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My Story — to get us started

March 11, 2009

As the author or initiator of this blog, it is only fair to you to know my story.  So this post actually comes with a disclaimer, it is longer than I expect future “story” posts to be (but you never know).  If something you read resonates with you, isn’t clear or if you have questions about something you read, please feel free to ask questions. You might want to “break it up” and read this through over the next couple days.

I grew up in Oregon in a small town south of Portland.  My dad worked in a paper mill, my mother was a homemaker and my step-mother was a nurse.  My mother died when I was seven years old.  She had suffered rheumatic fever when she was a young girl and it had damaged one of her heart valves.  In 1961 open heart surgery was a fairly new procedure and she passed away in the recovery room.  My dad remarried a year later and I went from being an only child to having two step-brothers and a step-sister 15, 12, and 10 years older than me.  Yep for all practical purposes I was still an only child with brothers and a sister to look up to (and I did).

The Christian faith was very important to my mother.  At the time of her passing she was a deaconess at the Oregon City First Baptist Church.  Every Sunday my dad and my step-mom (who I called “mom”) made certain that I was in Sunday School.  It also helped that in 3rd grade our Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Buckles (really that was her name) brought us our favorite candy bars.  She is actually the only Sunday School teacher’s name I remember — not just because she brought us candy bars, but because she did something I don’t remember any other teacher doing.  Mrs. Buckles loved the hymn the “Old Rugged Cross.”  Every Sunday we sang that song because she loved it so much.  Now you can imagine a bunch of goofy 3rd graders singing the “Old Rugged Cross!”  I’m pretty sure we didn’t always sing on key.  But she made us think that we were the best singers in the world.  She loved to hear us sing.  (Even when we got some really odd expressions during a Sunday School program — where we sang, yep you guessed it).  I’m sharing that as a  reminder of how significant something can be in the life of another that we might think of as only a little thing.

I was not “particularly” interested in God or church growing up.  I remember one time my mother was having family devotions with my cousin and I.  My cousin, Sherri was listening and attentive; I on the other hand was busy playing with my salmon colored Ford Ranchero toy car.  I think my “revving” the tires to make noise was a bit of a distraction!

However in the course of time and due to the faithfulness of my parents church was a regular part of my life.  The word to describe my relationship with Christ is “evolving.”

My undergrad college years were spent first at George Fox College (back in the 1970’s) and completed at the University of Oregon. It was during these years when I sensed God’s call both in my life to be a follower of Christ (not just rest in saying a prayer to get into heaven) and in vocation – to serve Him. My college years were formative for me in ways I am continuing to discover. The ministry I received and experienced while in Eugene at Faith Center under our Pastor, Roy Hicks continues to be a model for me in discernment, caring, and equipping.

My degree in Recreation was sought because I desired with Steve (my husband for 31 years) to serve in full-time camping ministry. In the 1970’s such doors were not open for women as Program Directors. When we did serve on staff at a year-round camp we found ourselves in a vortex of difficult leadership transitions. Steve was the program director but only able to work in that capacity one day a week, the rest of his time was spent as a camp-hand working with horses and doing maintenance work. If I wanted, I could help out on the weekends in the kitchen. Our gifts and abilities were under-utilized or unused. Certainly this was a time of refining that would be years in process.

For many years I often thought I had blown it and missed what God had for me, for us. Yet God was faithful and leading me, developing me, and putting me in situations to learn new skills for His Kingdom. I can add “we” — both Steve and I.

Life went on — Steve and I have three grown children, Carmen, Philip and Rebekah.  Carmen, now married to Dave has two children — our grandchildren, Micah and Tali.  My family is wonderful and supportive.  In fact without the encouragement and support (at times even pressing me to follow through) of my husband I wouldn’t be where I am.

Several significant things have happened in my life in the past several years.  Almost four years ago Steve and I were attending our denomination’s (Evangelical Covenant) regional conference meeting.  Friday evening during communion I witnessed communion administered by both a man and woman together.  I was caught off guard by the tears on my cheek.  I “knew” I wanted to do that for others.  Then several months later I had an opportunity to talk with a retired pastor in the Covenant, Sharon Gradin.  When she retired she had been serving as the Pastor of a Covenant Hispanic church.  When I asked her how she came to be pastor for a Hispanic community which is traditionally male dominated, her answer was both simple and profound, “they saw what I was doing.” She had lived out her calling as a pastor-teacher and they recognized and affirmed it.

There was a third and very important thing taking place in my life throughout the “events” mentioned above.  I had a friend who was battling a glioblastoma brain tumor.  I attended church and worked with Kathryn for our local school district.  Her illness deeply affected those at the district office.  Almost everyone was distraught.  In response I wanted to do something — and so I began sending out via email a scripture and prayer (praying the scripture) focused on Kathryn.  It was during that time that I began to realize I was thinking not only of Kathryn but those that were receiving the email.  At the time of Kathryn’s diagnosis, Steve and I had been up to the hospital to see her.  Getting into the elevator I remember praying, Lord, how are we going to do this? There have only been a few times when I have felt like the answer was audible because it was so clearly stated and this was one of those times.  God spoke to me as clearly as you are reading this, compassion. And I remembered the scripture from Luke 13, “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing.” Even now four years later I am continuing to realize what the call of compassion means for me.

Kathryn Tobias was my friend, a dear friend to many, and as one who loved God she lived out before me and others what it means to risk and remain faithful, even when she did not understand “why.” She is a significant part of my story.  Kathryn passed away on March 14, 2006.  But today, March 11 is the day we remember her earthly birthday and so today, my sister in and with Christ, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Because of administrative re-organizations and budget pressures my position ended with the school district almost two years ago.  It is often true that when a door closes a window opens and for me this is especially true.  In September of 2007 I started attending seminary.  It was a deliberate step to say “yes” to what God might have for me and more importantly, at least I think so, I have made myself available to God to lead me.  There are times when I want clarity, but I am learning afresh that God wants us to trust Him. Along the way I have realized that there have been places and times in my life where I have held myself back because I am a woman.  I was taught that when you run into an obstacle you have to back away from it.  I realize now the pain my mom (step-mom) faced in this regard.

When Jesus called Peter to be a disciple — he did so by telling him that he would be a “fisher of men.”  After His resurrection on the shore after a breakfast of fish, Jesus changed Peter’s vocation.  He no longer used fishing terms, Christ used the words of a shepherd — Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep (John 21:15-19).  When Jesus healed Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52) he had been sitting by the side of the road, doing what blind men did to survive, begging.  But when Jesus called Bartimaeus, he had a decision to make.  Bartimaeus got up and threw off his beggar’s cloak to follow Him.  Bartimaeus healed, could no longer remain a beggar.  Sometimes as we follow Christ we find that he changes our vocation.  Our direction, our purpose.

I have felt as if I was in a “flat spin” without orientation because the support I thought would come and be there among by brothers and sisters did not.  I understand the wounds women carry because the gift of their ministry to Christ and on behalf of Christ is not welcomed or received.  When I read that a woman pastor carries a wooden cross in her pocket to hold when she prays for women leaders in the Church that have been marginalized, I understand.  Rather than be received I understand, that in a unique way women identify with the suffering of Christ.  And I realize that we are called to carry our cross and that we do so unto Christ.  There we find strength.

  1. March 13, 2009 3:27 pm

    Thanks for doing the blog! I hope it is something that unites us as women in ministry.

    • pathwayjourneys permalink*
      March 14, 2009 9:59 am

      Thanks Tamara … it too is one of my prayers.

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