Thursday, December 16, 2010

Awesome God

{Oh yeah, since I haven't posted on here in forever... I'm engaged! We're to be married in my parents' church in June. I can't wait!}

So last August I decided I wanted to read through the entire Bible - verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book. I have never done that before, so I figured I needed to give it a greater purpose than simply "read through the Bible." So on August 21st of last year, I decided that I would read, but as I read I would take notes on anything I found that showed me who God is - His character, His desires, His hates, etc., all with scripture references.

It took me just under 16 months to read through all 66 books while doing this special project along with it. Some of the delay came from traveling this summer and getting off track for a while, but I finished it tonight (er, last night, since it's after 1 am on Thursday now) (Wed, Dec 15), at 11:30 p.m. My final file with all of my references and notes came to 62 pages. Wow! God is truly awesome. I am in awe at the things I've found out about the God I serve through this.

So this is pretty long, but it's just a small a taste of what I've learned about this Great and Awesome, Almighty God we serve:

Old Testament Thoughts (a sampling)

Genesis: He is the creator (ch 1); He is a covenant-making God (9:9-17); He sees us (16:13)

Exodus: He hears our groanings and remembers His promises (2:24); He knows men’s hearts (9:35); He shows love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments (20:6); He provides for our atonement (30:14-16)

Leviticus: He requires atonement for sin (ch 4); He is holy, and demands that His people be holy (19:2); He demands obedience because He is the LORD, YHWH, the God of Israel (chapters 22-25)

Numbers: He guides us and makes Himself visible so we would know which way to go (the cloud, fire) (9:15-17); He is never lacking in the power to do what He says He will do (11:23); He is not a man, that He should lie, or a son of man, the He should change his mind (23:19)

Deuteronomy: He is a merciful God, and will not abandon, destroy, or forget us (4:31); He, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. (6:4); He is God of gods, Lord of lords, the great God, the mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes, who defends the fatherless and widow, loves the alien (10:17-18)

Joshua: He commands us to be strong and courageous because He is with us everywhere we go (1:9); He will bring judgment as well as blessings – He does not go back on His covenants (23:15-16)

Judges: He still has compassion on His people even when they suffer because of disobedience (2:18); He is faithful even when we doubt, and He gives us what we need to obey (6:36-40); He walks us through, step by step, to overcome our fear (7:10-15)

Ruth: He provides for His people (1:6)

1 Samuel: He brings death and makes alive; brings to the grave and raises up; sends poverty and wealth; humbles and exalts; raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash (2:8); He sometimes gives us what we want, even though He does not want it for us (ch 10); He does not look at the outward appearance; He looks at Man’s heart (16:7)

2 Samuel: He has done great things for the sake of His word and according to His will (7:21); He is our shield and the horn of our salvation, our stronghold, our refuge, our savior (22:3); He shows himself faithful to the faithful; blameless to the blameless; pure to the pure (22:26-27)

1 Kings: He requires that we walk in His ways, keep His decrees/commands/laws/requirements (2:3); He came not in the wind or earthquake or fire, but in the gentle whisper (19:11-12)

2 Kings: He is longsuffering, but He will punish wickedness (17:18-20); He is enthroned between cherubim, alone is God over all kingdoms of the earth (19:15)

1 Chronicles: He remembers His covenant forever, His word for a thousand generations (16:15); He searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts (28:9); He tests the heart and is pleased with integrity (29:17)

2 Chronicles: He cannot be contained by the heavens, even the highest heavens (2:6); He will hear from heaven, forgive sin, and heal the land when His people humble themselves, pray, seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways (7:14); He is neither unjust, partial, nor does He bribe (19:7)

Ezra: He, God, is the one who moves hearts (1:5); He gives light to our eyes and relief in our bondage (9:8); He punishes less than we deserve because of our sins (9:13)

Nehemiah: He is a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love (9:17); He is just and faithful (9:33); He gives great joy (12:43)

Esther: He turns sorrow into joy and mourning into celebration (9:22)

Job: He is sovereign (1:6); He is God: to Him alone belong strength and victory (12:16); He can do all things – no plan of His can be thwarted (42:2)

Psalms: He will not abandon me to the grave, nor will He let His Holy One see decay (16:10); He is the King of glory, the LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle (24:7-8); He does not delight in sacrifice or burnt offerings, but in the broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart (51:16-17); His love is as great as the heavens are high above the earth; as far as east is from the west, he has removed our transgressions (103:11-12)

Proverbs: He is the source of knowledge and wisdom: the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom (1:7); He disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in (3:12); He detests the ways of the wicked but loves those who pursue righteousness (15:9)

Ecclesiastes: He set eternity in the hearts of men, yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end (3:11); He will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidding thing, good or evil (12:14)

Song of Solomon: He is the bridegroom and He loves the bride, His people (whole book)

Isaiah: He desires that we seek justice, encourage the oppressed, defend the fatherless, and plead for the widow (1:17); He, the Spirit of the Lord, is the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD (11:2); He, the LORD, is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom (40:28)

Jeremiah: He knew you before He formed you in the womb; before you were born He set you apart (1:5); He desires that we boast not of our own wisdom or strength or riches, but that we’d boast of our understanding and knowledge of Him, that He is the LORD who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in those He delights (9:23-24); He will never stop doing good to His people, and He will inspire them to fear Him so that they will never turn away from Him (32:40)

Lamentations: He has done what He planned; He has fulfilled His word, which He decreed long ago (2:17); He loves us – because of His great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is His faithfulness (3:22-23)

Ezekiel: He speaks what He wills, and it shall be fulfilled without delay (12:25); He does nothing without cause (14:23); He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live (33:11)

Daniel: He is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries (2:47); He, the Ancient of Days, will pronounce judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High (7:22); He is the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with all who love Him and obey His commands (9:4)

Hosea: He has torn us to pieces but He will heal us; He has injured us but He will bind up our wounds (6:1); He desires mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings (6:6); He is the LORD God Almighty, the LORD is His name of renown (12:5)

Joel: He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. (2:13); He will pour out His Spirit on all people; Israel’s sons and daughters will prophesy, their old men will dream dreams, their young men will see visions; even on His servants, both men and women, He will pour out His Spirit in those days (2:28-29)

Amos: He will judge sin (all of ch 1); He who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns blackness into dawn and darkens day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land – the LORD is His name (5:8)

Obadiah: He punishes those who attack Israel but will deliver Israel (1-17)

Jonah: He answers our calls and listens to our cries (2:2); He sees when we turn from our evil ways and has compassion upon us (3:10)

Micah: He has shown you, o man, what is good and what the LORD requires of you: to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God (6:8); He alone is God: who is like Him, who pardons sins and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance; He does not stay angry forever but delights to show mercy (7:18)

Nahum: He is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath (1:2); He is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished (1:3)

Habakkuk: He, the LORD, is from everlasting, the Holy One (1:12); His eyes are too pure to look on evil; He cannot tolerate wrong (1:13); He is the Sovereign LORD – He is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights (3:19)

Zephaniah: He, the LORD, is righteous – He does no wrong. Morning by morning He dispenses His justice, and every new day He does not fail (3:5); He, the LORD your God, is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing (3:17)

Haggai: He shakes the heavens and earth, the sea and dry land, and all the nations and fills His house with glory (2:7)

Zechariah: He is determined to do good again to Jerusalem and Judah (8:15); He refines His children in the fire like silver and tests them like gold; they will call on His name and He will answer them; He will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘the LORD is our God.’ (13:9)

Malachi: He has loved you (1:2); He, the LORD, does not change (3:6); He will throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it (3:10)

New Testament Thoughts (a sampling)

Matthew: He is victorious over the devil (ch 4); He knows our needs and provides for them (6:8, 25-31); He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God (16:16); He is not willing that even one be lost (18:13); He is RISEN! (28:6)

Mark: He, Jesus, is the Son of God (1:1); He came to serve and give His life as a ransom for many (10:45); He is the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One, the Son of Man who sits at the right hand of the Mighty One, who will come on the clouds of heaven (14:61-62)

Luke: He has come and has redeemed His people (1:68); He, Jesus, was annointed to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the captives, recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, as Isaiah predicted (4:18-21); He forgave even his executioners (23:34)

John: He was in the beginning and made all things (1:1-3); He is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world (1:29); He grants eternal life, not condemnation, for all who hear His word and belive (5:23); He, the Son, set us free, and we are free indeed! (8:36)

Acts: He cannot be contained by death (2:24); He will not let His Holy One see decay (2:27); He does not show favoritism, but accepts men from every nation who fear Him and do what is right (10:34-35)

Romans: His gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (1:16); He presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice, because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished (3:25); His kingdom is not a matter of eating or drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (14:17)

1 Corinthians: He chooses the foolish things of this world to shame the wise, the weak things of the world to shame the strong, the lowly things and despised things and things that are not to nullify the things that are so that none may boast before Him (1:27-29); He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts (4:5); He is not a God of disorder, but of peace (14:33)

2 Corinthians: He is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles (1:3-4); He made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (5:21)

Galatians: He, Christ, redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit (3:14); In Him, Christ, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love (5:6)

Ephesians: He marked us in Him (when we believed) with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of His glory (1:13-14); He is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations (2:14-15)

Philippians: He, Christ, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likelness (2:6-7); He, Christ, humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross (2:8)

Colossians: He is pleased when we bear fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of Him, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so we may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light (1:10-12); He, Christ, is your life, and when He appears, you will also appear with Him in glory (3:4)

1 Thessalonians: He, Jesus, rescues us from the coming wrath (1:10); His will is that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him (4:3-6)

2 Thessalonians: He, Jesus, will be revealed from heaven in blazing fire with His powerful angels (1:7); He is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one (3:3)

1 Timothy: He is our Savior and our hope (1:1); He is the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God (1:17)

2 Timothy: He, Christ, destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (1:10); He will judge the living and the dead (4:1)

Titus: He does not lie (1:2); He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy (3:5)

Philemon: the only book that says little directly about God, other than He desires that we treat each other in love, whether free or slave, wronged or not.

Hebrews: He, Christ, is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word (1:3); His word is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (4:12); He is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised inheritance – now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant (9:15)

James: He is the source of every good and perfect gift, and is the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (1:17); His coming is near (5:8)

1 Peter: His word stands forever (1:25); He is the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (2:25)

2 Peter: He did not spare angels when they sinned; He did not spare the ancient world when He brought the flood; He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah; He rescued Lot, a righteous man distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men – He knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment (2:4-9)

1 John: He, Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, speaks to the Father in our defense (2:1); He is love (4:8)

2 John: He desires that we love one another!

3 John: He desires that His followers do what is good (1:11)

Jude: He is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy – to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen (1:25)

Revelation: He is the First and the Last; He is the Living One; He was dead, and behold He is alive for ever and ever, and He holds the keys of death and Hades (1:17-18); His words are holy and true, and He holds the key of David – what He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open (3:7); He is worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because He was slain, and with His blood He purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. He has made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth. (5:9-10); He speaks and out of His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations; He will rule them with an iron sceptor, and He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty (19:15); He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End; to him who is thirsty He will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life (21:6); He is coming soon! (22:7); He is the Root and Offspring of David, the bright Morning Star (22:16)

This is just a small taste of what I've seen over the last 16 months. What a truly awesome, wonderful, fearsome, powerful God we serve. He deserves all glory and praise and honor and love.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Teaching week 1

I'm not sure how well I'll keep up with this, but I want to try to write each week about what I've taught, the problem areas, and the successes, since this is my first year teaching as a professor, and not as a grad student.

World History
Monday - mainly the day to introduce the course, explain the syllabus and the massive online component, and try to prep them for what we're going to expect from them.

I spent a little time asking them what they thought world history should cover, and when/where it should start. Thankfully, I have a good 10 students who seem willing to throw out ideas, so we had a wide variety of ideas of what we are supposed to cover. I was able to take what they said and try to explain briefly the idea of scale: "Big history" (usually focusing on astronomic/galactic scales); geological scale; civilizations, etc. It wasn't a long conversation, and I tend to flounder once in a while with my word choice, but I think it was a decent introduction.

Wednesday - The basic topic of readings this week was "theories of human evolution and the Paleolithic." I know very little about both, so I spent most of the last week trying to teach myself about these topics. The book did a decent job talking about the makeup of early human societies (hunter/gatherers), so I didn't want to lecture on that.

I decided that I needed a few questions to try to answer in the lecture:
1) What do scientists/archaeologists think was the course of human development?
2) How can we know anything about the Paleolithic?

So for the first 15 minutes or so, I tried to trace the most current theories on human evolution, emphasizing that these are theories, and not set-in-stone facts. I covered the most important stages, according to archaeologists, and tried to give them some comparisons of stature, diet, time period, and tools. Some students were quite willing to fill in some of the blanks for me, since I told them outright that I am most definitely not an expert in this era. They had some great things to add - though it's very hard to hear the kids in the back!

After that, I talked more in-depth about how we know anything, so I talked about the kinds of material evidence archaeologists use to study this era. Throughout, I tried to emphasize the uncertain nature of the evidence, the fact that our interpretations keep changing as we uncover new and more understandable evidence, and that these are primarily our best guesses. Much of what scientists think now about the Paleolithic is totally different than what they thought only 50 years ago. So I tried to explain that - in any era of history - we can only make our best guesses based on the evidence we have. I also wanted them to see that we don't always have any answers, so I came across an artifact found in Africa that we have no idea how to interpret. I explained that we have no clue what it might have been for! I really wanted them to grasp the fluid nature of historical interpretation. And, based on many of their responses to some discussion questions, many of them seemed to have picked up on that. They have questioned some of the interpretations in the text, which is awesome.

Finally, I came across a Nova series that nicely tied together much of what they had read about and I had lectured about, so I ended up showing around 20 minutes of the final episode. I thought it did a nice job of giving them visual representations of life in the Paleolithic era, as well as emphasizing the uncertain nature of much of the evidence, and the questions that we still have.

To improve upon: I know I need to improve on how to respond to students when they provide interesting if irrelevant information. I tend to not know exactly how to respond. I need to work on that. I also want to work on incorporating more questions (for the students) into my lectures. This class seems at least somewhat willing to answer me, so I need to remember to encourage that as the weeks go on.

Things I liked about this week: I was happy to find that, despite the size of the class, I can still lecture the way I am most comfortable. For Wednesday, I created a powerpoint mainly so I could have images of the various evidence and theories I was discussing, but used almost no text. I had maybe 10 note cards to remind me of very specific data - dates, sizes, where evidence was found by archaeologists, etc. - but I was able to primarily just talk about the material. And my technology worked. Yay!

His 200
This is my "Historians and the Study of History" class. Tuesday I talked about the basic format of the class, the assignments, etc., and had them play a little game to learn their names. I had each person give their name and a random fact, and then the person to their left had to repeat the names/facts of everyone who came before. At the end of the class, I could name all 18 students and their facts.

Thursday - Today our primary goal was to talk about what history is, what it means, and how we approach it (broadly). I assigned two small books to use for the first half of the term, and I really liked the way they both approached these issues. So I gave my students 7 or 8 study questions that we talked about today:
1) What exactly is history?
2) Is there a difference between "history" and the "past"?
3) What does it mean that history is a process?
4) What do you think about the idea that [one author] posed, saying that historians must use their imagination while interpreting the past?
5) Where is the line between "fiction" and "history?"
6) What is the purpose of writing/doing history?
7) What were the different philosophies of history (schools of thought/approaches) that [one author] laid out for us?
8) Why do you, in particular, want to study history? What do you want to get out of studying/interpreting the past?

I was really amazed at how post-modern their answers were for many of the questions. They seem to be totally comfortable - at least in theory - with the idea of imagination, blurring the lines of fiction and history, and the possibility that you can't ever really "know" the past. I think they'll have a much easier time of studying PoMo than I did at their age! Their answers covered a wide range, though - everything from believing that history = past to history = narrative and only our imposition of a story on the past. So it will be interesting to see how they deal with the material over the course of the term.

I enjoyed listening to them answer, and while I had to call on people sometimes (and with three exceptions, I had all of their names today, though I mixed up three of my male students' names), the majority of them seemed willing to respond. A few were especially willing to reply directly to another student, which is awesome for the second day of class.

To improve upon: I definitely need to work on making conversation flow a bit more easily, but hopefully that will come as I get to know the individual students and their modus operandi. I also need to figure out how to make the material last the entire 75 minutes of class. I got close today, but I'm not actually sure how I'll stretch it out for these first weeks, when we're talking mainly about methdology and not historiography.

What I liked about this week: I'm beginning to get a rapport with many of the students, and I think the fact that I'm trying so hard to get their names right is a step in the right direction. I also managed to talk fairly well about the different schools of thought. Funny how once you start talking, you realize that those 600 books you read for comps actually did help you. :-p

So that was my week. I won't write about tomorrow, because the entire class is going to be wasted on logistics (long story that I'm too tired to explain tonight).

Anyway, here's to a new start, new students, and a wonderful year!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Writing of History

So one of the classes I've been asked to teach this fall is called "Historians and the Writing of History." The class description is ridiculously vague, and other than being told that they hope this class prepares history majors for their upper-level classes and that it should be part methodology and part historiography, everything else is at my discretion.

I've struggled for two months to make sense of this class. I've found three previous syllabi from various professors, and they are so different that they weren't very helpful. I ended up deciding to base my schedule broadly on the syllabus the head of the department created.

I'm still uncertain about readings, which is problematic, since classes begin in 30 days! Right now I'm thinking of using History: A Very Short Introduction by Arnold (part of the Oxford introduction series), and Benjamin's A Student's Guide to Writing History as basic texts for the methodology section. For the historiography... hm. I don't know yet.

My basic plan is this:
Methodology: Aug 30-Oct 14
*What is history?
*What are sources?
*Exercises: Reading secondary sources and primary sources critically
*Exercise: Using sources to help solve a problem
*Developing a research question
*Library day - work with librarians to show students how to utilize the library's resources to work on their term paper, as well as broader tools they might need as historians
*Research methods
*Reading material evidence
*Reading artistic evidence
*The importance of language in writing
*Styles of history

Historiography: Oct 19-Dec 9
*Ancient history and development of the field
*Enlightenment and "History as it really was"
*Marxism and the Dialectic
*The Annales school and the longuee duree
*Postmodernism and post-structuralism
*Exercise: language, knowledge, and power
*Post-colonialism and non-European history
*Race, class, and gender
*Exercise: Reading for race, class, and gender
*Growing fields: Environmental history
*Growing fields: Collective memory

Plus a writing day for their term paper where they must meet with me and two days to do a film analysis.

Right now, I have no idea what I want to use for readings for each day, other than the two books and an article a friend sent me on "doing history." I feel seriously stressed about figuring out the rest ASAP...

As of right now, I have basically one writing assignment per week, though many of them will be only one-page assignments:
*Secondary source reading: Find the argument!
*Judging objectivity in a secondary source
*Primary source: What does it reveal about the author?
*Primary source: judging biases
*Term paper proposal
*Primary source: reading material evidence
*Primary source: reading artistic evidence
*Secondary source: evaluating their evidence
*Secondary source: complete reviews of two sources
*Annotated bibliography for term paper
*Term paper outline
*Primary source: complete review of two primary sources for term paper
*Term paper rough draft (minimum 4 pages)
*Film analysis
*Term paper (5-8 pages)

I know it's a lot, but, again, most of these I will put a maximum page length of a page or two. It's mainly the readings that are stressing me out so far... I really need to figure this out soon! I just hope it works. :-)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Catching up and Going Nuts

Wow. So I haven't been on here in months. SO much has happened. To make very long stories short(er)...

1. Mom - still not very active, though getting up and down remain at the improved level I saw back in April. Most days, she doesn't leave the bed, though sometimes Dad manages to get her out so she can get some fresh air at least. She hasn't had any tests to check the progress of her cancer since March, and won't until mid-October. She has good days, bad days, and in-between days. I'm nervous about what's happening with the cancer, since the medicine she's been on typically stops working after about a year, and the TN oncologist seems to care only about whether she has any propensity for bone fractures. So we're taking things day by day and thanking God for every day she has with us.

2. Dissertation - pretty much totally stalled. My advisor expects a chapter this month (ha!), but I honestly don't know how to do it. It's not that I haven't tried. But there is so much that I don't know, and I can't find a way to put the pieces all together. I have tried many times to talk to people about this - my advisor, another committee member, my boss this past spring, and other grad students - and everyone either dismisses my concerns as "oh, everyone feels that way, you're fine," or they think I'm just being modest in some twisted way. I have almost nothing that I can say with any sort of definite understanding. There are just too many gaps. And since I've been rejected for every grant I've applied for the last 2 years, it seems like no one else thinks my dissertation is important, either. So with no way to get to Spain to do research, and no real way to produce chapters right now, I feel like I'm at a total stand-still.

3. Job - After LOTS of soul-searching in March, April, and May, I sent in resumes to some community colleges, started looking seriously at some of the mission opportunities that were showing themselves, and then, on a whim, submitted my CV and sample syllabi (with cover letter, of course) after a notice came across our listserv that [another state U] was looking for people willing to teach online for their adjunct pool. I didn't think much of it, but then about 3 weeks later I got an email from them asking if I'd be willing to take a one year, half-time lectureship to teach 2 classes each term. The money isn't great, though it's better than anything I've ever earned in the past, but it's a great opportunity for me career-wise, especially if I can't finish the dissertation. So despite the fact that it requires me to move to the other end of the state, I said yes. So I think by the end of the week I'll officially have an apartment to move into next month, about a week before I report for work.

Oh yeah...since the end of March I've been in a relationship with an absolutely wonderful man. He's a junior-high English teacher, loves the Lord, and made me laugh for the first time in months. We went on a crazy road trip, driving from here to his folks' house in IL, then to DC to spend time with his brother & family, then to my parents' house, then to a friend's wedding in Philadelphia, then back to IL, and finally back here. Thankfully, it was an amazing trip, I love his family, and the only regret I had was that I had to be away from my church here for so long.

So that's pretty much the main things that have happened since I last wrote. *phew* My brain is addled now, so I'm signing off.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Foolish and wise

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.'

Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption."
~1 Corinthians 1:18-30

I wasn't expecting to read this passage tonight. It's just where I am in my bible-in-a-year plan.

I think God has a funny sense of humor.

My mind has been going in so many different directions. Tonight I got a call from a woman who works for a mission group that brings teachers overseas - teaching English and K-12 subjects. We talked for about half an hour. I told her I didn't know yet if it was something I am supposed to move forward with, but I'll be praying about it. About an hour later, my mind started telling me that I am totally nuts. That this is crazy, and I must be a fool.

So, of course, my reading tonight is that man's wisdom is foolishness, and that God loves to take foolish things and use them for His glory.

Now I need to go pray. :-p

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Prayerful day

So a number of things have happened since I wrote my last post. I wrote some letters asking for prayer support to a number of people whose support and wisdom I trust. Included in this was one of my former pastors. This morning I talked with my mom about some of the things I was thinking.

I also chatted with an old friend from college who was always sort of like my older sister. I stayed with her and her sister when I was a prospective student, and they (and their husbands) have been my good friends ever since. I trust her take on things, and her husband also went through his own crisis while in grad school. Then I went to church and met with my bible study leader and we talked and prayed for about an hour.

And, finally, when I got home, I called a dear, dear friend who walked away from traditional teaching last year to work as a full-time missionary. I knew that if anyone was going to understand, she would. And boy, did she. It turns out that our stories are almost like an exact parallel - opposite in some ways, but both going to the same outcome. It was such a blessing talking with her. She's been my friend for a decade, and I knew she'd be the right person to talk to about it.

A number of things were said today in these different conversations that I'm taking to heart, and treasuring while I wait on God for His guidance. I don't want to say what they are just yet, because I don't know which will end up being the most relevant.

To add more things to consider, two schools contacted me today inviting me to apply for history teacher positions. One is in Budapest, Hungary, and the other in Bucharest, Romania. And the first person who had written me yesterday responded to my response and wants to talk on the phone tomorrow. I said it was okay. Can't hurt to talk.

I've been asking anyone whom I trust to pray with me in this. It feels like it has in the past when God has called for a major change in my life. But, as my pastor says often, we live not according to our "experiences" or feelings, but by the living Word of God. I know that He will give me guidance. I know that He will show me what I need to do.

But I have to say, some of the possibilities have gotten me excited. For the first time in so long, I'm a little excited.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Radically foolish

My mind has been going to all sorts of strange places the last few weeks. Well, not strange, I guess, unless you're one of my coworkers or professors.

The logical part of me knows this:
1. I need a good amount of grant money to go do my research in Spain.
2. I need a job to pay bills (rent, food, insurance, medicine, utilities, etc.).
3. I've been rejected for every grant I've applied to for my dissertation for the last two years.
4. My job ends in less than two months, with no obvious options.

The non-logical, spirit in me knows this:
1. No matter what I do, I am called to do it unto the Lord. Wherever He leads me, whatever I do, I need to do it for Him, with Him, through Him.
2. God works all things for the good of those whom He has called - even if to us it seems like things are falling apart.
3. He's coming back. And when He does, I want to be doing His work. I want people to know Him and love Him so they might be with Him for eternity.

Ever since I started attending my bible study, I've been feeling this small tug, this reminder of my heart for missions growing up. When I was a kid, I had a few assumptions: I'd get married shortly after college, maybe do missions for a while, and then do whatever else God had planned. Then I got to college and after 3 years realized God made me to teach. And considering that I didn't get asked out on a date until I was 25 years old, the marriage thing certainly wasn't happening. (In fact, I've only been asked out by two people. Ever. And yes, I'm trying to deal with that...)

So I spent the next 7 years in grad school. I got my MA in history and came out here for the PhD, knowing that I need the top degree if I was going to teach at the college level, which is where I'm most comfortable. It has been ridiculously hard, painful, lonely, and probably the most difficult years of my life emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I passed my exams and have done about 2 months of research in Spain.

But now... now I'm not sure that God isn't moving me somewhere else altogether. For the last year, almost every door that could possibly allow me to finish my research and still pay my bills has slammed shut. I've lost out on every grant. The economic situation in the state, university, and department is such that I can't be guaranteed any support in terms of scholarships, fellowships, or a teaching job. I spent most of the last week while sick researching online. Jobs. Missions. Both.

I don't know how to get my research so I can write. I don't know how to go away while Mom's sick. I don't know how to pay the bills. I don't know how to do anything. But suddenly I'm seriously open to the possibility of walking away from the dissertation and doing something new. I got an email today asking if I'd be interested in teaching overseas for a year. I can't say I'm not.

I'm not a quitter. I have only ever quit one job - and that was a situation where the professor was mentally unstable and was increasingly volatile and hostile toward me, even going so far as to accuse me of stealing her mail and locking herself in her office so no one would see what she was doing. I couldn't take the volatility any more and had to quit. But I don't, in general, just walk away from things.

I know that there is not one person in my department who would understand. I'm not really sure that anyone in academia would understand. The idea that I might actually walk away, at least for a time?

I don't know. I'm not saying I definitely will, but I can't ignore it if God pulls me away. I wouldn't ignore it if He tells me to stay. But, wow am I confused. For the last 7 years, my identity, my time, my entire world has been wrapped up in grad school. I'm invisible to most men, I've lost most of my friends one way or another, and some days the only way I keep going is by remembering how much I love teaching and my desire to not be a failure.

What if God's plan is for me to be radically different? Foolish in the eyes of my advisor, my colleagues, my students. But radically foolish for God?

Oh, yeah. Lots of prayer going into this, and will be...

Awesome God

So I just came across a really cool scripture:

"If his sons forsake my law and do not follow my statutes, if they violate my decrees and fail to keep my commands, I will punish their sin with the rod, their iniquity with flogging; but I will not take my love from him, nor will I ever betray my faithfulness." ~Psalm 89:30-33

How awesome is it that God vows to never remove His love from us, even when we royally screw up?!

I love my God. I absolutely don't deserve His love. But how awesome that He loves you and me, and we can love Him in return?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Confusion and Uncertainty

Life is very confusing right now.

I'm seeking Gods guidance. I just feel lost. My life is so uncertain, from my stupidly human point of view. I know that God isn't surprised by anything that happens, but I sure am. So my uncertainty is coming from the following:

1. Huge confusion as to what to do about Mom. She desperately wants me home, and I'm going for about 5 days later this month. It kills me to be here, it's ridiculously hard to be there. It's awful, because part of me thinks that if she's going to be here for a while - a couple of years - then perhaps it's not too bad for me to be away. But the thought that she might not be here in a year makes me feel like everything else is vanity.

2. My paychecks stop near the end of May. After that, I have nothing. No summer teaching job, uncertainty as to whether I'll have a teaching job in the fall.

3. I just got yet another in a LONG line of grant rejection letters. The continual rejection for funding makes me wonder if I'm ever going to be able to finish my dissertation. I can't write it if I can't get the research, and I can't do the research if I don't have funding to go to and live in Spain. I haven't had an outside grant in almost 3 years. So my one chance to go to Spain this summer is gone, and I have nothing for the fall, either.

4. I have had this growing feeling like I'm not doing anything to serve God. I know that serving Him doesn't have to mean full-time mission work, but I have been feeling more and more like I have been exerting ALL of my time, energy, and self to things that ultimately don't matter. I'm too exhausted from grad school to go anywhere, do anything. It's not just that I feel like my life is stalled - though I do, in some ways - but I feel like those eternal things we're to set our minds on have been pushed aside by the stress, pain, and demands of this phd program.

All of these combined have left me feeling like perhaps it's never going to happen. That perhaps it's time to move on. That maybe I need to go take care of Mom and find some new direction. The problem is I love teaching. I love it. But the PhD thing... it hasn't gotten any easier. I feel like I've been fighting for every spare penny, but I'm out of options. I don't know if maybe, for some reason I can't see or understand, God's plan isn't for me to get my phd? That maybe it's time for me to do something else?

I'm so confused. I love teaching. But I don't know how to write the dissertation, or get back to Spain. I don't know how to pay rent after the next 8 weeks. I don't know how to pretend like I care about Spain in the 1920s when Mom is dying. I don't know how to get out of this non-life - the non-life that is filled with work, loneliness, and not much else. It's no wonder guys run away from me...

I don't know who to talk to about all of this. I've been praying about it for a while now, ever since I got back from the East coast. But I want to talk to someone who will be able to understand a little. My coworkers and dissertation advisor all tend to think that the only thing that matters is the dissertation and nothing else. But my life in Christ isn't like everyone else's. Our lives in Christ have different priorities. We have Someone to direct us. I wish I could talk to someone who understood that and could help me seek His guidance.

I just feel lost. I saw last fall that perhaps I didn't get the Fulbright because I wouldn't have been able to come home to be with Mom. Now I wonder if I didn't get this most recent grant because I need to be here this summer? To be with Mom? Or for something else entirely?

I'm confused...I claim God's promise that He will give wisdom when we seek it. I know He will answer. But I still have to write this out, so at least I feel like I'm sort of "talking" to someone.

I should stop rambling. I seem to have the flu or something else equally awful-feeling. My head is a wreck tonight.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Things that are not

“…the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were” (Romans 4:17)

That’s me! These two phrases perfectly reflect God’s work with me. I never thought I’d be excited about this verse, but it suddenly carries so much meaning for me.

Life to the dead - I was dead. Not just lost, not just lethargic, but dead.
*I was dead. “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned – for before the law was given, sin was in the world.” (Romans 5:12-13)
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.” (Ephesians 2:1-3)

I was dead in my sin. And yet God, Elohim, the creator of the universe, the One and Only, the Alpha and Omega, the holder of the keys to Death and Hades, He loved me.
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. … We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:10, 19)

“When we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6)

“But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:4-10)

“For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: the judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:15-17)

It is God’s grace and mercy alone that led to Him sending Christ to take my faults and anger and illnesses and sorrows (“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” ~Isaiah 53:4-6) . He took them all upon Himself, suffering for all the stupid things I have done, the anger I have succumbed to, the harsh words and evil in my heart. And he imparted righteousness to me. Me! The wretch that I am is now called righteous through faith in Christ – faith that He gave me.

My life in Him is dependent on His mercy: “It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” (Romans 9:16)

Calls things that are not as though they are
How often He has called me what I, on my own, am not:
*Righteous – “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness!” (Romans 6:17-18)

*Holy & Pure – “But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’ For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God. Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” (1 Peter 1:15-23)

*Child of God and co-heir with Christ – “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.” (Romans 8:16-17)

*Containing a spirit of power, love, and self discipline (“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.” ~2 Timothy 1:7)

*Useful – “Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-30)

*More than a Conqueror – “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

*A teacher – which is a very long story!

*Worth saving.

Wow! Praise the LORD!


I learned a new word this morning. While reading David Jeremiah's Until Christ Returns: Living Faithfully Today While We Wait for Our Glorious Tomorrow, he mentioned having priorities and posteriorities. I wasn't sure the latter was a legitimate word, but the OED substantiated it.

A posteriority is "opposed to a priority," something that comes later in time, or is considered less in importance.

Dr. Jeremiah wrote that the creation of priorities necessitates relegating other things to posteriorities. If you are going to emphasize one set of actions or goals, you must diminish your emphasis on others. It made me pause and think: What am I emphasizing and what I am not emphasizing currently?

I must confess that prior to last August, my priorities were centered around work and my health. I was in my office for 40-60 hours a week, except on days when my body wouldn't cooperate. I didn't have consistent fellowship at a church, was isolated at work, and some days it was all I could do to get to work, teach, and work on my own classes. It's not that I didn't want to make my relationship with God a priority; it's just that I failed miserably.

Thank the LORD that last summer He began to change that. That un-extraordinary Sunday morning in August when He began to work in me through Psalm 37:4 marked a new beginning. Despite the fact that, on my own, I am wholly unable to make my relationship with God my biggest priority, He sparked a hunger that I can't explain and I can't satisfy apart from Him.

I can't boast at all in this, because I know that over the last 15 years, I have tried repeatedly to do hat I thought I was supposed to do. With Paul, I must say that what I want to do, I don't do, and what I don't want to do, I do. It seems that especially when I know what I should do - when I know what I want my priorities to be - I fail even worse than when I'm not particularly trying. So I know that the last 7 months haven't been about me. They've been about God and He's been doing some awesome things.

Christ said that no one comes to the Father but by Him, and that He draws all men to Himself. He has been drawing me to Him, and I am so thankful. He's slowly transforming what had been priorities into posteriorities. I still devote myself with work, but I crave those spiritual things that only He can reveal. In Acts 17:6, the Jews in Thessalonica said that the "men who had turned the whole world upside down have now come here." One of my pastors said that they had it wrong: the world is already upside down, but Christ puts it right side up. St. Augustine of Hippo also proclaimed that the way down is up (or up is down - we always said it wrong while reading his "Confessions" in college!).

I'm seeing God turn my world right side up. He's shifting my priorities, giving me a heart for Him and a strong desire to be a wife and mother and share in His ministry. These are things that I've tried to want on my own and failed. But He's reshaping me, and giving me a better heart. I know I'm still going to fail miserably at times, but how glorious it is to see God moving in your own heart!

Monday, March 15, 2010


Sitting in my grandparents' house, sometimes I am amazed by the depth of history that surrounds me. I know, I know - I'm an historian, it's what I do. But, honestly, my family's history is often so much more interesting than the macro-histories that I consider daily for work. Don't get me wrong, I love both micro and macro histories. But there is something that touches my soul with personal stories that doesn't quite happen when considering larger stories like the Enlightenment in Europe in the 1700s. I tell my students that history is a collection of stories that we tell about ourselves and our ancestors that together weave together a fabric upon which our identities, values, fears, and questions can be found.

I first was introduced to this idea of history as stories in an Environmental History seminar in my doctoral program. (Why it took so long to see the field this way, I'm not sure.) The article was William Cronon's "A Place for Stories: Nature, History, and Narrative," in The Journal of American History, 78 no. 4 (March 1992): 1347-1376. In the article, Cronon describes how histories contain specific plots, and those plots are intricately connected to the kind of narrative that the historian uses to describe that plot. He says that historians

"configure the events of the past into causal sequences - stories - that order and simplify those events to give them new meanings. We do so because narrative is the chief literary form that tries to find meaning in an overwhelmingly crowded and disordered chronological reality. When we choose a plot to order our environmental histories, we give them a unity that neither nature nor the past possesses so clearly. In so doing, we move well beyond nature into the intensely human realm of value" (1349).

It's a fascinating thought. The kind of stories we tell are tied to the plot of our histories, which can be fundamentally changed by a different narrative. In my own field, this is brutally clear. The foremost story told about modern Spain is fundamentally a declension narrative. It goes something like this: After 1588 when Spain lost the armada to England's superior navy, the country began a long, steep decline from its glory days under Carlos V and Felipe II. The country embarked on a series of ill-planned wars with the Netherlands and in aid of their Hapsburg cousins in Austria, while simultaneously losing control of the wealth of the Americas. At the end of the 17th century, the Hapsburgs lost control entirely, and the French Bourbons entered the picture with Louis XIV's grandson. While the Bourbons tried to salvage the mess that was the Spanish economy and resistance to modernization, the rest of the continent embraced the Enlightenment and began patterns of industrialization, urbanization, and modernization. By the 19th century, Spain was falling behind the rest of the world: they had no Enlightenment, no rising bourgeoisie, and so no democracy, no liberalism, and no modernity. Spain thoroughly failed in holding on to its American empire - seen most dramatically when the United States kicked her out of Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines, and the nation fell into a despairing spiral of self-doubt, insecurity, and political chaos. This of course led to the horrors of the Spanish Civil War and Franco, and it was only when Franco thankfully died that Spaniards could pick up the pieces of their failed history and begin to join the rest of the First world."

The narrative - one of decline and failure - sets the stage for a long, long history that sees Spain as corrupt, inept, decidedly not modern, and unable to accept modernity. Therefore, the transition to a democratic government in 1975 is seen as a miracle, a strangely unique event that has virtually no real history in the nation at all. This narrative must express shock that Spain quickly vied for position and power in Cold War and post-Cold War Europe, becoming a key member of the European Union and in the fight against global terrorism.

But if the narrative changes, if the historian questions the decline plot and looks for a new story line, with a different starting point and ending point, the history changes dramatically. Broadening our idea of the Enlightenment so that it includes those groups who did not totally reject religion - as Jonathan Israel does in Radical Enlightenment and Richard Herr does in The Eighteenth-Century Revolution in Spain - opens up the possibility the there was an Enlightenment in Spain, albeit not the radical Enlightenment of Spinoza or the atheistic Enlightenment of Voltaire. If there was an Enlightenment, then the lack of a distinct, liberal middle class by the early 1800s cannot be attributed to the failure of Enlightenment thought, and historians must reconsider the questions they ask about that middle class. My own advisor suggests that the public sphere functioned in a particular way in Spain, due to the low literacy levels - newspapers and pamphlets were read aloud at taverns and bars, and there was an oral sphere that fostered liberal debates despite the lack of a "Republic of Letters," as Dena Goodman described it in France.

And the changes go on. By changing the plot at one point, by not adhering automatically to a declension narrative at this one point, the rest of Spanish history begins to shift. Instead of Spain being a backward country that barely is considered part of the European continent - and we have Napoleon to thank for saying that "Europe ends at the Pyrenees" - we begin to see how processes and intellectual movements enter into, work within, and are adapted by groups in Spain. We start to see not a 500-year decline, but an ebb and flow, just like in the rest of Europe, albeit with its own peculiarities and speeds.

It's completely fascinating!

Cronon's short article encouraged me to consider the plot devices my fellow Hispanists use to create the quilt that is Spanish history. But it also moved me to reconsider the way I teach my own students.

While most of my students come into their freshman history class with me expecting that history is primarily a series of dates connected to facts and names that should be memorized, they find that I am more interested in them weaving a story together. I would rather them be able to explain the overall plot - the introduction, the problem, the climax, the resolution - than necessarily remember who said "War is hell" on which date. I feel strongly that if they understand the plot, they can begin plugging in the minutia, the exact dates and the quotes and the names and battles. I want them to see that history encompasses all of human experience. If you can tell a story about it, you can tell its history.

I think that's why I love sitting in this room in my grandparents' house so much. On the wall are pictures of my grandfather's C-47 in WWII and his "Medaille de Jubile" - a medal and certificate of thanks from the French government for being part of the liberation of France. I can plug his story into the larger stories of US history, of World War II, of European history. I also see his college diploma - a testament to both his determination and the success of the GI Bill in the 1950s - and plaques of commemoration for years of service to the city of Los Angeles. I also see my family's pictures laid out, each one offering a glimpse of our rich stories. My favorite picture is one of my great grandmother, whom I never met. She was a flapper, and in the picture she is wearing a fur coat and looks more like a glamorous movie star than most movie stars. Her life was turbulent, but it is a part of my story, and I love her.

Stories are one way that we make sense of who we are. I feel honored that I get the chance to talk about these stories every day. After all, I'm just a story teller at heart!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Long time

Wow, I have not been on here for a very, very long time. I suppose a few updates are in order.

Mom - She's stable for now. Her treatment has been working, though it's not gone by any means. Right now we're simply grateful for each new day that she's with us.

Dissertation - has been a bit stalled. I finished my second month in Barcelona and then returned home to spend December taking care of Mom. I'm back at home now, teaching US history (which is certainly an adventure!) and have started trying to analyze my sources and plan out my first chapter. It's been slow going, though.

God - has continued to show Himself faithful. Faithful not only in revealing His promises and His goodness, but in continually fueling my hunger for Him. Some days I feel a ravenous desire for scripture, as though I will be consumed if I don't feed on it. Each day, each verse, each chapter brings new awe at the glory of our Lord. I can't believe He is so good, when I am inherently so wretched.

I am so thankful tonight, even though it has been a very hard day. Grandma fell at church, Mom had a horrible day and never stopped crying on the phone, I had to fight through a small migraine. But I am thankful. Especially on the hard days, I am reassured by the words of the prophet Isaiah: "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of His robe filled the temple." (Is 6:1) When all looks dim and hard from my perspective, God is still on His throne. He is still the LORD, YHWH, the God of Israel and the redeemer of men. One of my pastors put it this way: God is never surprised. He's never shocked at the turn of events. Things are never out of His control.

Praise Him!