Posts Tagged ‘Deaconess’

A Surprising Find on Thanksgiving

A few weeks ago I made the disappointing discovery that I had lost my Deaconess pin (again). And I shared that story here on the blog.

I wrote about how I was getting down on myself about losing something so important, but then it occurred to me that I lost it because I was wearing it a lot. And I was wearing it a lot as I cared for my mother-in-law, Elaine, in the time leading up to her death. And I was wearing it a lot as I worked in Elaine’s kitchen, cooking for the family in the days surrounding Elaine’s death.

So I came to terms with having lost it because those were good, important times to be involved in serving and such.

And I really had let go of the need to berate myself for losing my pin.

But the fact still remained that I did not have my Deaconess pin. And that was still an issue for me, because it still is an important signifier of my ministry.

And then I started this new job as the interim minister of a church near where I live. And I really felt odd not having my Deaconess pin on at this new gig. This is the first ongoing job I’ve had in a very long time, and I preach there every Sunday and they call me Deaconess there and everything. So, to not have my pin on was just not right.

I had almost made up my mind that I was going to call up the Lutheran Deaconess Association (LDA) and order a new pin–if you’re counting, that would have been my fourth pin. But I still held out hope that I might find my pin somewhere. I kept checking and rechecking any place I might have left it.

Even Wednesday night as I was packing my tote bags to come for Thanksgiving at my father-in-law’s house in Houston, I rechecked the side pockets of the bags. But the pin still wasn’t in those same crazy pockets I had checked a bazillion times before.

And when I got to the guest room where we sleep at my father-in-law’s house, I looked once more on and around the desk and bed just in case I had missed the pin there before. But it still was not there.

It wasn’t anywhere obvious. I didn’t give it a whole really lot of thought. And it was late, and I was tired, so I put it out of my mind and went to bed.

By Thanksgiving morning, I had entirely forgotten about the pin. There was work to be done because I was the chief cook for Thanksgiving dinner for 24 people. And that alone is enough to think about. But this was at my in-law’s place…in Elaine’s kitchen…without Elaine.

And I tried not to think too much about this being the first Thanksgiving without Elaine. Because there was work to be done.

So I was just focusing on what needed to be done. Turkey was roasting and other prep was underway. I was in the zone.

I had chopped up all the celery and onions for the dressing, and I needed to get a pan to sauté them in. I knew exactly which one I wanted–the giant, enameled, cast-iron skillet. Of all of the utensils in Elaine’s kitchen, this one is by far my favorite.

It’s a heavy pan, and it’s a bit hard to get to as it is nested under a stack of other heavy pans, each layer carefully separated by protective layers of paper toweling. I could explain to you the intricacies of how everything is stored in Elaine’s kitchen, but the main thing you need to know is that it is really a pain to get this pan out of there. But it is my precious as pans go, so I am always willing to do the acrobatics needed to get it out.

And as I made the final contortions to pull the prized pan out of its place and prepared to remove the paper towels from inside it…there, on top of the paper towels, inside my favorite pan was my Deaconess pin.

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There’s my Deaconess pin–right where I left it apparently–inside my favorite pan in Elaine’s kitchen!

 

It made total sense that it was there. Because that is my favorite pan. And I was the last one to have used it. And I was the one who put it away–partly because I was the one who got it out, but mostly because it’s even harder to put away than it is to get out. It must’ve fallen off while I was putting the pan away, landing so softly on those paper towels that I didn’t even realize it had fallen there.

Finding it then–on the first Thanksgiving without Elaine, and there–inside my favorite pan in Elaine’s kitchen, finding it like that was the perfect encouragement. And I wept. And then I put my pin on and cooked.

It’s not like the pin gives me super powers, but symbols do have meaning. And that pin helps me remember who I am, whose I am, and what I’m about. I know those things even without the pin, but sometimes when life and ministry and kitchens get overwhelming, I forget to remember.

But there is so much work to be done in life and ministry and kitchens that I want to be sure to remember my identity as a servant, my belonging to a gracious God, and my purpose to share love and hope and joy in all I do and say.

Now, I don’t have to call the LDA and order a fourth pin after all! And I can wear it the very next time I preach! And each time I look at it, I will always think of Elaine. And I will have this story to tell about the surprise of finding my Deaconess pin inside that favored pan on Thanksgiving 2014.

Risk, Loss, and Gain -or- What I Gained from Losing

I lost my deaconess pin. Again. And I started on a downward spiral of berating myself for losing something so special. Blessedly, before I got too far down, I interrupted myself and was able to reframe the loss in a way that gave me peace.

Don’t get me wrong, the deaconess pin—made of real silver—is very special. I received it as part of the consecration rite in which I officially became a deaconess. Each of us, as deaconess students, look forward to the day when we will get to wear the pin.

The basin on the crossbar is a reminder of the basin Jesus used to wash his disciples' feet. It is in that spirit that deaconesses serve the church and the world.

The basin on the crossbar is a reminder of the basin Jesus used to wash his disciples’ feet. It is in that spirit that deaconesses serve the church and the world.

The deaconess pin is an important reminder of our servant-hearted ministry. And wearing the pin is a great conversation starter with folks who don’t know about our ministry, or about the love of Jesus—the source and model of our serving.

But sometimes even important things get lost.

What really turned around my thinking about losing my deaconess pin this time (it is the third pin I’ve lost), was when I paused and remembered the stories of other deaconesses I admire who have lost pins more than once. “I’m in good company,” I told myself.

What’s more, part of why I lost my pin was because I was wearing it a lot. I wore it everyday (and every night) that I went to spend time with my mother-in-law, Elaine, in the hospital before she died. I wore it everyday that I planned meals for the Tinker family in the days surrounding Elaine’s death and funeral.

I wore it to remind myself that what I was doing was, in fact, ministry. It wasn’t some ground-breaking innovation in church-work, nonetheless it was ministry. It was ordinary, everyday ministry.

So, the clincher for me was the realization that I lost my pin because I was…using it.

It reminded me of my attitude about the “good dishes.” I know some people have the idea that you don’t want to use the good dishes because something might happen to them!

But my thinking is, if I’m never gonna use my good dishes, then why do I have them? What good are they?

Not much, not really.

I mean, sure they can sit there and look pretty. But tucked away in a china cabinet, they’ll be quickly forgotten—out of sight, out of mind. And even their beauty will fade into the background.

They will be safe though.

Of course, my deaconess pin, like the good dishes, was vulnerable by being used so much.

But what good is it if I don’t wear it? It would be safe in one sense, but not wearing it is its own kind of loss.

And you know all those nights I spent with Elaine? I made myself vulnerable by being of service in that way—my sleep was often interrupted, I was away from my husband and son, and I lived out of a couple of bags for 3 1/2 weeks.

Most of all though, by being there with Elaine—by spending so very much time with her—I came to care more and more deeply for her. And while that bond being strengthened was its own reward, it also made me more vulnerable to the pain of losing her.

But I wouldn’t exchange that experience for the finest china. No amount of silver could replace the ways my life was enriched by being there with Elaine in that time.

I took risks with that pin. And I lost it. But what I gained made it all worthwhile.

Eat, Sleep, Preach: A Deaconess in Depression

My depression is knocking me down this week. The will to do anything is elusive. My sense of worth is shot.

It’s not rational it just is.

You can’t talk me out of it.

I can’t even talk me out of it.

I’ve had my ups and downs over time and I’ve been on a bit of an upswing lately–feeling good about my writing and podcasting and all that good stuff.

It was in an upswing that I decided to finally start writing for real. I was tired of letting my depression hold me back in life and tell me I wasn’t good enough and didn’t have enough to say. I told my depression to go straight to hell and I was going to do this thing.

But that damned depression is creeping up again.

I mean, there’s the normal-people self-doubt and comparison trap that I get into sometimes and those bring me down, but there’s always something or someone that helps snap me out of those.

But this week–I’ve just been a mess and there’s nothing that can snap me out of it. I’m just a tear-stained, frumpy-clothed mess.

AdventPreaching2013And I hate this part of my story.

I much prefer the part of my story in which I’m the shiny-happy preaching Deaconess. (See photo.)

I’ve heard people criticize social media because of the way that people carefully curate their image–showing only their good sides, posting only the favorable photos, sharing only the triumphant moments.

To be sure, I want you to know about my highs! I want to tell you about my latest podcast that I’m proud of! I want you to see the action shot of me preaching.

But you deserve to know about today and the other days like it. About how I didn’t want to get out of bed. About how I stayed in my pajamas until I got the text that my husband was on his way home for lunch. And about how when my husband got home for lunch he cooked and loaded the dishwasher while I sat in a corner in the kitchen and wept and poured out my tale of woe.

I want to be honest about the whole of this life of mine. I’m the preaching Deaconess and the lady who doesn’t want to get up until after noon.

I know my depression isn’t the worst in the world. I did make it out of bed, so that’s something.

And the fact that I’m at this keyboard is because, as I told my journal today, if I can do nothing else, I will write about my damn depression. Because I’m doing this writing thing no matter what.

God knows there is so much more I want–and need–to write about. There’s so much to say I could burst sometimes.

I don’t want to write about my depression, but it is the elephant in the room right now and it takes too much energy to ignore it. It won’t let me think of anything else right now. So I’m writing about it. Because I’m doing this writing thing.

Photo by: Melissa Wickel

Why I Love Conferences Even Though I’m an Introvert

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I’m a certified introvert–one of those people that draws energy and strength from time alone to think and process. I’ve taken the Jung Type personality tests numerous times and have flip-flopped on everything else except introversion. With all my need for alone time it always surprises me how much I love conferences. But I do! I’ve been thinking about why and here is what I’ve come up with.

Expanding my world of ideas

A common description of introverts says that we like to spend time in our “inner world of ideas.” And that is very true of me. I can be in a crowd of people and be totally withdrawn into my own thought-world. If someone says my name, I’ll come back to the group. If you need me, you will have my undivided attention. But if you don’t need me right now I’ll just be here in my head.

The thing about a conference is that it feeds this inner world of mine. New ideas from keynotes and workshops get added into my own mix of thoughts. I think pretty good thoughts on my own, but I think even better thoughts when my brain has more tumbling around up there. The talks I go to at conferences energize my introverted self because they give me more to think about.

One-on-one conversations

Another thing about introverts is we tend to be more comfortable interpersonally with one-on-one connections. Having gobs of people together in one place can be a bit overwhelming (see above about withdrawing into my inner world). This in itself can be reason enough for many introverts to avoid conferences altogether.

I don’t let that sea of people scare me away though. Instead, when I go to a conference I like to carve out time for deeper, more intimate, conversations. Sometimes this means talking with my husband about what I’m learning. But oftentimes I find one or two other participants that I can talk with about what we’re thinking about, what life is like these days, or how we’ve been growing in our faith. By nurturing one-on-one connections at a conference, my introvert friendship needs are wonderfully met.

The rule of two feet

Even though my inner-world of ideas and my intimate friendships can be nourished at conferences, there are times when the whole thing gets to be a little too much for me. Sometimes my brain is too full for just one more remix of “let’s all say where we’re from and what we do and who we came with and why we’re here and what we really, really love about being here.” Sometimes I just can’t do another thing with another human being.

When I feel like that I exercise what my Deaconess sisters refer to as “The Rule of Two Feet.” We have this understanding among us at our Deaconess annual meeting that if a given scheduled activity is too much, or if you are just too tired and need a nap and you can’t come to every, every thing it is okay. We trust your “two feet” to take you where you need to be throughout the event. Even though other conferences don’t state an official two-feet rule, I find that my ability to appreciate any conference is enhanced by respecting my two-feet.

True to type?

While it may not make sense on the surface that a confirmed introvert could be so exuberant about a conference, it works for me. In fact, paying attention to my introvert needs is what makes a conference so great for me. I don’t speak for all introverts because their experience could be very different from mine. I’m simply sharing what works for me and why I love conferences.

What about you? How do you feel about conferences? How does your personality influence how you participate in large group events?

A Teacher Who Saw My Heart for Justice

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Today’s tribute is about Mrs. Winegarden who was my 10th grade English teacher. Mrs. Winegarden lost her battle with cancer a number of years ago, but I have held her in my heart all these years.

Mrs. Winegarden required us to keep a journal. She read all the entries as the year went along and commented from time to time. At the end of the year she made a career prediction for each of us and wrote it in our journals.

Mrs. Winegarden’s prediction for me was:

I see you as a zealous ACLU lawyer!

I had written throughout the year about my faith in Jesus, about mountaintop youth group events, and even about my sense that I was called into ministry. I was sure that Mrs. Winegarden would affirm church-related ministry as my vocation. But she didn’t.

When I asked Mrs. Winegarden about it she said that in all my writing throughout the year I frequently wrote about “standing up for the underdog.” She noted that I was outspoken about things like discrimination and respect for all people. She said she “wouldn’t be surprised” if that became a centerpiece in my vocation.

While I still don’t think I’m destined for a legal career, I think she was right in some way.

In that class I wrote a paper about “ageism” and how children are often disrespected or mistreated just because they are young. Even then I was forming my attitudes about the kind of mother I would be. Today, as a mom I favor positive discipline and non-punitive parenting.

In a single journal entry I lamented abortion and capital punishment. Back then I was already forming an ethic that included respect for the unborn as well as dignity for convicted criminals. Nowadays I continue to scratch my head when someone affirms one but not the other.

I wrote in that 10th grade journal about the evils of racism, how bad stereotypes are, and my greatest ambition being to make the world a more loving place. It all sounds so idealistic now, think Jackie DeShannon’s “What the world needs now is love,” but Mrs. Winegarden was right that these types of concerns have been a big part of who I am.

Even in choosing to be a Deaconess, one of the hallmarks of Deaconess ministry is what we refer to as a “bias for the broken.” This means we pay particular attention to what Matthew 25:40 calls “the least of these” or what Mrs. Winegarden referred to as “standing up for the underdog.”

Maybe I’m too much on the fence to be a lawyer battling over rights like the ACLU does. I tend to look for quieter ways to make a difference, even if it is just one person at a time. But it means so much to me that Mrs. Winegarden saw that passion in me back then. I thank God for her insight into my future.