Listen…

September 12th was my 17th anniversary of ordination. I remember my ordination day so clearly – as one remembers any day that marks something significant. I woke up that morning in my parents’ house, had waffles and coffee with my mom, got dressed in my brown skirt and jacket, tied a scarf in my hair, and went to my home church in Henning for the service. So many friends and family came. We had a little lunch afterward. Within days after that I was driving east with my two cats, heading to my first call in Western New York. I remember it felt a little like stepping off a ledge to leave everything I knew behind to go where nothing was familiar to do work that I had no idea how to do. I got a terrible cold immediately and I was so immensely homesick the first days and weeks.

But friends came to visit and there was much to do. Before I knew it, I made a home there and new friends. Suddenly seventeen years have passed – years plum full of the cycle of the church seasons, weddings, births, and deaths – in my churches and in my own life. From far-flung churches in New York to Colorado to Texas, now my path has led back to only 54 miles from the place I was ordained.

The first day I went to my office at that first church I served in NY, I remember arriving at my office early and looking out the window which had a view of the cemetery. I had no idea what to do next…so I just prayed that God would lead me. Then the phone rang, and seventeen years passed. Still, each day, I pause and look out the window and pray that God will lead me, lead us, to what we are to do next…and the one thing that has not changed in seventeen years, is that I am certain God will. God will lead us. God is leading us. All we need to do is be still and listen and God will guide us in exactly the direction we need to go. Thanks be to God.

In these cool days of autumn, as the leaves change color all around us, I pray you will take time to listen for God. Take time alone to pray, to walk, to sit under a night sky and give thanks. Know that God is near to you in every moment, in your every breath, in your every joy and every need…and that the One who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

When it’s Time to Go

I have loved each of my churches I have served. I remember each of them so fondly and hold such a dear place in my heart for each of them.

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of South Newstead in New York was a great place to learn how to be a pastor. There was a lot of energy there and people who were dedicated and active in ministry. There was also a bit of strife. It was a very happy call, until it wasn’t.  After three years, I got married and my husband and I set our sights on settling somewhere new together. It was time to go.

We were called to Colorado to a large church – First Lutheran in Colorado Springs.  I wondered how it would feel to be a part of a big church. I was up for the challenge and the change as an associate pastor on a large staff. We loved being in Colorado and had many friends both at the church and in the area because Colorado Springs had many people like us – fellow transplants. I met people who inspired me to run farther and I ran marathons – even up and down Pikes Peak. There were excellent people on the staff at the church and it was great to be a part of all the activity there. However, over the seven years there I kept feeling called toward something else. I tried to forget it – we loved that congregation (and living in Colorado!)  I worked hard to distract myself with writing projects and my children and working on a new degree, but I finally knew those distractions wouldn’t fix the restlessness and I couldn’t stay at First Lutheran. It was time to go.

We were called to Texas – a proud little Norwegian congregation, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church at Norse. I loved the people in my congregation so deeply. I adored the quiet country setting. I was enchanted with the history of that place. Walking over to the church on a warm night or sitting on my porch gazing at the cattle in the field, I often felt I could stay there forever. I felt peaceful, happy, and whole. My children thrived in the Texas warmth and were loved well by all their surrogate grandmas and grandpas at our church. For a long time, I really felt life couldn’t be better. But after five  quick years, the restlessness came back. We longed for our family and friends back in Minnesota, the reality loomed that the church wouldn’t be able to sustain a full-time pastor much longer, and while I personally couldn’t help aching for growth and change, that lovely little congregation was very happy just the way it was. It was time to go.

Now, God calls us to be in Minnesota, and here we are. It’s very good to be here and day by day, week by week, month by month, this place feels more like home. We’re happy that our story is slowly being knit into the story of Saint Peter’s.

So tenderly I hold it all in my heart: Each congregation, the faces of dear parishioners, the quiet of hushed sanctuaries, the gravesides, sunlight through stained glass, children stopping to give me a hug after worship, prayers by countless hospital bedsides, the benedictions, the ashes, the anointing oil, the lilies and poinsettias, the struggle and tears, the overflowing joy, the thousands of treasured, evanescent moments that make up this clergy life I get to live.

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