Monday, September 27, 2010

the view from 3 feet high

Dinner time conversations at our house have been pretty well dominated by one topic lately:  doctoral studies.  Do you ever wonder how much little ears are picking up?  Here's proof that they are always listening:

Emma (age 5, quite animated):  "There sure are a lot of doctors!  Dr. Suess ... Dr. Block ... and the doctors who help us feel better..."

Dr. Block is Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton Graduate School.  And yes, his name has become so common in our house you'd think he's a member of our family.  To Emma, he's right up there with Dr. Suess!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

nothing wasted

It's been a strange week.  Researching doctoral programs has absorbed virtually all of my study time.  And in the morass of administrative details (due dates, requirements, fees, policies, recommendations, procedures, and an unrelenting volley of emails with admissions departments all over the country) it can be hard to hang on to the joy that has characterized most of the rest of this journey.  Spreadsheets, checklists, and surfing the web have replaced the hours I usually spend reading, translating, and thinking.  It's not that I'm not detail-oriented, but PhD handbooks just can't hold a candle to the Bible!

This is a necessary part of the journey.  One of my mentors reminded me that the time I'm spending on it will not be wasted.  Someday a student will be sitting in my office asking me about PhD programs, and I will actually know something about schools other than my own.  So while my sights are already set on a place to study, I'm pressing on because it's the wise thing to do and because I hope it will one day be useful to someone else.  God doesn't waste anything.

There's an immediate payout from all this preparation, too.  As I've worked on my resume and written my life history I've been reminded of the tangible ways that God has used my experiences to shape me.  The language I studied in high school turns out to be a modern research language.  My friends from college have been instrumental in connecting me with all sorts of helpful people at other schools.  The book I read this summer will be a key component of my ability to articulate my research interests.  The professors who have invested deeply in me will launch me into the next stage of my journey by writing recommendations.  And my weekly meetings with Jehovah's Witnesses have been a constant reminder of what is at stake in the study of theology.  Telling my own story has helped me find my voice again.

Even in the event that every door is closed to me, I trust that God will not waste this season of preparation.  I do think it's possible to waste your life.  But in a life surrendered to Him every little thing, no matter how insignificant, can bring Him glory.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

my curriculum vitae

(With deep apologies for writing more than you have time to read...)

The kids all went happily to school this morning, and I'm working on my resume (or CV, as they're called in academic circles).  I've set a mental deadline of September 30th by which time I hope to finalize where I will apply for doctoral studies.  Finishing my CV is part of the process.

How does this sound so far?

Mother of 3 Growing Children  
2001- present

  Responsibilities include (but are not limited to):
  • procuring food that is both healthy, delicious and affordable and preparing it in such a way as to please the palattes of the entire family
  • selecting and maintaining size- and season-appropriate clothing for all 3 of them (includes sorting, stain-removal, washing, ironing, folding, and lobbying for proper treatment of clothes)
  • maintaining household cleanliness and supervising clean-up crew
  • planning and implementing yearly birthday parties, holiday celebrations, and other events
  • teaching children to count, read, use manners, pray, share, pick up after themselves, throw, stop throwing, jump, stop jumping, and many other things
  • pregnancy, childbirth (2 natural and one c-section), nursing at least one year per child (49 months experience), burping when needed, and changing enough diapers to fill several semi-trailers
  • drying tears, bandaging scraped knees, kissing owies, and giving hugs during thunderstorms
  • healing the sick, maintaining positive relationships with other medical professionals such as doctors and dentists
  • celebrating successes
  • keeping track of homework assignments, field trip permission slips, school newsletters, and the rest of the paperwork that comes in the door at an alarming rate
  • teaching children all they need to know about God, themselves and the world before they hear it in a twisted form from somewhere else
  Awards include:
  • "You're my best Mom" - Emma, age 5
  • "Lovee, Mom" - Easton, age 2
  • "I'm so glad you're my mom." - Eliana, age 9
Whaddaya think?  Should I include all this on my resume?

Monday, September 13, 2010

a long nose (and other virtues)

I'll never forget the birthday when my grandma gave me a needlepoint she had made of a sweet little girl dancing.  Above her head were the words, "Patience is a virtue."  I'm afraid she was hoping that it would rub off on me.  It didn't.

I do okay being patient about some things: long lines (on the rare occasion when I'm not in a hurry), deadlines (when I'm not finished with my project), other people's birthdays (when I haven't thought of what to get them) and my own lack of growth in this area.  Um... yeah.  It's time to stop being patient when it comes to my impatience!

Patience is still a virtue.  And it's not one I possess, at least not in my own strength.  Call me Eager.  Driven.  Energetic.  Or call it what it is ... impatience.  Impatience and motherhood do not make a good combination.

In my Hebrew class this weekend we were translating Psalm 103.  The Psalmist tucks a quotation from Exodus 34 right into the middle of his own poetic celebration of God's goodness.  In verse 8 he says, "The LORD is compassionate and gracious, long of nose and great in lovingkindness."  Long of nose?  Unlike Pinocchio's long nose, which signified his dishonesty, this long nose is a good thing.  'A long nose' is the Hebrew equivalent of having a 'long fuse.'  The God who made us does not snap at us in anger.  His anger takes a long time to kindle.

I realized that dealing with my short fuse (or nose!) is not just a matter of acheiving a more peaceful home, but a matter of becoming more like God himself.  If God is slow to become angry with me, shouldn't I be slow to become angry with my children?

The New Testament offers some specific guidance for how I can become more like my maker.  Galatians 5 says that the fruit of a Spirit-filled life is "love, joy, peace, patience, kindess, goodness, faithfullness, gentleness, self-control."  These are not qualities we try to conjure up by sheer will power.  (I've tried.  It doesn't work.)  No, this is what our life will look like when we recognize our constant need for the Holy Spirit's power at work in us.

Come, Holy Spirit.  Stretch my nose.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

depression of biblical proportions

I've been thinking about depression lately for two reasons.  First, there was a suicide in our extended family.  Really, really, sad.  Life has to be pretty bleak and hopeless to see no other way out.  Then, the very day after we got the hard news, I had to translate Job 3 from Hebrew to English.  Woah.  I know I've read it before, but this was the first time I was forced to consider each and every word, slowly.  I felt as if I had been given a window into a suicidal soul.  Listen to this:

"Why does he (i.e. God) give light for the troubled?
And life to the bitter of soul?
Those waiting for death and there is none,
those digging for it more than hidden treasure.
The glad, they are rejoicing. 
They exult because they have found the grave."
Job 3:20-22

Did you catch that?  Death is sought more than buried treasure.  The only happy people are those who have been buried.  Wow.

If you thought the Bible was lofty and sublime, take note.  The Bible is not a book that sugar-coats reality.  Somehow God saw fit to include this passage in his holy book.  He is not afraid of our emotions.  Perhaps you are struck, as I am, with the fact that even godly people struggle with depression.  Job, a "blameless and upright" man wanted nothing more than to see his life end.  It was that bad.  He wrestled openly with God, and eventually God answered (see chapters 40-41).  His answer may not have been gentle, but it was just what Job needed to give him a proper view of himself in relation to God.

I haven't read it myself, but I've heard great things about a book by Kathryn Greene-McCreight called Darkness is My Only Companion.  The author is an Episcopal priest and a professor at Yale Divinity School who has struggled deeply with depression herself.  She asks the hard questions and offers hope for those who find themselves in deep shadows.  A book I have read that was very helpful to me in my own season of struggle is Larry Crabb's Shattered DreamsHis point is that God uses suffering to do deep work in us and show us how much we need him.  You can read more about this idea in my old blog here or here.

Job's story ends on a happy note, but not without first dismantling the idea that 'the wicked suffer but the righteous are blessed.'  Life is not always fair (from our point of view), but when we learn to dig for HIM more than buried treasure, we will discover more than we ever dreamed.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

ready or not ... !

I'm not sure where I got the idea that summer vaction is 3 months long.  Well, it's not.  It's barely 2 1/2 months.  And it's ... officially ... over.  Time has a way of marching on whether we're ready or not.

Easton started preschool today (gulp!).  He's in a class for 2-year-olds at our church.  That means he's in for a really good time, and I am, too!  (You can find me in the library. :))

Emma LOVES Kindergarten.  She's making friends and learning songs and teaching us all the rules.

Eliana started 4th grade.  The crazy thing is that I remember 4th grade well, and it doesn't seem like it was so long ago.  I remember where I sat in Ms. Kallemyn's classroom, and who was beside me.  I remember reading a novel about a tsunami in Japan and writing a report on tsunamis.  And I remember Ms. Kallemyn telling me that I couldn't read the Bible during free reading time because I needed to read more ... um ... broadly.  (I was incensed.  It was a Christian school, after all, and my teacher was telling me not to read the Bible!) 

I guess you could say I'm a person of limited interest.  After 12 years in a Christian school, I headed off to Bible College and just couldn't get enough.  As soon as it was feasible, I started taking seminary classes.  Now graduation is just around the corner (only 2 courses + my thesis left!), and I spent Easton's preschool hours filling out an application for a PhD program.  Yep.  You read that right.

This is not a new idea.  We've been talking and praying about it for years, and for the past 15 months we've been actively researching our options.  (Remember when I took the GRE in January? And studied German?  And started attending theological conferences?  This is why!)  Our sense of calling to walk this road has only grown with time.  And now you're in on it, too.  So ready or not ... here we go!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

giving kids the big picture

I can hardly contain my excitement about a new book that just arrived in the mail (in time for Emma's 5th birthday tomorrow)...

'The Big Picture Story Bible'

Unlike other children's Bibles that give a random assortment of Bible stories, this Bible tells the 'BIG' story that begins with creation and ends with God's promise to be king of the whole world.  It's the best of biblical theology, presented in a clear and winsome way for kids.  The story is told in such a way that kids will be able to make connections between key events - like the Passover and Christ's death - and really understand the significance of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. 

This book is not meant to be the only Bible your family owns.  It picks very few of the stories and does not present many details.  The goal is to give the big picture, so if you have another beloved children's Bible (like this one) you can keep reading it and allow 'The Big Picture Story Bible' to tie it all together.

It does, unfortunately, depict angels with wings, and I noticed that the story of David and Goliath did not incorporate what scholars now know about that event (i.e. that Goliath was likely over 6 feet tall, not 9, and that David's stone probably hit him in the shins, not the forehead).  But these are very minor complaints in light of the huge contribution this book makes to a family's grasp of the message of Scripture.

Hurrah for a forward leap in children's literature!