My Story

In 2005, I graduated from Bible college and married my sweetheart. That same year we moved from southern USA to an island in Nova Scotia, Canada where my husband became the youth pastor at a church there. Very shortly he found himself as the interim pastor, and then became the senior pastor. After 4 years there and some time in between, we went to Moncton, New Brunswick, where my husband served as assistant pastor for 5 years.

During our 10 years in Canada (as landed immigrants and eventually dual citizens), God led us through deep suffering in our personal lives. In our first and third years of marriage, we went through two life threatening pregnancies that nearly took my life and the lives of our babies. During pregnancy, I have a condition called Hyperemesis Gravidarum. This is, in a nutshell, an extreme allergy to the pregnancy hormone, a condition that is rare and has no cure. We spent many weeks {including our first Christmas and New Year holidays as newlyweds} in three different hospitals.  For the duration of both pregnancies, I was on high doses of several medications- some of them being meds that cancer patients use during chemo.  We accumulated hospital bills that amounted to $50,000 and spent thousands more on medications to keep me alive and out of the hospital as much as possible. God worked miracles on our behalf during that dark time in our lives, beginning with giving us two babies that shocked our doctors by being born alive and healthy.  And He continues to redeem this part of our story. You can read about that journey in my published book, Expecting Grace:The Miraculous Survival Story of a Hyperemesis Gravidarum Pregnancy.

God has also seen fit to send us through deep and devastating valleys for most of our 10 years in ministry while serving as pastor and pastor’s wife. Christ Himself was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” and He calls believers to be part of the “fellowship of His sufferings.” Through our suffering, God opened my eyes to a great need among pastors’ wives- the need for trusted community with each other where we can share mutual prayer support and encouragement. It’s the need to know that we aren’t alone and the need to find hope in Christ together, in an atmosphere of grace and healing. God stirred in me a passion to encourage other ministry wives {specifically pastors’ wives} through the avenue of writing/blogging and by building a safe community where they could find each other and be uplifted.

It was from this desire that the original website- Embracing Grace- was born in 2011. I had blogged for several years on three different blogs (two homemaking blogs and one piano teaching blog). But God changed my direction and clearly directed me to writing about ministry. Here you won’t find idealism, surface positivity, or scores of success stories {our successes are in heaven, anyway.}  You won’t find a place to be bitter or cynical together. But you will find openness about what ministry is really like. You will be free to acknowledge your own struggles, grief, and trauma as well as your joys and grateful praise. And I pray earnestly that you will see Christ here, and that you will find in Him the healing that only He can bring about in your heart. Here you will find hope in Christ among others who are walking the same road.

A few years ago, this article went viral around the world. As a result, I received a flood of emails from pastors’ wives asking for prayer and for support. So eventually in response to that need, I created an online Heart-to-Heart group for pastors’ wives on May 2, 2014. I planned to allow about 30 PWs and I honestly never thought beyond that. But God has steadily grown this ministry to the point where there are now 13 groups and close to 500 pastors’ wives from around the world in community with each other. This ministry is growing- it is a work of God and nothing that I have done. He has simply answered my prayer that He would send the PWs who need support, and that my pain would be used to bring hope and healing to others. In addition to managing the H2H groups, I still receive steady emails from pastors’ wives asking for support and prayer. I’m blessed to have a wonderful team of administrators serving with me and helping in the groups. In the fall of 2014, we began praying and actively planning for a future conference that will be geared specifically for the encouragement of pastors’ wives. Since 2016, we have held annual retreats for pastors’ wives and have watched God move mountains, work miracles, and answer many prayers of faith for us as the organizers, and for our attendees. Our attendees (who have come from 5 countries and many states) testify to the fact that the Heart-2-Heart retreat is life changing!

After taking an extended, Stateside sabbatical for the purpose of healing and resting, God put us on the path to church planting in South Africa. We moved to the field in June of 2019 and are dipping our toes into this new ministry adventure. Life is….never dull when you are a ministry family! Join my journey? I’d be honored to do life with you!

5 thoughts on “My Story

  1. Hi Leah,
    Claudia Barba shared this sight on facebook. The Heart to Heart Conference caught my attention so I clicked on your blog. This is great! There are so many pastor’s and wives out there that are struggling with so little support.

    I have always felt like someday God would use me in a small way to help others. My husband and I have been married since 1973. We have been “officially” in the ministry since 1979. We have worked with young people, led mission trips, built and run a Christian Camp, started a new church and my husband has pastored 2 churches in Iowa and the one we are currently at in SC. As you can imagine, all of those experiences brought wonderful blessings and great disappointments. God has taught me many lessons over the years. Some of those lessons he has to keep repeating because I keep forgetting. 🙂

    If I can be a help to you in any way let me know.

    Marcia Wagner

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