I have yet to write about the amazing conference that we were at when our little world shattered back home. I left for the conference not feeling right about leaving, being that far from the dogs always makes me nervous. Jeremy's Dad lives close to where we were in TN, but much deeper into the country, and I have never taken my dogs with my because there is a wild pack of dog that come out all the time and about a year or so ago they attacked their dachshund Winston. With two dogs there was so way I was playing with open fields, cow pastures, creeks, waterfalls, and caves and no fencing. So going to TN always makes me think about that...but anyway.
We got the opportunity to go to a youth minister's training conference, we were lucky enough that we not only took ourselves but two people on our youth team. I feel bad for the guys, riding in a car with me for 9 hours, a cranky old lady who protests 90% of the places they wanted to eat. Jean was on a donut search for most of it, lucky for him after the emotionally traumatizing events of Friday night we got up Saturday and I said "Jean, we are getting donuts!"
By the way if you ever get your hands on a maple bacon donut I suggest you buy a dozen and eat them alone in a dark room while watching bad TV.
The conference was amazing, the speakers said things we needed to hear. I actually need to figure out what notebook of Jeremy's I was taking notes in, there was some good stuff. If you ever get the chance to hear Derwin Gray speak I suggest you take up the offer. He was stellar. Kyle Idleman spoke from John about being the branch and who we allow to be out power source.
I so need to dig out my notes.
There is no denying that the speakers and worship were unreal. However, the repeated message I kept getting was to be real. Every week isn't amazing! Don't lie and say it is, which is why when I normally did my super happy weekend post on Sunday I bailed and dealt the hard honset emotions I had stored up.
The lady who spoke at the minister's wives breakout sessions reiterated that for me. I know all of you remember a time when the pastor's wife seemed to have life together and be this perfect beauty of a Godly woman. She talked about how there is a shift and we are moving away from that, how we need to move away from that. No one benefits from the appearance of perfection. What has helped me so much personally, and actually encouraged me to stay involved with youth ministry with Jeremy is our pastor and his wife. We have spent so much time with them and they are always real people, open about struggles, and happy to offer advice about things they have been through that we deal with. I have not had to look at our pastor's wife and be discouraged that I can't be like her. I know that she strives to follow God daily, and that is the encouragement she gives me.
As wives of men in ministry we can't put up a perfect front. It does nothing to glorify God.
I started thinking about my role with the youth, particularly the girls. I feel like most of my service is to the girls. I want them to feel like they can come to me with anything, and I pray that I can encourage them through this hard nasty earthly life. I've been working through Kelly Minter's Nehemiah study and have been burdened with a need to encourage our girls. As a girl it seems so easy to ride on the coattails of the guys. Let's face it, it is. I helped Jeremy behind the scenes for a year with youth and no one ever suggested I get more involved. I didn’t have to get more involved. It seems like all women are expected to do is cook the occasional meal for new moms, bring food for church events, work the nursery, and teach preschool Sunday school.
While there are many women in the bible, female empowerment hasn’t been rooted in those women. I’ve been all about some bra burning feminism, but until I really began to delve into the women of the bible on my own I had no idea just how tough these gals were. Call me some crazed feminist but I love reading in a commentary or study bible that when 5,000 men were mentioned that probably just as many women were too. It was a cultural writing thing, women just weren’t written about. I love in Nehemiah where it says:
“Next to him Shallum the son of Hallohesh, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired, he and his daughters.” Nehemiah 3:12 ESV
I really like how to NIV words it, don’t cringe because I put the NIV either.
“Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section with the help of his daughters.”
With the help of his daughters. Maybe it’s because I am from a family of all girls that I like that so much.
It didn’t say that the girls made sure all the men had sandwiches and lemonade. Nor did it say prepared a covered dish lunch for after church on Sunday. It also doesn’t mention at all that they kept the nursery, or decorated for Christmas.
No, these women worked. Depending on the version you have, it probably says “and next to them” before every group listed. These probably weren’t the only women working either, correct me if I’m wrong, but from what I’ve read the only reason Shallum’s daughters were mentioned was because he had no sons.
Once, when I was in the college group, we went out to help build houses for Habitat for Humanity. We used new materials in a perfectly leveled area with no junk. I am not a builder by any means and looked for every out I could to hide in the shade. While it was rewarding to work alongside others, shoulder to shoulder, helping those in need….it was tough, and hot. Lest we forget how miserable Louisiana is in the summer.
It hits me deep in a way that Shallum’s daughters were working to rebuild a wall in the midst of rubble…without the help of electric drills or those crazy nail guns that you could kill someone with if aimed incorrectly. I was given every earthly convenience to serve God and was miserable in the hot summer sun. The bible doesn’t mention at all that these girls were complaining and passing their work off to their guy friends. Nope, they worked side by side the rest of the men.
This, my dear bloggy friends is what I feel like I need to impress upon these young girls. While I am the last one they should ever try to imitate, heck I complain about building, much less rebuilding; I want them to know how amazing the women in the bible were and are. Yes, some of them come from Christian homes and they won’t need us as much. But those who don’t, they need everything we can ever teach them. The statistics we were given at this conference about how youth group is either where kids get it or get lost were mind blowing. Without a good foundation in the teen years, many young adults turn from God. I myself had a few years where I depended on myself and did what I wanted. They definitely weren’t the most enjoyable years of my little life.
My prayer is that I can positively impact these girls (and boys) and encourage them with what encourages me. I want to be seen for me and what God does through me, and not some oddly perfect wife of a youth minister. I want these girls to see that they are in a generation where society isn’t as irritated at women who want to serve God. Nowhere in the bible does it say “and Mary prepared a casserole for the Lord’s Supper and after many years of making casseroles she became an old woman and who stayed home and barely participated allowing the younger generation to take over.”
Nope. These women served.
And I want to show these girls that we can do that too.