During the holidays most pastors' wives expect a busier-than-usual schedule. Evening celebrations, Christmas parties, school programs and other seasonal events outnumber the nights we have at home. Add in other holiday demands and stresses — last-minute shopping trips, present wrapping marathons, lack of holiday finances — and sleepless nights may come more frequently than we would like.
Nearly eight years ago, the holiday season started out fairly normal for pastor's wife Denalyn Lucado. But with busyness and lack of sleep, stress and high anxiety mounted, climaxing with the untimely death of a young mother in the church. These ingredients were a dangerous mix for Denalyn's emotional health and spiritual well-being.
"When the black cloud descended, my joy was gone," Denalyn recalls. Buried under an incredible weight of spiritual doubt, Denalyn was diagnosed with severe depression.
"God didn't say we would always feel Him, but when we don't, we have to claim His promises, " Denalyn says. "I wasn't able to do that on my own." However, Denalyn's condition wasn't treated solely by medical intervention. Twelve to 15 women were praying for her.
Denalyn's openness to share her personal story is refreshing. High anxiety, depression and doubt are common among pastor's wives, especially around the holidays, yet rarely are these discussed openly.
"The Lord has taught me to be transparent, to confess my sins to others and be healed. I'm not afraid of depression any more," Denalyn says. "I'd had bouts before, but fear kept me from facing myself. Anxiety and fearful thoughts are God's thermometer for me now."
These days Denalyn handles holiday stress with hope and grace, looking forward to enjoying each Christmas with her husband, Max, and their three girls.
"My Martha struggle is a year-round struggle, accentuated at Christmas time. So I make it a priority to spend quality time with Jesus," Denalyn says. "When I sit down with Him, I am so aware of His presence, I am amazed."
Denalyn intentionally revolves the Christmas plans and family traditions around God's gift to the world. Like most of us, many good activities vie for her time and attention at Christmas. Yet Denalyn's desire is that Jesus is glorified by each activity, whether it be a school Christmas play or inviting the Oak Hills Church of Christ staff over for dinner.
"In life and especially around the holidays, we are all looking for perfect stress-free schedules," Denalyn says. "Yet the Lord allows bumps and turns along the way, so we find rest and security in Him and not in our schedules, jobs or position in life. Take each day as it comes, be thankful for today and be joyful in what counts."
1. Pray your way through the holiday season. Pray that God would receive glory through our puny efforts to serve Him. Remember who you are and what you are here for: a sinner saved by grace who can show others the Savior.
2. Nurture your own personal relationship with Christ. He will give you strength, courage and hope.
3. Let Christ love your husband and your children through you in the way they need to be loved.
4. Gather your church staff and their families at your home for Christmas fellowship and food. Attend Christmas Eve service with your family. Make these annual traditions.
5. Choose a family in need, and give them gifts and food in Jesus' name. Establish a heart of gratitude and giving in your children.
6. Experience the extravagance of God's gift giving and go a little wild with your own gift giving.
Ever feel like you need to wear a mask to cover up who you are? Are you concerned that, if people knew who you really are and how you really felt, they wouldn't understand?
One minister, two jobs and the family that's at the top of the list. The number of bivocational ministers, those in full- or part-time ministry who carry an additional job, is estimated by some researchers to be as high as 30 percent of ministers nationwide.
"You should see the church they attend," Lucille said, armed with bulletin and newsletter. Creases formed across my brow as celebration gave way to comparisons a trap that had sprung too many times.