Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Generation to Generation

Last week at council, for the first time, the Youth Board was represented by a youth. And he did well. More than once I wanted to jump in, to introduce, to adjust expectations, to make him more comfortable but as the meeting progressed, I realized something. He was more comfortable there than I was. Everybody already knew who he was, who his folks were, and more or less his life story.

The familiarity of community can be a two-edged sword. It can create understanding and context, or it can create labels. My greatest fear, coming here, was that this would be a labeling kind of community. A community where the class clown keeps joking until one day he blows his brains out - worn out from being a caricature of the person he really is. A community where someone grows up to run for mayor and gets defeated because 30 years ago she cost the home team the game by turning in the quarterback for smoking. Or where some well-meaning business owner won't hire someone because the kid's dad embezzled money from the co-op 20 years ago.

Blessedly, this doesn't seem to be the case here. It seems that it is more in the creating context mode. I have learned some personal history here but only what I need to do my job. Much of it I have had to ask for because I have clues, but no facts. People are reticent to share anyone else's story. They really don't even share their own stories unless you ask. That's partly ethnic: say as little as possible in as few words as possible is the creed of all good Norwegians. Still, having been in communities where gossip was the chief form of entertainment, this creating context transmission of information is welcome!

The one place where people will share stories and history freely is in talking about their homes. People know who lived in their homes before them, where they worked, where they moved to, and what architectural features are specific to which former residents. I don't know the significance of this community characteristic but it plays out in funny ways. Often people will answer, if asked where they live, "in the Baxter house" or "across the street from where so-and-so used to live". This is not helpful to newcomers, but eventually these will become familiar as well.

The boy in the first paragraph? I know his dad, his grandmothers, his sister, his step-mom, some of his cousins,and his girlfriend! (Only I didn't know she was his girlfriend. . . but I know who her best friend is because they went to a youth event together recently. . . and she lives over in the Smith's old house.) OK - truthfully, I have no idea where she lives, but it's approximately 1100 miles north of Austin, TX.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Blowing in the Wind

Spring is trying to find her way to the Prairie and that means wind. As many of you know, when I lived in Texas the times I was most homesick for the mid-west were the days when the wind howled. There is more wind up here; especially where it is flat, and especially in the spring. And thank goodness because there is a lot of melted snow to dry up. (Don't get too excited for me. There are still five foot mounds of snow outside my front windows at work and at home, and we expect a little more snow this week, but the street is dry - thanks to the snow-plows and wind.)

Full Worm Moon over Lake Superior 3/16/14
Last night was a full-moon night. This particular full moon of spring is called the Full Worm Moon because this is the month when the ground thaws and the earthworms emerge, inviting the robins to return. I can't help but wonder if the wind might sing to the robins a little bit as well.

Someone told me on Friday that she was going to hang her laundry because it was warm and windy enough to dry. I love sleeping on sheets that have been dried on the line, but I have no love for the activity of hanging clothes, nor the scratchiness of clothes and towels dried this way.

The wind blew a little romance into my life this weekend (NOT WHAT YOU'RE THINKING!) My neighbors across the hall got married in a long-awaited wedding. It was a second marriage for both,with just their family on Sunday. I got involved because I helped arrange for them to use my church, which they have visited but not joined. Their families blew into town for the weekend, and blew out again this morning, but there was so much joy. The wedding cake had FINALLY written in big letters across it. It also had an adorable Leggo topper, complete with a bride and groom, much to the delight of their YMO (yours/mine/our) children who range in age from 4-20. It was sweet and happy and I was glad to have a tiny part in all of it.

Starting next Sunday I'll help the spirit blow on our fifth graders as we start their communion instruction. This was the first group of kids I met here when they were trained as acolytes in October. I was too overwhelmed. After getting used to doing this with first graders, raising the level is a challenge but fortunately this is a well-thought out and documented (one thing that has been done in stellar fashion by this congregation) program so I can follow the wisdom of leaders past. Unless the spirit blows in a few new ideas. . .

I fussed a lot about finding someone to cut my hair and ultimately found someone right here in town. She cut it beautifully and it shakes out great when the wind whips it around. It didn't fit with my plan to go to Rochester for a haircut and lunch with Beth and Niel every month, but I guess I'll just have to make a date and go without the artificial discipline of an appointment.

The one thing I wish would blow my way is some kitchen inspiration. I am very tired of my own cooking. I've been scouring Pinterest for some new ideas but nothing seems worth the effort. Wish that meant it's a good time to go on a diet but I still get hungry and then wind up eating the same old spaghetti I made last week.  And knowing that I have nothing bigger than this to worry about these days, I am very grateful to be 1100 miles north!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Leading and Anticipating CHANGE

On Sunday, together with members of our church council and some of my co-workers, I attended a synod event that laid the groundwork for a six-year initiative on hunger. Local hunger. The guest speaker has written a book called "Finding God in a Bag of Groceries" and she made some very important points about how we deal with hungry people. There were at least 200 people there, and Zumbro Lutheran, the church in Rochester that hosted us, pretty much let us take over their entire facility. We were greeted at the door by young people dressed as fruits and vegetables who were handing out packets of seed. Upon check-in each congregation was given and EFFA bag (Enough Food For All) filled with paperwork, a copy of the book, and a can of tuna. We were then welcomed by the Bishop and Synod Staff, heard Laura Willis, the author, speak, then were generously served coffee and home-made treats, and broke into groups for discussion of what and what more our congregations could be doing.  After this hour long break-out we returned for the wrap-up which included a personal story from the bishop about why this matters to him personally, and how starting with food will uncover other issues of poverty. Then in the best camp fashion, there was an adorable skit that outlined the groups already in place to address this issue from a variety of perspectives and planted ideas for congregations to consider, and we were sent on our way with a few more opportunities to talk with the speaker, make contributions, etc.

I came away inspired to incorporate this initiative into my work over the coming months. I also realized that I had just had an opportunity to observe Leading Change at its best. I've read the books about leading change, but I've never been this close to a fully realized campaign before. This initiative is actually almost a year old. The Bishop has been talking to the clergy about it since before I arrived. The Synod staff has been "forecasting" the kick-off of this at every event I've attended so far. This event, designed for church council leaders, was held during the Minnesota Food Share March Campaign to restock the food shelves. Apparently this campaign is familiar to everyone, so the attendees were pre-disposed to hear what was being said.

I am really amazed by this: amazed that Bishop Delzer has the conviction to mount a campaign of this magnitude; amazed to see each careful step unfold; amazed at the possibilities a network of 300 churches can generate; amazed by the power of those churches to lead their whole community, not just their congregation. 

On the other end of the spectrum are the other, far less well-thought-out but no less delightful events of the weekend. On Friday I had my first stamping event in Blooming Prairie which was well-attended, and fun. Friday night I went up to church and sent off 33 kids with 4 adult volunteers for a night of fun and games at the Rochester YMCA and other venues. (I didn't go, but I met them with glasses of milk and fancy doughnuts at 6:30 Saturday morning.) Then, on Sunday morning, we had our first Parent Meet-Up. This is an idea that grew out of a conversation at the Parish Ed Board meeting - to open a space where parents could talk about faith and parent issues, and also corral children who were too young to be in Sunday School. We did some minimal publicity, and people found us! I have high hopes for next week. 

Of course the week also included Ash Wednesday services and Sunday morning worship (including a very meaningful baptism of a very tiny baby) and background awareness of spring break, SXSW, the time change, and SPRING FEVER! We have had a couple of days above freezing this week and so the messy business of melting the snow is underway. This creates some incredible ruts in the roads and some really fantastic icicles. I'm sure there will be some new snow before spring fully arrives, but the relative warmth and the smell of wet earth bring hope. . . I think that I can say that I have survived my first winter back in Minnesota!

So, one last highlight from the past week, a little song/poem from Garrison Keillor about waiting for spring in Minnesota.There's a short request for a donation and a little musical interlude for about 30 seconds before it starts. Click here to listen and enjoy. The clip unfortunately leaves off the last line of the poem which is "nothing says spring like the smell of manure." Hope you'll enjoy this little snapshot of life 1100 miles north.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Social Life

I'm finally starting to socialize in my new hometown. I've made a few stabs at it, but mostly when someone has offered to take me to something.

Two weeks ago I finally committed to join AAUW and jumped in with both feet and agreed to be on a committee. The scholarship committee gets to read and discuss the essays the student's write in their applications. I think it will be a worthwhile use of my time, will be useful to the group, and will give me some insight into the youth of the community. I hope I haven't gotten in over my head, but since I don't know anyone in town I might bring a different point of view to the deliberations. Two years from now, when current confirmation students are applying, I won't be so objective!

On Thursday, my first Blooming Praire friend Dianna took the initiative to get a book club started. I had briefly met a couple of other people, but most of them were brand new. Of course, once we started talking books we found our connections easily. I left feeling really excited about having new friends.

Last week also held two events that made me realize that I'm getting settled a bit. First, a baptism of a baby I had snuggled with! That wasn't unusual in Austin, but it was the first one here so it really warmed my heart. The second event was a funeral. I didn't know the individual who passed away, but I knew his wife, and his brother, and his daughter. Another indication that I'm starting to be part of the community.

Also, my birthday on Friday brought in a remarkable number of greetings from people everywhere. I enjoyed lunch, shopping, and a movie with my cousin Jane too! I am so grateful that God has blessed me with so many lovely people in my life!

This Friday I'm hosting a stamping open house. I have two projects planned and invited a boat load of people to come and try it out. I hope I can find at least a few people who want to get together regularly - I've done a lot of stamping since I got here, but most of it solo. Plus, I have to decide if I'm going to stay a demonstrator by mid-summer, so I really need to figure out if there's a market here. Not really sure.

Well, this is not the most elegant nor eloquent post I've ever written, but I missed last week so thought that done would be better than perfect! Lent arrives in two days, and with it, some extra obligations on my time so best to get on track right away this week.

Until next Monday - or 'til I run into you on Facebook - take care, and take a little time to socialize whether you're here with me, or 1100 Miles South!