Leigh Lowery has been a pastor's wife almost as long as she has been a Christian. She was saved during a revival meeting preached by a young evangelist named Fred Lowery. They were married two years later.
Lowery, who grew up in a small town in Mississippi and lived in a house built by her great-grandfather, spoke to wives attending the Oklahoma Pastors' Conference.
"I joined every activity at school and was voted most popular, but on the inside I was empty, lonely, and searching for love," she admitted.
She said she joined the Presbyterian church, but "didn't meet Jesus."
It was while Lowery was a student at Ole Miss in 1971 that she went to the revival at the Baptist church "because there was going to be a young singer with tapes there."
Lowery recalled the evangelist preached that night on how to be happy and stay married. "He said Jesus can make home like heaven on earth," remembered Lowery. Both Lowery and her father, who was an alcoholic, were saved that night.
Lowery said life hit her family hard during the ten-year span between 1985 and 1995.
"We had moved from South Carolina to Bossier City, La. in 1983," Lowery said. "During that ten-year period, while her husband was pastor of First Church, there were conflicts in the church, my parents divorced after forty-two years of marriage, my husband's mother had cancer, his father died of cancer, and my father was hit by a train and killed."
She said God taught her during this time that they could trust Him no matter what happened.
"I learned to forgive, let go, that He is enough for me," she said.
As the couple is getting ready to celebrate twenty-five years of marriage, Lowery said there are seven basic things she has learned being a pastor's wife.
"Number one is, I have to put my security in Jesus Christ alone," she said. "I brought a lot of insecurities into our marriage. I kept asking Fred if he still loved me."
She said one day Jesus told her, "Leigh, you will never have to ask Me if I still love you."
"If you put your security in anything but Jesus, life will crumble," she said.
Second, Lowery said, she had to learn to laugh at herself.
"I wanted to be the perfect pastor's wife, the perfect mother," she admitted. "I put pressure on myself and I was trying to catch up all the time."
She said comparing oneself is a dead-end street. She also acknowledged she had to learn to say "no" because "I like to be a part of everything."
"Third, you need to value, honor, and cherish your husband and children," Lowery said. "If you don't do this, someone else will."
She revealed that she and Fred agreed to never go to bed angry with each other. "We stayed up all night sometimes trying to resolve conflicts."
Lowery added that she and her husband also decided to have a date night every week. "We still do this," she said, "and have found a lot of deacons who want to double-date with us because we have so much fun."
Lowery urged the women to learn to listen to their husbands and children, looking into their eyes and really hearing what they have to say. "Little things matter," she reminded. "When I get a little note from Fred that says 'I love you and need you,' it does wonders for me."
She added that wives and mothers need to learn "to love your husband and children the way they need to be loved, not the way you want to be loved."
She said her husband has tried to make family a first priority, but with a busy schedule, it has been hard to do. "One day our daughter, Shelby, called and asked her father to bring a textbook to school that she had forgotten," Lowery said. "He took the book to school, gave it to the receptionist, and asked her to give it to Shelby. As he was leaving the school, these two women waved at him, and when he stopped, they said, 'Shelby doesn't go to school here anymore. She's in middle school.'
"We decided then that Fred was too busy."
Fourth, Lowery told the women they need to have friends.
She said her mother-in-law, who was a pastor's wife for fifty-six years, advised her not to have close friends. However, Lowery said that didn't work for her, and she began meeting once a week at 5 a.m. with a group of ladies. That has led to a women's ministry seminar which annually attracts more than 2,000 women.
"Fred and I decided we were going to have friends to share the good times and bad times," she said.
Fifth, she acknowledged, work out problems.
"I don't believe we should try to make it alone," Lowery admonished. "I needed help when my parents were divorced. Find a counselor and do what you need to do to get help. Don't be ashamed to admit you need help."
Sixth, stand by your man, Lowery said.
"You need to be a cheerleader, his number one fan."
Lowery said when their church was going through hard times, her husband was depressed for two years, and she was at a loss as to what to do.
"Because Fred loves to have his shoes shined, I went into his closet one day to shine his shoes," she said. "As I started shining them, I put his shoes on my feet and prayed, 'Lord, show me what it's like to walk in his shoes, to carry the responsibilities he does.'"
She said God revealed to her she should be thankful to walk by a godly man. She added that she wrote Fred a note telling him that she learned to pray for him in a new and fresh way.
"He told me later that that note was the beginning of coming out of his depression," Lowery noted. "If you go into your closet and pray and ask God how to minister to your mate, He will show you."
Finally, Lowery said wives should learn to practice forgiveness in family and ministry situations.
She told of a couple in their church who was constantly on the pastor's case.
"The Lord told me to bake an apple pie and take it to them," Lowery said. "The last thing I wanted to do was take them an apple pie."
She said God told her she had to forgive to guard her own heart.
"Forgiveness is the key to freedom in our lives," she said.
She said one of the hardest things she did was attend her parents' divorce hearing.
"As I was driving to the hearing, I was listening to a tape on forgiveness by Tom Elliff (pastor of Del City, First Southern and president of the Southern Baptist Convention). I pulled off the road and asked God to help me learn to forgive."
After the hearing, Lowery said her father introduced her to his intended new wife, and asked Lowery if she would accept her.
"I said, 'Dad, I love you, and she is welcome in my home anytime.' I knew God had prepared me to forgive."
"I've found through the years that God can fill that emptiness that I experienced growing up," Lowery said. "Through the years, He truly has been enough for me."