Thursday, February 26, 2015

fractions before breakfast

Easton stood there in my bathroom, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes and shivering in the morning cold. "Mom, I had a question for you yesterday, but I didn't get a chance to ask you yet."

"Ok, what is it?" My interest was piqued. This must be important if he was still thinking about it before he was fully awake!

"What's a fraction?"

I couldn't hide my smile. Where does one find a child like this? Christmas morning he bounded down the stairs, workbook in hand, announcing that he was going to do some math before breakfast. In under a minute I explained how to add double-digit numbers with carrying. He had it down cold. This morning it was fractions. I told him that if he got ready for school quickly, we'd have time to get out a fractions game I had tucked away in the closet. He was jazzed and got ready at lightning speed.

Again, it took under a minute to explain what fractions represented and how to read them. He was off like a rocket, categorizing fraction cards and even learning how to reduce fractions.

Last night in bed he was completely absorbed in a career exploration guide from Portland General Electric, discovering which kinds of jobs in the energy sector would be just right for him. Did I mention he's 6?

While it may only take a fraction of a minute to teach him something, he has my WHOLE heart wrapped around his pinky finger. No question about that.

Friday, February 20, 2015

now is the time for no

I'm coming up on the one-year anniversary of some of the hardest news I've ever received: my dissertation was inadequate. After 3 years of pouring my heart and soul into graduate school, giving it everything I had, this was really disappointing. For a year now I've been processing that news and trying to find my footing so that I can attack the project again and win this time. It's hard to do that when you're exhausted. And even harder when the little voice inside says you don't have what it takes.

Add to the mix a two-week trip to Israel, a cross-country move with a family of five, settling in to a new community, and beginning to teach adjunct for the first time . . . and it will make sense why my blog has lain fallow lately. All five of us have had challenges adjusting to life in Oregon (and frankly, recovering from Wheaton). And while the external pressures on our schedule are less than what we faced in Wheaton, we find ourselves more stretched and more exhausted than we've ever been. Day after day the hours erode while the to-do swells and grows more impossible.

That's why I found this post over at The Well so encouraging this morning. Like me, Kindra has discovered that she's not superwoman. She can't do it all. And like me, she's learning to be okay with that. (Ironically, two of my own post at The Well came up as "related articles." I guess that makes sense.)

In this twilight zone where we live -- not yet finished with what we started in Wheaton but trying to put down roots in a new community -- I have spread myself too thin. I have said "yes" to lots of good, small things, things I believe are worth doing, which have crowded my calendar until I have nothing left to give to the one thing I need to do -- finish the dissertation.

My good friend Anna Moseley Gissing is giving up "yes" for Lent. She writes,

"Saying 'no' requires trust. Saying no to more commitments, more responsibilities, and more busyness means trusting that other opportunities will come at other times. There is a time for everything, and now is the time for no. Now is the time to remember that God made me with limits, and these limits remind me that I’m the creature, not the Creator. God knows my desires, my passions, and my anxiety.
Saying no creates space for God here and now. When I clear out some space in my mind and my life, I am more present to God and to those around me. And the commitments I have already made get the better part of me.
For the record, I'm glad I said yes to teaching at Multnomah University this semester. It's taken every ounce of my energy, but I have loved every minute. Still, I don't have what it takes to finish the dissertation when I'm spread this thin. My dissertation needs the better part of me. And that makes this the time for "no."

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!


Friday, December 19, 2014

best books in 2015

Check out Christianity Today's top picks for 2015. Perhaps this list can help you with some last-minute Christmas shopping!

Studying at Wheaton put me at the heart of the Christian publishing world. CT was right up the road, as were Tyndale Publishers, Crossway, and InterVarsity Press. Grand Rapids, the other big hub, was just a hop over Lake Michigan, with Eerdmans, Baker, and Zondervan. Wheaton professors actively publish with all of these companies, so I found myself in a web of new connections. I could safely spend the rest of my teaching career requiring my students to read only books written by people I know. How cool is that?!

But on to the book awards. Here are the highlights (i.e. people I know and/or books I've read):

My own doctoral advisor, Daniel Block, received an Award of Merit in Biblical Studies for his latest: For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship (Baker Academic). I had no part in this one, but I'm so glad to see it making a splash! It also appeared on Janet Mefferd's Top 10 Books of 2014 and an Honorable Mention on Kevin DeYoung's list at The Gospel Coalition.

In the area of Spirituality, an Award of Merit goes to a book I recommended earlier this year: Called to be Saints: An Invitation to Christian Maturity, by Gordon T. Smith (IVP Academic), president of Ambrose University College in Calgary, Alberta.

For Theology and Ethics, first place was awarded to Kevin Vanhoozer's Faith Speaking Understanding: Performing the Drama of Doctrine. I had the honor of studying with Dr. Vanhoozer at Wheaton (he's now at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School). You might be interested to know that this book is a more popular version of his weighty Drama of Doctrine, released in 2005.

One of Dr. Vanhoozer's doctoral students, my friend and colleague Jeremy Treat, received the Award of Merit in the same category for a book based on his Wheaton dissertation, The Crucified King: Atonement and Kingdom in Biblical and Systematic TheologyCongratulations, Jeremy!

And now for a few more titles that caught my eye and are landing on my wish list:

First place in Spirituality: What's in a Phrase? Pausing Where Scripture Gives You Pause by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre

First place in Christian Living: Teach Us to Want: Longing, Ambition, and the Life of Faith, Jen Pollock Michel (InterVarsity Press)

Award of Merit in Christian Living: Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good, Steven Garber (InterVarsity Press)

Award of Merit in Fiction: The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd (Viking Adult)

Life is too short to read everything. You might as well start with the best!