(About the Third Annual Preacher’s Wives Retreat)
Tonight, I’m having a little trouble winding down. This weekend’s events were unlike any other I’ve ever experienced. Convening at Chickasaw State Park in West Tennessee were 80 wives of gospel preachers. I believe I can truthfully say that I’ve never spoken to such an attentive audience. Some of them drove in excess of eight hours to be there. The singing was surely a taste of heaven, itself and the topics for the lessons and discussions were tailored to the needs of women who are blessed to be helpers to those men with pretty feet (Isaiah 52:7).
Traveling to Chickasaw on Friday, I was looking forward to speaking again to sisters and that’s always a blessing held by many weekends. But driving home this afternoon, my mind raced with remembered conversations, challenges, questions answered and shared experiences. This was just a rich and rewarding week-end. But why was this retreat so special?
I believe there are several reasons:
- I have never spoken to an audience whose members had so much in common. Sometimes it is difficult to know if you are making a lesson applicable to the majority of the women present. Not so, in this case. Our greatest bond is always, of course, the one we share in Jesus. But this audience, of whom 100% were wives of preachers, had an extra bond within the bond of sisterhood.
- There was a more specific purpose for this retreat than any other I’ve ever attended. Of course, we wanted to grow in our love for the Lord, evangelism skills, and in our relationships. But more than anything else, this retreat was about helping each other to persevere and flourish in what is sometimes a very challenging, albeit rewarding journey as preacher’s wives. And the amazing thing about it was that you could see the encouragement happening and helping lives right before your very eyes. “I needed this,” or “Okay, I think I can do this now,” or “Okay, I’m going home and try that,” were common comments. Those comments were not necessarily the results of lessons brought, but were often merely the conclusions of sister-to-sister conversations.
- I could not detect any elevated groups or cliques. It truly appeared to me that every single woman there was appreciated. Those who founded the annual event in 2012 were humble and working hard. Those who were new this year, myself included, were treated with honor and kindness. There were none of the sometimes-hard-to-avoid age or socio-economic barriers–none that I could see, anyway. I believe we just appreciated each other more than your average crowd because we understand each other’s lives on a whole new level.
- People came with empty cups. I cannot recall seeing one person fall asleep during the lessons. That’s pretty incredible given that many of these sweet ladies had stayed up till 2 a.m. the evening before just taking advantage of rare time with other preacher’s wives. These women could not get enough! And during their free time they took advantage of classes about preserving food, cake decorating, knitting, or painting. And they laughed, a lot.
I did my regular retreat thing…and fell down in the street. I went five miles looking for an open gas station at 11pm in the middle of nowhere AFTER the gas meter said my gasoline range was zero miles. I shared this harrowing experience with one of my fellow preacher’s wives and she is, remarkably, still my friend. (I was hoping all that time that the park gate would still be open when we returned, since the sign said it closed at 10 pm.) I lost my keys a few times and my power point had a few glitches. All in all, I was about par for my efficiency course.
But it’s okay to be distracted if you just talked to a new friend who grew up in the Catholic church and has already converted her brother and sister-in-law and father to New Testament Christianity…and she is only 30 years old. It’s okay to be distracted if you just heard Mary Carole Jackson tell about spanking the wee preacher’s kid and having that three-year-old turn around, look straight at her mom, and say “Is that all you got?” It’s okay to be distracted if you just watched 80 preacher’s wives open surprise notes from their husbands, none of whom are within miles and miles of the camp (What kind of awesome retreat planning is that, anyway?). It is okay to be distracted if 80 kindred spirits have just given you a grandma shower! (Seriously now, who would have thought of such a wonderful idea! I now have everything I need for Baby G whenever he/she comes to visit and a whole bunch of items that are just for me, as well.)
So many thanks to Carrie Hooks Voss and her wonderful team of planners and workers. Many thanks to Kristi Burleson, Dana Blackwelder, Lynne Hibbett and others for making the food happen without a kitchen. Thanks to a small army of volunteers who made a myriad of unique activities occur with hardly a hitch. Thanks to all of you for somehow knowing and thinking of everything I love, even down to what flowers are my favorites. You truly honored me as you just let me bask in blessings this weekend. But YOU are worthy women. Virtue is doing the right thing, doing it for the right reason, and doing it consistently as a matter of habit. You are virtuous women and I want to be like you when I grow up. Soldier on!
I need to grow up fast because…did I mention that I am going to be a grandmother?
Here’s the poem from this retreat. I want to be sure you know that the tough things about being a preacher’s wife are NOT things that happen at West Huntsville. I’m blessed beyond measure to be among women (and men) at WH who are far better to me than I deserve!
Married Life in the Fishbowl
Before I walked down the aisle that day
I really had a life;
But when they threw the rice at me
I was the preacher’s wife.
Oh…I was all set to be married.
I could cook and clean and sew.
I knew I wanted this husband.
It was this “preaching” stuff I didn’t know.
Suddenly it mattered—
With whom I went to the mall,
Who I phoned last Monday
And who I failed to call.
When I didn’t see or speak to you,
You thought that I was haughty.
And that red dress that I used to love
Suddenly seemed gaudy.
When I sit in the front
They say “ She loves to parade.”
In the back, I’m aloof.
“What a statement she made!”
So I sit in the middle
“She keeps moving around.
Where is that preacher’s wife?
She can never be found!”
Amazing how I morphed
In that chapel that short while!
Before, I was anonymous,
And now, my life is wild!
I figured out real quickly
That I had big shoes to fill.
And so I put on very thick socks,
But I got blisters still.
“She’s too strict on her children.
She won’t give them any space.”
Or “She’s way too permissive.”
Now which is the actual case?
My kids should be perfect
For now and for life.
Expectations are high
If your mom’s the preacher’s wife.
I just don’t compare
To the last wife of the preacher.
She could decorate, recreate
And, my, what a teacher!
In fact, in her shadow, I’m hidden
And my talents are so very small.
I am so busy now with my young children
That I barely have any time at all.
My marriage is needing attention
I’m praying that it will improve.
But could we dare go to anyone for counseling?
I think I’d be packing to move!
And another thing… I have no friends here.
I can’t tell a soul of my woe.
If I speak of church problems and issues.
The church hurts and then problems grow.
And everyone seems to be kin here
In this very old congregation.
That is, except for my husband and me.
Why, we’ve not a single relation!
Well, of course, there is my brother.
I mean the Christ of the cross.
You know, the brother who loved me enough
To give his life when I was lost.
Oh, and then there’s my Father.
As an orphan He took me in.
Fed me and clothed me…adopted me
And saved my soul from its sin.
And then He gave me this family;
Not perfect– just rescued, like me.
Just spiritual orphans whose lives, like my own,
Were longing from sin to be free.
And once in this family, he blessed me again
With this man…a Christian, a preacher.
Not perfect again, but He’s God’s man
A man of the Word, he’s a teacher.
And my father then told me to love Him…
Phileo—The love of a friend.
So when I’m in search of that good friend,
Maybe I should be looking within.
And just who am I to be scornful
Of this family God’s given me…
When without these spiritual relations
I’d be lost for all eternity?
Help me, Lord, just to get a perspective.
To stop whining and seeing the gloom.
To look at world through the cross, Lord
And in my heart, let me make room.
For opportunities you’ve put before me
For the person with needs in her life.
For the man who’s depending on me, Lord,
For gifts that only come from a wife.
Make challenges help me to grow, Lord,
And burdens to make me be strong.
When people are critical, Oh God,
Help me to correct what is wrong.
And then help me to let it go, Father,
Just doing the best that I can.
Just being what You think I should be…
The helper for this godly man.
Send me reasons to believe that this space is
The most blessed position for me.
Show me even in life’s darkest places
Chances to shine, Lord, for thee.
Let me never again say it’s hard, Lord
To be stuck in this work for my life.
I want to be stuck in this place Lord.
With this wonderful name “preacher’s wife”!