Sunday, December 07, 2008

Advent Conspiracy

I saw this video today and found it to be very thought-provoking. Thought you might enjoy "chewing" on it like I am! Don't forget to turn off the music before clicking on the video. :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Can't quite explain it

Today I spent the afternoon delivering poinsettias to the shut in's at one of my congregations. This is something I had been looking forward to and enjoyed it so much. They really have wonderful stories to tell and tremendous wisdom to share.

What was odd is that as I went along, this burning sensation started under my nose and on my left eyelid. It got worse and worse and now as I sit here it is driving me insane!!!!

I'm assuming I may have an allergy to poinsettias? Is that possible and would these be "normal" symptoms? I'm totally baffled...

Please, share your thoughts and home remedies. At this point, i'll try anything!!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Do I follow you?

Hello friends,

If you check on this blog, let me know by clicking on the "follow me" section to the right. That way I can check out your blog and get to know you better. It's always nice to know who's checking on on my infrequent (though may be more frequent posts)!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thanksgiving Sermon

It has been quite a while since I posted a sermon. I am thinking I may need to be more intentional about sharing them with you! Here is the sermon I will be preaching tonight at the community Thanksgiving service. I think it still needs some tweaking, but here you go!

Two years ago, our family celebrated a miracle. It was a thanksgiving unlike any we had or probably will ever experience again. We celebrated a day which we were told would never happen. Statistics showed we had a mere 10% chance of ever reaching it. It was a miracle; he is a miracle.

Two years, six months, and 1 week ago, my twin nephews were born. They arrived 15 weeks, 4 days early and were around 1lb 5 oz each. Doctors shared over and over again with their parents the grim statistics. If Jacob and Asher did survive, according to some medical professionals, their lives would be miserable and without quality. They would face complication after complication, without the ability to function in normal society. That was the language used by the doctors; their parents let it go in one ear and out the other.

From the moment they were born, we celebrated the miracle of their lives. We prayed, we journaled their milestones and the heartaches on their online journal. We knew the boys were God’s creation and desired to share their story with the world. As Jacob’s kidney function began to cease, we prayed. We prayed and we asked others to do the same. We cried when his urine output stopped, we rejoiced when it would start again. On June 29th of that year, we weeped as this 7 week 2 day old little boy took his last breaths. And we remembered with pride the life that was lived, and the literally thousands of people throughout the world touched by his story.

Asher continued to battle hard for his life. On the day of Jacob’s funeral he almost died. We were told we were just going in circles and he wouldn’t live. And yet, he continued to fight. At 5 months Asher came off the ventilator for the first time. At 5 ½ months he went onto nasal cannula. And, at 6 months 1week old, little Asher came home with an oxygen tank, ostomy bag, and his saturation monitor. It was a lot of equipment for such a tiny person; yet he was home. Two years later, we are still celebrating and giving thanks to God for this incredible miracle that is Asher.

This Sunday evening, we hear the story of the ten lepers. It is a story which demonstrates to us God’s unyielding grace and mercy towards all people. In the time in which this was written, an encounter with ten lepers would not have been an unusual site. The difference with this group, however, was one was a foreign, a Samaritan. It was a mixed group, nine being Jews and one being a Gentile.

When Jesus sent the group to the Jewish priests, the Samaritan must have felt Jesus was a bit crazy. The likelihood of him being accepted was slim, and yet he went. In his unyielding desire to be healed from this horrible disease, he went and demonstrated faith. And now he was cleansed; he was healed. Something he had hoped for for so long was now coming to pass. He could now imagine life from a whole new point of view. After being despised and considered unclean for so long, he could see himself having a future. A future filled with hope, a future with work, friends, a family. What else could he do but give thanksgiving to his healer, his savior, his God?

This Samaritan, this social outcast, who had two things going against him as a Gentile and a leper, returned to prostrate himself and praise Jesus. While the other lepers certainly could have been praising God on their way to and from the Temple, the Samaritan is the only one who makes the connection. He connects praising God and thanking Jesus. He saw the human Jesus is the power of God.

Faith is found in the response of Thanksgiving. It is the ability to see what can’t be seen- to believe the unbelievable. Faith is to praise God at the feet of Jesus, to see the power of God at the foot of the cross.

There are many times in our lives where we do not desire to offer our thanks and praise to God. When sweet little Jacob passed from his mother’s arms, it was difficult, nearly impossible, to see the good in his death. While we were thankful to God for the life that had been lived, the heartache and despair clouded any goodness that could be found. Jacob had died, and his mother was left with empty arms.

In both verses 14 and 15 of this text, we hear the word “seeing”. Jesus saw the lepers and in response sent them to the priests. Then, the Samaritan saw that he had been made well. The word “seeing”’ in this context means more than simply physical sight. It means to both recognize the opportunity to be merciful to another, and to recognize that God’s mercy has touched one’s life.

This text calls us to see the opportunities before us. Jesus calls us to recognize those in need of God’s mercy. To surround people like Jacob’s mother with the love and mercy that can only come from the Holy Spirit dwelling in the body of Christ. It calls us out of our comfort to be God’s hands and feet to all people, even those society would label as the unclean.

Jesus also calls us to see God’s mercy in our own lives. In the midst of our sorrow and despair, in the midst of the stressors in our lives and the depression that can cloud our judgment. God is there with us, extending the mercy and healing that only Christ can bring. It is the healing and grace that may not always come in the way we would like it to, but yet it still comes.

Our sweet little Jacob was not healed in the way we desired. We wanted so badly for that amazing little boy to stay with us, to grow up alongside his brother. We wanted to cuddle with him, to hear his little voice, to watch his first steps, to see him grow. Our hearts longed for that miracle. And yet, we know God’s mercy was there. We know Jacob was healed. And so we do thank God. We thank God for the life that was lived, and we thank God for the healing that took place. Hearts are still broken but we know that God is good.

The question for us, on this Thanksgiving celebration, is how do we see Christ’s mercy, and how do we respond? In the midst of the craziness of this world, when do we stop to recognize the love and grace that Jesus has to offer us? What do we do when we see? Truly, gratitude, thanksgiving, is the purest measure of our character and spiritual condition. It is the ability to see beyond ourselves and to recognize Christ living in our midst.

I personally never fully understood the point of Thanksgiving Day. While I understood the story of the pilgrims, why we eat turkey, and so forth, it lacked that spiritual dimension. It wasn’t until two years ago when Asher came home that I understood. I realized that indeed, Thanksgiving is an opportunity for us to intentionally set aside and give thanks and praise to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for having mercy upon us. It is a time for us to acknowledge that while we were still yet sinners, God made us saints through Christ’s death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit is active and alive in this Christian body, and God’s mercy continues to reach out to us in awesome and unexpected ways.

Martin Luther, the German Reformer, shares his thoughts on God’s provision in his explanation of the 1st article of the creed in the small catechism. He states:
I believe that God has created me and all that exists.God has given me and still preserves my body and soulwith all their powers.God provides me with food and clothing, home and family,daily work, and all I need from day to day.God also protects me in time of danger and guards me from every evil.All this God does out of fatherly and divine goodness and mercy,though I do not deserve it.Therefore I surely ought to thank and praise, serve and obey God.This is most certainly true.

This Thanksgiving, we can give thanks and praise to our Lord and Savior, as he is indeed merciful and will continue to provide. While we will continue to face the hardships that come with our journeys through life, God is present, God is merciful, and we will have opportunity after opportunity to give thanks. And for this we can say, thanks be to God. Amen.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My addiction...

Okay, so I know i've been away from this blog for almost a month. I can't believe it has been that long; I guess that comes with the craziness that is a pastor's life!

As I have mentioned before, I have been busily planning the big Disney trip coming up in less than two months (woo hoo)! One of the addictions I built towards the beginning of my planning was the DIS boards ( This is a great forum site that if you are planning a trip I highly recommend. Lots of great wisdom, pictures, and fun stuff can be found here. It helped me in determining where we would stay and what restaurants to eat at. I have also made many great online friends there.

One of the things many people do is offer up their pre-trip reports. I decided to begin joining in this fun. As I haven't updated you in a while, I thought I might share some of my entries. My report is entitled: "Three Alaskans hit the out for the glare!":

Part I:
Alright, so i've buckled and have decided to do a pre-trip report. I'm just so excited for the trip, I must do something with my Disney fanatacism, even if no one reads this!

So a little background:

As a child, it was a tradition in our family to drive our little Honda Accord from Seattle (where we lived at the time) on down to California most summers. Over the years, we visited Disneyland about four times. From the second my cute little feet stepped on to Disney property, I was addicted.

In 1994, my mother, two sisters and I packed up our bags and headed for the wild's of Alaska. This ended our Disney trips and we haven't been back since. Total heartbreak...

Fast forward to adulthood... In 2003, I entered my Master's program to become a pastor. This was something I never thought I would do and stepping into this future role was a major commitment. In the midst of my anxiety and fear, I made a promise to myself. "Laura, if you finish this program, you can take yourself and your sisters to Disneyworld." I hung on to this promise throughout my four year program.

In August 2006, I called my sisters and asked them if they would want to go with me to WDW. Of course they both said "yes" but didn't take it too seriously. I wouldn't graduate from Seminary until May 2008, and we wouldn't even be going until January 2009. Yet, I stayed committed and the family kind of chuckled as I began making plans.

So, before I go any further, I shall introduce you to the cast:

Me (Laura): I am a 28 year old newby Lutheran pastor living in Pennsylvania. It has been my dream for many, many years to go to Disneyworld. Life has been a bit chaotic lately with some major transitions and personal struggles. This trip is important to me for so many reasons. Relaxation, connecting with my sisters, being a kid again, seeing the mouse... it doesn't get any better!

Brenda: Brenda is my 31 year old sister. She is an amazing person that I really do look up to. She lives in Alaska and works in pediatric home health. Brenda is overdue for a real vacation and is counting down the days with us. I regularly receive phone calls and emails about things she discovers she wants to do. While Jamie and I aren't totally on board, Brenda is ready for T&T (tower of terror)!!

Jamie: Jamie, our baby sister, is 23 years old. She, like Brenda, is my best friend and confidant. She lives in Seattle at the moment and is a dedicated volunteer at the Children's Hospital. During her most recent visit, she helped me build a trip plan which we will of course share with you. Jamie has held on to the excitement of this trip from my first crazy vision and is counting down the days. Her #1 goal is to ride Dumbo, and she doesn't care if people thinks she looks silly doing so! I must admit, i'm right there with her!

More to come so stay tuned....

Part II: Choosing Time and Location..What to do, what to do!

In the midst of the chaos that comes with senior year, I began some of my planning. I found the DIS about a month into it and became seriously addicted. I mean, really, this site needs a recovery program!!!

I started sorting through all the reviews, articles, websites, etc on where to stay and what a good size trip would be. There is so much info out there it felt very overwhelming at times.

I decided that if we were going to go all the way to Florida, we might as well give ourselves time to relax a bit. I watched packages fluctuate in price to determine when would be best to go and when would be best to attempt purchasing one. After a great deal of discernment, I decided we should go in January for 8 days. This seemed reasonable and enough time to enjoy ourselves. Almost a year later, I went a little nutty and added another day; I just couldn't help myself!

In regards to our resort, it wasn't a difficult decision to stay on property. While I recognize it costs a bit more, the perks were just too much to pass up. Plus I couldn't stand the idea of commuting.

At first, we thought about staying in ASMo (All Star Movies). We wanted something Disneyish and that wouldn't send my pocketbook through the roof. All three of us were excited over the characters throughout and thought it would be for us.

As I read more and more reviews however (thanks DIS), I began looking seriously at the Pop Century. At first I was turned off to it as it didn't seem Disney enough for me. When we looked further into it, I saw how it integrated Disney with Pop culture. I now love the theming at Pop, as do my sisters. We know it isn't the most exciting building, we love the 80's building and have requested it. For us, it really is our decade and we think that's pretty special.

Part III: How in the world am I going to afford this???!!!

So as you can probably guess, 8 years of college does not leave much money in ones pocket. This is one of the many reasons my family felt I was nuts for even considering a 9 day trip for three people. Considering the amount of debt accrued through student loans, there were many more reasonable things I could save my money for. I own very little furniture (a bed and tv stand to be exact), and I could really use some new work clothes and a better running vehicle! There were so many reasons why I shouldn't go.

With all the voices in my head telling me to be smart with my money, one stood out. It was the voice asking me, "what is more important: saving money towards my student loans, or enjoying myself when I have the chance?" There would not be many other times in my life when my loans would be in deferment. There would not be many other opportunities around where my sisters and I would all be free to go during the same period of time. While we are all currently unmarried, eventually we would begin building our families. While I could save, buy some furniture, and make a couple larger payments on my student loans, my family is much more important to me. We have never done a trip together with just the three of us before. I hope and pray we will be able to do it again soon, but we don't know that. I decided to take this opportunity and run with it. I praise God daily for the decision that was made.

Next up, Part IV: Approval, Finals, and some Disney planning in between!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A little support in honor of my gorgeous nephews

Asher, two years

Jacob at birth

Most of you probably remember all too well when my friend (more like sister) Heather gave birth to her twin boys, Asher and Jacob at 24 weeks gestation. Thinking back it feels like it happened just yesterday. These little boys stole my heart from the beginning and demonstrated to the world courage, strength, and how God can use even the tiniest of boys to show his glory. While Jacob is no longer with us physically, we think of him all the time and know he is with us in Spirit. As I watch Asher grow, I witness God's miracles almost daily, even if only through the phone! With his first steps, first word, his smiles, giggles... everything leaves me in awe. These are things the doctors said we would never see; yet here he is, living life to its fullest.

Below is a message from the March of Dimes. Please consider signing this petition to support our little heroes and hopefully to one day prevent premature births.

Dear March of Dimes Family & Friends:

Join me as I help the March of Dimes raise awareness about the problem of premature birth. In the United States today, 1 in 8 babies is born prematurely. More newborns die from premature birth than any other cause. And millions of children face serious health challenges or have trouble learning in school because they were born too soon.

It’s time for us to do more to help moms have healthy, full-term babies. To help us make progress in preventing premature births go to and sign the Petition for Preemies. The number of people who sign can really make a difference.

Remember — November is Prematurity Awareness Month.

P.S. Want to make an even bigger difference? Please forward this message to everyone you know who cares about babies. Tell them you signed the petition and ask them to join you!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Courtney N. Cartwright
Community Director
March of Dimes
5100 N. Brookline
Oklahoma City , OK 73112
Telephone (405) 943-1025
Fax (405) 943-8901

Monday, October 13, 2008


Hello friends,

I am here! The foot is doing much better; still swollen some and a bit sore, but is healing really well.

Life has been very chaotic lately. Some good, some not so good. I wish I could share every little detail with you all but I cannot. Life has thrown many surprises that are forcing me to grow much faster than I anticipated. I am learning a lot and hope that I can take this part of my life journey and learn from it. I do not believe God causes bad things to happen, but I do know that God can always use them for good.

With that said, I ask that you would please pray for me, as right now I could really use them.

Thank you all for your faithful support; you are truly wonderful.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The joys of feet

Hello Friends,

I'm sorry for the long delay in posting. I just had another foot surgery on Friday, this time on the right foot. I'm still very drugged and of course sore. I promise a real update will follow, but for now i'm going to go curl up with some Disney movies. That always makes me feel better. *smile*

Hope you are all doing well.

Friday, August 22, 2008

What it Means to be a Pastor

Over the last few weeks, I have been learning a great deal more about what it means to be a Pastor. In Seminary, while they try to prepare you for the realities of this call, you still tend to leave with this glossed over view of what real ministry is. It is in the excitement of FINALLY getting out into the "real world" to do "real ministry" that you can miss what exactly it really entails.

I am learning, albeit probably more quickly than I would like, that ministry has its ups/downs, joys/sorrows, peaceful moments/not-so-peaceful moments. I've discovered that learning about being a Pastor is not so much done through classes and reading, but must be done experientially. I've also learned that the greatest resource aside from prayer and the Gospel really is found in your colleagues.

One of the goals I have had throughout seminary and continue to carry with me into my first call is to continue the process of forming my pastoral identity. While I was able to get to the place where I actually wanted to be a pastor before graduation, I am continually molding and shaping what that means. Through the experiences I have had in the last three months, and through the experiences I will continue to have, my pastoral identity will grow and change.

Being a pastor is not a frilly, happy-go-lucky kind of job. It can be raw and difficult at one moment, then the next will be filled with complete joy. In both cases, I am finding as a pastor you can experience contentment, knowing you are serving in the places God has called you to serve. That contentment, however, does not always come easily or immediately.

While seminary attempts to prepare us for the realities of ministry, I really do not think that full preparation is possible. The tools they offered have certainly come into play and I am so thankful to have them. The reality of walking into any new career, however, can only be experienced through actually doing the work.

It can be fun, it can be difficult, it has challenged me in ways I never expected.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

A Much Needed Vacation

I am back to work and while part of me is thrilled to get back to "normal" life, i'm already counting down the days till my next vacation! Which, by the way, is in about 165 days. Woo hoo for Disney World!
Heather and I had such a wonderful time during her visit. We spent much of the time talking and catching up. It was the first time her and I have spent time just the two of us since college (around 2003). The last few times we have been together were during Jacob's funeral, more time with Asher in the hospital, then right after he came home. While those were important and much needed visits, it was nice to just have some time relaxing!
We went to Gettysburg so Heather could see my old home town. We toured the battlefield, visited the wax museum, then had dinner with Audrey, our college professor. I really do miss Gettysburg so much! It was strange visiting the seminary knowing I am an alumni now. Part of me wishes I was still a student (never thought I would say that).
The next day we went to Washington DC which was Heather's first time. We spent much of the day at the Holocaust museum which was very important for Heather. It was my fifth time visiting and I am always amazed that there is more to see. I am still overwhelmed with emotion when I visit the museum.
We then headed out to see the main monuments. It was beautiful weather throughout the beginning, but then of course a thunderstorm hit when we were at Lincoln. The storm lasted quite a while so we decided to brave the weather. You can see above the evidence of that endeavor!
What I thought was very cool was once the storm past, a rainbow appeared perfectly at the Washington Monument. It was one of the most beautiful things i've seen. To me, it was the perfect way to end our visit to the capital.
The next day we laid around in our pajamas watching movies. This is a very important tradition Heather and I insist on keeping. We used to do this all the time at my father's house during college. I miss doing this so much. There aren't many people who can truly be as lazy as I am! :)
After Heather left, I spent some time processing the events of this summer and taking time to rest and recoup. While it was good to forget about my troubles while Heather was here, it was also good for me to take time to work through things. I've had a major headache the last week or so, but it is finally lifting. I'm taking that as a sign that I really am healing.
So as you can see, things really are getting back to normal. It feels so good to write that! Work is in full swing, and I am even catching up on Asher and Jacob's Friends. I have missed my old self so much and am not use to feeling so broken. I cannot thank God enough for this week of healing.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

Silencing the Heart

As I approach the day I was supposed to get married, I am working very hard on the healing process. It may sound unhealthy, but I am learning to silence the heart. No, this is not the same as hardening my heart, but it is working to calm the love I had built over the last 18 months. It is the process of letting go.

I don't think my heart will ever be truly separated from him. There is no way one can feel such strong emotions towards another and then have them end completely. I will always pray for and find myself concerned for him and how he is doing. I will still feel anger and frustration over what occurred, though hopefully that will calm soon. I have abused my anger a few times too many in the process of this relationship ending.

In one way or another, I think all our significant relationships will impact us for a lifetime.

I struggle to understand why I feel the need to share these thoughts with you, my readers. Part of me thinks it is because so many of you can probably relate to this process. I have never gone through a difficult break-up before, so this is very new to me. Through this blog, I guess I hope to find some wisdom, relation, and more importantly, prayer.

My dear friend (more like sister) comes into town this week to help me through this weekend, which was meant to be the wedding. We will have fun, we will explore the East coast, we will talk about these things only the way a best friend could. God has been and will continue to use Heather and others to minister to me as I heal. I feel blessed to have such a tremendous support system.

So that is where I am at. I am broken but am healing. Sermons are beginning to come easier, which is a sign to me that my faith is finding its grip again. I am talking to God more openly than I have since this began. Rather than my silence, words are forming.

Please keep up those prayers. They are felt and so very appreciated.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Romans 8:26-39 Sermon

A persons hands can tell a thousand stories. They tell of pain with their scars, cracks, and aging. They can tell of celebrations through their manicures and delicately painted nails. Some hands are soft, speaking at times to a calmer, more sedate life. Others are callused, bruised, and scarred speaking to years of hard labor. Hands can tell stories.

Nelson Mandela, in his autobiography, A Long Walk to Freedom, recalls the scene when he first laid eyes on his granddaughter. It was after his fourteenth year in prison, when he was granted permission for a short visit from his daughter. Upon her arrival, his daughter ran across the room to embrace him. Mandela had not held his daughter since she was a young girl, and it was both poignant and dizzying to hug this fully grown woman, his child.

It was after this embrace that she then handed over her own newborn baby, Nelsons granddaughter, into his callused, leathery hands. He recalls, “To hold a newborn baby, so vulnerable and soft in my rough hands, hands that for too long had held only picks and shovels, was a profound joy. I don’t think a man was ever happier to hold a baby than I was that day”.

Hands tell a story. They can tell of how we, who begin like that newborn child with smooth, soft skin, age from the wear and tear of this journey we call life. Our hands, like our hearts, can become callused and scarred by the years of suffering, distress, and peril we face. They are permanent markers which will ultimately always remind us of the journey we have faced.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he is writing to a group of Christians who are faced day in and day out with suffering. They have faced conflicts within the Church itself, struggling between a Jewish and Gentile understanding of what is the Christian church. As with any Christian body during that time, they have also suffered persecution, exile, and other forms of distress. Their life was filled with turmoil; I can only imagine what kind of marks the pain and suffering experienced left on their hands.

It is in those times, the times that leave marks forever engrained within us, that often we may not feel like praying. We, those who are known as “people of faith” may feel spiritually empty. They are the times when the sorrows of this world have become too much. Like Mandela, we may feel as though we have been imprisoned by years spent in a bad marriage, depression, grief over the loss of a loved one, or suffering years of poverty or abuse. While we may not be encaged within the walls of a prison cell, the pain we are living in has trapped us from living our lives and experiencing the joys found within a strong faith.

Suffering can take its toll on our relationships, including our relationship to God. While some may teach us that doubting, questioning, and being angry towards God is bad and unfaithful, it is a natural part of the relationship. Like the relationship we have with our spouse, parent, friend, or child, we will get angry, we will doubt, we will question. It is what it means to be in relationship. When we have suffered pain, turmoil, and conflict, often times it will impact how we relate to God. We may yell, we may write letters, we may become silent. Sometimes there just aren’t the words necessary to adequately talk to God. And sometimes, we just don’t want to communicate.

It is in the times where the ability to communicate with God come up short, when we are just too angry, too sad, too confused to find the words, prayer seems impossible. It is in those moments where we feel we must lean on others to have faith for us, as ours comes up short. We may believe in God, yet our emotions overrun our ability to speak and relate.

In those moments, we can trust that the Spirit will intercede for us. Paul states “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” We can know, we can trust, that even when our hearts are too callused, when the death of our child shuts us down completely, the Spirit will do the work for us.

The Spirit is the Spirit which will intercede, speaking on our behalf. It is the Spirit that will overwhelm us like the wind, bringing us comfort and peace in the midst of chaos. It is the Spirit that when we feel most abandoned and alone is indwelling within each of us. It is the Spirit that has been with us since the beginning and will never leave.

When those times of complete weakness, physically, emotionally, spiritually, come around, the Spirit will breath those sighs. They are the sighs that can speak beyond our mere vocabulary to communicate our deepest pangs of grief. They are the sighs that will communicate all our suffering, all our grief, all our anger. The sighs are the ones that will echo the truth of every bruise, scar, calluse, and crack that are engrained on our hands and on our heart. They are the sighs that will communicate our hope and are longing for healing.

I read once that “a record of God’s faithfulness in the past combines with hope in a better future for one end: to equip us for the present.” Paul’s message to the Romans was a message speaking to a future. It is the promise that even though they were suffering, God did and still does have a great plan for the future. A plan where all suffering will end and the dead will be resurrected, offering a new Heaven and a New Earth. It is a message speaking of hope in the midst of suffering.

What Paul may or may not have realized is that his message of hope for the future brings us hope for the present. We have the past which speaks to God’s faithfulness. God’s faithfulness recorded in scripture and God’s faithfulness recorded in our personal history. God is and will continue to remain faithful. We are also given hope for the future. It is the knowledge that sin and evil will ultimately be destroyed and that God has given us the gift of grace; we have the hope of the resurrection.

These promises and the evidence of God’s faithfulness in the past is what equips us for present suffering. It is what gives us comfort in despair, hope in times that feel so hopeless. These promises are what give us the knowledge to realize that when times are too difficult and painful to use words, the Spirit will intercede and sigh on our behalf. When we are too weak to do the work, God will continue to do the work for us.

We are all faced with the marks of suffering. We can look at our hands and sometimes see the physical evidence. We can also look internally and see how are hearts have been scarred over many times throughout this life. And yet, with each day that we continue on, hope will reappear in the soft, unscarred skin of a baby, a reminder of our future. God does promise us that hope, and God does promise us a Spirit that will intercede when we struggle to recognize that hope and the words just will not come. While the Spirit does not prevent the scarring that will ultimately occur, the Spirit will indeed sigh on our behalf and will always be present with us, offering comfort, peace, and continued hope for the future. Amen.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fur Covered Healing

It amazes me how powerful the love cats, dogs, and other furry friends can be in the healing process. Whether it is healing from an illness or the healing of ones heart, God certainly uses them to offer us comfort and strength.

A couple weeks ago, a friend gave me the initiative to look into adopting a dog. This is something I have always wanted to do but have put off due to my small living quarters and finances. Now that I have both a real, paying job and a new house, those can no longer be used as excuses.

Upon receiving her email, I decided just to peruse the petfinder site. This is where I also happened to find Melanchthon back in the Fall of 2003. I immediately fell in love with a cute, older black lab. I emailed the adoption agency (Pets Come First in State College) only to find out she had already been adopted. They then proceeded to send me the pictures of several other dogs, one being sweet little Caroline.

She is a 5 year old hound/lab mix and she arrived at my house yesterday. She has suffered multiple homes, heartworm, lyme disease, and neglect but seems to be adjusting quite well to our home. The cats are even doing wonderfully with her calm personality. It is such a joy.

The moment I decided to adopt Caroline, I felt a strong change happen in me. I was really not doing well and was falling into a deep depression. The break up of my relationship has really taken a toll. While I am not even close to completely "recovered" from this, Caroline has given me something to look forward to. I have moved out of the crisis state and into the healing process.

While work continues and I move forward with the necessary tasks each day, I can't seem to get myself out of this funk. Many have said to me what a great learning experience it has been to see that things like this even happen to pastors. For them, it has made pastors seem more "real", that they really are human. Hearing this is a great blessing and I am glad to know that others have learned something from this. However, it has not made it any easier to walk through.

This experience has taught me a great deal. Honestly, I wish beyond anything that none of this ever happened, especially at this point in my life. It is difficult to understand the "why's" regarding the break up and the timing. I'm finding myself questioning things more personally and theologically.

One of the many hard lessons I have learned is regarding the difficulties surrounding being a pastoral leader when you are in a spiritual crisis. Writing sermons, answering questions, and the like are not easy when you feel so empty. It makes me wish I was in my 20th year of ministry so that I had a file folder full of old sermons I could reuse. I have found myself drawing up blanks when reflecting on scripture. Truly, if it wasn't the Holy's Spirit's work, there would be nothing to preach on Sunday.

And yet, with all of this internal struggle, each day that goes by I do find myself doing better. It is not as difficult to get out of bed, I don't have to fake every smile, i'm surrounded by a constant source of love amongst the congregations. And, I have three wonderful fur-children who offer unconditional love.

Please continue to keep me in your prayers. Like all times of trial, this is a journey which will hopefully end having grown stronger from the heartache.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Long Overdue Update

Hello Everyone,

I pray you are all doing well. Since my last update, there have been many highs and many lows. Settling in to my first 6 weeks of ministry has been wonderful. The congregations have both been so warm, open, and understanding when I make newby mistakes. I have now presided at Holy Communion four times and still get chills. At the "little church", we have started our first Bible Study. When I arrived there was no Sunday school/Bible study of any kind. We had a great turn out and everyone loved it! It was only supposed to be an hour long, but everyone wanted to stay. We ended up staying for just under two hours!

At the "big church" I have been doing a lot of program planning. I will soon attend my first youth committee meeting followed later by an informational meeting on the ELCA national youth gathering. It seems everyone in the congregation is excited to try out new and fun ideas for youth and intergenerational ministries. One of the first events I have on my calendar will be an intergenerational reformation party; should be fun!

Outside of that, I have had a very rough few weeks. My relationship with my fiance took a dramatic turn in June when he broke into a deep depression. I will not share many of the details, but it has been difficult. After really trying to "save" the relationship, which included outside help, prayer, and discernment, I made the decision just last evening to end the relationship completely. While it broke my heart to do so, I knew it had to be done for the health of both of us. Please keep us both in your prayers as we work through the pain of this experience and move forward on our individual journeys. Even though I am hurting now, I have learned a great deal and will grow from this experience. There is so much to look forward to in the future, I know we will both be just fine.

The beginning of my time in ordained ministry has already had so many twists and turns both professionally and personally. While some of it has been hard, there are many good things happening. I have vacation time scheduled for when the wedding was going to be and plan to still take that time. Today my friend Heather is hopefully going to be able to make reservations to come out for a visit. This would be great as she has never been out here and I could show her around Pennsylvania, Maryland, and DC. If this does not occur, I will head out to Oklahoma to spend time with her family that week (which would mean seeing Asher!). I think this time of rest will be very good for me and will help in regaining some of my energy and focus. I pray you are all doing well. Thank you, as always, for the prayers and support you offer. I hope my next update will bring good news and joyous experiences to share with you!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Issue of Trust

It is interesting to consider that in my entrance psychological exams for seminary, I came out as being overly trusting.

Over the last few weeks, I have come to the realization that I am not a very trusting person. Certainly, I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt in everyday relationships. When it comes to the heart, however, I tend to guard myself a little too much.

I have held up many walls over the years to protect myself from getting hurt. I have been working at bringing those walls down lately, but it makes me feel incredibly vulnerable. I sense a strong threat of getting hurt and it scares me.

Right now, I am learning my faith in God's presence isn't as strong as I thought it was. I don't trust that God will bring me through the good and the bad. I preach the message regularly, but now understand I have never truly taken that message to heart. This is a very difficult thing to realize, and i'm a bit ashamed.

I know this isn't my normal, bubbly post, but even I have those "non-bubbly" moments. This time of transition personally and vocationally is a bit difficult right now. If you could please keep me in your prayers, it would be very much appreciated.

Friday, June 06, 2008

A Name Change

Before I head off to Synod assembly, I wanted to share the news that I now have an official title in front of my name! I am now, the "Reverend Laura insert last name"!

Pretty darn cool, isn't it?! Thanks God! :)

I will share more details about my ordination when I get a free moment. Thank you for your prayers!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Call Sermon

I haven't shared a sermon with you for a while and thought it was high time. Here is the sermon I preached the day I was officially called to the congregations. I am moving this weekend and as soon as the internet is hooked up in the parsonage, I promise I will give a real update. Enjoy!

For decades, Alaska’s commercial fishing industry has been listed as the most dangerous job around. The Alaskan crab season can last anywhere from a couple days to a few weeks, usually during the fall and winter months. It takes place in the Gulf of Alaska where over 200 fishing vessels are docked at Dutch Harbor, ready to set out.

To crab fish, the workers must drop 800 pound steel cages covered in herring meat where they will rest for a couple days. The fishermen then return to each trap where they hope and pray each cage is filled with crab.

The men and women will often work 18-20 hour days, creating intense mental strain and exhaustion. They risk getting caught in the coils or on traps. The winter waters in the Bering Sea can cause hypothermia within seconds and the risk of capsizing is high due to rogue waves.

Those working on the fishing vessel must labor as a team day and night. Each brings their individual gifts to the work, baiting the traps, bringing in the traps, filling the tanks, removing unwanted catches, cooking the meals… They must listen to each other and more importantly their captain. Renegade fishermen often cause disaster either putting them at risk for losing their catch or their lives.

Today we celebrate the Church; it is the day of Pentecost. We remember how upon Jesus’ ascension into Heaven we were given the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is the gift of our Trinitarian God’s continued work in the world through the Christian body. It is the Spirit’s working through us, acting as our captain to guide us in the work of the Church.

The word for Spirit in the Greek is pneuma, often translated as wind or breath. It is the word used to describe Jesus breathing the Spirit on the disciples, and it is the same word used to describe God’s act of breathing life into Adam. It is a word that encapsulates life and energy. The Spirit is the life breath of the church, motivating us, comforting us, encouraging us along the way. Like the captain of commercial fishing boat, it is the drive that moves us into action. It is the breath that unifies us to fulfill a common mission.

As with the crew on a fishing boat, we all bring many and varied gifts to the ministry. In fishing, the captain will identify the gifts each individual crew member has and will accordingly assign them to their different tasks. In the body of Christ, the Spirit breathes life into church, offering unique and wonderful gifts for each individual. These are the gifts of the preacher, the teacher, the musician, the sexton, the health care worker, the quilter, the steel worker…. The Spirit has empowered the Christian body with incredible diversity in order to fulfill the mission of sharing the Good News to the world.

They are gifts which come in a variety of ways, some spectacular, demanding our attention, and others more quiet, gradually coming into notice. In crab fishing one is much more apt to notice the intense and dramatic work of the people on deck, bringing in the crab pots and emptying them. The cook downstairs, however, is much less noticeable until everyone becomes hungry and shares in a meal.

This past Friday at the seminary, a class of over 40 students graduated with degrees which will give us some of the tools needed to do the ministries to which we are called. We were told with the degrees in hand, we were now prepared to go out and serve in hospitals, social ministries, as professors, and as pastors. The president of the seminary placed in our hands a beautiful certificate with our names on them, claiming us as bearers of a Master’s of Divinity, ministerial studies, or other such degrees. It was claimed we now have what it takes to do the ministry to which we are so called.

Each of us in this graduating class, are much like the crew members of a fishing vessel. We came from a variety of backgrounds and bring to the ministry a wide variety of gifts. Some will go out to minister in hospitals. Some will go out to combat zones to minster as military chaplains. Some plan to write books or teach. Some hope to work as associate ministers while others feel called to rural ministry. Though we lived together, ate together, and sat day in and day out in classrooms and libraries united as one class…we are now to be scattered throughout the world.

And yet though we are scattered, we are still united as one Christian body. The greatest preparation we received over the last four years together and throughout our lives was not the education or that beautiful, wonderful certificate that was placed in our hands. It was not even the relationships we built with each other over the last four years. Rather, it is the way in which the Holy Spirit, our life breath, has guided us through this journey in ministry, fed us through word, sacrament, and community. It is the way in which the Spirit has gifted us with the tools needed in order to fulfill the calls we have been given.

As the body of Christ, we are all called to be active participants in the Church’s mission. In baptism, we were told to “let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven”. Through the water and the Word proclaimed, we were given the gift of the Holy Spirit and called to go forth proclaiming the Good News of God’s grace. This light we were called to let shine is the light of Christ and the good works we were called to perform is the work of the Spirit through the gifts we have been given.

This commissioning to be active participants in the Christian body can be laden with fear and anxiety. Much like the disciples in the upper room that evening, we can lock the doors of our hearts and minds for fear of getting hurt. Though we may not fear for our lives as the disciples did, we can often be scared of embarrassment or failure. At times, the gifts the Spirit gives us are not the kinds we would have chosen. We may not want to be the deckhands or the cooks. We may not want to be teachers, preachers, readers, greeters, or ushers. We may not feel we are capable of doing the things to which we are called…and yet the call continues to beckon to us.

Even when we can close the doors of our hearts and minds, Jesus will enter our locked rooms. Not by breaking down the door or picking the lock. Jesus simply will appear, extend his hands, and call out “peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And we are in turn given the gift of the Spirit.

We are not sent out to use the gifts given empty handed. Our loving God knows that without the Holy Spirit, we would all be failures. There is no way our simple human nature could perform such great tasks. And yet with the Holy Spirit, all things are possible.

This is the way in which the Spirit works in all of our lives. We have been given gifts for ministry that are wide and varied. Not all are called to the public forms of ministry such as becoming pastors or diaconal ministers. We are not all called to be organists in the congregation or teachers in the classroom. And yet we are all given the gift of the life breath of the church, our captain, the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit that guides us in our call to ministry, uniting us as the Christian body to fulfill the Church’s great mission.

There is no need for us to fear failure, as this is not simply our work. If it were, we would have reason to fear. Yet the great God who appeared in locked rooms, who rose from the dead, and who poured out the Spirit is the same God who will act through each of us to share the Good News to all. Amen.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Best Weekend EVER!

To say this past weekend was one of the best ever feels a bit like an understatement. It seems everything that possibly could have gone right did. What a tremendous gift!

My father, stepmother, and older sister all arrived on Thursday evening. It was such a gift to have them here to witness graduation and the last part of the call process. We had a great time visiting over the past six days and I miss them already. In between all the exciting events, we were able to explore Gettysburg and Lancaster county. The weather didn't always cooperate, but that did not phase us brave northwesterners at all! My amazing professor from Trinity, friend, and now colleague Audrey was able to make it for graduation! She is one of the main reasons I ended up going to Gettysburg. I could never thank her enough for encouraging me to attend all the way across the country. Pennsylvania has become my home and I would not trade my experience at Gettysburg Seminary for anything.
Graduation was everything I could have hoped and more. I really did not realize how important this was to me until I was up there about to receive my diploma. Looking around at my classmates and professors, I realized how much each person in the room has become a part of my life. God really used this amazing community to help in forming my pastoral identity.
Receiving the hood and the diploma was an incredible experience. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would recieve a Master's degree, let alone a four year Master of Divinity. I sat and stared at the diploma many times for days afterwards. It is a tremendous accomplishment only possible through the Holy Spirit. I know I could not have done this by any other means. God is so good and I cannot wait to serve in the parish!
Another major component to graduation day was Terry's arrival in town! For those who do not know, I met Terry online about 15 months ago. Why I joined eharmony is a whole other email but let me tell you, I am SO glad I did! Two weeks into my online journey, I was matched with Terry and knew from that moment on my membership would have to simply run out.
Our first conversation was over two hours long and it just kept getting better from there. He was in Okinawa at the time, serving as a religious program specialist in the Navy assigned to a Marine unit. The majority of our time has been spent communicating over the phone and online due to the distance. He is now living in South Carolina, making the distance better but still not great. We have become amazing friends simply through the phone and letters.
This weekend we decided to officially begin dating. We know with the distance this will not be easy, but we are up to the challenge! He will be in the states until October and then will do a six month tour in Iraq. After Iraq, it is our hope and prayer he will be able to begin seminary here in Gettysburg sometime soon after!
On Sunday Terry, my family, and I all traveled up to the churchs for my final call vote! This included my leading worship in both congregations. It was so special having them here to witness this event. I am pleased to announce there was a 95% majority vote in favor of calling me to St. Luke's in Mount Union and St. James in Huntingdon, PA! I will be the solo part-time pastor at St. Luke's and the Associate part-time Pastor at St. James in charge of youth, family, and intergenerational ministries! It is a wonderful call and I am so excited to begin.

Ordination is now scheduled for June 5th in Altoona, PA at the opening worship for Synod Assembly. If any of you are able to make it, please feel free to join us! I will officially be a pastor after ordination and will begin working that Sunday.

So, that is my big update! Thank you all for your love, prayers, and support. It has been a crazy journey and I could not have done any of it without you. I will continue to keep you posted on all the exciting events!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Asher and Jacob's Friends Video

Please Friends, Share this video any way you can. Whether you embed it on your page or pass around the link, the more people who know about this site, the more support we can offer those in need!

Monday, May 05, 2008

We're Gonna Graduate!!!!

Yup, it's really going to happen! Grades were turned in for seniors at noon today. I recited a Psalm in class this afternoon which was the very last assignment EVER other than continuing ed stuff. AND, I just picked up my cap and gown for graduation (as seen demonstrated by Katy)!!!

This is my third graduation and by far the most exciting. The difference between this verses High School and College graduation is I actually believe it is the end! The possibility of my doctorate will always hang in the air, but financially and time wise I doubt that will ever happen. I have learned though never to say never, as God does enjoy a good laugh. :)

Family is flying in this Thursday evening from Seattle and graduation is Friday at 1:30pm. Saturday I then drive up to my possible future home for a meet and greet with the congregation. Sunday I will return there to preach and have the final call vote! Things are happening right and left, and I can say all i'm doing right now is walking around with a BIG smile!

Alright, I am off to do a bit of cleaning. Hope you are all doing well and be on the lookout for more exciting news! This next week I should be able to tell you where I moving and when!!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Disney World

Alright, so i'm sooo not concentrating on the homework I should be doing.

In January 2009, i'm hoping to do a trip to Disney World with my two sisters. Not one of us has ever been there, though we have done Disney Land. The other cool thing is it will be the first trip we have done with just the three of us! When I came to Seminary, I promised myself when I graduated that I would do this and now it is (I think) really going to happen; woo hoo!

Anyway, I have been busily making plans when I should really be doing homework. I think I have some good ideas about how to do the trip but am still looking for help.

Do any of you Disney veterans have good ideas????

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Obsurdity of the Vet

So, can someone please explain this to me? How is it that I go in to the doctor and, after what little insurance I have the bill comes out LESS than a trip to the veteranarian?! Each and everytime I go in to the vet, I leave stomping my feet all huffy puffy as half my bank account has been tapped.

Now don't get me wrong: I love my pets. These two furry little creatures, although rather annoying at times, are part of my family. When I go away for a weekend, I always find myself unable to sleep as I don't have two fur-kids pressed up against my head suffocating me. I love them, no matter how much they meow, shed, and spazz out throughout the night (and day).

Unfortunately, now that I have spend almost fifty dollars on Melanchthon this morning, I also have the joy of having a roid filled cat. This is about our sixth go-round with prednisone and I can tell you right here and now, I am not looking forward to it. Like humans, cats get hungry, thirsty, moody, and just plain bizarre when they go on steroids. He has only had one dose and has already screeched up and down the hall about forty times.

Ahhh, finals week is turning out to be even more FUN than I had predicted! *smile*

Alright, I promise I am done whining...for now.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Little Less Secreteness (Is that a word?)

Alright, so here is a little more info on the call process:

1) I have finished 2 of the 3 interviews and have had unanimous votes at BOTH!

2) The third and final part of the process will take place May 10th -11th. This is only ONE day after graduation and will be the congregational call vote. I will preach and help lead worship. The vote will take place that day and if they vote in my favor, I will either accept, reject, or take up to 30 days to make the decision.

3) If everything goes well, I will hopefully be ordained in early June and start very soon after that.


Hope you are all doing well. I have a TON of homework that is due by Monday of next week so should get going. Please keep praying, and I will continue to reveal details as I am able!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Living in a world of secrets

Hello dear friends,

I know many of you are wondering what in the world is going on in regards to the call process. As you can tell by the title of this blog, it is all about the secrets.

What I can tell you is I am indeed in the call process. So far it is going wonderfully and I am deep in discernment. This has been a marvelous process and I am learning a great deal more about how the Church functions. I had always wondered how the interview process was different for a pastor verses a "regular" job. I can tell you now it is INCREDIBLY different. Some of those differences are wonderful, some are overwhelming.

I can also tell you this process is not fast. It is not like going into a job interview and knowing within the week if you have it. This will take time, weeks, not days. The call process is a time to discern as a pastor (or future pastor in my case) and as a congregation. This is an interview both for the congregation and the pastor. It is a coming together to discern where God wants all of us to be.

So, I hope this gives some answer to those who are "biting at the bit". As more is able to be revealed, I will be certain to share it. Your prayers, concerns, questions, and loving support have all been felt and appreciated. Thank you for being there for me throughout this journey. I pray you are all doing well and would love to hear how you are doing when you have time!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Beginning of the End

Whew, I did not realize how long it had been since I gave a real post. I guess that is just a testament to how busy things have been!

Life seems to be speeding up and slowing down all at the same time. The last few weeks I have had a case of the "seminary plague" which was probably heightened by all the stress of my last semester. Doctors in this area say it has been one of the worst flu seasons they have seen in over a decade; I would have to say from my experience with it, I agree! Glad it is over a gone finally, as it was absolutely horrible.

My younger sister came in to town to spend Spring break with me last week. Aside from the flu, we had a great time. We spent most of our time here in the Gettyburg area, going up to Hershey, the Harrisburg area, and even horseback riding here on the battlefield (very cool, I recommend it).

In the midst of the flu, I had a meeting scheduled in New York City. My body really didn't want to go, but I knew I needed to. We took the train in from Harrisburg and spent the first day resting and then seeing the broadway production of Spamalot (my favorite). That evening I got really sick and it didn't end in time for the meeting. As hard as it was, I knew I had no choice but to cancel it. We then called and got an earlier train back to Harrisburg. As miserable as I felt, Jamie and I still managed to have a good time. The interview will now take place over the phone this upcoming week.

The call process has been going really well. Unfortunately, I can't say much about any of the details. This makes it difficult to share my joy with others, but it is the way things are done in the church. What I can tell you is I have a big interview coming up in the near future. Please, keep me and the congregation in your prayers as we interview. I will whole-heartedly admit I am nervous! I know that as long as I am myself, it will all work out. It is still scary though....

Another exciting thing coming up is I will be teaching a one day course on Christian Education for lay people on April 12th. I was asked to do this last summer and am very excited about it. I will be focusing on teaching the students how to create a mission statement for their Sunday school program and how to pick and adapt curriculums to fit their congregations. It should be a lot of fun.

Thank you for all your prayers and support. It is really difficult to believe in under 50 days I will have graduated (that is if I finish all this homework that has piled up!). I am looking forward to it but will really miss this community. I love Gettysburg so much and the people I am surrounded with on a daily basis. Thankfully I will only be a couple hours from here so can visit often.

Alright, back to homework! I pray you are all doing well, and promise to update you soon!

Laura Lynn

Saturday, March 01, 2008


In case you didn't know already, i've come out of the closet and whole-heartedly admit i'm an idol fan. And, I hate to say it but i've completely fallen for one particular contestant. Now tell me, is this 17 year old kid not AMAZING?!!! Turn off the music on the right side and enjoy!

Friday, February 22, 2008


Hello Everyone!

I apologize for leaving you in suspense. I am so pleased to announce I have been assigned to the Allegheny Synod in central Pennsylvania. This is the area in which I did internship and I loved it so much. The synod goes from the Somerset area up through State College. It is beautiful and is surrounded to the Appalachian "mountains". Sorry for the parenthesis, but being an Alaskan it is hard to call those things mountains!

What will happen now is I will begin recieve a profile on a congregation. We will then begin the interviewing process which includes preaching at the congregation. A voting process then takes place and if all goes well, I will accept the call! If this does not occur, the process begins all over again with another congregation.

In regards to my ordination, this is all dependent upon the call process. The one thing I can promise is it will not happen before graduation in May. I know many of you who hope to come out are eager to find out when this will be. Unfortunately, in most cases there is not much notice as to when or where this will take place. If you are looking to attend, please let me know and I will notify you as soon as I can.

Thank you for all your notes of prayer, encouragement, and even concern when you didn't hear anything! I was assigned to the region on Wednesday and didn't hear from the Bishop about the synod till this afternoon. This is all so exciting though a little overwhelming.

Please continue to keep me in your prayers throughout this process, especially that the Holy Spirit will guide me to wherever I am called.


My personal blog:


Saturday, February 09, 2008

Colbert, New York, and the Call Process!

Yesterday my two friends and I went to see the Stephen Colbert portrait hanging between the bathrooms of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC. For those who do not watch the Colbert Report on Comedy Central, it is a political satire type news show (I would highly recommend it). On the show, he attempted to have his portrait displayed in the American History Museum only to be rejected and sent to the Portrait Gallery. As they have a good sense of humor, the obliged and placed it between the bathrooms and above two drinking fountains. It is only there until March 2nd so we made sure to make it over before it was removed. I have to say, it seems they are getting many more visitors, though they are all found surrounding the restroom entrance!

School is still going well and I am continuing with my goal to stay motivated through the semester (see previous blog post). I am entering week three and am still enjoying my classes! Right now I am busy working on the research project for my Theology of Cancer course. I have decided to journey up to New York City in March to visit with a chaplain at Memorial Sloan Kettering, one of the top cancer research hospitals in the world. Some of the families from the website I run have children who are being treated there and I am currently setting up some meetings with them. The project I am doing is to study how family dynamics are effected when a child is undergoing treatment for cancer. It is my hope that this project will be a helpful resource to myself and other pastors when congregation members are facing similar situations.

Some other exciting news is in a mere 10 days the regional assignment process will be complete and I will know which part of the country I will be serving in! I am becoming very excited and feel open to just about anywhere I may end up. My heart still longs to remain in Pennsylvania, but I know that God's plans are always so much better than my own. Please continue to pray for me and all the other ELCA 1st call pastors over the next couple of weeks.

So, that is about it for now. Thank you again for all your prayers and support. I promise to send out an update ASAP when I hear about the regional assignment. When you have a moment, please don't hesitate to send me a quick update about how you are doing. I really do love hearing from all of you!

Laura (and of course Mel and Katy!)

Please don't forget to visit the website I run, Asher and Jacob's Friends. There are many who could really use your prayers.


Monday, February 04, 2008

3 months, 5 days...

Three months and five days to go. Is that possible?

It is hard to believe in less than 100 days I will be done with my formal education. After twenty some-odd years, I will no longer be in school. Unbelievable!

The semester started last week and already the nostalgia is setting in. As much as I am excited to be graduating, a part of me is already longing for more time. I really do love school and it is hard to imagine what life will be like outside of it. It will be so strange to not go to bed at night thinking about all of the readings I didn't get done that day, along with that feeling of dread over sitting for two 3 1/2 hour classes the next day. As much as I can't stand that feeling, I think part of me will actually miss it!

My goal for this semester is to try and enjoy myself as much as possible. It seems every semester I start out with that newly sharpened pencil, crisp paper feel and by the end of the second week am grudgingly dragging myself to class. I don't want this semester to be like that. It is my hope and prayer that I will move past the longing to finish and will live in the moment, learning as much as I can and enjoying the freedom that comes with student life vs work life.

Speaking of which, I had better get going so I am not late for class...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sabbatical...sort of

Over the last few weeks, I have had the joy of taking a break from life. Now don't get me wrong, I love being busy and in the company of others, but it has truly been wonderful doing nothing. I have had no classes, no meetings, and only a couple appointments. Really, I have had my own sabbatical.

The most I have done over this vacation was read fun books. This has probably been the first time I have been able to do this since...well I don't even know when. I finished the entire Harry Potter series and loved it. I am going to try and read it over again to create a Bible study for Junior High/Senior High youth. I really don't understand how anyone who has read them can call them demonic or non-Christian. They really encompass so many biblical truths.

Life is quickly beginning again this weekend. I have a paper to write and then have a senior seminar about all those important practical things we don't address about being a pastor until now. While I am excited to being living in the "real world" again, it has truly been an amazing experience to take time to rest, relax, and just enjoy staying up late reading and watching movies.

These three weeks have demonstrated to me just how important self-care really is. For me this means occasionally taking time to simply be by myself in the quiet. Whether this is a few hours, a few days, or in this case a few weeks (like that will happen again!)...this is essential to my physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. This last semester really was full of stress trying to balance school, the approval process, and surgery. I didn't' realize how much it stressed me out until it was over. Looking back, I see I really didn't take the time I needed to rest. What a great lesson to have before first call.

So, today I will take a couple hours to enjoy the last bits of freedom, and then work on my paper. I will use these last few weeks as my reminder that we as Christians are called to honor the sabbath each week, and will do my best to follow this practice over the next semester.

Wish me luck...

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Christmas '07

I have finally returned to Gettysburg after spending two weeks with family and friends. Although it is wonderful to sleep in my own bed and have my "kids" back, my vacations always feel too short. I already miss my family and look forward
to when I can get back to the northwest again.

The beginning of vacation did not kick off as well as we had all planned. Only two days in, my father and I got a pretty severe case of food poisoning. I promise I won't go into detail, but lets just say it took quite a few days to recover. Thankfully, we recovered without having to go to the doctor, but were close to that point. I will never eat at the Cheesecake Factory again.

Once we recovered from the food poisoning, I was on my way to Anchorage! It was so great to see my sister and to have a short visit with her. We did not do anything big, but rather spent time shopping and having an early Christmas together; I loved it. I also had my approval interview with the candidacy committee. It went incredibly well; I am finally done with the candicacy process and can proceed towards ordination! I am thrilled and cannot wait to receive my first call!

After a short two days with my sister, I headed back to Seattle to spend Christmas with my father, stepmother, and younger sister (and dog of course). We had such a wonderful Christmas playing games, opening gifts, and just resting. And, would you believe it, this is what we spotted while opening gifts Christmas morning:

None of us can remember the last time it actually snowed in Seattle on Christmas; we are thinking it was the early '80's. It was beautiful and topped off a wonderful day. This is most likely the last Christmas I will spend in the Northwest, as from now on I will be serving as a pastor. Of course as a pastor you can't really go on vacation during such an important time. I feel blessed to have had such a great Christmas with my family and look forward to all of them coming out to be with me on Christmas from now on!

I ended vacation by going to meet the newest little member of our family. My cousin gave birth to this beautiful little one early in December. She is such a great mother and it was awesome to see how in tune she is with him. I cannot believe she is a mother, as I still view her and my younger sister and being so little! It evidenced to me that we are actually all adults now (scary). He was just so cute and it was fun to hold such a little one again. He looks so much like his mama and has our family's eyes.

As you can tell, it was a great vacation. I am so happy to have gotten away for a little bit. This last semester was a trying one and I was in real need of a getaway. It was nice to spend time with family, sleep in, and I even read two more of the Harry Potter books (only two more to go!). I know i'm on vacation when I get to read a fun book! :)
This January I only have an independent study course and the senior seminar the last two days. I am going to spend this time cleaning, resting, writing my paper, and just enjoying myself. In many ways, it's like my own little sabbatical! After that, it is my last semester of Seminary and then graduation. My older sister, father, and stepmother will be coming out to celebrate graduation with me which I am looking forward to.
So that is it for now. The next step in the assignment process is this February. I forget the exact date but it is towards the end of the month. The Bishops will get together and assign each of us first call pastors to a region. Within two days to a month after that I will be assigned a synod. Please be in prayer that the Spirit will be at work in the process and I will end up where I am meant to be. Of course, I have my own ideas of where I should be (don't we all), but I am doing my best to be open to anywhere. I know God will guide me to where I will best serve the Church.

I will end with a picture of my cute little nephew (friend Heather's baby) Asher. If you can believe it, this is the little guy who was born at only 24 weeks gestation! He has grown so much and is thriving. Thank you for continuing to keep him in your prayers.

Praying you all are doing well and hope you had a great Christmas!

Love, Laura