Too often, pastor's wives feel overburdened by obligations and undervalued in their roles. The constant scrutiny under which they must live burdens them with the nagging sense of never being good enough.

But that's not how God intends pastor's wives to live. If you're married to a pastor, God wants you to embrace your unique calling and enjoy the life that goes with it.

Here's how you can find the freedom and joy God wants you to have as a pastor's wife:

Go to the Holy Spirit for counsel. Build an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit by spending regular time reading the Bible, pondering what you read, and praying that the Holy Spirit will make it come alive for you. Once you learn to recognize the Spirit's voice speaking to you in your prayer life, pray regularly about what your priorities should be each day. Don't let other people set your agenda, and don't decide to do something simply out of self-imposed guilt. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal specific ways God wants you to spend your time and energy each day. Then focus just on those things and let other things go.

Look to God - not your husband - to ultimately fulfill you. Understand that your husband's love is icing on the cake, but it's not the cake itself - the cake is intimacy with God. Don't expect your husband to make you happy. Instead, build an intimate relationship with God - the only One who can truly meet all of your needs - and let that relationship make you a strong and satisfied woman who is secure no matter what your current circumstances.

Understand that God sees and values your work. Realize that God notices everything you do to serve Him, no matter how mundane. Know that your contributions are vital and important. Understand that your life matters greatly to God. Be obedient by doing whatever God asks you to do, and be encouraged that your work has eternal significance.

Value your femininity and use it well. Understand the purpose of your femininity: to complement your husband's masculinity so you can each serve more effectively, in the same way the church brings glory to Christ. Maintain a kind and submitted heart attitude toward your husband as a gift of obedience to God, who has given you different yet equal roles. Help your husband fulfill his dreams by supporting him, encouraging him, and being willing to make sacrifices with him so those dreams can come true.

Love your husband well. Don't criticize your husband unnecessarily. Give him grace and be willing to overlook his minor mistakes, when preaching or serving in other ways. Let your husband know that you appreciate what's truly important - that he has a sincere desire to teach the Bible and help people. Respect and support him in his endeavors. Think about him the way you want him to think about you. Understand that you wield great power to undermine his confidence - and ministry - through criticism or build his confidence and ministry through kindness and encouragement. Look for things you genuinely admire about your husband, even if they seem minor to you. Then affirm those things as you talk with him and watch how you start to notice more and more things as you both grow in a loving relationship.

Build a healthy marriage
. Keep your relationship growing so you don't take each other for granted. Strive to mature spiritually, develop intellectually, and increase your physical fitness. Keep on learning and stretching yourself so you remain engaged and excited about life. Be willing to sometimes join your husband in activities that he enjoys (even if you don't particularly enjoy them) when you spend recreational time together. Work on your sexual relationship so it brings joy to both of you regularly.

Make your children a top priority. Give yourself permission to place your responsibilities as a mother before your responsibilities at church. Understand that being a great mom is an extremely important ministry. Don't feel like you have to take a one-size-fit-all approach to parenting; realize that each child is unique. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how you should parent each of your children. Protect your kids from the burden of unrealistic expectations other people might place on them because they're pastor's kids. Don't expect them to be perfect; allow them to go through the natural process of making mistakes and learning from them. Don't force certain types of behaviors on them at church just so they'll look good to others. Instead, be concerned with how they're doing in their quests to genuinely get to know and love God. Strive to model an authentic faith for them by living honestly and openly yourself.

Enjoy friendships with other women. Realize that you need friends to become the woman God wants you to be. Don't distance yourself from the women in your own congregation and limit yourself to friendships with other pastors' wives. Develop friendships with women in your same church family who share your life and purpose. Don't worry about appearing to show favoritism by forming friendships with some women in your church and not others; know that it's natural to be drawn to some people over others. Just be sure to be friendly to everyone, regardless of how close you are to them.

Lead with grace. Recognize that you have great influence as a pastor's wife, and how you use that influence can positively or negatively affect your church. Know that your leadership will be received most effectively if you are gracious and kind in the way you relate to people. Strive to use your influence for the good of others, and to strengthen and support your husband's ministry. Gain the respect and love of people in your church by treating them as you would like to be treated. Don't live behind a façade of perfection; be willing to let people see your weaknesses so they can also see how God's strength is working in your life and be inspired to seek Him themselves. Set healthy boundaries on how much you can do and be honest about those limits with other people rather than trying to attend every wedding, funeral, and baby shower in your church, sing in the choir, lead the women's Bible study, receive phone calls at home at all hours, or anything else that's unreasonable for you.

Adapted from A Life Embraced: A Hopeful Guide for the Pastor's Wife, copyright 2004 by Gayle Haggard. Published by WaterBrook Press, Colorado Springs, Co., a division of Random House, Inc., www.randomhouse.com/waterbrook.

Gayle Haggard has been married for 26 years to Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals and pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Since the time their church was founded in 1985 with just a few people meeting in their basement, through its growth into a megachurch of 11,000 people, Gayle has worked alongside her husband in building the ministry. As director of women's ministries at New Life, Gayle oversees more than 100 women's small groups. In recent years, she has coordinated the National Day of Prayer event in Colorado Springs, helping to make it into one of the largest annual celebrations in the nation. She and Ted are the parents of five children, including one who is disabled.