myself, and I’m so grateful. He has taught me valuable lessons from the heartaches; lessons I probably wouldn’t have learned otherwise. And now these 13 years later, it brings great satisfaction to know that my critics were wrong about me.
Perhaps you know a lady who is newly involved in church work and you’d like to help her? Here are some thoughts:
- Give her sincere words of praise and encouragement.
- Pray for her.
- Write her a kind note and mail it – the old fashioned way! Or email will do. 😉
- Purposely look for her strengths and sincerely encourage her to use them.
- Never offer a negative opinion, unless she asks for your counsel. And then, be very careful in your tone and wording.
Are you feeling alone? Discouraged? Feeling that your critics out number your supporters? Remember, God is the one you are serving. Get wrapped up in Him. The song says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus…and the things of this world (people, too!) will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” Just typing those words lifts my spirits! We must look at Him! Here are some other thoughts:
- Pray every day, keep a journal or list. Mark off answered prayer, and thank God for it.
- Read your Bible every day. Never miss. Busy? Read a chapter of Proverbs each day, or something from John (I love John.) Or a Psalms. (I love Psalms). Or any of it really, I highly recommend it all. 😉 Ask God for something, then read what He has for you.
- Memorize a verse for your particular struggle. When Satan tempts you to worry about that thing, quote your verse.
- Talk to a friend. God designed women to be very relationship oriented, men are more work or goal oriented. There is one caveat, though. Women are emotional and sometimes (I hate to say it) we can border on the ridiculous. Before you get angry about something, step back and think about it. Pray about it. Look at the situation from the other person’s point of view. Still mad? I recommend kick boxing. It works wonders.
- When Satan tells you it’s over, that you’re all alone, that it’s hopeless, tell him he’s lying. You have people who love you, lean on them when life is hard. Most of all though, you have a Father who sent His only Son to die for you. Now that’s love. And even in the darkness, He is there. Never forget in the dark, what you know to be true in the light.
Download or print this post with journal questions HERE.