I write this blog because I'm tired. I'm not tired of ministry, I'm tired in ministry. Please don't misunderstand me. I love ministry, and this blog reflects zero on how Aaron feels, and quite frankly, he's off doing ministry and doesn't even know I'm writing this. I guess I needed to mention that before I offend people, because if there is one thing that I've learned in ministry, it is easy to offend people (even if you have zero intentions of doing so). Just forget to take your hat off when you walk into a sanctuary. Just saying. (And I'm not advocating wearing hats in sanctuaries, but I am advocating showing others the same grace we've received by Jesus.)
Anyway - this blog actually was not intended to talk about why I'm tired in ministry right now, though that could be a blog all in its own, but rather a look back at the sweet people, or events, that recognized our needs and have gone above and beyond to meet those needs... kind of a two fold blog that says "thanks from the Gregg's for those of you who take the time to really notice our needs and meet them" and a "how to bless those who minister among you" blog for all of those in churches everywhere.
(Another side note: this is not all inclusive. We've been blessed a lot by a lot of people. But these are the big neon signs that say "so - and - so noticed at just the right time and expected nothing in return.") Also - I've left names out, for a lot of reasons.
- An amazing pastor friend who required Aaron to take off extra time when he put in extra time... a constant reminder of the importance of family. This one is a big one and wasn't necessarily a one time event- but was a huge blessing in our lives.
- A different pastor friend who handed Aaron the keys to his cabin on the lake and $30 - then said, "take a few days, turn off your phones, go spend some time with your wife, and go to this restaurant and have a nice dinner... on me." THEN - when we commented on how much we enjoyed a game of theirs at their cabin - they found that game - which was out of production, and got it for us as a gift. Amazing thought and a very much needed few days away.
- Another dear friend who has been awesome at providing us with family pictures, pictures of our babies, engagement pictures, and even our wedding pictures. The kindness of this family is such a precious gem to us.
- The same family who, just weeks ago, came to me and said, "Give us your children for the afternoon, take a break, take a nap, spend some time together, and take a load off." Want to bless your pastor, youth pastor, choir director, or even just your neighbor. Don't just offer to watch their children... make them tell you a time that you can do so and encourage them to spend some time together as a couple. Childcare has been some of the most precious gifts for us. And just a side note on this one: a lot of times offering to watch children isn't enough. Sometimes we need that extra 'push' so that we feel like you actually want to do this for us. I know 100 people who have offered to watch our kids, but maybe 10 of those that I actually have a number for, and fewer of those who have actually expressed any desire to actually watch them after the initial offer.
- The many friends in our lives who have been 'sounding boards' in various ministries. Two families here stick out heavily in my brain (one of which has been in ministry as well and who knows the stresses), and another couple, probably the only couple (Mark and Jenny, well, and Clay, though he's not a 'couple' :) ), who will ever really know what being on the road was like for us. They could offer counsel and sympathy where others had no idea what we were feeling or experiencing. Friendships like these are irreplaceable. Ministry is hard, it is taxing, it can wreck havoc on families, relationships, and children, and good friends who understand this and care for you are the ones who can say, "Hey, how has your relationship been with your wife lately?" or "Have you been praying with Bryton? Maybe you should take a day and just spend with your family." Those are the ones that really care for us enough to care about the spiritual and relational well being of the family. When the family is 'off kilter', ministry in a church setting is never as effective either. If only people would realize this... It was even brought up in our Sunday school class the other day that pastor's kids are typically the ones that are the most rebellious or hardened to 'church' (as poor Lindsay sat right there). And I really got to thinking - this bullet is probably why. Somewhere along the lines we've expected so much of our pastors that we've asked them (maybe not with words, but with expectations and calendars) to sacrifice their ministry to their families for the ministry of the church. If one studies scripture they will find that our first ministry is to our families. Just read some in Deuteronomy... especially chapter 6. We're supposed to be passing our faith on to our children, the church is a place to grow in that faith and find fellowship, support, encouragement and accountability, but faith is to be cultivated, encouraged, and passed on at home. And sometimes one way to cultivate and encourage that faith is by building a relationship with your children by being able to make their baseball game rather than sitting in a luncheon with the WMU. Just saying. (And I use that as an example because our church doesn't have a WMU.)
- Those people who see your tiredness and can genuinely say, "We appreciate you and we love you." The key word here is genuinely. I could go into a whole soap box and monologue about how easy it is to mess this up, but rather than focus on what not to do (because there are so many "what not to dos" in this situation) I'll just say this: there are very, very few people who have this down pat. I'll even mention a few names here, Sarah and Amber - thanks for being this kind of person for us - always. There are a few other families that fall in this category for us, and they are spread all over the place. A few here in town, and others all across the United States.
- Food. We're definitely baptist, but who wouldn't list this as a blessing. Specifically in situations where life is difficult. For example: right after pushing out one large 10 pound child (and at a previous time with an 8 pound child). We did not go hungry, and no, we did not have to eat out every meal. For a week, both times, meals were provided for us every evening, prepared, warm, in disposable (or easily washable) containers, and were not only delicious but provided for us something that I was not physically up to the task of preparing for my family. People who coordinate this are GOD SENDS! Needs being met!
- I'll mention another name, because it cannot be described any other way. Ms. Fern. She sports a huge, legitimate smile, she's always encouraging, she really cares how we are doing, not as ministers, but as people. Awww, Ms. Fern.
- Art Dearmond and Dave King - special friends in ministry when ministry was really hard.
- Pulling in your driveway to see a sweet soul on a ladder cleaning out the gutters of a house you recently bought... without ever asking, and who was hoping to not be caught doing it. Wow.
- Home cooked meals when we were on the road... because we never had them!
Well, off to be a blessing to my offspring, who are now awake. They'll go to bed another night without their daddy. Hopefully we'll make up for that tomorrow.