Thursday, January 23, 2014

My husband is an associate minister with a local congregation. They are a lovely group of people. We have learned SO much about being in ministry in our short time here so far. We will get to spend a few more months here with them before Lord willing moving home after Aaron graduates and we can begin working in our home state.

In learning as much as we have, we have experienced many things. Most of them have been positive, some not so much. But we have learned just as much, if not more, from those negative things.

One of the reasons we go through trials and struggles, I believe, to be able to show the world that our hope is not in this life, but in an eternal one with our Father. I have known some amazing people in my time as a Christian that handle life's trials and struggles with a staggering amount of grace and reliance on God. It has been a great example to me.

One thing we have learned about the most is facing judgmental attitudes and critics.  Handling criticism or correction, when deserved is difficult but necessary and useful for growth. Handling criticism or correction when it is not deserved is much more difficult. No one likes to be rebuked or corrected, but as Christians, if a fellow brother or sister is able to do so, with love and gentleness the way we are required to in Scripture, it can only serve to help us grow closer to each other and to God.

We have more often than not been exposed to the kind of correction that is being done in a Scriptural way, thankfully. We have on occasion been exposed to criticism that was both undeserved and grossly mishandled. One of those times, is what the rest of this post is about.

Several months ago we received an anonymous letter proclaiming in very hateful words and attitude all the many flaws we, my husband, children and myself have. We have since heard from many in the field of ministry that this is not an uncommon occurrence. That, to me, is pretty awful but the subject of a different post I guess LOL. Our leadership in the congregation handled this letter in the best way possible. There was no name, so obviously no one could be specifically pulled aside and talked with. Our preacher addressed it, to the congregation, as something that should never be done. He too had received his own letter seemingly from the same person.

When we got "the letter," I did not think it would have gotten to me the way it did. I had been steeling myself up to face just such an experience since I had heard it could happen. I do not have the thickest skin and it is something I am trying to work on. I had not prepared myself enough. Now, I understand that this would not have been possible for me. This letter was SUCH a slap in the face and it shot straight through to my heart. It hurt my feelings. It made me angry. I went into family preservation mode almost instantly because it was an outright attack on the four people I love most in this world. It was awful.

My children knew it was there, though we did not share with them what it said. They knew we were sad or upset about something. We could not and did not want to avoid the issue since they were obviously old enough to pick up on signs that all was not right. So, we shared with them the overall view held about us by whoever this person was that wrote this letter. My children instantly handled the situation in a way that I was both proud of and ashamed of myself that I had not done so first.

Their response was various forms of, "That person is very sad and probably lonely. They need Jesus. We should pray for them." I was humbled and proud and knew I needed to adjust my way of thinking as well.
We prayed for whoever this person was right then and continue to do so throughout our prayer time. I now pray for this person daily.

I do not know who this person is or if anything in their relationship with God and His church has improved or not. As far as I know, there has not been another letter received by anyone in the congregation. We have not received any more.

I do find that writing is a form of therapy for me, so I wrote this person a letter. I had no one to send it to but I know God knows who they are and what they need. It was a growth experience for my family and for me. I am now grateful for the opportunity to go through it. I will be able to handle anything like it in the future more gracefully and more Christ-like than I did this time. I believe this was at least part of the purpose.

This is what I wrote to our anonymous critic.

I Am Praying For You
You wrote my husband an anonymous letter full of hateful and cruel words. I am praying for you. 
You were unwilling to put your name to your words so that you could be held accountable by my husband or me, but you will be held accountable by God for your words just as we all are. 
I am praying for you.
You wanted to make your voice heard when it was full of discord and grumbling rather than encouragement and advice. You should have been aware that your method was wrong and unfruitful because of past attempts. The brethren of this congregation and the elders who shepherd us in this flock cannot teach or admonish or help you because you cannot share who you are. 
I am praying for you.
The church seems to be shrinking across our country and our world and we are losing more capable men in the role of pulpit preacher than we can add each year. This is a “career,” and the life our family has chosen to lead and have. My husband is new and still learning as he will always still be learning because the well of knowledge and information to share with the world is ever deep. He spends hours studying and learning and trying to put the information he has learned into a format to share with his brothers and sisters. It is not easy. It is not fast. It is the most wonderful job he could have but it comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility. Many people choose to praise his effort. Many choose to offer words of encouragement as he works and strives to understand the word of God better and develop his skill at conveying that message to those listening to his sermons. Most offer assistance, enlightenment, past experience and sometimes even mentor-ship. Those people are a true blessing and God delights in their encouragement of my husband and others attempting the same tremendous task. You however chose to tell him he was not fit to preach; was not preacher material; and in essence should quit. You told him he should just give up. 
I am praying for you.
There are often situations and circumstances when we in the church, because we are human, will disagree with one another. There are times when someone in our congregations may act or say or think in a way that we disagree with, maybe even severely disagree with. God in His foreknowledge equipped us all with the tools and the method with which to try and remedy these disagreements. There is a system He designed that when worked correctly and used to its full extent offers the perfect solution for God's people to work through their differences and remain united in the body of Christ. 
You chose with your letter not to follow that pattern in any way shape or fashion. 
I am praying for you.
Rather than offer advice or assistance in areas of our life that you felt were lacking by encouraging my husband with Scripture or offering physical assistance, you chose to berate him and his family with unkind words and abusive language. You clearly have no proper understanding of how the Bible instructs us in dealing with issues that may develop with brothers and sisters in the church.
 I am praying for you.
I am praying that you can develop a true relationship with God. I am praying that I can use your cruel words and spiteful and angry heart condition as an example of how I should NEVER be to another Christian. I am praying that you can turn back to God and work to have the relationship that your actions and words have shown me you currently do not have. I am praying that these changes to your heart and life happen before it is too late for you. 
I am praying for you.
I am praying that you never have this kind of contact with someone newer and or weaker in their faith. You could be a serious and complete stumbling block and discouragement from putting Christ on in baptism at all let alone being able to live and grow in their faith. If words like you used had been said to me or my husband sooner in our relationship with God, we just might not have been strong enough to have worked through them and seen them for the hateful and wrong things they are. 
I am praying for you.
I have no idea who you are. I will most likely never learn your identity. That is not my concern. I do not judge you. I know that none of the things you mentioned in your letter to my husband are true or accurate to the extent that you have listed them. We are not perfect by any means. We have, and will continue, to make mistakes and be displeasing to some. To you, I am afraid we will never be pleasing and that is your sorry heart condition, not mine. 
I am praying for you.
Both my husband and I are praying for you. We both forgive you of all the hurt your angry words have caused. You have not discouraged either of us from continuing our work for God. I hope to know you some day. I hope to have a prayerful and healing exchange with you and for you in the future so that you may truly know that my concern for you, my prayer for you is that you heal your heart and your broken relationship with God our Father and I can truly call you my 
sister or brother in Christ.

Hello again...and greetings!

Alright. I actually have a goal this year of maintaining a place to put all my thoughts and ideas and projects and just general stuff about me and my life and my loves. I don't even really care if anyone ever reads it. I just wanted a place to actually collect stuff that would not take up a bunch of room in my house LOL.

We have, as a family been on a tremendous journey of faith and growth throughout the last 3 years and I am very much looking for our return trip that will, Lord willing, happen in June. I miss home. I have loved most of our time here in Alabama but I am really homesick lately. I suppose it is equal parts wanting to be able to hug my mom's neck A LOT more often and wanting to put all we have learned here into practice and GET TO WORK.

We are hopeful there is a position that is right for Aaron, and really all of us, to work in back in WA and are very excited to see how God is going to put it all together. We really are just "along for the ride."

A wonderful lady at church has encouraged me a great deal to write. In fact, she is almost insistent on it so that is part of my goal with this new view on my try and put my thoughts, ideas, interpretations and understandings of Scripture and the desired life of a Christian. I have grown so very much over the last three years, my younger Christian self would hardly recognize me now. (That probably isn't a bad thing!)

I plan on writing up our story for a future post because REALLY love to share it.

Since I’ve posted anything, THREE years ago!!!...I’ve learned how to crochet. Now I have my own Etsy shop! It’s kind of crazy but I love it. I have a project list a million miles long and come up with new ideas or see new things I want to try almost every day. That is part of what I want to do here. I’d like to share what I'm working on and maybe even show others how to do some of it if they are so inclined. Being left handed, I’ve had to rearrange a lot of techniques and learn crochet patterns differently so I may be able to help some of the other amazing lefties out there trying to pick up this pretty fun activity. Who knows?

Anyway, it’s late here and I'm probably headed to dream land soon. I have a ladies day to attend tomorrow so must be up early. I hope to have this up and running soon with a lot more regular posts! My goal is to put something out at least once a week. We shall see if that is too much commitment from me HAHA!

Until next time.