Posts Tagged ‘Vocation’

Deciding to Go Back to School

I’ve decided to begin finally working toward my PhD. It is so time.

I think a lot of the angst I’ve been feeling in my life in recent years has been because of not working toward this goal that I’ve been delaying for 15 years.

15 years, people.

Now, in my defense, part of that was by choice with my decision to have a kid when I did and to stay home with him and all that jazz. I mean, I had my reasons for waiting.

But it’s been 15 years now.

15 freaking years.

And my life is reaching a point where I need to do this thing. Being at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC) for #decolonize16 just lit that fire under me like, *yowzer.*

I’ve had my eye on that seminary since I was a student at Valpo. I’ve wanted to go to LSTC for over 15 years.

15 years.

I actually broke down and cried in the admissions office when I was talking with the Director of Admissions about my hopes and dreams for my PhD.

“I’ve just always wanted to go here,” I balled.

Oh, the tears. Oh, the longing of my heart.

But I need a Master’s degree first…so I’m looking at my options on that and praying and talking with my spouse about how we’re going to figure this out. We’re going to have to reshuffle some things. I don’t know what will have to give, but I’m tired of the thing that gives being my dreams.

I was so scared of coming home and talking about this. Like, I want to make this dream a reality, but I didn’t know if life and the universe and circumstances would let me. And y’all, I know my husband is a gentle man, a loving, supportive spouse, a man who celebrates me and wants me to shine, but I was scared of telling him about my sense of urgency for this. I was scared he would tell me no, not now.

But, I tell you, David, my David continues to amaze me. I mean, freaking amaze me.

He didn’t flinch. Not once.

And I feel silly about this as I so often do when I realize that the main thing holding me back is my own self.

I’m sorry, self. I will try to do better living authentic me-ness.

I’m sorry David, I will try to trust you better. You told me when we married that you knew I would grow and change and you were ready for it–that you were all in and braced for it and excited to ride that ride with me and you have stayed true to that–so true.

So, this PhD thing is getting in motion, friends. I’m going back to school.

Here, There, Everywhere, and Right Where I Belong

Lately I’ve felt like I’m all over the place and yet have little to “show” for myself. And oddly enough, I’m increasingly okay with that. Somehow the seemingly different directions I’m going are all part of what amounts to my vocation. And the “measurable” marks of vocational “success” are most often the temporal things that are not really at the core of what I’m about anyway.

I’m still writing, but a lot of my writing time lately is for projects that are months or even years from publication. And I haven’t had any new writing contracts since the work I did for Augsburg Fortress over a year ago.

Okay, I admit getting another writing contract is a “measurable” that I do covet. But in my heart of hearts, I want my writing to serve a purpose, to speak grace and love and truth and beauty to people’s hearts. If the contracts aren’t coming through to be able to do that, then I’m just gonna keep plugging away, slow and steady on projects that I believe can do that someday.

The big surprise for me this year has been how I have branched out musically. I’ve always loved to sing, but never quite found an instrument I could really make my own…until this year.

I got my first guitar when I was 14. I got it to impress a boy I liked because he played guitar. That didn’t work out very well because I wasn’t serious about the instrument and somehow boys can tell these things.

Well, I worked on guitar in fits and starts over the years and eventually had to replace my old one. I got a nice Washburn for a good price because it had a “finish flaw.” But I think my Henrietta (the guitar) is beautiful just the way she is.

I picked up Henrietta this year to play in a band at the church where I was serving as an interim minister at the time. I was just singing with them at first, but then when they found out I had a guitar, I wasn’t going to hear the end of it unless I started playing too. And since the folks at that church and in that band are some of my favorite people on this earth, it was the safest place I could imagine to try at something I wasn’t too sure about.

Two things happened with the guitar that surprised me. First, I was able to recall way more than I expected. And secondly, my coordination improved more quickly than I would’ve ever thought possible. I really can’t stress enough how much the band’s support, encouragement, and gentle advice bolstered my confidence.

But as much as I was becoming more comfortable with Henrietta…it was when I bought my first ukulele, Cornelius (named after Yukon Cornelius in Rudolf the Red-nose Reindeer), in April that this music thing got even more interesting. I learned how to play Cornelius really quickly. The band members embracing this new instrumental voice was just the encouragement I needed to really take off with the uke. Now, it’s to the point where I feel like the ukulele is practically an extension of myself. It’s pretty cool.

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Art by Jennifer Clark Tinker for day #26 of the Daisy Yellow 2015 Index-Card-A-Day challenge

With being in the band and playing my instruments and being around music so much, I also got into some songwriting. A lot of songwriting actually. I had written songs in the past, but now with my ukulele confidence, I’m actually playing songs I’ve written in public! And I’m loving every minute of that.

I’ve even brought Cornelius into the pulpit with me a few times when I’ve preached and that has been really well received. See what I mean about all these apparently diverging paths all being part of my vocation?

And then there’s the art thing. It was my New Year’s Resolution to doodle more and call it art. And I have. And it is. And it is wonderful! Having art as a regular part of my life has been really therapeutic for me in a lot of ways. The process itself has so many benefits. And the products are just getting better and better the more I practice!

My big art adventure was in June & July when I took the Index-Card-a-Day challenge hosted by Tammy Garcia of Daisy Yellow. The deal was that we were supposed to make art on an index card every day during those two months. Tammy provided daily prompts and lots of inspiration and encouragement. And I am proud to say that I met that challenge!

I’ve been posting my doodles/art on social media and I have been really surprised at how many people have told me how much they enjoy my art. Some of it has distinctively Christian themes, but some of it just happy or silly or just abstract. But it is connecting with people in ways that I would never have expected. And so somehow fulfilling that resolution has been another important component of my vocation.

So, I’m doing a lot of different things creatively and sometimes I’ve worried that I’m ranging too broadly. But somehow all of it has been meaningful, not just to me, but to others as well. Since connecting with people is my main thing, then even as all-over-the-place as I feel, somehow wherever this is that I am is exactly where I need to be.

2015 New Year’s Resolution

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Artwork by Jennifer Clark Tinker

Well, it’s still January, so I hope it’s not too late to wish you a Happy New Year!

It has taken me this long to get around to doing something about a “New Year’s Resolution.”

I am not normally a New Year’s Resolution person. Last year I did a word for the year. My word was “present” and I came up with three resolutions to go along with that word.

The truth is the word mattered more than the resolutions. I don’t even remember what all three of them were, just that there were three. The only one I remember is one I totally failed at.

That’s pretty much been my experience with resolutions.

2015 was almost going to be the year where I decided not to bother with resolutions.

And then my old buddy David Housholder posted something really lovely about the value of setting your intentions for the year. And when David Housholder is right, he is right.

Then I sat around and felt guilty about not having a resolution. And I’m sure that’s not how it’s supposed to feel in a year where you deliberately choose not to have a resolution.

So, once again I toyed with the idea of resolving not to make any resolutions this year. I mean, when you call it a resolution to not make a resolution, then you’ve got your bases covered, right?

Then…well, then I had a breakthrough…

See, in addition to my writing and speaking, I’ve always been a bit artsy-crafty. I gravitate primarily to crochet and paper crafts–especially those involving gel pens.

Over the past few years I’ve been working on cultivating my skills in doodling and hand-lettering. You may have noticed the art with my post titled Christmas Glow–the image of light shining in the darkness? Well, I doodled that.

Since I have this job now as the interim minister at a nearby church, I am preaching every week. And I am using a lot of words writing sermons. So, not a lot of writing is getting done here or otherwise.

But as I prepare for each sermon, after I do the majority of my study, I let the scriptures for the week bounce around in my subconscious for a while. Some words and images from the scriptures often pop into my conscious thoughts, and I have found it very meaningful–and fun–to create “scripture doodles” for them.

Meanwhile, I joined a spiritual reflection group that encourages “art journaling” as part of the process. And I got a new book, “The Art of Whimsical Lettering,” by Joanne Sharpe, for my birthday.

Soooo…I’ve been doodling and lettering like crazy. And I’m loving it. And I’m finding that the more I create, the more creative I feel. It centers and relaxes me, and it also refreshes and energizes me. It’s really quite wonderful.

And not to be boastful, but I think my doodling is getting better and better all the time. My son even remarked to me the other day, “I’m beginning to think your doodling is more than just ‘doodling.'”

It actually got to the point that I was a little worried that I might have been spending too much time with my doodling. But every time I mention it to my husband, he encourages me exuberantly–I think partly because he knows how much joy it gives me and also because he seems to enjoy what I create with it.

If it helps my creativity, gives me joy, and delights others, then I think these doodling “jenanigans” are worth pursuing. My son is most insightful, my doodling is more than just “doodling”!

And so, that leads me to my one and only official New Year’s Resolution for 2015:

Doodle more often and call it art.

This Writing Thing – A Little Booklet and A New Blog

I wrote a number of months ago about my excitement about signing my first real writing contract. Well, the package just arrived the other day with my copies of the project I worked on and I wanted to share my joy with you.

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As a writer for this project, last Monday I received five copies each of the standard and large print editions. (Photo by my son)

The booklet you see is a daily devotional from Augsburg Fortress called “Grace and Peace: Devotions for Lent 2015.” I was one of three writers for the project, contributing 15 of the devotions.

All of the devotions are based on the New Testament book of Ephesians. To write each devotion, I was given a few verses from Ephesians and a photograph that was to appear with the devotion. My task for each was to select a quotation from a non-biblical source, write a brief devotion, and write a prayer to wrap up the day.

Some of them were easier to write than others. And some of them got edited more than others. But overall, apparently I did okay, because they still put my name on the cover!

The devotionals are only $2 each. They’re available from Augsburg Fortress directly and if you order 100 or more copies, you can get a 25% discount. They’re also available at Amazon where I also created an official Amazon Author Page for myself!

Now that my first round of paid writing projects are complete, I am taking time to work on some writing that has been percolating in me since high school. To do that, I actually started a new blog called A Truth of a Different Color (ATDC). The tagline for it is “Uncommon Sense about Dealing with Differnces.” You can read more about the genesis of ATDC at the About page over there.

I felt the need for a second blog for ATDC mainly because I have enough to say there that I think it can hold its own. Plus, the tone I’ve set here is generally more descriptive of my life and experiences whereas what I want to do at ATDC is unpack some of my thinking and philosophy.

And honestly, I don’t expect that everyone who follows this site will necessarily be interested in what I’m doing over there…and vice versa. So, keeping them separate gives people choices. If you love Living Faith, don’t worry, it’s still gonna be here and I’ll continue to update it as inspiration strikes.

My hope is that ATDC will eventually be organized into a book, but right now I just need to get the ideas out of me and onto the page. I’d love for y’all to check it out, but I’ll understand if you’re more comfy just staying here.

Whatever you do, just know that I appreciate you being on this journey with me in whatever way you are able. I just wanted to make sure you knew about my little booklet and the new blog as I keep plugging away at this writing thing.

Another Writing Milestone: My First Print Publication

For the first time today I held my first paid, print publication in my hands. It is an article for Connect: Journal of Children, Youth & Family Ministry, the official publication of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network.

The article is called, Seven Ways That Hands-On Service Builds Connections and Confidence for Young People and you can read it online with this link >> http://issuu.com/elcayouthministrynetwork/docs/connect_journal_winter_2014_167/14

And just for fun, here is a picture of me holding the print version in my very own hands…

My First Print Publication

Special thanks to Clint Schnekloth, a colleague and friend, and author of Mediating Faith, who helped me get this opportunity.