Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Don't stand so, don't stand so close to me...

Last semester, while on CPE (clinical pastoral experience/chaplaincy) I spent A LOT of time talking about and reflecting on boundaries. Observing healthy and life-giving boundaries has not always been a strength of mine so I was really grateful for a chance to explore this more.

Most helpful things learned: Forgiveness is given to us and we are to give this to others. Forgiveness makes a way for something new, but that something new can mean separation, self-care, loss of relationship...all so that God can work something new. New often sucks (at first).

I still have much to learn, especially in how to maintain boundaries with more grace and less harshness. Because of this learning I wrote a reflection many months ago after a conversation with my CPE is inspired by long-lost friends, the men who have cycled in and out and all the many, many, many, many voices who have offered their two cents as to how I should be parenting or living differently (especially the random lady at a bus station who ranted at me for 2 full minutes about how inappropriately my child was dressed...this is for you, lady!)
 We're doing our best, I trust you are too.

How many of you have peered through our window, intrigued by our messy, love-filled and self-sufficient life? How many times have you remained hunched over, unsure of why you're even there, protected by the cover of night?  How many stones have your thrown from your place in the dark? How many cracks have you put in our window?

From your perch outside the window you can only see the expression on our faces, you cannot hear our voices or the words behind the furrowed brow. While crouching outside you can only see the stains on my skirt, unable to breath in the home-cooked dish baking in the next room.
If you stay outside all you can see are the crumbs ground in the backseat of our car, however you'll forever miss the adventures we are driving away to...

I know its easier to keep a safe distance
I know its easier to stay crouched in the dark
the window is cleaner, a barrier which protects, yet allows minimal access

If you came to the door, you would need to stand upright
If you came to the door your knocking would reveal your intentions
If you came to the door you could add your voice to the arguments, laughter, whispers
If you came to the door, the invitation would be extended so you could cross the threshold
you would be exposed to all the voices,
all the places,
all the smells,
all the love.

I am saddened to think of why you're all hunched over, is it the many burdens on your back? Or the ache in your chest? How do you have so many stones that your clenched fist is overflowing? Is it because you've caught them mid-air while they're being thrown your way?

I'm hunched over too. I have many stones, always at the ready.

It is scary to come to the door.
It takes a lot of strength to raise your hand and knock,
so much strength that most days I am not sure I would be able if I had a choice

I understand its harder to come to our door, so I beg you please...stay the hell away from our window.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Oh, the places we'll go!

The countdown is on: 32 days left in Minnesota
5 papers, 2 sermons and 1 presentation
1 apartment to pack, sort, clean and empty
1 child to raise

Instead of tending to any of the above tasks, I've spent some time thinking of our FAVORITE places in the Twin Cities. If you live in the Twin Cities, you should check these spots out. Hopefully, in just a couple months I can blog again about our new favorite places in Oregon!

Java Train: a very kid-friendly and local coffe-house/cafe. There is a beautiful patio out back. Our first year at seminary we spent most Saturday mornings walking around Como Lake, then coming here for lunch. We love to bring loved ones to Java Train!
speaking of Como Lake, here we are after a walk with some Concordia girls in 2008

The Pastor's Library (and favorite room on campus)
Pranca on Main – lovely times here.

So, what can be learned about the Princess and the Pastor from the places we perch? We like beautiful places, spaces to run and play, quiet corners, good drinks and wow, we're a little nerdy.

Let's face it...who cares where we are? As long as there are wonderful people to be there with!  

Thursday, April 21, 2011

faith like a...

The seminary newspaper always includes an article called "Down the Hill".  The format usually consists of a seminary student (parent) interviewing a seminary kiddo.  For the upcoming issue they asked if I would interview the Princess! The issue is addressing "big words" and we had a really fun conversation...

A conversation with a 5 year old...

E: Did you know that at my school we use big words to talk about God?
M: Like vocabulary and Samantha?
E: Those are big words, but not the ones we use. How about I'll say a word and you guess what it means? What do you think 'parachoresis' means?
M: Paddles for a boat (pretends to be rowing a boat)?
E: Well, there is a lot of swirling around involved, so that works! What about 'missiology'?
M: Mississippi River? God made that!
E: Eschatology?
M: something about dinosaurs, I think.
E: Nice work! What words do you use to talk about God?
M: I use small words like peace, sins and the cross. And how Jesus died on the cross and soldiers hurt him.
E: Then what happened?
M: He went into the tube.
E: Do you mean tomb?
M: hmmmm....yeah. The ladies came and said “Where is he?” and the angels said “He came alive, go tell your friends.”
E: I like your words, you know this story really well!
M: We're learning about Easter at school this week (thank you, Wee Care!) so I have a lot to talk about.
E: What is the biggest word you know?
M: herbivore.
E: What is the most important word about God that we should know? Just pick one.
M: Serve the Lord and give peace.
E: That was more than one.
M: (shoulder shrug and eye roll)
E: I have one more big word for you...what does love mean?
M: You really care about someone and you like them.
E: And God's love?
M: God loves his children.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Don't worry, be happy.

Recently the Revised Common lectionary served us up a bit from the gospel of Matthew, the theme was WORRY. ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?... indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things...So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (excerpts from Matthew 6)

Because I attend seminary chapel on a (somewhat) regular basis and I was playing for services on Sunday I think I heard this WORRY text read and preached a total of six times in seven days. Now, you know when someone says “Don't look behind you because....” and the immediate jerk reaction is to look behind you? Well, when you hear repeatedly, “stop worrying, stop worrying, God does not like it, stop worrying...” it is really hard to not WORRY, and then I am worrying about the fact that I am worrying and around and around we go.

Or maybe I was so sensitive to this WORRY text because the princess worries, its her full time job. She is always on high-alert with her WORRY-radar ready to go off at any moment. Recently the worries have become bigger..
                                       and bigger...
                                          and bigger...
so we've called in the professionals (let's face it, me helping her with her worries is like the blind leading the blind). At the moment we're not so much focused on the “why” of her worries, but the “how” of it all. I am being educated with helpful phrases, strategies, and coping techniques while the princess is learning some breathing techniques, re-orientation skills and coping techniques. What I've found to be fascinating is that this process we're being taken through is remarkably biblical! Its as if Jesus had the corner on cognitive-behavioral model! Check it out...

Put your worry into words
(distinguish between reality and imagination)
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer supplication with thanksgiving your requests be made known to God” (matt 6)
Give your self a designated “worry-time”
then ignore your worry the rest of the day
And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (matt 6)
Talk back to your worries!
(positive thinking)
whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever commendable, if there is any excellence and if there anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (phil 4)
Re-set your system
(to alleviate physical symptoms - relaxation, breathing, activity)
Come to me, all you that are weary and are heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ (matt 6)

The princess has been working on this for a couple weeks and while there is still too much WORRY in our household, these tried and true practices have really proven to improve her quality of life (and lessened the worry of the Pastor too). Here's to the day when the Princess' worries become smaller...and smaller...and smaller!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Plan 'B'

If I were to forgo this whole ordained ministry gig I would be a travel agent or a tour manager. I know, I know you probably thought I'd tap into my more obvious skill sets; piano playing, childcare, quantum physics...but there is little else that I find as relaxing as piecing together the pieces of the puzzle of a travel plan. Calculating fuel costs, reserving camp sites, menu planning, coordinating with other travel-mates... I love it all!

The reason behind my love for travel planning is probably fairly obvious. Life is filled with unknowns and problems which cannot be solved in an hour or a day, and in the face of those pressures I bury my head in the sand and turn instead to logistical problems I can solve with a few web searches and emails. In life we rarely know what the next chapter will bring, where it will take us or how long it will last. With google maps and my trusty atlas, I can answer all these travel question very easily. Yes, in travel planning all my control issues can be satisfied! Imagine how happily distracted I've been since finding out we're moving west in 6 short weeks and in the middle of that we'll jet over to the east coast for a family reunion! Details and planning abounds!

The Princess and the Pastor definitely do not have an extravagant amount of travel funds, yet this has remained a priority for us. Seeing our loved one, visiting sites unseen, learning to be resourceful, working as a team, having adventures – so we get our butts in the car, train, plane, ferry and GO! This is not an exhaustive list, but some of the great places we've gone since we were placed in the world together...

St. Louis, MO (from Fargo by train with a 2-year old for a wedding)
Tacoma, WA (twice by plane, too many great people to list!)
Louisville, KY (twice by car, yay Uncle Matthew and Aunt Anna)
Longmont, CO (by plane, yay Sarah and Sarah)
Holden Village/Levenworth, WA (by train with a 4-year old and we'll be back in June)
many, many road trips to East Grand Forks, MN (yay Grandma and Grandpa Stennes)
Fargo, ND (yay Uncle Daniel, Auntie Katie, Isaiah and Lily)
Green Bay (my college roomie and the Princess' dear friend, Julia)
Lake Crystal, Bemidji, Marshall and the list goes on...

You are perhaps wondering, how does the Princess do with all these travels? 90% of the time she is fantastic, she easily entertains herself in the backseat and on the ferry or plane she stays quiet and is polite to other travelers. The train and the Princess do not seem to be the best fit – although, in her defense, both train trips were over 20 hours long! 

If the Pastor and the Princess ever need a plan 'B' I think one of us would make an excellent travel agent and the other would be a very entertaining tour guide!

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”
                                    St. Augustine

the Princess and her best travel smile!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Let's...make...a deal!

I have spent the last three years as a member of the Luther Seminary community. And I have found that my colleagues are constantly caught in the throws of decision making, except we use a much fancier word and call it “discernment” (its holier that way). I do not think there is more decision-making happening at seminary than other places of the world, but perhaps the BIG decisions are a bit more concentrated. About every semester there is a major interview to endure, an essay to write, a form of preference to fill out...we cannot go too long with out some major “discernment”.

With all this holy discernment going on, I found myself in conversation with a very wise professor, and from his teaching a wrote a sermon for a preaching class which compares God to Monte Hall. Problamatic? Yep.

This sermon was based on two biblical notion of wisdom, first woman wisdom (Sophia) who can be found in Proverbs 1:22-23, 2:1-6. And some of Paul's teaching on the wisdom of God found in 1 Corinthians 2:1-12 (read them, Sophia is a rockstar!). Below are excerpts from that sermon (its a little choppy, I just grabbed some highlights) as I find myself at another time of discernment, right along with most of my classmates I thought this might be a nice time to look at it again. So, say it with me: “Lets...make...a deal!” (cue music)
Monty Hall was the charming and beloved host of the famous game show, Let's Make a Deal. Monty always knows where the real prize is, or what's inside the envelope, what you, as the contestant, must consider is what kind of Monty Hall are you getting. Is he the “Monty from hell” who knows that the car is behind door #1 and is tempting and distracting you? Or the “Angelic Monty” who is trying to persuade you in the direction for the right choice and the grand prize? And there is really no way of, the poor contestant must make a choice based on nothing else than your gut.

The premise that lies underneath Let's Make a Deal and the “Monty Hall Problem” is one that we often operate on. When faced with the choices of life—the right house, right job, right person, right city, right internship...we play Let's Make a Deal, and so relegate God to...none other than Monty Hall! In this game then, God has the answer in the envelope, the prize hidden away in a secret we watch and analyze, looking for signs or any little hint that might help us to make that perfect decision, the proper discernment, we hope we will be able to read God's body language so we might subconsciously be led in the right direction.
The wisdom Paul speaks of is a gift of God's alone. Through the Spirit we move to deeper understanding, through the Spirit, we move closer to God. Sophia and Paul both invite us to wisdom...they tell us about the ways of God's knowing and understanding, and they tell us about the ways we just do not know and cannot understand. What Sophia and Paul do not tell us that God is like Monty Hall...God is NOT like Monty Hall! God is not holding the secret to our life's correct path or true love behind door #2 and then playing with us to see how we will choose. The ways of God's wisdom are much more loving than that and lead to much more than making the right choice or winning a game. The ways of God's wisdom is the way of life!
God is not playing games with us, or holding the prize behind the Divine back...God invites us into relationship so that we can get to know one another. We spend time in the Word, which unfolds and reveals the ways God works and how God moves in our lives and in the lives of all people. We spend time in communication, listening, pleading with our God, our Maker, our Savior, our Spirit.
Of course, in all of our time together with God, through the Word, prayer and the gifts of the Spirit the thing Paul reminds us of is that we will never fully know God. This reminder could be frustrating, paralyzing even...but then God offers the ultimate deal. In the Divine Wisdom of God, in this beautiful and full relationship we are in with God, it is God who will always know us.
The promise of this relationship is not that we fully know,
but that we are fully known.
We are known by the loving God, not as a cunning game-show host who hold answers and prizes at bay, God knows us fully and in complete Divine Wisdom stays with us, works with us as we discern, decide and move in the direction of Wisdom, of life, of God.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

the Give and Take of it all.

The title of this blog is: The Princess & and the Pastor. These are two very strong parts of how we find our identities (we'll let you guess who is who). As you may imagine, these two identities are not always the easiest of matches. So, this first post is really just an introduction of sorts.

For the past five years we have moved more times than we care to count...

Washington to North Dakota to Minnesota and now to Oregon!
That takes a lot of flexibility, perseverance, loyalty, humor, hard work and above

So, what does it mean for a princess and a pastor to be journeying the road together?

For the Princess it means...
  • we have to get up early on Sunday mornings
  • being exposed to many different Sunday Schools and loving each one
  • sitting alone in church sometimes
  • having over a dozen children's Bibles
  • when the Princess is lost in imaginary play, sometimes that play involves preaching and presiding
  • being a part of communities that love and care for you, even when you're shy or crabby or thrown major temper tantrums during the offering
  • going to class with the Pastor, getting doted on my her classmates and hearing her professor use 4 letter words in lecture (and then apologizing to the princess after)
  • family is a gift, and family goes way beyond blood lines.

For the Pastor it means...
  • seeing all the Disney movies at least ten times and knowing each princess by their names, dress color and love interest
  • being out accessorized by the Princess
  • finding that making castles in the living room really is more important that studying
  • experiencing "faith like a child"...every day, all day
  • the Princess will prance and dance anywhere; even rehearsals, lectures, sanctuaries and funeral homes
  • Saturday mornings at home with the Princess are as sacred as any other time or day
  • relearning its okay to dream and wonder
  • family is a gift, and family goes way beyond blood lines.
Stayed tuned to hear how the packing up for the Princess and the Pastor goes. One of us will need to make the heartwrenching choice of how many dolls and dress-up clothes can really fit the in the suitcase. The other will need to anguish over how many Biblical commentaries the car can actually carry.