29 November 2011

wishing for international travel

path outside Pluscarden Abbey, Northern Scotland
It is now officially over a year since the last time I was out of the country.  Sara and I traveled for 8 days to Scotland with a brief stop in Copenhagen in Oct/Nov of 2010.  It was one of the best vacations of my adult life.  I really think I could live in Edinburgh for the rest of my natural life (and I am still trying to figure out how I could swing a PhD there....)  One of the things I love about the British Isles is their commitment to walking holidays.  I grew up in the land of roadtrips and I treasure the hours, days, and occasional weeks the my family spent on the road exploring the glories of these United States.  Walking across the US is something only a very few ever even think of attempting.  But in Scotland or England, it is entirely doable in 2 or 3 weeks.

Which brings me to my current timewaster--researching walking trips in Scotland.  I've mentioned before how much I love walking and hiking.  Often it seems the perfect antidote to my monkey mind.  Today I wandered around cyberland looking at options and found a fun website that outlines some of the best walking trips in that lovely and rugged country.

The plan, currently, is to plan one of these trips, possibly the Coast to Coast route, to celebrate the completion of my MA (estimated May 2013).  That gives us more than enough time to get more fit and to do some shorter hikes here in the US.  This makes me VERY EXCITED!  

Until that day, I am going to have to satisfy my wanderlust with more local travel and look for other opportunities that the Lord may be opening up.  It is a little easier to wait with something like this on the horizon.

17 November 2011

Pantoum of a Single Woman

I've been writing poetry as my weekly class assignments for my Forms of Poetry class this semester but much of it is not really worth sharing.  However, this past weekend I wrote a pantoum that I and my professor (and my classmates, I think) really enjoyed.  Hope you enjoy it too.

Btw, a pantoum is a form written in 4 line stanzas where the 2nd and 4th lines are repeated in the following stanza as lines 1 and 3.  It creates a rhythmic repetition that works for a variety of topics and styles, but seems to work particularly well with this one.

Pantoum of a Single Woman

I borrow babies, boys and girls,
their parents think I’m generous.
I’m only thinking of myself--
how can I sate this empty womb?

They think I’m generous and kind;
I give them several hours away.
To sate my empty womb takes time,
“Just dinner and a movie?” “Great.”

Those extra hours away, sweet bliss,
a tired couple’s desperate dream.
No chicken strips or dumb cartoons,
real conversation, what a treat.

Every tired couple’s dream
an evening free of dirty diapers;
uninterrupted conversation
like stolen sweet, forbidden fruit.

“Have an evening free of diapers.”
I am just thinking of myself,
holding them--forbidden fruit--
“I’ll borrow your babies any time.”

14 November 2011

a cruciform heart

Reading my blogroll at work might be a dangerous practice.  Lately there have been too many posts that pierce my heart.  Not sure if the piercing is from the pointedness of the posts, or the thinness of my heart skin.  

Ann writes heartbreakingly of being abandoned in the jungle and being broken in your affluence and I can barely take it in.  Her words dance past my walls and barriers, going straight for the softest places in my heart, never caring what my intellect wants to say to keep a safe distance.

And then another comments on this story, with her own chapter of heart-tearing, truth bearing reality and I wonder if I will ever be capable of such transparency.  When I think I am full up and there is no more room to hear hearts crying or truth piercing, the wonderful encourager at Gypsy Momma weighs in about the beauty and power of being free to not be fine.

Thanksgiving wells up that I have this silent Monday to reflect and be quiet.  Come, Lord Jesus.  Break me open to make me whole.

11 November 2011

Me too...

RZIM reposted a short article about G.K Chesterton that I love.  The quote below from the close of the article grabs my heart and my imagination:

To everyone his life affected, and continues to affect, G.K. Chesterton, with and without words, made a boisterous point about delighting in life to the fullest; life that is fullest, first and foremost, because there is someone to thank. He writes:

You say grace before meals.
All right.
But I say grace before the play and the opera,
And grace before the concert and the pantomime,
And grace before I open a book,
And grace before sketching, painting,
swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing;
And grace before I dip the pen in the ink.

Chesterton was a man alive with the gusto of resurrection, the marvel of truth, and the thankful foresight of the coming King among us
I especially want that last line to be true of my life.  Please let people say that about me too....

Fragile and Empty

Today has been a hard day.  I woke up to another day of unexplainable sinus unhappiness and an anxiety-inducing dream that left me craving a day wrapped in the comforter and burrowed away from life.  Talking out my dream with Sara led to some emotional conversation, tears, and a panicked rush into the shower so I could get to work close to on time.  Not even listening to some of my favorite Christmas music on the way in on the train could life my spirits.

Arriving to work 10 min late I found out that one of my co-workers will no longer be working here, effective immediately.  Minimal explanation is available, but it doesn't look positive.  When I talked to her supervisor about it she was noncommittal about reasons but did say that it was unexpected. 
one of the many doorways from our Edinburgh trip
In addition, it seems that my emotions are in a bit of a riot as I consider this next step in my work/school life.  My office would like me to stay on part-time in January at my current pay rate, pro-rated to an hourly wage.  They will hire a full-time receptionist to cover the front desk and I will only have my executive support duties 2.5 days a week.  It seems like an ideal situation.  But I've made too many leaps into commitment without taking the time to truly listen to what God is saying to me about it, so I am trying to take it slow.  

I can see many reasons why this could be His best provision for me, including the pay scale, the fact that I don't have to look for another job, and the comfort of not having to uproot myself.  The downside is that my tendency towards a peripatetic work life means that I am restless for change.  With almost 3.5 yrs logged in one location, change seems like a good idea.  Additionally, it would be great to be working in my neighborhood, or at least somewhere close by enough that I could commute via bicycle or walking, rather than taking the L all the way into the loop and back.  I've applied for a couple of positions in our neighborhood with no results, and searches for available positions haven't been very fruitful either. 

And on top of all of this, my heart is so restless for deep intimacy with God in prayer and Bible study.  I am so hungry.  My heart feels famished.  I know this is a good thing, to be encouraged and cultivated... an appetite that needs to grow.  But it is overwhelming in the rush and bustle of my life right now.  I find myself resenting my job, sitting at my desk for 7+ hrs a day and then rushing on to the next obligation.  I love the pieces of my life... classes, doing homework even, Sunday worship, working with the Children's Church kids, cooking dinner, helping Sara with her sewing projects, an occasional novel slipped into my academic reading...  But I haven't been making time for reflection, for deep listening, for soaking in the truth.

I want to walk and keep walking until there is rest in my chaotic brain and overburdened heart.  Read this article on Art House America's blog yesterday and wanted to jump on a plane to anywhere where I could walk for a couple of weeks, stopping to sleep in a decent bed, eat pub food, and have a nice drink.  Fresh air, experiencing real weather, sleeping the sleep of the physically tired, and time to let my thoughts unbend.

Then I read something like Ann's post here about Ecuador and my heart breaks in a different direction.  The comfort and ease of my life often feels like a burden, a responsibility that I don't always handle well.  The beggars on the street are the most visible sign of the need that engulfs my life here in the city and I feel so inadequate to meet any of it.  My mind knows that rest and wholeness are found in Christ.  My emotions are often slow to find it.

Pray for me when you think of it.  Not sure what the Holy Spirit is doing in my heart, but I so desperately don't want to miss out on something beautiful because I am too busy or too blind.

04 November 2011

Poverty of Heart, My Impoverished Heart

There have been quite a few posts going across my screen over the last month that have been challenging my views of people in need, poverty, giving, and what it means to be Jesus to the world.  These two were particularly thought provoking and I didn't want them to get lost in the Facebook abyss.

The first is from RZIM : Free Lunch Economy, which shares a story about Henri Nouwen and his work L'Arche in Canada.  I wrestle so much (and at times not enough) with my fallen thinking that values the people around me for their ability to perform, their perceived value generally, or how they will benefit me.  I am shamed or called to repentance almost daily.  At least that means that the truth is illuminating my heart...

The second is from Ann Voskamp's blog, A Holy Experience.  The Lord has been using her incredibly to break my heart with the truth and to help me see the reality of his grace all around me.  This particular post, though, wrestles with the very real fear that poverty and pain, the reality of meeting those they have loved from a distance through Compassion, will not truly pierce their hearts.  Won't open them up to new life.  I don't even have words for how this resonates in my heart.

May you too know the pain of conviction and the joy of know that it means the Spirit is moving in your heart!

19 October 2011

Vacancy.com Scholarship Post-- My ideal apartment in my ideal city

(balcony view from Arena Crossings)

Looking forward to the next step in my education (a little ways off yet, but still worth considering) I've been plotting and investigating PhD opportunities. Ohio State University has an amazing program that is HIGH on my list of possible landing places. That means looking at the housing market in Columbus, OH and seeing what's there.

Arena Crossing--a property in the heart of Columbus--offers several irresistible features: generously sized layouts in modern buildings, balconies for personal outside space, security, 24-hr service, proximity to the downtown amenities, and a price that seems quite reasonable to my Chicago-jaded eyes. The most important factor in my search was commut-ability to the Ohio State campus without a car. The property's location near High St public transportation and only 2 miles from the main campus means that I can get to and from school without having to rely on car transportation every day. The only thing that would make it more perfect was if there was more green space in the immediate area. I know that is hard to come by in an urban setting, but it is something that is close to my heart.

New use for the blog?

So, I have not updated this blog in a VERY LONG time. I've been using Facebook for the majority of tasks that I've used this blog for in the past, so it has stood neglected. However, a new use has suddenly come to the fore: scholarship applications.

There are several scholarships that ask that you post on your blog and link back as part of the application process. As I navigate this somewhat tortuous path through grad school I am seeking to be the best steward possible of my time and finances. That means applying for any and all scholarships that cross my horizon and fit my goals and purpose.

To that end, I may be posting some pretty random posts over the next couple months. Since I seem to still have a couple of faithful readers, I will try to include some with actual life content as well in thanks for your continued readership.

Quick update:

I am currently in the MA English Literature program at Northeastern Illinois University. I started this fall and hope to finish the program in May 2013. I am currently taking two classes and working full-time at my current job, but plan to move to working part-time in January so that I can take a full course load for the remaining 3 semesters. While NEIU is small state school only 4 miles from my apartment, the professors in the program are energetic, young, and interested in changing the way English graduate work is done. This makes the program more interesting and challenges my own growth as a scholar in fruitful ways.

I owe a deep debt of gratitude to Sara Rhatican Gambill for all the support that she is offering me during this process. We have now lived together for the better part of 6 years and she is unfailingly gracious and generous with her time and energy to help make this a success. Over the last 12-14 months we have worked very diligently to pay off all of our debt and I am proud to say that by October 31st we will be entirely debt free! We aren't sure about the grand total yet, but it looks like we have paid off approx. $20,000 of credit card, school loan, and person loan debt. God has really shown up as we have sought to be good stewards. He has allowed us to increase our giving and still quickly advance out of debt.

Because of this move out of indebtedness, Sara has arranged our budget so that my full-time income is not necessary to keep our household afloat. As long as I can fund my education without debt and put aside my part-time income for savings, she is willing to use her full-time income to cover our household expenses. To keep up my end of the bargain I am energetically in pursuit of scholarship funds and looking for the best part-time work situation for our household. I know that God will provide exactly what we need when we need it which makes this both exhilarating and sometimes terrifying.

The path that lies before me pretty much looks like this. I can see only a little way ahead and sometimes the branches seem to be blocking the way. The long-term plan is a PhD in English or Comparative Literature and a full-time professorate at a college or university, preferable in the Appalachian region of Ohio, Kentucky, North Carolina, Western Virginia, Tennessee, etc. I am acutely aware that that dream is impossible on my own strength. However, I can see God's hand all over the path that has brought me this far, so I am earnestly seeking to just rest in Christ and trust that when the need is there, so will His provision be.

Please feel free to comment or email me if you have an questions. I realize that some of you are more up to date about life because you are friends with me on facebook, but some of you don't do the facebook thing :-)

07 January 2011

thoughts for 2011

There is a lot to think about as 2011 opens. I am sure that this year is going to bring many changes and new experiences and I've been looking for ways to filter my ideas and opportunities in the most effective and fruitful way. I want my life to honor God in all of its particulars and I am trying to wrap my brain and heart around the life purpose that he helped me to articulate late last year.

Life purpose: To create shalom in my community through teaching and hospitality.

Vision for the next few years: prepare for and then acquire a PhD in English Literature so that I can teach at a college or university where I can pursue my purpose with those who have a Christian identity but lack intimacy with Christ

I expect that there will be much to consider but right now I have a few articles that are worth thoughtful consideration:
  • This post from Ravi Zacharias includes a story that I have heard before, but its truth pierced me anew: " ...The primary purpose of a home is to reflect and to distribute the love of Christ. Anything that usurps that is idolatrous. ..."
  • The Art House America blog had a reflective piece on seeing reality and this quote was also a good reminder as I consider the reality of hospitality and shalom in the life of the city: "...He spoke of Jesus’ mandate to let the wheat and the chaff grow together and let God have control in the end — God who is not threatened by the presence of chaff. If we took it upon ourselves to start weeding the field, we would get it wrong. We would proceed by making false distinctions, in groups and out groups, positions of advantage and of humiliation. We would grab power and disenfranchise anyone who didn’t fit the controlling narrative we created; we would pluck out wheat and call it chaff...."
2010 saw the end of a long-term relationship, the change of homes, change of church homes, and a renewal of my commitment to live in the city for at least the next 5 yrs. With a clearly articulated purpose, an ambitious debt-payment plan, and preparations underway to start graduate school in the fall there is a much on my mind and my heart. If there are still any readers of this blog, please pray for me as I seek to use the next 8 months as preparation for the next big step. There are far more things that I want to do, understand and experience than I can fit in that short time. I need Holy Spirit-guided discernment to make the best choices. Saturday is our Household Summit. I hope to come out of it with a better grasp on the next 12 months and hopefully some attainable goals for the next 3/6/9 months. I will share more as it becomes known.

photo is from Pluscarden Abbey, Scotland from our trip in Nov 2010