A gift to generations

Today’s Haiku Friday is about gift-giving, so I thought I would cross-list my entry:

 

Caked with biscuit dough,
still – she never took it off:
A grandmother’s ring.

Depression-era
sacrifice to cherish dear –
till death did they part.

Passed down to a bride
who wore it for fifteen years.
(Rings outlast marriage.)

And so, the band waits
for love to find it again –
bare hand to adorn.

What I’m not

I had the opportunity to meet a new mentor recently via email (though I hope to meet her in person at a conference later this spring). As I thought about what I wanted to discuss with her, I realized that one of my biggest frustrations is the fact that everywhere I turn, I feel like I have to prove myself. I have to justify my research and scholarship (understandably so). I have to put up with deer-in-the-headlights expressions when people find out about my family (understandable, but annoying). I just want to put forth my best effort and show the world that I can’t be sterotyped. I want my work to stand on its own merit, regardless of any other factors.

So, I wrote the following statement, as a mantra to myself. You might consider it a soapbox, but I think it’s more of an affirmation of who I am and what I’m not.

I wear numerous hats and fulfill several roles. I am a lot of things, but one thing I will not be is stereotyped. I may not be much of a wave-maker, but I darn sure will be a mold-breaker. I am not who I used to be, and I’m still becoming who I am. Maybe you don’t know how I handle it because you don’t have to, and I’m learning to. I am stronger and braver than I ever imagined I could be, because I’ve needed to be. If you want to be certain that I will accomplish something, just tell me that I am unable to do it.When you’re finished ranting about how it can’t be done, please step aside. Just watch me, and eat your words.

Purposeful life

I’ve questioned the notion before that life will work out hunky-dory, if only we love God and behave ourselves, because, at the risk of sounding like a pessimist, I just don’t believe that we are guaranteed happy endings. For as long as I can remember, well-meaning religious people have been quoting Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV).

What they leave out, however, is the next verse, which talks about being “… conformed to the image of his Son,” namely, Jesus. The chapter goes on to say that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love, and that is true, but it doesn’t mean things will be easy-breezy.

I realize that Jesus (and his uncannily blonde mother, Mary, for that matter), look like well-groomed models who just stepped out of a Pantene commercial in the paintings, but Jesus led a hard life. Besides the fact that such everyday luxuries as motor vehicles, air conditioning and Crocs had not yet been invented, Jesus was not wealthy by any stretch, and he was insulted, ignored, betrayed and ultimately killed. He apparently lost his earthly dad sometime in his teens or 20s. His own neighbors rejected his message.

We all have many, many blessings for which to be thankful.  I have experienced exquisite joy in life; please don’t get me wrong and think that I’m raining on the religion parade. What I’m trying to say is that I don’t think our lives are just about us. I don’t think that life is just about my accomplishments and dreams and the legacy that I leave behind. What about people who die without a so-called legacy? What about the young mother who dies of cancer, or the stillborn baby or the elder who lives alone? I’ve just been struggling with the idea that sometimes, life’s purpose may be larger than us. Our lives are part of a bigger picture, and not necessarily portraits, in and of themselves.

Consider Job’s first batch of children: he had seven sons and three daughters. In a freak windstorm, all 10 of them were crushed to death in a house collapse. That tragedy was just one of a litany of calamities that happened to Job. If you read the whole story, you learn that God restored his family and gave him 10 more children later in life. (Which, by the way, makes me think that perhaps giving birth to 20 children was part of his wife’s punishment for telling Job to curse God and die (Job 2:9-10), but I digress.)

Were the lives of Job’s first 10 children pointless? For lack of a better term, they really just seem like pawns in the overall strategy. That’s a tough pill to swallow, to think that my life might simply be a lesson illustration. I want to accomplish great feats in life, but what I’ve been learning in recent years, as trials and detours keep chipping away at my pride, is that I need to be content with whatever God has in store for me. Sometimes, my goals don’t pan out the way I expect them do, but that doesn’t mean that I should hang it all up and quit trying. I will keep striving, pursuing and reaching toward my dreams, and I will thank God for letting me play a role, however significant – or not – in his story.

Validation

There are times in this life journey when being Ms. Independent catches up with me (more like smacks me upside the head). In such moments (or days, or weeks), I feel sub-par in various areas of my life, be it motherhood, work, school or even spiritually. In the midst of the frustration, beautifully validating moments sometimes come along that may seem like happenstance, but I choose to believe that they are God-orchestrated blessings to remind me that being independent is well and good, but it’s also ok not to have my act together all of the time.

When I changed jobs last summer, the “status” of my position also changed. It’s still a full-time job, and on the surface, you wouldn’t know (or probably care, which is the whole point) that the type of full-time category had changed. Well, that little change meant that I was not eligible to be a member of an internal organization that I’ve been actively involved with for several years. I tried to pretend like it was no big deal, but the truth is that my feelings were hurt, as if I’d been brushed aside.

Earlier this week, I attended a Christmas reception on campus and ran into the current president of the organization. She pulled me aside and said that she’d been trying to get in touch with me (had my old number) to tell me that she was horrified when she heard what I was told about not being eligible for membership. She had personally stood up to the board about this issue and asked me to please consider rejoining the group, because I was valued and appreciated. Realizing that someone went to bat for me like that was truly refreshing.

The other much-appreciated validation moment came earlier today. I have been exchanging emails this past week with a professor about organizing my dissertation committee, and I asked for her candid input after she finished grading my recent research paper, to see if it would be feasible to expand into my capstone project, and, ultimately, my dissertation. Her feedback would be extremely important, and if she shot it down, then I would likely have to start from Square One with a new research agenda.

I almost cried when I checked my messages today and saw this note:

The paper was extremely well written. So much so that I cannot state with specificity any area which I think you could expand/improve for Capstone purposes. However, I most definitely believe the potential for a Capstone project exists. I am guessing you could … basically just broaden/expand upon all areas. You explain it very well – particularly given that many people are not familiar with it. Great job!

It is nerve-wracking to be at this point in the program and realize that push has come to shove, and you really need to have a solid idea for your dissertation. Having this kind of input is so reassuring! I’m pumped up and excited to crank out my last three classes this spring & summer and hit the ground running at full speed for my capstone & dissertation in the fall. The department chair is leery of people rushing to finish in the fall, so I may have to stretch it out until the spring, but I am determined to put my best foot forward, and I’ve never felt more motivated.

Thank you, Lord, for these moments where you remind me that my life isn’t just about going through the motions day in and day out. I don’t know exactly what you have in store, but I trust you and thank you.

Watching the fire

It has been a long, draining, challenging day, and we’re expecting another overnight low around the freezing mark, so I decided to light a fire and kick back with a glass of my favorite Pinot Noir by Peter Brum. I’ve been watching the fire, and my brain is swarming with thoughts:

  • Wouldn’t it be cool if we could travel and talk to each other via floo powder, like in the Harry Potter series? I think of the time when Sirius appeared in the fireplace of the common room, which then reminds me of how he appeared again when Harry activated the Resurrection Stone. I have seen that movie at least a half-dozen times, and I cry at that scene every, single time.
  • Did I set my variables correctly in the columns and rows, or are they backwards? What the heck is the difference, and are they “within” or “between” comparisons? Did I choose the correct ANOVA measurement? Am I going to finish this paper in time? What will I do if I cannot disprove the null hypothesis? This paper is the groundwork for my dissertation, and I haven’t even entertained the thought of starting over with a new topic.
  • I think about the first camp bonfire that I can remember: roasting s’mores and singing while the camp leader played guitar.
  • I think about the house fire that I covered while working as a newspaper reporter: a family watching their house being gutted from the inside-out.
  • Life is like fire sometimes. Once it starts blazing, it’s too late to change your mind and decide you didn’t want to light it. You have to wait it out; let it burn. I hear the whoosh, pop, crackle and think about the things that feel like they are whooshing, popping and crackling in my own life. Sometimes circumstances feel out of control or undesired, but then I remember that the safety mesh that keeps the fire from tumbling onto the hearth (and into my den, setting my house ablaze) is like God’s hand in my life. Sometimes, it feels like he lets the fire rage, and when I’m in the middle of it, it can feel unbearable, but then I am reminded that he has everything under control; there is nothing to fear.
  • I wonder about my colleague who died. He wasn’t married and had no kids, but he still left behind a family. I think about dying sometimes. I hope that I’m an old woman when the Lord brings me home — though not miserably old, just contentedly so. If he were to take me sooner, then I trust that God would take care of the boys, not only for their physical well-being, but also emotionally. But still — I’m not in a hurry to leave. What’s ironic is that if I were to suddenly die, then I’m sure that somehow, someone could attribute it to my being overweight. And yet, look at my colleague, and my friend’s dad, and other seemingly healthy, active people who actually exercised on purpose. I tell ya, it isn’t very motivating. Yeah, yeah — I know I need to be more active and get back to being physically fit, but sheesh — if people are dying who actually like to work out, then what hope is there for the rest of us?! I’m just sayin’.
  • The fire is still burning out, and I don’t like to leave it unattended, so I can’t go to bed yet. Come to think of it, I don’t know exactly what I’d do if somehow it did escape the safety mesh. I suppose I’d go fetch the fire extinguisher and hope that it still worked after having not been used for however many years it has been stored under the kitchen sink. I should probably look into testing &/or replacing it.