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.