By Rachel Baker, Crosswalk.com
It’s mere days until Christmas, and if you’re a pastor’s wife or woman in ministry, you might just be feeling the pressure of the holiday season. You probably still have gifts to wrap, cards to fill out, volunteers and fellow leaders to acknowledge and thank, children’s performances to attend, last-minute gifts to purchase, a house to clean, and a Christmas meal to prepare. In the haste of the season, you may find yourself feeling worn out, beat down, and lacking a Christmas spirit.
Far too often, we feel forced to hold it all together; but we do it for our children, spouses, and congregations. We put a smile on our faces and push through or “get through” the holidays. We fight back tears when getting cranky toddlers ready for a family Christmas service, knowing that we’ll yet again be playing the role of single mother, just like we do every religious holiday. We attempt to carve out special moments with our exhausted spouses, or attend holiday parties and Christmas tree lighting ceremonies on our own, while they are busy with sermon prep, sound-check, stage builds, and all the last-minute details.
We sacrifice to bring it all together, to create those moments of wonder and awe and whimsy as we celebrate the birth of our savior. While the weary world rejoices, our moments to reflect, sit, and celebrate can become an afterthought. We want to express our joy for the King who came to earth, but we might also be crushed under the weight of that arrival. How then can we find joy in the haste of the holiday season? How can we slow ourselves down in search of those precious and holy rhythms?
If you’re a pastor’s wife or woman in ministry struggling in this season, you are not alone. Here are three suggestions to bring peace to your home and your heart this year and hopefully for years to come:
Photo credit: ©Unsplash/Hannah Olinger
1. Acknowledge the Pressure
I spent my first Christmas as a pastor’s wife away from my family and more or less alone. At the time, my husband was a youth pastor. We had moved out of state for his job, and while we bonded deeply with those we were in ministry with, I still longed for the familiarity of family and tradition. My husband was set to serve at our church’s various gatherings while I signed up to serve and greet. I didn’t get to spend a single service with my spouse and spent most evenings leading up to our Christmas services alone at home.
I didn’t know what to expect, and to be fair, I find that 12 plus years later, the expectations are always changing. Now, I’m a mother of two, a women’s ministry director, and a pastor’s wife. I’m somehow supposed to strike a balance between these three roles, create Christmas magic for my children, volunteer where I’m needed, and generally have a positive attitude about being alone during “the most wonderful season of the year.” Just about this time every single year, I find myself breaking down in tears when I realize that at the end of the day, I’m alone and will inevitably sit by myself during our Christmas services, just as I do nearly every Sunday.
Acknowledging the added pressure of the season to ourselves, our spouses, and our close friends can help close the gap on these feelings of overwhelm, expectation, and isolation. This year, I made an extra effort to reach out to a few friends and determine what services they’d be attending; I asked them to save me a seat and even help out with my kids. I’ve tried to be as vulnerable as possible with these close friends and express my need to be loved and feel joy in this season just as much as anyone else. Sometimes it’s difficult to ask for help, especially if you typically find yourself in the role of problem-solver and helper. Just acknowledging our need in these busy seasons can break chains that steal our joy and take our focus off of the true meaning of Christmas.
2. Pursue Peace and Simplicity
I’ll be the first to admit that I can easily fall into the trap of having a Pinterest-worthy Christmas. On top of my desire for perfection, I’m also naturally a “yes” person. This means that I want to serve at every gathering, my house to be perfect, my children to be well-mannered, my hair not to do that strange frizzy thing that it does, and I want to attend every single party and event possible. This desire for perfection and doing-it-all plagues women in general but can be doubly detrimental to pastors’ wives and women in ministry, especially those raising young children.
Instead of attempting to do it all and be it all, it is helpful to identify and understand our limits and set some guardrails around those limits. Each of us is finite and uniquely designed by God; he understands our limitations and what he has made each of us capable of. If we set our focus on pleasing him first, ministering to our families second, and then allowing everything from there to be delineated out, we might just spare ourselves the feeling of holiday burnout and eventual bitterness.
We have to remember that God is pursuing our hearts and that he wants our faith and devotion. We need to align ourselves with serving and loving him first, resting in his peace second, and helping his people third. When we get our focus out of order, we can easily fall into the trap of works over faith. This pursuit of doing more and doing it all can quickly become empty and void when our hearts have shifted away from the peace of God.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Deagreez
3. Prepare in Advance and Press Into Community
I find that I’m getting just a little bit better at balancing this whole life-in ministry thing every year. Don’t get me wrong; I do cry just about every year mere days before Christmas when the realization hits me that I’ve overcommitted or under-planned. Maybe I failed to buy my daughter the right tights to go with her Christmas dress or forgot to pick up something from the dry-cleaners, or completely overlooked preparing some sort of Christmas meal.
There’s always something, and this year is no different. I spent most of my day weeping over a disappointment and struggling through feelings of rejection and isolation. I had to reach out to a few close friends to speak truth over me because while I fully realized that the enemy wanted to rob me of the joy of this season, I couldn’t quite pull myself out. I needed community; we all need community. When the weight of the holiday season crashes over us, because sweet sister, there will be years and seasons that it does, our solace can come from the gentle and tender reminders of who we first are in Christ.
The title “Pastor’s Wife” or “Women’s Ministry Director” or any other title that we may receive is just that, a title. We are first daughters of the King. We are redeemed. We are loved. We are worthy. We are capable, and we are to be seeking Him first.
So, let us prepare a place in advance for the coming King, whether that means that we need to do our shopping and decorating in October or if we need to let that all go and just focus on Jesus. He knows what is best for us, and deep down, we probably know it too. We need to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and hold tight to the sacred. Everything else is just icing.