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August 28, 2014

Busy, Busy, Busy

Same song different verse.  I hit vicarage running.  I have been on several pastoral calls, and even lead a couple.  I have presided over two worship services alone: one with my pastor gone and one with my pastor and organist gone.  Thankfully, nothing big happened while my supervisor was out of town.  I have been getting to know the congregation better, and thankfully we have been accepted like one of their own.  I have seen a lot of ins and outs of ministry, the sometimes grueling grunt work that is involved to make things happen.  Pastor Snyder wants me to learn about all aspects of running a church, so I have been to many board meetings and seen what it takes to accomplish everything that needs to happen.  He has also brought me in on many unique opportunities, challenged me to think what I would do/have done, and discusses theology and practice with me.  He has also given odds and ends assignments, like creating the bulletins and coming up with the church signs (They currently reads, "Google can't satisfy every search" and "Jesus knows the answer even when Siri doesn't") and even learning how to juggle (literally).

If that doesn't keep me busy, we also have midweek classes starting up next week.  Pastor and I will be teaching confirmation classes every Wednesday night, as well as pitching in with the high school youth.  Our Youth Director retired shortly after I got here, so in addition to helping with high school youth on Wednesday nights, pastor and I will also be helping with all youth until the congregation decides "what next?"  That means that every time they have an event pastor and/or I will be there unless someone else volunteers.  In addition to that, I thought it would be fun to start up a college ministry at Our Redeemer for the two local colleges.  That is IN ADDITION to the evangelism project that I have to do for the seminary while on vicarage.  We will see how that goes.

The great thing, however, is that I do not have classes and I can do all this work during the day, and be with my family in the evening and on my off days.  That has been the great part about all of this too.  I love my family and I love being able to be with them and focus on them.  Especially since Levi is growing so fast now!  It took him about a week to figure out this whole walking thing.  We've also enjoyed time together in the pool...he wants to be able to swim on his own so bad.  We've also met a lot of our neighbors on walks, which have all been very nice.  We live in a great neighborhood.  Let's see, I don't know what else I have to write, but I will copy my completed sermons here soon.  Hopefully I will be able to upload some video.  We'll see!

August 27, 2014

100 posts

I realized that this is the 100th post on our family's blog. 100 posts for a little over 2 years at the seminary seems rather few. But I digress...

Reflections on Cloth Diapering:

Levi has been in cloth diapers for the better part of a year. He started in them full time when he was two months old. Timothy and I are in love with them. While we each have our go-to diapers (Timothy prefers all-in-ones and I like the prefolds and covers), we are in this 100%. I've learned to wash diapers in both really clean, amazing water and super hard, smells like sulfur water. I wash diapers about twice a week. And in Texas, we have the special treat of hanging them dry in the sun. So much better than on a drying rack in the path of a fan, like we used to have to do.

Cloth diapering is addictive. I know many mommas (and some dads too) that desire the newest prints for their little ones. Levi has added to his stash on three occasions after the initial purchase. Once, to add all-in-ones for starting babysitting. Again, to add more covers and prefolds to stretch how often we were doing laundry. And the last time because Mommy won a Cotton Babies give-away (two new Flip covers and my choice of inserts - I picked the Organic Overnights - I love these with a hemp doubler to keep him, and the sheet, dry at night). While the new prints are cute, I just can't justify it. We are saving so much money by using the stash we have. I probably spent about $500 on the diapers we have (and I do have cloth diapers in both newborn and infant sizes). If I would have bought disposables instead of cloth, I'd be looking at about $800 for one year. (If you've never considered cost, check out this article on Mint.com.) However, since I'm probably not potty-training Levi in this next year, I'm saving significantly more. (Disposable diapers will cost more for fewer diapers in larger sizes and I already have my cloth diapers so I just have to pay laundry costs - electricity and water.) Add to this, cloth diapers can be used on more than one child, and Timothy and I made out like bandits. Sure, coming up with the initial money to purchase a stash is hard for some families. (If you want to try it out cloth and are eligible for WIC, check out Cotton Babies Share the Love program here.) It's safe to say: I'm a cloth diaper fanatic.

August 20, 2014

A Year Already?

Levi turns one on Sunday. And neither Timothy nor I can believe that our little man is a toddler. He has probably tripled his birth weight (won't know for sure, since we don't own a scale and aren't seeing the pediatrician until October). He's gone from laying on a blanket like a log to nearly running around the house. That's right world: Levi is fully mobile at 11 months. He can sit, stand and walk without help. He's gone from nursing every two hours like clockwork to eating everything on Mommy's plate, including the spicy enchiladas. He's started to sleep through the night. He even has said "Mommy" clear as day.

While it has been a joy watching him grow and meeting all of these milestones, I'm sad to think of the days that are gone and will never been coming back. He snuggles less each day, preferring to be mobile and independent. We haven't fully weaned yet, but he's nursing less and even drinking cow's milk from his sippy cup. (Yes, you can judge me for giving cow's milk before a year old, but he was ready for more than water. We started in small amounts and watched for reactions. He was and is fine with it. He loves drinking milk, although he only gets a few ounces a day.) With a mobile toddler, we are quickly learning what is not safe in our place. Lesson One: the shoe rack. While I don't mind that he pulls off all the shoes, he climbed on top of it last week and broke it. Yay for cheap construction. It was a much simpler time when he was perfectly content to sleep in my arms. Now, he wants his crib so he can sleep on his stomach, or side, or back. Whatever feels most comfortable at the time. (Our crib days are numbered too. With a little monkey, its only a matter of time before he learns how to climb out.) A year has gone too fast.

Levi: 2 days
Levi: 11.5 months

August 13, 2014

Insurance Update

Our car has been given the okay to be fixed by our insurance. Only catch: the service shop has to use parts purchased by the insurance company, which will ship sometime. Our claim is moving forward though.

On the health insurance front, everyone is signed up for insurance and first premiums have been paid. Now we're just waiting on appointments with all our new providers so that we can establish care. Mom and Dad are up first in September. Levi has to wait until October for his one-year check up. I will deal with dental appointments soon. (Since when does a one-year old need a dental check up? But Medicaid thinks he should have one, so in we'll go!)

In other news, I attended the first Wichita Falls Community Orchestra rehearsal on Monday night. We're rehearsing for the Nutcracker (performance on December 6 with the Wichita Falls Ballet Company). It should be really fun, but it's difficult getting back into playing after being off for 3 months.

August 6, 2014

Let's just say...

I hate insurance. It is necessary, I know, and our family has the appropriate coverage. However, I am getting more than I bargained for here in Texas.

Beginning yesterday, we are currently working with our former auto insurance carrier to process a claim. (My first auto claim ever.) In July while on vacation, we ran over something in the road. Since then, our air conditioner hasn't been cooling appropriately. After moving to Texas, we finally had some time to get it looked at. Our friendly mechanic's discovery: the thing we ran over caused damage to the air conditioner, condenser and radiator. Repairs will cost $2600, so it's best to get your insurance involved. Effective August 1, we are no longer with the company because we obtained coverage from an agent in Texas. Enter complications. So here's to figuring out how to do an auto insurance claim with a provider who is no longer covering your vehicle.

I am also working with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission for our health insurance. After several decisions, Texas decided to cover our son under Medicaid. This is wonderful! However, five days before we received this news, Texas told us that he did not qualify for Medicaid coverage. Operating under the assumption that he did not qualify, we obtained coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace for our entire family. If you have ever used the Marketplace, you understand the process of submitting an application to be approved for enrollment (we qualify for a special enrollment period since we just moved to Texas), selecting a plan, and then working with the plan provider to pay the first premium. Reporting a change (i.e. our son qualifying for Medicaid) works the same way. We report the change through the Marketplace, wait for a few days until our provider receives the information and then we can pay our updated premium. So we've entered the waiting game. In the meantime, we are also waiting for information from the Texas Star program (administrators of the Texas Medicaid program) in order to find out which insurance provider we can select for our son. (Which also means if anything changes in our situation for Medicaid, we report that change to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, who reports that to the Star program, who then tells our insurance provider if the information change alters our coverage options.)

So yay insurance. Here's to waiting for September! Hopefully everything will settle down by then.

July 30, 2014

It's starting to feel like home

When we moved to Texas, we moved into a beautiful, newly updated duplex that our church provided for us. By far, it is the nicest place that our family has lived. And even though we will only be here a year, we are starting to decorate our home with real furnishings. Remember back to when you first started living on your own. That transient, cheap style is what has dominated our home decor since our marriage. We put together puzzles, glued them together and stuck them to the wall with 3M Poster strips. Most of our furniture is mismatched, since it was handed down to us or purchased from Craigslist / Goodwill / Salvation Army. Our home always seemed a little like things were just thrown together.

Although we still have a bunch of mismatched furniture, the biggest change has been how we are hanging things on the walls. Most of our puzzles have been exchanged for art work or framed pictures. We've started planning larger picture arrangements on the wall. It looks much nicer (and I feel more like a grown-up). I know that is weird to say since our son is turning one in less than a month. But things are starting to come together and most everything has found a home here in Texas.

A home is much more than furnishings. Wichita Falls is also starting to feel like home because I can leave our duplex, run some errands, and not once need to look up directions. We've tried some local restaurants, had many more recommended to us, got library cards, and been to the farmer's market (for the watermelon festival no less!). Although we are anything but locals yet, we are adjusting and making Texas our home. I'm starting to feel less like a tourist and more like a resident.

July 28, 2014

Howdy!

Greetings from Texas.  The recent lull in posts has been due to a very busy couple weeks.  The wedding in Alabama was beautiful.  The drive to St. Louis wasn't bad.  Loading the truck was not fun.  Driving through Oklahoma was better than I thought, though I am not sure what the toll money is going to because the road quality was much worse than any of the non-toll roads that I drove on.  Crossing the Red River was exciting, an then I finally landed in Wichita Falls, TX.

I was greeted by a group of gentlemen who unloaded the whole truck for me, and afterword took me out to dinner to what is now one of my favorite places: Cotton Patch.  It has delicious home-style food, much like a Cracker Barrel only better.  The first time I was there I ate a chicken fried steak that was really good.  After Marie and Levi arrived by plane the next day I took them there and ate their pork chops which were also really good.  Then, I took my dad there when my parents were in town and had the meatloaf which was also delicious.  We  also went to Jalapeno Tree which had some really good Mexican food.

Last Sunday I was officially installed as Vicar at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church.  Though I have been in the office for the past week and did half the service yesterday I am still waiting for it to sink in.  I have come to love living in Texas already though, and I also love the congregation.  Pastor Snyder, Linda, and Kianna (Church Staff) are all really fun people and have a good time joking around with each other both in and out of the office.  They have already treated me like on of their own (with Kianna already threatening to light me on fire yesterday) and I pray that wherever I end up I have people who surround me like them.

In addition to that, though, Pastor has told me that as a Vicar I am lower than dirt, he treats me far from it.  You hear all of the horror stories about vicarage at the seminary and so far this is anything but.  Pastor has treated me like a competent theologian and even a partner and brother in ministry.  He has already asked me my thoughts on different practices and doctrine that he has been thinking about and wrestling with or thinking about.  He has looked at my resources and has even asked me to look into resources for the church.  It has been great so far and I know that being treated in such a way is going to challenge me to make me think more about theological issues and who I want to be as a pastor and what kind of resources I want to use.

It has been a great week and I am still waiting for it to feel like work, but at the same time pray that it never feels like work.  I know that I will probably have frustrations and struggles this year, and as Pastor even said in his sermon last week many of them will be from my own doing, but in those moments I will just have to remember that God has chosen me, a poor miserable sinner who has received His sustaining comfort and grace, to bring that same comfort and grace to those around me.

Heavenly Father, thank you for placing me at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Wichita Falls, Texas.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn from a great man, Pastor Snyder, and help me to absorb the good things that he teaches me about ministry.  Help me to gain experience so that I can be a better minister to your people, both those that know you and those that don't.  In Your precious name I pray, Amen.