How Sweet it is to Feel Loved

December 19, 2023

WEWOKA, OKLA. – It’s ironic that just at the time when our husbands are being either appreciated—or as the case often is, forgotten—during Pastor Appreciation Month, the pastor’s wives in Oklahoma who choose to attend the all-expense-paid Shepherdess Retreat are being pampered, loved and surrounded by women of all ages who understand the challenges and joys that pastors’ wives can bring.

There’s this instant bond that pastors’ wives feel as soon as they learn that “you’re a pastor’s wife, too?” There’s something incredibly safe about being in the presence of people who get it. These women are not just in the same theme park as you, they are right beside you, hands in the air, hair flapping, screaming at the top of their lungs as you ride the rollercoasters together.

October is the most anticipated month of the year for pastors’ wives in Oklahoma because we know that every October we will gather together at the Wewoka Woods Adventist Center Lodge and be surrounded by love, friends and a whole lot of great food.

With each passing year, new faces join the group as we gather around the fireplace and share what’s on our hearts. It’s safe. It’s cozy. It’s full of laughs and tears. It’s the best weekend of the year for many of us who pour ourselves out every day. We get fed spiritually, emotionally and physically: massages, essential oil scrubs, art tutorials and even food with no dishes. A whole weekend just for us.

So, how did we get so blessed with this little retreat weekend for pastors’ wives? Julia Shires, wife of Oklahoma Conference President James Shires, plans this retreat every year and it keeps on growing. “This is the fun part. I love planning events for these ladies because I’ve been on all sides. I spent 35+ years as a pastor’s wife and I know how alone you can feel. It’s important to me that our Oklahoma pastors’ families know that they aren’t alone,” she says.

“As shepherdesses, we feel the stress of managing a home, shaping the characters of our children, planning and preparing healthy meals for our family, being a support and encouragement to our pastor husbands and many times holding down a job outside of the home. In addition, we often have multiple major leadership or supportive roles in our churches, while trying to fit into a mold that others think we should, or creating the molds for ourselves that we think we should aspire to fill. In short, it is a big job and most pastors’ wives find themselves stressed and exhausted from trying to juggle everything. Not always, but often we are under-appreciated and overburdened while we aspire to be everything to everyone. Being a shepherdess is a wonderful role, an important role, and one that can impact lives for eternity.” 

Shires says that, “It has been my pleasure and my goal to create a warm, inviting space in time to treasure our pastor’s wives in a way they might not always get; to give them intimate opportunities to get to know and create lasting friendships with other shepherdesses who can relate to the challenges, joys and special work that only another pastor’s wife would understand.”

Most importantly, Shires says that, “I want them to feel comfortable to share, be relaxed, refreshed, pampered, appreciated, supported and valued. When they leave to go back to the roles God has called them to, I want them to know that as they go through trials and struggles in the future, they are not alone. They have the support of their sisters who know what they are going through and who have their back.”

From all the shepherdesses in Oklahoma to Julia Shires, we say thank you. We love you. You’ve made a difference in each of our lives by giving us a place to belong, and that feeling of love is something we will never forget.

By Ashley Alipoon and Julia Shires