Call Night – And We’re Moving To…

Call Night – the night my husband received his first placement as pastor – has come and gone in all its whirlwind of drama and emotion. We have waited for this night for the past five years of our marriage. I’m so glad the wait is over.

This entry will be a bit long – about 10 minutes to read – but it’ll give some insight into what the big day was like.

My sister came in the late morning on the big day. She babysat Esther, and Frank went to counseling with me. We learned some new ways to deal with anxiety. (I can’t imagine why we’re dealing with anxiety. *sarcasm*) Then I went home to do chores, and Frank went to class.

Keeping my thoughts off Call Night and my eyes off the clock was not easy. However, my baby decided to be incredibly fussy, and a fussy baby turned out to be the best distraction. Frank and I took her to the Vicarage (Internship) Placement Service the night before so we could have a practice run of taking a baby to a big crowd after bedtime. She did really well, but it kind of ruined her normally happy temperament the next day – Call Day. She was very clingy and quite the momma’s girl. I thought she must be getting her first tooth or coming down with an ear infection because she had never been so clingy. Turns out she was just overwhelmed, poor thing. I felt bad, though, because she wouldn’t let any of our visiting family hold her, and it isn’t often they get to see her.

Frank’s parents arrived in the early evening. Frank cooked them a dinner of seared steak that had been rubbed with garlic hours before. He also steamed some sweet potatoes and broiled some fresh green beans. It was a delicious feast.

My friend, Jenn, came to visit me for a few minutes to give me a hug and a pep talk. She even sewed a tear in my skirt for me while I helped Frank with the veggies.

Then we ate, had a quick clean up, and rushed out the door to get to the seminary early.

I had a plan for handling my anxiety. I wanted to sit in a back pew so I could have an easy exit. If my anxiety got to be too much, I was going to leave and go to the next building over. Since Esther was so fussy, the plan was to have her stay with me. Unfortunately, since she doesn’t see family very often, and she’s just getting into the separation anxiety phase, I didn’t want to send her away from me, especially since she had missed bedtime the night before and would be doing so again. Thankfully, she sleeps well while being worn, and I planned on wearing her. It was also nice to have her with me because she’s in this with us. I remember feeling so odd two years ago during Vicarage Placement Night because the one person who was moving with me wasn’t allowed to sit with me at the service. But this year, I had a daughter, my little placement partner.

Even though we got there early, I was shocked at how crowded the chapel was. It was much more crowded for the Call Service than it was for the Vicarage Service. We couldn’t find enough seats together, so we had to separate. My sister and I sat with our parents, who met us there. My in-laws went up front, which ended up working out well because my father-in-law got some wonderful pictures.

The service began, and the candidates started their procession. As soon as I saw Frank, I teared up. I was so proud of him. This was finally his moment – the moment God had planned all along. Some happy tears were shed. And then I had to laugh, because we’re advised not to cry, and here I was, only a few minutes in, already crying. (I cry easily about pretty much everything – happy or sad.)

The service was absolutely beautiful. The Kantorei (men’s choir) sang some absolutely beautiful pieces that had a calming harmony and peaceful message. I immediately felt that God was with us, and I relaxed a little.

During the service, Esther fussed if I wasn’t holding her, but she did really well sitting on my lap and played with my sister’s hands, sleeve, nails, etc. I also brought a teething necklace, which she about chewed to death. She was so well-behaved, I even got to take notes during the sermon.

The sermon was well written. It began with a booming exclamation of “ARE YOU READY?” I felt a surge of adrenaline. Then he said, “I know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering how you’re going to distract yourself through this too-long sermon.” We all laughed. He continued, “Is it by counting the bricks on the wall behind me? Well let me tell you, I’ve already done it. There are 22,574 bricks.”

He reminded us that the world doesn’t want to hear about Jesus, but God is going to enable us to withstand the world. We were reminded that we will fail and make mistakes, but there is no perfect pastor and no perfect family, and there is always Grace and forgiveness. He pointed out that even the Twelve Disciples, who had the “best seminary training ever” were unprepared for Jesus’ death. Yet, later on Pentecost, they were on fire with passion for the Gospel. Jesus chose commoners – sinners – to be those Twelve Disciples, and He still chooses common sinners to be His disciples today. He equips us an enables us to spread His Gospel of Salvation.

Finally, it was time for the candidates to come forward and receive their Call. Their full name was called, then the church name, city, state, and district. Esther started getting really fussy during this – of course, the pivotal moment. I got up and started pacing with her in the back of the chapel. There were over 50 candidates, and it felt like forever and a day before Frank’s name was finally called. I knew Frank was in line next to his friend, Zack. For some reason, I forgot my ABCs and thought he was after Zack rather than before (according to last name). So I was in the back of the chapel listening for Zack’s name when I suddenly heard Frank’s name. I hurried back in as the church and city were announced, although I was in such a crazy mix of emotions, I missed it. Then I heard the state. I looked at my sister, mom, and dad, and I asked, “Missouri? Did he say Missouri?”

My sister looked at me and said, “It’s okay. It’s only Missouri. It’s okay.”

I kept thinking, Oh my gosh. It’s Missouri. We’re going to Missouri. Missouri. Missouri. Missouri. Misery. Missouri. It’s so far from Michigan. So far. So far. So far. But it’s a lot closer than other states. So close. So close. So close.

At this point, I felt like a schizophrenic person must feel, arguing with oneself. So many conflicting thoughts. So many faces looking at me. More Candidates being announced. I needed to get out. I went to the basement and took a breath. I got Esther in the carrier to wear her. My thoughts started to slow down and untangle a bit. Then my sister came down the stairs, and she was just sobbing, and we hugged for awhile. My mom had a few tears escape too and joined in the hug.

Honestly, my sister’s reaction was exactly what I needed. I had no words. I had so many positive and negative emotions all at once. I really just needed to cry and to have someone cry with me.

Some other seminary wives were down in the basement too. Let’s just say I wasn’t the only one who needed some space to cry a little while holding our babies.

My mom, sister, and I composed ourselves and then returned to the pew with my dad. We stayed until the Kyrie, and then we all left to go to the next building because my anxiety was getting out of control. Once we got to the next building, I thought I was going to be sick to my stomach. The excitement, suspense, adrenaline, shock – it all just was too much. I was shaking and trying to remember where the bathroom was.

My mom called her mom. I talked with my grandma a bit, and I calmed down listening to her voice. By then, the service was over, and Frank joined us. We took pictures, and I posted our announcement on Facebook. Then it was time for Frank and me to rush off to our meeting with the Missouri District President.

In our meeting with the DP, we met with a deaconess intern whose internship was in Missouri and another seminarian and his fiance who received a Call to Missouri. We each learned a little bit about our churches from our district president, and we had some time to go through our packets. Frank and I learned that we are in a very, very rural area. Our church is looking for a pastor and family who relates well with people, who sympathizes and connects. I’m an extremely sensitive person. All my life, I’ve grown up thinking that it’s a bad thing to be sensitive. But recently, I’ve spent over a year in counseling learning how to use my sensitivity as a gift and a tool. I’m so excited that I have this opportunity with a church looking for someone who relates well. Frank is also well suited for this, as he is so patient and understanding. (You’d have to be, to live with me!) And Esther, well, she just brings joy wherever she goes! It was so exciting to begin to see how God is using this Call to bless us and bless people through us. I’m so excited to see what the future holds.

After the meeting, we went to the reception.  Frank and I walked through the freezing cold wind and yucky rain with Esther to get to the cafeteria. I couldn’t help but think of how much warmer Missouri must be. I hate, hate, hate the cold!

Once in the cafeteria, we met with our parents and my sister and were able to go through the Call packet a little. We saw that our future church does most services with a traditional worship style and occasionally has a contemporary worship service. I am so excited about this! I think traditional worship is so beautiful, and it’s a great way to slow down our busy lives and remind ourselves of the respect we should give to God. I also love contemporary worship. I think it’s also important to get excited about God. I like when hands are raised, when people clap. I don’t mind an “Amen” here and there. Lastly, I think it’s important for churches to offer both styles of worship if they want to grow. I’m super excited that Esther will have exposure to both styles.

We all decided we were getting exhausted, and it was time to call it a night. My parents drove home. My in-laws went to the room they were renting at the seminary. Frank, Esther, my sister, and I went back to our apartment. The next day, my sister and Frank’s parents returned to Michigan.

Now that we’ve had a few days, our emotions are settling down. I’ve had time to cry. Esther has had time to sleep. Frank’s had time to catch up on homework. I’ve been Googling like crazy, trying to figure out where we will do our grocery shopping and what fun things I can do with Esther once we move. It’ll be a very rural lifestyle, that’s for sure. But now that I know what to expect and now that the shock has worn off, I am getting so excited.

I also needed to deal with some guilt. I felt like I was failing as a seminary wife. I had this picture in my head that the seminary wives come to Call Night in their Sunday best, wearing their biggest smiles, and sitting silently with a cheery face as their husband receives his placement. I pictured them going home and happily calling family with the news. I pictured them making arrangements the next day, full of thanks for wherever they are going. Meanwhile, I felt like I was out of control. I wanted to do something rebellious, like get another piercing or put a streak of some crazy color in my hair. I felt like if I smiled, my face would break. I knew I would silently cry as I heard my husband’s placement (whether I was happy or sad). I only wanted to go home and sit still and wait for the shock to wear off. I even considered staying home and watching the event through live streaming. I felt bad paying attention to Esther during the service rather than letting her cry with a babysitter. Whenever someone told me to “count my blessings,” I felt like a terrible Christian and immediately had to fight back tears. I spent a few days talking with seminary wives and pastor’s wives, and I found that many of them felt the same way. Some actually did skip the service and watched online at home. Many didn’t want babysitters for their babies and decided to wear them. Some had a glass of wine waiting for them after Call Night. Many spent a few nights crying in bed. One actually did dye her hair pink. Another said she wanted to scream if she heard one more person say “It could be worse,” or “Trust God.” I had to learn that all the negative emotions I was feeling were normal for seminary wives, and it didn’t mean I was a bad seminary wife. It meant I was human and needed to mourn what I was losing and adapt to what was changing – and that’s okay.

The one thing I am struggling with is picturing Esther’s birthdays and holidays. When I was growing up, I lived about an hour from family, so we always got together for birthdays and holidays. I knew all my cousins, aunts, uncles, and my grandma really well. Our gatherings often had 30 of us. It was always a loud, fun, crazy time. No matter what was going on in life, we all came together and laughed until our sides hurt. Right now, I’m picturing Esther on her first birthday with just Frank and me sitting with her. No cake, thanks to food allergies. I’m just so sad for my baby. I’m sure we’ll make friends in the church and community, but of course, no one can replace my family. I need time to mourn this, then accept this, and grow to be okay with it.

But other than the distance, every single thing about this Call looks absolutely amazing, and I honestly cannot wait to pack up and move there. It’ll be a wonderful place to call home! I have to say, God did a pretty good job picking out our placement! Although I will miss my family, God goes with us. I am excited – and even impatient  – to start this journey!

God is good.

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2 thoughts on “Call Night – And We’re Moving To…

  1. YAY!!!!!!!! So happy for your family Shelby! Altenberg (sp?) is where the LCMS really got started….my family visited there and people are really friendly! My family loved it and it would be a great excuse to go out and see you! Praying for your time and moving and everything!! Miss you! Hi Frank and Esther!!

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