Contemplating Sabbath

Ever since our first semester of seminary when we heard examples of how to keep sabbath time in our lives I have been considering what this would look like or possibly could look like in my life. As a parent it seems I need to be somewhat flexible on this. I also know that staying up late working on homework Saturday simply to be free from doing homework Sunday would not be a plan that would work for me. There are many other possibilities I considered along the way, but nothing that I really practiced.

I would start each semester or time of transition by planning out when I would take time to take care of myself — such as carving out yoga time, time for groups I like to attend, and so on. Sometimes this works better than other time and maintaining a yoga and exercise schedule certainly is an important part of my self-care plan; however, I no longer thing it’s truly sabbath time.

I’m considering doing a Saturday sundown to Sunday sundown. This would give me Saturday night to relax with family or friends (something that comes naturally to me on both Friday and Saturday night actually), and leaves Sunday night for returning to school or other work. I would still need to be careful about not leaving too much for Sunday night although this semester is the perfect semester to experiment since my class load is lighter on Mondays.

My brain can’t help but wonder how I would work this with an on-call schedule such as if/when I again start working in a hospital in the chaplain role … and then I tell myself that is no reason to not to try it now.

So, starting in just over an hour I will begin my Sabbath time. I will try to be gentle with myself in this transition as I attempt to discern what are appropriate Sabbath activities. I think, at least initially, I will fast from social media during this time, but still allow electronics in various forms (especially my e-reader — just for pleasure rather than work).

The main thing though is that I will free myself from the “should” feeling of what I should be doing — and the long “to-do” list that I always have.

I think that I will also find some additional meditation or spiritual practice books to dig into on Sundays. I could probably just look on my book shelves for books I have not had a chance to start reading yet, but if you have recommendations, please leave a comment. Since starting seminary my personal reflection and inspirational reading has moved to those that can be read in very short spurts of time (like 10 minutes each morning) rather than slowly devoured word by word over an afternoon.

I may even come back and write many Sunday evenings about how the experience was for me. How slowing down, connecting intentionally with God and the community God has given me — as well as intentionally connecting with myself — feels and how it nourishes my soul.

For tomorrow we already have a few plans, and most of them such as attending church and going swimming at the Y as a family I think fit in well with a day of rest. A few things may need to be altered however, and I am already thinking the day will likely seem extremely short and that the benefits of take such intentional sabbath will come after repeatedly keeping such time set aside as sacred.

Please comment with your own personal experience with sabbath time!


55 minutes to relax (more intentional meandering reflection)

What does a busy seminary student do when told to take 55 minutes specifically to relax? Hmmm, well it varies, but today Shawn and I used it as all the incentive we needed to take the afternoon totally off and hang out downtown.

I’m sitting in the Dubuque library now. Earlier, it was a yarn store while Shawn relaxed in a book store. And first we took time to eat together.

Thankfully our professor is aware that many of us have hit the wall regarding the intensity and emotional exhaustion of our Jterm class after travel to Chicago and Madison to hear speakers who work in some way directly with domestic violence issues. So, today class was done early and we were told to use that 55 minutes to relax! This is a lovely thing.

Right now my mind feels like it’s being pushed and expanded in so many ways and directions, and these is even with very little of the actual information being totally new to me. However, viewing it from a pastoral perspective is new to me. I also seem to keep wondering about the generational and cultural influences of abuse that affect the rest of the culture as well. I particularly think about this as when talking about power and control (and lack of empathy) in domestic violence (including rape) we hear mentioned the impact of patriarchy and colonialism, and it leaves me wondering about the abusive marks left simply by a culture. I include marks left on our men and the challenges of all in navigating through such a world in these wonderings.

In other “trying hard to relax, but not always succeeding” fronts, I keep checking for word from the CPE site I interviewed with this past Monday for any word since I was told they would decide quickly. I remind myself that if I am ever in that interviewer position again I will tell the person it will likely be a long time just to not get their hopes up. 😉

Trying to live in the moment and recover after all of the travel and finding it hard not to fill my to-do list past what will work for such relaxation and renewal. This weekend is primarily about rest and spending time with my 7-year-old after being away from her so much … yet, a long list of other things keeps trying to sneak in.

January is such an “in between month” it finds me almost missing the intentional intensity of the regular semester.

quick update & thankful at this moment update list

First my apologies for anyone I owe an email, call or visit! This summer was even more intense and exhausting than I imagined, and my only non-CPE priority was my family (as in my daughters and my husband), and in that regard I think we did OK. However, my dream of connecting with other La Crosse area friends or extended family was dashed by the first week of CPE. 🙂

So, both Shawn and I not only survived CPE but did indeed also pass the CPE unit. Our CPE experiences were very different and yet we each learned what we needed to (although we are both still processing as well). It was even kind of hard to leave the hospital and those I had let myself be called to serve (my “favorite” was the in-patient psychiatric unit and I am looking for additional training in this area), when we had to say goodbye the week of August 10th. As good as it is to be back to Wartburg I am already thinking about a Chaplain residency (3 or 4 more CPE units) for next year (while Shawn is on his Internship year). I am also in the midst of trying to figure out my Diaconal MInistry fieldwork, but that is a another post …

I hope to have time to reflect on CPE more here, but right now I am in the midst of trying to conquer my Endorsement essay as part of the ELCA candidacy process. Shawn and I both have to have this important essay written by Sept. 1st. In the meantime we also got our daughter, Nessa, off to her first couple of days of 2nd grade here in Dubuque (Megan has her high school registration next Wed. as she starts high school in La Crescent, MN after Labor Day).

I stumbled upon this free (nook) ebook the other day: Spiritual Practices for Happiness and it reminded me about the practice of being grateful, and then that I hadn’t been following through as much as I planned to publicly share my gratitude with all of you!

So, here goes my current, very quick, top ten thankful list!

1. Shawn took Nessa to her chiropractor apt. today (yes, little and yet oh so big)

2. That we are HOME!!! (really my home is wherever my family is so home is multiple places right now, but this house here at Wartburg is my home where my heart can thrive and oh how I missed it and this community this summer!)

3. for this community! It’s so good to see not only my classmates but also the professors and others.

4. for our parents in helping Nessa to survive this summer. IF there is one person the summer was hardest on, it was her. Hopefully she will recover soon so that we can fully recover.

5. for my fabulous teenager, Megan! She not only helped with Nessa and guided her with doing chores this summer, she was ready to hang out for mom & Megan time when my scheduled allowed and I rarely had to stress about her behavior, etc. … if having a teen is like this, I LOVE it!

6. for my health … when it’s always “on the edge” so to speak (auto-immune disease can be like that) I remember to be grateful for what I have & the ability to make it better with my behavior … leading us to

7. YOGA … and specifically the hot yoga I did this summer as my scheduled allowed … now to find a place in Dubuque that I can practice yoga to help maintain my health and wellness

8. my kitchen … and a family to cook for!

9. my church … both of them 🙂 (it was good to be able to have a little time to reconnect with Good Shepherd this summer and I am blessed to have a wonderful church home here as well).

10. my husband! … not only did he survive the summer with me, we are reconnecting for a blessed fall and school year.

Distinctive Lutheran Spirituality / Spiritual Practices (and some reflection on a semester looking at Spiritual Practices)

It’s the last week of the Fall semester here at Wartburg Seminary. I likely won’t be able to really reflect on the entire semester until the space of Christmas is between me and my last paper (likely to be finished Friday morning), but I am starting to feel a shift in things as the my first semester ends. I’m connecting lots of dots so to speak, and things are really coming together as many of the classes wrap up.

The last Spiritual Practices lecture was held this past Tuesday (small group finishes tomorrow, Thursday), and we ended as we began with a panel of Professors sharing their thoughts on Spirituality and Spiritual Practices. The intended focus was around the question — Is There a Distinctive Lutheran Spirituality? I am not sure we really answered that question, but the comments were interesting and thought provoking.

The connections for me can be summarized in Spiritual Practices being grounded in the Word of God, and that for Lutherans, Spiritual Practices will look like Jesus Christ. And, I think related to that, Lutheran Spiritual Practices are grace-filled practices (centered on life in Jesus Christ and bringing gratitude) that lead us to our neighbor, and these practices remain a struggle due to the reality of sin (so we shouldn’t expect perfection).

That little summary is really a lot.

During the semester we went through many traditional and untraditional Spiritual Practices (from lectio divina to fasting to deep listening in lecture … to labyrinth “walking” (or tracing) to praying the daily examen to play/laughter/fun as a Spiritual Practice in small groups… and many more introduced in our readings). Although I didn’t enjoy all of the Spiritual Practices we tried, I have enjoyed learning about them.

However, now that can “test” any spiritual practice for myself personally as to if it “looks” like Jesus Christ, it makes it much easier to know if it’s a practice I should spend my time practicing. Does it draw me to my neighbor and make me a gracious presence when with my neighbor (neighbor meaning all others in this context just as it does in the gospels)? Does the practice add to, facilitate or otherwise bring me towards a thankful heart? Do I recognize my own struggle within that practice? Is the practice truly grounded in God’s Word? Is it something that is, for me, truly woven into these distinctive characteristics or can I walk through it on a human level only? — if so, it’s not a true spiritual practice (for me; it might be for another).

Now I have to decide what I am going to do with this information. (Much of which I think I knew on some level before, but now can articulate at least a little bit.) I have struggled this semester with continuing a healthy personal spiritual practice. This is true in part because of having to re-learn my habits, rituals, and how I meditate and pray within my current space and time. But, I think I have also struggled because we have actively been trying so many specific Spiritual Practices, and I genuinely consider each one as something to possibly do.

Now it’s time to step back and appreciate most from a distance while actively doing those that will most allow me to participate in meaningful and tangible ways with Christ.

I cannot just immediately tell you what those will be, but I think it will be some type of centered prayer or possibly a combination of simple centered prayer and a return to the daily examen, and a near daily participation in some type of family Spiritual Practice. Ideally Shawn and I would return to a daily time of prayer and meditation on the Word as well as beginning some type of hands-on Spiritual Practices (or maybe trying a new practice each month until we have enough to just rotate through them with her — fun ones, like praying in color and praying the catechism with prayer beads are where I will begin).

What Spiritual Practices do practice regularly or appreciate?

Does your faith have a distinctive spirituality? If so (or not), please share.

(And if you read my list at all closely, you’ll realize that the actual practices we learned about or participated in are anything but distinctive to the Lutheran faith. 🙂

Hospitality: My accidental Spiritual Practice

(Not really an accident of course)

chocolate covered strawberriesI just realized when cooking and baking first started to, very gradually, become a spiritual practice for me. It was nearly a decade ago after my daughter,  Emily Lin, died. Well, it wasn’t immediately afterwards, but rather after I realized how important the food others brought to me during my time of intense grief (seriously people, bring food and lots of it*).

As I forced myself to begin cooking for my family again it was hard, really hard. And then it started getting easier and became a way for me to focus and give rhythm to my day. And then one day I was cooking for someone else in a time of need, and the hours slipped by as mere seconds as I poured every ounce of love and prayer into those meals.  I still cannot describe how it felt to make that difference to another mom, and it became somewhat of a passion for me … however, having guests over for a meal was still something I was terrified of.

I continued to try to have guests over for both simple and elaborate meals (for example Thanksgiving … and once less than two weeks after having my appendix out while pregnant; my husband is a saint) with varying results. I started feeling like a glutton for punishment as I kept feeling called to host events and yet I would have to work through stress and anxiety as I did it.

And then my journey to celiac disease began (severe symptoms undiagnosed for more than “awhile”), and eventually I journeyed into not only the gluten-free world but other food sensitivities as well. Before and during the time of diagnosis, as well as while pregnant, food became the enemy and I retreated to my own defense.

And then I realized I would only eat great food if I made it, and ever so slowly I began to share those foods with others. Almost simultaneously I became part of multiple groups with wonderful hospitality mentors, and I felt the love of sharing meals – meals that *I* could eat too (talk about Christian love!).welcome mat

Shawn and I also realized that it was often much less stressful to host others for dinner than to go out to eat, and looking back now I can see all those dots connecting to prepare me/us. (Shawn is a wonderful host as well, and we’re even starting to work well together in the kitchen at times.)

When we moved to the Wartburg seminary community we knew we would continue to enjoy breaking bread with others in the community – even if it was gluten-free bread. So, we started inviting other families and groups of friends over for dinner, brunch, etc.  In addition to encouraging us to eat very healthy, I now clearly see that my eating restrictions are a part of my call to hospitality – a call that I was initially very reluctant to follow.

And now this Introvert thrives on feeding people and hosting events such as Friday Night Fellowship (otherwise known as Wine Tasting) … and yet I will still maintain I am very much a Mary type rather than a Martha type J

Where is God in all of this? Oh God is wrapped up in every bit of it – from guiding my cooking/baking skills and connecting all those “life dots” the past ten years to ushering the new and old friends through our doors. And oh I can feel the spirit at work when we gather together in community to support and simply love each other. And it is my honor and pure joy to do have a small part in that.

I am just beginning to explore the breadth of intentional (and accidental!) spiritual practices … this entry is really an open journal entry as I brainstorm  —

fresh fall produce

our abundance one week from our CSA while living in La Crosse

How have you practiced or received hospitality? What does it mean to you? Where is God in it? Is it important? Why? 

P.S. Now that we’re living as frugal seminary students, I further ponder how the gift of hospitality is at work. I can no longer buy whatever I want at the grocery store (or farmers’ market), but rather must be very deliberate about planning purchases and meals … hmmm…


*This is true after births as well as after deaths. Every set of new parents should have many many meals and snacks provided for them so they can focus on getting to know that brand new human being God created with them!


Wholeness Wheel: Life In Process

Last Thursday we had a convocation after Chapel here at Wartburg Seminary. Our focus included looking at the Wholeness Wheel, and discussing how we personally as well as the larger community can work on balancing all aspects of wellness.

The discussion was interesting, and I have been thinking about how to do this without becoming obsessed with “balance” which I have found to be a bit dangerous to my overall health in the past. The following Martin Luther quote shared at the event is something I have been meditating on. I invite you to read and ponder the quote as well, and let me know some of your thoughts.

Martin Luther said:
“This life, therefore, is not godliness but the process of becoming godly, not health but getting well, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way. The process is not yet finished, but it is actively going on. This is not the goal but it is the right road. At present, everything does not gleam and sparkle, but everything is being cleansed.”

Today, I am using my free hour to ponder, walk, pray, and meditate while I move my body. I am also focussing this week on sleep as a spiritual practice, and will reflect on that here later in the week. I am evolving my thoughts from “what do I need to get done” to “what is the best use of my time” … this time stewardship within the practice of life is very much an evolving practice for me —

How do you steward your time?

What spiritual practices help connect the various parts of your life?