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


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?

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

Too busy not to pray!*

“I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”
— Martin Luther

I have been fond of this Luther quote since I first discovered it while in confirmation class when I was 11. Since then I have often used it when expressing how busy I think I am or how long my to-do list is (too long to-do lists are a constant challenge for me) by saying something like, “I have so much to do; I better spend 3 hours in prayer first!” But I never did. It sounded good though.

And then I did. And it changed everything.

I continue to struggle for balance each day, and with each season and life transition the struggles to balance my time, and more importantly, center my life, continue. I have learned that it doesn’t take three hours though. Instead after a time possibly as brief as three minutes my an entire attitude can change, and the entire day becomes a living prayer.

The list of chores, the work assignments, and everything else I want to accomplish is still important, but not AS important. The prayer changes the weight of the workload because the prayer changes me.

How has/does prayer change you?

What is one of your favorite quotes on prayer? What about a quote that makes you smile when you have a lot to do?

Love and belief,

*and some of you may realize I stole this title from a great book on the topic. If you’re not familiar with it, check it out at:
Too Busy Not to Pray