Thursday, March 8, 2018

Greetings from Big Sky Country

It's been a long while since I last wrote and it's been almost as long since we moved across country to our new home in Montana.  So much about our lives have changed in such a short amount of time, that the abruptness of our new life has stunned me into a writer's block. 

I've been struck at how quickly life can change.  It's never easy.  Thankfully, this new path we are on, we feel 100% called to, called to Montana, called to this place, called to this new ministry.  That belief has made things easier. 

We love this new home.  It's different here, and not in a bad way.  So much of what I have longed for can be found in this small, charming town.  I finally feel like my kids are able to enjoy aspects of my childhood that I thought they'd forever miss out on.  The kids have settled in nicely, enjoying school, making friends, getting involved in activities.   It feels...settled.

It hasn't been completely easy.  We are a long way off from anything that used to be familiar.  There was a time that I would expect to see someone I knew when I went to a local store, only to be reminded that I didn't know anyone for thousands of miles.  That's a very lonely feeling.  There were many days where I lingered at our new house, unpacking boxes, settling our belongings, and would be overcome with homesickness.  If only I could have gone "home" for a weekend, I thought, just a couple of days with loved ones...

It's been six months since our rushed move north.  We have experienced so much.  We saw two new states that none of us had seen before.  We drove into a new town, up to a new house, that we had only seen in a few pictures.  We experienced the loneliness of not seeing family for many months.  We have seen scenes from this country that take your breath away with it's grandness and beauty, experiencing nature in a new and amazing way.  We have lived through the worst winter (and still not over we hear) that we have ever imagined.  We have made many new relationships, been embraced by three church congregations in three different towns.  We have also lost friends we thought we had, people from previous churches who refused to even say goodbye to us before we left town.  We have experienced the heart ache of being misunderstood.  We have seen the confusion in our children's eyes as they struggled to understand why there were being discarded.

It's never easy. 

Being in this profession, and living this life, we expect challenges.  We know change will be coming around the bend.  We know, never to get too comfortable.  We also know that this is a life with great reward.

For know we can say, we are home.  We are where we belong.  We know this part of our path is true, and good, and exactly where we are supposed to be.  We know who loves us, and we know Him who loves us most.  It may never be easy, but it is definitely worth it. 

We are living our adventure. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Journey Together

A few years ago, when Zach was finalizing his decision to become a Pastor in the United Methodist Church, and going through the steps to make that decision a reality, we had lunch with a, at the time, dear friend.  It was during this lunch that I was told by this friend that I was not cut out to be a Pastor's wife.  I was told that I could very likely hinder my husband's ministry unless I chose to change who I was.  This conversation, which was less a conversation and more an attack (in my honest opinion), left me feeling many things.  Anger, indignation, betrayal, and, most of all, insecurity.  It was the last thing I needed to hear at this point in our lives.  We had already accepted a job at a new church, in a new town, things were already in motion, there was no going back now.

I returned home from that lunch and promptly cried buckets of tears.  Zach and I discussed, at length, whether or not we thought this friend was correct in his assessment of me.  My dear husband reassured me repeatedly that I would not hinder his career in anyway, which, I'll admit, I only half believed.  I didn't choose this life.  I married a man who was going to school for business.  When we got married we both only worked part time at the church, helping with the youth.  There was a time when Zach worked full-time in sales, both of us thinking that this was his future.  I never would have thought that God would call him into full time ministry.

Since that afternoon three years ago, I have met many Pastor spouses.  Each one has taught me that there is no one way to live this life.  Each one is different in personality, in gifts, in weaknesses.  Each one has a different opinion of their role in the church and in the ministry of their pastor spouse.  I've been told by more experienced spouses that I have permission to choose my own path.  True, not everyone in the church we are sent to will like me, not everyone will agree with my chosen path, regardless of what it is.  You simply can not please everyone all of the time.

Still, with this knowledge and with these great mentors in my own life, the insecurity persists.  I have not been able to rid myself of the voice of that friend, hearing it in the back of my mind each and every day.  There have been moments, times of despair and uncertainty, that I lament "I am not cut out for this life!"  I cry out to God,"How could Zach be so obviously called to ministry, to being a Pastor, and I am not called to go with him?!"  These moments occur more often than I would like to admit.

However, last week I was able to go to the Annual Conference of the New Mexico United Methodist Churches.  This was my first time at Conference and I quite enjoyed it, despite the long business sessions.  There was a special speaker at Conference, Pastor Jorge Acevedo, who said quite a few things that was life giving to me.  One such thing was, "Comparison is not of the devil, it is the devil."  I would imagine that all of us are guilty of comparing ourselves with others.  It doesn't usually lead to anything good.  Pastor Acevedo had many good things to say, particularly at the Ordination Service.  I found myself getting inspired, inspired to do ministry.  Inspired to do ministry with my husband, excited and emotional, thinking of the day when he will finally be ordained.  Then, like a light turning on, sitting in that service, it occurred to me.  I am called to this life.  Sure, my calling looks nothing like Zach's, and it looks nothing like the spouses of other Pastor's, but it's a calling all the same.  I know I help Zach do ministry when I am at home with the kids feeling useless.  I help when he can go where he needs to go, do what he needs to do, and he knows that I have things handled at home.  I help when I support him unconditionally, when he knows I am willing to go with him wherever his ministry takes him.  I must stand firm in the faith that God has called all of us, in some fashion, and I must not be tempted to compare my calling with others.  I also must remember that as we continue along our paths, the view will change but the destination is unwavering.

I can not promise that I will not have moments of insecurity, of doubt, of worry, moments where I compare myself with someone else.  I can not promise that everyone will like me or agree with my choices.  I can only continue on the best that I know how, hand in hand with my husband, in the full and comforting embrace of our Father, enveloped in the unending and unwavering grace that is offered to us all.

May I please offer a plea to all my church going friends, laity and clergy both, to stop comparing, but to love one another, encourage and uphold the calling in one another, even if it looks different that what we expect or desire?  Thank you for reading.  It means more to me than you know.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

You do You

I have a confession to make.  I am addicted to podcasts.  Guys, it's serious.  I don't know why I waited so long, but I fell for them and fell hard. I don't watch tv hardly at all anymore and my time on social media sites have decreased considerably. I listen to a variety of podcasts, mostly true crime (don't judge), and a few comedy.  One I really enjoy and put on when I need a laugh is called the Dollop.  It's an American History podcast that takes a story or a person from history, both distant and not too distant, and breaks it down into a laughter filled hour or so.  I wouldn't recommend this podcast if you are thin skinned or if you can't handle listening to views that may not necessarily match up to your own or are sensitive to bad language.  I love it though and I've learned quite a bit.

One great thing about listening to podcasts is I can put in my earbuds, turn on an episode, and get things done.  I've found I'm much more productive.  Today was a day that I needed to both laugh and get stuff done so I turned on The Dollop and got busy.  Interestingly enough, one of the topics spoke to something that has been on my heart lately.

So the topic was a silly one, titled Straw Hat Riot (episode 129 for you Rubes), and basically it spoke about a time that people were so concerned that men not wear their straw hats passed a specified date, that they would literally take and destroy said hat if one was caught wearing it.  It became a real issue, people were arrested and injured because of a hat. One of the hosts of the podcasts (and I paraphrase because language) said, "Why do people care what other people are doing so much?"

That's what's been laying on my heart lately.  Why do people care what other people do so much?  Maybe I've mellowed with age, or maybe I've encountered enough people who are different than what I grew up with, or maybe it's life experiences, who knows, but honestly folks, I don't care very much what other people choose to do if it doesn't harm anyone.  For instance, how many posts have you seen regarding fashion and you just can't wrap your mind around why someone would choose to wear it?  Or, perhaps you can't stand a certain celebrity, and cant fathom why someone would look up to them.  How many times have you glanced at the comments of that cute puppy video you shared and saw commentors who somehow found something negative to say about it.  Even those recipe videos some of us love (guilty) will have comments along the lines of "Why would anyone eat this" or "wow, this cake is really ugly, who would want it?"

Whatever it is, so many people feel the need to take a stance on the silliest of issues, becoming keyboard warriors against anyone who would dare be different.  I'm here to tell you, I DON'T CARE!  I don't care what you wear, how much makeup you wear, how your hair is done, what shows, music, books you like.  I don't care if you prefer a certain type of vehicle or type of pet, if you can't stand a certain type of food or hobby.  I don't care if you are a Baptist or a Methodist, if you prefer one type of worship music over another.  I don't feel the need to turn everyone I meet into Mikel clones, who believe in the exact same way I do.  Let me enjoy the things I enjoy, and I'll be glad to return the favor.

Try as you might, you will not find anyone who agrees one hundred percent with you in any given topic, be it politics, religion, current events, how you raise your family, or how you live your life.  That's OK.  I've learned so much from people who think differently than me.  There is so much negativity in this world, why add to it?  Why bring misery to yourself and others over insignificant things?  Why, when there are so many real issues going on today that are much more deserving of our concern and attention?

Friends, there is so much darkness in our lives, in our world, why can't we all choose to stop finding issue with our neighbors, stop adding to the negativity, and instead bring much needed light and love into our lives and into the lives of those we encounter, even if it's just with strangers on the internet.  It's okay to have differing ideas about things.  It's okay to not like everything we see.  However, ask yourself, would this negative thought benefit anyone else?  Is it worth my time to comment about something I don't like or think is silly?  Are my negative comments online or in person the witness I want to give?

May your days be filled with goodness and may we all be the light in a world filled with darkness.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Peace in Chaos

If you are a reader of this blog, you probably know that Christmas is a favorite time of year for us.  I have written many a blog post over this season, the traditions we have, the joy we find in celebrating.  However, in true transparency, I must share that finding joy in the holiday season has not always been easy.

Last year, for example, was such a challenge.  It was the first year that we weren't with family for Christmas Eve.  It was also the first year that Zach had to work on Christmas Eve.  I really struggled with finding balance for our family with all the obligations we had.  I had a list a mile long of things I wanted to do as a family, activities and memory makers for our children.  I was so consumed with making Christmas as memorable as possible for our family, I was sucking the joy out of the entire season.  I broke one day, when all my well thought out plans went awry.  I was so focused on my ideas of what Christmas could and should be, that I forgot to even consider what my family wanted and needed out of this time of advent.

This year I vowed to not allow that to happen again.  However, now I find myself, two weeks from Christmas, and not at all in the holiday spirit.  Something is missing and I haven't quite been able to put my finger on what it is.

I smile to myself just now, reflecting on the ways God speaks to us.

Many of my friends and family know that my husband, the incorrigible Zach Bechtold, has a podcast with his good friend, Matt Franks, known as the Bearded Theologians.  Again, in true transparency, I admit that I am not a faithful listener to this podcast. (Sorry guys)  It's not because of anything other than I live with Zach and I listen to him all the time.  I mean, I have to hear his sermon twice on Sundays.  I love the guy and think he has thought provoking things to say, usually, but putting on their podcast isn't usually at the top of my to do list.  Today, however, in the midst of dealing with finishing Christmas shopping and tending to two sick and pitiful children, I pulled up a couple of podcasts and gave them a listen.

God finds ways to speak to us, even using our husbands.

The podcast I listened to came from last week and was about peace.  Finding peace. Finding peace within our self and through the gift of Jesus Christ.  There is no amount of decorating, baking, caroling, gifting, or cups of hot chocolate that can bring peace to this time of chaos and busyness.  Peace comes from one place, God, and we are responsible for allowing that peace to work in our own lives.  When we welcome peace into our own lives, that peace will be poured out into everything we do.  The chores of Christmas will become joyful, and that joy will seep into all that we do.

Welcome the peace.  Encourage others to find peace.  Take joy in the quiet times, realizing that we need those moments to hear what God is calling us to be, in that moment, and in the days to come.  Listen to who God is calling you to bring joy, happiness, and peace during the season of highs and lows.  Take the time to remember what is truly important, during this Christmas holiday and throughout the new year.

May peace be with you.

Take a listen to the Bearded Theologians podcast on peace below or at the Bearded Theologian website, where you can catch all their content:

and give them a follow on facebook here:

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Christmas Traditions

It's that time again!  Christmas season has begun.  My Christmas countdown gives us 27 days to go.

As we work to prepare for this holiday, I have been giving a lot of thought towards traditions.  Christmas traditions have always meant so much to me.  Each little act that my family would do would help get me into the Christmas spirit.  There were some traditions from my childhood that I couldn't wait to continue on with my family.  One of these is decorating the tree.  We crank out the Christmas songs, fight with the strands of lights, wondering why only half the strand is working, the kids fight over who gets to put up the Christmas star, and we pull out the ornaments, remembering where and when we got each one, as we take turns hanging them on the tree.  Each year we let the kids pick out new ornaments for the tree.  We also try to get a new ornament from our travels.

I love seeing other people's Christmas trees.  Each family does this in a different way.  Some are like my family, you have a collection of mismatched ornaments that are meaningful in some way to you.  Some families have a tree theme, maybe you have many trees, all with different themes.  Some people have beautifully put together trees with ribbons and balls.  It's all wonderful, no matter how you choose to decorate.

One thing that I didn't anticipate in my youth was that as we get older, as new people are added into the mix, and as things change, traditions will need to be changed as well.  I don't fear change, generally, but messing with my traditions is something different all together.

This year marks the first time in my entire life that I am not sitting at my parents for Christmas dinner.  Our little family of five will be by ourselves this Christmas day and I don't even know what to do.  I tell the kids that we will develop new traditions, a new way of doing Christmas, but as of right now I do not know what that looks like.  I do know, as I have learned from experience, that I can not force new traditions on my kids.  There will be things we do, that I feel like the kids should love, but really I'm doing it more for me than them.

So, help me out friends!  What are somethings that your family does, or has done, that you love, that really put you in the spirit of Christmas?  How have you handled change to your Christmas routine?  How have you explained those changes to your children?

This holiday season will be full of change, full of memories, and full of new experiences, of that I am sure.

I'll leave you with a few pictures of our ornament collection.

Nativity star from Vatican City

Zach and mine's first ornament and Ryann's first ornament.

Penguin family I got when I knew our family was complete.

I love our little handmade ornaments!

I had a picture ornament made this year.  I love how it's nestled between
Iron Man and a bell from the Polar Express!

Zach and I received this little tree on our first Christmas as a married couple.  Zach's grandmother gave it to us as a gift and it has fit perfectly in every home we have shared together, 6 houses!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Growing pains

I'd like to tell you a story.  Before I begin, however, let me give you some background information.

We have been living in our new town, with Zach serving at his new church since the end of June.  In that time, there has been lots of changes and upheaval for our family.  Finding a routine for the kids and I to get in to has been a challenge, and continues to be more than four months into this new life.  Sundays have proven to be the most challenging part of finding our new normal.  There are three services that Zach must be at.  He leaves our house often before 7:00 on Sunday mornings.  Two services are held at one church, one right after the other, with the third being held at another church, in another town, more than twenty minutes away.  What is a preacher's wife and family to do?  Most weeks I try to make it to two of those services, one in each church, though there are times that I just don't have it in me to sit through two services with my three kids so I choose one.  Then of course, there's always the one service, the earliest one, that I have only been to a few times.

Now, on to the story and the purpose of this post:

Not too long ago the kids and I got up to go to the earliest service, the one we have only been to on occasion.  I sat in the front, with the three kids.  I tried to smile at those around me and most people wouldn't even meet my eye.  That's okay, it's early, most of these people have no clue who I am.  The kids are tired, cranky, hot and uncomfortable.  The youngest one is crawling all over me, fidgeting to stay awake, but really wanting to go to sleep.  We make it to the end of the service and I work on gathering the water bottles, church bag, my purse, and loose bulletins.  An older woman walks up to us, she's the first one to talk to us since we walked in the front door.  She goes right up to Noah, who has been upset because of something his sister did or said, and asks him why he didn't stand during the last song, saying, "Is there something wrong with you?"

Noah immediately backs away from her, this stranger whom he has never met.  My six year old has no idea how to respond to this question and chooses to say nothing instead.  The lady glances at me for the first time, asks if its our first visit here and then offers the kids some candy.  I left flabbergasted.  I managed to make it to my car before I broke down into tears.  I went home depressed and feeling like I am the worst mom alive, the worst preacher's wife, a failure.

Now, I understand that I am a sensitive person.  I also admit to reading into things, intentions that weren't ever there.  However, I also know that had I been a visitor I would never go back to that church because of how my kids and I were treated, because of how a few people made me feel, whatever their true intentions were.

I know a lot of my readers are church goers, many of you are leaders in your congregation.  I am begging you to think about how you treat young families, visitors, and anyone else.  Think about how you go about greeting people, how you handle those people who may be "doing it wrong."

I have written before about having kids in church (you can see those here and here).  It's hard, whether you have one or five.  We are trying to teach our kid how to behave in an environment that is often unforgiving of mistakes or missteps.  Our kids are expected to sit quietly, to understand the traditions and routines, to be still, and to be happy.  How are they expected to learn anything without messing up on occasion?

Let me tell you another story:

Another Sunday, and another service finds us once again sitting on the front row, belongings strewn about, but this time we are in another sanctuary, surrounded by different people.  My kids are happy and this creates a new set of challenges.  They want to play, they want to talk, they want to run up and give their daddy a hug.  Ryann, the three year old wants to dance to the music.  Her dress has a twirly skirt and that's amazing and doesn't everyone want to see?  I am exhausted, and frustrated, and once again feeling like I'm failing.  The end of the service comes and I try to gather my wits and belongings without crumbling.  An older woman comes up to me.  Great. Here we go again.  She puts a hand on my arm and says, "I want you to know that we love seeing your kids up here.  I know it can be frustrating for you, but we love it. You are doing a good job of handling them by yourself."

Friends, this is love.  This is what will bring people back, bring people into a relationship.  There was no judgement, just encouragement.

Being a parent is hard.  Being a parent who tries to bring their family to church is hard.  Young families today have so much vying for their attention and time.  Often both parents work full time jobs and Sundays may be the only time for families to spend together.  For them to come spend an hour or more at church is an achievement in itself.  It means they are there because they want to be, whatever reason that may be.  They will often want to keep their family together during that hour of worship, for good reason.  However, there's a good chance that their younger ones are still learning about what church is, and how to behave.  Their parents are likely still learning about how to best handle their little ones while figuring everything out.  Be kind. Be encouraging.  Be helpful.  Love.  Think about your words before you offer any kind of observation or "helpful" advice.  Think about how your words, whatever their intention, may sound to an overwhelmed mother or father.  Think about how your criticisms may sound to that visitor, who doesn't understand or know about "how we do things."  If we expect to have a church in thirty years, we need to practice loving and encouraging more, and criticizing less.

Thoughts? I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Weakness into Perfection

Weakness.  It seems like "weakness" has become a dirty word.  I don't know, maybe it's always been that way, maybe it's human nature to not allow anyone to see that we have weaknesses, that we are not perfect.

Perfection.  What is perfection?  As a Christian I have been taught that we must always strive for perfection, to live our lives in a way that is "Christ like."  If we are to live as Christ lived, then we must work towards perfection, for Christ was perfection embodied.  But guys, Christ showed weakness.  He doubted, he struggled, he had moments of anger and deep sorrow.  He didn't hide these moments of weakness from the world, from his closest friends, they are instead, well documented, and guess what? He's still perfect.

Why then, do we attempt to hide our weaknesses from the world?  Why do we try to hide our weaknesses from ourselves?  Only when we truly admit to ourselves that we are not perfect, that we struggle, that we need help, that we aren't always who we know we should be, can we really grow, grow towards true perfection.

It's easy to put on a strong face for a couple of hours, those moments we need to be the super version of ourselves.  It's easy to sit behind a computer and write, hitting that delete button when that version of ourselves that we don't want others to see makes an appearance.  It's easy to hide ourselves away when we are feeling weak so that no one has to see that part of us.  It's easy, but is it right?

Maybe I'm in the minority but I long for transparent and authentic relationships.  I need to be around people who have weaknesses and who we can journey together, through the valleys and the mountaintops.  I need people in my life who understand weakness and who are willing to share those moments with me so that I can overcome my own.  Who doesn't need people like that?

Christ is and has always been transparent and authentic.  He also knows our weaknesses and desires to walk beside us as we struggle.  If we aren't being honest with ourselves as to where and when we need help, are we allowing God to work through us and heal us at the same time?

Love yourself, warts and all.  Don't hide away when your soul is crying out for help, crying out in despair.  Don't keep that part of yourself from everyone else.  Who knows, God could use those moments of yourself, those moments you hate and hide away, those pieces of you that seem weak, to change another's life.

God is amazing.  His people are amazing.  We are capable of so much, but only if we are honest with who we are.  Only in that honesty can our true potential be realized.

I heard a quote recently and I'll try to get it right here: "Who we are is God's gift to us.  Who we become is our gift to God."

Who are you going to become?  And how are you going to get there?