Mrs. Gore’s Tips for Not Making Your Pastor Wish He Was Anything But a Pastor

One aspect of my life that I don’t talk about very often is the fact that I am married to a pastor.

My shepherd at church is also my shepherd at home.

Not to be confused with my infant baby, Shepherd. You can tell him apart from my husband/pastor shepherd because he wears onesies and his name has a capital “s”.

Anyhow, this not only makes me the heralded “pastor’s wife”, it makes me an expert in all things pastorly.

And since I am both a full-time layperson/congregant and married to a full-time person of the cloth, I thought I would merge my two worlds today and give some pointers on how people like us (the congregation) can be a help and not a hindrance to people like us (the minister and his wife and family).

As usual, I can only talk about things like this because our church is the totes awesomest. I give you my word, there is no hidden agenda or lurking jabs in the words that I shall henceforth be sharing.

Or in the words that I heretofore shared.

Let us begin.

1. Obviously, don’t be a poo-poo head.

I’m glad we had this talk.

2. Guard your little words.

As your God-appointed leaders, your pastor spends his week praying and, if you’re lucky, maybe even fasting, with you in mind, expecting the Lord to do something great in your life; thus, imagine how it must deflate him when he sees you at church and says “Good morning! How are you?” and your response is “It’s cold in here” or “Your microphone is too loud.” Um, ouch. Try instead to tell him what you appreciate about him or how the Lord used the sermon to impact you. He truly wants to hear about it. Then you can tell him you’re cold. In a nice way, of course (see point #1).

3. Likewise, guard your big words.

Speaking of “um, ouch”, I’ve taken note over my lifetime in church of how folks tend to speak more bluntly to pastors than they do others. As a full-time SAHM/homeschooler, I can’t imagine what it would feel like if someone walked into my home and started picking apart my realm, not only finding fault with the things that make up my entire life, but sharing my faults openly with others, all before giving me pointers on how to do my job better. It would be heartbreaking. Guard your tongues, ye brutal and loose-tongued opiners, and, not to be redundant, but…see point #1.

4. Give your pastor plenty of family time.

Our church is the BEST at this. We are five years into our ministry here, and never once have I felt that I am competing with the church for my husband’s attention. Granted, he has set firm guidelines in this area, but our church has also done its part, giving him freedom to come home when he chooses, to keep flexible office hours, and to arrive and depart from church with his family rather than in separate vehicles (meaning, no late-night meetings, etc.).

A church that competes with, rather than nurtures, their pastor’s life at home fatally damages his potential for fulfilling his biblical call. Tsk, tsk, tsk. That’s worse than being a you-know-what  (see point #1).

5. Incline your ear and follow your leader.

My husband pour hours into preparing his sermons, every week. On top of that, he writes a daily Bible reading guide so we might better ingest the exposited text. He asks us to pray for specific things. He encourages us in specific areas. He gives us tasks that are unique to our situation…

that’s his job.

Now it is the job of the congregation, myself included, to follow. The most encouraging church members are the ones who really listen and do the things their pastor asks them to do (obviously, this includes neither sinning nor drinking any kind of poisoned fruit punch).

6. Think about your particular gifts and use them to minister to your minister.

It has been a joy for me to watch our congregation encourage our family, in all kinds of different ways. Their gifts literally keep us going. Whether it is the deacon who makes hospital visits to give our pastors plenty of study time, or the older women who tidy up my husband’s office, or the young mom who brings us food, or the widow who frequently sends us encouragement, or the couple who constantly prays for us, or the man who mows our yard, the love and generosity of our church family makes the way so much easier for us.

Do the same for your pastor, and I’m pretty sure you’ll get an in-ground swimming pool in heaven.

7. Work hard to keep your pastor safe.

You can do this in so many ways. Pray for him. Give him plenty of rest. Pray for him. Protect him from she-devils with wicked intentions. Pray for him. Be his visitation buddy. In other words, be his watchdog and his mother hen. Taking care of your pastor helps ensure he will be equipped to take care of you.

Oh and don’t forget to pray for him.

8. Give him time and room to grow.

Although it is imperative that he meets the requirements that scripture lays out for his eldership, your pastor is being sanctified just like you are. Remember, pastors are people, too. And people are poo-poo heads sinners.

9. Give him time and room to preach.

It has become a token joke in today’s church culture to make references to the length of the pastor’s sermon, and although this is usually in good fun, I can imagine that it could easily turn harmful.

Imagine, for a minute, the pressure of knowing that the God of the universe was watching to make sure you said everything you were supposed to say. And then imagine looking out across of sea (or a small pond) of people who were tapping their feet and checking their wristwatches, expecting you to accomplish that daunting task in twenty to thirty minutes per week.

Cherish the pastor who is more afraid of God than he is of you, and give him the freedom to do his job and do it thoroughly and “with joy” (see Hebrews 13 below).

10. View your pastor and his family as a team.

This advice is more practical than it is biblical, but I appreciate it so much that, when our church members pray aloud for my husband, they pray for me and our children, too. I also personally love it when women include me in messages they send to my husband or seek us both out for advice; it is in no way necessary (because I read all his messages anyway), but it is a very cool thing to do, and it strengthens our family unit, which, again, is only for the good of the church.

11. Pay him well.

Many dole out big bucks for their doctors, dentists, accountants and personal trainers without question, but then expect their pastor and his family to live like paupers.

You pastor has been assigned by God to watch over your soul and train you in righteousness, the single most important aspect of your life…

you can help by making sure he doesn’t have to worry during the week about how he is going to afford some cornbread to go with his beans.

(Kudos to our church family for our generous salary and for a yearly cost-of-living increase!).

12. Include him in your decision-making.

I’m guessing at the math here, but 9 times out of 10, congregants approach their pastor for advice on big decisions…

after their decision is made.

Contemplating a huge change? Tempted to join another church? Feeling like getting a divorce? Make haste to the preacher-man, seek his biblical advice and counseling, and, if he isn’t leading you in something that is unbiblical, do what he says to do. Which leads us to our next point…

13. Make the way easy for him by submitting and not grumbling.

This one is straight from the Bible. Hebrews 13:17: “Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account. Let them do this joyfully, and not sadly, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

Your pastor will answer to God for how he led you. You will answer (also to God) for how you followed.

‘Tis a very freeing and simple arrangement, is it not? I wish I had realized that sooner.

14. Keep poo-poo heads accountable.

Lastly (but almost certainly not leastly), if you hear someone speaking ill of your shepherd, either gently rebuke them or change the route of the conversation. Their words will not only harm your pastor, they could harm your own ears, planting seeds of discord in your heart that could lead to a root of bitterness. Which could turn you into a…well, see point #1.

~

As with any list of advice or etiquette, I am sure these pointers are far from comprehensive, but I hope they provide some helpful insight. How I could have used this list when I was younger! If I could go back and be a better sheep for my former pastors, I most certainly would. Consider this my public apology, for when I typed these words and revisited old memories, I felt sheepish, indeed. Baaa.

I also deeply apologize for how many times I said or referenced “poo-poo” in this blog post. 

~

Mrs. Gore’s comment policy: all comments are read and appreciated, but only those that are edifying and do not lead to lengthy internet discussion are approved.

And, finally, because I love ya, a pin for your bookmarking and sharing convenience…

pastor tips

Della.

From Della to Mr. Gore, July 2007…

Jackson Energy ERM 9

If you had told me two weeks ago that my first outing with Baby Shepherd would be to Ms. Della’s funeral, I wouldn’t have believed it.

But such is the nature is death…

if we knew when it was coming, we would spend every waking moment in bedside vigils, hanging onto the ankles of those we knew would soon be departing.

As it was, they were so habitual and ordinary, I don’t even remember my last words to Della.

I know we were probably standing either in the dimly-lit church sanctuary or in the fellowship hall, where we crossed paths Sunday morning after Sunday morning after Sunday morning, for as long as I can remember.

I would have told her how beautiful she looked.

(She always looked beautiful).

She would have asked how I was feeling and might have exclaimed over how much Betsie has grown or how handsome Gideon looked in his dress clothes or how Rebekah’s hair is getting so long.

(She always took time to notice the kids and ask how I was doing).

We probably hugged, and I am positive that I felt happy on the inside just to see her for that brief moment before we moved on to our respective Sunday School classes.

(Della always made me happy).

But whatever greetings we swapped during our last meeting on this earth, one thing is certain: I had no idea they would be my last to a woman who meant so much more to me than a passing hug, and who I admired for so much more than her physical beauty.

If I had known…

I would have cradled her beautiful face in my hands and told her that she was dearly loved…

I would have thanked her for consistently exhibiting to me those Christian fruits that are most admirable in a woman of God…

I would have asked her to tell me all of her funny stories one last time so I could write them down for safekeeping…

I would have recorded her speaking voice so I could listen to her rich and indescribable tone anytime I wanted…

I would have asked if I could come over and learn how to make her to-die-for homemade rolls…

I would have told her that, during the toughest days we’ve had in the ministry, her unswerving faithfulness, gentle guidance and genuine words of encouragement helped keep us going…

I would have hugged her tighter, I would have memorized the lines of her face, and I would have sat beside her at worship…

I would have asked her to wait just one more week, so she could hold my new baby…

And I would have promised her that I would miss her every Sunday and at every women’s fellowship and everytime I drove past her tidy, yellow house for the rest of my life.

Della was not a relative of mine, and if it were not for our like faith, we never would have known each other…

but when the grace of God reached down and plucked her from the road that leads to destruction to place her on the path to life, and then did the same for me years later, all of that changed; by the world’s standards she wasn’t my grandmother or my great aunt or even a distant cousin — she was just a “little old lady” who went to the same church as me.

But my redeemed heart knows better…

she was my sister. My mother. A vibrant, intrinsic part of my family.

And though I know we will spend forever in the same place, my humanity weeps bitter tears at the thought of saying goodbye.

Tears that bring to mind a day, half a decade ago, when Mr. Gore and I were discussing our future and weighing the pros and cons of him applying to be senior pastor at the church I had grown up in; to say that things at the time were messy and complicated would be an understatement. And although my husband was inexperienced and fresh out of seminary, he was a brilliant man with accolades and references galore; he could most likely have found work anywhere…

but “anywhere” wasn’t the story God had written for us. He wanted us here, and He tuned our hearts and our passion to stay, no matter how difficult the road ahead seemed to be.

The church was in turmoil, the budget was limited, and due to an unfortunate church split five years prior, well over half of the remaining membership was over the age of 65. There was one baby in the nursery and he was ours…

But it didn’t matter. We were in love.

“I just can’t leave them…” Mr. Gore said, with conviction. “I want to be their pastor. I want to walk them through the rest of their life. I want to preach their funerals…”

My heart agreed, most vehemently.

But here we are so many years later, and my, those funerals are hard…

Each lifelong friend who leaves us for “Beulah Land” leaves a huge vacancy in our hearts, not to be filled until we meet once more in our forever home; God has only caused our love and tenderness for them to multiply, and while our initial dream of walking these dear saints through life has come true, it carries with it a pain that we couldn’t have imagined…

The day before Della’s funeral, Mr. Gore went to her viewing at the funeral home. Finding himself very much alone with the body our friend left behind, he sat and wept. Della had ministered to him in ways no one else ever saw, giving him godly advice, sending him encouraging notes and cards, praying for him

much like our sister Thelma and our brother Richard, the world might not have known the tiny little lady in the little yellow house, but she mattered, and her role in the Kingdom was vital and beautifully performed.

Since the day we pursued this ministry, God has been so faithful to us and to our church. The division we inherited has flown the coop. Old wounds are being healed. Our membership, though smaller, continues to grow purer and purer. Love abounds. And while our budget is still limited, God has met every single need.

If the thought ever crossed my mind that we would be giving something up to “lay down our lives” for a church that was tiny and troubled and, frankly, not-the-coolest, five years with Della (and so many like her) has proven me stupid…

we have gained the world, drinking in priceless wisdom and encouragement from some of God’s very best, and learning what it means to be the body of Christ.

We grieve over the precious and important member we lost this September…

even as we thank God for the gift of knowing her at all.

~

Della, holding Baby Rebekah at our women’s fellowship in 2009

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Want to know more about Della and the sweet people in our church? Read one of my favorite posts: The Early Birds

What A Day That Will Be

As my 2-year old Betsie would say, “Oh derr…”

Things are about to get all sentimental up in here.

The baby has left my tummy, and though it might make me sound a bit dramatic, I am already reconnecting to the old Mrs. Gore…

the one who really likes people and loves life and enjoys playing with my children and also the one who cries at beautiful things.

Not to be confused with Small Elephant who just cries at…things.

Like, seriously. Inanimate objects. Scents. Plants. Anything.

And my heart is light with relief, and delightfully heavy with an awareness of what I’ve been given, not just for this vapor of a life, but for eternity. Because He is good, I am so sure that God will save my children, and though my prayers for them are desperate, they are also confident. I think I will be with them forever, in the Eden we could have/should have/would have lived in were our hearts not so wicked and prone to wander…

and I rejoice in this knowledge.

But I live in a pilgrim’s body, with a pilgrim’s heart and a pilgrim’s understanding, and the dying part of me acutely feels the passing of each day we have on this earth together…

Even though I hope and believe in eternity, I long for it as if it doesn’t exist. And when I hold my newborn baby boy, a part of me praises God for the forever Kingdom we will be a part of, while another part of me mourns for this transient and blink-of-an-eye life that I can so tangibly feel in my arms and see with my eyes.

It passes so quickly, and the joys and beautiful moments and triumphs from which I would drink so deeply slip by as I scramble, wide-eyed, trying to hold on, trying to remember, trying to cling to the shadow rather than to the hope, and I am reminded over and over again that I am far too sinful and far too stupid to properly understand this great, big, mysterious, overwhelming life.

Holding Baby Shepherd…

it’s like holding Baby Gideon all over again.

6 and 1/2 years since the day my eldest and I were born into a mother/son relationship, 6 1/2 years since my soul was awakened to the nurturing fire of motherhood, 6 1/2 years since my feet were set on a path to dying more and loving more and feeling more and wanting less…

and as I breathe deeply of the sweetly indescribable scent of new life and baby lotion and as I feel once more that velvety soft baby skin underneath my chin, those 6 1/2 years of memories dance wildly about in my mind, causing me to cry, causing me to laugh, causing me to pray.

There are no words, really. Just silent meditations. Wordless pleas. Whispers of thanks. And maternal cries for help to survive the heartbreak of seeing them grow.

Gideon…

Rebekah…

Betsie…

and now Shepherd.

I would hold each of you just as you are for an eternity.

I would go back to any day in our history and stay there forever.

I would journey with you to our future and never leave your side.

And so I entrust us all to God, for safekeeping, knowing that one day our faith really will be made sight. The pilgrim will be gone. The citizen will be born. The mysteries will be revealed.

And we will rest in the place that our hearts have longed for since the day we first met.

“What a day, glorious day that will be…”

Do Not Forsake: my wrestling match with Hebrews 10:24-25

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

~

“I don’t know…” I said, “I’m just so tired of talking about it. I don’t want to answer any more questions. I don’t want to talk about how my belly has dropped or that yes, I’m “still here”, you know?…”

My husband just looked at me.

I squirmed.

I knew exactly what he was thinking and, as usual, it was conveniently lining up with what the Spirit was already telling my heart.

It was late Saturday night and we were discussing what I should do come morning. Nearly one full week past my due date, I knew that no one would expect me to be at church, and would even be surprised if I made an appearance, but I was feeling so torn about it.

“If you don’t feel well, that’s one thing,” my husband encouraged me, “and even if you just want to stay home and rest, that’s perfectly fine. But don’t not come because of what you just said…that’s not you.”

I knew he was right. Even as the words left my mouth, I was uncomfortable with them, as they went against everything we say we believe and have worked toward in our church.

You see, the last couple of years in our congregation have centered on learning to become a family. Loving each other as true brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. Being transparent and real with one another. Assuming the best of each other. Bearing one another’s burdens…

And if I truly examined my heart, I was lying about why I didn’t want to come to church the next morning, because, honestly, if I showed up and no one mentioned my pregnancy or how I was feeling, I might have returned home confused and hurt, feeling like no one cared. I love those people. And I love their concern for me.

The truth of my resistance was simple to diagnose:

I wanted to bear my burden alone.

I didn’t want to humble myself and accept sympathy.

I didn’t want to appear weak or tired or haggard or needy.

In other words, I just wanted to disappear from among “my family” for a bit until I could return to them in better form…sitting up straighter, feeling more like myself, victorious over this pregnancy….you know, normal. Healthy. Whole.

I didn’t want them to see me defeated.

So now I was really torn about going to church, because this had just turned from a simple question of “should I?” or “shouldn’t I?” into a very personal spiritual battle that I didn’t want to deal with; I didn’t want the Spirit to be teaching me anything. I was a week past my due date! Wah!!

But deciding we were borrowing trouble by worrying too much about it – after all, my water could have broken in the next 20 minutes and all of this discussing would be a moot point – we decided to just wait until morning and see what happened.

The next day, Mr. Gore decided to let me sleep until I woke up; by the time I joined the land of the living, there was only enough time to fix Rebekah’s hair and send my family off to Sunday School, tentatively planning to join them for worship.

On their way out the door, my husband continued to gently encourage me to attend if my body was feeling comfortable, reminding me that I could retreat to his office and rest on his recliner at any point during the service or the post-service potluck.

But, shutting the door behind them, I still didn’t know what to do…

it was so quiet in my house.

So safe.

So comfortable (I was wearing my muumuu).

And no one could see how big I was, or how tired, or how mentally fatigued or how weak; I was alone, and a part of me really liked that, even as my heart yearned to see the dear faces I had been missing over the past two weeks.

But I really needed to make a decision, spit-spot!

And in the end, it wasn’t my stamina that got me dressed and ready and out the door in time to make it downhill to hear the preaching. It wasn’t a supernatural burst of energy or resolve. It wasn’t even a spiritual change of heart or mind…

It was the truth of scripture and the example of my husband.

You see, during the 9 months that I have been growing our 4th child, he has been dealing with his own set of problems; a year and a half ago, he had a non-invasive surgical procedure done on a herniated disc, one that would potentially put a stop to his chronic back and leg pain without resorting to major back surgery.

Sadly, while it gave him relief for almost a year, he blew the disc out again early this year, and it has been undeniable that a fusion was in his future, the sooner the better, not only to put a stop to his pain, but to keep his nerve from becoming permanently damaged.

But I was pregnant.

And we have three little children.

And a two-story house.

And in a huge act of sacrificial love, he chose to put off surgery until I could have a full month to recover from having our baby…

Which meant that he had an extremely long year ahead. Pain management has been key, but even on medication, he has been either persistently uncomfortable or downright hurting. Sitting for long periods is unbearable for him, meaning he needs to be on his feet or lying down on the floor. His “office” became the couch in our church’s foyer where he laid with his laptop and a pile of books nearby, and most of his meals in 2013 have been eaten at his family’s feet…

and while God has been so gracious to allow him to comfortably stand and preach every Sunday morning, he comes home pretty sore in the afternoon and desperately in need of rest.

If anyone should feel the right to stay home on Sunday night while our other pastor teaches, it is him.

And if anyone should feel free to cut out early after that teaching and skip our weekly fellowship meal, it is him.

But I’ve watched him.

All year.

He wakes up from his Sunday nap, he takes his pills, and he goes to the one place that he knows he needs more than anything else.

To his church.

His body.

His family.

And he does the most unheard-of thing I have ever witnessed in my 31 years of church life.

He gets the pillow out of his office….

and he lays down in the floor at the back of the sanctuary to hear the Bible lesson.

People walk past and he talks to them, waving, smiling, never blushing, never acting as if it is out-of-the-ordinary that he is laid out on the floor in a house of God.

You know why?

Because when he says he loves his church family, he means it. And when he says that there is no better place for him to be than among the brethren, he truly believes it. And when he expounds Hebrews 10 from the pulpit and teaches us that one of the greatest and most powerful tools for our growth and encouragement is to spend time with each other, he then lives it out for his flock to see.

And as I considered his example on Sunday morning, I started to realize what I would be missing if I stayed home in my muumuu…

Getting my act together and making it to church wasn’t about a legalistic check-mark to prove how godly I was; this was a chance for me to have faith in the word of God and to seek His way rather than my own. And as much as I didn’t want to put real clothes on and face my own vulnerability by making a public appearance, it was undeniable that the Spirit was wooing me to come.

Take up thy pregnant girth and follow Me.

And so I took my bath. I got ready. I made some biscuits for the potluck.

And right as the preaching began, I waddled into my home-away-from-home.

The minute I entered into that familiar room filled with familiar faces, I knew that God had been good to pursue me in this. I needed this time with my family. I needed their love and concern. I needed to hear the Word expounded.

I needed to trust in what the Bible says is good for me and not what I felt like I needed.

And as unimportant and gross and exhausted as I felt that Sunday morning, my church needed me, too. To see that I was okay. To use their gifts to minister to me. To be encouraged by my gifts. Such is the beauty of the body and every single one of its members. There is no doubt that I would have enjoyed my Sunday morning at home, but I was richly blessed by joining my local congregation to worship the God who made us a family in the first place. I might have gone home tired, but I was refreshed.

Again, attending church every Sunday isn’t some sort of mystical bullet on a spiritual to-do list that will earn you points in heaven….

but we should never underestimate how important each opportunity to “stir one another up” is and take advantage of those opportunities, whether it is easy and we are excited about it or whether it is difficult and as inconvenient as getting a pregnant lady out of her muumuu.

We don’t need to wait until we are healthy and well…sinless…perfect and put-together…strong. We need to go now, just as we are…

just like the guy who lays in the back of our sanctuary every Sunday night.

Let not conscience let you linger, nor of fitness fondly dream, all the fitness He requireth is to feel your need of Him. I will arise and go to Jesus, He will embrace me in His arms, in the arms of my dear Savior, oh there are ten thousand charms.

My Confession(s).

Not so very long ago, I sinned.

And it wasn’t the kind that was just between me and God, that I could quickly work out through private prayer and repentance; rather, from the get-go, it was glaringly obvious to my redeemed heart that I must confess my sin to the one I had sinned against and ask forgiveness…

in this case, my wonderful, sweet, kind, pure-hearted husband who, though he knows the very worst about me and loves me anyway, would be rightfully disappointed and saddened by my actions.

Kill me now.

And to make things worse, when I met him outside that very day to carry out my intentions, I chickened out and sort-of confessed before softening my sin with a blatant lie.

Heavy sigh. Now I had two sins to confess.

I carried them around for two entire weeks.

They sat like weighty bricks on my conscience, and I prayed for an opportunity to release these burdens…

but everytime the opportunity arose, the words stuck in my throat. I just couldn’t allow him to see me for who I really was.

“Tomorrow…” I thought, “I’ll do it tomorrow.”

Obviously, God was using the entire episode to teach me a great truth, because He pursued me like a hound, convicting me through sermons, hymns, Bible verses, and even other people’s facebook statuses; I could not escape the fact that I was meant to confess my sin to Mr. Gore, and I knew my soul would not rest until I obeyed.

Dang it.

Finally, in the most yellow-bellied act of all time, I sent my husband a facebook message with three confessions and three pleas for forgiveness…

1. My initial sin.

2. My lie about that sin.

3. For pathetically confessing all of the above via the internet.

When he later checked his messages and responded in the most gracious manner possible, I began to weep right there at my computer. And as tears ran down my face, great understanding about the art of confession flooded into my heart, things I had never seen or understood before that moment…

when it comes to sins against other people, verbal confession is vital to repentance. Even though I had talked to God plenty about what I had done wrong, until I obeyed His Word and made known my secret sin, I hadn’t truly dealt with it. And it wasn’t until I received that response from Mr. Gore that I was able to freely mourn over my initial disobedience in an honest and healthy way; it was so painful and so freeing at the same time and one of the most defining moments of my Christian life to date.

verbal confession is one of the greatest forms of accountability. The guilt I suffered those two long weeks, coupled with the awareness that my husband now knows new and grisly details about the state of my heart, is enough to keep me from committing that same sin possibly forever. It is easy to continue sinning when you hide (and thus, cherish) that sin in your heart. Making sin known, on the other hand, illuminates its true ugliness and helps you to hate it in the way you are intended to.

confession is good for everyone. It benefits no one for us to put on a façade of perfection, but when we confess our failings, it allows us to share love and forgiveness with our brothers and sisters, to grow in our relationships, to help one another along in the faith, and to build a firm foundation of obedience on the rock that is Jesus Christ. It is amazing what happens when Christians start being real with one another – we find that we are FAR from alone in our depravity, and we can then truly spur one another on to love and good works. This is exactly what my husband did for me, and it was life-changing.

and finally, confession is an exercise. Why was it so hard for me to confess that sin to my husband? Mainly, this: I have had very little practice. Confessing this type of sin out loud (er…on facebook) rather than just dealing with it inwardly, was a new thing for me, and I was as rusty at performing it as I would be doing curls at the gym. I have a feeling, however, that no matter how much I will probably always dread this exercise, it will grow easier and easier the more I employ it in my life…and maybe someday, I’ll be able to do it face-to-face rather than through a silly computer screen! Disciplining ourselves to do hard things is never fun, really, but my, it brings about the most glorious changes…

Obviously it was a big moment for me.

Fast forward a couple of months to yesterday morning…

I was having a really crummy day.

I was grouchy. Self-absorbed. Entitled. Unloving.

I was just being a real jerk.

Really.

And I knew it.

But the saddest thing was, I couldn’t scrape up enough care to even want to combat this sinfulness. I just wanted to wallow in it.

Lay in it like a pot-bellied pig.

I was being mean and sour on the outside, lazy on the inside, taking out whoever happened to cross my path, and even failing to smile at the people I passed at Wal-Mart. Usually I can at least be nice to strangers…

But I was especially hateful to my family.

And I hated every second of it.

Finally, by the sweet grace of God that never fails me, I was drawn out of this attitude, at least enough to start trying to beat it, even though the inward battle was still raging, and by late afternoon, I was privately talking to God about my failings and my desperate need for patience with the little children He has entrusted to me.

Phooey on it!” I thought, as I washed white paint off of Gideon and Rebekah in my bathtub (deja vu, anyone?), “just be honest with them. Confess your sins, woman!”

“You guys…” I blurted out, “I am really, really grouchy today, and I am so sorry about that. Will you forgive me?”

“Yes,” Gideon matter-of-factly replied, “how could we not forgive our Mom?”

“Yeah…” said Rebekah, as I lifted her out of the tub and wrapped her in a bathtowel, “how could we not forgive our Mom? We love you!!”

And with those words, she threw her soft, damp arms around my neck and covered my face with kisses.

Heart bubbling over with love and gratitude, I returned her embrace and we rocked back and forth on the wet bathroom tile, my sin forgiven and forgotten, my weary soul drinking deeply of the healing power of confession as the open wounds of my struggling heart were closed up by the exuberant love and forgiveness of my family.

That’s some heartbreakingly beautiful stuff right there.

Of course, my prayer is to continually sin less and less, but as we make this pilgrimage together, I also pray that our home will continue to grow into a place of honesty and transparency, where we can lay our souls bare, knowing that forgiveness and reconciliation are just a confession away.

Mrs. Gore Says Y-Y-Y-Y-Yes to No-No-Stress VBS

We are returning back to earth after a week of Vacation Bible School, and while it is fresh on my mind, I wanted to share a quick word with my fellow brethren and sisterns about this most important week on the church calendar…

What gives you the authority to speak on any subject, let alone one as important and all-encompassing as Vacation Bible School? you ask?

Well, two things…

1. I am Mrs. Gore, first lady of my church.

2. I happen to attend (BY THE AMAZING GRACE OF GOD) a church body that is super laidback and kind, one that a) has the most non-stressful VBS I’ve ever heard of and b) has no problem with their pastor’s wife addressing herself as “the first lady”. (or if they do, they keep it on the down low).

To prove my point, let me show you a picture of our VBS decoration.

That’s right, I said decoration.

Not decorations, plural.

Decoration. Singular.

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I got so tickled everytime I saw this inflatable car. To promote our Bible School, our director (and my truly incredible friend), Chrissy, had it hanging from a string in the foyer (and my kids were obsessed with it…).

And then when it was time for VBS, she moved it on the stage of the sanctuary in front of the promotional VBS poster that came with our curriculum (after she cut the Sharpie-written dates and times off the bottom of the poster).

And I knew things had completely gotten out of hand when I noticed my 2-year old daughter sitting on that car, rocking it back and forth, and saying “Wheeeeee!”

Who knew a VBS decoration could bring such joy and multi-faceted entertainment to the children of our church? It’s a ceiling fixture. It’s a centerpiece. It’s a ride. Our inflatable car knew no bounds, really.

Okay, okay, I might be exaggerating a little bit. It wasn’t our only decoration. There was also some crepe paper and some posters and some sheets and tablecloths draped over stuff. Between Sunday and Monday, while I was at home chasing after the chaos that is my family, several very sweet and hard-working ladies (including Chrissy) gave up their time  and energy to turn our church into a welcoming, festive and kid-friendly atmosphere.

But my point is – and what that car represented to me all week – Vacation Bible School, a week that can sadly be known for its drama and stress and division and expense, can…and SHOULD…and MUST…be a week of simplicity, fun, unity, togetherness, and most importantly, gospel love.

And if it is not all of the above, then my, my, MY, are we missing the forest for the trees…

And this past Sunday night, as I watched the children of our church (and several from the community) cluster around my husband on the stage, answering impromptu questions about what they had learned this week, singing a few great hymns and a few fun songs, feeling comfortable and happy and doted upon in their church home, I was so pleased at what God has done among us.

The tension that can sometimes surround weeks like VBS and church camp and every single extra-biblical event just doesn’t exist.

And the stiffness of a stilted and nervous performance at the end of the week is not necessary.

But most importantly, more and more with each passing week, church feels as warm and cozy as…home.

Such was the atmosphere of our entire week together, and even though we were dead on our feet by 8:30 p.m. each night, it was glorious and the kind of stuff from which the sweetest memories are made.

And get this…aside from the nightly meals we shared together, the entire week cost us about $200. Get out, Jack!

And so I simply wanted to encourage you today. If you have the time and talent, if it brings you joy and peace, and if it helps you to meditate on the coming week of ministry, feel free to completely trick-out your VBS rooms with the coolest decorations you can dream of.

Likewise, when you are planning the format of your VBS – night or morning, 3 hours or 4 hours, meals or no meals – maintaining a spirit of love and unity, feel free to continue to do things as you’ve always done them or completely change the way you’ve done things before.

But if you find yourself getting edgy…

getting snippy…

sharing unkind and unnecessary opinions…

growing bitter at everyone else for not doing what you do…

feeling annoyed in any way at your church family…

fighting for your way more than you are working toward grace and unity…

take a step back and remember what weeks like VBS are supposed to be about: having fun, sharing the gospel, teaching young hearts, enjoying the brotherhood, and, mostly, saving young mothers like me from going off-the-charts insane in the midst of long summer days of heat and boredom.

Simple as that.

Regardless of what curriculum you use, let these things be the ANNUAL theme of your Vacation Bible School, and I promise you, it will be a roaring and happy success.

For, true to John 13:35, the children you are ministering to will be won to Christ FAR more by your love for one another than by the impressive and grandiose whirligigs you built in the church foyer or the tick-tock-timely manner in which your schedule runs. You can have all of the above, but never, ever sacrifice the former for the latter.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to conclude this happy ending by riding off into the sunset in my inflatable VBS car.

~

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The June Bride Rejoices

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I didn’t realize it until this past week, but it sometimes causes me great trepidation that what I share here at Mrs. Gore’s Diary will cause a reader, perhaps walking through suffering or experiencing a life very different than mine, to experience discontentment or frustration with their own life…

And my trepidation is so great that I often hold back for fear of wounding a soul in distress who happens upon my words.

Will the single woman be saddened by my glowing endorsement of marriage?

Will the childless woman feel pain when I describe the more glorious aspects of motherhood?

Will someone mistake my blessings as luck, or worse, God being nicer to me than He is to them?

It pains me to even think of it.

And as a result, I sometimes filter my happiest moments, for fear of adding to the potential hardships of my sisters in the faith.

But the thought came upon me this past week that, while my heart is pure in those thoughts, I might be doing a disservice to the path God has set my feet upon and that, in a world that is ever attacking the family, and marriage, and motherhood, and femininity, I should speak more honestly and comprehensively about my life, even on my very best days. As much as I strive to remain transparent in my struggles as a wife and mother, so I should strive to remain transparent in my joys and triumphs.

If I am going to consider honesty one of the most important aspects of my writing, then…I must be honest through and through, yes?

It was good – or more likely, supernatural – timing, for my heart is extremely full tonight, and for good reason…

Mr. Gore.

Our days with little ones are hectic. Distracting. Busy.

During our courtship, we had little more to do than see every movie that was released and work really hard at not fornicating. But these days…well, we’re wiping kids and looking for missing shoes and strapping babies and toddlers into carseats and peeling and slicing apples and running up and down and up and down and up and down the stairs and breaking up fights and, basically, working around the clock, not only to keep our 3 little ones alive and healthy, but to train them in the fear and knowledge of God and to lead them in the ways of Christ.

Exhausting.

Bringing up children is without a doubt the hardest work I have ever done, and Mr. Gore is right there alongside me, working as hard as I am.

Therefore, on most nights, after finally tucking our ragamuffins into bed, we quite literally collapse into two separate heaps in the living room, me on our old antique settee (with springs that poke me in the bottom), him in our favorite leather chair, and, aided by our favorite sitcom of the moment, we allow ourselves to just relax and melt into the deliciously quiet evening.

And it just happens. The days are so full and the nights become so habitual that…sometimes I forget to think about him.

Oh, I kiss him goodbye and I welcome him home and I laugh at his jokes and I work by his side and I cuddle up next to him at night, but somehow, in the midst of living, I can fail to ponder and relish the gift of…him.

But the other night, I had this dream. I was contractually bound to another man in an old-fashioned betrothal, but I was madly in love with Mr. Gore. And he was in love with me. Separated from him in my dream, and intent on being with him forever, my heart – the real one, not the dream one – must have quickened within me, and as I continued to sleep and eventually view our happy and triumphant ending, my eyes were miraculously pulled out of the fog of our daily routine, and I woke up with an incredibly happy heart, one that was focused and fixated on this man who has stood faithfully beside me through nearly 8 years of marriage.

I woke up in love.

And my, it felt so good to go about my regular duties with a lovesong in my heart, one that saw beyond the work I was doing and was intentionally and singularly focused on one of the greatest gifts God has given me.

My husband.

My partner.

My best friend.

He knows more about the ugliest parts of my heart than anyone else on the planet, and he loves me anyway. He has seen me at my most raw and vulnerable and he doesn’t scorn me the next day. He has heard my grittiest confessions, and he freely forgives, every time.

And, though human and as prone to failure as the rest of us, he strives to love me as Christ loves the church.

And that is my favorite part of our love story, and one that I am now committed to proclaiming, not that we’ve stumbled into some kind of Disney-prince-and-princess-happily-ever-after, but that our faithfulness to one another and our enjoyment of our married state points to something far more beautiful than the fleeting and emotional love that this world seeks so doggedly after and always fails to find…

it points to something higher. Something truer. And something very, very lovely.

Redemption.

Salvation.

Sanctification.

Grace.

Because, without the grace of God, and built on anything other than the truth of Scripture, our marriage would be nothing more than a roll of the dice, hinging on how we woke up feeling that day and whether or not we had a good dream during the night.

It is that great grace, undeservedly given, that enables us to choose to love each other. For life.

I don’t know about you, but I think that makes the story of Aladdin and Jasmine seem kind of lame in comparison. Magic carpet ride…meh.

That lovesong in my heart only continues to increase as our 8th wedding anniversary draws nigh.

A couple of days ago, I watched my favorite movie with my kids, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and the “June Bride” song that our entire wedding was built around brought back so many cherished memories that I was practically a puddle of sentimentality by the time the movie was over.

And so if you don’t mind, I’d like to revisit some of those memories here in the weeks to come.

Not to make you gag.

Not to make you pine.

Not to make it seem like my life is all sunshine and flowers and roses…

but to recount how faithful God has been to two people who were conceived in sin and came into this world hating the Light.

Let us all start cherishing and celebrating our marriages, not because we are “lucky in love”, but because they can be one of the most beautiful tools used to point a dying world to a very living Savior.

Especially those of us who married in June…

Holy Week (3).

On Easter Sunday morning, our church congregated a bit early to share breakfast together, forgoing our regular Sunday School classes for one joint class following our potluck meal.

Brother Ralph, our retried missionary from Tanzania, led us in study, and opened the class with a question: “Would anyone like to share a memorable Easter?”

A few shared funny stories, and sweet memories of years gone by, and then Ralph told us what Easter had been like in Tanzania…

It was the biggest holiday of the year, he said, and the celebration lasted for FOUR days.

“Wow…” I thought to myself, “four days! That would be amazing…”

But then I started doing a little mental calculating, and realized that WE had spent four days celebrating Easter this year, and I had to thank God on the spot for working in us, even when we aren’t being intentionally…well, intentional.

Because, Easter, in the past 3 years alone, has been transformed into one of the most substantive weeks of our year, and I kid you not when I confess that I had little to do with it. We’ve just kind of naturally followed the Spirit’s leading, and the result has been eye-opening and all kinds of wonderful, to say the least. I love that about the Spirit of God, condescending to work in you when you never would have changed a thing in the first place!

And so, very quickly and with few words (and lots of pictures), I thought I would share how our 4-day celebration is starting to look. I do so mostly for those of you just starting out in this whole family living stuff, in the hopes that you will glean inspiration for shaping your traditions sooner rather than later…

but with the following disclaimer: I am in no way an expert and none of my parenting endeavors have been proven successful – my oldest child is 6! My kids are mostly still heathens, I am still learning to fall out of love with materialism, and I have no reason to believe that in the next 3 years, our Easter “traditions” will not change as much as they have in these past 3 years. For all I know, in 2016, we will no longer be doing any of the things we are doing now!

But this is where God has us now, and this is working for us now, and we are so pleased with it. For now.

Now…let’s get started.

{Oh, and up there when I said I would do this very quickly and with few words? I changed my mind. I can’t do anything on the blogosphere with few words…but then, you already knew that, didn’t you?}

Day 1: As I’ve shared in the past, to commemorate Good Friday, we all dress in black and spend the day together, cooking, reading, playing, singing hymns…it is a solemn and sweet day, and to try to express the joint gravity and joy of this holy day to our very young children, I had them take a happy picture (Gideon was supposed to be smiling!)…

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and a sad picture…

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Miss Sunday took hers a little far, though, and wept and mourned…

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but…you get the point. We rejoice in the sacrifice that was made on our behalf! But we cry over our sin and that we would choose death and destruction everytime without the work of Christ.

And to further instill these truths into my children’s hearts, I put away all their toys and only allowed them to play with the bones of dead animals.

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Just kidding. That just happened, and I thought it was funny and ironic so I took a picture. All the toys are still on the porch.

And we don’t usually play with skulls.

Just sometimes.

Moooo-ving on, that night, we met with our church family for a Good Friday service and communion. Rebekah so longingly gazed at “the Lord’s feast” (as she has dubbed it) and said “why is it taking me so long to grow up?! Can I take the Lord’s feast when I am 26?!” To which Gideon replied, “You can’t take the feast until your heart’s fixed! Your heart’s not fixed.” To which Rebekah cried and cried.

(This story was topped by Amy’s, whose 3-year old daughter, Kate, yelled out during their Good Friday service, “I want to drink Jesus’ blood!!”)

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We followed this service by a churchwide meal at our friends Zac and Chrissy’s house. What a sweet, sweet night, enjoying the bounty of brotherhood and fellowship on the day our sin was atoned for.

Day 2: The next day  (Saturday) was spent making Hot Cross buns and, after naptime, the children made “good news” pictures saying “Jesus is alive!” Once everything was finished, we strolled down our street and delivered the buns and pictures to our neighbors. This sort of just happened at the last minute, but it will definitely be something we do every year now.

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When we came home, we sat in the living room floor and ate as many Hot Cross buns as our tummies could hold and read the Easter story together before singing some of our favorite hymns. This was one of the best days I’ve ever spent with my little family. I had been wondering what to do on this empty day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, and God so graciously took care of that for me, in a sweet and simple way that just bowled me over.

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Day 3: Like I mentioned earlier, the next morning – HAPPY EASTER! – we met with our church family for a potluck breakfast, followed by a group Sunday School class, followed by worship. I’m speechless when it comes to this morning spent with this group of people I would have little in common with were it not for the blood of Jesus that binds us together…for eternity! Because of Him, we can be one, and we can point the world around us to the cross by our love for one another. That’s too beautiful, don’t you think?

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After that, we went to an amazing Easter picnic and egg hunt at my Mama’s house (I will share more on this in the future) where we spent the day with family and friends, enjoying love, delicious food, our freedom, our hope, and some truly beautiful Spring weather…

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This picture that I snapped of Rebekah on our egg hunt in the woods says it all…she was just sitting there by a tree with a happy little smile on her face. My heart felt exactly the same way.

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oh, and we finally colored some eggs, just for fun!

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Day 4: And the next morning (Monday), we finished up our week with a “Life Abundant” party. This party is my way of utilizing those fun Easter traditions I grew up with, but in a way that doesn’t interfere with our Holy Week observations, rather, that works with them fluidly and comprehensively.

It was a really fun morning with our children, eating a special breakfast as a family, giving them Spring gifts and candy, reading Spring and Easter books, and hunting eggs in our backyard. And it’s funny…I’ve struggled over how to  fit “the Easter Bunny” (a truly special old friend of mine) into our celebration…but guess what? He didn’t even come up in our conversation this year. The baskets were set out, just like normal, but the kids rightly assumed they were from us. And, in accordance with all we told our kids that week, we shared with them that the purpose of this party was to celebrate our new life, and that Jesus truly is ALIVE! We also told them that, just because we follow Jesus, doesn’t mean life will always be easy and that we will get “stuff” like Easter baskets full of candy…but that if we do receive any blessings, they are from Him, and that we are free to celebrate and enjoy life as a family because of what He did on the cross. This was a day of rejoicing. Of living. Of enjoying life and life abundant.

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As an adult, it has bugged me that I always gave Christmas all of my time and thought and, by my actions, made it out to be so much more awesome and important than Easter, but, by the grace of God, that is beginning to change for us, and Easter is becoming the crowning week of our year.

God is truly good.

Easter is the BEST.

Oh…and Jesus IS alive!

~

Do you have any traditions to share with our expectant mothers, young families, or anyone looking to make their Easter more meaningful? Even if you have shared over at the facebook page, please share again. We’d all love to hear from you!

Holy Week (2).

Sitting on the tiled seat of our walk-in shower, I watched Rebekah’s hands and arms as she slathered them up with the leftover sliver of Dove soap. Her motions were part girl, part baby, and I drank in the precious sight of her soft, slightly chubby body as the water cleansed a day of play and food and preschool living away…

So young.

So sweet.

So naive and trusting.

And as I heard the (albeit halting) strains of my husband practicing the Getty’s “Communion Hymn” at the piano in our bedroom nearby, my thoughts were drawn to our Maker.

This week we are doing our best to observe “Holy Week”, contemplating the greatest sacrifice history has ever known and one which our human hearts can barely begin to understand. 2000+ years ago, He was preparing for the agony of not only a painful physical death, but for the inconceivable reality of meeting and receiving the full wrath of a holy God.

Propitiation.

To save a race that couldn’t – wouldn’t – recognize Him when He was here in the flesh.

To save a people who loved darkness so much that they would abuse and mock and murder to get Him – and His Words – out of their sight.

To save a woman who has known and experienced His love and forgiveness for a near lifetime but continues to house a weak faith, timorous trust, and is as “prone to wander” as the most wayward sheep in the fold.

To save her family.

Her husband.

Her children…

Amazing love! How can it be?

2000+ years later, as I have the freedom and the leisure to enjoy an afternoon moment with my baby girl, my heart set free from its shackles, my eternity secure, my life complete, my hope bright, I have nothing left to do but praise Him.

Heart trembling with gratitude, I wrapped Rebekah into a towel and lifted her into my arms. She laid her head on my shoulder and I held her close, rocking back and forth to the tinkering of the piano as my heart sang along to the music…

Behold the Lamb who bears our sins away,
Slain for us – and we remember
The promise made that all who come in faith
Find forgiveness at the cross.
So we share in this bread of life,
And we drink of His sacrifice
As a sign of our bonds of peace
Around the table of the King.

The body of our Saviour Jesus Christ,
Torn for you – eat and remember
The wounds that heal, the death that brings us life
Paid the price to make us one.
So we share in this bread of life,
And we drink of His sacrifice
As a sign of our bonds of love
Around the table of the King.

The blood that cleanses every stain of sin,
Shed for you – drink and remember
He drained death’s cup that all may enter in
To receive the life of God.
So we share in this bread of life,
And we drink of His sacrifice
As a sign of our bonds of grace
Around the table of the King.

And so with thankfulness and faith we rise
To respond, – and to remember
Our call to follow in the steps of Christ
As His body here on earth.
As we share in His suffering
We proclaim Christ will come again!
And we’ll join in the feast of heaven
Around the table of the King.

“Behold the Lamb (Communion Hymn)”                                                                                                 by Keith and Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend

By His grace, I remember.

I will teach it to my children.

I will strive to make our life about Him and not us.

I will do my best to write it upon our doorposts.

May He continually write it upon our hearts.

He Hides the Brightness of His Face (but I Will Never Give Up My Shield)

True to the nature of Small Elephant, I’ve been making a lot of self-deprecating jokes about the manic (and starving) version of myself since learning I am pregnant with my 4th child.

(especially on my facebook page – if you haven’t joined us there yet, you should! We have so much fun! At least I do…)

In the near future, I’ll be writing up some longer posts about my 1st trimester hilarity, and I look forward to gathering up all those stories into one place so I can reflect on (and laugh about) what a tumultuous and humorous 3 months this has been…

but, if I’m being honest, it hasn’t been all laughter, and, while Mr. Gore and I joke often about how I am a caricature of a real person, the struggles I have faced, especially in this past month, have been very real, very gritty, and very indicative of my fallen and weak human nature.

Aside from that unexpected scare we experienced a couple of weeks ago (that turned out to be nothing a’tall, thank God!), the past six weeks have been rough as I have fought nearly constant nausea and fatigue while trying to run a household and a homeschool, and on a much deeper level, have tried to maintain a biblical Christian attitude while operating under a very dark cloud of self-loathing (I don’t love myself very much when I am not properly cleaned and groomed), irritability, and hormonal upheaval.

As I have grown in my faith over the past decade, my deepest struggles while pregnant have changed from physical discomfort and vanity issues to heavy spiritual battles as I wage war on this intensified version of my already sinful self.

It is…exhausting.

Because what I understand more and more is this: no matter how badly I feel, and no matter how great the temptation is to be snippy with my husband or short-tempered with my kids, I must strive to glorify God by obeying His Word and, by His grace, seek to overcome my lazy and selfish and sinful desires. It doesn’t matter if they are brought on by pregnant hormonal fluctuations; they still must be done away with and surrendered to Christ!

And so my nights of late have been filled with tearful prayers for the grace of God to cover me, and to make this road easier. I plead that He will allow my feet to hurt and my back to ache worse than ever if He will only keep my love and compassion shining brightly in my heart. I cry out for the ability to be anything but self-absorbed and to be so focused on taking care of others that I won’t even notice my own discomfort…

But sometimes we are simply called to walk through valleys and to experience dark days, and sanctification can be a brutal process.

And over the course of the month, after being away from my church body and the preaching of the Word (due to the kids or myself being sick), and after too many successive days of failure and solitary confinement, I began to drown in that darkness as I listened to the lies of my heart.

It all culminated one night as Mr. Gore and I were readying for bed. I had been focusing on how little I had been able to accomplish, and how meager my contributions, even to my tiny little family, had been, and I began to cry. “Do you ever feel like the most selfish person in the world?” I asked my husband.

He tried to comfort me, but I was on a roll, and I finally confessed what had been sitting heavy on my heart all day: “I just think that, if I were never to show up at church again, no one would suffer for the loss. I know people would miss me, but…my not being there wouldn’t really change anything.”

I realize now what a lie that was, but, in my sad introspective state, I wasn’t thinking clearly. I felt far from God, far from my loved ones, and, as hippy-dippy as this sounds, far from myself. “I don’t even know who I am anymore!” I cried one night.

And I share all of the above for this one reason…

God is faithful.

And even when you are groping about, and you lose sight of your purpose and you lose your joy and you are just trying to survive moment by moment, there will come a day when…

you will feel better. You will join once more with your church family, and your hugs will be so heartfelt, and you will tear up as you hear how much you were missed and how many people were praying for you. Your heart will nearly burst as you hear the Word taught and preached, because you will remember that, yes! This is all true, and I have an identity in this remnant, and this is my life! You will rejoice in the God who made you and who sustains you and who never gives you more than you can bear. And somehow, someway, you will find yourself feeling grateful, even for the darkness you just walked through, because you will never forget that God was there and He did not allow your foot to slip. And you will sing, like you’ve never sang before…

After a soul-stirring sermon that just ripped me apart and made my spirit leap, our beloved brother, Ben, led us in a song that, for me, could not have been more meaningful or more timely:

Away my unbelieving fear,

Fear shall in me no more take place,

My Savior doth not yet appear,

He hides the brightness of his face.

But shall I therefore let him go,

And basely to the tempter yield?

No, in the strength of Jesus, no

I never will give up my shield.

~

Although the vine its fruit deny,

Although, the olive yield no oil,

The withering fig-tree droop and die,

The field elude the tiller’s toil,

The empty stall no herd afford,

And perish all the bleating race,

Yet will I triumph in the Lord,

The God of my salvation praise.

~

Barren although my soul remain

And not one bud of grace appear,

No fruit of all my toil and pain,

But sin and only sin is here.

Although my gifts and comforts lost,

My blooming hopes cut off I see,

Yet will I in my Savior trust,

And glory that he died for me.

~

In hope believing, against hope,

Jesus my Lord, my God I claim,

Jesus my strength shall lift me up,

Salvation is in Jesus’ name,

To me he soon shall bring it nigh,

My soul shall soon out-strip the wind,

On wings of love mount up on high,

And leave the world and sin behind.

(lyrics by Charles Wesley)

~

Oh, friends. As I sat in my pew with my cheek resting on Rebekah’s golden hair, my voice, my heart, and my tears joined together to offer these words to God, and my soul was once more at rest.

I am not yet brave enough to ask for discomfort or suffering, but, after today, I am convinced of this…

the Light is one hundred times more beautiful after you’ve walked for a spell in the dark.