Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy New Year 2011!

We have plenty of rationalizations for sending greetings after the New Year rather than before Christmas, as a letter rather than in the Stolpe Star format. The one that may make some sense is that 2010 has been a year of sorting out decisions and preparing for 2011 as a year of anticipating significant transitions for the Stolpes.

We have invested major prayer, time and energy into discerning God’s direction for the next step in Norm’s ministry career. He intends to begin serving as an intentional interim/transitional pastor and has activated his Search and Call Profile with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). In conversation with the leadership of Central Christian Church, we have agreed that Norm will wrap up his tenure with them by June 1. With over ten years as their pastor, Norm’s has been the longest pastorate with Central Christian Church since 1978, so we make this change with considerable satisfaction.

In September we combined our vacation with Norm’s study leave to visit Leanne and Jon, Hannah and Isaac in Pennsylvania. We enjoyed a relaxed two weeks: Hannah’s first middle school cross country meet, Isaac’s piano lesson, a leisurely visit to a Scottish-Irish Festival and two Sundays worshipping with them at Christ’s Church of the Valley.

Norm took The Intentional Interim Minister class from the Interim Ministry Network in nearby Devon, PA. He had taken Fundamentals of Interim Ministry in 2009 in Marble Falls, Texas. He did his practicum with Central Christian Church’s leadership on the Developmental Tasks for Congregations in Transition. With two of five conference call sessions left, he should receive his certification for interim pastoral ministry in February.

We hope to serve five or six more churches in the next few years before Norm retires. Though we haven’t started doing the hands-on work yet, we are planning to downsize and become a lot more nimble. Staying in our Dallas home for another year or so could help with this, but we are open to following God’s lead in just about any direction. We are focusing on enjoying this next stage of life, and we’ll see what God has for us farther down the road in retirement.

Erik has lived with us for a year and a half now since graduating from the University of North Texas. He has continued working for Pei Wei Asian Diner. It was a good college job, and we are thankful he had work in this economy, but the income was inadequate for getting up and out on his own and didn’t use enough of what he has to offer. He did move up to become a “key employee.” He explored several other possibilities, none of which really opened up. On Monday, January 3 he starts management training with Pei Wei, and he seems excited about these possibilities. Besides being a good step toward a professional career, he is (and we are) hoping this will enable him to get out on his own early in 2011. He still plays with Raven Charter, a band that has developed from and gone beyond high school friends. They still play live gigs but are putting more attention into recording.

Candy’s Dad is still in his own home in Minneapolis. He is doing well but getting to the place where he doesn’t want to be alone and have all the work of keeping up the house. We are communicating so we can coordinate our transition and his situation. Having lived his whole life in Minnesota, considering moving is challenging for him. So fitting together Erik’s plans and Candy’s Dad’s plans is a significant part of our 2011 transition.

David also made a transition in 2010. After eleven years as a teacher and supervisor at St. Charles alternative school, David completed his studies at Marquette University to get his Wisconsin Principal’s License. That opened the opportunity for him to take a new position as Dean of Students for Frank Lloyd Wright Intermediate School in West Allis, Wisconsin. He is being stretched by the new challenges but enjoying this step in his career and new responsibilities with new people (administrators, teachers and students).

Elizabeth (Bitsy) is in a public school Montessori pre-kindergarten. Sam is in third grade. He plays piano, and Elizabeth dances while he plays. She had Achilles tendon lengthening surgery this year which should finish her club foot treatments. Candy enjoyed a trip to Milwaukee to be with Rachel and David, Sam and Elizabeth after Elizabeth’s surgery. She now uses her legs in ballet lessons. Rachel is very involved in the kids’ school and continues to nanny some.

Jon continues working as a manager with Siemens in their building automation division. Leanne resigned as director of their church’s weekday preschool. She has been doing some volunteering with some special needs children at the YMCA, which gets her back working directly with children with less stress than being the school administrator. Hannah turned thirteen (yes, we now have a teen age grandchild to remind us we are aging). She runs cross country, plays violin and has established a handmade jewelry business. Isaac is in fifth grade, soon moving from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts, plays piano and trumpet.

In 2009 and 2010, we were looking ahead to the future, preparing, imagining, praying. But it all seemed fairly remote, something that was down the road but off toward the horizon. But when we returned to Texas from our Pennsylvania trip in September, we felt an acceleration of the journey and immediacy of our future. Our anxieties and uncertainties have been met with affirmation of many people what we believe are God’s confirmations. Many details must still fit together. Though sometimes feeling a bit overwhelmed, we also feel some sense of adventure. Through the moves we have made in 42 years together, we have identified Abraham living in tents in the land of promise (Hebrews 11:8-10) as a metaphor for our journey. In 2011 we are being called to live it in a new level.

Thanks to our dear friends and family for prayers as we go through these transitions. We do cherish your Christmas cards and letters. May God bless each of you in this New Year.


Norm and Candy

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