Adventures in the Life of a Southern Gospel Wife ~ This was originally published in February 2009 on SGMRadio.com. It’s laughable a bit how much my job title and Rod’s have evolved since then! Picture: January 6, 2009, with 3 of my favorite colleagues.
When I was but a pre-adolescent, my dad, who had been a meat-cutter (not a butcher: a meat-cutter) for 20 years, ended a particularly long layoff period by taking a part-time, minimum-wage, no-benefits maintenance job at a hospital.
I will digress for just a moment here to point out – in this time of so much talk about “the economic crisis” – how much I admire my dad for completely and unabashedly stepping outside his comfort zone and doing what he needed to do to take care of his young family. His work ethic moved him swiftly into a better, full-time position, and he retired from that hospital just last year.
Anyway, we joked and chided a lot about the title my dad was given at the hospital. He was cleaning everything from floors to toilets; he was a janitor, perhaps a custodian. But his name badge referred to him as an Environmental Service Technician. It barely fit on the badge, and though it might have been technically accurate, to my dad it seemed a bit silly.
I’ve had some amusement over my own job titles as an adult. My first real job – managing accounts and general office stuff at a tire business – didn’t really have a title at all. I usually changed it depending on what I was doing and to whom I was speaking on any particular day. My next two jobs were in telecommunications, in which the titles are usually so obnoxious people sum up their roles up by saying, “I work with computers,” and mine ranged from “Service Order Provisioning Team Leader” to “Technical Service Support Supervisor.” You can’t tell by either what I actually had to do, and looking back, perhaps that was the point. (Rod still works in this business and his last job title took two lines on his business card! We don’t know what he does either…)
I went through a brief stint with an equally brief and clear title: teacher. And then, I had my first baby and thankfully, was able to resign my position to stay home with her (and the baby sister that would follow her 15 months later). This was an answer to many prayers and an all-around wonderful life change. However, when it came time to fill out the first form that required my job title, I was stuck. Yes, it’s a pride thing, it’s a feminist thing, it’s a Kelly thing, but it was very difficult for me to simply write “stay-at-home mom” or even worse, “housewife.” What would people think of me? (The tendency to ask that question is another column entirely…)
I remember an episode of Wheel of Fortune back in the mid-‘80s that featured a contestant who referred to herself as a “Domestic Engineer,” a term I was then hearing for the first time. I also remember my mom, who was able to stay home with us until I entered junior high, rolling her eyes at the title.
Today it’s a pretty mainstream term, and from my two years of experience, pretty accurate. I estimate that on a random day, I do/“engineer” more before 9 a.m. than even the Marines do. (There are no Marines reading this, right?). But I am fortunate (I think… maybe I am unfortunate), in that I don’t need to beef up my primary job title – another has been added on top of it thanks to the probable reason you are reading this: southern gospel.
It was around the time I became a mommy that I also became a southern gospel wife. Miranda was just three months old when we took her to Nashville for the first time (incidentally, it was my first time, too) and only a month older when she visited her first recording studio (also a first for me). Rod recorded his first solo CD and his first project in many years while I was learning to be a stay-at-home mom, and suddenly, as we began visiting church after church, I was something else I never predicted being: a minister’s wife.
See, I joke about the SG wife thing, and believe me, there is a lot of humor in it. But being a minister’s wife is no laughing matter. I realize it’s different from being a pastor’s wife per se – those dear ladies have one of the most thankless jobs in the world and I am not sure I could do it if I tried! However, being married to someone in ministry means I have to set higher standards for myself (no more Italian swear words or pants on Sunday mornings), means that I am taken from my comfort zone in ways I don’t anticipate (two words: bathroomless church), and means that I need to be prepared to minister myself when the time comes.
Oh, thank you Jesus for that last one. He knows better than even I do how I have fallen short and been rescued over and over again by His sweet grace. And yet, He knew when He made me that I’d have something to give to that woman in Michigan who lost her son, that woman at NQC who is trying to get pregnant, that woman in Ohio who just needed to hold a baby. What a promise it is that He not only loves us but uses us as we are! And just as amazing, He sends people my way to help me in that task, people who are also so beautifully unexpected. Just recently I adopted a singer from a “charting group,” one who I’ve met so briefly in person she probably doesn’t even remember it, to be my prayer and accountability partner for a particular situation (more on that next time…) Again, I have to sit down and shake my head sometimes at where I am: that people with their pictures in magazines are praying for me, and that my husband, whom I still have to remind to change the toilet paper roll, gets on national radio and much more importantly, gets on stages and wins hearts to the Kingdom. The surreality of it will wear off some, I suppose, but the depth of it will not, and if it means I have to wear pantyhose at that Alabama church when it’s 90 degrees or occasionally let strangers kiss my babies’ hands (yes, my fellow-suburban-organic-antibacterial-mommies, it happens), then so be it. It’s not just a job title: it’s a calling, right?