Saturday, February 6, 2016



I have looked through thousands of photos from the last 6 months.  
Thousands of memories just CALLING to be shared.
Thousands of captions just BEGGING to be written.  

SO, while none of these photos are in any sort of logical order,
they are BEAUTEOUS.  They are COLORFUL.

They are LIFE as I know it.

 The view from the top of the tower room on campus.  
You can see San Francisco across the Bay.
One has to climb up this teeny-tiny, spiral staircase 
to get to the top room, but BOY is it worth the climb!

 California certainly affords you some of the most beautiful sunsets.

 Sit BY the water, and you have the most perfect ending to a day.

 Susan and I were able to watch Yoga ON the Labyrinth
at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. A most,
creative expression of prayer and music and movement!

We can totally do that.  Not.

LOOOOVE my new, water views.

Every once in a while, we're able to cut loose.  Hallie (with the cello), Rachel (with her cup of tea) and Caitlyn (with her paintbrush) are just three of the characters around here that keep me laughing and sane!

We traveled down to Santa  Cruz to visit Susan's brother, Tom, and his wife, Laurie.  Enjoyed some beautiful downtime, some walks along the boardwalk (including spotting a game of Badminton on a Naked Beach!), and spent some musical time with Tom's daughter, Megan, on the piano bench.  It's amazing how just one day out of town can get you breathing deeper and walking slower.  

Always a chance to remember our Baptisms.

The California sky always presents the most glorious of color palettes.

 As do the windows of nearby cathedrals.  I wish there was some kind of tour in SF that would let me ascend to stand in front of these windows.  Zooming in on the camera is lovely, but I'd love to stand next to them, eye to eye.  You could honestly spend a day in front of just ONE window!

 A fascinating view of the Bay area from the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge.  It's crazy to think of how many people actually live on that little, stretch of land.  Driving around the other side of the Bay is CLEARLY the better solution to heading home!  More time over water, less time with exhaust pipes and concrete.

These photos were all taken on ONE walk through my December!  I couldn't believe the bright hues were able to grow in what I usually consider a WINTER month!  Just beautiful...I wish you could smell them!

 More of those amazingly, fantastic windows.  I love this one:
"He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit"
Grace Cathedral, San Francisco

 We had a delightful time by the Golden Gate Bridge - lots of hidden, hiking paths and history amongst those trees and along that water.  And, oh hey...there's a Bridge, too!  

Got to spend some cuddle and snuggle time with some of my favorite children (and Brad's new puppy, Rambo!)  Nicola came over to Nicole's place, too, so that reunion was absolutely great, too!  So thankful that each and every one of these smiles are a part of my heart!

 Love that girl.

Miss Madeline Elizabeth and her glorious curls.

 We were danger on wheels at King Soopers!
(Honestly, most people just stood back and watched...
and most of them grinned!)

 Seriously...look at that puppy!  SO tiny and fluffy!

"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark..."
We found the passage of my first Sermon Scripture 
underlined and notated in one of Art's old Bibles.  
What a treasure to have stumbled across this!   

Cameron sat there and traced the entire labyrinth by himself.  
His little fingers were the perfect size to swoop in and out of the lines.  

 My lovely, living space in Berkeley.  It took a while to get to this place, including the addition of a wonderful couch from friends, and the re-arranging (and re-arranging and re-arranging) of furniture to get a piano AND a coffee table AND a dresser to fit.  

And, yes, the dresser IS on its side.
(You didn't even notice, did ya?!) 

This semester began with service at an outdoor food pantry in San Francisco.  Holly (light blue) is the Director of Admissions here at PLTS, and was instrumental in selling PLTS as the place I should attend.  She planned a wonderful retreat that convinced me that I would be surrounded by thoughtful, Christ-centered people here in Berkeley.  Caitlyn (purple shirt) and Rachel (PLTS shirt) were part of this day of service, too, and we thoroughly enjoyed working WITH the people.

Oh, Liana Noel.  You spunky, little, whippersnapper of a love.  God sent me a house-FULL of neighbors that have brought laughter, love, and joy.  And, seeing as how she's a rather artistic soul, my porch, my fridge, and my door are never without something creative and inspirational!

 Cameron Wayne, one of the most huggable, snuggle-able (that's a word), charming little munchkins here in Berkeley.  With blonde hair that's turning strawberry, this little boy is the epitome of unconditional love.

 The Berkeley Marina is within driving distance of my living space, and a great place to park every once in a while to just sit and breathe...a MUST for Seminarians.

 I'm SUCH a dork, but could I resist?!

No really...Geeking out in the courtyard of my home.

On Tuesday nights in Fall, I'd have class "up the hill", which meant I would attend class at a neighboring seminary for some of my electives credits.  I'd always look forward to the Break we'd take, RIGHT about the time the sun was about to fully disappear.  Talk about a chance to take a deep breath!

I love the fact that we can gather in the Chapel on campus
 and light candles and say prayers.  Simply and holy.   

 The views from campus are stunning - almost like being at a resort!

Here's the bunch of folks NEW to Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary as of Fall 2015.  My colleagues and professors in ministry for the next part of this life journey.

The entire study/faculty body for Fall 2015.  
What a faith-filled group!

 Ok, I realize this might be the STRANGEST of photos to include on a blog, but isn't it beautiful!?  I mean really...where can you find such an amazing array of carrots but at a Farmer's Market in California!?

 Not to be forgotten, Cinco the Wonder Cat continues to find her way here in Berkeley.  While she hasn't mastered her piano skills just yet, she does have an uncanny knack for playing in the upper register whenever I sit down to sing.  Such a goon.

What are the odds!?  Here's Aaron sporting one of my favorite quotes:  
"All shall be well, and all shall be well 
and all manner of thing shall be well."  Julian of Norwich

 Have I mentioned how soothing the Marina can be?!

 Hope Lutheran has this giant cross they fill with sand, and then they invite folks to light candles inside.  It makes for a calm and contemplative atmosphere during evening, worship services.

 The view from PLTS, just before we head down the hill.  
It's a SEVERE drop...with fantastic views.  
I, of course, enjoy FLYING down those hills.
Top speeds.  A must.  

Remember when I mentioned some of those other campuses?  This is a museum located on one of them - it's crazy to see such architecture pop up in the middle of Berkeley, CA.

 Here's the drop-down view again - this time, you can see all the way over to the Golden Gate Bridge.  I LOVE being this close to a major body of water!

Ah, this little one joined the team in early fall:  Holden Allen.  
Liana and Cam make great siblings, and Holden couldn't be sweeter.

 Can you see the two, celestial bodies in the evening sky?

Again, with the crazy-amazing colors of 'winter'!

Pretty sure I won't tire of the colors.

 In October 2015, I traveled to Chicago, IL to visit with other ELCA Fund for Leaders scholarship recipients.  We met with various Church leaders, including our Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton.  Gratitude doesn't even BEGIN to cover being given the chance to live into the hope and potential behind a scholarship of this magnitude!!

This Cross was astonishing - it contained etchings inside that told the story of Christ.

Birth, death, Resurrection.

 Boy, I love myself some happy, colorful stained glass.  We were fortunate enough to be able to worship inside the Chapel of the ELCA Headquarters.  Church AT the Church. 

New people, new places, new energy.

Getting ready for the big reception/program.

 Such a HOOT to have a professional photographer snapping all these candid shots.  We now have TONS of awesome, high-quality pictures to use for years to come.  

 What a BUNCH!  The capacity, humility, creative, and energy found within the faces of this photo is immeasurable.  We are equipped, we have been empowered, and BOY, are we ready to be unleashed!

You know, just hanging out with the BISHOP!
(She's a feisty and fun lady!)

 My Rocky Mountain Synod Bishop, Jim Gonia, ME,
my Scholarship benefactor, Rev. Phyllis Anderson (Former President of PLTS),
and Rev. Brian Stein-Webber (current co-President of PLTS).
Pr. Ron is TAKING the picture, and was able to celebrate in the night, too!

 Meanwhile, over in Oakland, more stunning 
and picturesque stained glass to discover.

 Liana was the one to bless Cinco this year...
...although, I'm not terribly sure the blessing took...

That's right.  Cinco the Flying Cat.
Whoosh, THUMP.   Whoosh, THUMP. 
This is what I hear behind me as I sit at my table to write papers.  

O Lord, hear my prayers....

Abby sent me a lovely, PURPLE care package from Denver.  She's been my Lenten Mentee (Or as we call one another:  Lentee and Lentor) for the past few years, and sent along a lovely note and notebook of support.  The photo, however, of a young, PRAYING Abbycakes is what melted me upon opening.  Oh, sweet girl...I pray for you, too!


 In October of 2015, Nadia Bolz Weber stopped by SF on her book tour for "Accidental Saints", and we were treated to a book reading and a quick autograph signing.

 She's snarky, witty, and unbelievably grounded 
in the REAL grasp of Lutheran theology.  
I continue to learn from this woman each week.  

What a nut.  This is my furball.
She stretches INSIDE the window area ALL the time.
I'm happy the windows can usually be open for her to enjoy!

Seriously.  Roller Skating.  In the Parking Lot.
I love these people!

I remember sitting with Susan near the beach when we took this picture.  It was the end of a beautiful day, and the colors and tranquility perfectly matched our spirits.  Feeling MOST thankful!

 We also spent lots of quiet time (yes, I CAN be quiet at times).
This is the view of the Bay Area that we enjoyed while quietly sitting on the PLTS campus.  

I love the things you can view by just looking UP.
A stunning view inside the Nave of Grace Cathedral.  

Atop Grizzly Peak Road, one of the loveliest 
(and highest) places to catch a California sunset.  

This doesn't even look like a real photo, and yet we were able to explore the woods just outside the Bridge.  We crossed it later, getting to see the Zipper in action - the machine that goes (zipping) back and forth across the bridge, moving large concrete barriers to one lane or the other, making more space for a lane if there is an accident.  It moves SUPER fast, and is fascinating to watch in person.   

Honestly.  This will never get old.

 A visit to Hope Lutheran Church on Reformation Day!

Beach time.  Prayer time.  Special time.  

When inside the Cathedral, most people spend their time taking photos and looking up.  It's rather surprising that I've made it through that place without walking into a pillar.  Yet.   

We hiked out to the Albany Bulb, this little patch of land, just inside the Bay, totally protected from the traffic and chaos and tumult of the city.  We could have easily camped there overnight.   

Looking UP at Grace Cathedral - such an immense structure to behold!

Santa Cruz gave us some beautiful sights and memories.

The end of 2015 brought Bradley John safely BACK into the States.  Thank you, GOD, for keeping this boy safe.  Again.  Can we be done with this overseas deployment stuff!?  Julie (his fianc√©) was thrilled to have him home again, too!

The view from my kitchen window.  Every day, hummingbirds stop by to feast on these flowers, and others join in a chorus in the trees nearby.   (Good grief...I'm beginning to sound like I'm narrating a Disney movie!) 

 Liana came with me to church at Hope once, and happily explored the LABYRINTH they have in the backyard.  A church with a LABYRINTH!  I was MEANT to find this space!

Can't take photo credit for this one:  Caitlyn and John took this wonderful photo of the Font we have in the Chapel on the PLTS campus.  I LOVE anything having to do with Baptisms, fonts, water, and the promises that come with such a daily cleansing and remembering! 

 I'm thankful to have experienced some unique, worship activities during Wednesday Chapel services, including these poppies during our observance of Veteran's Day.  

Here's another example of the service we held in remembrance of all the saints who have gone before us.  This river of life streamed from the altar on down, under the font, and then out, through the congregation.  We were invited to bring pictures and a momento or two of those who had died.  It was LOVELY!

Just behind the PLTS campus lies an amazing, regional park just a few steps away.  Our Formation Group (a semi-weekly, small group who meets together to make sure we're all on the page, academically and emotionally) took our final meeting to the woods, and were able to think and reflect underneath and inside the beauty of creation.

Worship at Hope is always fulfilling. 

I literally yelped for Caitlyn to stop the car when we drove past 
these flowers on our way home from class.  
Purple!?  Water?!  Happy Brenda Lynn! 

 The little one is growing.  And napping.  
And warming hearts wherever he goes.

I've learned that I can't do any computer work at the seashore, but I CAN do my reading.  SO, I try (try) at least once a week to gather my many (MANY) readings and go sit with my feet in the sand, and try to breathe a little bit deeper as I read about God.   

And then there are the days without sunshine.
The days where the fog and the mist take over the campus.
The days where peace is just a little further than one would hope to reach. 

 And then the sun returns.
You remember you are loved and supported.
You recognize it's only work, and work will conclude.
And you go back to life with a happy heart.

 God bless neighbors who have installed screen doors already.  Katy (who also doubles as a great furnace-relighting-pal), helped me install my new (PURPLE!) screen door.  It seemed only logical to let even MORE light and air into this place.  

This beauteous cut of glass was from Glide Church over in San Francisco, a place where Sarah and I worshipped on Thanksgiving Morning.  What a festive and energetic service!  

 A quick stop down the road to oooh and ahhhh at the windows of Grace Cathedral...

 ...and then back home to grab some squash of our own!  We had spent the morning cutting hundreds (no really...hundreds!) of squash for their Annual Turkey Day meal, and vowed we really didn't care to see or slice any of these again!  I'm pretty sure our wrist muscles will never be the same!

Nothing like seeing a little beauty when looking up on campus.

 Or looking up while at home during a sunset.

 Christmas time brought about an AdventFest, where we gathered at a local coffee shop to share music, stories, poetry and songs.  Kathleen (red shirt, black sweater) and Rachel (black shirt, red sweater) were two of the talents entertaining us that night, and I spent a healthy amount of time on the bench, happily accompanying folks.

 I think it's pretty fair to say I will always ALWAYS hold my students near and dear to my heart.  After a sweet, 14-question interview about my life and dreams and passions, Cami wrote up this card about a woman of influence in her life.  While my heart still breaks to be away from these children, it helps to know we can still connect over the miles!

Just playing around a little bit with the 
camera and slow shutter speeds.  I tell you, 
that Marina sure does come in handy!

Oh, this boy.  I'm so thankful I decided to bring my carseat with me to California, because it's been full of lots of little, happy people in my backseat.  This include Cameron, who is ANYTHING but shy!

The decor of Hope Lutheran was beautiful during the Advent season, ready to welcome the birth of Jesus, and celebrate in a multi-cultural way.  I love the fact that they leave the wise-men out of the manger scene until it's time for their appearance.  (Epiphany).

 Apparently, Cinco thought her named was really Sink-o.

 Nothing says we are almost DONE with this semester 
like a car full of happy and a well-loved cello!  

I remember lighting this candle and praying for peace.  The sun shifted, and the already beautiful, stained glass window suddenly reflected onto the walls.  Well played, peace,  Well played.

December 2015 brought a trip to Sheboygan, Wisconsin
and a whole different Hope - Hope Reformed Church!

 Oh my.  The parentals finally, F I N A L L Y 
switched over to Smart Phones.  Lord, have mercy.  

 I find it ironic that I'M the one not on my phone 
(other than taking this photo!)

 Time with Grandma Dot!  I love it 
when we can find time to laugh together!

Bradley John and his book (yes, his book) of Wedding Plans.  He and Julie are getting married in May of 2016 in Denver, and he had scrapbooked  ALL the details of the entire event.  Martha Stewart would have been proud.

 Visited Sue Dennis's church, also in Sheboygan.  
Colorful windows to be found everywhere!

 Ah, the shores of Lake Michigan.
And my light house, waaaaaaaay out there!

Suz made a surprise stop on Christmas Eve 
to drop off some flavoring from Uncle Jimmy.  
MUCH appreciated and a fun interruption! 

She just laughs at me....  :)  Who doesn't!?

 Good golly, let's through a TABLET
 into the technical mix, shall we!?
Mother of Pearl.

Some pretty random shots of all things Wisconsin!

 Christmas Eve 2015:  The Daughters of Hope!
Allison (middle) attended Seminary and works in Denver, and 
Kate is a Reverend already who works in counseling in MI.
What a joy to be able to lead worship with these ladies!

 Ah, sweet Athena.  It's so fun when the cousins 
of the family start having babies of their own!

 Oh, Michael Joseph.  You stud, you.

Some candle.  Some quiet.  Some calm.

And then the OPPOSITE of evening at Stacie's with the gang!  Here's Andrea and Stac with the awesome donations Sarah gave to ELCA Good Gifts in our names.  What a loud and laughable evening together!  So blessed to call these folks friends!

It isn't Colorado time if we haven't snuck off to Rocky Mountain National Park, which is exactly where the dawn of the new year found us.  Right smack in the middle of God's glorious creation.

I think we've taken a photo in this exact spot during each season!   Look at that view!  I could fill an entire blog with just pictures from that Park.  It is a dear and sacred space to us, and I can't wait to go back!

My first time in a collar!  Susan helped me put it into place...I was rather emotional!  How thankful I was to be able to preach my FIRST sermon at Bethany while in Colorado!!  Pastor Deb, Pastor Russ and Pastor Brigette were nothing but supportive and kind in letting me be a part of worship during my visit.  How wonderful to be with the people of Bethany again!

January 2016 began with a specTACular, flight down the stairs.  How I didn't break BOTH wrists can ONLY be attributed to an act of God, because I landed on everything.  I did, however, break the very bottom of my bottom.  It's seriously a major, pain in know. 

No, the donut pillow does not help.  Ice does.  Laying flat on my back does.
Sleeping so that my entire body doesn't move DEFINITELY helps.
Time, the doctor says.  Only TIME will help.  Good thing I'm so patient.... 

 And then, the DAY AFTER flying down the stairs and snapping my tailbone, I find myself at my Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) interview at Littleton Hospital.  All went well, and I was issued the invitation to join the Whole Person Care Team as a Chaplain for Summer of 2016!  I am BEYOND excited to have this chance to minister and learn and grow...IN LITTLETON, COLORADO!  

Psycho Cat.  I came home to THIS upon my return from Wisconsin and Colorado.  Cinco had apparently taken it upon herself to give the place a makeover, putting the CAT firmly in CATASTROPHE.  I'm guessing this means she really missed me, in her own, VERY, special way.  Yikes.  I walked in, and thought I had been robbed!  SHEESH.  

 The things you see when walking your neighbors to preschool.

 Someone is NOT happy about the fact that 
I can't just come over and play any more.
Trust me, Maddie...I feel the same way.  ;(  
Thank goodness for FaceTime and Skype and technology!

Speaking of recoveries, my Pastor in El Sobrante, Pastor Deborah at Hope Lutheran Church, is recovering from hip replacement surgery.  (This church will actually be my Teaching Parish for the next, 3 semester!!)  She asked if I would lead the services on January 23, to which I believe I said YES before she finished the sentence!   How thankful I was to her for her trust and encouragement in thinking I could be a part of worship!   

Me.  In a Collar.  LEADING.  The Service.  
Kind of like taking the Final Exam before actually taking the class!!

What an incredible experience to be the leader - to read the PASTOR parts.  To greet the congregation at the beginning of the service.  To walk down that aisle, and for the Cross to be the last thing you see before turning to greet the congregation.  To breathe...and begin.  

And to declare the Forgiveness of Sins!  And to preside over Holy Communion!  Not just serve...but to actually say the words "In the night in which He was betrayed..."  This was HUGE!  Pr. Deb had blessed the elements the day before, so we were in right order when it came to the Words of Institution.  And then to actually BREAK the bread and POUR the wine!  Can't even!  It was a holy, holy moment to share with the people of Hope.  Folks said I was beaming.  
It was indeed my duty AND my joy, as the words go!

 The altar was decorated for the season of Epiphany, full of light and sparkle!  I had to laugh, though, because here was this one-eyed, substitute Pastor with NO depth perception, working through Communion for her first time, in front of people...and they had to go ahead and add FLAMES!  Really, people!?  Thank heavens it all went REALLY well!

+     ~      +      ~      +

But life quickly went from the euphoria of realizing just how wonderful my call really is to the horror of a house fire back in Wisconsin.  Mom works with a woman named Marcie, and her son's home caught fire one night.  Three of his four children perished in the fire.  

Three.  Children.  Just typing that brings the tragedy right back to the forefront of my heart and mind, and it's just too much to fully comprehend.  

+     ~      +      ~      +

+ Carter John Maki +

+ Benjamin Lawrence Martin +

+  Natalie Renee Martin +

The loss of these three, precious lives taught me lots about myself as a Pastor - while I may be completely comfortable in my role as a worship leader, as I so happily just experienced, I have lots to learn in regards to Pastoral support and care.  I reached out to all of my trusted, pastoral supports, and was flooded with advice of what TO say, what NOT to say, ways to support, ways to listen, ways name it.  I know as a Pastor, I'll experience such horrible things such as this fire, and I really think it's a time to share the wisdoms (and learnings) to help one another through this.  Thank you, Pastor Deb, Pastor Russ, Pastor Brigette, Pastor Ruth Ann, Pastor Bill, Pastor Ron, Janet, Stacie, Susan, Deb...for listening, for caring, for reminding me once again that God walks with us through it all and that grief takes on so many, many faces.  

And this little face.  Miss Jenna.  The one child who DID make it out of the fire.  The one who made it to her neighbor's house and called for help.  The little face who carries a world of stories in each line.  I pray for her heart.  I pray for her spirit.  I pray for her days ahead.  Lord, hear our prayer.  

The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did NOT overcome it.  John 1:5

And now...I find myself looking ahead:  my grades from Fall were awesome (who'd have thought I'd even care about a GPA once again in my life!?) , I have the energy to dig into my 15 credits for Spring Semester  (even Greek!)  and my heart and my spirit are full and thankful.  

Come, Holy Spirit, Come.  


Sue Dennis said...

Beautiful pictures and prose reflecting on you and the beautiful life you lead and the people you touch.

Aaron said...

Hey! I made your blog! Thanks. Sorry for flipping you off, tho... totally unintentional! But all shall be well indeed.