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From Masks to Smiles

HappySadMasks

I was having breakfast and lunch (we talked so long, breakfast turned into lunch) with a fellow Pastor’s widow/colleague and she said “did you notice how we go from wearing masks to wearing smiles”? I had to think about that for a minute. Yes!

Pastors’ Wives often wear masks, though we don’t like to admit it or don’t even realize it. We do not wear them to be “fake” but to protect our congregants and ourselves.

The culture of being a Pastor’s Wife creates the temptation to wear a mask. Ministry creates such stress for both the Pastor and his wife, that the wives are often not totally satisfied with their lives. They desire to create a positive impression and thus neglect their true life. We are there to serve: to serve our husbands in whatever he needs in ministry and to serve the congregation when they need us. In order to assist them fully, we must be in a positive position to do so. They don’t come to us to hear about our problems and issues – nor do I think many of them even care. They come to us for a spiritual resolution to their issues. So, no matter what goes on in our lives, we push it to the back and operate on “100”! We don’t ever want to respond to a congregant in a less than positive manner. Additionally, what we do reflects on our husbands.

But think about this, preserving your “image” WILL cause you to neglect your own spiritual reality. Philippians 2:12-13 tells us “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”.  You must off load your own personal sins, struggles and inner pain. That’s called “working it out”. When you shed the mask, you feel freer.

And….then…you…lose…your…husband!

I believe people have good intentions when they try to comfort us. But there are many things that people say that just don’t help, such as: “he’s watching over you”, “he’s cheering you on”, “he’ll always be right beside you”, “don’t cry”, “God needed an angel”, “you have to be strong”, “get out, it will help you”, etc. Besides being scripturally unsound, those types of comments make it worse for the grieving person. In order to successfully pass through the grief journey, there are several stages we have to go through and there is no “normal” timetable for getting through the process.

What are better responses for the person attempting to comfort someone grieving?

  1. JUST BE THERE. Your presence means more than anything! You do not have to know what to say. You can even say “I don’t know how you’re feeling or what to say but I’m here to listen”.
  2. Help the person whenever you can. Many times, the grieving person goes through many situations they may not have encountered before. If they ask for finances, $20 is a big help and little becomes much when placed in the Master’s hands. They may be at a point when they can’t pray for themselves. Don’t just say “praying” but pray WITH them. Check on them often to find out if they’re ok. If they don’t answer or say they don’t feel like talking, try again later. Just don’t forget them!

So, those who are grieving get so many uncomfortable responses to them, the only thing to do is smile! Being in a fragile state, they try to be careful not to respond negatively – so they smile. That smile does NOT mean “I’m fine”. It means “I’m just smiling”.

So, we go from wearing masks to wearing smiles. I have had many inappropriate or hurtful responses to my grief. My response? I smile.

It may not be the time or the place to educate others on what’s appropriate or hurtful. Perhaps a note to the person later may help so they know how to respond in the future.

I continue on with my “new” life without the love of my life and as Kirk Franklin says “I smile”!

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10896966_10205710842516350_314393234073763629_nDenyse H. Turner, L.H.D, M.P.H., M.A., ACC
First Lady who is out to help others win!
I am picking up ministry where my husband left off!
Public Speaker/Author/Trainer/Counselor/Faith-Based Travel Educator
First Lady and Chief Connector at Dr. Gregory C. Turner, Late Pastor of Christ Temple Baptist Church

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Beginning for The FIRST lady

The story of ‘The FIRST lady’ begins in 1961. I was in kindergarten in Baltimore Maryland.

During that year, I met a cute little boy. At that age, it was no more than meeting but we did “like” each other. I would chase him and he would pull my hair. I know, weird.

My mother was the cafeteria manager at that school. There is only one incident that I remember well from that year. I don’t remember what I did but my mother took me into the bathroom and gave me a nice spanking. I think I kept talking too much. This was back in the day when there was no Child Protective Services or laws to prosecute parents for physical discipline. I got plenty of them! But when she finished, she took me back to the classroom and made me apologize to the teacher and the students. I do remember looking at that little boy in tears.

I had a full school year to get to know that little boy as if that can be done easily at 5 years old.  We developed a nice little friendship though – until June came!

Unfortunately, my mother was transferred from that school to another school. That was the end of that friendship. I had to go with my mother. There was no cell phone, no email and no social media and we probably weren’t too familiar with a house phone.

As time moved on, I eventually forgot about that little boy because I had no way to find him. I also eventually overcame any “feelings” I might have had. Remember, I was only 5 years old!

My life continued on. I was oblivious to what was in store for me.

This was actually the beginning of ‘The FIRST lady’ although I didn’t know it at the time. I didn’t even know what a First Lady was.

I Corinthians 14:20 tells us to “be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children….”. Children understand very little in their immature minds. They have to learn to understand and comprehend. But in malice and hate, God tells us to be like children. Have you ever noticed that children can get mad at each other and then go back to playing? But we, as adults, hold on to grudges for years! We don’t even remember why we were mad.

We didn’t understand those immature “feelings” and had no clue of the magnitude of our little friendship. All we knew was that we met, we liked each other and we missed each other in 1962.

Be sure to follow us and watch for the next episode of ‘The FIRST lady’. God bless!

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10896966_10205710842516350_314393234073763629_nDenyse H. Turner, L.H.D, M.P.H., M.A., ACC
First Lady who is out to help others win!
I am picking up ministry where my husband left off!
Public Speaker/Author/Trainer/Counselor/Faith-Based Travel Educator
First Lady and Chief Connector at Dr. Gregory C. Turner, Late Pastor of Christ Temple Baptist Church

An Unusual Father’s Day

Family

In March 2006, my husband became the Patriarch of his family. The family also looked to him for spiritual advice since he was the last preacher of the family.

After this date in 2006, he carried his title proudly! That is, until November 2015.

This first Fathers’ Day without the father of our children was harder than even our Anniversary. It’s probably because I see the effects the loss has on his children, his grandchildren, his nieces/nephew, cousins, etc. His best friend is taking the loss extremely hard! When I see how these people suffer from this loss, it makes it very hard on me.

I cried from the moment I saw my childrens’ posts to their father, to eating breakfast alone, to seeing other peoples’ posts, to seeing places we would go together, to the time I went to bed. By the time I went to bed, my eyes were swollen and hurting.

We made sure to visit his father, my step-father and my father for Fathers’ Day.

My husband loved seafood – at any time! If there was a special day, he would always choose Red Lobster. So my daughter had an idea. “Let’s get seafood and sit with daddy”. So, that’s exactly what we did!

We sat at the Memorial Park for close to 4 hours and just ate seafood with him and talked to him. I can imagine that he was happy and pleased! Though it was a very difficult day for me, it was unusual, different and comforting.

This was the first of many more Fathers’ Days to come that I’ll be spending at the memorial park.

In this day and time, it’s very difficult to be a parent. I salute all of the brothers striving to lead, love and leave a legacy and an inheritance for your children. God will certainly bless you for raising your children as He commands.

I also greet all of my friends, family and colleagues who are holding the bar high as a daddy.

Remember, anyone can donate sperm and become a father. But it takes a special man to be a daddy!!
HAPPY FATHERS’ DAY!!

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10896966_10205710842516350_314393234073763629_nDenyse H. Turner, L.H.D, M.P.H., M.A., ACC
First Lady who is out to help others win!
I am picking up ministry where my husband left off!
Public Speaker/Author/Trainer/Counselor/Faith-Based Travel Educator
First Lady and Chief Connector at Dr. Gregory C. Turner, Late Pastor of Christ Temple Baptist Church

The FIRST lady

IN THE BEGINNING

I first met my husband in kindergarten in Baltimore Maryland. We were always proud of the time that we had known each other. I became a Preacher’s Wife in March 1979 and a Pastor’s Wife in December 1980. My husband only pastored two churches in his ministerial career. Throughout my husband’s entire ministerial/pastoral career, I worked side by side with him tirelessly, however, I became The Forgotten FIRST lady!

As committed Christians, we erroneously thought that Christians were full of love and compassion. We found out the hard way this was not always correct. My husband transitioned November 22, 2015 from severe depression and betrayal. The subsequent reconnection with my high school sweetheart resulted in many forms of abuse never experienced before.

Now I’m sure lots of questions immediately enter your mind. They will all be answered, either through this post or my upcoming book. Stay tuned and follow us!

THE HONEYMOON

Our honeymoon lasted for 38 years! Honestly! Although we almost separated after 30 days, we decided that we exchanged vows, not only in front of our family and friends, but more importantly, in front of God. That was enough for us to say, no matter what life brings, we are sticking it out. We even found the secret to never arguing. We had one major argument in our marriage.

Did we have stressful times in our lives? Absolutely and of course! Just as anybody does but we learned how to deal with them and get through them. Although I had been in church all of my life, my husband taught me most of what I know. I hardly ever attended Bible Study in my home church. My husband and I were married at the ripe old age of 21 years old. So, my spiritual journey really began with him.

Evolving into a “First Lady” was stressful for me. I was never one for public activities. I was perfectly fine operating behind the scenes. I knew my husband was a preacher when we married but it never dawned on me that he was called to “pastor“! I think he knew not to tell me that ahead of time. So, when he decided to follow that call, I was shocked! But as the good wife who made promises to my husband, I followed.

He was Pastor of the St. John Baptist Church of Baltimore Maryland for 8 years. That was really a training ground for us both. At the end of those 8 years, he felt the call was bigger. We loved that church and her members. To this day, we still maintain good relationships with them. So, that was a difficult decision to make. I was also in an established career and did not want to interrupt it. But again, I was the Good Wife! I’m starting to feel like Julianna Margulies.

After doing some research and searching for opportunities, God opened the door in Paterson NJ in 1988 at the Christ Temple Baptist Church. We remained there as the Pastor and the First Lady until his demise. We both felt that Christ Temple was ordained for us. On the exact same day that they marched into their current building, my husband was preaching his initial sermon. This was where God was placing him many years before we even realized it.

Our years at Christ Temple were filled with much work. Many new ministries were developed and implemented and my husband became involved in the community, as did I. He served as the Senior Chaplain of the Paterson Fire Department for 25 years. He was remembered at their Annual Memorial Service on Sunday June 5, 2016. I was active with the Paterson Alliance which provides networking and connecting opportunities with non-profits in the city. This led to my writing a personal grant which developed a Computer Lab for the church. The amount of ministries developed there are too numerous to name. But we were happy with our work there!

THE BETRAYAL AND THE PAIN

On Sunday, May 31, 2015, our work and world came crashing down. This section will avoid many details as it will be explained further in the upcoming book. My husband was presented with a letter by a ministry leader that took us both by surprise. We couldn’t even believe what it said. That was something that we both had to take to God in prayer.

Once we had prayed about it, our answer was “stand still”. That’s exactly what we did. We went on about our lives. My husband was preparing for a back surgery. There were no issues there; I had two back surgeries and recovered well. The surgery was to be in June 2015. Unfortunately, his cardiologist could not clear him for surgery because he said he had a Silent Heart Attack. We were baffled but came to understand why. He had been betrayed and was depressed! He was given medication and a new surgery date, which was July 22, 2015.

On July 22, 2015, he underwent surgery at the Holy Name Medical Center, which was successful! He was on the mend and on his way back to his position of Pastor. During his time of surgical rehabilitation, he would say every day, “I don’t believe they did this to me after over 26 years”.

We had to constantly pray to ask God for guidance. I noticed as time went on that I was the only one praying. He said he just didn’t feel like it. My response? I’m praying enough for both of us! And I was. He began to decline daily. I asked for a Psychological Evaluation, which was done and he was placed on medication. I was able to take him to church during his time in rehab but he didn’t really participate.

Time continued to move. When he said he did not want to talk with his grandchildren, I knew something was seriously wrong. He declined to talk, he declined his meals and he declined to engage in life. This continued to November 22, 2015 – exactly 4 months to the date of the surgery. “22” is now a significant number in my life.

MOVING TO PURPOSE

This was THE absolutely most traumatic event in my life! I cried incessantly, numerous times a day for 4 months straight! At the 5th month, the Holy Spirit said “dry your eyes and get up; you have work to do”! That’s exactly what I did. He gave me the energy and motivation to get up and work. He laid out my “new” journey and purpose. I still have waves of grief that last for a few days or longer.

There are so many people who have experienced trauma in their lives, whether physical/sexual abuse, divorce, infidelity, social awkwardness, violent acts, natural disasters, serious injuries, witnessing a violent act or even the sudden unexpected loss of someone close – as in my case, etc. Many times, people get “stuck” in their pain.  A terminal sense of doom clouds their days and fogs their nights.

Emotional pain is a natural state in life’s journey. When we fail is when we choose to remain in that pain. That is grief and is a kind of death. I refused to allow myself to die! My children and grandchildren were depending on me. They had already lost their father and grandfather. I had to learn to depend on God heavily and learn the steps of grief and recovery. Part of that is undergoing grief counseling with my therapist.

Additionally, because my husband was my primary provider, I lost his income. Because of the situation in the letter, I further learned there was no life insurance. When I tell you that God has been my shadow, He has and is!! He is the only REASON I have survived financially, because unfortunately, nothing came from the church – although my husband and I spent years building up the Benevolent Fund. God has sent people to assist in this journey. I couldn’t even apply for survivors’ benefits until August 2016. For nine (9) months, I depended on family and friends to survive. I lost so much more than my husband during this period.

My husband fulfilled his command from God. He was faithful to the end – not only to God but also his family – and the Holy Spirit has already confirmed to me that He’s pleased! He also showed me that He protected my husband by calling him home when He did. That gave me some peace. This is where my husband’s journey ends.

Little did I know, I was about to experience yet another stressful and traumatic chapter in my life.

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But this is where my journey begins! I am following God’s lead! God has opened doors for me to share how people can move from their pain to discover their God intended purpose. I would have never even imagined some of the things He has allowed in my path, like regional and national stages. God is awesome!

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God is directing and ordering EVERY step I make and take. There is nothing too small for me to ask for God’s guidance. As I continue on this journey and deal with additional stress, I am honored to be used by God!

Although I miss my husband and lifelong friend tremendously, God has shown me that His plan for me is even greater. So, here I go!

If you are looking for a speaker who will impact your audiences with step by step instructions on getting through their pain to their purpose, please think of The FIRST lady.

I can be reached at firstladyministries@gmail.com or at 973-214-1136.

God bless you on your NEW journeys!

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10896966_10205710842516350_314393234073763629_nDenyse H. Turner, D.H.L., M.P.H., M.A., ACC
First Lady helping others win and enriching lives!
I am picking up ministry where my husband left off!
Public Speaker/Writer/Ghostwriter/Trainer/Business Development/Coach/Faith-Based Travel Educator
First Lady and Chief Connector at Dr. Gregory C. Turner, Late Pastor of Christ Temple Baptist Church