If you are reading this I can safely say you are a passionate pioneering type who is seeking to glean from other pioneering leaders some nugget of advice, equipping or encouragement along your journey.
Am I right?
What about some hard truths that maybe you don’t really want to hear?
Have you ever had one of those moments where Jesus just begins to shine a light into your life and begins to reveal some truths you had become blind to?
Well, I’m living one of those moments right now.
I am a Pioneer Missionary Woman Leader for 20+ years serving mainly pastors and pioneers in Prayer and Intercession across the globe, as well as, having built a unifying non-profit organization that connected denominational leaders to serve together within my own community… oh, and on top of that, the most important role in my life is being a wife and mother of five. I’m sorry to report that as our ministry grew, my primary role began slipping.
You say, “How can she not remember that she is a wife with 5 kids? How was that not the first item on your priority list?” Well, it should be, but how many of you reading this can solidly say your family comes first before your ministry? I’ll wait.
We don’t know when it happens. One day we were raising our small ones with regular, predictable schedules then, being the Pioneering Passionate “Save the World” types, we slowly lost sight of the priorities and found ourselves telling our children, “Be quiet, I am on an important call.” Or the time when my child approached me to ask me to color with her after I was late 3 days in a row and I said, “Oh, Honey, Mommy is fried right now…maybe tomorrow.” And this is not to mention my spouse, whom I hadn’t had a date with in months because, “Honey, there is so much going on in the ‘Ministry’ I know you understand.”One day we were raising our small ones with regular, predictable schedules then, being the Pioneering 'Save the World' types, slowly lost sight of the priorities & found ourselves telling our children, 'Be quiet, I'm on a call.' Click To Tweet
Many of you may not be in a place yet where you can honestly admit that these are familiar conversations in your own home. You may not want to go there because your passion in this exciting, fruit-filled life of ministry is just moving along so powerfully you think, “My family gets it! They’ll be fine. God has called me.”
I hate to tell you this, but if you are that pioneer I am describing, the reality is that the breakdown will come at some point and it will sneak up on you in ways you are not even aware.
Signs of Love
About 3 years ago, I realized I had been living in a place where my family was suffering quietly and I was so focused on my own course that they were being left in the dust. Even though they were incredibly supportive and some of my children were very involved with our ministry, I was not seeing what my passion and focus outside of my home was doing to my family and more so their sense of security and safety within the family bonds, let alone their own personal discipleship as young believers.
After my oldest child came home from a Discipleship Internship at a local church lost and struggling with a clear direction for her life, and soon after discovering issues at play in the hearts of some of my other children, it was like Jesus just gently and kindly began to reveal to me these hidden places and gave me an option. I could choose the luxury of obedience in my life in Christ, or I could continue to ignore and give excuses for those things we choose not to look at that were causing havoc in our first mission: The home.I could choose the luxury of obedience in my life in Christ, or I could continue to ignore and give excuses for those things we choose not to look at that were causing havoc in our first mission: The home. Click To Tweet
It has been a three-year journey of long talks, lots of forgiveness, developing boundaries of time, and reconnection as we walk out healing. As we have walked this new path to deeper, healthier, resplendent joy and life in our family ties, beginning with my dear husband and then putting in place a domestic liturgy, a term used by Monsignor Renzo Bonetti his book, Signs of Love.
As we create intentional times and places of honor and service to one another in our home this shows honor to Jesus who created us to serve our own household, then others. As pioneer missionary leaders, we struggle to rest in that balance and in those fundamental priorities.
About 6 months ago, I began to ponder something I heard Melodee Fosner share at a Dinner Church Immersion in Cary, NC. She was talking about her dinner table. She shared about what took place around that table every day with her family. The place where, most often, all the family could come together once a day and connect, share burdens and encourage one another. During her presentation, I was struck by the knowledge that I had not established that space around the table in my own home. I wondered if it was still possible.
I began with prayer. I began to ask the Lord to show me my husband and what blessed him. I asked him to reveal the heart of my kids and especially those still living under our roof. I stopped to listen for my own family, in the same ways I’ve listened to God for so many others.
As I listened, what I discovered was that I had treated my family as an extension of myself. I was so familiar with them, or so I thought. I assumed we were called to serve in the same way. I expected that they had the same heart and desire I did for extending the Kingdom of God and serving others in our community. I soon found that I was wrong. I discovered something far more beautiful! I began to see my own family was just in need of a Savior as everyone else in my life.
I discovered places in myself that I had been deeply selfish, I was sacrificing my family to serve those outside of my home. And I needed to get the order right. I needed to sacrifice for the precious ones inside my home.
I hate cooking. Those who know me know that well. My husband loves a delicious meal. For 30 years I have not been able to get past my own selfishness and pride to lay down my life and serve him in this way, even knowing that this simple act of creating a space for him to enjoy a lovely meal in his own home would deeply bless and care for him, and in so doing would cause him to want to serve his family more!
So, what began with surrender and risk, just like in every pioneering missional move we’ve made over the years, our time around the table has become the place for church in our own home. We’re consistently setting time apart for our evening meal. The table is set with the best dishes, flowers, candles, and soft worship music. I’m learning to worship God in my kitchen. Every step of preparation, the chopping, the mixing is an offering to the Lord. As we approach the table together my family’s faces light up! There is joy and engagement around the table. Each evening, we incorporate two questions:
- What is one good thing that happened today?
- What is something you are struggling with that you want prayer for?
We then share around the table and at the end of the meal one of us lifts all our requests to the Lord. The answers to the questions inevitably lead to Dad sharing some aspect of truth about Jesus with his kids. A time to walk in discipleship as a priest in the home.
Recently, we have extended our Table Talks to include “Tea Thyme” on Sunday mornings. We used to travel to Starbucks on the way to church where my husband would enjoy his weekly ritual of tea and a croissant to go. One day, Bill inquired, “What if we got up an hour earlier on Sunday morning and had Tea and croissants together at home?” So I began to rise 2 hours earlier on Sunday morning and after getting ready for the day and waking the girls I would go downstairs to set the Table for “Tea Thyme.” Beatrix Potter teacups I had purchased when my oldest girls were wee ones, pieces from tea sets I had gathered over the years filled with sugar and milk. I set the table with flowers from our garden, a few store-bought croissants and two pots, one filled with Herbal tea for the girls, another with coffee for me and finally; Bill’s tea in his own special cup. With the table adorned and Chamber Music playing in the background, we gather together and in sweet fellowship and peace, we prepare to meet with the larger body of Christ after the beauty and refreshment of our own “Tea Thyme” Domestic Sunday Liturgy. It has become such a treasure each Sunday that Bill is now working on his own playlist of “Tea Thyme Offerings”.
As we enter this season of Lent we look forward to being even more intentional in our Table Talks as we prepare for the Celebration of our Risen Lord!
Jesus calls us to our best when we do things his way. His ways are not our ways, of course. The only way we can get back on track is to stop, drop to our knees, and listen to the still small voice of the Lover of our soul whose desire is to see his covenant one flesh relationships thrive and the arrows in our quivers be strong and filled with security, life, and hearts of love for the world.
As Mother Theresa says, “If you want to save the world, go home and love your family.”
Cheryl serves as the Director of The Ananias Project and the Fresh Expressions US Coordinator of Prayer Mobilization. She brings over 25 years of Intercessory Prayer experience as she and her husband, Bill, have served in Anglican church plants. They began at Truro Anglican Church in Fairfax, VA then served in the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA) for 7 years. Cheryl served as the ACNA Canon for Church Planting of the Anglican Mid Atlantic Diocese and Executive Director of Titus Institute, Tom Herrick, as his Head Intercessor for 5 years and was the Co-Founder and Executive Director of The SEEDS Ministry for 6 years in New Bern, NC. SEEDS established Kingdom Transformation across denominational lines by Prayer, Connecting, and Empowering the community fueled by the Holy Spirit. Cheryl and Bill lead Ananias Retreats for FXUS and Ananias Project Encounter Prayer Rooms for FXUS and Missio Alliance National Gatherings. Cheryl and Bill reside in New Bern, NC with their quiver full: Caela, Isabella, Daniel, Gracie, and Liliana.