Category Archives: Spirited Action

FAILURE AS AN UNDERLYING NARRATIVE by Christa Fisher, 3rd year M.Div. Student

“Your son is at a high risk for failure.” The school principal’s words settled on my chest like a leaden mantle. Unprepared for this phone call, I stammered a confused response. “What? Why? You must be mistaken.” My three-year old son was sitting at the kitchen island coloring, his small fingers gripping a fat red crayon. The principal assured me the call was not an error – she was speaking about my son, about Jacob. A week prior Jacob had participated in a 60-minute early-childhood education readiness assessment and according to the principal, Jacob’s test results warranted the phone call.

In the days following the call I was consumed with the need to understand how Jacob could be at a “high-risk for failure.” After Jacob was born I left my career to stay home and care for him. Needing order and predictability in my life, I created a schedule of activities to fill our days. We attended play groups, visited museums, hiked in the woods, baked cookies, made blanket forts, painted self-portraits, learned the alphabet, numbers, shapes and colors, and spent hours upon hours reading. As Jacob became older and craved more time with other children I enrolled him in a highly respected preschool program. His preschool teachers were perplexed by the school district’s assessment. Not only was Jacob doing fine in preschool, they assured me his skills were age appropriate, he came from a safe, loving home, with two devoted parents, who were both college educated. I shared my confusion with a neighbor, a professor of early childhood education. According to her, there was nothing about Jacob which suggested he was at a “high risk for failure.” My husband and I did not enroll Jacob in the specialized program the school district had created for “kids like him.” Instead, we continued to do what we were already doing and hoped this label would not follow him into kindergarten.

After much thought I deduced the school district’s assessment was colored by racism. You see, Jacob is biracial. My husband is black and I am white.

I should not have been surprised by the school district’s assumptions about Jacob. I grew up in a community of people who showcased their racism with pride and am therefore keenly aware of the assumptions we white people make about people of color. As a young mother I worked hard to ensure people had no reason to make such assumptions about our family.  As I focused on maintaining our image, however, I worried my efforts to shield my children from racism were actually depriving them the opportunity to claim their true character. I also worried that my actions were born, at some level, out of my own racism.

My mother-in-law once told me that by marrying her son I was black by association. At the time I didn’t take her seriously. Andre, my soon to be husband, and I were in our early 20’s and living in Berkeley, California. As a biracial couple in the San Francisco Bay Area we were in the norm. Surrounded by the appearance of racial unity I speculated within a generation or two racism would cease to exist. It was easy for me to be so hopeful. I had not yet experienced racism.

When Andre and I moved to Wisconsin I became acutely aware of the differences between the ways people treated us as compared to my previous relationships with white men. When the waitress escorted Andre to one table and me to another, we pitied her for her ignorance. When the mechanic refused to service our vehicle, we moved our business elsewhere. When Andre was defamed at work and offered no recourse, we swallowed our anger and bemoaned small town life. But when our children were born we could no longer simply joke about ignorant behaviors or tolerate inequality at work. Our precious children deserve better than that.

Shortly after Jacob started kindergarten we began receiving notes from his teacher, all assuming parental incompetence. In addition to urging us to read to Jacob for “just 5 minutes each night,” we were also cautioned to limit Jacob’s exposure to television, and to provide him a healthy diet, among other things. Though she did not know us, the teacher assumed our parenting skills were inadequate.

I met with the school principal to discuss the notes, which she quickly dismissed. The teacher was acting out of concern, the principal insisted, and I was over-reacting. In retrospect I should not have expected her to understand – she was the one who informed us Jacob was at a “high risk for failure.” Unprepared to fight this battle, we chose to ignore the teacher’s notes and continue parenting Jacob as we always had.

Andre and I are now more proactive regarding our children’s educations. At the start of the year we meet each of our children’s teachers to tell our story, beginning in the Bay Area where we received our educations and continuing to our present situation in Madison, Wisconsin. By the time we finish, the teachers know us well enough to refrain from applying stereotypical ideologies to our children or making uninformed assumptions about us as parents. Thankfully, both of our children are thriving in school – academically and socially.

Though I am concerned our children will suffer for having a white mother, I recognize that my race can work to their advantage. We are welcomed into places and conversations and afforded greater choices and opportunities due to my whiteness. Teachers and doctors, people who hold critical information, are generally more comfortable communicating with me than with my black husband. I am the primary driver in our family and do not fear racial profiling on the road. As long as our children are with me, I do not worry they will be attacked, physically or verbally.

Yet my whiteness will only benefit our children as long as they are dependent upon and near me. Eventually they will be functionally independent. Then when people look at Jacob with suspicion, whether a police officer, a college professor, or a vigilante citizen, Jacob will have to fend for himself. Under great pressure and amidst intense emotions, Jacob will be responsible for diffusing their anger by demonstrating that he does not warrant fear and is someone worth befriending rather than attacking.

While I still disagree with the school district’s assessment of Jacob, I now recognize a truth in their conclusion. Jacob is at a “high risk for failure” though not for anything he or we have done or failed to do. Jacob will likely experience failure in his life – we all do. Unlike Jacob’s white peers, however, his failure will be inseparable from an underlying narrative of antagonistic racial bias. This insidious evil, which began sabotaging Jacob’s potential before he could even write his entire name, will never just disappear. It is embedded in our institutions and communities, increasing peoples’ risk of failure by limiting their opportunities and choices. Racism, the underlying cause of racial disparities in incarceration, unemployment, poverty, and serious health conditions, justifies racial profiling and minimizes hate crimes. Whether or not Jacob recognizes it, he is in an abusive relationship with racism, from which there is no escape. Unprepared to battle this exhausting, humiliating, and dangerous intruder, we can only hope we are providing him the skills he needs to manage this relationship, so it is unable to consume his life, robbing him his true character and potential and ultimately rendering him a failure.

THE PERSISTENT VOICE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT By Jean Peterson, WTS Archives Volunteer

I give my daily thanks for those special saints in my life, remembering mostly those living, but also those who have gone before us throughout all generations.

I gave thanks:
“For all the Saints who from their labors rest,
“For saints still living
By whom our lives are blest,
Alleluia!”

How grateful I am to those mentors who have encouraged, healed, and inspired me throughout my lifetime!   These include one who taught John Bowlby’s theory of Attachment. There was a time when I thought that my vulnerability was a cause for shame and rejection, but this professor taught that attachment relationships of trust with living mentors are a human universal need.

From several living mentors I respect highly, I have learned that they, too, have been influenced by other saints in their lives. From reading assignments and continued research into the lives of the earlier generations, I find that the “human universal” that emerges is that all of us, not only in the present, but throughout the years past, have had attachments to, or been influenced by other saints or mentors who have inspired, encouraged, or motivated us. Some of these were family members, but nearly all people name at least one or two non-family members – teachers, professors, or pastors—by whom they were influenced.   Wilhelm Loehe and Martin Luther also had mentors by whom their lives and service were guided.   Even the disciples of Jesus were greatly influenced by other living human beings (Jesus himself) in the direction of their lives.

Insight: Those who inspired those who came before us, those now living who have inspired us, and those whose lives we affect (knowingly or not) of generations still to come are all vessels of the Holy Spirit, reaching all the way back throughout all generations, to the Day of Pentecost, and forward until the end of Creation. This is the “Persistent Voice” of the Holy Spirit who works through trusted relationships and attachments with kin, mentors and contemporaries we have all encountered throughout our lives, who have carried the message of the Word of Scripture throughout all generations!

We may not know individually what seeds we have sown, but gratefully, the Holy Spirit still uses us to carry, and plant, the seeds of the Word and healing and caring and support to others.

THRESHOLD OF LIVING By Tami Groth, final year MA Diaconal Ministry

Standing in front of the strips of paper I read the directions again: write the names of the saints in your life. The names of the saints that have died and gone before us on the white paper. Use the strips of colored paper to write the names of the saints in your life that are still with us. I began writing.

I wanted it to be something I did quickly before the next thing on my growing “to-do” list that day. I could not. Here in the space between Chapel and the refectory, and on my hurried way to the library, this request moved me outside of the carefully accounted for and scheduled moments of my day. I lost track of the slips. Name after name. Moment after moment.

I put down the marker, and held time still with my breath as I remembered standing in deafening silence surrounded by life and yet alone with death — unable to move out of the between and back into time.

I am standing in front of her fresh grave. We buried her exactly a week after I birthed her still body. In all respects it was a glorious sunny mild November day. I was told later that an eagle flew overhead right as the silence fell. The silence that deepened my numbness.

The moments I had not been able to imagine had come to pass  — the awful processional out into the world Emily wouldn’t know. First she was carried by her father in that tiny casket step-by-step down the church aisle, then the drive to the cemetery. We survived watching that tiny pink casket go into the ground next to her great-grandparents. We listened numbly to prayers.

In the first second of quiet we put single roses on top of that casket before it was1117_close buried in earth. Emily’s older sister, Megan, gave me the gift of being her 4-year-old self when nobody could convince her to give up the rose she was holding. In that moment I wanted to take her and gather her in my arms and twirl her around and around until we were both dizzy. I wanted to be in her moment of joy in the beauty of the rose.

Instead I continued to stare at her sister’s fresh grave–the still green grass, the black dirt, and pink. An eternity of quiet; holding my breath on the threshold of living into a reality of “forever changed.”

Just mere hours ago I had been encouraging the stream of people entering the church to look at her: “she’s so beautiful.” My heart ached to hold onto that beauty like a 4-year-old with her hands on a rose stem.

“I can’t do this anymore” I said not realizing my thoughts had broken the silence.

“Then don’t,” my mom said as she took my arm and gently guided me across that threshold.

I wiped my wet eyes and gulped in deep breaths of fresh air as I made my way from one Wartburg building to the next attempting to return to place and time — 13 years of living later — on my way to the library and the life of to-do lists. A glance at my watch claimed the moments connected in minutes.

The next week in chapel names were read, candles were lit, Gospel was spoken, and those slips of paper — white and colored — hung together in sunlit windows and air stirred them as if with the dance of eternal life.

HOLD HIM CLOSE; HOLD HIM LIGHTLY & EUCHARIST MEANS THANKSGIVING by Ralph F. Smith, former WTS Professor

Rev. Ralph SmithThe following are excerpts from Ralph Smith’s two final homilies. Dr. Smith was Professor of Liturgics and Dean of the Chapel for ten years (1984-1994), a pastor, teacher and hymn writer. This November, twenty years after his death, the Wartburg Seminary community is actively remembering Ralph Smith and the important and lasting impact he has had on this community.


Homily Wartburg Chapel, Oct 26, 1994 [Text: Luke l0:38-42]

Hold Him Close, Hold Him Lightly

“My good friend in graduate school and liturgical study, Paul Nelson, may be dying. My daughter had a baby three weeks ago and made me a grandfather a bit earlier in my life than I expected. These two seemingly unrelated incidents prompted my remembering words spoken to me years ago during a health issue of my own, ‘Ralph, you need to understand that we do not have all the time in the world’. . .

We do not have, you or I, all the time in the world. Neither did Mary nor Martha, nor even Jesus. . . Yet no matter how much our head and our heart tell us that we do not have all the time in the world . . .

to write that letter of thanks,

to take that meal to an ill friend,

to clean up the environment,

to finish those few important projects

to tell spouse, children, parents, friends that we love them, and show it,

No matter how much our head and our heart tell us that we do not have all the time in the world . . .

to spend a quiet moment with someone dear to us,

to sing a song,

to pray a prayer,

to gaze at the glowing embers of a fire,

to see the sun rise and set,

to listen to the cry of someone in need,

to ask for strength and courage to face an uncertain future.

No matter how much our head and our heart tell us that we do not have all the time in the world . . . we so often live as though we do. Now that could be the most oppressive and debilitating word I could possibly speak to you today . . .

Ah, but you see, in Luke’s and our post-resurrection perspective it is already too late . . . and it is never too late.

We do not have all the time in the world, but we do have time.

When I lamented not knowing how to react to my grandson, Norma Everist wisely advised me to hold him close and to hold him lightly. It was a liberating word, without sentimentality, and it frees me to do both. To not be distracted . . . one thing is needful . . .

Hold Jesus close, and hold him lightly.

We are invited to love Jesus, but we cannot possess him. Luke understood that… so did Mary… so did Martha… so do you.”


Homily Wartburg Seminary Chapel November 21, Monday morning of Thanksgiving Week. [Text: Luke 15:1-10]
Eucharist Means Thanksgiving
The homily was on the missing sheep and coin, on being lost or found, on cause for rejoicing and thanksgiving. After his death four days later, the Bible on his office desk remained open to the Luke text along with his notes for the service. Here is the conclusion to his homily:

“There are only a few days of classes left until the Thanksgiving holiday. It is a week for Thanksgiving, for celebrations; and even in the midst of sorrow of those alone, separated from family and friends there is still thanksgiving for what the missing relationships have meant.

Thanksgiving is the heart of the Christian gathering; eucharist means thanksgiving . . . Paul said in Colossians, ‘Keep you roots deep in Jesus, build your lives on him, become stronger in your faith, and be filled with Thanksgiving.’”

 


Read more about Rev. Dr. Ralph F. Smith, as shared by the Wartburg Seminary community

 

 

TWO WORLDS: A DIALOG BETWEEN ANN WALSVIK AND JULANE NEASE, Final Year M.Div. Students

Julane Nease and Ann Walsvik

Julane Nease and Ann Walsvik

In the following dialogue, conducted through an ongoing email exchange, Julane and Ann, who began seminary in the  WTS Distributed Learning program, reflect on the reality of living in “two worlds” during  their final seminary year while living on campus during the week and commuting home to family on weekends.

________________________________________
Sent: Tuesday, October 07, 2014 8:02 AM
Subject: Journal with ears
Good morning,

Ann, I’m thinking about this conversation as a sort of ‘journal with ears.’ This year on campus is a new exciting opportunity, but also poses some real challenges for us both. We’ve talked plenty about being a two-legged stool: one leg in seminary, the other home with our families. When I’m here I’m thinking about there; when I’m there, I’m thinking about here. By writing things down, we can sort through thoughts and emotions, pulling together random strings of feelings and ramblings, and because we have the chance to “listen” and respond, it’s like a journal with ears.

How was your weekend? I was ill for the first time this semester. I must say, I was glad I was home. I kept thinking how glad I was to be in my own bed feeling bad, rather than in my little dorm bed. Something sweet: My son even made me a cup of tea yesterday morning, and brought it to me in bed. I’m sure that if I’d been on campus, people would have looked in on me, checked up on me, but it isn’t the same as being home, is it?

Hope your day is good–hoping to be there tomorrow.

Peace,

Julane
________________________________________
Sent: Wednesday, October 08, 2014 9:34 PM
Subject: RE: Journal with ears
Hi Julane,

Sorry I wasn’t able to reply yesterday. It was a busy day for me. I am sad you are sick and cannot imagine how difficult that is not being here for classes. There is something about being home when you are sick! What a thoughtful gesture from your son.

Although I can relate to your metaphor of the two-legged stool, I have a rather different experience in many ways. I tend to put myself so much into what I am doing in the moment, that I can tend to put off or let the “other” fall by the wayside. I can be so caught up in my life at home that I do not get any school work done, even though, I plan to do some. When I am at Wartburg, I can lose track of the schedule my son has at home and struggle to keep in contact and even know what is going on in his life.

The travel time between is actually a blessing and is something that I find helps

Road

Photo by Tanner Howard, Final Year M.Div. Student

with the transition between the two. When I come on Sundays after 6 pm, I have had the pleasure of listening to NPR’s “Simply Folk” and have found that to be very enjoyable, lighthearted and thought provoking. The song you played in Spiritual Practices today reminded me of the music I hear during those times.

Sometimes I feel like a split personality – I love being home and I love being at Wartburg. I guess we have other areas of our lives about which we can say the same. How about you?

Luke went to Homecoming and I did the Mom thing and took all kinds of pictures with all the other Moms and Dads. We celebrated Luke’s 15th birthday with my family and it was nice. It has been awhile since we have gathered together.

It is a pleasure to host people in our homes, isn’t it? I enjoy visitors in my dorm room too. I bet others enjoy the same! Maybe I will go knocking on some doors tomorrow….

Sleep well. Peace,

Ann

________________________________________
Sent: Tuesday, October 14, 2014 9:18 PM
Subject: RE: Journal with ears
Hello Julane,

I have been wondering if Jesus ever felt like he was a part of two worlds. Are we always while human a part of two worlds and then we divide them up even further?

I have had several emails from high school teachers in the last two days and that takes me out of my reverie of study and moves me into the role of parent and the feeling that I am not being as present as I would like with my son. I am thankful for email as an option for being in contact with teachers. It is typically easier to receive a response via email than a phone call nowadays.

Wartburg Seminary

Photo by Tanner Howard, Final Year M.Div. Student

How is it going for you at home this Reading and Research week? I am thankful I am here on campus, but still finding it a struggle to stay focused on my studies. There are some fun things happening here, all done in a more relaxed atmosphere.

Still balancing the two-legged stool.

Shalom,

Ann

________________________________________
Sent: Thursday, October 16, 2014 11:32 AM
Subject: RE: Journal with ears
Ann,

Yes, Jesus must have felt conflicted often. The story of the raising of Lazarus always moves me. “Lord if only you would have come sooner our brother would not have died”– what a pull; what a conflict! I could so relate to that moment! How often I’ve felt pulled in ten directions at once! Being wife, mother, student, neighbor, daughter, sister, and friend, and feeling like I’m doing none of them well! And this year doing it all from a distance, over the phone or in an email.

Tim and I had our 29th wedding anniversary on Sunday. I arrived home from WTS on Sunday afternoon and we had a quiet dinner out, just the two of us. The fall I started at Wartburg we had our 25th anniversary, and when we were married Tim had no idea he would be marrying a pastor. I am grateful and count my blessings every day that he is supportive of me, my call and this crazy process. It may not be so for everyone.

fallleavesMy time at home this week is good, but being productive is tough. There are things to do: doctor’s, dentist’s, and hair appointments, housework and time with my family–all important, but the academic work won’t take care of itself. I feel tempted to return to Dubuque early so I can get more done, but feel guilty that I will be leaving home. I think this sounds like whining. I don’t mean to be. It’s the reality of the dual world existence I’m living in right now.

Peace to you, Ann, in your motherhood and call to ministry existing side-by-side
Julane

________________________________________
Sent: Thursday, October 23, 2014 12:42 AM
Subject: RE: Journal with ears
Julane,

I wanted to build on our face-to-face conversation of the other day about those special moments. Moments we often take for granted, but because we are away, we see them more vividly than before. Moments like I had watching my son Luke run cross country in a conference meet on junior varsity. I recorded him coming into the final shoot, neck and neck with a friend of his. He said he wanted to push his friend to run faster, but Luke was hoping to beat him. Luke lost by .01 of a second. Even though he wasn’t happy about coming in behind his friend, he felt he had a hand in his friend’s good race. His friend came in 2 minutes faster than he ever had the entire season. Now that’s a win, win! I was so thankful that I had taped him. Special moment that I will remember for quite awhile.

How about you?

I wish to offer you a heartfelt thanks for being my family tonight as we shared our joy, trepidation, relief and affirmation upon receiving our faculty approval language. It meant so much that we could share that together. God is good and always before us.

Shalom,
Ann

________________________________________
Sent: Thursday, October 23, 2014 01:22 AM
Subject: RE: Journal with ears

Dear Ann, what a night–what a journey! So proud that we’ve walked together all these years. I am so blessed by your friendship and presence in my life!!

How thrilling that you were able to be home and present at Luke’s race. I know that if you hadn’t been there, it would have been fine, but the fact that you were there to have that shared experience has produced a powerful memory. Thanks for sharing it with me.

It was nice to be home last week, and while I had so much to do and was trying to bounce back from the crud that had invaded my body, I still had some “moments”, too. Andrew has really stepped up at home while I’m gone with doing cooking and shopping. He wanted to try making a dish that I have made for them 500 times! He asked for my help. I did help, and it was so special. At one point I felt overwhelmed by it. We were there together, he’s all grown up and I was passing on to him this dish that my family loves. Food produces powerful memories. So there we were side-by-side, past, future and present coming together in perfect synchronicity–ah…

So, today with the thoughts of conversations and approval language still filling the space in my brain, I head home–you, too! And I’ll drive and think, and enjoy the beauty of the trees and the solitude of my car. Tonight I’ll sit at the family table and eat with my family, talk, catch-up, and then as I go to bed, Wartburg will be on my mind. The two-legged stool will be wobbling again in these two worlds. But that’s the way it is, for now. It’s a challenge–but I’m blessed. This is my reality. I love my family and home, I love this place and the faculty and friends who are such a part of my life, and the solitariness of my dorm room that is my own, for now. The Holy Spirit is at work in ways we cannot begin to comprehend.

Love and peace to you today, Ann, and in your time at home.

Peace,
Julane

BEFORE GLASS CEILINGS By Susan Anderson, 1st year M.Div. Distributed Learning Student

How far the Lutheran church has come and how far we have yet to go! Not quite 50 years ago I was entering college for the first time. I was not sure where God was leading me. I felt called to enter the pastoral ministry, but the Lutheran church, like most other denominations, was not yet ordaining women. I talked with my pastor, but, as a traditional conservative minister, he did not encourage me. He directed me toward the occupations he thought more appropriate for women, but they did not appeal to me. As a young woman with an intellectual bent, I wanted to study theology and serve as a leader in the church. I saw young men in my congregation preparing to enter the pastoral ministry and wondered what it was that they possessed but I lacked.

I entered Wartburg College, which had a strong pre-seminary program. I wanted to take theology courses, but my advisor would not approve and suggested that I enroll in the social work or education curriculum instead. But that was not what I wanted. After exploring several possible majors as diverse as German and biology, I eventually ended up with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and went on to graduate school to earn a Ph.D. in psychology.

You might ask why, if I felt such a strong calling to ministry, I did not pursue it anyway. Surely there were roles I could have played in the church that I would have found fulfilling. To understand my response, it’s important to be aware of the mindset of the times. I grew up in a conservative Midwestern town, in a conservative home, a conservative church. The women’s liberation movement was barely beginning when I entered high school and it would be many years before we would feel much effect from it in small town America. Young women, especially those raised in church-going families, were taught to respect authority, not to question the status quo. We didn’t have role models to follow who were breaking down barriers. We were expected to become wives and mothers. If we had to work, we could be a secretary, a nurse, or a teacher. So pursuing pastoral ministry was just not an option.

During my four years of college I gradually became more and more disillusioned by the church.   Attending a church college, there were religion courses that I was required to take. These were taught entirely by males, many of them ordained ministers. And what I heard learned from these professors was disappointing. Women were not encouraged to become involved in leadership roles; it wasn’t proper. The rhetoric was sexist and misogynistic. I quit going to the campus church and went to an off-campus church. The rhetoric was the same, just less intellectual. So I quit going to church entirely for a number of years. I graduated from college in 1970, the same year that the Lutheran church approved the ordination of women. But I no longer cared.

A number of years later I found my way back to the Lutheran church. I had been feeling that something was lacking in my life, but I still wasn’t sure that I could be comfortable in a church that was strongly dominated by males. A few years later, my congregation called a younger minister who was fairly progressive. Through conversations with him, my faith in God was gradually restored only to be nearly destroyed again later by an older, domineering and manipulative male minister. But the embers were not totally put out and my faith has slowly been rekindled and grown stronger. It is a far different faith than I had in high school, scarred and battered, but more resilient. My beliefs are not so tied to conservative church dogma. I focus on loving God and loving my neighbor. And once again, I feel called to serve. I am not yet sure where that call will take me, but I find that I have come full circle. I am enrolled once again at Wartburg, the seminary this time rather than the college, and I am finally getting to take those theology courses that I was interested in so long ago. My goal of obtaining an M.Div. degree and becoming ordained seems possible after all, God willing.

How far the church has come in the last 50 years! The seminary is no longer a closed male society. There are female faculty and about half the seminarians are female. Many females serve in pastoral ministry. But the leadership at the synod level and above is still predominantly male. The election of Elizabeth Eaton as presiding bishop of the ELCA last year marks another milestone in opening the church to women. The church is changing.

I welcome the fresh breezes blowing in the church. I pray that new generations of young people will be encouraged to find a place in the church where they can use their talents to lead and serve regardless of gender or other artificial barriers. “Come, Holy Spirit.”

GOOD-BYE AND HELLO – TRUSTING GOD’S CALL By Michelle Kanzaki, Final Year M.Div.

Yes this is about my call and how God uses us in strange and unique ways.  I am not the typical seminary student. I am a 3rd or 4th career seminarian (depending on whose counting). I am old enough to be the grandmother of a 21-year-old and young enough to be the grandmother of children 4 and 6 years old. Since the beginning of this journey I knew the day would come when I would have to leave the safety of my home community. The place where I was born, grew-up, worked, had a child, enjoyed sisters and a brother, as well as cousins, aunts, uncles, and of course friends. I think you get the picture. This is the place where at my age, I thought I might finish my life, but God has other plans for me. Beautiful plans, glorious plans, but these plans were not chosen by me. Yet I am excited and delighted to look forward to new adventures and following God’s will for my life.

Yet at the same time, it is with a heavy heart I say “so long” to all those I love. It is not good-bye because you will always be treasured by me. We can still communicate via cell phones, skype, e-mails, letters, cards and in so many other ways. I can come back and visit and better still, you can come and visit me. Yes indeed, that would make my new home more like my old home. You know that in my warped sense of thinking I always thought that my daughter (my only child) would be the one to move away. And, had this been the case, although, it would have been hard for me, it would have been the natural order of things. But, no, God is sending me away from my child. Granted, if she is old enough to be the mother of a 21-year-old and a four and a six-year-old, she is plenty mature enough to live without her mom in a radius of less than 2 miles.

Now I want to say “Hello” to new friends. I look forward to getting to know you. I believe you have been praying for me and I know I am praying for you. I am trusting that you will tell me your cares, your fears, and joys. I am hoping you will allow me to be me and know that I am excited to be here. I want this change to be a long term change and I hope you do too. I am thanking God for giving me to you. May God’s will be done today tomorrow and forever.