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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Today was an awesome, inspirational, meaningful, satisfying and exhausting day of work! Even though it is my short day :)

This is a little something I wrote quickly on my phone micro journaling app and realized I might want to more publicly reflect on this (& similar) experience here in the future, so I am sharing it as a snapshot in time regarding my reactions to chaplaincy and how I am continuing to find meaning this year.

Fridays post Thursday night call are always challenging. This morning when unit rounds started it seemed it was going to be one of those mornings I would just need to get through while looking forward to my weekend off starting with leisurely work out time this afternoon before catching the bus home. Thankfully I was wrong.

The unit was busy & a bit chaotic this morning as there were up to 9 possible discharges, and 4 new admits to transition during morning rounds (knowing with more d/c than admits that Monday we’ll walk into a full unit likely with transfers in from all over the state). Add to that a few last minute staffing changes and I admit my own personality preferences for small groups & predictability was being challenged (INFJ for Meyers Briggs fans) … I had to decide how to deal with those challenges and make a difference rather than just put in my time.

I decided that as much as I appreciate learning from the medical team during walking rounds, and there is benefit to my own ministry in being present as part of the team, it wasn’t the most effective way I could spend the morning today. Since I had several patients I had worked intensely with for an extended period discharging, I decided to start there. In one case I managed to time in sync with rounds (meeting one on one before & after).

Then while charting and attempting to prioritize my next possible visits (including listening as teams went in & out from rounding, ran through partial lists, etc.) I was able to take advantage of being in the right place at the right time. Being there for an immediate referral may have made the difference between my having this opportunity or it being passed to the on call chaplain after I was gone for the day. That is speculation, but I am certain that being integrated into the unit and part of the team made a difference. Although I smiled wondering what was coming next when the Dr. turned toward me & said “we need God” I was also humbled in being able to respond as the needed presence at the time for this patient.

Although I have always felt very welcome as part of the acute psych team, any referrals have been a little less acute (at least from an outward perspective). Later both the Doctor and the lead nurse for the team specifically went out of their way to thank me. It was both interesting and profound to experience that gratitude outside of the context of a patient death (I am becoming used to how just my presence relieves anxiety in those situations).

Although I of course cannot share specifics the visit touched on something that I think will be a common theme / need in my chaplain/ministry work. (I may write about the issue in general in the future). And interestingly enough I was aware of a continue ing Ed presentation starting at noon today on a very related topic. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go on my afternoon off … Until the end of this morning! Then it was perfect timing really.

Thankfully I still managed to fit in a quick 30 minute aerobic intense workout before rushing to catch the early bus home to my family.

I feel like on one side of this journey I have the blessing of my ministry time, those I minister to and with affirming my call and renewing my strength, and on the other side I have my beautiful and encouraging family always sending me off & welcoming me home with love & joy in all that I/we are. And through it all God’s loving presence to sustain me.

Sometimes it really is about showing up.

now hopefully I will be inspired to write more here

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.

Brief CPE Reflection

Since I promised at least a few quick updates or reflections, here is one at least. 🙂

Obviously, I am limited in terms of what I can share in terms of direct experiences, but I can say that this is a learning experience like no other, and when former CPE students say that there is nothing like it and that there is really no way to prepare — they are right! The same can be said about our experience of both Shawn and I doing this at the same time (different CPE programs – thankfully!), and yet day by day we are doing it.

I just finished my first 24 hour on call and while there are so many things I could have done differently, I did do it and did not have any real anxiety or times of panic, so that is certainly an OK thing. So much to reflect on in terms of where all of this meats my own faith and theology. Since my on-call was on Sunday I was also busy planning and leading two worship services. Going into CPE I thought that the worship services would be a major time of anxiety since planning and leading worship is not an area I feel called to, but that was not really the case. The small group led type service was an especially comfortable and fulfilling.

Surprises so far? — too many to even name briefly. On a practical level the amount of outside work, at least this first couple of weeks as I was in class a lot and starting with quite a few on-call times to (try) to prepare for this weekend was more intense than I would have imagined.

I am becoming quite protective of my “off” time and prioritizing self care and family time. I am also redefining what good self care is for myself, including care that restores my spirit. For example, I really do love listening to public radio and since I don’t have much time to do that, my time commuting alone in the car was always valued as a time to “connect with the outside world” so to speak in that way. This week I realized that was not really helping me in the way that I needed so I switched to listening to the music that connects to my soul right now (currently a few CDs by Dakota Road as well as one by Casting Crowns), and this helps. I have also been getting back to prioritizing physical movement as well as meditation … and rest.

Prayer requests — that our family can continue to navigate this summer in a way that meets the needs of our family and does not leave anyone burned out or otherwise exhausted (spiritually or physically), and that I continue to be open to the learning process this summer.

I’ll end with one verse from a Dakota Road song that I also shared with my peers this morning before leaving for my day off (and now I realize the value of two days off in a row … looking foward to next weekend when Shawn and I both have two days off in a row!!!)

“YOUR TOUCH IS ON US”
Your touch is on us God of day and of night
Inspire our living to do what is right
Move in our hearts with your Spirit that we
may bring hope to places of hurt and of need

http://www.dakotaroadmusic.com/index.php?p=page&page_id=Lyrics

Blessings on your day.

Love and belief~

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

DMFE Response 6: future plans

What are your plans — related both to academics and to candidacy — as you progress toward consecration?

I am currently about to start my second semester in the Master of Arts in Diaconal Ministry program at Wartburg Seminary. I plan to extend this two-and-a-half year program out over three years, and additionally include a year-long chaplain residency or other internship experience so that I will graduate in May of 2015 (at the same time as my husband, currently an MDiv student at Wartburg). In addition to meeting the requirements for my degree program, I plan to take classes that support my speciality in grief and loss.

I am planning to do a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education this summer at Gundersen Lutheran in La Crosse, WI, and recognize that that experience will be part of my discernment process in what additional field work I do as I prepare for specialized ministry within the Diaconal Ministry roster. Discernment within and after the CPE experience as well as additional conversations with church leadership will help me decide on a chaplain residency or another type of internship experience in addition to specific Diaconal Ministry field work requirements.

As I continue to prepare for candidacy and beyond I plan to begin creating a ministry portfolio containing items describing and reflecting the my ministry work. I will share items from that portfolio as I talk to those involved in my candidacy process as well as those I may be seeking to work with or for after approval.

**Disclaimer? — please remember that I am sharing these as first response answers to questions to my Diaconal Ministry Formation Event and not as polished, researched essays. Although I welcome responses, please do keep this in mind when you respond (as well as the fact that my current schedule limits how often I can reply to comments) **

Pondering when I should be writing (CPE application)

Note: I wrote this post at the end of September
while procrastinating, 
but did not allow myself to publish it until Reading Days
(and then I scheduled it) ... 
I still think it makes for good public pondering.

I would rather be writing about church history right now than my own history. (I do have a paper due on Tuesday so the church history will paper will happen eventually.) It’s the time of year when first-year seminary students are preparing for CPE (Clinical Pastoral Experience) by filling out their applications. “Application” really isn’t the correct word though as really it seems to call for an autobiography of information.

It seems answering these questions has been a challenge for nearly all of us as we procrastinate each day we possibly can (there is always more to do, so finding reasons is not hard). As I finally dig in and just get through the questions, ever thankful for my writing background, I do ponder why we all find this type of writing so difficult.

I know I would rather be focusing on others, and become weary of talking about myself. However, I think it goes deeper than that. We are all changing so quickly as we daily leave our comfort zone in many ways while studying here – not to mention everything we have learned in mere weeks. And yet, we are to create a static description of who we are, what we are passionate about doing, and why we’re here in this place at this time.

Sometimes my head and heart simply have to sit with all of this a bit and ponder it … sometimes publicly.

What do you ponder?

What would you rather be doing?

Where is God in this/it?