Settling into Harmony & my chaplaincy residency

Today it is raining and coolish and feels like fall.

It also feels like we are here living, working, MINISTERING … We are not so much in transition now, but rather we simply ARE. We are as settled into our home in Harmony, MN as we are likely to be this year. At this point I consider it an accomplishment to not think about the next move (back to Dubuque for our final seminary year at Wartburg), and to instead simply be and live in each moment. It is equally an accomplishment not to be obsessed about my future calling in ministry — to set aside the questions about what type of institution I could best use my particular “chaplain gifts” and to simply exist in this present moment and give that gift to those around me, and to myself.

Shawn has settled into his pastor internship here in the Harmony area, and thankful finds it energizing. Nessa has settled into 3rd grade at her new school and we thankfully hear very few complaints, fear, etc. And I thankfully find a new appreciation for my time at Mayo almost every day.

Mayo Clinic, and its hospitals, is a unique place to minister for many reasons including both the diversity of individuals that come to Mayo and the diverse hospital units one can minister on. The site is also unique in my experience in that there are still protestant chaplain-led worship services each Sunday. All of this and more works together to create a unique culture as well as unique opportunities for ministry. I am thankful to be a part of this … To be here in this place and time.

Although some days I can’t help thinking it would have been nice to be led here when I was younger and could go without sleep easier … I especially think this on my post-call days. Leading worship in two chapels after being on-call all night is certainly a unique challenge. Yet, even on days when I am tired or when chronic pain flares in one way or another (more often than I would like this fall), I realize that it is only now that I am prepared to use the gifts given to me by God to be fully present with others in their pain, grief, doubts AND hopes (there is much hope here) … To listen, to offer the few words that come to me, to give voice to scripture, to pray AND to BE.

Love and belief,


Rainy Day Reflections … part one (How was it to lead worship with your husband?)

While talking to classmates after chapel today I realized I
was not rushing off to do the next most urgent task on my list
immediately, but instead I actually need to take a moment and
reflect on how to best use my time today — mostly I need to decide
how to split my time between all of the things I put off over the
last coupe of weeks when I had to be focussed on a couple of strict
deadlines and what assignments that are due next week I should
start working on. Oh, and just maybe I can justify calling a friend
or playing Barbies with my 8-year-old daughter sometime today as
well (Nessa made the request already this morning because I was
recently, upon rediscovery, able to give her two Barbie dolls,
complete with homemade clothes, from when I was her age). 🙂

First– A little reflection time before the intensity of recent
experiences evaporate … (maybe it’s the rainy weather or the
intense emotions of the week(s) … or maybe it just is the most
important thing this morning)

This past Sunday was the first time Shawn and I were able to lead Sunday worship together. Thankfully we were able to do this for the first time in our home congregation
(Good Shepherd Lutheran in La Crosse, WI). It was a joy to not only
be back among friends, but specifically to be among the brothers
and sisters in Christ that nurtured our faith. I mean this very
seriously — the members of Good Shepherd are a very important part
of my/our call stories. I cannot count how many times I lift up the
members and ministries of Good Shepherd to my colleagues here at
Seminary. While small group ministries were vital to us during our
years worshiping and being formed there, life truly centered around
worship for us and being there certainly brought joy and memories.
This is also the sanctuary and community where our daughter Nessa
was baptized and Megan confirmed her faith. Nessa, in particular
literally grew from baby to young child crawling, walking and
dancing through both that sanctuary and the long halls and rooms
where the people of God gather to study, pray, sing, eat and even
play together. Looking back at Nessa’s physical growth during our
time there is a wonderful metaphor for her parent’s faith growth
and formation as future leaders … and yes, I am getting a little

I do though want to lift up the People of God at Good
Shepherd Lutheran in La Crosse. And I ask that all of you lift them
up in your prayers with me as I thank God for their joyful response
to God’s good news. I thank them for welcoming us as a family nine
years ago and for continuing to welcome us each time we are able to
return and worship there together. I also thank them specifically
for supporting us in our seminary journey with prayers and gifts
towards our education. I cannot express adequately how important
this support is to us in sustaining us through these years.
Seminarians are truly called and sent. Thank you people of Good
Shepherd for sending us!

Now, specifically, about how it was to
assist my husband in leading a worship service (or co-lead; how you
define it is not particularly important to me at this point, but
honestly I am happy to be in the assistant role … even on days
I’m preaching) — Well, to put it simply — it felt like the most
natural thing in the world to me. To me it felt like we can make a
good team and that any bumps that happened in the unfolding of the
service were not related to our working together in any way.

While assisting others my “presence” during worship has been affirmed by
both mentors (professors and others) as well as classmates, and I
thought it was of particular note that this was also commented on
after the service that Shawn and I led together. I personally,
appreciate this affirmation as part of what we refer to as
“external call.” One of the first ways I articulated my call to
diaconal ministry was by describing it as a call to a “ministry of
presence.” That description still fits with my primary call to
ministry even though I now am able to put additional description or
titles (such as chaplain) on it. When I came here (Wartburg) I did
not anticipate feeling the way I do when I am part of worship
leadership. It is still hard to describe — it is certainly the
Holy Spirit working …. I feel in many ways the same “presence”
that fills me and leads me during worship (especially when leading
prayers of the people) as I do when I am “simply present” with a
Child of God I meet for the first time when I walk into their
hospital room.

And that is enough for one blog post … more
emotional connections to follow. Love and belief, Tami

Sometimes there is something comforting about working at my kitchen table

It’s Ash Wednesday. I have barely over a half an hour before chapel starts, and there is other work scheduled in my time slot for this precious time, and yet I feel an irresistible pull to simply acknowledge this space and time.

The busyness of the semester has begun. I have not yet finished entering all of my assignments and deadlines into my calendar and already I realize that is not going to be the “light” semester I had hoped for. Instead we continue to muddle through each day moment by moment while rarely feeling as if each item is receiving my full attention. I have also drastically cut back on some commitments or extra activities. Meanwhile I offset that balance by being very intentional about family and self care time, including exercise.

And lent begins today. How do I honor that part of the journey. How do we observe lent as a family?

I am so thankful that I am making this seminary journey with my family. I cannot imagine it any other way and yet it does change the journey.

I am also thankful for my Wartburg seminary community. We are a community centered around worship, and I have become more and more appreciative of this during this second year livin gin this community.

In a short while I will leave my warm sunny kitchen and trek up to “the castle” and worship with others in this community. Each Wednesday we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and today there will also be the imposition of ashes … dust, we are dust.

Here in my kitchen I feel a connection to all of it. I do work at my office desk at times (I can see it from where I am sitting in the kitchen; it’s not a big house) and in the library as well, but sometimes with the sun streaming in the window in the morning, uplifting music playing in the background, photos of my family on the wall, and the food given to sustain our bodies surrounding me … the kitchen is what pulls me. Cooking and baking have become a surprise blessing to me in recent years, and now I often look forward to spending time in the kitchen during my sabbath time. The fact that I can work on a sermon or other work here feel like an integration of my identity in ways I cannot fully articulate yet.

Today I give thanks for all of it.

Now, one more cup of tea with the next productive 20 minutes.

Love and belief,

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.

Thankful this Sunday morning

Just a quick note to share my joy and thanksgiving this morning … and let you all know I/we are still out here taking each day of CPE as it comes — challenges and joys!

The opposite on call schedules my husband and I have is challenging at times (and possibly good preparation for what is to coming in future ministry?), so we are learning to be intentional about setting time aside to reconnect as well. This morning we are on a “Sunday morning date” 🙂 With a full house at the farm this weekend, I saw Sunday morning as a good time for Shawn and to connect away from everyone else (after church we went to Festival to their deli area … trying to practice being frugal along with getting wifi and time together 🙂

It may be a couple of weeks before I have a chance to get a few more posts ready to share here; however, we are starting to settle into some type of comfort zone this summer rather than continually being overwhelmed.

So here is my off-the-top-of-my-head thankful list this morning:
1. Time with my husband this morning sharing and planning … and praying!
2. Seeing our friends at church this morning and many Sunday mornings recently as we’ve been able to get back to Good Shepherd more frequently so far this summer.
3. Having a 2-day weekend!!!! (won’t happen again for awhile!)
4. Seeing more of my family (including parents and niece Ahnika and nephew Cully) this weekend.
5. The mother-daughter time I had with Megan on Thursday (especially since I was able to leave work “early” after working call Wed. and through the night)
6. That Shawn and I are in this together — challenging but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
7. That the hot humid weather only lasted long enough for me to appreciate the weather we’ve been having most of the summer
8. That produce is starting to come in abundance at the farm
9. That I have been sleeping well.
10. That many dots are being connected and I have been able to do some good emotional and mental work as part of CPE, and that I am now able to step gently into my own identity as minister and chaplain — special thank you to my mentors, supervisors and peers at Gundersen for being a part of this! (this clinical pastoral education thing is really like no other educational opportunity — amazing growth experience if one is open to it.

Peace and blessings to all!!

Love and belief,

Thankful at this very moment

1 a sleep room with wifi (1st 24 hour on call)
2 that my family came to my evening worship at the hospital!
3 all the people that smiled at me today!
4 that I am somehow keeping up with assignments and essentials in spite of frequent momenys of overwhelm
5 music that restores my spirit
6 my peers here
7 yoga and walking
8 seeing my girls happy together
9 my haircut!
10 you!

Prayer requests: sustained energy and that I can be the pastoral presence needed in this place and time … For our Wartburg community during another summer of transition (I miss the community and yet still feel its presence)

Love and belief~

Thankful at this very moment

I just finished my first week of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education), and will share more about that experience later. However, it became clear to me that in order to give and minister this summer, I need to be very intentional in my spiritual practices. One practice I am going to intentionally bring back is my daily practice of listing what I am most thankful for *at this moment* … I will do this at least once a day and at least once a week share here. I encourage others to do this for yourself, and please share here and elsewhere your thankful list as well. It’s a wonderful practice.

1. breath
2. children
3. my children 🙂
4. my husband
5. my parents
6. my husband’s parents
7. all who are supporting us through this summer from keeping us in prayer to keeping our daughter for a times (or many times) while we are at our CPE assignments
8. my wonderful CPE group — classmates, current chaplain residents, staff chaplains and the rest of the Pastoral Care staff
9. a place to sleep at night (and man do I sleep sound when I get to now!)
10. The strength to be up at 5 a.m. each day this week!

Peace be with you!

Love and belief,

Thankful at this moment … and contemplating my research project during Holy week

I’m currently preparing for my last class before our Easter break. This means that I am studying research methods and preparing to talk about what I want to write about in my research project. In some ways this seems a bit premature to me since I don’t plan to graduate with my Masters until Spring 2015 (taking a year before my final year to do a chaplain residency). Yet, in addition to this being a requirement for all MA students, I realize that if I want to tie this capstone project into my seminary education as completely as possible I really should begin forming my questions and begin researching. More to tumble around in my mind. There are so many topics I could write about, and yet a classmate helped me realize there is one that I am passionate about that I have been hiding from every chance I get, so there it is and that is what I will start formulating a research question around (stay tuned). More to tumble around in my mind as if Systematic theology didn’t cause my head to explode enough this morning (did I mention that it is at 7:30 a.m.?)

Now that that is out of the way — my top ten list of gratitude is in order for today

  1. being held accountable not only by classmates as well as professors
  2. having a classmate interested and attuned enough to inspire a direction in my theological research
  3. living in a community that celebrates life milestones and every day moments
  4. being (and feeling) in synch with my husband throughout the chaos that is this semester
  5. not having an unmanageable headache for days now (long-time readers should have predicted this would turn very practical)
  6. that I do not have to drive by myself on Easter Sunday (Shawn will do much of the driving; this is the only way we go up and back in one day and spend more time in the car than with family … although by next year we can let me teen daughter do some of the driving too!)
  7. that Easter beak = catch up on reading, research, writing, housework … and hopefully with a few other things on the growing to-do list like taxes, online training for CPE, communicating with friends…
  8. that (last we heard) my father-in-law is recovering well and should be released from the hospital well before Easter (although I wish we could see them on Easter)
  9. that my daughter Nessa, now 7!, was blessed with a wonderful party of friends and caring adults celebrating with us and I didn’t have to enter a loud bouncy or kids games place to make her dream of a great party come true — just a handmade sign decorated by the kids, balloons (lots), cake, and a #7 candle
  10. That we have come together as a family nightly throughout lent to read the New Testament scriptures, and by doing this I have observed just how much children to hear and understand! Blessed be!


It has been different being here at Seminary during Lent this year. We have not been able to participate in the weekly church lenten services on Wednesday night (or at noon) that we always participated in and held sacred in recent previous years. At time being here and not in our home church during Lent was harder than it was earlier in the year, as Lent Bible studies and fellowship were always ver special to many of us at Good Shepherd in La Crosse. I tried to take that sacred space with me as I existed here in a different type of reality and observance this year.

I am thankful that we will be worshiping Easter morning with our Good Shepherd family (10:30 service) and then celebrating at my family’s farm. I am thankful for all of you accompanying me on this journey.

Love and belief~

Thankful at this very moment

I am way overdue for posting a thankful post … if you follow me on Twitter, I hope you picked up on my bursting heart at times this week — so much gratitude at being in this place and time — gratitude and Praise to God in this life and journey we are on. Thankful to be leading a significant faithful life with others here in the Wartburg community and beyond!

So here is my top ten list this afternoon:

  1. That my ipad allows me to carry and access all four Bible translations I need for my Pauline Letters class (and many more) without actually lugging around the physical books or planning ahead for when I need them.
  2. That my husband is truly walking with me on this journey. You can read his blog here: Leaving Myself Behind
  3. For the many caring and simply brilliant professors here at Wartburg and throughout our ELCA seminaries (I had the privilege of hearing others at my Jterm event in Gettysburg)
  4. That the Dubuque YMCA is holding a daddy-daughter dance tonight, so many girls can have a “date” with a significant guy in their life! (My 6-year-old is so excited to dress up and go out with Daddy tonight … well OK, she is even more excited about her first sleep over (happening after the dance) but it’s still sweet … and I might even get a little time to hang out with some of the other moms while the dads and girls are out on the town! 🙂
  5. Our wonderful neighbors here! With both of us being students it gets a little crazy at times and it is so reassuring to know that they “have our backs” so to speak … of course learning to ask and accept is still a learning process. In case anyone wonders, we always receive more than we give even when we manage to be the ones making a meal or something for another family!
  6. That Nessa can read! Every time I see her pick up a big and get comfortable my heart sings. She still loves it when we read to her too, but hey even I enjoy being read to once in awhile! 🙂
  7. That before this crazy semester ends my teenager will confirm her faith at Good Shepherd Lutheran in La Crosse, WI! I wanted it to be Megan’s decision if she continued there after we left or went elsewhere. Now I have to admit that while an event that falls right before our finals here is not exactly convenient, I don’t care, my heart sings and I give God praise — in this all glory goes to God! (and to the wonderful pastors and staff at Good Shepherd that minister to Megan at this time!)
  8. My classmates — from deep theological discussions to crying on your shoulders, I can’t imagine a better group to be here with!
  9. That I am slowly figuring out what foods are triggering my chronic pain auto-immune response and how to best deal with it…having more good days than challenging days is such a gift!
  10. Our families! From a place to call home away from home when we are back in the La Crosse area to care packages that truly help us make it through to the end of the month, our families rock!

What blessings found you today? What are you thankful for?

And, as always, how can I pray for you today?

Love and belief~

Thankful for at this moment

1. The wonderful conversations with my small group this afternoon for Religion, Anthropology and the Human World. (This is the first time the small groups have met instead of having lecture from 1:30 to 4:30 on Mondays … I was not looking forward to it … love having expectations turned on their head! Engaging discussions and totally energizing!)

2. Gorgeous weather!!!! Could early Oct. get any more beautiful and sunny? I need to go soak some more of it up as soon as I publish this!

3. Nessa is off to her first “Acting Class” this evening (what she calls it … 1st grade level class at the local Bell Tower Theatre … I hope her expectations are exceeded and not the other way around)

4. That our daughter is confident enough in her own choices that she thought it was the coolest thing in the world to where pajamas under a sun dress to school this morning — well, really the insists the pajamas are really “an outfit” and will likely never wear them as pajamas but still I love when she picks out her clothes simply because she likes them for whatever reason and I pray she does’t ever lose that! (and better yet both the pajamas and the sun dress are “new” from the Clothing Swap held here on campus last Friday.)

5. That my CPE application was finally turned in complete (little printing glitch first thing this morning so I had the opportunity to enjoy the sun on a quick walk home after chapel to get the correct file and spend lunch printing and making a nice PDF of the 3 different files) … for some reason the extra little challenge did nothing but energize me as well today … reminds me of he nice adrenaline rush I would get writing on deadline in the past.

6. That all three of us get to go back to spend a couple of days at the farm (and a bit of time with Megan!) at the end of the week — Nessa is off of school Friday so we will all leave Thursday afternoon and likely be back in Dubuque Sat. evening. It will be nice to be all together as a family again, even if just briefly.

7. Reading days are getting closer!!! (Next week there are no classes on Monday and Tuesday as they are designated reading days — woo hoo a couple of days to come close to catching up!)

8. The blessings of community — wonderful classmates and wonderful neighbors!

9. That Shawn is the one that took Nessa to her class so I can have some alone time to process (and make dinner) … well that isn’t the reason he volunteered (I don’t think) but that is the result, and I am thankful!

10. And this just in — Megan just reported another personal best for running times in Cross Country (this time in a one mile time trial I believe) — so thankful Megan is discovering a sport she can enjoy and thankful that we can share this sport in a way even if when we next run together she will leave me in the dust!

What are you thankful for at this moment?