Friday, January 30, 2015

looking back, taking stock

Plans for my 20th high school class reunion are underway. Gulp. Could it be??

I remember going to my Mom's 20th reunion from Denver Christian High School. I was, um, the age of our oldest daughter now (13 or 14), which I guess makes sense. We met at a park. I was old enough to appreciate the very interesting social dynamics which are peculiar to reunions. Posturing. Bragging. Catching up. The litany of questions -- where did you go to school? how long have you been married? are your kids running around here somewhere? where do you work? Mom says it went better than her 10th. Still, while some of her classmates were genuine and warm, a few seemed stiff, intent on maintaining the boundaries of old cliques. Perhaps it was really shyness. Who knows?

And now it's my turn.
How does one summarize 20 years of life in a few minutes for an old classmate?
Is it possible to cultivate conversations that invite genuine sharing rather than one-upping?
What exactly is gained by reconnecting with dozens of people half a lifetime and half a continent away? -- people whose lives are as busy as mine and who do not have time to "keep in touch!"?

And if that's true, then how can I explain the thrill it gives me just to think about going?!

I understand that some people hate reunions. I get that. There is something inherently weird about them. But I guess I have reunion written in my genes.

Of our graduating class of 63 students, over half of us had been together since preschool, and many of us had the same teachers our parents had had before us. We built memories to last a lifetime. Want me to prove it? Ask my kids what I did in third grade, trying to be funny, that got me sent to the principal's office. Ask them which boy I tackled during recess in 5th grade playing pom-pom polo-way in the snow (I'll make sure he remembers). Ask them about my rocky middle school years, when I scarcely went a day without getting into a fight with my best friend. Ask them what I wore to school the first day of high school that prompted people in the hall to stop and salute me or say the pledge of allegiance (what was I thinking???). Ask them whose ice cream I ate on stage during our high school production of 'The Matchmaker.' Ask them about the time when my friends and I tried to get a detention my senior year for the first time by climbing out a classroom window onto the roof during lunch (it didn't work). Ask them how close I was to being Valedictorian, and who beat me. Ask them about my high school Bible teacher, Mr. N., whose inspiration propelled me into biblical studies. These are the stories that shaped my childhood. They shaped me. 

Is that why Facebook made me cry today? Seeing old friends. Seeing their children. Seeing their faith. Seeing who they've become. Scrolling through years of losses and gains and just plain living, I realized something. I love these people.

I had hoped to have finished my doctorate before the reunion. But why? So that I wouldn't have to say that I'm still in school some 20 years later? Each of us is on a journey. The important thing is not so much what we have achieved, but what kind of people we've become along the way. My earnest prayer is that I am more like Jesus today than I was when I walked across the platform 20 years ago. If that's the case, then it will be a happy reunion, indeed.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

"all grown up"

This was a big week at our house. And I mean BIG.

I taught a FULL week of classes at Multnomah University and Western Seminary, subbing 14 hours for one of my mentors while he was out of the country and beginning my own class on the Gospels and Acts. I taught Exodus, Leviticus, New Testament Biblical Theology, Hermeneutics (for Heb-Rev), Bible Study Methods, and Gospels.

One of the best parts of teaching this week was sharing the experience with Eliana (age 13). In November, I paid her a dollar to read through my syllabus and look for typos. She thought the class sounded so cool that she wanted to sit in on it, too. Since she's doing high school online through a public charter school, she has a flexible enough schedule for that to work. I'm delighted to have her rubbing shoulders with such a great group of students and experiencing the campus that was so formative for me and Danny.

One morning I came down to breakfast dressed for teaching. Eliana did a double-take and said, "Mom, you look all grown up today!" Um . . . as opposed to . . . yesterday? (when she said I looked very "professional") This is the same daughter who told me recently that I really need to look into getting a refund for the wrinkle cream I'm using. Gotta love having a teenager in the house!

As if having a high schooler was not enough to make me feel old, our "baby" had his last day of first grade yesterday. Easton's teachers and principal decided that he should move up to second grade. Effective immediately. Which means that this fall I'll have a 3rd grader, a 5th grader, and a 10th grader. In three years we'll be sending our oldest off to college and in 10 we'll be empty nesting. Where has the time gone? Before you know they'll all be grown up!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Best Gifts of 2014

Photo: Carmen Imes
In honor of the traditional day on which the gifts of the magi are remembered, I'm thinking about gifts I received in 2014. Some of the most precious ended up as popular blog posts, too. A painting, a pottery bowl, great books to read, friends who point me to Jesus, an adventure in Israel, and a year's worth of family memories. There were many other gifts, too, that I didn't blog about, but these are worth celebrating!

The Gift of Art . . .

       April 19 - A Pottery Bowl
       Sept 23 - A Painting

The Gift of Great Books . . .

      April 8 - Called to Be Saints
      April 22 - The Sweet Side of Suffering

The Gift of Friendship . . .

       Dec 15 - A Chat With Jesus

The Gift of Shared Adventure . . .

       May 18 - A Trip to Israel

The Gift of Children . . .

       Jan 8 - Days to Treasure
       Apr 13 - Things to Laugh About

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Best 14 Posts of 2014

If 2014 was as busy for you as it was for me, perhaps you didn't keep up with my blog. For your reading pleasure, here are 14 of the most popular posts (judging either by how many hits they had, or which were my favorite, or both):

On Faith and Suffering . . .

   Jan 21 - my life, a window - what do others see when they watch you suffer?
   Mar 12 - when words flee - writing on the other side of a Great Disappointment
   Mar 25 - straining for spring - joy is not restored by trying harder
   April 28 - measuring life by loss - on the back side of every loss is a gain

On Everyday Faithfulness . . .

   July 19 - embracing the ordinary - my wake-up call to ordinary living
   July 24 - this ordinary adventure - what are you planting today that will outlast you?
   Aug 5 - thrust into the spotlight - on SIM and the Ebola crisis
   Aug 19 - one ordinary life - a tribute to Suzie, a childhood neighbor
   Sept 7 - all things now living - a tribute to my Oma's legacy of faith
   Oct 22 - spiritual disciplines for busy moms - an invited post I wrote for a friend's blog

On Academic Life . . .

   Feb 14 - what the olympics taught me about writing a dissertation - love what you do!
   Sept 4 - back to school panic - embracing academic rhythms, an article I published at The Well
   Oct 17 - full to bursting - on the way to a dream come true
   Nov 18 - anything but dissertation? - whatever happened to Carmen's dissertation?
Photo Credit: Emma Imes

Thanks for giving me more than 15,000 reasons to write in 2014.

Have a blessed New Year!