This Journey

Thoughts, rants, prayers, sermons I'll never give and other stuff gathered as I make my way through this life.

January 10, 2014
by Not Fainthearted
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Borne on the wind

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Image Public Domain via Pixabay

The other day I was talking about what it’s like to be without call right now. I used the image of a dandelion seed on the wind. There’s been a lot of prep before getting to that stage. The plant had to wake up from it’s winter hibernation, avoid getting pulled or poisoned by the Great Lawn Farmer, put forth a flower – which then relies on some pollinator insect to have sex and produce a seed with this fancy delivery system. Finally, after all that, the wind comes along and rips the seed away from the stamen and it lands somewhere where it can germinate and do what it needs to do to start the whole process over again in it’s species’ genetic imperative for world – or at least garden domination.

Anyway – I feel like this last round is ripping me off the flower head, sailing free on the breeze waiting to land someplace.

One of the interesting things in this little metaphor is that the dandelion seed doesn’t have any agency about where it lands. I think humans do have agency. We have to make decisions – day by day, moment by moment. Each of those decisions has consequences.

Still, it feels like the decision to resign my call launched me off the edge to be borne somewhere on the wind.

One of the Hebrew names for God “Ruach” generally is translated Holy Spirit but also means wind or breath. Think of the poetic Genesis description of creation “The Spirit of God was over the face of the deep” and God breathing life, or spirit into Adam and Eve. Maybe part of faith right now is trusting that the breath of God, the Holy Spirit will blow me along, like a dandelion seed, to where I can sprout and take root.

One of my favorite prayers is the one used at Holden Village to say goodbye to guests and staff who leave the village – and each day during the summer that can be a hundred or more people at a time. It’s known as the “Good Courage” prayer by some.

O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Stay tuned. You know it won’t be boring.

January 7, 2014
by Not Fainthearted
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Buying Boots

From the “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” file:

I’m hoping to borrow most of the gear I need to go to Nepal in March but the one thing I know I need of my own are hiking boots. There is no way I can enjoy this trip if my feet are in agony and I’m at an age that if my feet aren’t well supported everything else is going to hurt too.

My current boots were purchased in 1987 and have served well as I have hiked around Holden Village, gone camping in Minnesota and also some hiking in Arizona and a few other places. But 25 years is a long time in the scope of hiking boots and while these were good boots at the time they’re canvas uppers and medium soles and really just not suited for this trip.

So. Off to the outfitting stores I go. I tried on a pair at Midwest Mountaineering before Christmas. Wide enough but not enough room to wiggle my toes.

Saturday, DH and I went to REI on this end of town and tried on a brand recommended by someone at the New Years Eve party. Narrow and again not enough room to wiggle. But the sales person recommended another model and another brand and said the store across town had my size in stock. So off we went. By the time we got to that store it was early afternoon and a lot more crowded so I had to wait for a bit for a sales associate.

“My boots are 25 years old and I need some new ones.”

“Your foot changes a lot in 25 years.”

Me, laughing “Yes, they’re a lot wider now and it’s hard to find something that fits. I get to go to Nepal in March and I feel like I should give myself enough time to get used to them.”

“Oh. I’m from there.”

Seriously? He used to guide in both Annapurna, where we will be, as well as in the east – to Everest. I didn’t even ask him about the Everest work; I suppose that is what most people would have most questions about. But I’ll be walking between Pokhara and Jomsom and he guided that area as well.

We talked for a few minutes about how long he’d been in Minnesota, whether he’d been back to visit and a little about my trip – that it’s not just trekking but visiting the villages where the artists and women’s economic development projects are and refugee villages and such. He shared some bits about the trail – that one path “has like an unending staircase but there’s another way, too” and as we approach Jomsom and cross the river, off to the right there’s a beautiful Buddhist monastery up on a hill. It’s a beautiful place to visit, not just for the monastery which is really old but also for the views. He said a couple of times how beautiful that region is. He spoke warmly about the culture and how easy it is to just visit with people in the villages along the way.

If the store hadn’t been so crowded I’d have pressed for even more information. I almost felt like throwing out my plan of “borrow everything except the boots” and having him outfit me from the skin out! Luckily, I had enough reserve of self control and didn’t do that. He encouraged DH to join me and that he could “sit in the cafés in Pokhara and wait there for her.” Maybe next time.

I bought the boots.

January 6, 2014
by Not Fainthearted
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Funding the Nepal Trip

Well, I’ve truly jumped off the cliff. Today I launched my Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for this trip to Nepal. Within a couple of hours several friends have already stepped up and contributed. So thankful and humbled already – I can’t imagine what the next three months are going to be like!

January 5, 2014
by Not Fainthearted
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Grateful: 12th Day of Christmas Edition (2014)

Some of the things for which I’m grateful this week (in no particular order):

  • That DS2 has the opportunity to study abroad – and that he has a friend to travel with him and that they have landed safely.
  • For time this week to do some strategic planning for 2014.
  • For time with friends and family over the holidays.
  • That my dad’s surgery went well and he’s home recovering.
  • That he is well cared for by his 2nd wife and I don’t need to visit with her that often.
  • For a warm place to live, inside out of the elements and the profound cold – which is only going to get colder in the next several days.
  • For the ability to say “thank you” to so many people this week.
  • That DH, DSS2 and DIL2 were able to drive down to the Milwaukee area to tell his mom that she’ll be a great-grandmother again this summer. (I stayed home to put DS2 on the airplane.)
  • For paid work coming in for January and February – even if it’s not a call.

May we all see many opportunities to give thanks this coming year.

January 4, 2014
by Not Fainthearted
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11th day of Christmas

I spent some time yesterday afternoon doing some annual review and planning with a group of women with whom I am only tangentially connected. The person who was leading us through the time had a plan, and enthusiasm and knowledge – but I felt as if we were skimming across an infinitely wide topic without getting any real depth.

Part of the problem certainly was within myself. The Coach would set up a reflection assignment and the time to write would begin and every time it seemed like I would sit there staring out the window watching the wind blow the snow off the drifts into veils of white around the trees and shrubs. Or watching the cars on the highway through the little copse of trees. Or watching the color of the sky change as the sun moved down towards the horizon and finally sunk beyond view – a daily event that right now still happens too early in my opinion. Or searching the pristine expanse of snow for tracks of rabbit, squirrel, bird – or some other wildlife.

And suddenly I would realize I had only a couple of words or incomplete thoughts on my paper while everyone else was finishing up.

Still, I managed to haul my exhausted mind along and I came up with a theme for 2014 and at least two steps on an action plan toward it.

It attempts to encompass three areas of activity of my life – certainly not all-inclusive or holistic by any stretch. And it’s not a “feeling” word. Good grief – there’s only so much an exhausted ENTJ can be expected to do and digging down and finding the “feeling” words wasn’t on the list yesterday.

I think (heh, see what I did there?) that it needs a little more reflection and thought because I FEEL like it’s a little off the mark.

One thing I did say yesterday that I think gets to the heart of the issue is this: I’m tired of living in a continuously liminal state. I’m tired of all this transition and the energy it takes to imagine a direction and what I want for the future and plan and strive and struggle toward it. I don’t want to be in between anymore. I want to be somewhere finally. I want to arrive. To be. But it doesn’t look like that happened in 2013. There’s more – much more – path to travel in 2014. But I feel like all of these years has been a preparation for something. I thought I knew what it was but now I realize that I don’t. And I don’t even know where to look. I simply don’t know what’s around the next corner but I hope it’s not too far off.  I’m tired and I just want to get there.

 

January 1, 2014
by Not Fainthearted
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Happy 2014

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I’m spending the morning watching the parade, cleaning out my email (and unsubscribing from most of it) and wondering why I haven’t already walked a couple of miles on the treadmill. It’s -4 (with a windchill of -18) so that sort of thing is not happening outside. Spending the afternoon writing thank-you notes and making burritos for the freezer.
Praying that in 2014 we can see the abundance of blessings with which we’re surrounded, the energy to step into the pain and need of neighbors near and far, and faith that we are loved just as we are.

December 31, 2013
by Not Fainthearted
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2013 Wrap-up

Christmas greetings and New Year blessings!

DH and I have been married three and a half years now and we’re starting to get the hang of some things together. This year: Newsy Holiday Letters! 2013 has been filled with blessings – twists and turns in the plot line that keep you wondering “What’s going to happen next?” – and lots of opportunities to make memories.

In January I started a three-month gig as interim Music Director at a church in St. Paul (where I’ve been since 2006.) It was an opportunity to help out my friends there and also reminded me that my call was fuller than my “official” job there. DH began his trial retirement, having served his last day at the AF store at the school on December 31.

By February, he had had all the sitting around in the La-Z-Boy I could stand and began his job search in earnest. I continued on as interim music director and began to keep watch for a music director position of my own.

In March, I started teaching an online certification course for the American Society of Training and Development and had a wonderful time through Lent and on to Easter Sunday with the choir at the church.  DH was having some marvelous interviews, which led to an actual job offer! Also during this month, a friend of mine who had been caught in the foreclosure situation moved into the house.

On April 1, the day after Easter, DH started a new job as Community Resource Consultant with CB. CB is the Methodist version of AF. They had also closed all their brick-and-mortar stores but they chose to hire 50 people who would be the face of CB in their larger markets. DH’s job is to call on churches and institutions and basically do the same kind of relational recommendation of resources that he did from the bookstore. The tricky part is that his market is Des Moines, IA. For the first couple of months, he was flying to Nashville for training and helping staff their big regional events (like synod assemblies but they call them Annual Conferences). Of course, he had a great time meeting all these new people and always came home with stories of not only new friends but of all the people he already knew. I started a “short” “easy” instructional design contract in April and also began to provide interim communications support to the Deaconess Community.

In May, DS2 finished his first year at University of Wisconsin, Stout (in Menomonie, WI) and moved home for the summer. He worked for Cub all summer, stocking dairy. DS1 finished his fourth year at Iowa State (in Ames, IA) but stayed on campus for the summer because his job there. DS2 and I built and filled four new 4×4 raised garden beds and I planted way too many tomatoes, along with beans, carrots, cabbage, herbs and all sorts of things that sounded good.

June saw my last day at the St. Paul church as I accepted a ¼ time call to a smaller church in South Minneapolis to be their music director. DH continued to criss-cross the country working Annual Conferences (New Jersey, Iowa, and Oregon/Idaho) for Cokesbury and by the end of the month he was beginning his regular routine of driving down to Des Moines on Monday and back to Minneapolis on Fridays. We found him an apartment down there because Cokesbury wasn’t going to pay for a hotel for much longer.

In July, I started at the Minneapolis church and DH moved in to his apartment in Urbandale, IA, a suburb of Des Moines. The rest of the month is a blur as that “short” “easy” instructional design project was turning into neither of those things. Between that contract, the communications work and starting at Bethel I was working way too many hours and the garden really suffered. Sometime in here my friend found a more permanent housing solution and moved out of our house.

August brought a reunion in Chicago with some of DH’s college friends whom he had not seen in maybe 20 years. I met the other 3 couples and we all had a wonderful time reliving the “old” days. Hey, we graduated in 1972 for gosh sakes! And how about those Northern Illinois Huskies! Another wonderful season of football. That same weekend we also attended a wedding of the daughter of one of DH’s friends from our Lutheran Church in Berwyn. So I was introduced quite a bit that weekend to friends of DH.

Later in that month DS1 moved in with DH for a couple of weeks between housing contracts. All reports are that it was “fine” and they enjoyed ordering pizzas and drinking a couple of beers together at the end of their long work days. DS2 returned to Stout in the middle of August.

September saw the beginning of choir practices for me as well as a trip to Techny, IL for the Deaconess Assembly. DH continued getting to know the people in his market and collecting lots of great stories. Around this time we knew that this commuter marriage thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and I started looking again for a call that would be much closer to full-time and include benefits, with the idea that DH could retire or do something else while avoiding those long drives twice a week.

In early October, DH hurt his back and came home on Thursday to go to the doctor. After an ER visit, an MRI and another doctor visit, we knew that he had a pinched nerve, a bulging disc and another broken disc. He went on short-term disability and I added caretaker and transportation coordinator to my duties. This was complicated by the amount of travel I was doing for the communications work, but we were blessed with friends and other family that stepped in to sub for me.

Early November brought the passing of DH’s former MIL in Indiana. She had led a full life passing at age 97. Seeing that side of the family was especially important for DSS1 and DSS2 as all of the 7 cousins on that side of the family were able to attend the services. DH made the drive along with DSS2 and DDIL2. On the way back to MN the 3 of us even drove through the hometown of LaGrange Park so that DDIL2 could see where DSS2 had grown up.

Also later that month was an opportunity for me to plan, lead and host an ecumenical Thanksgiving Eve worship service. 55 people came for the mass choir – what a wonderful sound we made together even with only a few minutes of rehearsal together. By this time, DH was feeling well enough to come to worship. I cooked Thanksgiving dinner on Friday and DSS2 and DDIL2, DS1, DS2, Mom and Sis joined us around the table.

After Thanksgiving, DH resumed working in Des Moines. He still has some numbness in his leg, but we’re hoping the steroid injection he had in mid December will really kick in soon. DS1 graduated from Iowa State with a Bachelors in Computer Science. He has moved home for the time being while he looks for a job. DS2 is home for Christmas break and is going to Germany leaving January 3 for a 2-week course on injection molding for his product engineering major. He and a friend plan to take an additional week and go to London for some sight-seeing before coming home and heading back to “regular” classes.

After much prayer and conversation, I gave my notice at the Minneapolis church in early December. My last day was December 31 and hope to be approved for “on leave from call” status while I really play the “persistent widow” with synod offices and churches in search of a full-time call that needs both someone care for the worship life of the congregation and general ministry and administration.

DSS1, DIL1, and The Grandson made a move to the Detroit area just after Thanksgiving. DSS1 is now a manager for that area. DIL1 is able to continue with some consulting work as she had been doing research with a team of doctors in Minneapolis. The Grandson turned two December 18 and has all of the energy and more of a busy 2-year-old and keeps Mommy and Daddy on their toes all of the time.

DSS2athan and DDIL2 are in the Twin Cities area. DDIL2 is the youth director at a Methodist church and DSS2 is busy teaching in a charter school with his 30 kindergartners as he has them all day! As they both work with kids of different ages we marvel at their patience!

In March I’ll be joining a delegation of Lutherans from all over the world in a visit to Lutheran World Federation Ministry sites in Nepal. We start in Kathmandu on March 8 and finish on the 21. Getting to and from Nepal takes about 30 hours (about the same as to Holden Village) so the whole trip will be about 3 weeks. During that time we will be trekking between ministry sites that are between Pokhara and Jomsom – a fairly well-known and not difficult nor technical trek. Basically it sounds like 6 days in a row of hiking the harder Holden trails but about 5,000 feet higher (we’ll be between 4,600 and 11,000 feet elevation depending on the day.) And yes, I’ve already started training!!

As we said at the beginning, we are positive that more twists and turns and wonderful memories will be in store for us in 2014 just like they most certainly are for your family.

With gratitude to God for all of our family and friends as well as those people who we will meet this year, we pray for good health and blessings to you and yours knowing that God is walking along with us every day. Make the most of the opportunities you have to make memories in 2014.

December 29, 2013
by Not Fainthearted
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Faith, theology and where I get my energy (even when I don’t have any)

Frederick Buechner:

“Faith is different from theology because theology is reasoned, systematic, and orderly, whereas faith is disorderly, intermittent, and full of surprises…. Faith is homesickness. Faith is a lump in the throat. Faith is less a position on than a movement toward, less a sure thing than a hunch. Faith is waiting.”

 

November 3, 2013
by Not Fainthearted
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Grateful: Nov 3 2013 edition

It’s Sunday. We celebrated All Saints Sunday at church this morning. But I’m not ready to post my reflections on this past week just yet. Instead a list of things for which I’m grateful this week. In no particular order.

  • The really hard and faithful work of the search committee I’m leading. Their perspectives and ability to articulate the situation well so that the whole elephant can be seen.
  • The friendship and life-work of SrG
  • The ability – physically, emotionally and financially – to be present at SrG’s memorial service
  • Community, and their willingness to show up and be present
  • SrK and SrM – for promising to preach the gospel at my memorial service and not tell irrelevant personal stories that keep the focus on themselves… or to push/shout down a preacher who does that.
  • My DH who managed all week without me – with a bad back
  • That DH’s back is feeling better – even though it’s likely he’ll be off work for a couple of more weeks.
  • For disability insurance that means he gets 50% of his salary after his vacation pay is used up. Which it already is.
  • For new neighbors who already have to put up with so much from my side of the fence (the weeds totally won this year) but who seem to be bought off (for now) by a case of Nordeast beer.
  • For KR who covered my rehearsals this week so that I could be gone and still have the choirs lead worship
  • For the choirs who stepped up and did their best as we’re trying to figure out how to work with each other
  • For DDIL2 who had a birthday and invited DH and me to celebrate
  • That I don’t have to socialize with DDIL2′s parents very often
  • For mild-ish autumn weather and long lasting autumn color here in the Twin Cities

Some petitions

  • That DH continues to improve and can keep his job that he loves
  • That next steps for the search committee are clear
  • For hard conversations/emails I have to send around that whole situation
  • That my role forward is clear
  • That I can pay attention over the next couple of weeks and be gentle with myself
  • As I continue to discern and seek a SINGLE call that not only uses all my gifts, but pays a fair wage and provides health benefits — especially if DH loses his job — at least until the pre-existing conditions clause of ACA kicks in so that we can have coverage without paying COBRA again
  • If that can’t be found, that new contract work comes in because the current contract is about over

July 29, 2013
by Not Fainthearted
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via Thomas Merton

“To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender oneself to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is cooperation in violence. It destroys one’s own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of one’s own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes the work fruitful.”

“Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

love,

Jesus