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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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

Productive Procrastination, or Seminarian Struggles and Joys

Really, my main objective, besides avoiding writing my Hebrew Bible paper (or one of ten other assignments), is to let my few readers know that I am still here — and better yet, I am feeling at least reasonably well these days (after being ill with multiple viruses for much of Spring semester up through Easter). So, this is primarily a general update on what is going on as I keep on keeping on through my 2nd semester of my 2nd year of seminary.

I also have big news — my husband Shawn (http://leavingmyselfbehind.wordpress.com/) and I can now officially announce where we will be next year. Next year is Shawn’s internship year during his “pastor prep” studies and I will be doing field work as well via a year-long hospital chaplaincy. I was offered (and accepted) a chaplain residency at Mayo School of Health in Rochester, MN (starting September 2013) and we recently found out that Shawn’s internship churches will be in Harmony, MN (about 40 minutes south of Rochester on Hwy 52). We went to visit the Harmony area this past Saturday as we were going to be in Rochester anyway, and we were quite taken with the town and are very much looking forward to the year there in spite of my original reluctance to be in a small town for the year.

As background info our education “schedule” works like this.

  • 2 Academic years (we are both seminarians at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, IA)
  • 1 field work year / internship (actually my degree program doesn’t require me to follow this exact schedule for fieldwork, but Shawn’s does so it simply works best for our family if I do some of my field work at the same time … and it gives me great experience!)
  • A final year (3rd academic year; 4th year total) back at Wartburg in Dubuque. Shawn will have a strictly academic year while I finish up classes, including classes focusing on my research project, and complete my congregational field work hours (all previous field work will have been done doing chaplaincy in a hospital and I need congregational hours as well).
  • During that final year at Wartburg, Shawn and I will also be going through the final phase of candidacy with the ELCA — Approval. Then, we will go through the assignment process and be assigned a region of the country and then a synod within that geographic region … and then receive calls to ministry.
  • Our expected graduation is May 2015 and really that final point of the last bullet can happen before or after graduation (we do not accept/start the call position until after graduation of course.
  • Shawn will graduate with an Master of Divinity degree and feels called to congregational ministry as a pastor.
  • I will graduate with a Master of Arts in Diaconal Ministry and feel called to working in pastoral care ministries — ideally bridging both church ministry and other “institutional” ministries (like hospital chaplaincy). At some point, not necessarily as part of my first call to ministry, I am likely to seek certification as a chaplain as well (another lengthy process).

OK, Whew. Hope that was helpful for a few. I have had numerous questions and thought it might be helpful. Please comment with any additional questions and I will answer there or do a Q&A post.

Now a few quick thankful shout-outs to highlight just a few of the many many joys in my life:

  • A husband that really really understands my call to diaconal ministry!
  • A brilliant 8-year-old daughter (8 for a week now!) who tells us that the reason we can’t stand in the kitchen hugging and dancing is because we wouldn’t be able to give her a kiss goodnight that way. 🙂
  • Lots of extended family to love and care for our girls (especially fun with birthdays)
  • A Mom and daughter that want to spend time quilting together (it’s so nice when all three of us can get together and kind of just “be” in that way … just wish I was healthier when we did that over Spring Break)
  • Classmates / colleagues that look forwarding to working with me and appreciate my voice and presence.

For the above — and SO MUCH MORE — each day I give God thanks and praise!

I did mention struggles though too, right? See as my colleague and I were just talking about I want to be authentic as well. It can be really challenging to be authentic without coming across as complaining at times though — especially to those that have not experienced the intensity of such a formative seminary experience. Seminary is challenging and formative even in the best of circumstances. When juggling family responsibilities with two full-time seminarian students as family is the reality, well I don’t think I can describe it while still in the process of living through it. I can’t be objective about this experience. I just can’t, and I think that is why I have had an especially hard time blogging this year. It’s not just the challenge of making time to do it. In some ways I am more relaxed about time this year even though I have less of it than ever before.

At the same time there are only mere seconds that I doubt at all that I am not exactly where I should be. I would not have imagined this journey a decade ago, and yet now I can not imagine any other journey. I often wonder if I am more different now than I am the same person of a decade ago. (In many ways it is not simply a nice reference to say “a decade” because it was indeed about a decade ago that my life changed drastically.)

I believe I have said it before, if not here then elsewhere, but talking about life here reminds me of some of the old military ad campaigns, or the peace corps motto of “the toughest job you’ll ever love.” Nearly ever single day I think about how hard this is in so many ways, and yet I LOVE it at the same time. I love the challenge; I love the way I will struggle and struggle through a paper and when done really feel like I can articulate a theological viewpoint that I could not previously do; I love the way new ideas are part of so many conversations here both in and out of class; I love how we take each other and our questions seriously; Oh, and I love listening to Shawn practice his sermons and being able to be taken seriously as his “first hearer” … and I love collaborating in so many ways with him; and I love that there is much more to this than I could possibly say at the moment.

At the same time most days I think the school’s admissions office is likely keeping any couple who both want to go to school at the same time far away from us because I will tell them — do NOT DO IT — try to do anything else first! (In reality I am much much more encouraging … most days). In reality I do not spend enough time on school work; I do not spend enough time with my daughters; I do not spend enough time with my husband; I do not spend enough time with my family (parents, siblings, in-laws, etc.); I do not spend enough time with my dear friends (here or elsewhere!) and I do not always steward my own personal resources well either (spending sufficient time resting, praying, exercising and so on).

Too much of this semester has been spent in a “triage” mode. I look only to what is the next most urgent thing on my list and that is it. I frequently have dozens of things on my list that simply never get done at all because of this (birthday cards and phone calls are just the tip of the iceberg). I didn’t think this year would be this hard. Then, I thought second semester would be better. I am now realizing I need to be able to find a way through even when this constant urgency continues.

We are told in many ways by many mentors that in some ways seminary is preparing us for ministry. Likely one of those ways is that there will always be way more for me/us to do than we can possibly do, and I will need to be able to triage in a way that does not seem like an Emergency room that admits only extremely urgent items to my attention and keeps me operating on adrenaline (not good for someone with chronic auto-immune illness anyway). To be fair, there are days that I get much closer to that and in many ways I am much more relaxed this year than last year. However, there is much more to do.

I wondered if naming this reality a bit here would encourage me as I need it. I pray that it does.

How do you manage yourself through time?

How do you express your joys and struggles? remain honest and authentic while maintaining an attitude of grace and gratitude?

Until next time, which I hope will be soon, may peace and joy be yours.

Love and belief,

Tami

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 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~

Those moments of questioning (what I do)

I am laughing at myself right now. Really.

It’s a reminder that what anyone is experiencing at any one time is their reality, and their reality is a truth we should not ever attempt to take that away from them or interpret it for them, even in consolation or comfort. Or in simple words, feelings are not good or bad, they simply are — and do not tell me/others how to feel (or a reminder that I cannot tell others how to feel).

The reason I am laughing is because this place is HARD sometimes. Really hard. I don’t think anyone that has not gone through it can understand how intense it is. We often question why we are here even while knowing that this is exactly the time and place we are supposed to be in. We live with that tension daily as we question the wisdom of, in our case, having both parents attend full-time graduate school (plus the extra requirements of seminary); living in community and yet also commuting; stepping away from our at least seemingly safe middle-class existence; and stepping into not merely the constant stress of homework, deadlines and balancing school, family and friends but also the really big questions we encounter daily here. Can we make a confession of faith — really deep and meaningful without stepping at least on the edges of heresy? Any yet how can we explore deeply without touching heresy? (We can’t and we’re not supposed to, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t create tension in many situations.) And more importantly for me — what do those confessions of faith have to do with my life? intersect with my past as well as my present? impact my future — self and ministry?

I am here publicly admitting that today I had a few hours where I seriously wanted with all my being to give up living in that tension. I wanted nothing better to retreat back into a comfortable little hole and find a nice group of agreeable others to live out my life with. Of course in practical terms, I’m committed for the semester (nice how that works, eh). And after a good cry (oh how that works! what a blessing!), I stopped and heard the voice again.

That voice that in my words says to me “stop being selfish; it isn’t all about you; be with my people, the people of God, all people, if you need to be an example of someone going through “hell” than just be it!” (remember this is just a little voice I hear; not claiming any authority — other than to gently push me back where I belong)

Oh, back to why I am laughing at myself. See, how bad can it really be when even in my own personal terms it is not that bad. My own personal comparison is now over ten years ago when my daughter Emily Lin died. Yes, I had lots of bad things happen since then — some extremely dark “hellish” things even and some, like my auto-immune illness, merely challenging bumps on the road because to me everything is in comparison to that day (I have other really glorious days of comparison too), and so compared to the day my daughter died and then weeks and months of darkness that followed (and still at times lingers), I can laugh at today and other days when I question why it is SO hard.

And yet that doesn’t take the difficulty away. It’s still hard. I can’t compare griefs and struggles of others as each moment is valid and real. Today I am reminding myself to be gentle and not compare my own griefs and struggles. And again there is something more (there always is). If it is not about me when it comes to serving the people of God, then is it not about me in multiple other ways too?

We struggle a lot with the problem of pain here (theodicy). It usually isn’t the primary topic, but the underlying background as we discuss a particular theology (at least at this point in our seminary education). For example if one says certain things about creation or a loving God, there is the challenge immediately on how that statement is taken in light of certain situations of pain and suffering — personal or universal. And just to clarify I am not taking on this topic here in this personal reflection post! I am simply admitting that part of me wants to scream out — must it be a problem. Is this our own cultural context getting in the way? I am only asking in the same way I asked questions when my daughter died and continue to ask questions daily. Why must we insist on understanding everything? I like the questions “why?” I think it’s a good question even when there is not an answer.

The sun has come out now, and I have just enough time before my next class for a very short walk and possibly time to finish a bit of the reading for said class (because again it has been one of those days/weeks/months) as I try to balance not merely family and school time, but where I am to fully live out my life as a child of God each moment …

As I walk I will ponder more than a few things, and hopefully many I will continue to share here (for my own reflection purposes if nothing else)

–gratitude for the community that surrounds me in reality and in spirit

–why I do “extra” things that are not required (workshops such as Stephen Ministry & Bridges out of Poverty, hours of work on The Persistent Voice blog, birthday parties, quiet visits with friends, letting my daughter fall asleep on my lap nearly every night while Shawn reads from the Bible, driving 6+ round-trip for my daughter’s band concert, … oh there is a reason and it sustains me)

–What is Diaconal Ministry anyway

–How/Why do I feel called to pastoral care ministry when I do NOT feel called to be a pastor to a church congregation

–Why do I feel so strongly that I must be in the world, ministering to the world, when I want nothing more than to cloister myself? (although I associate that word with monastic communities and the more I learn about them throughout history the more I realize that they were very engaged in the world and in the doing of diaconal ministry … there is something in that for me to reflect on)

–How do I make my other vows (marriage, baptismal) primary while preparing to and then committing to serve both the church and the world?

 

OK, enough for today … anyone that stuck with me to the end is someone I should probably be in conversation with regularly, so leave a comment and let me know your thoughts and questions!

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

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 ~

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~