Monday, January 12, 2015

vicki jo's rules for school

As we left earlier than usual, fought traffic in the rain, and deliverd the kids to their various schools before I headed to start this D. Min. course, I mentioned to Vicki Jo that I was nervous about whether I would do well in this school that was meant to help me do my job better.  She matter-of-factly informed me of the "Five Rules for School" that would be my sure-fire recipe for success.  

1)  Listen to your teacher's words.
2)  Always follow all the rules.
3)  Always do what your teacher tells you to do.
4)  Always help your friends when they need help.
5)  Meet all the new people.

Pretty good, huh!?  I'm gonna follow them for these two weeks and I bet they will be the secret sauce.  

Friday, January 9, 2015


Reading like crazy, trying to get all prepped for the big upcoming two-week D.Min. course.  I came across this awesome quote in Bob Farr's book Renovate or Die:  "As pastors, don't forget your first love is Jesus.  Don't forget your second love is people because Jesus loved people" (22).  May it ever be true!  See you all on the other side.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

the doctor is in!

Okay - not quite yet.  Or not for like three more years.  That is, if I can keep up and finish the program.

It all started back in August.  I received an email from Tom Laney, who is a friend, a pastor, and an administrator at Vanderbilt Divinity School.  He led the fellowship program that funded my final year as a seminarian as a Turner Scholar.  So, I see that I have an email from Tom, and immediately open it, expecting a friendly shout-out.

But I was confused.  As I read down the list of other recipients on this email, I saw about thirty names.  These were the names of very high-profile United Methodist pastors in my area.  District Superintendents, successful church planters, leaders of some of the largest churches in middle Tennessee.  One of these things is not like the other played in the back of my head.

And the message was also perplexing.  It said something along the lines of:  We are so excited to meet with you in Jackson this month, to discuss the opportunity put forward in our previous communication.  Previous communication?  What?  I had seen no previous communication.

So I emailed Tom back right away.  Thank you so much for the inclusion on this illustrious list, but . . . uh . . . I think you have the wrong person?  I'm not even sure what you're talking about?

Tom replied.  He said there was no mistake, except I was somehow left off the original email.  This was an opportunity I wouldn't want to miss, he said.  I needed to make plans to be at this two-day meeting in Jackson at the end of the month.

So I did.

I packed up the kids and my grandmother-in-law and headed to Jackson.  They stopped off at her lake house for the overnight and I went on to Jackson.  (And Todd proceeded to get a horrendous stomach bug that he eventually passed through our entire family. . . cue mega parental guilt.)  When I got there, I gathered in a church classroom with this lovely group of influential people from the Nashville Episcopal Area.  I saw Dr. Meeks, a presence who guides my ministry almost every day.  I saw Tom.  I saw the Bishop.  And I heard about an opportunity that I couldn't possibly deny.

See, the Bishop said, we all know that we are in some kind of trouble.  We will be facing a large-scale retirement as our Baby Boomer pastors age, and we are staring into a leadership vacuum.  Many of you in this room will be forced to take positions for which you are not ready.  That should make you nervous.  This is a chance for you to be better prepared, and to form a cohort of friends that can last throughout your careers.  

(Or something like that - don't quote me.  It's not like I was recording!)

The details ran something like this:  4 two-week sessions over the next two years (January 2015 in Nashville, May 2015 in Memphis, January 2016 in DC, May 2016 in Pulaski); another year to write the final project; graduation May 2017 at the National Cathedral, with the degree of Doctor of Ministry.  The program is through Wesley Theological Seminary.  The focus is on Wesleyan Theology, Mission & Evangelism.  Coursework and reading would be done ahead of the sessions so we could intensively devote each day of the sessions to conversation and teaching from 9 am - 5 pm.  There would be opportunities for worship, fellowship, recreation, and learning in the evenings.  And it would be paid for.

Wait, what!?

Paid for.  Tuition, lodging, food, travel.  Everything but books.  Paid for.  By the generosity and dedication of people who support our church and its leaders.

Paid for.  This kind of program regularly costs people in the tens of thousands of dollars.  It is not something I ever thought I would be able to achieve.

As I looked around the room, letting this information sink in, I saw similarly amazed pastors.  Pastors of all stripes - men and women, black and white, conservative and as liberal as they come.  The only thing we have in common is that we all love our church and look forward to what God will do with us in the future.

We were instructed to go home and pray about it.  Talk it over with our families.  See if our churches would support us in taking this much time for continuing education.  See if we could make it work.

I knew my church would support me in this because they are amazing like that.  Plus, I have the great benefit of not being the solo pastor here, which means I don't have to find someone to preach and cover all my duties for the times I'm gone.  But I was worried about my kids.  Two weeks is a long time to leave a toddler.  I felt lucky in that our first session is here in Nashville, so I wouldn't face being apart from Todd until May of this year.  I talked it over with my mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law.  Would they be able to help me take care of the kids so I could pursue this?  Once again, I'm so lucky to get this kind of unequivocal support for them.  They understand that they are not just helping me, they are helping the church they love when they help me.

So, with some fear and trembling, I pressed "submit" on the application.  I started the reading.  And now our first session is right around the corner!  I am getting more and more thrilled (and more and more bogged down in the reading) as the time nears for us to gather on Monday at Scarritt Bennett.  I have always felt a yearning for further study, but I didn't ever see how it could be possible, what with my kids and my work.  Now, it just seems as if the dream is coming true!  If you are into prayer, would you pray for me?  It's all just a bit stressful, even as exciting as it is.  I could use the good vibes.

Monday, January 5, 2015

menu plan january i

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Happy New Year!  I'm glad to be settling down a bit from all the holiday travels and celebrations.  It's a fun and festive time, but it also makes me feel a little bit stretched.  As a true introvert, lots of small talk and interactions tend to exhaust me.

Also, I'm glad to have a week of semi-normalcy before I dive into two weeks of intense study to start my Doctor of Ministry program!  I promise a full post on this later this week, so I can explain the details.

Some notes:  we literally always have one of two things for breakfast if we are at home.

1)  -- scrambled eggs from our Mennonite hens
     -- homemade sourdough toast/English muffins/biscuits
     -- raw butter we have been making from our Mennonite cow cream
     -- local raw honey or homemade preserves
     -- seasonal fruit from our CSA or satsumas (in the winter)

2) -- pancakes
    -- raw butter
    -- real maple syrup
    -- seasonal fruit

Vicki usually requests #2.  If we have time, I'm happy to oblige.  If I do any sourdough baking, though, we will use the excess starter to have sourdough pancakes.

Since it is so monotonous, I'm not going to put breakfast on the menu plan.

For drinks, we always have raw milk on hand.  We also drink Berkey filtered water, kombucha, or homemade soda from our ginger bug.  I would love to start messing with water kefir soon.

Finally, I try to make one dessert-ish item that we nibble on all week for snacks and desserts.  I made this cranberry upside down cake (with some substitutions) for Family Dinner last night and we have been enjoying it at home, too.

So, here's the menu for this week.  We have been enjoying the heck out of the half-hog purchase we made, and I'm getting excited to try to make a country-style pate out of the liver soon.

-- lunch:  roast chicken, roasted acorn squash and brussels sprouts with a sorghum/cider vinegar glaze, mashed potatoes, pickled beets, and bread
-- supper:  Family Dinner!  We had spinach-artichoke dip, chips, a skillet ravioli lasagna, salad, and afore-mentioned cranberry upside down cake.

-- breakfast:  don't tell!  We had leftover cake with homemade yogurt for breakfast.  :)
-- lunch:  going out with an old friend who's visiting from Detroit.  (Hi Julie!)
-- supper:  black-eyed peas with ham hocks, chow-chow, stewed kale

-- lunch:  egg salad on sourdough toast, cranberry sauce, kombucha
-- supper:  shepherd's pie with sweet potato topping

-- lunch:  leftover acorn squash soup, sourdough toast, cheese, cranberry sauce, kombucha
-- supper:  clam chowder, sourdough rolls, apple slices

-- lunch:  leftover chowder, sourdough toast, cranberry sauce, kombucha
-- supper:  soy-sesame pork chops, Asian-style slaw of cabbage, green onions, and carrots, rice

-- lunch:  leftovers
-- supper:  margherita pizza with homemade mozzarella, assorted pickles (beets, cucumbers, carrots)

-- lunch:  grilled cheese on sourdough, pickles, apples
-- supper:  roast chicken, green beans, roast turnips, sourdough rolls

Have the week you have, my friends.

[This post submitted to Menu Plan Monday 1/5/15, Fat Tuesday 1/6/15, Real Food Wednesday 1/7/15, Pennywise Platter 1/8/15, and the HomeAcre Hop 1/8/15.]

Friday, January 2, 2015

vicki jo: 3 years and 9 months

Oh where, oh where has my baby girl gone!? 

It seems as if she is just getting older by the second.  She is such a bright, spirited, articulate little child.  My time with her is always challenging and always rewarding.  Here is what she has been into the last month.

She loves coming to church and "preaching" from the Bible that sits outside the Sanctuary.  This is completely unprompted by me and I think it is the most thrilling thing ever.

Enjoying an unseasonably sunny day at her favorite neighborhood ice cream shop.

She loves stopping at this tree in a neighbor's yard, where they have planted a "help yourself" herb garden.  She always samples the parsley and rosemary.

Depositing some of her Christmas money in her bank account.  She is up to $34!

She and Rocky the cat enjoy sleeping on top of one another.

Hanging with her bubba and watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on the iPad.  (Sidenote:  It is positively creepy how intuitive Apple products are for children.  I swear this child came out of my womb knowing how to use an iPhone.  She just picked up the iPad, swiped it, asked me for my security code, and was off the races.  Scary.)