When I was little, I always thought I was going to be a music teacher when I grew up. But I think God had other plans…
Even though early in my academic career I had my sights set on a career as a composer and college band director, I struggled in college to make it happen never quite making my mark. So, with four years of college at St. Olaf and no degree to show for it, I moved back home to northern Wisconsin and worked overnights in a factory, packing storm door parts. I worked at a gas station for a couple months, then I spent two years working on the “white meat deboning line” in a turkey processing plant.
Let me tell you, two years in the dark and cold with a knife in my hand all day was enough! I was discouraged and struggling, and I knew that I couldn’t debone turkeys for the rest of my life. I decided to go back to school to finish my degree.
I don’t know what made the thought pop into my head, but while I was registering for classes at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee so I could finish my bachelor’s degree, I realized that I needed to go to seminary. Honestly, that thought scared me! I hadn’t been part of the church since I was confirmed. Why now? Why me? God, couldn’t you have chosen someone else? I thought that maybe my confirmation pastors were right – maybe I would be a good pastor. Music was deep in my soul, so maybe I would be a good church musician. I couldn’t make up my mind, so I decided to give both a shot. I visited a couple seminaries, and I accepted admission to Trinity Lutheran Seminary (TLS) in Columbus, Ohio, as a dual degree student – Master of Divinity and Master of Arts-Church Music.
I was given a large scholarship for my church music coursework. I endured the MDiv rite of passage known as summer Greek. I got to compose and conduct for the TLS community. I studied Bible, church history, theology, and rural ministry. However, in the midst of what seemed like a good situation, God was calling me away from TLS and Ohio.
Good grief, God – I’m called away from all that is familiar to me, and I get familiar with a new place, and you’re calling me away again? Make up your mind! I struggled, but I followed. I transferred to a different seminary. It was a hard yet easy move to make. I knew that my experiences at my first seminary shaped and molded me and prepared me to move on to a new place.
I’ve done a lot—and been through a lot—since seminary. I’m probably the only bass clarinet-playing, radio transmitter-fixing, former tax accountant that you’ll ever meet! I’m still wrestling with my vocation and being open to God’s call. What am I going to be when I grow up? Whatever God calls me to be!
Andrea Toven is a radio broadcast engineer and head of electronic component sales for Smiling Dog Systems. She and her husband Shane, a marketing manager for The Telos Alliance, live in Laramie with their four-legged children Callie, Leo, and Norman.