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Farewell, First Dates

My husband, Chresten, and I celebrated 19 years of marriage in January of this year. What that means is that it's been well over 20 years since I've been on a first date. And I gotta say, I don't miss first dates. I remember a few of those first dates with the handful of young men who had the guts to ask out this straight-faced, strong-willed petite blonde. More often than not, I approached the situation with a "fake-it-till-you-make-it" attitude that is my go-to method of dealing with uncomfortable circumstances. And when I say "uncomfortable circumstances", I mean having conversation with someone I don't already know well. Unfamiliar surroundings. Extrovert requirements from an introverted girl.

It's true that one of the many blessings of marriage is the privilege of leaving the dating scene behind, as far as "playing the field" goes. But I can't forget that what I experience now in a lifelong, covenant relationship with Chresten would not be possible had I not asked him for our first date. Yes, I asked him. If I hadn't been willing to call him long distance and ask him to accompany me to my high school Christmas banquet, risk his saying "no", overcome the questions in my head of whether he really liked me in "that way", and all the hoopla that comes with adolescent first dates, things might not have turned out or, at the very least, might have been significantly delayed.

In many ways, friendships have their own lane of first dates. Do you have a very close girlfriend? Do you remember your "first date"? Who asked first? Did it just happen naturally or coincidentally? Think of what you may have lost if someone hadn't taken that first step!

I recently visited with another woman in ministry and shared my heart about what friendship looks like for the ministry wife. I don't know about you but this has been a desire of my heart for as long as I can remember. A loyal friend with whom I can "do life" has seemed to evade me. Sure, I have treasured friends that are scattered across the nation, some even around the world. There are some incredible ladies I call friend even in my own city. But, as it seems to be so often for the ministry wife, we are quite busy and often can go weeks or even months without connecting over the phone, much less getting together to sit and talk.

Is it possible that such kindred a loss for the ministry wife?

Is it possible that such kindred friendship where you see one another frequently, enjoy a meal often together, speak weekly or daily on the phone, and truly know each other well is a loss for the ministry wife? I must be honest: I sure hope not. I see so many women in the churches in which my husband and I minister through evangelism, and now in the one where I currently serve on staff part-time, who connect often with one another; many have lived in their same communities for most of their lives and know each other well. But the pastor's wife? Well, she's still not grafted into the fabric of this community or church family just yet. They love her. And yes, they like her. But she's the pastor's wife. She's in leadership. And while they want her to feel loved, they don't know exactly how to be her friend. Furthermore, should she be their friend? Can she trust them?

I don't have all the answers to these questions. Hey, I've yet to acquire the mysterious day-to-day life friendship as it seems that so many, including myself, are just too busy in ministry and family life for such a thing. But I can tell you this: connection is at the heart of Sanctuary because it's at the heart of its leader. My heart is for you to know that, at the very least, you have a community of women who are facing many of the same circumstances, keeping up the routine of ministry and, quite often, feeling like there's not enough of you to go around. These are people with whom you can identify, pray, laugh, take a deep breath, and rely on.

Connection is at the heart of Sanctuary because it's at the heart of its leader.

So when it comes to first dates, our upcoming Let's Connect events may be a bit daunting or even dismiss-able in light of all that there is to fit into that small box on one day in July. But I can tell you this: on the other side of this First Date you may just find another ministry wife who needs what you need, loves what you love, and can offer some insight from one season she's experienced to the one you're currently in.

On July 11 and July 18, Sanctuary will host nearly a dozen events called Let's Connect across the nation, and we are just getting started! This is our third series of Let's Connect gatherings. Perhaps you don't live near one of the scheduled events, but still would like to become more proactive in connecting and taking a leap of faith toward the elusive friendship connection that every woman needs. Make a phone call to another ministry wife near you. Do something deliberate and capitalize on the many times you've both said, "Hey, we need to get together soon!" Do it.

Here's to First Dates!

While we may not enjoy the elusive friendship that perhaps I've fantasized about that "normal people" enjoy, it may be that we are privy to that which eludes everyone else: authentic, genuine connection with those whom God has called to be among His chosen few. Perhaps there is a friendship designed just for you, ministry wife.


To learn more about locations for upcoming Let's Connect events in July 2017, follow our group on Facebook. Events will be posted mid-June. We hope to see you there!

Bridgette Tomlin, founder of Sanctuary, and her husband, Chresten, have been married for 19 years and have been in the ministry together for every single one of those years! (whew!) 18 of the 19 years have been spent in full-time evangelistic work, both stateside and overseas. They have two beautiful blonde babies--ages 12 and 7--and base out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Although Bridgette and her hubby have been in the same vein of ministry all of these years, the makeup of itinerant ministry is in a constant state of flux. Transition is a key operative for this ministry. Like many ministry wives she often feels like the red flag on the tug-of-war rope with the children on one end and her husband and the ministry on the other end! Somewhere in the mix she's learned to be proactive in keeping herself in a place of Spirit-led decision-making. When she finds time for personal hobbies, Bridgette enjoys entertaining, blogging, singing, browsing the local antique shops, and sipping on a cup of hot tea for a few precious quiet moments. Her heart is to lead others to the authentic presence of God--through worship, through Word, and through one-on-one connection.

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