Tag Archives: children

Ten Year Itch: Part Four – A conversation about two careers and conclusions

The last installment of the “Ten Year Itch” series is a conversation between Sara and I. We decided that it would be fitting, as we extrovert these thoughts about Active Duty, to also extrovert some of the thoughts, ideas, and motivations we have as a couple.

It’s the whole “one flesh” idea. Any choice that one person in a relationship makes impacts the other – it’s felt – by the other. Thoughts about the future are as much about Sara as they are about me. We are a “two-pastor family.”

It’s been pretty easy up to this point. As soon as I got pregnant with Sophia, I stopped working and spent the next several years home with our kids. “My career” was never an idea that crossed our minds; while I knew I wanted to work when the kids were older, I had no clarity on what that would be. We lived the maxim “Home is where the Army Sends You” – Jon went to work every day, I was a stay-at-home mom. Whenever we needed to move, nothing would change about my life except the location. And then, one day… I DID have clarity. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. And it became clear very quickly that my path would not always be “Where the Army Sent Us.” So then what?

Your call was clear. Certainly more clear than I ever experienced mine. I remember the first time you stood behind the pulpit at Memorial – it was an almost electric feeling that went through me. You belonged there. I remember thinking how obvious it was that this was where you were supposed to be. Clearly, it wasn’t just me that saw that. It’s been true throughout the last few years.

This calling presents a significant problem – how do we, as a couple – pursue two distinct careers? I’ve known dual military officers, dual enlisted Soldiers, and dual chaplains. But I’ve yet to experience a successful active duty chaplain and full time pastor. I’m wondering what some of those barriers might be to have a two career family?

There are the obvious:

  • Moves to areas we can’t control. I happened into a great position here in Kentucky, but it’s very likely that the next duty station either won’t have a Disciples church, or that church won’t be hiring. While I’m still pursuing my MDiv and ordination, part time/ intern positions are great – but in a few years when I’m done with that, it will be difficult to go through the denominational Search & Call process with Army moves.
  • I will have to leave good situations prematurely.
  • Pastoring requires networking and building relationships in a community and region. This is hard to do with frequent moves.

When I think of the challenges, the one that sticks out the most to me is networking. The way I experience the Disciples working, a pastor needs to “build a brand” within the region and that takes time. Consistent time working within a region building a reputation that will follow you throughout your career. As you follow my career, I’m afraid you’ll just have to be a volunteer or intern for the next 10 years until you’ll be able to actually embrace your call.

But the alternative isn’t appealing either. The only way for me to fully “embrace my call” (as in, enter the Search & Call process and we move to the church who calls me) would be for you to either not work or have a portable career. We rely on your income, so that is not a realistic alternative – whether you were Active Duty, or worked in the Bureau of Prisons or VA or anything else. Sometimes it just seems as though there’s no win-win.

There must be. I think its somewhere in trusting the call. At the time of every Army move, we take into account your career and what is available to you and choose accordingly. Coming to Ft. Campbell turned out to be a great move for us as you were able to work at First Christian and proximity to school/family. I have to believe that this will continue. While I am not really committed to the idea that it will always work out like this, I do believe that there will be two good opportunities for us to be a part of God’s work wherever we go.

In many ways, we make the opportunities good ones.

I agree. I think the conversation isn’t “your career” vs “my career” – or even how much weight each of our careers carries in the decision-making process. We take it move by move, job by job. Sometimes it will be really great for me and not quite as fulfilling for you – other times it might be the opposite. There IS no perfect. I think the key is acknowledging this – and acknowledging the grief that each of us has in our personal sacrifice for the other.

And as we make these move-by-move decisions, there might be a point where we do something nearly solely for one or the other of us. I think the move to Hopkinsville was that: after I spent so many years unfulfilled and mostly unhappy, we moved here because it was good for me. The next move will be different. We each make sacrifices for the family, because what’s best for the family will not always be what is best for you or best for me.

I really like that “move by move, job by job” – I think this is the challenge that everyone has in this age. We live in a two-career/income society. Really, in many ways, the Army is part of that last vestige of single-income jobs that make the traditional “breadwinner” life possible. One of the people that come to mind is one of my old principles, Brian Foreman who now blogs at Luke1428 He and his wife made the choice to switch who became the breadwinner but it does not seem like an either/or choice but one where they chose what was best for their family. I see our responsibility to each other’s careers in a similar way – what is best for us right now? The future is always changing but what is best for us: me, you, the kids; in the now and immediate future?

I’m fascinated when I meet dual pastor families who have been doing this for years. I’m amazed how they have been able to manage two careers that are based so firmly in relationships. How they know members in each other’s congregations and are engaged in the social fabric of two churches. It binds the two congregations together in a intangible way.

While we’re far from having this figured out, I am encouraged that we have these conversations. I am constantly reminded that whatever we do – we’ll do it together. We think about the two-clergy couples we know, and it looks different for every single one of them. There’s no “right” answer; there’s only what’s best for our family in each time, in each place, given the information we have at the time.

Indeed. Thanks for having this conversation in public.

Conclusions

For what it’s worth, we’re nowhere closer to any decision than when we started the conversation. At the end of the day, choices like this are just choices. I like what Andrew commented a couple days ago – things that are life-changing and massively significant to us are not to God. Wherever we serve, whatever we set our hands to, God provides and blesses. I believe that. In the mean time, we serve with our whole hearts engaged in the task at hand.

Finishing in the Army would mean total flexibility after I finish my career and that’s significant. One thing I have determined in this thought exercise, my value of family is more important that just about anything and that we’re going to bloom wherever we’re planted. Things like retirement and salary are important but not at the expense of our family.

I have loved being a Soldier – not all of it – but it’s a part of me that will never really go away. I suspect that no matter where we end up a decade from now, Soldiering on will be the order of the day…

Thanks for taking this journey with us. I hope it’s given some clarity for you.

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Filed under Army, Chaplaincy, Two Pastor Family

First Day

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She was shaking her head, “no.” I really wanted her to say yes, so badly did I want her to say “yes.” But, she didn’t. She didn’t need me to stay. No matter how much I wanted to sit with her, hold her hand, keep her 6 forever, it was not going to happen. She was shaking her head and then said out loud, “no.”

It was time for me to go. It was time for her to grow.

This morning has been coming for months. She’ll be 7 in December. She had to start 1st grade sometime and sometime was this morning.

First grade is different somehow. Kindergarten is a separate issue altogether. When the numbered grades start, the clock starts. Today was 1. In twelve years, it’ll be done.

12 short years.

At breakfast, she was so excited. Anticipation was palpable. She had her new outfit, chosen for the first day of school, new backpack, new shoes, new everything. All I could see was my little one. My little girl I left as an infant on that second deployment. The little toddler I came home to. My oldest. My little that could now read and sing and reason. My pride.

We took pictures and off we went.

The process for this school is that everyone gathers in the school cafeteria and then the teachers take the students off to their assigned classroom. I walked her into the school, down the hallway and into a crowded cafeteria. I expected to hand her off to another adult but its 1st grade and she needed to do this on her own. I shook hands with a teacher who showed her where to sit.

We hugged. I saw a tear in her eye and that’s when mine started to get red. I asked her if she was ok and she said yes. Then I asked her if she wanted me to stay and she smiled, shook her head, and said, “no.”

She didn’t need me to stay.

Walking out, I’m reminded of Milne, “If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”

 

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Filed under General, Two Pastor Family

Confusing hair metaphors

So, my daughter asked me this morning over breakfast:

“Dad, I’m wondering, if God loves you because of all of the hair on your head, how does that work if you are bald? I have a bald friend, (names him) and how does God love him if he has no hair?”

A fair question except my brain is still recovering from  my morning run so I stare at my coffee and she interprets that as needing more information.

“In Awana, it says in the Bible that God loves all of the hair on our heads..”

“Oh right. Well…” I go on to explain the verse and the idea of metaphors. Her response:

“Ok.”

Thankfully, my seminary-trained wife came in for the save. When she explained it, Sophie instantly got it. Go figure.

Oh the joys of explaining things to 6 year olds. #thanksawana

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Filed under Theology, thought of the day

…you know you’re a two pastor family when…

…your wife is serving as the liturgist and midway through the hymn you realize that your two year old is melting down in front of the church and suddenly, the pastor morphs into a mom and you take over the liturgy….

So, there we were. It’s the government shutdown and that means that our organist, who is a government contractor (I know right? go figure) is emphatically NOT working. I wasn’t sure if she wasn’t going to be there but sure enough, on Sunday morning, we get to Memorial Chapel and it’s going to be me and my guitar rocking the old Lutheran Liturgy.

Awesome. 

I had prepared for that. 

About an hour earlier. 

Using a hymnal whose idea of a modern song is Amazing Grace. 

Ever tried to play old German hymns on the guitar? Not cool. 

My dad is about the only person I know who has even tried. Respect. 

But, we dove in. The congregation was totally cool, rolling with the reality that it was going to be a very different service. By the way, not having a big deal since we sing the liturgy. Yup. Every “Lord, have mercy” is sung. Needless to say, suddenly, we were reading it. 

Since a change like this threw their Dad into chaos, my children were not their usual awesomely behaved selves. 

Sara usually functions as the liturgist for our congregation. Normally not a big deal but Lenora, our two year old, was having none. of. it. 

So, there were were, conducting the service and very graciously (and smoothly I might add) transitioned from pastors leading the service to parents concerned with behavior. Sara whisked Lenora to the back and I took over. 

No one even noticed. 

Ok, that’s not true. It was pretty obvious. 

So, one more thing we have to work out. 

Always the parent…

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Kids in Worship.

We’ve got three kids. 5 (going on 12), 4, and just turned 2. It can be tough sometimes finding a church where we fit in. I have a value of my children attending a regular service. There is nothing wrong with kids church, I’m a fan – I just also value our children experiencing the significance of the adult service.
It can be challenging bringing kids to church. I too have not been above appealing to the paint function on an ipad (or that really awkward moment when the theme to “superwhy” that plays whenever the app opens rings out loudly in the middle of the sermon). It’s especially bad in my little church where the historic building has one bathroom that can only be accessed via a door off the main stage. Yeah. That’s right, you have to take your child down the middle aisle, right in front of the pulpit, where I am “breaking sacred bread” in order to let potty-training kiddo use the bathroom. If you listen closely, you can even hear the ancient toilet flush.
Even with all that, I still believe it’s important to bring your kids into the service. I’m a preacher and it does not bother me or phase me, or interrupt my train of though to have kids talking and coloring though the service. I do a kids message before my adult sermon that ties into concepts with the message and (when I remember) I also include a coloring page. None of these will keep a kids still for 20 minutes so if someone cries, they cry. No. Big. Deal.
All that said, I read this article today and thought it had some great ideas for making that transition from kids church to adult church.
Let your child get comfortable in the worship space.

1. Attend a child-friendly church.

A church that invites children to attend worship, that has a children’s time during worship or a service in which children are included, will not mind the noise and commotion that comes with having young children in worship.

2. Bring your child to church on a day other than Sunday morning.

Call the church office and make an appointment with a pastor, Christian education director, or church school teacher. Go on a tour of the church facility, and locate the Sunday school rooms and bathrooms as well as the sanctuary. Let your child explore the sanctuary, see how it feels to sit in the pew, and leaf through the Bibles and hymnbooks. Look behind the pulpit, Communion table, and baptismal font, and explain the use of these.

3. Take home a worship bulletin and go through the service at home.

Show your child that there are times to sit, to stand (and in some places, to kneel), to sing, to pray, and to listen. If the Lord’s Prayer is used, write down the words and let your child practice at home. Prepare offering envelopes and let your child put money in the envelope, and explain why the offering is important.

4. Play “Let’s go to church” at home.

Practicing the worship service at home will help your child feel more comfortable with what happens in worship.

5. Read the Bible and pray at home.

Purchase an age-appropriate Bible for your child and read the stories. Let your child handle the Bible and encourage questions. You can explain that the Bible is where we learn God’s story, and how we are part of that story. If you let prayer be a part of your everyday life, not just something you do at church, your child will understand its importance.

6. Sit near an aisle, near an exit.

If your child needs to go to the bathroom, or is feeling overly stimulated or having a disruptive day, don’t be embarrassed. Walk your child out of the sanctuary until she can work off a little energy, and then come back in. This is much easier if you don’t have to crawl across a row of other people in the pew!

7.  Be prepared with a worship notebook or bag.

Many churches provide materials for children to use during worship, but if not, bring your own supplies. Colored pencils can be used to mark the parts of worship in the bulletin as you go through them one by one. Get to church a few minutes in advance and use a bookmark to mark the hymns that will be sung that day. Have some coloring pages from a Bible coloring book for your child to color, or some blank pages for doodling. This is not disrespectful, and can help your child listen more attentively. Have the words of the Lord’s Prayer printed on a page for the child to follow, if he or she is of reading age. Let your child draw a picture of the anthem or hymns being sung, or the sermon, and give this to the choir director or pastor afterwards.

8. Teach basic church etiquette.

Speak to people before and after worship, and teach your child how to shake hands and greet others. If your child is shy, don’t force it, but practice at home and let your child see you greeting others. Let the child put the hymnbook and Bible away after use, and be sure to take your bulletin with you, rather than leaving it in the pew. Meeting other people and taking care of the church facility helps a child feel that “This is my church!”

9. Get to know the pastor.

Pastors of child-friendly churches love to get to know the children of the church. Introduce your child to the pastor after worship, and participate in other church activities so that the pastor becomes a friend and not a scary adult.

10. Don’t give up!

It may take awhile for your child to become comfortable in worship, and to learn how to sit quietly. The best way for this to happen is to attend worship on a regular basis. There may be days when it doesn’t go well, but don’t let this stop you from coming the following week. Practice makes perfect!
Inspired by Rufus and Ryan Go to Church! by Kathleen Bostrom, illustrated by Rebecca Thornburgh (CandyCane Press, an imprint of Ideals Publications).

Thanks to Ministry Matters

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Filed under Chaplaincy

Space Alliens and Grief

I have busy mornings. Every Soldier does. There is PT, getting ready for the day, coming up with something pithy (thought of the day) for my morning staff meting, and having breakfast with my family. I make the breakfast thing a priority because its important that we all begin the day together and end the day together at dinner.

There is not a great deal of time in that routine for doing other things besides what I have mentioned. When that routine is upset, it can set the day on edge.

This morning, it was a stuffed lion. Lila. Not sure why Sophie named her favorite animal after her cousin but she did and Lila is a presence at our house. Lila comes to dinner. Lila doesn’t like green food. Lila was not impressed with so-and-so at school today. Lila would really like to watch some TV now…

This morning Lila was missing in action. Nowhere to be found. There were tears. Sobs. Snot. The usual grief. I spent some time this morning doing grief counseling with my child. We walked through shock, denial, anger, bargaining and (after giving approximately 55 seconds of my morning to actually look for said stuffed lion) were reaching acceptance through the depression – we stat down for breakfast. There were bites of cheerios and concerns about whether or not Lila had a blanket on her, wherever she was.

That’s when this happened: (I quote from my Facebook)

Sophia was concerned about her stuffed lion that she couldn’t find this morning so Ransom calmly told her it was probably taken by space aliens who have a space ship with a green light that sucks animals into the ship where the aliens get to play with it. Not to worry, the aliens are mostly nice.

… Not. Comforting.

I was all, “Son. Really??” Sobs begin all over again.

Then, the little stinker walks into his and ‘Fia’s room and comes out with Lila after two seconds.

“Where was that Ransom??”

“Oh, she was just under ‘Fia’s pillow.”

Right, of course she was. Why didn’t I think of that. Bad Dad…

I listen all day long. I hear stories all day long. I hear grief all day long. Sometimes, I’m so worn down from all that, I stop hearing what is being said and I assume (or pass judgement) on what is being said based on my circumstances.

“That’s not a big deal.” “I wouldn’t worry about that.” “There are worse things happening in the world. What makes you so different??”

These are not helpful. They are not kind. I don’t mean to be unkind. I certainly do not intend to blow people off but I’m busy and busyness tends to erode pastoral care.

With people, fast is slow and slow is fast.

Today, hear what someone is saying to you. Really listen. Stop. Use eye contact. Present open body language. Listen.

When you want to respond. Don’t. Continue to listen.

It’ll be more helpful than you know.

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March 21, 2013 · 1:51 pm

Children are closer to God.

Sophia: Dad, did your mommy like to sing?
Me: Actually, yes, very much.
Sophia: I wish I could hear her voice.
Me: (Speechless)
Sophia: I think I will hear it in Heaven.
Me: Yes. Yes you will.
Sophia: I think she likes to sing in Heaven.
And just like that, the moment passes. Children are closer to Heaven.

The following story was told to me by my therapist while treating my PTSD. She reflected that one of her clients had told it to her:

“I was going to put my children to bed one night and, while standing in the doorway, I observed my four-year-old talking to my 6 month old infant in her crib. I saw her lean over to the baby and say, “Will you tell me about God, I am forgetting already.”

There is the idea that children come from God. I just tend to think they are closer.

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Filed under Peace, thought of the day

That moment. Of Fear.

It was that moment.

I looked up from mowing the lawn and my three year old son was standing on the side of the road. A busy road. We live on the top end of a blind turn coming up hill. There is no shoulder. My son stood on the sliver of gravel between the blacktop and the overgrown grass by the ditch that runs between the driveway and the blacktop.

I was scared.

I yelled. I hollered over the lawn mower so in reality it was more of a scream. He looked up. I could see the confusion in his eyes.

It has been noted the men use the word “confusion” where there are deeper, more significant, undesirable emotions that want to be said but we are not at a place to say them.

I realized that I was screaming over the mower which was still running. I let go and shouted a warning to my son, “Stay where you are at, don’t move!!” I ran to him. Not realizing until later that I was running down the road in the middle of it between any unsuspecting drivers and my boy. I reached him in seconds that seemed like minutes. Dangerous minutes.

We live down a hill. We have a “back yard” at the bottom of the hill and a “top yard” by the road behind a fence. There is one, unmovable rule about the top yard, you can’t go past the fence. Ever. Never ever. The road is too busy.

I took him by the hand and we walked briskly back down the driveway.

When we got there I knelt down and looked at him. “Son, you can’t go by the road. You just can’t.”

He looked up at me and there were tears. Sudden, immediate, big tears rolling down his little, red cheeks. The angry, scared, hurt cry followed. I hugged him to my chest, tears in my own eyes. I was so scared. So afraid of what might have been. He was scared. Scared of his daddy who had yelled so loud, so angrily.

I held him until he was done crying and my heart was done racing. It took a minute. After trudging through the woods investigating some dragon tracks we found, the relationship was restored and all was well with the world.

Its like that with God sometimes. We experience the Divine yelling, screaming for us to get out of the way. Move. Stop doing what we are doing – because its hurting us and hurting God.

Fear not. All is well. Just get out of the road. Move away from the danger. Let God hold you close. It’ll be ok. All is well.

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Filed under Theology, thought of the day