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I drove down I-40 cussing and crying. Our oldest child was a baby at the time and had contracted some variety of the latest daycare funk. He was headed to after-hours at the pediatrician and I was headed to a church meeting. I cannot tell you now what kind of meeting or why I felt like I couldn’t miss it, but there I was, driving toward it, feeling equal parts delinquent mother and embittered pastor.
When I recounted this story to my mentor weeks later, crying all over again at her kitchen table, she said something that I have never forgotten. While I expected her to pat my back and rage at the indignities of pastoring while mothering or mothering while pastoring, this mentor (saint and unapologetic truth-teller) said, “You’re going to have to let that go. When my boys were young, I spent most of my ministry doing that same dance. If I was at home, I felt guilty for not being at the church. If I was at the church I felt guilty that I wasn’t at home. Be where you are. It doesn’t serve anyone for you to be in one place, but thinking about the other.”
“Be where you are” is perhaps the single most helpful piece of encouragement I have received when it comes to navigating ministry and mothering. When I have stood at a hospital bedside wishing that I was standing next to their crib, deep breath, “be where you are.” While I hollered at a soccer game and felt neglectful for not adding my voice at a church meeting, deep breath, “be where you are.”
Do these words fix the sometimes inevitable heart-tearing that comes with serving as a parent and as a pastor? No. I still drive under the influence of cussing and crying from time to time (add in singing at the top of my lungs and these moments are practically sacramental). But I am learning that both my children and God’s church somehow survive even when I am fully present in another place. Thanks be to God.
Read: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
There’s a season for everything and a time for every matter under the heavens:
a time for giving birth and a time for dying,
a time for planting and a time for uprooting what was planted,
a time for killing and a time for healing,
a time for tearing down and a time for building up,
a time for crying and a time for laughing,
a time for mourning and a time for dancing,
a time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones,
a time for embracing and a time for avoiding embraces,
a time for searching and a time for losing,
a time for keeping and a time for throwing away,
a time for tearing and a time for repairing,
a time for keeping silent and a time for speaking,
a time for loving and a time for hating,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Reflect: What are the phrases or practices that help you to navigate parenting and pastoring? If you do not have children, or do not have children at home, what helps you with the push and pull of full-time ministry?
Take Action: Think of a time when a mentor spoke to you just the words you needed to hear. In this month of giving thanks, write a note of gratitude.
Center for Leadership Excellence and the Commission on the Status and Role of Women
We are grateful to the Rev. Laura Fine Ledford for writing this month’s issue of Encouragements. If you are interested in contributing to a future issue of Encouragements, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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