Category Archives: Seminary

“Pastor Aaron” (and a Summary)

“Pastor Aaron.”

That’s what some people have been calling that guy who lives with me. And they don’t even seem to be joking.

And it’s true–it’s really, really true!

Aaron has accepted a call to a church in Grand Rapids.* He will be ordained on Sunday, August 26 at 4:00 p.m. at the new church. Come one come all! I’m sure to be a blubbering mess of tears, plus there’ll be cake or equivalent delights.

He got the call about the call just before we moved from Tuliptown to GR, but it worked out better to do ordination after our impending trip to Oregon and for Aaron’s first official Sunday to be September 2 9. He did preach a week as pulpit supply, so we were able to go to the church again a few weeks ago. We’ve begun putting names and faces and relatives together, finding out who’s been googlestalking us (Hi Steve!), confusing ourselves and others by our temporary confusion about what place we mean when we say “our church,” and getting to know a few people (Hi again and thanks, Steve and fam!). Aaron has been starting on sermon prep and meeting with a few people too. He has however, been instructed by Classis not to work too hard, since it’s a part-time position. Take up your cross and follow but be sure to take frequent water breaks, or something like that.

We were a bit frustrated/disappointed when we tried to find a house to rent near the church and just couldn’t. So we are staying here near our church our old church Fourth Church and our good friends, where the rent is low and the floors are hardwood and hey, the neighbors only have 22 cats; that seems reasonable. Seriously, though, the house will work out fine for this year, and we’ll see how things look in the spring/summer. Friends as neighbors has been such a blessing (especially for Aaron who has been home with little miss whatcanIdoooooo? every day).

What else? Let me explain. No, is no time. Let me sum up (copied from a hasty email to a friend, so pardon the complete lack of editorial correctness!):

  • we moved out of Red Bricks into house by our (current/”old” church), on the hottest day possible
  • we looked for a house to rent closer to the church but were frustrated, could not find one that was decent for a semi-reasonable price, so we decided to forget it and stay here until spring/summer when it seems the rentals all turn over b/c of all the students…and we will see how it is going w/ the church too
  • so we finally started to unpack and settle in
  • and I narrowly avoiding killing anyone as it was 90s and humid practically every day and we have no air except a window unit we got working just in time (no way could I survive in Florida, sorry!)
  • Aaron had his meeting/interview with Classis
  • they finally set ordination service date–August 26
  • so I moved up our return from Oregon by a day, to the 24th!
  • work has continued to be busy busy esp since I will be gone for 2 full weeks after this week, for the trip to Oregon–I am going to a writer’s conference with my acquisitions mentor, then vacationing w/ the fam in our old town, plus up to WA to see friends
  • I had a good 6 inches cut off Anna’s hair because it was all just too much to manage (seriously probably 15 inches long). it’s short! but cute. she had it straightened for the first time when cut which was adorable and she loved it–but it lasted only hours b/c she was out an about with my mom in super humidity and I think some water splashing may have been involved and it went POOF! poor dear never even got to show it off.
  • and my parents bought a cottage up north! so we went up last week for a few days. It is a nice place on a quiet little lake near Sleeping Bear Dunes–heavenly!!!
  • Aaron’s first official Sunday as a pastor(!) is Sept 2 9.

That cover about 90 percent of the crazy. But are we ready for . . . church crazy? Yep, here I am, send me . . . the pastor’s wife?!?!?!

See you at ordination, I hope, if by then you’ve stopped laughing.

 

* I’m not sure yet if I’ll name the church on this blog. Maybe it needs a nickname. The MaxwellHouse of Worship?

 

You Gotta Let Me Know, Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Never (Think about What You’re Doing Because Then You’d) Say Never–As soon as Aaron got off the crazy train of his seminary workload, it was time for me to take it for a spin. I have been hammering out a very special, very insanely rushed work project (although it has dragged out weeks longer than originally expected). I’m not going to disclose what it is here, but I will say that we expect sales to go, ahem, Nowhere but Up. It’s been unpredictable, but it’s exciting. I like the pressure. I’ll be let out of quarantine when this Fever breaks . . .

Adventures in Pre-Homelessness–We have to be out of seminary housing by July 8 (got a week extension). A lot still has to be packed, but more pressing is that we don’t actually know where we’re moving to. We’re trying to avoid moving someplace we don’t want to stay (i.e., not by whatever church we end up at), moving someplace we can’t afford (if a church job doesn’t come through), or moving twice. But we may end up doing the latter to avoid the former, since the clock is ticking and . . .

I Want You to Want Me–We are at an awkward place with our housing situation especially because we think we might be close to being able to commit to a place we’d really like . . . but first we’ve got to get a (certain) church to commit to us. But are they as close to a decision as we are to being house-less? You never know for sure when committees are involved. . .

Ironic songs playing on my iPod–“I Want You to Want Me,” “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” “The Waiting Is the Hardest Part”

Completion

It is finished–seminary!

Technically Aaron has two days of classes left, but he is done with all his homework and projects, so that makes it all a lot more pleasant. Graduation is next Monday. Then he’ll study for his classis exams–oral examination by pastors/denominational reps in GR–which are in a few weeks, on his birthday.

I wouldn’t say the past three years have been a breeze–more like gale force winds with occasional hurricane-strength gusts. We’ve experienced fearful uncertainty, overwhelming anxiety, forehead-banging frustration, and periods of zombie-like survival mode. We’ve also shared a special solidarity with brothers in arms, true neighbor-love, tear-flowing laughter, and heart-healing prayer. And we’ve swapped sticks of butter and cups of milk, kitchen utensils, beers by the grill, stories around the bonfire, and turns making sure no kids launch themselves or others off the Big Slide of Dropoff Doom.

It would be impossible to catalog all that Aaron has learned, or to prove that the most important wisdom came from the classroom.

We’re glad to be done, but we will also be saying sad goodbyes to a lot of good things and dear people. I don’t think that has hit me yet, although sitting here waxing nostalgic brings it closer.

I am glad to have my husband “back.” He has done a great job staying connected and helping out with family life in the midst of all the pressures and projects. Seriously. Haven’t I bragged about my dinner prep guy? But still, many many evenings (well, after he did the dishes–I know!) he would study and I would wrangle AJ to bed and then work or multitask with the TV on (or proofread stinkin’ seminary papers! It got us both!). You grow used to, too used to, this upstairs-downstairs life after a time, but it’s not a habit I want to hold. That’s territory we’ll have to fight for in the future, I know, as ministry life has a way of creeping into all the nooks and crannies as well.

But this weekend–oh bliss!–he could play with Anna in the afternoon! He could put her to bed! He could be interrupted! When he said he could take AJ to her eye doctor appointment tomorrow so I didn’t have to miss work, I was almost confused. You still work here? Yippee!

Oh yes: completion = satisfaction!

On Being Out There

With his seminary graduation on the distant yet rapidly looming spring horizon, Aaron is officially “out there” in the sense of looking for a pastoral position. He finished his ministerial profile in September–a document answering a number of questions about his values, style, strengths, beliefs, and so on. It’s much more detailed than your typical resume. It’s in depth. It’s personal.

And when he sent it to that first church, it suddenly felt very . . . exposing. You try to put the essence of who you are as a leader and a Christ follower, a preacher and a person, into 15 pages, then wait for strangers to read it and decide whether they like you enough to want to talk to you.

Aaron’s very likable–who doesn’t like him? No one!–but the reality is that a lot of churches won’t even consider someone taking their “first ordained call,” even if they have other ministry and life experience. I’ve been on the other side of this as well, on a church search committee, and I think it’s sometimes unrealistic on churches’ part (most experienced pastors aren’t looking for a more difficult, lesser paying situation) and often unfair to good candidates. Sure, a few situations clearly need experience at the helm, but most of the time, how can you just rule them all out without even considering them? I am positive that when churches talk to Aaron, they are not going to see him as a naive new grad. They’re going to see a guy who loves God, Scripture, the church, and people; who’s thoughtful, passionate, and wise; who knows how to lead and knows how to love. Someone’s going to see a great pastor in waiting.

But it wasn’t the first church. It might not be the second, or the third, or the twenty-seventh.

We just pray God keeps granting us enough affirmation to ward off discouragement while we walk on.

And when necessary, we sing some Adele!

Never mind, I’ll find someone like you
I wish nothing but the best for you too
Don’t forget me, I beg
I remember you said,
Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead
Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead

My name is Wendy. I live in a neighborhood.

In college I took a writing  for media class in which we wrote and produced audio pieces. I can still hear in my mind the voice of one of my classmates opening and closing a piece about her neighborhood: “My name is Christine. I live in a neighborhood.”

My name is Wendy, and I live in someone else’s neighborhood. I sit on this porch that is not mine and watch someone else’s community go by. For I am in the neighborhood but not of it, feeling its heartbeat but not part of its lifeblood, present but not incarnate.

I thought I would–wanted to–feel more connected than I do, living here this summer, but it feels like we are not here long enough. Or perhaps I’m not present enough, emotionally. I find myself alternating between wanting to go home, where my things are my things and my neighbors are my neighbors, and wanting to grasp our own little piece of soil our roots can dig down into. Really dig. Not play-dig.

Our pastor talked a couple weeks ago in his sermon about how he is a country boy planted in the city for God’s purposes, and he was very convincing–boy, the country sounds great! Let’s go there! I’m a country girl myself. But I don’t know if I’m ever going back. An urban setting is probably a better fit for Aaron, for us.

So can I do it? Can I be a neighborhood girl? A shared-fences, street parking, locked doors girl? A car stereos and sirens, sidewalks and strangers girl?

We are getting to the point of dreaming and scheming for what comes next year when seminary is done, not only as far as what kind of job Aaron might take but also on the assumption (based on the currently-sucky job market even for pastors) that we’ll have some in-between time before that. It makes no sense to stay in Tuliptown, so we’ll likely look to rent in GR.

Do we come back here by the church?

Would we stay here, or someplace very like it, for the long haul if possible, if called?

Could we go someplace “worse”? Could we be satisfied someplace “better”–someplace more comfortable–too comfortable?

Can I buy a house that won’t appreciate in a district everyone who can is fleeing–and handle it when no one understands why?

For seven weeks we’ve been playing “If we lived here…” both for the fun of imaginary home ownership and the spiritual exercise of imagining. We’re learning the discipline of dreaming aright, the work of turning “What if we…?” into “What if God calls us to…?

Could God be calling us someplace like this?

If he is, I think we have learned, our answer must be yes.

My name is Wendy. I’m looking for my neighborhood.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations. . . .

The length of our days is seventy years—
or eighty, if we have the strength. . . .

Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom. . . .

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. . . .

May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.

Psalm 90:1, 10, 12, 14, 17

Dispatch from the Porch

We spent a nice hot Memorial Day with old friends. AJ ate hot dogs three days in a row at three different cookouts–once a second hot dog as a side to a dish of ice cream–and requested them again (“No!”). The ice cream truck makes its rounds. The sprinkler has been played in. We’ve made popsicles. We’ve gone to the farmer’s market. We knock off work early on Fridays. It is officially summer.

I am in love with this house’s porch. Its closets, not so much. But oh, the porch. In the future I must have a porch. Does heaven have a porch? (Am I on it right now?)

Although the porch and I instantly bonded, the first little while in this borrowed house was a little shaky. It is just weird being in someone else’s house no matter what. Our things aren’t where they usually are, we didn’t know where they keep things, our routines were off, we were bumping into each other all the time–we just felt unsettled. The first week I also flooded the basement, broke the door blind, and knocked off the bathroom towel rack just barely one time short of a homicide. I mean, the thing was making me PSYCHO. Aaron got so scared he actually fixed it.

Thankfully all these things have been restored to proper working order and we’ve all sort of found our rhythm again, I think. Aaron also preached the first weekend we were here, so he was also jumping right in under some pressure, but he is finding a groove with his internship and sermon prep. He is making himself prepare a sermon every week even if not preaching, to learn to do it in less time.

Walking to church is divine!

AJ is enjoying her days with “the nanny” aka “Crazy Aunt” Chatterbox, who is for her part enjoying when the neighbor girls come over to play with AJ. In her off hours she has read approximately 87 books. This week.

My favorite part is my twelve-minute commute. Ahhhh. Going back to 45 is going to stink!

We have made a couple trips back to Tuliptown, on one weekend and for me a couple weekdays to take AJ to speech. I also visited a couple preschools and found one I like for her to be at all day five days, although I still have not found the elusive buried treasure we will need to pay for it. I’m telling myself all this extreme commuting and child care will be for less than one more year! Then I’m finding myself a nice porch from which I can watch her board the public school bus before I zip off on my twelve-minute commute.

Summer in the City

House. Internship. Nanny. Short commute. Walk to church. Walk to friends.

THIS IS GONNA BE THE BEST SUMMER EVER!

Or pretty good, anyway, we hope.

Aaron explored a few different opportunities in Tuliptown and GR for his 10-week full-time internship this summer. His preference was to do it at our church, and they finally worked out a plan. Two days later one of his classmates asked without knowing this, “Since we’re going to be gone for our internship this summer, do you want to stay in our house that is a block and a half from church?” Oh heck yes we would! It was going to be brutal for two of us to drive 30-45 minutes each way at $4+/gal. My commute–which I am so, so over–should now be 15 minutes tops. Church–two-minute walk. And FunnyWriterMommy’s family lives only 5 houses down. Summer of love, baby!

Since AJ’s child care in Tuliptime wouldn’t make sense with us in GR, well, if you can’t bring the kid to daycare, you bring the daycare to the kid. Or something. Enter . . . Nanny McChatterbox! I swear I didn’t sabotage her other job apps so I could keep her all to myself, although don’t put it past me next summer–already she has created a star chart, made cookies, and increased AJ’s tolerance love of carrots tenfold. And most beautiful of all, most days I don’t have to get AJ up at the crack of dawn and take her with me, which means I can get out of the house more easily and with the shorter commute get to work much earlier. Without daycare pickup issues and the long drive home I can stay later and still get home earlier, and Supernanny will have dinner prep started. How am I ever going to go back from this?

Bonus: Chatterbox also likes watching The West Wing with me. We have a secret plan to fight inflation.

Meanwhile, as all this has been brewing, Aaron finished up his semester in good style and watched another group of friends graduate. We have welcomed summer with a first bonfire and spent lots of time watching the kids go back and forth on the sidewalk on each other’s bikes. AJ is going to miss another of her playground besties, and so are we. May is the best of times, the worst of times on campus…

…and Tulip Time is the best/worst time to live in Tuliptown: walking to elephant ears, good. Driving anywhere, bad. Last weekend was the big parade, which we ended up missing because it was raining anywat and Aaron had a Classis thing all day while I did AJ’s hair and packed up some things to take to the city house. Then we met up for a wedding celebration with many old and new friends and much probably ill-advised but fun dancing.

Sunday after church we had the memorial for Tim, despite it being quite cold and intermittently rainy. I remember so clearly how heartbreakingly sunny, warm, and beautiful the day was when we stood together ten years ago.

AJ broke the spell of reflectiveness by peeing her pants as we got in the car. I guess life changes.

Then we went home and packed up our stuff, emptied the fridge, and turned around and came back to GR, to stay. Although by 9:00 p.m. the lighting and storage situations had me taking back everything nice I ever said about old houses, it’s fun to be somewhere different and free of eternally beige walls. The McD kids have already been over three times in 24 hours, so AJ’s happy (except when it’s time to part). Just don’t ask me how to work the dishwasher. That’s the nanny’s job!

Viva la city, viva la summer!

The Girl Who Cried No Brakes and Other January Tales

The very instant I clicked “new post” to start writing, AJ woke from her nap. No parent doubts the truth of this. But at least I got a few other neglected tasks done first.

We’re 30 days into this year, two weeks through the semester. Back on the 5th Aaron left for his seminary intercultural immersion trip/class. On the 6th I was this guy:

The boy who cried no brakes

Except I wasn’t playing. The truck brake line broke on my way home from work, causing the pedal to go all the way to the floor before braking, so I slid into the repair shop in the snow just before they closed. A good way to start off ten days on my own with AJ. It was okay, but ten days is definitely long. Don’t take this the wrong way, but usually I don’t miss my husband when he’s gone–by that I mean in the past he’s gone to Young Life camp or the like and it’s been fine; a week at most, and I knew he was doing something he wants to do and will enjoy. Working and parenting ten days while not really knowing what he was doing but knowing he didn’t want to be doing it was . . . LONG.

His trip was in many ways better than he expected it to be, though (not that that’s saying much). They went to the Tuscon, AZ/Nogales, Mex area and learned about border issues largely by visiting ministries and talking to people on both sides of the border. (I knew they were in Mexico the day of the shootings in Tuscon, so no real worry about that, and I did get to talk to him a few times.)

Then Aaron’s new semester started only two days after he got back. His classes this semester are getting a bit more pastoring-focused, like counseling and a preaching class. He did decide to drop a class that seemed to have 4 credits’ worth of work for 1.5 credits. It always takes a few weeks to get into the flow of a new schedule.

I should be quite busy at work for the next couple of months with a heavy editing load (for me and our whole department). It’s been an interesting few months. Hopefully it will continue to be. (“I solemnly swear that I am up to no good…”) As for commuting in the snow, yeah, the thrill is gone, though my fantastic new Bogs boots at least kept my feet the warmest part of me during our recent subzero spell. Only four six eight weeks a couple months till spring…

As of this weekend, my Christmas decorations are down and I have completed a blog post. Wow. There you have it: January, accomplished.

Everybody Needs a Little Time Away

Sorry I’ve been gone. We’ve had a lot of comings and goings. Two weekends ago we went up north with my parents to enjoy a little bit more summer, lots of food, swimming, cards, and a really really big sand dune. AJ out-swam and out-climbed us all.

Then Aaron took off by himself for a spiritual retreat at a monastery about an hour away. This was to make up for the class retreat he missed in January. He was a little nervous he might offend some uptight monks somehow, but he really enjoyed it.

He got back just in time for the seminary picnic to welcome all the new and returning students. My friend E. also kicked off a group for the spouses of seminary students, which I think was much needed and will be much appreciated by those who take part. Friday was the all-seminary (and families) retreat day at a nearby camp with a sweet pool open in the afternoon (AJ can tell you what happens if you get cocky and step from the wading pool into the big pool without swimmies–lesson learned, I hope!). I really enjoyed the retreat this year and feel like I know a lot more seminary people now, although the new incoming class is huge so there are many I haven’t met.

It feels much different being on the “experienced” side of a seminary year. It’s fun getting to know new neighbors and their kids who play with ours on the big playground behind our houses. It’s nice knowing better what to expect from the year: I wrote on the calendar for August 30 “Classes start/Aaron freak out.” I sometimes have the urge to gather some of these innocent, fresh-from-college newlyweds and shelter their tender hearts from the onslaught that’s about to hit them! Of course each will have to find their own way, but I hope  I can offer someone the encouragement they need on the day they’re bursting into tears, like further-along friends did for me last year. I know we’re going to need that encouragement and support ourselves too, but it feels like a different role in the community somehow.

This semester’s workload for Aaron is looking like no less of a doozy than last year’s, though. He is trying to keep his freak-outs under control, but they’re in there jabbering at his brain This is impossible. This is impossible. This is impossible. Still, it seems possible he’ll really like some of his classes. And in 15 weeks, he’ll be halfway done with seminary!

As you’re praying (please) for his studies, please also continue to pray for his eye. His actual doctor (the kind, calm one, not Dr. FreakYouOut) is willing to do the surgery if he finds the partially dislocated eye too difficult to live with, but there is risk. We could decide at his October appointment whether to schedule the surgery for Christmas break or not.

This weekend, because we hadn’t had enough time away lately(?!), we are going camping with our church at a summer camp. This is an annual tradition but our first time. It should be good hang-out time (when Aaron’s not studying) and AJ loved camping earlier this summer.

After that we will be really READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL!!! Go Lions! And go Suh-Nami Zone, our first ever fantasy football team! We had our draft party last weekend and it was a blast even though we only kind of knew what we were doing. Chatterbox came all the way from Oregon just to babysit for the day! Okay, no, she came to go back to college, but we put her to good use while we had her for a few days between her arrival and her dorm opening tonight. We are so happy to see her loving school and so proud of her. And so glad she does dishes.

Wow, that was a long blog. Behold the power of the early bedtime! I mean for AJ, now that the school routine has started, although honestly I feel ready to follow suit. Goodnight, my friends.

As Much as We Can Hand-le

What’s been going on? About as much as we can, ahem, handle. Since we last left our heroes…

  • Exams happened. Post-exam bonfires happened. Graduation happened. We are trying not to think about the friends we’ve made who are seniors moving away…
  • Aaron has completed one year of seminary. One third done already. That had to be one of the fastest 9-month periods of our lives, especially the blur that was April. Did we even have an April? (Hard to be sure–the weather was playing February far too long.)
  • We got to have Chatterbox with us through exam week because her college got out earlier and she didn’t leave for Oregon until this past week. It was actually great timing because we could make her do dishes and watch Anna and generally be our indentured paid-in-cell-service nanny enough to keep the house functioning through the busy exam week.
  • We enjoyed some of the Tulip Time festivities, such as eating elephant ears, shivering through a parade, watching the Dutch Klompen Dancers klomp, and pitying that poor basset hound wearing Dutch garb.
  • My cousin Laura came through town in time for the parade, and the next day for Mother’s Day we gathered at my parents’ with my Grandma and Papa B., Grandma H., and Aunt Barb as well. I got zero rest that day but did score the iTouch I’d been coveting! The commuter’s sanity saver.
  • I was then brutally attacked by allergies and spent last week in a snot and Sudafed based fog. I also generally felt like my house and life were an out of control mess, which is not unusual but can get me feeling out of sorts when combined with not feeling great and not getting a chance to catch up, let alone look ahead. Even this weekend, although we had no big plans (except Aaron had a Classis retreat Saturday–part of the denominational ordination process is that and an exam he has Tuesday), I felt like I never unwound yet also never got anything caught up. Today I never really stopped either, but at least we have groceries and the dishes got done.
  • Last week, his first Monday of summer vacation, Aaron went to the hand doctor to score some more Vicodin see how his thumb is healing. The bone, okay. The ligaments, etc.,…not so good. So he had a CT scan Tuesday, another consult Wednesday, a visit to his regular doctor Friday. I should have gone so I could understand this better, but the ligaments are messed up and pulling his finger wrong and bottom line, there will be surgery involving pins and I presume some kind of Ligament Gorilla Glue. The surgery is Thursday morning.
  • Almost worse than the surgery is that for a week before and after, he has to be on even more hard core blood thinners than he’s usually on, so he has to give himself shots twice a day. What a cruel thing to tell a person to do. I feel bad that I can’t help, but it’s common knowledge that I faint at the sight, nay, even the thought of . . . hey, I just had the weirdest dream . . . Oh, right, as I was saying: at the thought of shots. So I’m useless as he’s being tortured. :(
  • But hey, at least we have group insurance now! (Seriously, I would be SO freaked out by now if we didn’t. And so bankrupt and living off the dole. On the dole? Is it on the wagon or off the wagon?)

That’s that. Please pray for Aaron with the shots and for the surgery to be even more successful than anticipated–it is the kind of thing where the doctor says it’ll probably need to repaired again someday (because of Marfan? I’m not positive).

Note for our Smallport friends: We are trying to get our Oregon visit nailed down but this kind of stuff keeps making it hard to get it done. We are thinking around June 3 or 4 to 14-ish.