How to Welcome Your Spouse Home from Seminary

Each time Ryan comes home from seminary, he’s physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. And, after two weeks with our two young boys (ages 5 and 3), I, too, am pretty beat. You would think, then, that we’d both just collapse the minute it’s over (like that’s an option!) but we usually do the exact opposite. We both talk non-stop, excitedly relating things that happened while we were apart. The conversation continues for hours, days, even weeks later I’m hearing details as Ryan remembers them. And I am genuinely interested in MOST of it…he, he, he! This extensive conversation is crucial. It’s our way of reminding the other that he/she is home and we no longer have to be “on”. Slowly, methodically we begin the process of reconnecting.

Ryan has been traveling with his job as long as we’ve been married and, at first, I expected far too much of our phone conversations. While phone conversations ARE very important, for us we agree that they are strictly a chance to assure the other that all is well and that we are loved and missed. (That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped screaming at him tearfully during a mid-point, ill-timed call but at least we now have goals!) We both look forward to his return when we can resume our long conversations about everything and nothing as we slowly find our way back to “us”.

Last summer, we went to our first Lutheran Marriage Encounter (LME) retreat. Frankly, that weekend was so over-scheduled, intense and exhausting that we couldn’t wait for it to end!! Now, however, when I think back on that weekend, I realize I wouldn’t change a thing. I learned so much about how to really know my husband and how to allow him to know me. The new skill I value most is listening without judgment. I know married people who would freely share intimate life details with a stranger that he/she would never share with his/her spouse. Our fear of judgment and punishment can be really inhibitive. When I make it my goal to listen to Ryan fully, without trying to analyze or advise, I realize that I have only begun to know this man that I thought I knew inside and out. That’s intriguing! In turn, when I feel that he has truly listened to me, I am relieved, refreshed and renewed.

So my best advice for welcoming your seminarian home (besides the obvious…wink, wink) is to listen fully. I feel compelled to share some of the discussion questions from my LME handbook. Remember that you are asked to retreat to separate rooms and spend 10 minutes (set a timer) journaling your answer to a question (non-stop writing even if/when it becomes senseless). Then, take 10 minutes together to read your responses and discuss or “dialogue“. Also, dialoguing is NOT for problem-solving! OK…here goes:

When I reflect on the gift you are to me, I feel____. How do I feel sharing this with you?

When have I experienced your acceptance of me this week? What feelings have I not shared with you this week because I thought you wouldn’t accept me?

Do I listen better to you or to others? How do I feel about my answer?
~Kimberly Ray

January Ideas

It’s December 16 – eighteen days until January 4th (who’s counting?), the start of the intensive.  While your spouse gears up to connect with his/her cohort, you brace for the reality of his/her 2-week absence.  Whether you’re excited for a little space or worried how you’ll manage without your partner, I invite you to share ideas of ways to pass the intensive time at home.

If you have kids…

  • Make a chain with one link for each day in the intensive.  (Your spouse could write a message for the kids on each link.)  Remove a link each day to count down to mom/dad’s return from Luther.
  • Set up Skype, so you can visit with video capabilities.
  • Create a daily ritual that allows your spouse to interact with the kids, i.e. calling to say bedtime prayers together.
  • Organize a very special outing with just you and the kids.

If you don’t have kids (and even if you do)…

  • Be intentional about scheduling meals or fun outings with friends.
  • Carve out significant time to visit with your spouse each day, so you can catch glimpses of the intensive.
  • Sneak little notes in your spouse’s luggage or briefcase that he/she will find throughout the two weeks.

What other ideas do you have to enrich your time at home?

What about my position, my calling?

When Scott first said that he wanted to do seminary I was a nervous for a few reasons.  One, I wanted him to make sure that this IS indeed his calling.  Secondly, I was nervous because I wasn’t sure, and am still not sure, what this means for my calling.  I know that sounds a bit selfish and I’m still praying about that. :)

You see, I am a Youth and Family Ministry Coordinator at our church and I know the craziness that comes from being called by God to church ministry.  I don’t want Scott to get into it lightly!  I did go to school for this position and have worked in this professionally, for seven years.  I have a huge passion for helping families to talk about faith and live it out daily.  I believe that parents are the main, faith influences in a child’s life for good or bad.  I love what I get to do and I wonder what my position will look like when Scott is called to a church.

Scott and I both know that we’d like to stay close to families which means staying close to NW Iowa.  We also know that many churches in this area don’t have paid Youth and Family Ministry staff because they are smaller congregations.  We also know that many of these congregations have one staff person, the pastor.  I think it would be weird for Scott to be my “boss.”  Then again, maybe not…he’s used to me brainwashing him with youth and family ministry!  Something else I think about is working at a church that would be different from the one Scott is called to.  I don’t like this idea at all as it would mean separating our family on Sunday morning.  Church will be the “job” that Scott and I choose, but it is also a family place for us.

So, do I stop working in Youth and Family Ministry?  Do I “volunteer” my time and passions?  Am I called to continue what God called me to so many years ago?  Am I called to let Scott act on his calling for the sake of mime?  Maybe you are struggling with the same questions as you think about what your calling will look like after your spouse is ordained.

~Emily Dalen

When you first heard…

your spouse was considering seminary, how did you respond?

Did it just seem right?

Was it a total 180?

Did you think “Finally!”?

Did you ask if she/he was feeling alright?

What’s your story?

Welcome

Welcome.

If you’re still in shock that your spouse is now in seminary…

If you’re thrilled that she/he has finally found her/his call…

If you’re wondering what this means for your future, your vocation…

If you’re committed to supporting your spouse’s call…

If you can’t understand your spouse’s new vocabulary…

If you’re looking for friends who can relate, who understand…

If you’re looking for friends to commiserate with…

If you’re looking for friends to celebrate with…

this blog is for you.

May this be an open and safe place for discussions, connections, reflections and questions. Write when you have a story/thought to share. Comment when you can relate, or even if you can’t. Ask when you need clarification. Vent when you’re boiling inside. Pray when it’s all you can do. This blog is for you.

Megan Thorvilson is Coordinator of Student Support for Luther Seminary’s Distributed Learning Master of Divinity. She and her husband, Adam Copeland, live in Decatur, GA, where Adam is a student at Columbia Theological Seminary. In her spare time Megan enjoys reading, knitting, exercising and playing the piano.