Friday, May 15, 2009

Toby is in Residence

This winter I experienced the demise of Buddy the beloved beagle in a very unfortunate stroke in my presence. The Lutheran Chicks were lobbying soon thereafter for a new dog. Honestly, I had neither the physical nor mental energy after Buddy's death. But I swore we would revisit this after the end of the semester.
We are a dog-rescuing family- both of our previous very special pets have been rescued. First there was Stirling who was found freezing on the city streets on Christmas Eve and rescued. She was on her last day at the shelter when I showed up "just to look." Stirling was a pointer mix who chewed her way through many things because my Beloved and I were uneducated dog owners. The recliner, the remote, and the first crate all met her wrath, and our deck was almost unearthed by enthusiastic digging. But She was devotedly with us for 13 years.
Buddy the beagle had owners who gave him no indoor shelter for his first four years- he came to us through the grapevine and spent almost seven years of his life with a loving family even with his special needs.
So we were waiting. And the kids were determined, but so was I- it would be wrong to adopt a dog who would then spend all day in a crate. The waiting paid off and a three young beagle pointer dogs were rescued from a high kill shelter by a local rescue group. Thus led us to Castaway Critters who scoops up pets from such shelters and fosters them until they can find their forever home. Ironically, Toby was less than a mile from us and being fostered by a professional acquaintance of mine.
Ironically, if our first and second dogs had mated, the offspring might look like Toby.
So we are back to world of barking because another dog is barking, face licking at 5 AM because it is "Walk time" and remembering that when you give a dog a sock toy, all socks become fair game.
Life is good.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Traveling at the Speed of Light

Where have the last two years gone? Two years ago I was stressing about whether I could learn Greek and whether I could master the "going back to school" thing. Two years ago I was preparing for my entrance interview. And I had discovered a fellow blogger Prepare Ye who was also headed to LTSG.
Two years ago I was finishing up most of a law practice and contemplating how I would coordinate everything so the commuter seminarian/wife/mother/lawyer thing would be managed with precision.
Two years ago seems like yesterday.
It does not seem possible that I would have now completed teaching parish, CPE, the speed-dating of internship matching, and now team building with my supervisor the last couple of days, having the most affirming and enriching time, wondering why my start date is two months away (knowing I should enjoy this time of waiting).
Two years ago I had no idea I would learn to drive so frequently on auto-pilot, or that I would set up and tear down a room for one night, 27 times, or drive about 11 hours each week.
Two years ago, if you told me I would learn to skim enormous books and then write a 15 page paper in short order, discuss the difference between orthodoxy and orthopraxy, and have about 200 books more than I did before, I would not have believed you.
Two years ago, if you told me that at the end of team building I would be eating lunch with a potential commuter student and discussing the value of taking Greek first because of the rich nuances it would open up for preaching, professing that I still do the translation first,I would have laughed loud and long. Though for the benefit of any Greek instructors lurking on this blog (VH), I extol the virtues of Bibleworks with BDAG- also not on my horizon two years ago.
Two years ago, I weighed a little less, and my hair was a little less gray. But two years ago, I had not met some of the most amazing and amusing people, with whom we have all laughed, cried, gritted our teeth and ranted. And now we are the latest Lutheran diaspora- cast to the winds to inflict our burgeoning pastoral identities on unsuspecting congregations.
And as I looked around these last couple days, I think each vicar-to-be was transformed a little more before my eyes and I have a sense of promise for the future of the church. And I know that time will continue to fly and I will continue to be amazed about the things I thought I would never do.
And the truth is I could never do them.
There is no way that this journey could have happened in all its scary-ness and amazingness but for the work of the Spirit who early on showed me that every time I think I am managing this process, God laughs a belly-whopping laugh. We leave for journeys to learn if the gifts we think we have been given are affirmed, to receive new gifts needed- given in time and context- some will be easy and some will be hard gifts.
And we will return transformed.
So while we continue to travel at the speed of light, may the Light of Christ ever be with us.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Journey Back from the Wilderness

It has been almost two months since I last posted anything. Not because I had nothing to say, but because there was too much. And I confess that as I had started to learn who was reading my blog, I started to think about transparency (yes,I know that has become a new buzzword in politics, sorry). How much self-disclosure does one engage in? And I was slogging my way through a record number of credits in seminary with Psalter, Theology of Stewardship, Religion in America, Pastoral Theology of Cancer, Preaching the Gospel of Mark and an independent study on chaplaincy as ministry of healing. And driving back and forth to LTSG five days of the week, staying overnight one of them, I learned how quickly to set up and tear down a room, and at times it seemed that all that was missing was the manna.
And in the midst of all of that, two other things happened. I rejoiced as we discovered that our older daughter had developed enough coping strategies to stop taking her Concerta which improved her overall mood- the Concerta was triggering her depression. But then...
Our younger daughter developed panic attacks, that quickly escalated to include some obsessive tendencies and phobias. Thus began the vortex of doctor visits, cognitive behavioral therapy visits, and medication management. And every day waiting for the other shoe to drop. I became the person who could not turn off the cell phone during the day, ever. Realizing first hand what it means to remember self-care when the world is a maelstrom. And knowing that one of the triggers seems to be difficulty adjusting to the fact this "call" thing is becoming more real as I prepare for internship. Yet I am the person to whom she turns. And becoming keenly aware of the woefully inadequate coverage for mental health issues. I experienced my own Lenten journey living through good days, or hours, and those heart-wrenching troughs where my daughter is crying and shaking, and telling me she can't take it,yet through her tears telling me she longs to be better.
My own need to constantly "return to the Lord your God" even while I felt like the Israelites wandering in circles. My own need to confront the hidden-ness of God and to conclude that Luther is right- "asking why" will drive you mad. Look for Christ in the suffering of the cross. And to look for God in the miniscule. To take comfort in the things often overlooked in the rush of the busy-ness of life.
To learn to visualize handing over my daughter to God.
To seek out my friends and learn to be a better recipient of kindness.
But out of this feeling of wandering in the wilderness, has not only come this more poignant sense of daily living, but also in the midst of this the serenity that my calling is secure.
I have never felt that the answer to all of this would be to stop going to seminary, or delay internship, or to think that maybe this is a sign that I should not continue this journey even as my daughter told me that she thinks that there is a God, but God is not loving. That a loving God would not be able to allow the planet to be degraded, and people to suffer. That I therefore must be "crazy" to give up a perfectly good career as a lawyer for this.
And how dare I?
And I have done a lot of listening, to a 14 year old who is probably a better theologian than I. And by listening and not chastising, but discussing not "fixing" we continue this journey with her knowing that I am not changing the journey, but do not need her to embrace it. That I am here to help her deal with her stress, but am not captive to it.
But I give thanks that this is not just "my" issue. As a family we all have been engaged in the ways that we as a family share in helping each other, and share in responsibility for our home together. While the direction of the path is uncertain, whether this is short-term or the "rest of our lives," I give thanks that God is in our midst and active, especially in my husband and older daughter.
I give thanks that God has gifted our younger daughter with the ability to write and draw and create music, all of which are helping her. I give thanks that she trusts us enough to be honest, to talk and to still want that goodnight kiss.
And in the midst of all of this, where I truly had to decide what is important and what is not, God gave me the grace and strength to get through the "too busy" semester while learning a lesson about not doing that again. When you have as many as three appointments a week, and should carve out some self care as well, I can see how overfunctioning is the road to ruin. A learning which will come in handy as I head to internship.
And with the preaching/text discussion every other week, I got to feel what it is like to preach when exhausted (too many nights of 3-4 hours of sleep) and to preach the good news when it doesn't feel like there is much. And to preach about the person afflicted with demons, and picture one's own and to pray that it is God's will to release someone from something. I must admit I was not looking for any more character building experiences, but can see that everything I have been experiencing allows me to more fully appreciate the journey of others I will encounter.
And I know that the only way I have come this far is by the hand of God active in the lives of those who surround me.
Yesterday I watched another class at LTSG graduate and head out into the world, and realized that as all who would be leaving the Ridge should stand and be a part of the Farewell and Godspeed, that included me and my fellow interns, it is hard to believe that the journey has come this far. And no matter what...
"Surely it is God who saves me, I will trust in Him and not be afraid, for the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense and He will be my Savior."