Friday, October 10, 2014

In Memory of H. Doris Stolpe


I had arranged for two Sundays off between interim pastorates in August 2014. Candy and I flew to Milwaukee for several enjoyable days with Rachel and David, Sam and Elizabeth. We borrowed one of their cars to make short trips to Minneapolis to see Candy’s Dad and to Batavia (about 50 miles west of Chicago) to see my Mom. She had been weakening for some time, and we suspected this might be the last time we would see her, which turned out to be true.

Mom joined the glorious company of the saints in light on September 30, my 68th birthday. My sister, Elaine, had been staying with her for several days. Her daughter Helen came from Madison, WI to give her mother a bit of a break, as did our daughter-in-law Rachel who went down from Milwaukee for an overnight. Helen was with her grandmother in the early hours of the morning when she died. The family gathered to remember her and to connect well with each other.
 
Candy, Jon, Erik, David, Norman

Isaac, Jon, Sam, Erik, David, Norman

Hannah, Elizabeth, Rachel, Leanne, Candy

When I was growing up I always thought of my mother as a stay-at-home Mom. In retrospect, I realize she was a work-from-home Mom. Having worked for a classy custom dress shop in San Francisco after high school until getting married 9 years later, she was an accomplished seamstress. She made custom clothes for a clientele who wanted unique, quality clothes. They came to the house with patterns, fabrics and specifications. They returned for fittings as the clothes took shape.
 
Family lore is that Grandpa Erikson rescued this rocker from the trash. We still have it, and some of our grandchildren have sat in it.
When I was in high school and college, she turned her sewing skills to making tents and sails for boats for the boys’ (Christian Service Brigade) group at church. She made two custom winter jackets for me, the second of which I wore for many years in Minnesota and Illinois.

Mom confirmed what my grandmother told me several times. Mom had skipped two grades and graduated from high school at 16. The principal of Oakland High School thought she should go to college and was sure a scholarship could be found. However, my grandfather couldn’t quite grasp his daughter going to college when 8th grade was as far as anyone else had gotten. He couldn’t understand skipping grades; you had to take them in order. And he couldn’t understand or accept that someone else would pay for her to go to college.
Mom had made her own wedding dress, which she didn't get to wear until 9 months after the wedding since Dad shipped to Okinawa in March, ahead of their planned June wedding. They married in Tacoma, WA, but had a reception in Oakland, CA in January after Dad's return from Navy duty. 
I sometimes wonder what she might have done had she gone to college, but that didn’t keep her from becoming a wise, learned woman. As our daughter-in-law observed several times, no matter who else was there, Mom was always the smartest person in the room.

Though eminently practical and not given to luxury or extravagance, she was game for adventures that the rest of the family drew her into. We camped in many places in Northern California and a few farther flung sites. I remember well climbing Mt. Lassen the summer between my 5th and 6th grades. We cut our camping trip a day short when she had to break the ice on the water bucket to fix breakfast.

That year was a turning point for her and our family. In the fall she contracted meningitis and was in isolation at the county hospital for some time. She came home just before Christmas but wasn’t up to our usual celebrations. Mom and Dad apologized to my sister and me, but we were just happy to have her home and on the mend. All of my other childhood Christmas memories blur together, but that is the one that stands out in my mind. Her rheumatoid arthritis erupted soon after.

She was a woman of great and quite sophisticated faith. Her Bible knowledge was second to none, and she taught Bible Study Fellowship for many years (having been trained by BSF founder Wetherill Johnson herself). But she did not passively accept pious or naïve theology, and I think I learned from her how to think theologically in the spaces between Scripture and life.

During my high school years, one of the most distinct images I have of Mom is her sitting at one end of the dining room table (that had been hand made by her father) typing my school papers on a small, portable Smith-Corona manual typewriter. I sat at the other end hand writing. Besides deciphering handwriting, correcting spelling and grammar, she challenged my logic, which I’m sure improved my grades at least a half-step. These sessions seemed often to go late into the night.

My Dad’s work schedule at Albert Brown Mortuary varied considerably, and my sister and I rarely had the same school schedule. Mom always prepared breakfast for us and ate with each of us, taking her breakfast in two or three small courses. She did have a schedule of what she fixed for breakfast each day of the week (which I have conveniently forgotten), which made breakfast predictable for us and simplified preparation for her.

Mom and Dad were quite a team. Once our daughter-in-law Rachel videoed them washing dishes in perfect coordination. Mom washed, and Dad dried and put them in the cupboard in the tiny efficiency kitchen in their independent living apartment at Holmstadt. No speaking, no bumping, but reaching over, under and around each other as though choreographed. By working together they were able to stay in independent living quite a bit longer than other couples with similar limitations.

After Dad died she struggled, not only with the difficulties of physical decline, but with maintaining a sense of purpose in life. After Dad died, when she went from assisted living to skilled care at the Michaelson Health Center, she took her sewing machine. She made a few clothes for herself and mended to other residents and staff. When she had to give that up, she felt useless and questioned why God kept her around since she wasn’t accomplishing anything. During her active years, prayer had been vigorous. One day I suggested that God might be keeping her around to pray for the rest of us. She lamented that with her mental faculties slipping she had a hard time concentrating enough to pray.

Once she passed 90, Mom frequently said to me, “Nobody else in this family had to live this long, why do I have to?” While I believe that even a desire to pray is prayer, I don’t really have an answer to Mom’s question. I do know that even as she was fading before our eyes, all of us were enriched by every visit and phone conversation (even the ones when she was very confused). 

At about 90 she was talking about being ready to leave this life to be with Jesus. She expressed thanks for the full richness of her life, for the relationships with family and friends, for the opportunities she had had to serve. Then she said to me, “The only thing I haven’t done is die, and I’m ready to find out what that’s like.” While she was very realistic about death, for her personally, it was not something to dread but was her next great adventure.
Joe Bayly was a good friend who mentored me in the early years of my career. His book "View from the Hearse" tells what he learned when death claimed his children. He knew whereof he spoke and wrote. When his heart would not restart after bypass surgery, he took this great adventure, but I still find it difficult to grasp a world without him and without my parents.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Signposts and Milestones

Mt. Shasta by Robert Wood
While Yosemite always held a magical power for me (I know I'm hardly alone in that), I didn't get there very often or get to explore many of its special places. For a host of reasons, I got to and was more familiar with the lesser known mountains of Northern California and the Redwood Coast (redwood trees are also magical). Mt. Shasta symbolized much of that part of California for me. I had ambitions of one day climbing Mt. Shasta. I bought a USGS topo map and read a number of trail and route guides. But it never happened. At this point in my life I'm releasing a lot of unfulfilled youthful ambitions, not with grief or regret but with gratitude and joy at the paths on which my journey with Jesus has taken me that I could never have imagined growing up. This Robert Wood print of Mt. Shasta hung in my parents' living room for many years and symbolized for me both my memories and ambitions of those younger days. It has now come to our house but does not have a real place of its own. After mentioning it on Facebook this morning, I wanted a little deeper reflection and more enduring record, so am adding it to my blog.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Son Jon Publishes Book



Our son Jon Stolpe just published his first book "On Track." You can learn about and order it at http://www.amazon.com/Track-Life-Lessons-Field-ebook/dp/B00JRE5QM2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1398647954&sr=8-1&keywords=Jon+Stolpe Of course, we are proud of him and hope his book is a big success. He has been blogging for some time and would welcome new readers at http://www.jonstolpe.com/

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Merry Christmas from Odessa, Texas!

December 2013
To All Our Stolpe Star Friends and Family,
 We finished up our interim pastor ministry with First Christian Church of Midwest City, OK in May and started the next adventure with First Christian Church of Odessa, TX in mid-June. We were in the backwash of the tornado that devastated Moore, OK, and had driven less than an hour south of the one that closed the interstate in Oklahoma City the day we left Midwest City.
Leanne and Jon, Hannah and Isaac on mission trip in Guatemala
Sam and Elizabeth with cousins Jenna and William
We had hoped this third interim pastorate might allow us to serve from our home in Dallas. After a seemingly last minute phone interview, we had to decide between two congregations, and subsequent events have confirmed the unexpected was the right choice.
Sam playing at his piano recital
Isaac and his piano teacher at competition
 Odessa is in the Permian Basin about 360 miles west of Dallas. With the oil boom, population has grown to almost 100,000 (slightly smaller than neighboring Midland). Culture is distinct from the DFW Metroplex, colored by boom-bust economy alongside families who settled here generations ago. The church was founded in 1906 in downtown that has changed dramatically in the last decades. As interim pastor, I am guiding them to explore their future mission, perhaps in a new location, possibly in cooperation with another congregation as they seek a new pastor to lead them into this unfolding future.
Elizabeth's smile

Hannah, sweet sixteen
After Easter we traveled to Wisconsin to spend time with Rachel and David, Sam and Elizabeth. We got to see Norm’s Mom in IL, and Norm’s nephew, Tom, and his family was there too, before their family went to Guam for 30 months with the Navy. Candy’s Dad came down from Minneapolis to Milwaukee for a few days.
Fourteenth Anniversary
Together in Guatemala
In October, we went to Dallas for Central Christian Church’s 150th Anniversary, after which Candy got another visit with David’s family in Milwaukee. Sam is now in middle school and Elizabeth in first grade.
Midwest City farewell

Erik listens to music (or plays video game)
Leanne started a new job as a pre-school teacher, which she is thoroughly enjoying. Erik also started a new job as a Recovery Analyst with Real Time Resolutions (helping people restructure mortgages), with hours that work better with his music than restaurant management.
Backyard visitor in Midwest City

Patio garden at house where we are living in Odessa
Now close to halfway into our third interim pastorate, we are getting into the rhythm of this stage of our lives, and it fits! In retrospect, we are recognizing how appropriate each season of life has been: para-church Christian education, associate pastoral ministry, senior pastor, now interim pastor. Students, newlyweds, young parents, parents of young adults, grandparents. Now with adolescent and growing grandchildren, we observe our children and their families embracing their own seasons with joy and purpose. We are thankful to each have a living parent but recognize that we are fast becoming the senior generation. At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus, Emmanuel – God with us. Surely God has been with us as Jesus has guided us on this journey, and we know we can depend on him to accompany us to its culmination.
Merry Christmas!
Norman and Candy Stolpe
3154 Flowerdale Lane
Dallas, Texas 75229

First Christian Church
601 N. Lee Ave.
Odessa, TX 79761

Norman
214-793-5224
nstolpe@sbcglobal.net

Candy
214-793-2572
cstolpe@sbcglobal.net





Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Full Week After Easter

Candy and Norm packed a lot of productive activity into the week after Easter.
   
·         Two visits to Norm’s Mom in Batavia, IL, one of which celebrated her 93rd birthday (a day early) that included their son, David’s family from Milwaukee, IL and Norm’s nephew Tom Williams and his family from Virginia Beach, VA as well as Norm’s sister, Elaine, and brother-in-law, Max.

·         While in Milwaukee with Rachel and David, Sam and Elizabeth, Candy’s Dad drove down from Minneapolis for some family time and to work on coordinating our plans for the next couple of years.

·         Saturday was the celebration of “Gotcha Day” – the 5th anniversary of Elizabeth’s adoption into the Stolpe family through Rachel, David and Sam.

·         Norm preached at Milwaukee Mennonite Church (Rachel and David’s congregation) on “Doubting Thomas.” The script of that message is available at http://ndsworshipmessages.blogspot.com/2013/04/missing-out.html

·         Thanks to the generous hospitality of John and Susan Ritland (parents of Rebecca Ritland Keiser of Milwaukee Mennonite Church) Norm and Candy had wonderful accommodations, breakfast and made wonderful new friends in St. Louis, MO both ways of an almost 2,000 mile round trip.
 
Chinese Clothes for "Gotcha" Party
Norm has been the interim pastor for First Christian Church of Midwest City, OK since August, and if all goes well, he will finish there the end of May and the new pastor will come in June. The Elders graciously allow Norm a week’s vacation to make this trip. Thanks to Rev. Julia Jordan Gillett, Associate Pastor, for preaching on April 7. The other Associate Pastor, Andy Beck, will be leading the youth as they present worship on Youth Sunday, April 14. Andy will graduate from Phillips Theological Seminary and be ordained in May. Norm will get to be “host pastor” for Andy’s ordination, a rare opportunity for an interim pastor. On April 21, the worship service will be the choir’s presentation of Faure’s Requiem. This preaching break has given Norm the opportunity to prepare his last five messages designed to get the congregation ready to welcome a new pastor.
Sam played "Happy Birthday" for Great Grandma Stolpe


Tom (right) and his wife Tricia (left)

  
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Birthday supper with Norm's Mom (left)
 













While a welcome vacation, the purpose of this trip was practical: to get together with Candy’s Dad and with David and Rachel to coordinate our planning for the next couple of years so Candy’s Dad can have family support and backup should an emergency occur and to map out what will happen as Norm continues his interim ministry journey with the expectation of finishing that around 2016. A real bonus was to spend time with Norm’s Mom both coming and going. The first leg of the trip allowed for birthday dinner with her the evening before her birthday.

Three Stolpe Gilrs Enjoy Breakfast Together
Norm’s nephew Tom and his family happened to be there at that time as well. He will have 20 years in the US Navy in January, and the whole family is headed to Guam for 30 months for his next assignment. David and Rachel came with their family too. Making these extended family connections doesn’t happen all that often.

Candy and Norm visited Norm’s Mom on the return trip as well. While celebrating her birthday with 6 kids and 7 adults was fun, the second visit was calmer and more conducive to conversation.

David explains digital technology to Grandpa Miller
Sam's portrait of his favorite bacon breakfast
Though there was planning work to be done with Candy’s Dad, it was also a time for just being together and having some fun that included a day at the Milwaukee Art Museum (on free Thursday). Norm enjoyed the Georgia O’Keefe exhibit, but the kids had the most fun in the studio where they could paint their own pictures.


 
After Candy’s Dad returned to Minneapolis, Norm and Candy helped Rachel and David get ready for the “Gotcha” party. In between chores, they enjoyed fun with their grandchildren, Sam and Elizabeth: girls together lunch and guys together lunch. David and Sam went with Norm to take Gus to the dog park. Sam tried to teach Grandma and Grandpa how to play Wii Bowling. The house was full for the party that celebrated Elizabeth’s adoption and featured a variety of Chinese foods, decorations and clothes. Rachel’s parents, Kent and Fran Hadley, and her brother Nigel and his fiancée Amanda were also at the party.

 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Merry Christmas from Midwest City, Oklahoma!


December 2012                                                                                                                                  
To All Our Stolpe Star Friends and Family,
Norm’s last day to preach as interim pastor for 1st Christian Church of Duncanville, Texas (20 miles directly south of our Dallas house) was August 12. On August 19 he preached for the first time as the interim pastor for 1st Christian Church of Midwest City, Oklahoma (200 miles almost directly north of our Dallas house). In that week we packed, loaded the cars, drove to Midwest City, moved into house and office. In between, Norm wrote his sermon for our first Sunday at the new church.
 
One of the joys of having had pastoral ministries in Illinois, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Texas and now Oklahoma is accumulating a vast treasury of friends which interim ministry accelerates. You who are receiving our Christmas greeting are valued assets of this treasury. With gratitude for the intersection of our lives, this Christmas we wish all of God’s best for you in the year ahead.
Interim ministry is all about helping congregations in transition. The realization that far more is in flux than the identity of the pastor stirs feelings of uncertainty and instability. The opportunities for transformation or retreat are up front. Sharing life with these congregations highlights our personal and family transitions. Rather than trying to freeze time at a cherished moment, Christ calls us forward into our new challenges and adventures.
Here are some snapshots of the transitions for us and our family.
Erik is living in our Dallas house while we are in Oklahoma. He continues to be an assistant manager with Pei Wei Asian Diner, starting at a new (for him) restaurant in north Carrollton, Texas. Besides continuing to play with The Raven Charter, he has branched out into some other music opportunities.
David and Rachel continue their leadership roles with Milwaukee Mennonite Church. Sam (11) swims competitively and plays piano. Elizabeth (Bitsy – 6) has started violin. David is still Dean of Students at Frank Lloyd Wright Intermediate School in West Allis, Wisconsin, and Rachel continues as a night time nanny for infants. We did get a brief visit with them extended from a trip to see Norm’s Mom. 
 
Jon continues in management with Siemens automated building controls, and Leanne does one-on-one support for special needs children. Hannah (15) is a high school freshman and has raised a seeing-eye puppy, Irwin. She went with Jon on a mission trip to Guatemala. She continues to pay violin. Isaac (12) plays trumpet, piano and basketball, and is active in Boy Scouts. They are active at Christ’s Church of the Valley in Royersford, Pennsylvania. They visited us for Holy Week.

Still in his own home in Minneapolis, Candy’s Dad has been talking with us about coordinating our plans for so our transitions will bring us together. At 92 years old in skilled care at the Michaelson Health Center of the Holmstadt in Batavia, Illinois, Norm’s Mom has slowed down considerably.
Merry Christmas!
Norman and Candy Stolpe

3154 Flowerdale Lane
Dallas, Texas 75229
 
315 East Harmon Drive
Midwest City, Oklahoma 73110
 
Norman
214-793-5224
nstolpe@sbcglobal.net
 
Candy
214-793-2572
cstolpe@sbcglobal.net


 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April Was Family Month

Flung far south in Dallas, Texas, we don’t get a lot of opportunity to see extended family in the north. Our last Pennsylvania trip to see our son Jon, his wife Leanne and their children Hannah and Isaac was September 2010. Our last Midwest trip to see Candy’s Dad in Minneapolis, my Mom in Batavia, Illinois and our son David, his wife Rachel and their children Sam and Elizabeth was June 2011. What a treat to connect (well almost) all of these dots in April 2012.

We concentrated some important extended family interaction in just two weeks. Leanne and Jon, Hannah and Isaac came to Dallas April 2. I drove them to the airport early the morning of April 10 and Candy and I headed north that afternoon. Our purpose was to see my Mom as at 92 her health and strength are noticeably declining. As several days of prolonged conversation was just too exhausting for her, we headed to Milwaukee for a couple of days to see David’s family and give Mom a break. They had just returned from a trip even farther north that included a couple of days with Candy’s Dad in Minneapolis. They connected that last dot for us.

For mechanical convenience, I have posted about each part of this journey separately and chronologically. Thus, three posts follow this introduction.
  • Exploring Together with the PA Stolpes
  • In Solidarity with my Sister for our Mom in IL
  • Serendipitous Side Trip to the WI Stolpes