Thursday, July 28, 2011

Endings are Hard

As I end internship, it feels a bit impossible. Like a final page turning on a chapter that I keep wanting to read. At the same time, I'm so curious as to what comes next. What does that next chapter hold?

This chapter - internship in Billings, MT - has been a beautiful one. Some very low moments where I was quite literally on my knees with my head in my hands wondering how I could feel so lonely to some very amazing moments when one of the people on my committee told me that I will redefine what it means to be a pastor. I've been richly blessed with many people who have cared for me in big and small ways and some beautiful country to enrich my soul.

As I was saying goodbye to some parishioners the other day, I was reflecting on the four year seminary process. One man looked at me and said, "Yeah, I bet internship is the easiest year, isn't it?" I could only smile and shake my head no. "Easy? No... Good? Yes." It's been a difficult road but the view from here is fantastic...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Birthday Party - Internship Style

Yesterday was my birthday. To celebrate, a friend threw me a Skype birthday party. Coordinating it was a hoot, at one point we had one person in every time zone in the continental United States. It was possibly one of the best birthday parties I have ever had. Sitting alone on my couch, in a city that still feels a little foreign even after eleven months; suddenly my living room was filled with many of the people I love the most. It was not as good as having my friends with me in the flesh, but given the circumstances it was really the next best thing.

I am so grateful to be doing internship in a time where Skype exists. There is just something so wonderful about seeing someone’s face when you speak with them. Email is great, phone calls are great, my classmates’ dedication to cards and letters reminds me of the gift of the post office, but there’s just something about seeing someone’s face. The twinkle in their eyes, the lift of their brow. The way the laughter builds when several of us are together. Thanks friends, for a great Skype birthday. I wouldn’t have rather celebrated any other way.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Let's be honest.  CPE is hard.  Not as horrible as the middlers made it sound (no offense, friends), but it is hard. 

I realized yesterday that I'm starting to feel pretty tired from the summer.  This seems alright, since I only have two weeks of CPE left, the last of which will be spent doing evaluations and such.  So, I esentially have one week of CPE left.  It's been nine weeks of non-stop chaplaincy.  On an average day, I document that I've had conversations with over thirty people.  That's not including the many brief conversations that I don't document.  It also feels rather simple to write just the room number, patient's name, some code to describe our "pastoral care" and how much time we spent with them.  It looks like this:

215  Joe Smith  3  60mins

What that doesn't tell you is that I was with Joe Smith for 60 minutes because of a death.  His death.  It doesn't describe the tears that I've shed while trying to rub Joe's daughter's back or the way that my head just feels heavy.  It doesn't describe trying to figure out what words in the English language can possibly convey the pain that I'm feeling with Joe's loved ones. 

This has been the hardest part of CPE for me: the after-math.  I am fully present with a patient and the family, but I return to the office and try to get my head around the fact that I just watched a person die.  I wish had some profound thoughts on this, since it may just seem like I'm storing up my "CPE is horrendous!" stories for the incoming juniors at LSTC.  I'll just keep watching the sunsets of people's lives and wondering how to understand the way the colors all blend together to make Joe who he is, as his daughters gather around him.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Pastoral Blues

Sometimes, late on a Saturday night (or really, at any random moment in the week), there is a sense or a feeling of, "I don't want to do this pastor thing!" There's the exhaustion of dealing with a printer that doesn't print, a life crisis in someone's life, and all the little things that go into being a pastor 24/7.
I tried composing a list of all the random hats I've worn as an intern pastor this year. There's barista, copy technician, writer, plumber, accountant, babysitter, nurse, emcee, chef...

So when Saturday night rolls around and I am weary one, a Sunday off sounds really nice.

But then I catch the first glimpse of a parishioner coming in on Sunday morning, and the sun is still creeping up, and the coffee is brewing.... And for whatever reason, that seems to be the cure the "pastoral blues" that accumulate without reason.

Which makes sense. Because it's the people that make ministry worth it in the end. A gathering of the children of God. And tomorrow, we get to celebrate four new members joining us. Worthy of celebration, right? Just have to get through the Saturday pastoral blues first...

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Seven weeks down, with four weeks to go of CPE.  Whaaaaat?

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is roughly 64% completed today.  I love rounds.  I love chaplaincy.  I love it more than I thought I could.  Now, let me be clear that it's not always easy to knock on a random door and introduce myself.  I brace myself for what ailment the patient could be experiencing.  I prepare myself for what emotions the family members need to share.  I reflect on human suffering.  I try to strike the perfect balance of being bold, but also being invited in to take a seat and listen.  All of this, of course, could be done around oxygen masks, fluid pumpers (that's what I call these corded things that remove fluid from patients' legs), or any number of other pieces of medical equipment.  Oh!  And did I mention the trick of being in the room or getting out of the room, depending which you would prefer, when a nurse or doctor comes in?  Oh!  And explaining to a bunch of strangers what a chaplain is, what you're not always sure yourself?  Not to mention the number of times where people feel the need to critique me on my choice of profession, since not everyone is "comfortable" with women in ministry, my nose piercing (since I should "really consider my ability to minister to people with that hole in [my] face"), and the fact that I'm not married.  Even if I learn nothing about ministering to the sick and dying, which I have, I have learned that clergy get plenty of unsolicited opinions from patients, which are my parishioners right now.  

All of this craziness has made for some moments where I want to rip my hair out, but by and large, I'm loving this whole ministry thing.  Also, the title for this blog post comes from a local who asked where one of my co-chaplains is from.  When he responded Illinois, the gentleman responded, "Illi-whaaaat?"  I hope that made your day, as it has mine. 

This is a picture of one of my multicultural adventures here in Ruff'ton.  A demolition derby.  It was a great success.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Support Structure

As I was griping about the upcoming loss of my wonderful support system here, my counselor (being so wonderful) reframed it. She said that this support structure will not disappear. It will remain. And I will return to another support structure in Chicago. And when I begin my first call, I will develop a new support structure. These structures do not crumble. They are merely supportive in another way when I am no longer here.

I am not losing my support structure, I have simply gained more support. When I need it, I can turn to it. But I also trust that wherever I go, God will provide all the support I need. Looking back on every time I have moved, the people I needed have been there. Without fail. And as hard as that makes it to leave one place, there is a calm assurance that I will have support and love and care and prayer wherever I go.

Thanks be to God...

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The bittersweet in between

Most are describing this last month of internship as bittersweet. It seems fitting. After one spends an entire year loving people and doing ministry with them, it isn't easy to pack up and say goodbye. And yet, the pulls to leave are strong. For most of us, internship is not our ideal ministry setting. We are longing to return and discuss the experience with our fellow interns. We are longing to have absolutely no where we have to be for a month of Sundays. We are longing to experience the bliss of not one but FOUR services in the chapel led for us (and sometimes by us).

So we want to leave and we want to stay. Welcome to the last month of internship. I'm trying to comfort myself in trusting that God's plan is great and in many cases, I will come across these people that I love again. The Lutheran world is quite small, after all. As a matter of fact, a good friend here is best friends with a woman I hope to meet in Chicago whom several of my good friends know already. (*Starts humming "It's a Small World"*)

So as the bittersweet continues to linger, I am packing and making some intentional plans to celebrate my time here. And, ya know, doing a funeral today, preaching and leading worship tomorrow, continuing my bible study on the parables...