Spring 2012: My 2nd Semester at Wartburg Seminary

Now that I am two weeks into the Spring Semester I want to share a bit about my classes and schedule in general this semester. It is going to be a very busy semester, and yet I am so excited about the possibilities.

My classes include:

  • From Text to Sermon
  • Pauline Letters & Mission (Lecture and Small Group)
  • Systematic Theology
  • MA Colloquium II (primarily on research — prep for writing our MA research paper; great discussions are a bonus)
  • Diaconal Ministry: Formation for Ministry
  • Reformation History
  • Gender, Power, & Leadership (4 week module course on Monday afternoons)

I knew going into the semester, that I would almost certainly love my Diaconal Ministry and Gender, Power, & Leadership courses (and I do); however, I have to admit I am a bit surprised at how much I love the rest of the classes too. I was a bit intimidated by the thought of Systematic Theology (at 7:30 a.m. no less!), but I am LOVING the reading and finding the class discussions very interesting. Next week is the first time we meet in small groups (in part, to evaluate our first papers, gulp!), so we’ll see how that goes as well. Now if there were enough hours in the days to really read and dig into all the books recommended (not just the required ones) for these classes, that would be awesome! 🙂

Unless you happen to be a classmate (or Wartburg grad?), you may not think that this is a light load, but it is (10 graduate school credits), and I did it on purpose. In part, as someone living with auto-immune disease, I needed to give myself the time and flexibility to respond to the cues my body gives me (like chronic muscle pain, exhaustion and more recently chronic headaches) to slow down or do (time-consuming but effective) alternative therapies. In a way the fact that I live with chronic illness gives me a valid reason for simply balancing my life. The times I go into a “flare” condition are likely the times any individual should slow down and do some good self care. I just have the blessing of having no doubts about it, and generally no choice in the matter! So, in order to still put everything I can into my academic work (which I LOVE), and take care of myself and my family, I decided cut back on classes just a bit this semester.

The decision to cut back a few credit hours was affirmed when I needed to start working the five Work Study hours I am allowed. I am still grateful I did not work them last semester as settling in as a family along with our first semester of seminary classes was challenging enough; however, this semester it simply was not an economic option not to work them. I am trying to keep an open mind and heart as I am working at the St. Mark’s Community Center in downtown Dubuque with the before and after school programs at one of the “downtown” schools. This morning I had several bright smiling elementary students teaching me how to play new games, and quite enjoyed it. I am sure, as usual, I will be blessed beyond my expectations.

It may not happen consistently until I finish my module class, and can devote a bit of time on Monday afternoons, but I do hope to engage this blog more with what I am reading and learning. I imagine that there will be many things to share from my Diaconal Ministry class, and I have already started keeping track of what I call “Diaconal Ministry” sightings in my other classes (servant ministry and the theology behind it is practically everywhere when I start looking!).

If there is anything you would like to hear about, especially those of you following along from “back home,” please let me know!

Love and belief ~

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Fall semester: sensing a routine or at least a rhythm

Having completed my first week of the fall semester of my first year here at Wartburg Seminary, I am still waiting for a routine to settle in. I can sense some rhythm to the days and weeks here, but am afraid that I will need to let go of being able to schedule each day of the week and each hour so that I know what to expect.

One would think that at least our classes our always at the same time, but that isn’t entirely true because some classes require many extra meetings outside of scheduled classes, and some classes end up only meeting certain days for certain small groups of students within the class (confused yet?). Moving through time and space can be a challenge for me so I have been writing down things in a few different places in addition to putting everything possible onto our google calendars (each person in the family has their own and we can view each of our schedules). The things I can’t schedule that I had hoped to involve extra study times at night versus being the one responsible for making supper, and so on. It’s really minor, and yet it’s a part of teaching me to let go of controlling my time (amazing that I need more lessons, and yet I do).

Yet, there is a general rhythm to both our days and weeks beginning to form. For example chapel is at 9:30 a.m. each day, and everyone is there as the community comes together to worship. Besides the worship itself my favorite part is when young children from the community joins us, and I always smile when I hear a baby as it reminds me of why I’m here.

Similarly I have begun my weekly routine of driving from Dubuque to La Crosse each Thursday afternoon. I was afraid this would be lost time to me since I’m not actively studying during those five hours each week (round-trip), but instead I am looking at the time as a way to be present in the moment. In addition to indulging in my fill of public radio programs, I spend time praying and reflecting on the week as I drive.

It’s early yet, but I’m also sensing just a bit of rhythm in how the days unfold with class and study times. Monday is my longest day as I’m in class all day except a short lunch break in the middle of the day. Mondays makes me thankful for Tuesday-Thursday when I only have class until 12:30.

My fall semester classes include:
Jesus and the Gospels
Religion, Anthropology, and the Human World
Foundations of the Church
Justification and Justice
Spiritual Practices
MA Colloquium

At a recent gathering students were asking each other what their favorite class was this semester, and I realized I don’t yet have a favorite and I’m not sure if I will. There are different things I really like about each class.

My biggest challenge right now is not exhausting myself by attempting to read all of the assigned/recommended readings closely and thoroughly. I was told before I came here that reading everything assigned is simply not possible, and yet my instinct is to do it anyway. As reality has sunk in over the last few days I am starting to develop a pattern for prioritizing not only the actual assignments, but also the reading within those assignments. And I’m becoming comfortable with skimming when appropriate. By comfortable I mean not only that I don’t feel guilty, but also that I am learning to do it well so that I understand the meaning of the reading and know where to go to find additional information. This is an important first step although I am guessing continued adjustments will need to be made throughout the semester.

So far Nessa, my 6-year-old daughter, is adjusting OK to having all of us in school, but I don’t think she understands yet the full implications of our new schedule. For example, she keeps asking when we can invite more people over for dinner (something we very much enjoy and did a lot in the summer), and doesn’t understand that having dinner guests usually involves a bit more time than catching a quick family meal between study sessions. I am very thankful for this large community of kids here at Wartburg as it is a great community for Nessa to learn and grow in this year. Nessa has also learned that she sometimes needs time to herself and she is becoming better at working on projects by herself while I read nearby. And I’m crossing my fingers that she is in fact slowly becoming a reader herself as she has begun to read chapter books by herself which is a huge step even if she still prefers us to read many chapter books to her. I am dreaming of cold winter days with all three of us huddled under quilts while reading our books .

Prayer Requests:
–For continued health for my family and I throughout this fall transition
–For energy and clarity of mind as I read, study and reflect on what I am learning