Posts Tagged ‘Called’

Paths as Yet Untrod

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

Lutheran Book of Worship

I know I’ve mentioned before that I’ve had quite a bit of transition in my life as a pastor’s wife–we’re in our fourth state in 18 years of marriage. And yet…I would have to say that the transition I’m in right now is every bit as big as a cross-country move even though I’m not literally going anywhere.

But man, am I going places!

If you had told me a year ago that I would have a blog that I actually had the guts to write on 2-3 times per week, I would have laughed. I tried blogging years ago and it scared me to near-silence to be so exposed online.

If you had told me a year ago that I would be a regular contributor at somebody’s podcast, I would not have believed you. Actually, I would have had to ask you to define a podcast.

But I want to be out there now. When I was so scared to use my voice in years past, those were some of my darkest years–made all the darker by not talking about what was going on.

I’ve written before about my desire to be a writer and a speaker. Yes, I know I said I wanted to be “great” too–you’ll be proud of me to know that I’m getting over myself about all that quite a bit.

The dream to write & speak is still there, only I stopped trying to get ahead of myself so much.

I’m taking this season of writing on the blog, guest-blogging, and other writing opportunties, this season of podcasting, preaching here and there, and guest-speaking at small gatherings to continue to hone my voice, develop my craft, and most of all to discern my core message.

I don’t know where all of this is going–as the prayer above says, these are ventures whose end I can’t see and paths which I have not trod. But I don’t have to know where it’s all going to say “yes” to this bit right now.

I truly appreciate each of you who read and encourage me. Thanks for being with me as I use this place to try different styles, play with ideas, and share my heart about life in general.

Secondary Infertility and Layers of Angst

I wrote on my blog before about my history of infertility and how I lament that I can’t have another child, I lament my broken body. And while that is true, there is more to it than that. I alluded to it a little in that previous post:

Is there still hope that I could technically get the right treatments, eat the right foods and eventually conceive again?

Probably.

See, that probability could be more in reach than I let on. I mean, there are some relatively simple steps with my health that I could take but I am not taking. And partly why I don’t do those things is because there is part of me that doesn’t want more kids.

I wrote once before about my history of depression and anxiety and how that is a factor in why I am reticent about having more kids:

I sunk to rock-bottom depression in my early days post-partum and at some point after having my son the anxiety kicked in…I mentioned before that my history of infertility is the biggest reason why I don’t have more than one kid, but this depression/anxiety stuff factors in pretty prominently too.

So, I’m disappointed yet a little glad that I can’t because I don’t want to anyway because I was such a depressed mess the first time around.

But there is more.

There is the part that I don’t want to tell but somehow I feel like God wants me to work out. There is the plain old reality that I just don’t want to for my own reasons.

I know my great longing is not a secret, because it is all over this blog. I want this blog to be something to serve others, but so often I am absorbed in all my own drama here. So I have already revealed what I really want.

I want to give birth to more speaking and writing.

You can have it all, just not all at once.And I just can’t give birth to that if I am to have another baby. They say you can have it all, just not all at once, and I believe them.

When my son was small, he required so much, so very much of me. From breastfeeding to bed-wetting, the demands were around-the-clock for so many of his younger years. Add into that the hours-on-end of hands-on involvement during the day–I took seriously the caution not to allow screentime until age 3, the advice to not leave a young child unattended even for a moment. So, I spent a lot of time right there with him, shaping his days, playing games, and telling him stories.

I don’t begrudge him any of that.

I just know myself well enough to know that if that was my reality all over again, then I couldn’t do the speaking and writing that I want to do, you know, with grown-ups.

My son is 9 years old now and halfway to college already! And with his advancing years, he is more independent than ever. Now he is reading fluently and can lose himself in a National Geographic while I write a bit. And the older he gets, being a guy and all, the more he wants to spend time with his dad–so that means more time for me to work on preparing for a talk I’m going to give.

My son still needs me, of course. But more of me is freer now than when he was little little. And I like it this way, this me-being-freer way.

So, why do I feel so guilty about wanting what I want and enjoying my freedom?

I mean, all the time, women of “normal” fertility decide to stop making more babies. They could have more, but they don’t. So, why do I, for whom baby-making does not come so easily, feel so guilty for “I don’t want to”?

Maybe it’s not the “I don’t want to” that I feel guilty about so much as the hiding behind the “I can’t” narrative.

Hiding behind “I can’t” has been an excuse to not directly seek God’s will. If I just stick to the “I can’t” script, then I don’t have to know what God wants for my future. If I can’t, I can’t, right? So God can’t possibly expect me to do what I can’t do.

But, what if I stop hiding behind, “I can’t” and just be honest with God about “I don’t want to because there’s other stuff I want to do instead”? What if I invite God into this complexity of emotion, into these layers of angst?

Ah, though, the trouble with that is what if God doesn’t affirm what I think I want to do? What if this whole speaking and writing stuff is just my will, my want?

I wrestle all the time with sorting out my motives. I want to believe that what I want is what God wants. I have an inkling that this other stuff is where God is calling me. I have a pretty clear vision about what that work might entail.

But for me, moving more fully into the speaking and writing entails having that baby-making stuff behind me. And until I stop hiding behind my assertion of “I can’t” and really ask God whether it is okay to not to, then what I actually can’t do is move forward in anything with any degree of certainty.

Lord, I submit this to you. Grant me the courage and confidence to know and move forward in your will. Amen

Let’s Talk About Spiritual Shrinking As Well As Spiritual Growth

spiritshrink.jpgSpiritual growth is one thing, but what about when we feel more like we’re just plain shrinking? I recently was inspired to write on my blog about spiritual growth because I believe that growth in our relationship with God in Christ Jesus is truly important. I love seeing God transform people’s lives so they can be a greater blessing to the world around them!

That post took inspiration from some “grow animals” that my son had submerged in water and I cautioned that spiritual growth is not just a simple matter of “Just Add Water.” Then something happened that took this idea to a new low–once the “grow animals” were taken out of the water and set out to dry, they shrunk considerably (see photo).

I knew then that I had to write about “spiritual shrinking” because our growth in faith is not always as linear as we’d like. And ultimately, being willing to talk with each other about the shrinking can increase our growth potential in Christ.

What do I mean?

I’m playing with this idea because when those little animals dried out it reminded me of other terms we use to speak of such things in our spiritual lives:

  • wilderness times,
  • dry spells,
  • and feeling drained.

Spiritual growth is not magical and “spiritual shrinking” happens more than we discuss.

I think part of why we don’t discuss the shrinking is because even if we don’t expect growth over night we do expect that we at least keep growing. We impose on ourselves some kind of expectation that each day we have to become a better and better version of ourselves. So when something occurs in our spiritual lives that causes us to shrivel up, we also find ourselves feeling like we need to suck it up and not talk about it.

When life happens

Of course, we want to remain in Christ and keep trying to live more fully into who God has called us each to be! But sometimes, life happens. Circumstances come along that seem to suck the life out of us:

  • We lose loved ones, then well-intentioned friends add to our pain by telling us to just “get over it.”
  • We struggle with a physical or mental health condition that is flaring out of control.
  • We experience strife with a friend or colleague and the relationship seems irreparable.
  • We can’t gain ground on our goals no matter how hard we try.
  • We learn just enough about God and Jesus to find we have a whole new set of questions that lead us to a crisis of faith.

These and many other predicaments can leave us feeling parched and shrunken in faith and life.

While we are drying out

I think it is important to name the reality of “spiritual shrinking” because we all have times in which growth does not appear to be happening. At some point we all have challenges in our spiritual lives. We don’t need to let these waning times prevent us from talking about our faith.

In fact, finding safe people with whom to discuss our spiritual wilderness can provide:

  • their presence in the midst of the struggle.
  • a sounding board to allow us to find meaning about the difficulty.
  • comfort rather than critique.
  • hope that God cares in both right-now and forever ways.
  • prayer with &/or for us.
  • and more.

Exactly how to find safe people like that is a little harder to define. Sometimes testing a person’s reaction with a small piece of your story can give an indication of their trustworthiness. Many times formal Christian support groups form around shared problem areas.

Most of all…

One thing I know most of all is that I want to be the kind of person, the kind of Christian, with whom other believers can share their struggles. I don’t ever want people to think they have to put on a pretense with me. I don’t expect my friends to be spiritual giants. I want them to be real with me and I want to be real with them. If I can be that kind of friend, then that itself is huge.

Am I Destined for Greatness or Barely Competent?

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Bestow on us the mind of Christ that we neither think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, Nor deprecate ourselves in unbelief, calling common what you have called clean.

The Deaconess Litany of the Lutheran Deaconess Association

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We as Deaconesses receive a copy of the Deaconess Litany when we begin our Deaconess studies. We’re encouraged to pray it on Monday nights in our various contexts. Like many things in life I struggle to be consistent in praying this litany every Monday. But the portion quoted above is the one I know best and think about most often.

The two concerns raised–the pride of thinking too highly of ourselves and the timidity of thinking too little of ourselves are both distorted self-perceptions. They seem to be opposing views, yet I find myself falling into one then the other in short succession.

When I was in high school, one summer I went to the Senior High Week at Camp Mowana, a Lutheran church camp in Ohio. One of the afternoon activities was a creative writing session. I went to it everyday because I wanted to be a writer.

I loved those creative-writing sessions. I loved sitting on the veranda of the dining lodge with my feet up and my big red spiral notebook in my lap, just writing to my heart’s content. It felt so right.

I already felt I wanted to be a writer and that experience at camp just reaffirmed it. By the end of that week at camp, I was so bold as to tell my fellow creative-writing campers that I was going to be “a great theological writer.” I wasn’t just hoping to be a writer, I was certain I would be “great”!

I still think about writing. I still want to be a writer. And if I’m being honest, I’d still like to be great. Only now, I want to be a great writer and a great speaker. You know, I don’t ask for much.

Then, of course, I feel awful for this desire to be great. I’m a Deaconess–a woman with a heart for serving others–what am I thinking with all this talk of my own greatness?

So then, I try to look at my gifts objectively. And I try to think like a servant. How can I serve others with the gifts that God has given me? Are there less grand ways that I can use my gifts of writing and speaking to benefit others? Are there less public gifts of mine that I am overlooking?

But all too easily an “honest” assessment of my gifts turns into discounting everything that I think about doing. Maybe I’m not achieving greatness for the simple reason that I’m not really as good at writing and speaking as I think.

Maybe the struggle to find my voice on my blog is because I am not really cut out for this writing thing to begin with. Maybe I don’t get as many speaking engagements as I’d like because what I have to say just doesn’t matter to others.

Maybe I should stick to my less public gifts. But then maybe I’m not that good at those either.

So which is it? Am I destined for greatness or am I barely competent? The portion of the prayer I quoted is instructive on this: neither extreme is acceptable. Boasting about how great I am going to be is wrong. And disrespecting the unique gifts that I have been given is also wrong.

Trying to have a healthy perspective on who I am and what I have to offer is very much a work-in-progress for me. I don’t claim to have worked this out in the least. The prayer above asks for “the mind of Christ” as a means to help us avoid the extremes of self-image. In a future post I want to explore more what that means.

In the mean time, I’d love to hear from you. Do you struggle with too high or too low of a self-perception? Do you swing between the extremes?

How I Became a Deaconess

20130319-043432.jpgBeginning in my ‘tweens, once a month members of my Lutheran congregation on the hill would lovingly cook a big meal and drive from our little suburb to the big city of Columbus, Ohio. We served the patrons of Faith Mission, a homeless shelter in the inner city. The cooking part was fun, but I especially loved interacting with the patrons and seeing “the hungry” as real people.

During my Junior year of high school that same Lutheran congregation gave me the opportunity to teach a 3rd & 4th grade Sunday school class. I loved opening up God’s Word with them and talking together about it in ways that made it come alive. I particularly remember teaching about Noah and the big flood shortly after our suburb had some major flooding.

I cherished these experiences in my church growing up and as early as middle school, I knew I wanted to be in ministry somehow. I knew I was dearly loved by God and my church family and I wanted to spread that love to others. I wanted to be always a part of what God was doing in and through the church.

I felt called by the Holy Spirit into a life of ministry.

There was only one problem, the only ministry role I knew of was that of pastor. I didn’t want to be a pastor and I didn’t feel that was my calling exactly.

My vision was to study Lutheran theology and church-work on an undergraduate level. Then I would go serve in a congregation.

I wanted to partner with people to reach out beyond the church walls (like I had done at Faith Mission). I wanted to share God’s word with people in Bible classes and informal conversations, encouraging them in their faith.

When it came time to choose a college I looked for something like a theology major or a non-pastor, church-worker study program. The Lutheran colleges I looked at during that time had nothing of the sort.

I drifted for a while, starting college with no clear plan for a major or career path. After my first year of college in Kentucky, I married a pastor and moved to Indiana where he was pastoring his first church.

It was early in our marriage that I found out about the Deaconess program at Valparaiso University, a Lutheran university in Indiana.

In a pamphlet from the Lutheran Deaconess Association I learned that through:

  • theological study,
  • hands-on ministry experiences,
  • and being in community with other Deaconesses and Deaconess students,

I could become a trained church-worker!

The pamphlet also talked about a variety of settings (churches, social service agencies, hospitals, etc) in which a Deaconess could serve. I read that regardless of the setting, the common bond among Deaconesses is a “servant’s heart,” the willingness to love and serve others as Jesus loves and serves us.

The more I read about the Deaconess program, the more I knew this was a fit for me.

Becoming a Deaconess was the perfect blending of everything I felt called to do:

  • Serving God in and through the church,
  • Making a difference even beyond the local congregation,
  • Studying and teaching theology and God’s Word,
  • Not being required to be a pastor to do the above!

There were some logistics involved with being able to enter the Deaconess program, but eventually I got in! Then I got my Lutheran theology major, did my required practical ministry experiences, and lived into the “sisterhood” of Deaconesses and Deaconess students around me.

Finally, on August 19, 2001, at our second church in Indiana, I was officially consecrated as a Lutheran Deaconess. Between the beautiful worship service, the hog roast, and the family and friends who came from out of state, it was a grand celebration. It was both the end of a long-awaited goal and the beginning of a whole new journey.

What about you? Have you ever had a vision for something you wanted to do but you didn’t see a way to do it? What obstacles have you overcome to do or be what you felt was meant for you?