Grad Wife to Farmer Life

Written by Catherine, a former graduate wife

Jonathan, our 9-month-old daughter Charlotte and I left Omaha, Nebraska in March of 2007 to begin our graduate journey at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia.  When Jonathan began the Master of Divinity program, intended for those planning to enter formal ministerial positions and/or pursue advanced degrees, I would have never imagined that 5 years later we would be back in Omaha, running a farm as well as a non-profit organization focused on educating people in sustainable agriculture, organic farming practices and healthy living, both in the U.S. and in Nicaragua.  My narrow expectations of what life as the wife of a M.Div. graduate would look like had me thinking of the stereotypical pastor’s wife: overly modest dress, children quietly in tow, a casserole always ready at a moment’s notice to deliver to a family need, playing piano in church, working in Sunday school weekly… I had begun to resign myself to the fact that this is what life intended for me (not that any of those things are bad-just not for me).  I wondered if I would be the wife silently working to support her husband’s work and letting go of any other dreams I might have had or the hope for something not so stereotypical for my life.

Hallelujah, for this is not what happened.

Jonathan comes from a family of pastors. Seriously, his great-grandfather, grandfather, father, uncle, and brother are all pastors.  It gets kind of intense whenever this bunch starts a theological conversation.  Jonathan’s main motive for starting the M.Div. program was to learn as much as he could so that he could dominate these theological discussions that seem to occur every time the whole family is together.  However, during the third (final) year of his program, a church in Vancouver started taking interest in him becoming its lead pastor and we seriously considered taking the job.  After 2+ years of living on my measly earnings as a nanny and office support staff, I was thrilled with the idea of my husband finally having a ‘real’ job with a livable salary, benefits, financial assistance to buy a house, etc.  These things made the ‘pastor’s wife’ idea not seem so bad…I was ready to have a steady income and stay home with our then 2 children.  I was also happy that my family would be able to breathe a sigh of relief knowing that my husband would be gainfully employed in a job much more financially supported than his pre-grad school job of working at a homeless shelter.

As you might be guessing, this job didn’t happen for us.

It didn’t fall through – we consciously made the choice to move in a different direction.  As excited as I was for my husband to be offered such a promising job, we felt moved to start working with a longtime friend’s missions organization, WEGO (Worldwide Evangelical Gospel Outreach).  One of WEGO’s projects is an orphanage in Nicaragua and a gift had been given to WEGO’s director to start a coffee company, selling Nicaraguan coffee in the U.S. and using the profits to support the orphanage.  My husband volunteered to help get this company started and we packed up our things, left Vancouver and drove across the U.S. to Florida, where WEGO is situated. We had no salary and had to rely on support from family and friends to survive, something we should have raised before moving.  My expectation of the salary with benefits was quickly gone and I soon began wishing I was wearing a ‘Little House on the Prairie’ dress and delivering casseroles to widows.

However, I believe that God wastes nothing and I believe His plan is always greater than we can see.

While selling the Nicaraguan coffee at farmers’ markets in our area of central Florida, Jonathan began connecting with local farmers and learning about growing vegetables and raising animals.  We also, during that time, rented a small house on 4 acres that had a stable and a large field.  We didn’t want to waste the space we were paying for, so we decided to use the stable as a chicken coop and some of the field as a garden.  “Oh, so you must have grown up gardening and growing things” you must be thinking.  Not at all.  It just seemed like a fun idea.  Very long story short, what started out as a ‘fun idea’ turned into a working farm with egg-laying chickens, meat chickens, goats, a pond stocked with fish, and a ½ acre garden, all organically/naturally done.  Naturally, M.Div. graduate + French major wife from California = perfect farming couple.  We asked people in the community for help when we got overwhelmed and ended up with 8 interns, a CSA (community supported agriculture) program, monthly community work days, and a non-profit organization birthed from it all.  My expectations for what our life was ‘supposed’ to look like were again being challenged.  Did we really move to Canada and spend $XXXXX on graduate school just for my husband to wear overalls and us to work in the Florida heat and sandy soil trying to run a farm?

 Yes.  And his education was used in more ways than we ever could have imagined.  What we found was that many of the people who ended up volunteering on our farm were questioning deep theological issues and what they needed was someone who was theologically trained to question and with whom they could bounce ideas around.  It was Jonathan who was there to challenge ideas, propose new ones, get to the heart of issues, to teach, and it was us together who were there to love people, open our home to lonely hearts and to offer food to the hungry.

We have now come full circle, back to Omaha, where Jonathan has recently taken a job with a church as a missions pastor, men’s discipleship pastor and campus pastor of the church’s satellite campus.  It is busy and it is demanding but he is always happy to come home to our 5 acres where we are already starting a new farm.  It has become a part of who we are – it was the farm experience in Florida that strengthened our marriage to where it is today and grew our family to now 3 children.  My expectation for what life should have looked like was thrown out the window a few years ago and although it has constantly been challenged I would never give up a single part of the journey that has made me who I am today.

How much do you hold on to your expectations?  When your expectations are not met, what does your attitude regarding the situation reflect about your ability to be open to new possibilities?

{To check out Catherine’s family’s non-profit, click here}

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5 thoughts on “Grad Wife to Farmer Life

  1. Pingback: The Top 10 Things I Learned as a Graduate Wife | the graduate wife

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