This month, we are blessed to hear from Meghan Ward, a mama, blogger, and youth pastor’s wife. She’s a “practical girl” (my kinda gal!) and has TONS of wisdom to share over at Practical Living for the Christian Girl. Her heart today is just for us #womeninministry and it’s SUCH a blessing to read! Don’t miss her 3 tips on how to keep a grateful and satisfied heart in this busy holiday season!
As we approach the holiday season in my ministry, I find myself steeling my heart against the busyness I know is coming. Thanksgiving will arrive soon, closely followed by Christmas, the New Year, and then what my husband calls Vision Sunday. As I am sure is the case for most pastors' wives, this season normally leaves me feeling exhausted and worn down to my bones. We put so much preparation into the end of each year and we have so many high hopes and expectations of how things will go.
This year, as with every year before that, will likely not go according to plan. Some of our teens that practiced with the teen choir will not show up the night they're supposed to sing the Christmas special. One of our church members will bring a round of head colds through the door and decimate our volunteer ranks. Someone will not like the decorations we put up and will verbally and publicly attack my character over it. I will, with near certainty, forget to buy enough forks for the Christmas dinner.
But as we approach this holiday season, I must remember that my true satisfaction never comes from how well my plans go or how I am treated. The humans I continue to pour my life into each season will continue being human with their mistakes and cruel comments and viruses and forgetfulness. But neither they nor I am called to perfection here on Earth: if we could be perfect now, what need would we have for Christ?
So, a question then is posed to me and you each and every season: can I be satisfied and happy serving in imperfect circumstances and with imperfect people around me? Am I, in this season, going to attempt to be satisfied only by how well an event went as planned or will I understand that my complete satisfaction comes only from direct obedience to the will of my God and the filling of His Spirit?
Paul tells us in Ephesians 3: 16 -- 19, "That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God."
It's easy, when we're facing the busy season, to try to fill ourselves with the temporary joy, gratefulness, and satisfaction over a job well done. But if all I'm filling my spirit with is self-provided strength and pride in a Pinterest-worthy decorated entryway, then when things don't go as planned or when people act like the sinful humans that they are, I will be left bitter and empty. I would find very little to be grateful for in this season of thankfulness, giving, and new starts.
I must learn that, even in this busiest season of a pastor's wife's year, I can only be fulfilled in my service as God leads and strengthens me. When I try to do it on my own and in my own strength, I will be left wanting more. But when I pray asking God to keep me going when my circumstances aren't lovely, I am filled with His strength and His joy. As Isaiah says, "And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not." I will be satisfied despite my circumstance instead of being left empty and drained at the end of the holiday season.
And if I allow myself to be satisfied by the breadth, length, depth, and height of the love of Jesus, then imagine how different I could approach my ministry this season! The cruel comments could be seen as cries for help, the lack of volunteers could be seen as a need to increase my prayers and faith in God’s provision, and the forgotten thank yous for my services or help could just fall away instead of stealing my joy. I would be giving myself permission to have joy despite my circumstances, to forgive the hurts, and to not take every slight so personally. All because I know my satisfaction and fullness comes from the unchanging, dependable Lover of my soul.
I can be grateful when no gratitude is given me because of the love of Jesus. I can be forgiving when no forgiveness is offered me because of the love of Jesus. I can be strong when no strong help is offered me because of the love of Jesus. My circumstances, as this year ends with so much busyness, do not need to determine my joy. To be filled with His Spirit means to let go of my bitterness. To be filled with His love means loving the unlovable, unlovely, and unkind. To be filled with His presence gives me strength to keep going when, really, giving up this season would be fully warranted in our horizontal view.
But how do I, as a pastor's wife, keep my focus on the love of Jesus during this busy season?
Find a reason to say "Thank you, Lord." If I can find one thing to thank God for, even on the most stressful, busy days, then I can be reminded that God loves me.
Tell myself that God knows. He already knew what was going to happen this season and because He already knew what was going to happen, He has prepared me to handle any unexpected (to me) thing that may happen. A God who prepares for me in His foreknowledge is a God who loves me.
Pause when I find myself complaining, even if it's just in my head, and pray for God to teach me something special in whatever situation it is that I'm complaining about. A God who brings me a lesson in the midst of tough situations is a God who loves me.
Ultimately, people and plans will fail me, but the love of Jesus never will. If I can remember in every event this season that I can serve because of His love, I can let go of my plans for perfection because of His love, I can love imperfect humans because of His love, and most of all I can remain grateful for my ministry when I'm exhausted because of His love. My holiday season (and ministry) will be all the better for it.