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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Work (07/27/06)

TITLE: Confessions of the Anti-Martha
By Jan Ackerson


Jimmy knew when he proposed to me that he wouldn’t be getting a typical pastor’s wife. No piano playing, for example, and there’s nothing—except the audible voice of God—that would induce me to teach Sunday School. The thought of hosting a Ladies’ Tea makes me break out in hives.

“I don’t care about any of that, Nicky.” Jimmy reassured me often during the first years of our marriage. “I just need you to support me, and pray for my ministry, and love the church people.”

Well, it’s been a pleasure to do those things for Jimmy—and for God. If the Women’s Missionary Guild gasped when I attended meetings in hot pink capris and a tee-shirt that read “Some Day My Prince Will Come,” they soon adjusted. I like to think I won them over with my charm.

Still, there’s a certain amount of work that must be done, and I’ve tried to be a good pastor’s wife—practicing hospitality, for example, when I’d rather be writing another chapter of the Next Great Christian Novel. I’ve developed some shortcuts over the years; just call me the anti-Martha.

Here are some ways that I’ve survived parsonage life:

Housecleaning: Closets are my friends. Happily, I have one in every room. When Mrs. Postlethwaite calls to say that she’ll be by in ten minutes with six boxes of quilt squares for Africa, I open the closet doors and start tossing. (When my children were little, they were very enthusiastic about having visitors if it involved what I called The Closet Game.)

Also, my living room has several small, portable pieces of furniture. I move them often, to cover any new splotches or stains. Jimmy occasionally trips over a newly repositioned end table. He just chuckles. “Did you have company today, dear?”

Ironing: When Jimmy needs a wrinkle-free shirt for the Trustees meeting and his dress shirts have been sitting in the dryer since Tuesday, I don’t panic. I simply run the shirt under the basement faucet until it’s slightly less wet than the sacrifices of the prophets of Baal. Then I run it through the dryer again for twenty minutes.

Sure, I could iron it in five minutes. But that’s five minutes better spent with a cup of coffee and Max Lucado.

Gardening: Isn’t it lovely to have your own fresh produce to can and freeze and preserve?

In short—no. Here are two of my favorite words. Grocery. Store. Yes, I could plant tender young tomato seedlings, and weed them, and pick off those horrid fat green tomato worms. I could spend several afternoons in a sweltering kitchen with a pressure cooker and five dozen Mason jars. Or…I can buy a can of delicious tomatoes for $.79, without all that perspiration.

Furthermore—it happens every year—every family in the church experiences an abundance of garden-grown tomatoes and peppers and, God help me, zucchini. Jimmy likes to say that they try to pay his salary in vegetables every September. Eventually, we have to beg people to stop being so charitable.

Baking: This hasn’t come up often; the Mother-Daughter Banquet Committee knows that Dottie Stouffer makes the best cakes. But the year that Dottie had surgery, the task fell to me, and my creation was a big hit.

I went to the kitchen supply store and bought a platter big enough for two turkeys. Next stop—the supermarket, for an assortment of small snack cakes. Little Debbie, bless her soul, has several varieties of hexagonal cakes with various icing designs. I spent a few minutes artfully arranging the desserts, making lovely patterns with the icing. The resulting cake was as intricate as a parquet floor.

The ladies are still buzzing about that cake.

I could go on and on: hints for gift-wrapping (paper bags), centerpieces (dandelions in a jelly jar), clothing repair (masking tape, safety pins, buy new).

Last night, Jimmy sat beside me on the couch and handed me a bowl of fresh, sliced peaches. I was suddenly aware of the cluttered living room (no Mrs. Postlethwaite that day). “I’m sorry, hon. I guess I didn’t do much work today.”

Jimmy rubbed my neck. “Did you do any kingdom work?”

I thought about the devotional I’d written for the bulletin, and the coffee I’d shared with my lonely neighbor June, and the dozens of prayers I’d launched God-ward.

“Well, yes, Jimmy. I sure did.” We finished the peaches in happy silence.

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This article has been read 1860 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sally Hanan08/03/06
Housework! How I hate that word; but I loved your line "until it’s slightly less wet than the sacrifices of the prophets of Baal" - very creative!
Bonnie Derksen08/04/06
Thanks for the great read! The perspective that you draw in the second last paragraph is so true. Dust and clutter are a guaranteed for all of our tomorrows, but not necessarily those moments to carry a friend's heart. Well done. As I scan my untidy room I have great freedom to sit with my bible and coffee. Thanks again.
Melanie Kerr 08/04/06
It is nice to break out of the mold and be who you are and not what others expect you to be.
Marilee Alvey08/05/06
You have made a valiant stand for showing that pastors' wives are real people. They have personality and they don't have to hide it. If they can coast on the Holy Spirit's encouragement, they'll survive and thrive! I really enjoyed your story and I'm right there with you mentally with a big AMEN!
Jen Davis08/05/06
A cute and creative story that was really fun to read. A great intro. I first laughed at: "there's nothing--except the audible voice of God..." My favorite line was "Sure, I could iron it in five minutes..." I can imagine that the novel this character would write would be as much fun as this story was.
Lynda Lee Schab 08/06/06
This piece is priceless and packed with humor. Parts are laugh-out-loud funny. I think I know who you are and if I'm right, the time you've been spending in the Word has paid off. Your humor writing is fresh, hilarious, and still delivers a spiritual blow to the heart. I would love to see this piece place. Superb!
Rita Garcia08/07/06
Charming and entertaining, with an inspiring message tightly woven throughout! Kingdom work, INDEED!!
T. F. Chezum08/07/06
Thank you for the chuckle to get my day going. A very creative and fun read.
Allison Egley 08/07/06
Very funny. I also liked the line about the prophets of Baal.
Joanne Sher 08/07/06
Loved this! Such a fun, fun read - with WAY too many tips that could endanger my efforts to be a better "housekeeper" LOL. I think my husband will ban me from this one! Truly enjoyed this!
Helen Paynter08/07/06
As someone who would a milion times rather spend her time doing kingdom work than housework, I totally relate to this. Beautifully written, as usual, and a great message.
Marilyn Schnepp 08/07/06
A "fun" piece for sure! I thank you for the laugh, my daughter thanks you for buying Little Debbies products,(she's an employee there - and L'il Deb's is an "Employee / Shareholder Company, so Employees get bonus's for all sales. Keep up the cake baking routines! Great entry! Loved it!
Venice Kichura08/07/06
This is one of my favorites! An excellent portroyal of how pastors' wives are human beings!
Tracey Jackson08/08/06
Entertaining! Thanks for the wonderful reminder that I don't need to stress about keeping the house "perfect" because God's Kingdom often has other priorities that need attention.
Shari Armstrong 08/09/06
Cute - going to have to try some of those tips myself :)
Rita Garcia08/10/06
Congratulations Jan! I was hoping this story would win, it was one of my favorites!
Jessica Schmit08/10/06
Ahhh Jan...I was a judge last week and fell in love with this piece. Honestly, I wish it was in every womans magazine. It was, well, wonderful. I thought the message was so incredible and creative and very needed for women everywhere. Please tell me if you send this one out. I think there has to be a magazine out there that will grab this one.
terri tiffany08/11/06
I jsut fell in love with this one! Congrats on your win - you deserve it! Sounded like you were describing my pastor's wife! A fun read!!
Stacey Kitchens08/28/06
I loved this because I, too, am a pastor's wife and an "anti-Martha". My love for writing, reading, and the sweet fellowship of coffee and prayer seems much easier to squeeze into my busy schedule than cooking and cleaning.
Jan Ackerson 09/09/06