Enjoying the journey: quick updates as transitions continue

As I attempt to prepare myself for possibly the busiest few weeks of the year, I decided to productively procrastinate on my other writing assignments by sharing a quick update on what appears to be a long-neglected blog. I believe there are two primary reasons for the neglect:
1 – I was doing a LOT of writing for my residency and in large part, I simply did not want to do any writing in my “down” time or for fun
2 – Much of what I was processing was so intense it was hard to share in a public forum in an appropriate way (including respecting privacy, etc.)

At the end I was so tranformed, and graduation was a proud, happy time. Here is our class graduation photo:

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I do hope to look back on my residency and reflect on the year of learning at some point. For now, I will say that the year was extremely intense at times, and was exactly what I needed to affirm my calling to pastoral care and chaplaincy and to identify my strengths and growing edges in ministry and work on both lists (even managed transferred a few from the growing column over to the strengths). I also the many diverse and gifted individuals I worked with both directly and indirectly during my time at Mayo, Rochester.

So, today?

Today I am back in Dubuque, and we actually moved back at the very end of July (I returned to Rochester August 7th for my formal graduation for the residency program), and after a bringing the moving truck in on Sunday the 27th (after Shawn’s last internship preaching services), I started working as a chaplain at Mercy Medical Center in Dubuque on Monday morning July 28th. Life has been a whirlwind of transition in the near month since that morning.

In the midst of that whirlwind I am thankful for my family an friends that help anchor me and often are the presence of God and reminder of God’s grace.

Today I also realized that my participation at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Dubuque will be extremely centering for me this year, and was something I missed last year as I was so often at the hospital on weekends (that should rarely be the case this year). I am also doing my required congregational field work at HTLC, and I look forward to experiencing ministry from within the congregational context.

Now, I have a few papers to (finish) writing prior to prolog week … a week and a day count down …

And as returning to some of my daily spiritual practices has also been a challenge since the move I will begin here with one of my quick gratitude lists to motivate this daily intentional practice to … um, again become daily (personal) and frequent (public) …

At this moment I am grateful for:
wifi and water
central air conditioning that works
my husband, my life partner on this journey
my amazing daughters
the Dubuque Sat. Farmers Market
No more long commute to work!!!!!
Amazing classmates
Gifted co-workers
God’s loving grace and Holy Spirit that guides me through each day

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Halfway point transition — less than a month before we move!

It’s less than a month before we move — and that makes reaching this halfway point in our seminary journey seem very very real. I wish I had a nice photo of us to go with this post, but I’m not home (or I would likely be packing instead of writing), and didn’t think to take one as I started to pack boxes. I’ll wait and post one of us by the house in Harmony, MN … and other places there.

After we move I will have almost exactly a month to settle in at the new house, and enjoy some summer time with my daughters prior to their return to school and my starting my chaplaincy residency. I am confident the time will fly by considering how fast the first half of the summer escaped us.

I am starting to get inpatient to be back in a chaplaincy program though, so I think the timing will be perfect. I’m looking forward not only to again be doing actual pastoral care ministry in the hospital setting, but also to having a regular schedule with scheduled on-call times. I’m learning that another reason chaplaincy is a good fit is because even though I don’t always like to admit it, I do better with a predictable routine (with not much being predictable actually while working but at least my work/home routine is predictable).

I’m also very excited for Shawn. We visited all three of the internship churches last Sunday (talk about a whirlwind morning), and it is so clear that this is going to be a great experience for him. It will also be nice for him to preach on a predictable schedule and to a congregation he knows even though all of the pulpit supply preaching he has been doing has been wonderful as well.

Things I’m spending my time doing these days:

  • relaxing for bits of time with family and friends (fewer deadlines!)
  • packing and preparing for packing (purging!)
  • interviewing and writing (just a little work for WTS communications dept.)
  • baking — testing gluten free communion bread recipes … and trying to carve out time to write about it!
  • Connecting with friends when traveling (La Crosse, Dubuque, Winona, Rochester … well, I’m trying anyway … if you haven’t heard from me, give me a shout out)
  • Attempting to get back to a good exercise habit (yoga!!! and some running again in addition to daily walks) and other good self care habits … including daily meditation and prayer time now that I can no longer attend daily chapel
  • And about a million “little” to do items that seem to make it on the daily and weekly list

And a quick top 3 thankful at this moment list:

  1. Parents / Grandparents!! (Nessa is getting lots of time with her grandparents this summer and it is awesome!)
  2. My wonderful husband — Shawn is working hard this summer so well, so we can afford to live this summer as we transition from primarily students to hands-on learning (with stipends) … but our positions of course start at odd times leaving gaps that were hard to fill with paid work, but Shawn did awesome filling it with a pretty much full-time maintenance job, summer sacristan position, and many weeks of pulpit supply (his favorite I’m guessing) and for this I am very very thankful!
  3. That our cars are still running reasonably well … seems minor but with no money for major repair work right now every noise scares me … thankfully we were told the noise in the car isn’t an emergency (whew!) and can be put off to fall … praying we will be told the same for the van next week. Thankfully, we have had no auto related drama with all of our driving back and forth from Dubuque area to “home” this year!

Love and belief,
Tami

Things I didn’t expect to happen while in seminary

I compiled this list over a few weeks as things occurred to me at the end of my second year of seminary.

Random things I didn’t expect to happen while in seminary (with no judgement about if these are good or not … just unexpected):

  • that I would become a stronger feminist
  • not only expanding my cooking knowledge but becoming passionate about making soup!
  • embracing bread making (gluten free of course!)
  • developing a deep rich theology surrounding Eucharist … deciding to research and write on inclusive communion
  • that I would not only be comfortable assisting in worship services, but embrace it joyfully as part of my ministry of presence!

Looking at that list I am curious what God has in store for me that may draw on some of these experiences!

God is good!

….

Love and belief,
Tami

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
nostalgic.

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

Summer 2012 (our family does CPE)

This is a quick reference update to let anyone that has missed it know what our family is up to this summer as well as document it when we look back on it after we survive it. 🙂 Ideally, I will also be able to share a bit of reflection on the experience during and after the summer as well. One thing I will be doing, so that the blog doesn’t go completely quiet during my very busy summer is sharing (through posts scheduled to posts every so often throughout the next couple of months) some of the assignments that I wrote during my first year at Wartburg Seminary. I thought that would help give some theological perspective for those of different faiths reading this as well as give others that may be following our journey (but not be a part of our Wartburg Community, etc.) a sense of what we do in some of our classes … and again it will be good for me to have it hear as another places some of this writing is gathered.

So, this summer?

Well, BOTH Shawn and I are completing our Summer Clinical Pastoral Experience (CPE). I am at Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center in La Crosse, WI, and Shawn is at Mayo Health System in Rochester, MN. We are thankfully able to stay at my parents farm (located between the Nodine and Houston exists on I90 in MN), so that we can, when not on-call, be together as a family in the evenings and morning and just go our separate ways on I90 as we head to our respective medical centers each day. We began right after Memorial day and are still getting a sense of how the rhythm of the summer will go as a family. Nessa misses her Wartburg Community friends (and simply her home there), and yet is appreciating more time to hang out with grandparents, cousins and her big sisters. For the most part Shawn and I are simply happily exhausted, and don’t have time or energy for much else.

The CPE experience consists of 400 hours plus orientation time. We work as Chaplain interns and also participate in educational components regarding pastoral care work in a way that is set up as “action and reflection.” Much of what we learn is very practical, and yet much of what we learn is emotional and individualized to what we need to learn as we are there. In part we are learning to get ourselves out of the way as we help others … and well a lot more too, but I’m only about a week into this. So, far I know it is going to be intense and challenging … and I’m hoping I love it more than I want to run and curl up in the corner!

Our CPE assignments go through August 10th, so after that we’ll have a bit of time to catch our breath before settling back into our routine in Dubuque for our 2nd year at Wartburg, but not much as we have some work that will be do for our candidacy process as well).

In the meantime between our weekly CPE work schedule and our on-call schedules, we may not have as much time as we would like to be in community (virtual or real) with all of you, yet I will be holding you in my heart each day. (Also, we do not have Internet access at the farm where we are living, so that also limits some practical communication.)

Prayers are appreciated during this challenging time in our lives.

Love and belief,
Tami

Mid-March Update, or “where have you been?”

First, let me add a few public thank you bullet points as at some point each day I am truly overwhelmed with gratitude.

  1. for my husband and the way he goes to refill our water jugs with reverse osmosis water without my ever having to ask (or even hint)!
  2. for daughters (even the teenager) that sometimes just want to hang out together
  3. for a community of caring neighbors, classmates, professors and more
  4. for the call God has given me to serve at the borders of the church and the world, and for how that call is nourished here at Wartburg Seminary

When we met, Shawn had a mug that says “So many books, so little time” and it’s still one of my favorite mugs. It’s still true, but in a different way now that most of the books are listed on a syllabus with deadlines. I also have many blog posts and other items I want to get done … and yet I have to somehow do it all and prioritize within the time given in a day, week, semester. This remains my biggest challenge. I keep thinking I am getting better at it, and then something else is added to the mix and I have set backs.

The something else in this case is extreme headaches. I am used to a host of symptoms related to my auto-immune illness, including, at times, chronic pain; however, I had learned good ways to control the symptoms both through alternative therapies and eliminating certain foods form my diet. I won’t go into the whole history of my health nor of how food relates to that right now, I will say that although I thought I was still avoiding trigger foods appropriately, my diet changed a bit when we moved here and started seminary. I started having more muscle tension and some headaches last semester, but thought they were simply due to sitting in auditoriums and classrooms, as well as spending many hours in less than ideal positions reading and working at the computer. I continued to find some relief by treating them that way (including chiropractic and massage care). But instead of getting better the muscle tension was worse and the headaches became much much worse. Even now that the muscle tension has eased due to some wonderful alternative chiropractic care and massage, I am still dealing with headaches more days than I am not.

To make a long story short, this has gotten in the way of doing much “extra” beyond my family time and study time. Additionally everything seems to be pointing to some type of connection between food and the headaches (and some other symptoms but I can function through everything but the headaches which are only helped marginally, if at all, by traditional pain relievers). So, I now am trying to become educated, and yet not obsessive, about how to properly do an elimination diet so that we can find the groups of foods that trigger them while praying there are not too many groups of foods (or that I can properly heal and then include those foods in limited amounts again) — likely it is natural food chemicals (I already was avoiding added chemicals and preservatives due to known sensitivities) — such as salicylates (think aspirin, and sadly many fruits and veggies), amines (and other phenols), glutamates, sulfates, and oxylates. I am using the Failsafe diet as a guide (Sue Dengate‘s term for the diet formulated by allergists at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Australia). Unless I try to get in somewhere sooner, I see my doctor “back home” in a few weeks. My decision will likely be based on how I can manage between now and then anyway. I have been trying to do the elimination diet for over a week now but it is a learning process, so I have made a few mistakes, and hope that this week to be fully on it — and to not have to wait long for full relief! On the few days where I could tell things were changing in the last week it was wonderful not not merely have no headache but a truly clear head, so I am looking forward to the change and the chance to once again put an auto-immune flare-up behind me and live (and exercise!) fully.

So there is a bit of an update for those that have just caught things on the edges (facebook, etc.) or have been wondering if the semester just swallowed me up with the intense reading load.

I am thankful that in spite of the headaches, I have been able to do well in my classes — which have all been interesting and inspiring!

I have always said that I feel closest to God when I am feeling my physical best (think marathon training and running) and ALSO when I am feeling at my physical worst (too many examples here). The headaches continue to be an interesting part of this journey and reflection.

I am also thankful for this gorgeous weather (70s and 80s in March in Iowa! … with a nice breeze so not too hot) that is encouraging me to get out there and walk even though I cannot run yet (chiropractor will hopefully clear me on that in the next week or two if things stay going in the right direction).

One of my goals, not related to this blog or school, is to get back to doing weekly yoga this month. I will also plan to prioritize several blog posts by making them short and quick (please let me know if there is anything in particular that you would like to know about my Seminary education, life here at Wartburg, or Diaconal Ministry and I will do my best; otherwise, it’s whatever I find interesting 🙂

I always appreciate hearing what your goals and challenges are as well. I think that when we share our challenges as well as our accomplishments with others we can better share each others burdens — and we can better pray for and with each other. Please, let me know how I can pray for you.

My prayer request — for accompaniment and guidance through this journey to better health and less pain.

Love and belief,
Tami