December is my favorite month! The weather has cooled, but isn’t cold (not even Florida-cold). Christmas trees, lights, and decorations are up. Special events like the Florida Botanical Gardens’ Holiday Lights in the Gardens and parades on land and at sea seem to happen every weekend. And church live nativities, pageants, potlucks, and services are added to the busy mix.
The party never stops in December, and even though it’s fun and magical, it also is stressful. Adding another to everything Christmas-related is my husband’s job as the solo pastor at a Lutheran church. He’s been in his current call to ministry for two years, following his first call in South Florida.
It’s weird having my husband work on weekends. He doesn’t take two days in a row off unless it is an official vacation, which only includes Sundays four times a year. Most people can travel to their loved ones during the holidays, but we never can, not with multiple Christmas Eve services and a Christmas Day service this year since it falls on a Sunday. Luckily, we have family who loves us and are willing to travel to see us around our schedule so we don’t feel left out of family time.
Where does that leave me?
If I wasn’t so adamant, we probably wouldn’t have a tree to decorate, lights to hang, or cards to send – that’s just not my husband’s priority or style. He enjoys all those things, but it’s up to me to make them happen. I have a Type A personality so I’m totally cool with that.
But sometimes I feel like I come in second (or third or fourth) after the needs of our congregation and two kids are met, especially when there are multiple night meetings a week, church programs on the weekends, deaths in the congregation, and all the regular things pastors do. It’s rare that my husband works a 40 hour week (usually it’s closer to 50, and sometimes more). Some weeks, usually during the holidays, we all feel like we are living at church (my three-year-old considers church a second home and feels fully comfortable anywhere on the property, including running laps around the sanctuary following service.)
Things get especially hectic during Advent and Christmas (but at least it’s not Easter)! And even when I feel like I’m taking a backseat to church life I know that my husband prioritizes me and our marriage. If I feel neglected, we talk about it and he never dismisses my feelings (even if I’m being overly sensitive and dramatic, usually from lack of sleep). When I’m feeling like we need more family time, we eat meals together in his office, play the Holy Family in the Live Nativity, or he skips out on a non-essential meeting. He’s always ready to co-parent when he gets home from work (we believe that parenting duties should be evenly split) and makes sure I get some “treat yo self” time on the regular. He’s the best, it’s just hard when I don’t really want to share him with our congregation.
So I commiserate with my fellow clergy spouses, who are uniquely qualified to help me feel not so alone in all of this. And we fortunately spend one week a year with some friends from seminary and their families (Bad Kids, represent!) each January. This helps me get through the busy holidays knowing I get to be with so many of my loves (and it resets and reinvigorates our church lives).