Friday, March 18, 2011

The road to pastor's wife

First, I will start with saying that one of the things that gets me into so much trouble at church is that I am extremely authentic.  I have a very hard time faking it!  I think that can be a good trait but at times it really does not serve me well.  I wear my feelings and mood all over my face!  So, like my day to day life, I am going to be as authentic as possible on my blog and pray that it does not get me into any trouble!

I guess it would be a good idea to tell the story about how I became a pastor's wife to start with.  I met my husband, Sam, when I was 18 years old.  He was one of the resident advisers in my freshman co-ed dorm at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, Ga.  He says he noticed me the first day when I checked in.  He is and always has been a man of few words.  So it took him a while to talk to me.  One of my very first memories of him is when he came to my door and told me that he knew my social security number.  Back then they used that as your student id as well.  He was right, he had memorized it.  He has had it memorzied ever since then and it drives him crazy that after 10 years of marriage, I have to call him every time I am at the doctor filling out insurance forms to get his number.  Since he was an RA he had that information, honestly I thought it was a little freaky at the time but, he was a nice guy.  I also liked that he would look the other way when my friends and I came in from a night of hanging out in the bars downtown.    Yes, even some pastor's and pastor's wives have college partying stories.  Anyway, we would talk in the lobby sometimes and I thought he was very sweet. 

One night we ran into each other downtown and talked.  He had to walk a friend home and left early.  As he left he leaned over and kissed me.  I was really starting to like him.  By Christmas break we had gotten to know each other and I had shared with him that over the break I was going to have to have surgery.  I had found a lump in my breast at 18 years old just a few months earlier.  The doctors did not think it was serious but it still needed to be removed and biopsied.  We talked a lot over the phone.  I was at home in Woodstock and he was at home in Athens.  On the day of my surgery he even sent me flowers.   By the way, it turned out to be totally benign.  But, I had really given him the impression that I wanted to start dating after we returned to school.  But, being a very immature college freshman I came back with other very confusing plans.  I think about it now and laugh at myself.  I had two boy friends in high school so, when I came back to school that spring semester, I went to talk to Sam to tell him I was going to date my old boy friend back in Woodstock again however, I was actually wearing a fraternity t-shirt of the other boy friend who dumped me when he went to college.  Sam knew I had had some communication with him too.  Sam, has since told me that he thought I was very confused.  Anyway, the point is that I really hurt his feelings.  He ended up pledging a fraternity and moved out of the dorm.  So we really didn't talk much after that. 

That summer I went back home but returned to Milledgeville in the middle of the summer for freshman orientation.  I was a student ambassador and working as an orientation leader.  I met up one evening with some of my Delta Zeta sisters at the bar downtown.  Sam was there and he was hanging out with one of MY sorority sisters.  I was surprised at the feelings of jealousy that came up.  I went back home that weekend and then returned again weeks later for the fall semester. 

I would run into Sam on campus and at Greek events and socials.  At Relay for Life that fall we ran into each other again.  We had both signed up for the same time slots to walk with our fraternity and sorority.  So we spend most of the night walking and talking.  I shared with him that the guy I was dating back at home wanted to give me a promise ring but that I really did not love him.  He urged me not to take it and to end the relationship if I felt that way.  I think about it now and can't imagine how hard it was for him to listen to me talk about another guy.  He was and still is a patient man.  All of his advice was selfless and I knew that he truly wanted what was best for me whether that included a relationship with him or not.  I took his advice and ended that relationship for good. 

Sam and I started dating some but still being the immature college sophomore that year, I told him that I was not quite ready to settle into a relationship and date only one person.  I told you he is a patient man, right?  One night my sorority had a "date dash" social.  I called him to see if he wanted to go but he had to work.  So I invited a guy from another fraternity that I had been talking to a little.  This is when Sam started to get a little impatient.  Later that same week I was out with my sorority delivering jack-o-lanterns to all the fraternity and sororities for Halloween.  When we got to the KA house, I saw Sam sitting on the  porch with some of his brothers.  He was obviously mad at me and made some crack about how all I needed was to date one more guy from another fraternity and I would be dating a guy in every one.

I think this was when I realized just how strongly he felt about me.  I started to have stronger feelings for him.  By the end of the month I was feeling like I was ready for a relationship.  On October 27, 1998,  I met up with him at the bar downtown.  We were sitting together talking when I told him that I was ready to date one person and that I wanted that person to be him.  We have been together ever since.  Although it has not always been easy.  We certainly had some ups and downs in our relationship. 

As our relationship grew and became more serious, Sam came to me one day with something very serious to share.  By this time I was totally in love with the man.  He told me that he had felt called to ministry since he was fifteen years old and that if we were going to be in a serious relationship that he wanted it to be grounded in the Lord and that he had to be true to his calling.  I was a little surprised since we had spent the first few months of our dating relationship on the party scene with our fraternity and sorority.  But, you see, this was never really me anyway.  I knew what he meant because I had been raised in a Christian home too.  Both of us were obviously just living out the typical college party days but, our hearts were not really in it. We stopped hanging out in the bars and making some changes in our lives and relationship.

Sam graduated that summer and took a job as the part-time youth pastor at Milledgeville First United Methodist church.  I was still in school and active in my sorority.  I also enjoyed helping him out at the church with the youth and even got some of my sorority sisters involved.  We continued to grow in our relationship and our faith.  We started talking about marriage and even started looking at rings!  He had also started the candidacy process, the beginning step to ordination in the UMC.  Soon the part-time youth job turned into a full-time job and we started thinking about seminary.  We went to talk to my pastor at Hillside UMC about Emory University's Candler School of Theology.  He said that he would tell us about Candler but, that he really wanted to tell us about Asbury Seminary in Wilmore, Ky.  We listened and liked what we heard so we scheduled a visit.  Little did I know that Sam was working on my ring and really wanted to propose there since we really had a strong feeling that we would end up at Asbury.  However, he could not get the ring in time.  We left Wilmore feeling pretty confident that he would attend seminary there after I finished my degree.

On October 28, 1999, Sam took me out and we walked all over campus and he retold the story of our relationship.  He took me to all the places on campus that we had shared special moments.  Finally we ended up back at the church where he got down on his knee at the altar in the sanctuary with a beautiful diamond ring sitting inside his open Bible and asked me to marry him.  Of course I said yes! Surprisingly, my parent's agreed to let us get married even though I would have a year of college left after the wedding. They made us promise that I would finish.  In our minds not finishing was never an option.  It was a given that I would finish and I did!

I decided to take the fall semester of our wedding off and moved back home that summer to finish planning.  We were married on October 14, 2000.  We had a beautiful wedding surrounded and supported by our friends and family.  I returned to school the spring semester to finish the year I had left. 

During that year Sam continued to work as a youth pastor.  The challenges of ministry had begun before we were even married.  People already had expectations of me before I even married the man.  There was a youth parent who for what ever reason did not think I was suitable for Sam.  The week before our wedding she went to his office to tell him that she thought maybe he should not marry me and that she was afraid that I would not be supportive of him or good for his ministry.  And not long before we moved to Kentucky she pulled me out from a youth meeting to tell me how terrible I was and how I had a terrible attitude and really did nothing for the youth group and that I would most likely hinder my husband's ministry forever.  It was very hurtful and I believe this is where a lot of my issues and baggage with church and ministry began.  Even during some of our recent struggles in our church now, I flash back to that day on the side walk in downtown Milledgeville listening to that parent tearing me down at 21 years old. 

I graduated in Dec. 2001 a little over a year after we were married.  We had visited Asbury Seminary one more time shortly after the wedding and it was confirmed to us that we needed to move to Kentucky.  So on Jan 1, 2002, with $2,000 in savings and no jobs, we moved into seminary housing at Asbury.  It was so cold and there was snow on the ground.  We got the keys to our little cinder block one bedroom duplex from the Beeson Manor on campus.  I could not understand a word that the man at the desk said.  When we left I asked my dad, what country he thought he was from and he cracked up saying, "honey he is just from up north."  I realized that I had been in my middle Georgia southern bubble way too long!  We got to the duplex and went inside where I realized that there was NO refrigerator!  WHAT!  I panicked and my mom assured me that she would get us a fridge the next day.  Whew! I still needed my mom and dad even though I was a grown married woman!  I was scared and excited about our new life but, it seemed so far from home!    The goal the next week was for me to find a full-time job and Sam to find a part-time work study or something.  I interviewed for two jobs on campus and by Feb. I had been offered one in the Seminary Advancement office.  It was great because I would be on campus working while Sam was in class.  He would drop by and see me, we would have lunch together and go to chapel every week. 

That summer, we got new neighbors in our duplex.  Ben and Julie were from Ohio and Michigan.  Julie, was a labor and delivery nurse and ended up taking care of me several times when I was in the hospital with Ashlyn.  She even helped me deliver her.  She will always be special to me because of that!  Seminary housing was a wonderful and unique community.  On the other side of us were Brian and Charity with their 4 children.  We used to go over and play cards with them after they put the kids to bed.  They were and are excellent parents and we could only hope and pray to be as good someday!  On my bad mommy days, I still remember Charity lovingly telling me that being a mom is not always the fairy tale you see in the movies and that it's hard but totally worth while and fulfilling. 

See, at Asbury the way it goes is that if you come to campus single you will leave married and if you come married with out children, you will have a couple of babies while you are there.  It was not long after we arrived until baby fever set in.  EVERYONE around me was pregnant!  I always knew that I wanted to be a mom sooner in life rather than later.  We literally had the "let's have a baby talk" and two weeks later a home test turned up positive.  We were very excited, however my mom and the rest of my family, thought we were nuts.  I can kind of understand from her prospective now that I am a mom of two daughters myself.  I mean I had barely been out of college for 6 months.  I had a great pregnancy up until about 30 weeks when I went into preterm labor.  The seminary community surrounded us with prayers, food, and even donated their vacation and sick time to me while I was on bed rest.  Our first baby, Ashlyn Elizabeth Hamby, was born on January 28, 2003.  She was born at 36 weeks and 5 days after 5 weeks on complete bed rest.  We were so happy to have a healthy almost full-term baby! 

The plan was for me to go back to work full-time at the seminary and for Ashlyn to go to the Wilmore Daycare.  Soon after I brought my baby girl home, I knew that I was not going to be able to put her in daycare.  We began to explore our options and the only thing we could come up with was for Sam to take a student appointment.  Since the North Georgia Conference of the UMC really encouraged this, it seemed like the perfect solution.  We had hoped to get an appointment close to campus but that did not work out as planned and we ended up having to move away from the community that we loved so much when Ashlyn was 6 months old.  I have alot of mixed feelings about this now.  I LOVED Wilmore and our life there.  I still struggle with regret for leaving that community because I felt like we went there to prepare for ministry, to grow in our faith, and to be ready for what was to come in our future ministries.  I feel like we missed out on some of that.  But, at the same time, had Sam not taken a student appointment, it is very likely that he would have been deferred when he met with the Board of Ordained Ministry once he completed his studies.  This could have meant no job when we returned to Georgia.  So I was thrust into the role of "pastor's wife" at 23 years old.  Not only that but I was also a new mom.  I think about it now and wonder how in the world I survived. 

That June we moved to Westview, Ky. over two hours away from Wilmore.  Let me tell you I love love love the Lexington/Wilmore area but, outside of that and Louisville, there nothing else in that state.  We were in the middle of nowhere.  I had to drive an hour to the mall, doctor, hospital and 30 minutes or more to get to the Super Walmart.  That was hard for this suburban Atlanta girl.  Sam would get up and leave on Tues. morning and head to Wilmore for class.  He would not return until Thurs.evening.  I was so isolated.  I knew no one.  There were some Sunday's when I would go to church and realize that I had not left the house since the prior Sunday.  Our parsonage was right across from the church.  While our churches, it was a two point charge, were very sweet, it was the type of place that was hard to get accepted in if you had not been there your whole life.  But, it did provide us with a place to live and an income.  They even paid our utilities which is not usually the case in a parsonage situation.  I was just very lonely and fell into a pretty deep depression!  While we were serving there, we had our second child Aaron Daniel Hamby.  He was born at 38 weeks on January 19, 2005.  It was a very rough delivery since my epidural did not work.  I think because I was already depressed the post par tum hormones sent me into an even deeper depression.  Plus right before Aaron was born, I lost my granddad, who was very dear to me!  It was hard because I was in Kentucky on bed rest again for pre-term labor.  I could not even be with my family for the funeral and our church really did not reach out to us much!  I was released from the hospital on Thanksgiving day.  Sam went to Kroger and brought home a frozen Thanksgiving dinner.  It is hard when your husband has to leave you at important moments to go and attend to the needs of his people and then when you need to be ministered to, there is no one there!   I was very much looking forward to our move back to Georgia that June!

June arrived, Sam graduated from Asbury with his Master of Divinity and we load up all of our stuff and our kids and headed home finally!  I was ready!  Sam had been approved by the board and we were given an appointment in South Cobb county.  He was commissioned as a probationary elder that year at annual conference.  It was a nice church, but they were stuck in the 1950s and really struggled to do relevant ministry to the community around them.  Sam was frustrated! I was frustrated!  We felt called to grow our family once again while we were at that church but, this time it was not as easy.  I was referred to a fertility specialist after trying to get pregnant for a year.  It was then that I was diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome.  They put me on the lowest dose of clomid and I got pregnant right away with TWINS!  Sadly, I lost both babies.  Again, we found ourselves in need of being ministered too.  I will never forget when Sam told me of a gentleman in our church who was angry at him for missing the church clean up day the weekend after my D&C.  This man obviously did not see or respect the fact that I needed my husband, their pastor, more that day!  If it had not been for my MOPS group at another church, I might have come unglued.  After I recovered, we started fertility treatments again.  They were unsuccessful and I was forced to take a break. 

It was during that break that we got a call from our District Superintendent.  It was well after the cabinet had met and we were told we were staying in our appointment another year.  But, in the Methodist church, they have this thing called the "adjustment period."  We had gotten caught up in that!  We were moving and we had 4 weeks.  We decided to abandon the fertility treatments all together.  That is when I finally got pregnant with Aiden!  We were excited about the pregnancy and our new move but, nervous.  We knew that the church was not happy to be losing their pastor.  It was apparent at our covenant meeting that they were NOT happy!  It's hard to follow a beloved pastor and his wife.  It was a rocky start.  But, we got through it and Aiden Samuel Hamby was born January 28, 2008 at almost 39 weeks.  Yes, he was born on his big sister's 5th birthday!

Within 6 months of being here, new ministry ideas were introduced and it seemed as though the leadership was on board.  Sam and the SPR hired a new preschool/family ministry director.  This was all not without controversy in the church.  Most churches do not handle change well.  There was division and since then many people have left the church.  But, many new people have also joined the church.  I too have been implicated in some of the problems at church.  Some people have viewed me as cold, rude and uninterested!  Really they just do not know my heart!  I attribute alot of the issues here too our rocky start.  I came in guarded and they had expectations that I would never be able to meet.  I'm not sure if some even know what those expectations are.  I sure don't!  Not to mention that I do not in any way fit the typical pastor's wife mold.  Shocking I know!  I won't go into all of the details about our current church because many of them are still fresh and raw.  I think I still need time to process our most recent experiences before blogging too much about them.   But, lets just say its been a tough appointment.  That is no secret to anyone inside or outside of our church.

Since being at Waleska UMC our family has been blessed yet again with another beautiful baby.  We had to turn to clomid again but thank God for medical technology. Anna Kathryn Hamby was born on April 22, 2010 at 39 weeks!  She has been such a joy and light in the midst of a very tough year.  I can't imagine going through this last year without her happy squeals and smiley face!  

Things are starting to settle down some and we have been very proud of those who have been faithful at our church.  We believe that there is still ministry to be done here and that at least for the next year, we are to remain here to see it through.  Sam is also exploring several different doctoral degree programs.  That is still very up in the air!  But, we are excited to see what the next appointment year brings!

So that is it!  That is how I became a pastor's wife and some of my experiences thus far.  I certainly never dreamed that it is what I would be one day but, I am learning to embrace it and discovering what my passions for ministry are.  Thank you for reading this very long post.  I promise they won't all be this long!


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Getting Started!

I have always wanted to start a blog but never really knew what the subject matter would be.  Lots of my friends blog about their children and their day to day lives.  I love reading them and seeing all the pictures!  While I plan to write about my kids ALOT, because they are the greatest kids on earth, I also want to write about my life and experinces as a pastor's wife.  Well most of what I can share online without getting into trouble atleast, which I seem to do quite often!  I often get comments like, "I have always wondered what it was like to be married to a pastor" or "I always wanted to be a pastor's wife."  So I thought I would share some of the ups and downs of being married to someone called into full time ministry and service.  Also hoping that it will provide some healing for me as this life is certainly not always easy.  And of course, being a stay at home mom to FOUR beautiful children certainly affects my role as "pastor's wife."

Sometimes it seems as though church members forget that their pastor is human too.  They still have a spouse, children, bills, they get sick, they loose loved ones, they go on vacations, they get their feelings hurt, etc.  So my plan is not to complain about the church but, only to give insight to what life is like for a pastor's family in hopes that maybe those who do not really understand me or what I am all about will gain some insight into who I really am.  And just maybe it will help you to know how to encourage and to love on your pastor and his or her family more!  So I hope you will read and enjoy!

Now if I can just figure out how to make my blog as cute as some of my friends.

Many Blessings!