By Amanda Markel
Sometimes, I think I’m the most boring Lutheran ever, if only because I’m so very Lutheran, and have been since my baptism, when I was just a few weeks old. I was baptized, confirmed, and married at the same church…the very church at which my mother is still a member to this day, and the church at which my father served on many boards before his death.
I started out at my Lutheran dayschool in the four-year-old class. I still have fond memories of that year (or maybe it was kindergarten…both years involved the same basement classroom, and the same loving, exuberant teacher). I then went on to complete grades 1-8 at the same school, with more fond memories of teachers I knew, special events I looked forward to every year (pork and sauerkraut suppers, science fairs, and basketball tournaments being at the top of the list), and even the building of an addition to the school when I was in sixth grade, which was a BIG DEAL. It was all tied, of course, to my church life…I can hardly separate my memories of school Christmas programs from church services; confirmation class from religion lessons. All good things must come to an end, however, and graduation day came (where I was the salutatorian, tied with a good friend for that title, with our grades matching dating back to the fourth grade), and I left the comfort of my Lutheran haven.
I did have a four-year stint at the local public school, because there wasn’t a Lutheran high school close enough to my home to make it a feasible commute. Such a rebel, right? But church and youth group, and the San Antonio National Youth Gathering, were still a central part of my life. And all throughout high school, I knew I was headed to a Concordia…either River Forest or Mequon, although if I’m being honest with myself, it was always going to be River Forest. And I knew I was going to be a church worker, although what kind eluded for me a while, as I toyed with the idea of Deaconess and teacher before landing on DCE (deaconess would have been a much better choice, in hindsight).
I met the man who would become my husband early in our freshman year, and it was the perfect match…he was in the pre-sem program, and we had visions of going into the world and serving the church together! Our four years of college flew by, and a few short weeks after graduation (his, not mine…I still had a DCE internship to complete), we were married, and moved to St. Louis, where he was enrolled in the Seminary. There was a hiccup, as I couldn’t find an internship location immediately, but after a brief stint at Target, I found myself employed at the International Center, aka the Purple Palace, serving other church professionals, while my husband went to class…and in the evenings, I went to class, too. The Seminary had many offerings for the wives, from the hands-on skills of ecclesiastical embroidery and stained glass making, to the more expected Bible and theology classes.
During his second year at the Seminary, I was finally matched with an internship location, which also happened to be my husband’s field work church. We were finally serving together! We took a group of enthusiastic youth on a mission trip to South Dakota, we taught Bible studies together…it was our dream come true! During my internship year, we also welcomed our first child, a son, who came to work with me while he very small, sleeping in his Pack ’n’ Play in my church office, and strengthened my desire to share the Word of God with families.
Of course, my internship was only for a little over a year, and my husband was set to go on vicarage, anyway, so we were soon saying goodbye to St. Louis, and packing our bags (but not our furniture…the vicarage house was furnished), and heading to Green Bay, WI. This year can only be described as a LEARNING EXPERIENCE, and we hit some more bumps along the way. But, we were still serving the church together…my husband as vicar, which seemed like an enormous task at the time, and me as a confirmation teacher, shut-in visitor, and general helper along the way. There were both good and bad times, but it was a year we got through together by the grace of God.
Like my internship the previous year, this was only a one-year deal, and soon we were headed back to St. Louis, this time with two baptized little Lutherans in tow. This was our bumpiest year yet, and nothing went according to plan. But God’s plans are always better than ours, and after graduation, my husband briefly took a job in retail, before landing at Concordia Publishing House, while I stayed home with our then three children. We are able to simply be members together at a church, still serving where we were able, but with the novel ability to worship in the same pew as a family. It wasn’t what we had planned, but as is the case with all God’s plans, it was good.
Eventually we moved…not out of the St. Louis area, but far enough away from the church at which we had been members that we again had to say goodbye. We found a new church local to us that was an even better fit, and where we both continued to serve as we were needed and able. We added two more little Lutherans to our family along the way, making us a family of seven. And eventually my husband left his job at Concordia Publishing House for a job in the private sector, but our commitment to serving God and the church has not changed. Again, not in the way we had planned, but in the way He has called us to today.
And so, here we are. We don’t have church-worker titles like pastor or DCE, like we thought we would. We’re not spending all day, almost every day, at our church. But, we are where God has called us to be, and in our own Lutheran way, we are still serving Him and His church.