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December 8, 2014

The Nutcracker

On Saturday, I played in the pit orchestra for the Wichita Falls Ballet Theatre's productions of The Nutcracker. After four grueling months of rehearsals, everything was over after two performances. I'm glad I had the opportunity to play. This was the first full-length ballet that I have played and it was exhausting. If I could have watched the ballet, I'm sure it was fantastic. The reviews have been highly complimentary.

And now, I begin the recovery process. Which means, just keep moving forward. The community orchestra's Christmas concert is only 8 days away. It should be rather exciting! Concert will feature bag pipes, hand bells, two soloists and a youth choir.

Our family is in the rush toward the New Year in the only way that clergy families know how. The advent cantata is only a week and a half away. Timothy will be narrating and I will be playing hand bells. 10 members of the Roth family descend on Wichita Falls in just under two weeks. While they are here, we will be celebrating Christmas, complete with Christmas dinner. Two days after their departure, we will be celebrating Christmas Eve and Christmas Day just the three of us. And then a week later, we will be ringing in the New Year. (And a week after that, Timothy and I will celebrate our third anniversary.) Winter is a busy season for us.

November 19, 2014

Hanging out with the little buddy

Levi and I are quite the dynamic duo these days. We have interesting games to play, sounds for most of his puzzle pieces and at least 50 different elaborate construction options for the train track. When I first became a stay-at-home mom for my son just 4 months ago, it was really hard. I missed (and still do) adult interaction and contributing to an organization through a job. But finding mom friendly activities has eased that. Looking back on it, I can't believe 4 months have already flown by. In that time, I've watched Levi become a fully mobile toddler, living life at full speed ahead. And better yet, I've been there as he hit all those milestones. 

In just 8 months, vicarage will be over and we'll be headed back to the seminary. I'm not sure if I will have the privilege to stay home. I can honestly say, I am sad if that ends up being the case. I love spending my days with this crazy little buddy. 

November 12, 2014

Thanksgiving

November is the month that we as a culture remember the many blessings we have received. God has truly blessed my family. Here are 30 things, one for each day of the month, for which I am thankful:

1. Salvation is a free gift from God. Jesus has been the perfect sacrifice for all the world's sins, including my own. 
2. My husband Timothy is a servant of God and loves me unconditionally. He has vowed to share my life with me. 
3. My healthy, happy son Levi. He is a ball of energy and I like to describe him as a tornado on legs. He brings a lot of joy to my life.
4. A congregation that cares for its vicar and his family. We have been blessed with a fantastic home and wonderful friends.
5. New adventures in Texas. We have gone to Dallas for the state fair and both Abilene and Big Spring to visit friends. We are looking forward to heading south in the spring.
6. Invention of FaceTime and Skype that has allowed us to see friends and family.
7. Opportunities to do activities for myself while in Wichita Falls. I am playing with the community orchestra for their performance of the Nutcracker in partnership with the local ballet company. I attend a Mommy-and-Me exercise class twice a week. I am a part of the local Bible Study Fellowship group.
8. A new library for Levi. We recently discovered Usborne books and hosted a party. In addition to our host rewards, several generous people sent Levi more books. In all, Levi has 16 new books that he will receive in Advent and Christmas.
9. Laundry machines in our home. After several years of laundromats and coin laundry in the basement, our own machines are a nice luxury.
10. Wonderful fall weather. The beginning of November was unseasonably warm for Texas. After many short fall seasons in the Midwest, it was nice to see an autumn that actually acted as it should.
11. All the men and women who have served in a branch of the military and for those who are currently serving.
12. The ability to make Timothy's ordination stole. As of today, I have finished embroidering one side of the stole.
13. Coffee and chocolate. The best ways to make it through rough days.
14. The library. Our family goes to the library each week (usually on Friday) to find new stories for Levi. He loves turning pages and will sometimes sit still long enough to listen to an entire book.
15. Parks and playgrounds. Levi and I love frequenting the local playgrounds. He loves to slide. One of our favorite parks has a prairie dog habitat.
16. Cooking dinner. I usually prepare dinner so that Levi and Timothy can have time together (and I can have a break). I have tried several new recipes, most of which have been tasty.
17. Support from a congregation in our circuit. When a local congregation's seminary student graduated, the congregation chose to start supporting our family through graduation at the seminary.
18. Family who are visiting for Thanksgiving and Christmas. My family is coming for Thanksgiving and Timothy's is coming before Christmas.
19. The hand bell choir at church. I am learning lots from Linda and the other members.
20. Patient children's leaders at Bible Study Fellowship. Levi can be a trying child. They have patiently waited out his cries and he actually had a good day there this week.
21. A new women's Bible study that is starting in January. It will be once a month for six months. At each meeting we will be cooking a meal together in addition to studying the Bible. I'm excited for this study and the fellowship.
22. A running car that has taken us on lots of adventures.
23. Living within walking distance of church and a wagon to take to and from activities there.
24. Footie pajamas. Levi looks adorable and cozy in them.
25. Multiple grocery stores in town as a way to stretch our grocery budget.
26. Friends who are walking the same journey through seminary. Having friends who understand the challenges of ministry are invaluable.
27. A supervising pastor who values time with family and time to recharge.
28. A warm coat, hat and gloves on a cold day.
29. A hot cup of a tea with my morning devotions.
30. A family that loves each other and enjoys spending time together.

October 28, 2014

It has been one of those days

You know the kind of days that when you wake up, you think that you've already lost it? The days when you swear that it should actually be tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, and not today? The days when you feel like you didn't sleep enough for what you're facing? Well, today is one of those days. 

"One of those days" has slowly come to mean something different as a parent. A lack of sleep stems from a cranky, teething child instead of a night of binge watching a show on Netflix. Insurmountable hurdles now include making breakfast, running an errand or two with that cranky, teething child in tow or convincing that child that sleep is their friend. Gone are the days of project deadlines and work drama. My biggest challenge on "one of those days" is to not snap at the ornery child for being a child, to remain calm and remember the countless good, great and even fantastic days. The days when that ornery child was exploring the playground for the first time, or snuggling and mostly reading a book with me. Or collecting acorns or taking a walk while holding my hand. There are so many more of those days to outweigh even one "one of those days."

October 22, 2014

The Nutcracker

As a member of Wichita Falls Community Orchestra, I have the opportunity to play in the orchestra pit for the Wichita Falls Ballet's performance of the Nutcracker on December 6. We have been rehearsing the music since August and it has been hard work. I am relearning the art of dedicated practicing. Just today, I spent nearly an hour on the first four scenes. (There are 19 numbered scenes and several of those have multiple parts.)

However, I am falling in love with the music. Tchaikovsky is one of the few composers who didn't relegate the violas to the support-only role. Below are links to two of our section's melodic solos:

Scene 4
Scene 14 - Pas De Deux

The viola melody line is at the beginning of scenes.  It's so rich and lovely.

Enjoy!

October 15, 2014

Usborne Books

Last night I attended an Usborne Book party. I first heard of Usborne a couple months back but this was the first time I had really looked at what they publish. I had a blast and found some of my new favorite books. Check it out:

Slot Together Castle Book
Wind Up Bus Book
Mosaic Sticker Book

Levi will be the proud owner of these three new books (at Christmas):
Construction Sites Lift and Look
Flippy Floppy Jungle Animals
Find the Duck

Usborne has a lot of really fun non-fiction books too. I look forward to adding to Levi's library in the coming years.

October 8, 2014

To Big Spring and back

This weekend-ish, we had the opportunity to visit friends from the seminary at their first call in Big Spring TX, a mere 3.5 hours from Wichita Falls. (Believe it or not: 3.5 hours is close when it comes to Texas distances. Distance is measured in time.) Our overnight was possible because Timothy was attending the circuit's winkle. A winkle is a gathering of all the pastors in a circuit (about 8-12 churches in a geographical area). At a winkle, the pastors discuss current happenings in their congregations and have some time to relax as friends.

My highlight of the time we spent in Big Spring was spending time with Jen and her four darling children (ages 5.5, 3, almost 2, and 3 weeks). Needless to say, Levi and the almost 2 year old we best mischief buddies. I once found them both standing on chairs banging their hands on the dining room table. It was nice to spend time with a fellow mom.

October 1, 2014

Hometown Football Rivalry

On Friday I will be doing something I haven't done in 9 years: attending a high school football game. And not just any game. The Game. Rider High vs. Old High (a.k.a. Wichita Falls High). (Yes, we are rooting for Rider. All the high school students we know from church attend there.) Selected as one of the top 100 rivalries to watch each year by the Great American Rivalry Series (sponsored by the US Army), this game promises to be legend ... wait for it ... dary. Since I haven't stepped foot in a high school football stadium since my own Bob Jones High homecoming game in 2005, I'm not sure I'm quite prepared for this classic face off.

For more info on the game

September 24, 2014

Back to BSF!

Once upon a time, there was a little kindergartner who went to Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) with her mother. They went in the morning. Afterward, the little girl are her lunch from her Barney lunch box as they drove to kindergarten. She learned about the minor prophets at BSF. They sang lots of hymns. (I still know the first verse of "Great is Thy Faithfulness" by heart.) They did crafts. (I have the Bible bookmark still in my Bible today.)

Fast forward many year. Now I have the opportunity of getting back into BSF. Levi is getting his first taste as well. BSF has been re-imagined since I was a part of it "back in the day." It is a four-fold approach to studying the Bible: home reading and preparation, small group discussion, large group lecture, and take home passage notes. It is one of the most intensive Bible studies I have been a part of. This year we are studying Moses. Groups across the country (and the world) are all studying the same lesson each week. It's hard to wrap your mind around sometimes that my friend Katrina is reading the same thing in New Jersey each week for her BSF Bible study that I am here in Texas.

Today was my second week (third week for BSF - I was a little slow getting connected to a group this year). I volunteered in the children's program with the toddlers today. It was a blast! We had 7 very energetic little ones running around. But all of them remembered that the baby in the basket from last week's story was Moses. We played (inside and outside in the beautiful fall day), read our Bible story for the week (Moses killing the Egyptian and fleeing), ate snack, had quiet time and story time. Two hours were gone before I knew it. The children's program mirrors the adult study so that families can discuss everything together. Although I enjoyed the children's program, I'm looking forward to attending my small group for the first time next week.

I'm excited to be a part of BSF again. It is also nice to have some friends outside of our vicarage congregation. Our vicarage congregation is wonderful, but it is easy to forget that the world exists beyond the church walls too. BSF is helping me stay grounded and allowing me to be me too.

September 18, 2014

You never know...

I went to our circuit's winkle on Tuesday.  For those who don't know, a winkle is our monthly meeting where the circuit pastors get together, have a short service with communion, have a theological presentation, have some other kind of presentation, have lunch, and have a business meeting.  (I am told that winkle is the German name for the tool we call a square.  Thus, we get together to 'square ' things away.')

During the service, Pastor Knobloch talked about how we faithfully serve in the ministry and the impact it has on people.  It is easy to question if our ministry has any impact, and it's easy to get discouraged.  Yet there are moments that the Holy Spirit lets you know that He is in fact working through you and those moments are both exhilarating and humbling.

This past Sunday, I preached on forgiveness.  (The sermon is posted on the 'Sermons' tab.)  I preached about how as a sinner it is impossible for us to truly forgive because forgiveness brings life and as such belongs to the workings of the Holy Spirit, but at the end of Jesus's parable He tells us to forgive or we too, like the unmerciful servant, will be condemned.

So what are we to do?  Since forgiveness is of the Spirit and not of us, for us to 'forgive' is for us to yield to the Holy Spirit and let the forgiveness we receive as sinners flow through us and out to others.  When we refuse to forgive we are refusing to let the life giving water flow through us and thus bring condemnation down upon ourselves.

Often we refuse to forgive simply because we don't understand what forgiveness means.  We think it means that we must forget about what had happened to us and pretend it never happened.  Not so.  Forgiveness is letting go of another's throat and releasing them to God.  Refusing to forgive is insisting that you are the judge and that you are the one who gets to bring down condemnation.

I made one thing clear though, struggling to forgive is not the same as refusing to forgive.  We all struggle to forgive because our struggle comes from the Holy Spirit within working against our sinful flesh.  Yet when we yield to the Holy Spirit and let go of the other person's neck, we allow the Holy Spirit to kill the sin that is choking the life out of us, and by doing so we find the healing and peace that we really need.

Anyway, it was a sermon that I enjoyed preaching and a topic that has been on my heart for some time.  As a preacher, you never know how your words are going to be received.  After service, I had several people tell me that my words struck home, one or two even with tears in their eyes.  My wife told me that she heard several more around church commenting on, "Do you ever feel like the preacher is talking specifically to you?"  And throughout this week I have heard from others on how my sermon impacted them.

As a preacher, you rarely ever know what happens to your words once they leave your lips.  You hope and pray that the Holy Spirit uses them to work in peoples lives, but most of the time you are left in the dark.  There are moments though where the Holy Spirit really lets you know He is active and that He is using you, and it is those moments that trump every discouraging thing and every doubt and reminds you why you are doing what you are doing.

Thank you, Holy Spirit, for giving me the words to speak, and thank you for empowering those words to touch people's hearts and work in their lives.  Amen.

September 13, 2014

Love, according to my toddler

Love is...

-Sharing Mom's last goldfish crackers
-Getting your blow-out poopy bean diaper changed... Twice in the same day. 
-Going to the mall playground on a rainy day
-Being served first at every meal
-Having unrestricted access to Mom's plate
-Cuddling with Dad when I get scared at night
-Playing outside, even when it's hot
-Mom and Dad finding my giraffe buddy, my pacifier and my sippy cup before bedtime and several times throughout the night so I can sleep
-Three letters: PB&J
-Wearing my big boy shoes all day
-A big hug when Mom and Dad come back after abandoning me in the church nursery

September 9, 2014

The Last Thing You Think About

Five-year drought, they said. Stage Five water restrictions, they said. When we arrived in Wichita Falls, we knew the history. We knew water was a commodity that we undervalued in St. Louis. We learned the difference between city water and well water. We knew that Levi may or may not have the opportunity to go swimming in the neighborhood. (He gets to enjoy the pool only because the neighborhood association is paying for well water to be delivered weekly.) We knew that there would be no sprinklers running or people washing their cars outside. Grass would be dying around the city and trees and plants would be barely hangng on. We saw all of that.

One thing no one tells you about drought is how the ground changes. The ground drys out and begins to shift, snapping the pipes in the process. The precious water bursts forth and bubbles up from the ground to flood the street. In the past two weeks, our street has had this happen twice. The breaks were only 15 feet apart. When the pipes break, your water gets shut off as fast as the water company can get workers on the scene. Depending on the severity of the break, your water can be off a couple hours or for most of the day. The first break was at Wednesday around 9 AM and the second break around 8 PM on Saturday night. Needless to say, life gets rearranged when your water is suddenly gone.

September 4, 2014

Midweek Activities - Texas Style

If you have spent anytime in the South, you know how important Wednesday night church activities are to the community culture, second only to Friday Night High School Football. Midweek, as it's known in our congregation, started up at Our Redeemer yesterday and will continue throughout the school year. Midweek includes a meal, hand bell choir for first graders through adults in 4 different ensembles, Bible study classes for three year-olds and up (including confirmation), and adult choir. The church is a buzz of activity and crawling with people. I'm ringing in the adult hand bell choir this year and it's a lot of fun. We may be playing in church in a week and a half.

I will also be playing in church during the prelude this Sunday. I had the opportunity to practice today with our wonderful organist, choir director, and director of outreach, Linda. Linda is incredibly talented and patient. She balances so much with ease. We will be playing a setting of "Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee." I look forward to ringing with her each Wednesday and playing with her in services.


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.

July 10, 2014

Moving On

Our time in Florida is almost through.  Marie is leaving this morning because she has to be in Alabama this evening for wedding stuff.  Levi, Grandma, and I will be heading out tomorow when Levi is ready to go down for his morning nap.  It's a six hour drive to Huntsville, meaning it is also half way to STL making the drive back easier.  Grandma is coming with to watch Levi during the things he can't come to.  It will give her some good time to spend with Levi, and it will give Marie and I the chance to spend some time alone together.  We're looking forward to that.  After the wedding it will be off to STL and then to Texas before we know it.

July 3, 2014

Update from Florida

It has been a great few days with Marie's parents.  Levi went swimming for the first time and loves swimming in their neighborhood pool.  He's already become quite the dare devil leaping out of daddy's arms and into mommy's through open water.  He's also put his head somewhat under the water...a couple of times drinking the water, we think on purpose.  He's also been to the beach and put his toes in the ocean!  I think the water was too cold and the sand too weird for him to enjoy it much.  He still enjoyed walking along the beach with mommy and daddy.

This morning I ventured out by myself into the ocean while Levi was sleeping.  I took one of Larry and Ann's kayaks and headed out.  I departed from the beach and went straight out.  I love kayaking in the ocean; it both is terrifying and blissful.  Terrifying because even when the swells are small they are still much lager than you are, terrifying because you don't know how much water lies between you and the bottom underneath, terrifying because you don't know what critters are swimming freely underneath you.  (I saw the tail of something quite large twice not too far away, but I think it was a dolphin.)  Yet blissful because you find yourself lost in God's creation, so far away from the beach that you can't even hear the playful noises of people splashing and screaming, so far away that the crashing waves are gentle swells.  You find yourself in the wide open ocean that you know was created by God for you.  It's just amazing and peaceful.

I'm really excited for tomorrow, though.  There is a neighborhood block party with a low country boil.  There will be LOTS of good food and best of all fireworks!  Larry (Marie's father) is buying the fireworks on the way home today and I will be in charge of the show.  I love setting off fireworks.  This will also be Levi's second experience with fireworks.  The last time was also at Grandma's and Grandpa's house.  It is going to be fun!  This weekend we are talking about going out on a sailboat and borrowing some jetskis.  Lot's a great family time and first experiences for Levi before going to Texas in less than two weeks!

June 30, 2014

Florida

After driving all night last night we made it to Florida this morning in time for breakfast.  It worked out really well as Levi slept all but the last half hour of the 12 hour trip.  Even when he did wake up he was pretty quite.  We also were able to see Marie's father before he left for business.

Today has been a nice relaxing day, including some naps.  The only thing we did was go to the grocery store to get some food.  Since my father-in-law is out of town I grilled the meat by myself.  After the stress of the past few weeks it was great being outside, drinking a cold beer, sitting on the porch swing, and enjoying the breeze blowing in from the gulf.

The next few days will be full of relaxation and play as we spend the time with Marie's parents, including their neighborhood 4th celebration at which I will be responsible for lighting the fireworks.  We're also going to take Levi swimming, both in the pool and in the gulf.

After our time here we head to Huntsville, Alabama for the wedding of Marie's best friend from high school.  Marie has her duties as a maiden while Levi and I will be relaxing.  Grandma Ann will be coming to watch Levi during the reception so mommy and daddy can have a good night to themselves.

After the wedding we will head back to St. Louis to pick up all of our belongings and move out to Texas.  I can't believe that it's finally here and actually about to happen!  What a great way to start out a great year.

June 20, 2014

New Experiences

I was thinking today about all of the new experiences I will be having on vicarage.  I will be doing a lot of things that I've never done before, but one of the strangest to me will be the fact that I have a desk.  I've never had a desk before.  I think being in the "professional" role will be the hardest thing for me to get used to.  Other aspects of ministry I am at least familiar with, and then there are the personal changes in life, like Levi growing so quickly and wanting to become a big kid so bad, but for some reason that thought isn't as foreign to me as the thought of having a desk.

Maybe it's because I don't often feel like a father.  More often than not I feel like we have a tiny roommate that I help care for.  Getting to play with this roommate is fun, and even taking care of him is enjoyable (or at least not as bad) but does not make me feel any older.  The idea of having a desk, however, makes me feel like a responsible adult.  In it reality confronts me of the looming reality shift that is standing in my not so distant future.  At times this thought is even frightening.  At times I feel so young and ill equipped.  I know that I have been called to the ministry though, and that God will be with me as I care for His people.  This thought encourages and comforts me as I continue to move on into the unknown.

To Him be the glory forever and ever.  Amen.

June 15, 2014

Reality Check

It's all been happening so fast it's been so surreal, but reality is catching up.  On call day, when I heard my name paired with "Our Redeemer Lutheran Church; Texas District; Wichita Falls, TX" my first thought wasn't of the church that I would be going to, but "This is really happening!"  Nothing made vicarage more real than hearing my name paired with a real congregation with real people.  From that day excitement has abounded as we've been getting ready to move and make our transition to Texas.  That was until the other side of reality hit on Friday.  Don't get me wrong, I am still way too excited about going some place new and meeting new people, but that means that I am leaving where I am now and leaving good friends and family.

Friday was my last day of work, and I had to say good bye to some of my bosses and other seminary staff who has become more than just "people" in my life.  They have become good friends and have helped me become who I am today.  And yes, while it may "only be a year," that does not make leaving them behind any easier.  And when I think of it "being only a year," then I think of only being back a year before I leave them again, and that time for good.

That is part of life though: saying good bye.  Thankfully, that saying goodbye is paired with saying hello.  I will be with the good people at Our Redeemer for a year.  I will live with them, I will laugh with them, I will cry with them.  Wichita Falls will be our home.  I know that in a year from now it will be extremely hard to say goodbye to them, but our strength will come with being reunited with family and friends.  Then once I receive my first call I will leave the seminary once again to say "Hello" to my first call.

We often say that we are in a life transition at the seminary, but all life is transition.  Yet there is one constant: God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit.  It is leaning on Him that we find the strength to continue on, to say good bye and to say hello, trusting in Him as He guides us through our ministry.  Amen.

June 8, 2014

Pentecost Sermon

            Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
            Today we celebrate the birth of the Holy Christian Church.  We remember God’s pouring out of the Spirit upon His people.  We celebrate for without the Spirit we would truly be lost.  Take the disciples for example.  When Jesus was arrested, they scattered.  When Jesus was crucified, they hid or denied any association with Him.  When Jesus lay in the ground, they locked themselves behind closed doors.  When Jesus was raised, they doubted and had to see for themselves.  Even after He appeared to them, they questioned what it all meant.  It is apparent from the testimony of Scripture that the disciples just didn’t get it, even as they stared off into the sky after Jesus ascended.  Confused and not knowing quite what else to do, they did as Jesus instructed and returned to the house in Jerusalem.
            Ten days later something amazing happened.  It took place during the Feast of Weeks, when Jews and proselytes were gathered in Jerusalem to remember God’s giving of the Law to Moses.  It was in Jerusalem, amongst the mixture of Jews from far and wide, that a sound like a rushing wind came from heaven and filled the house where the disciples were sitting.  And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
            What a sight it must have been.  It became quite a spectacle as men and women of different tongues and nations gathered around them and heard them speaking of the mighty works of God in their own language.  And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”  Now THAT is a very good question.  What does it mean that Christ has given His Holy Christian Church His Spirit?
            John gives us an answer in his Gospel.  It is a brief but very powerful answer to that question.  John writes that Jesus went to a different feast, the Feast of Booths, in Jerusalem to remember Israel’s wandering in the wilderness.  During the middle of the feast He began teaching in the temple with such wisdom and authority that people marveled and wondered if He could be the Christ.  On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”  Now this he said about the Spirit.  John continues on to say that the Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus was to die, raise, and be glorified first.  John’s clarification was said in reference to Pentecost when the Spirit was first given to all believers in Christ.
            The Holy Spirit is still is active with Christ’s Church today, but there is much confusion over the person and work of the Spirit.  Typically, Christians go to one extreme or the other when speaking about the Holy Spirit.  Some of us tend to ignore the Spirit and His activity while others place too much emphasis on Him.  A proper understanding recognizes and trusts the work of the Holy Spirit but understands that we cannot comprehend how or when He works, other than what has been revealed to us through Scripture.  It is through truly recognizing the person and work of the Holy Spirit that we are able to come to Christ and drink, for it is the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ and together They turn our dry and barren hearts into flowing rivers of living water.  For without Christ we could not be saved and without the Spirit we could not know Christ.
            On our own we are spiritually dead.  Without the Spirit we are unresponsive to God’s call on our lives and are truly helpless and miserable.  We are no more able to help ourselves than dry bones are able to get up and walk.  When we ignore the Spirit’s work and claim we come to Jesus on our own, we take credit for the work that is God’s alone.  We replace the work and life of Christ with our own work and life.  When we ignore the Holy Spirit we become blind to the sin in our lives and are not convinced that we need saving.  We start believing we can save ourselves and make the ascent to God on our own works and deeds.  But if we place too much of an emphasis on the Spirit, we get caught up in the mysteries of God that we simply cannot understand.  We replace the revelation of Christ with our own revelations from the Spirit.  When we emphasize the Spirit we begin believing that it is the Spirit who saves us, not Christ, but the Spirit did not die for you.  We start using the Spirit as a tool to make the ascent to God through our own emotions and experiences.  By ignoring or emphasizing, either way we make it all about us and our ascent to God.
            But we cannot make the ascent.  When we rely on ourselves, we stand on shaky ground.  When we put our hope and our trust on our works or our experiences, we can never be confident of where we stand with God.  We are sinners, and will always be sinners in this life.  When we try to find the assurance of our salvation by our own efforts we are left lost, hopeless, and miserable.  For if a man is never directed away from himself and toward God, he will never be sure of his forgiveness.  We can only understand our right relation to God when we hear the word spoken to us, “Your sin is forgiven!”  When we doubt this word we are no better than the Pharisees and the Sadducees who doubted Christ.  We don’t even see Christ standing right before us, offering us His mercy and grace and peace and rest through the Holy Spirit.  Psalm 46:10 declares, “Be still and know that I am God.”  It is only when we quiet ourselves and listen to the voice of God that we can be confident of our salvation.
            At the feast, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.”  Luther once remarked, “This is not a physical thirst, but a thirst of the soul, a spiritual thirst, a heartfelt desire, yes, a distressed, wrenched, terrified, and aroused conscience, a despondent and frightened heart which longs to know on what terms it is with God.  Such is the timid, fainthearted conscience: it feels its sin; it is conscious of a weakness of spirit, soul, and flesh; it is aware of a menacing God; it fears God and sees His Law, wrath, judgment, death, and other penalties.  Such anxiety marks the proper thirst.  It is natural that people who live in fear, amid temptation and distress, are athirst by reason of their anxiety.  For such a time the tongue becomes parched, we grow feverish, our distress consumes the humors of our body, and this creates thirst.  How much more will our soul grow thirsty from spiritual temptation, when sin and God’s wrath stare us in the face!”
            When we are confronted with our sin, we are faced with a harsh reality.  When we meditate upon God’s Law, and compare it to our own thoughts, words, and deeds, we are confronted with how wrenched and desperate of a state we are in.  There was nothing, is nothing, and will never be anything that we could possibly do to save ourselves from sin and death.  We could never do enough good works in a thousand life times to save anyone much less ourselves, for our good works are nothing but trash to a righteous God.  We are a lost and hopeless people, full of sin, barren, and worthless.  Yet for some reason, Jesus comes to us in this desolate state.  He finds us in our anxiety and cries out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.
            This is what the disciples discovered on Pentecost.  They themselves were filled with the Holy Spirit, and everything they had been through with Jesus came together.  Christ’s words and deeds all came into focus.  His sufferings and death, His resurrection and ascension; they realized that it was all for the forgiveness of sins, and it was the Holy Spirit that gave them this understanding, and it was with this understanding that they went out to preach.  Peter’s sermon on Pentecost did not tell the Jews how they could get to God, but instead how God has come to them, first through the person of Jesus Christ and second through the Spirit.  The Spirit worked on all those who heard and convicted them in their sin.  Peter’s words pierced their hearts and left them asking, “What shall we do?”  To which Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins and you will receive the Holy Spirit.
            When you were baptized, you were forgiven your sins, and you did receive the Holy Spirit.  And the Holy Spirit united you with Christ, in a way that we cannot comprehend, and took your sin and exchanged it with His righteousness, making Christ a sinner on the cross and you a righteous child of God.  So when the weight of your sin presses you and crushes you so that you are starting to feel hopeless and don’t think that you can take much more, just remember that this is the Spirit working within you, preparing you for repentance so that you will be ready to receive the living water flowing from the crucified Christ, through the Holy Spirit and into you heart.
            The Spirit came for this one thing: to convict the world of its sin and to show it to the only source of its salvation in Christ Jesus.  The Spirit gives us our blessed assurance as we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called us by the Gospel, enlightened us with His gifts, sanctified us and kept us in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.
            It is only through the Church, the communion of saints, that we can know the works of the Holy Spirit.  Most of the Holy Spirit’s work is done in secret where no man can ever see.  We do not know when and where the Spirit will work.  Yet so that we can be sure of our salvation and grace, God has promised us that the Spirit will work through the preaching of His word and the administering of His Sacraments.  God has given us these means of grace so we can be confident of His presence.  Without them we would be no better off than we were before, but with them we can be certain that in our baptism and each time we hear the Word or come to the altar, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit unleash a flood living water to cure our parched throat and ease our troubled minds.
            The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  Amen.


June 6, 2014

Time of Transition

Summer school starts tomorrow.  Fortunately for me I'm not taking any classes!  It's kind of weird knowing that there will be classes going on and I won't be in any of them.  I have been keeping busy though, otherwise I would be going crazy waiting around for vicarage.  I have been working in Residential Services a lot since graduation day.  I've been checking people out of their dorms and apartments.  I cleaned the kitchen areas of the dorms (including the refrigerators) which wasn't too fun.  I've inventoried the dorm room furniture.  And I've helped prepare welcome packets for students coming to live on campus.

I've also been writing a sermon for Pentecost.  For my last weekend at fieldwork, I will be both leading the liturgy and preaching.  Since it is a feast, though, Pastor Sell will be leading Confession and Absolution and celebrating the Sacrament.  Other than that, it will be all up to me.  This is exciting and also a little nerve wrecking because the service will be broadcasted on KFUO across the nation.  So if I screw up, not only will my congregation know but everyone listening on the radio!  I am pretty confident though.

Lastly, Marie and I have been packing.  It is weird seeing our apartment being packed up and boxed.  We don't have much time, however.  Our lease is up at the end of June, so we need to be packed an moved by July 1.  We're moving all of our stuff into both my brother's and my sister's house.  On July 1st we are going to drive down to FL to visit Marie's parents.  We will be with them for a week and a half before heading to Huntsville, AL where Marie will be standing up in her best friend from high school's wedding.  We'll be back in St. Louis July 14th to load up the truck and I will head to Wichita Falls, TX on the 15th.  Marie and Levi will fly down on the 16th.  So much to do before then with so little time.  But we're so excited!

May 21, 2014

It's Over

I can't believe it.  Yes, I have a few class meetings left, but for all intents and purposes my second year at the seminary is over.  No summer school in my future, so all I have is work and packing before Marie and I go visit her family in Florida.  Then Molly's wedding in Alabama.  Then off to Texas!  I can't believe it's almost here.  It's so exciting yet so weird to think about at the same time.  In just over two years I will be Reverend Timothy Roth, and I will have a Masters degree.  In two years I will be getting ready to head off to who knows where.  Maybe back to Texas.  Maybe to Wisconsin.  Maybe to Florida or Washington or New York.  We will see what the future brings us.

I am just ready for vicarage.  I am ready to get my hands dirty in the ministry.  Sometimes I can't believe that God has called me to this task.  Sometimes I can'r believe that He has chosen me, a poor, miserable, broken sinner, to do His work on the earth.  It just blows my mind.  I just pray that when I stand before Him face to face, He will tell me that I've done well and made Him proud.

Heavenly Father, please be with me.  Encourage me and strengthen me.  Help me to serve you and be faithful to you.  In your Holy Name I pray, Amen.

May 13, 2014

End of Year Two

Wow, I can't believe it has been two years already.  So much has happened.  When I first started classes at the seminary, Marie and I had only been married for five months and living together for a couple of weeks.  Summer Greek brought with it my first friends at the seminary.  It also brought with it lots of homework and studying.  Marie was trying to get acclimated to a new city and find employment.  That was a record summer for St. Louis.  Hot, humid, temps over a 100 for a month straight with humidity about 90%.  We were in a small, one bedroom apartment, with one tiny wall air conditioning unit and one window.  It was miserable, but we were happy together.

As that year moved on, I moved into Hebrew, then into introductory classes like Lutheran Mind, Intro to Historical Theology, Pastoral Ministry, Worship, and the like.  I really enjoyed when we started getting into the heavier stuff.  As we advanced, it became evident that I am a practical and systematic guy.  History and exegesis is just not my thing.  My favorite classes have definitely been the ones that I have taken with Dr. Hartung (Marriage and Family Care, Pastoral Care in the Human Experience, Congregational Dynamics) and Dr. Bierman (Systems I, Systems II, Systems III).  I also really enjoyed my Worship class with Professor Johnson.

In fieldwork, I was able to see a congregation transform before my eyes.  From an intentional interim to a full time pastor.  From hurting and frustrated to loving and healing.  It has been great to walk alongside Pastor Sell as he has hung on during a wild ride.  He has also challenged me and pushed me and has helped me gain more confidence in my ability to lead a worship service.  Julie, the music director, has also been great.  I still remember her first day there.  I went up to her to introduce myself and make sure she felt welcomed.  There are several other friends that we have made in the congregation that have made us feel at home there.  While I am excited to leave for vicarage, but it will be hard leaving Our Savior and the wonderful people there.

And then there is Levi.  Marie and I had no intention of even thinking about kids until after the seminary.  When we found out Marie was pregnant we were shocked and scared.  We had no idea what we were doing or how we were going to afford this.  Fear quickly subsided to joy, however.  We began looking for a new apartment, and learning about medicaid, and going to birthing and parenting classes.  When the final month came, I was so excited every time I looked at Marie I would just shout "BABY! BABY! BABY!"  Then came the day.  I'm glad we did not know his gender or pick out names before hand.  It was such an amazing day as we met our baby I'm sure I remember much more than Marie.  It was one of the most beautiful, amazing things I have ever seen.  I still get emotional when I remember it.  That was almost nine months ago.  Where has time gone?  Levi is no longer the newborn I held in my arms that day.  We are so proud of Levi.  He is such a happy baby and we love him so much.

I can't wait to see what the next year brings!

April 10, 2014

It's Been a While

It's been a long time since I posted. Levi is army crawling now. Nothing is safe in our apartment. It's less than two and a half weeks until Call Day at Concordia Seminary. We'll find out where this seminary adventure will take us in the summer and for the next year. Excited doesn't even cover what I'm feeling. I'm ecstatic. Like a little kid in the 90s that just found out she could have her birthday party at Chuck-E-Cheese (please no comments on my childhood obsessions...). Vicarage means we are one step closer to real life. For those of you who have been in school for an extended period of time, you understand that you feel just like you're in a holding pattern, waiting for life to begin. Since I completed my master's and then Timothy started seminary, I really haven't started living yet, or at least I feel that way. Yes, I am living and yes, I am enjoying life at the seminary. But life without homework is a novelty that our family has yet to experience. I'm looking forward to that day. But until then, I will settle for vicarage, a trial run for real life. Bring it on!

(Please join us as we find out where we are going. The vicarage service is streamed live at http://callday.csl.edu beginning at 3:00 p.m. on April 29. Join us via the Internet as we learn of our upcoming adventure!)