Grief – Resurrection – Mission: Life as Mom in Grad School

27 03 2017

It is my Spring Break – alas, I have a bit of energy to blast a blog post.

I just read an article from the Presbyterian Outlook magazine regarding the first words Jesus spoke to his grieving  disciples in the first moments they meet him after resurrection. The author emphasized Jesus’ first words to be words of peace and then encouragement to send them back into action with the good news that he is alive, has conquered death, and is God incarnate (God/human) whose mission is to point people back to a genuine life of loving God and loving one another. Having just come out of a very emotionally and physically intense seminary quarter of study this past Tuesday (I was granted an extension on a final paper) and getting ready to start back into studies on Wednesday my soul somehow resonates at a perhaps lesser level in experiencing this cycle of working hard, falling into grief, surprise at resurrection, peace and then having to get myself back on task. Actually I feel this almost every quarter.

It doesn’t seem to be a very healthy cycle, but I’m almost certain it is normal for most graduate school students to have a similar experience we have ten weeks on the quarter system to open ourselves up to a fire hose of information with a requirement to filter what we can to produce deep theological and even new and surprising work. At the start, this doesn’t seem too daunting, but by the end it feels like one of those survivor type reality shows where you’re exhausted trying to get to the end and yet working as a team to hold one another up to accomplish the task together. We all have some type of obstacles trying to take us out through the quarter – finances, family, friendships, negative interactions with professors or struggles to complete the workload, work outside of school, health concerns, and more.

My obstacles this past Winter quarter have been a combination of timing of events:

  • Working through the beginnings of a major transition with our church that began the same week as winter quarter and added hours and emotional strain on church members and myself;
  • My husband’s structural engineering workload going overtime because the weather is getting warmer and people can build;
  • Deadlines or major events occurring at the same time for our daughter’s activities – normally it isn’t an issue to take them to a band/orchestra rehearsal, or an every other week girl scout troop meeting, or a sports practice. The difficulty was that all the concerts, cookie sales, basketball games, softball startup events, gearing up for martial arts testing and things requiring extra effort happened throughout the same three weekend/two week stretch of time – including my school finals week(s).
  • Also, ADHD – predominantly inattentive, is something I’m still learning to identify how my life is affected by this and trying out new strategies of which are and some are not effective and from there working to create new habits. However, it is not an easy feat to re-work forty years of very ingrained coping mechanisms to help my habits become a bit more healthy not only for myself, but my family, those I work with and serve, and those with whom I study.

All of this throws me into a frenzy at the end of each quarter and a type of exhausted grief and panic wondering if I will pass, am I worthy of continuing on for a Master of Divinity, and am I an imposter just thinking I can do this? Then by grace and with encouragement of God, professors, co-workers, family, and others I get the work done and anxiously await my grades and sleep – or stare at a wall – a lot. My grades come through and I pass – sometimes with ‘As’ sometimes with a C – but in my mind, a pass is a pass. I am overwhelmed with relief and peace. A few days later I begin receiving emails from Spring quarter professors with a list of books to quickly acquire and assignments to begin working on and have completed for the first day of class. Break and vacation are flexible terms in the life of a graduate student – we are quickly back on mission an ready to start the cycle all over again. Somehow we make it through. I am a part-time student (approx. 8 credits/quarter towards 120 credits total), in my third year, and still have two or three years of this mission left to go — Wheeeee!

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I’m a Seminarian! (Long-ish Overdue Post)

19 02 2015

I’m a seminarian and life is super crazy and chaotic because of it – but I’m loving it. I’m studying for a Masters in Divinity at Seattle Pacific Seminary (at Seattle Pacific University) because it is a requirement for ordination both within the PC-USA and ELCA (my heart is currently tied to both denominations). Generally, the program takes 4 years of full-time study. I’ve begun at 2/3rds time with 8 credits which feels like a lot more than full time. It will possibly take me 6-8 years to complete, hopefully earlier rather than later, we’ll see where God leads me.

In June my ministry position at Lake City Presbyterian was reduced to half-time (salary and time), I was re-offered the position which is focused on children’s, youth and family ministry as well as LCPC Social Media and other bits of Christian Education. So I”m working half-time, mom and wife full-time and seminarian 2/3rds time. Woot!

In the middle of my second quarter of my first year. Studying is a complete firehose of information – LOTS of reading, pondering, writing, and praying but I”m loving it. SPS has three core lines and a Practicum required for every student (even 2 yrs – Master of Theology students). The cores are: Theological Interpretation of Scripture, Theology and Ethics of Triune God, and Global Christian History. I am “only” taking two of the lines this year and will take the third (GCH) next year. Each core line involves three quarters of classes. Scripture was general interpretation introduction last quarter, Old Testament this quarter, and New Testament next quarter. Theology and Ethics was God and the Environment (Creation) last quarter, Jesus – Christology and Discipleship this quarter, and a focus on the Holy Spirit next quarter.

Additionally every first year is required to participate in a Practicum class for a year – most other programs define this as field work and reflection and it is a bit different and time consuming at SPS, but I really like it. Practicum involves four components: A typed weekly reflection connecting our studies with life outside of school (ministry, family, work, etc); Meeting with an assigned mentor three times each quarter; Meeting weekly for an hour with a class meeting small group facilitated by a student who is a few years into the program, and a 30 hour project of our choice connecting our current studies with our life/ministry.

I love my practicum mentor – I was connected with a woman Presbyterian pastor of a church in Seattle who ironically was mentored by the pastor I work with at LCPC when she was a seminarian!

This quarter we had the option of choosing to read a book and use it in our reflections each week. Crazy to choose more reading, but I did and I’m glad. If you are a ministry leader of any kind (professional, volunteer, church, non-church, lay leader, etc) check out “Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership” by Ruth Haley Barton. The author uses the life of Moses to focus on the ups and downs of ministry and the difficulty yet necessity of caring for your own soul while caring for other’s souls.

I am learning a lot and gaining new fresh perspectives and tools for studying scripture and thinking about God that are definitely applicable to my ministry now and practical pieces I can share with others in my congregation and life in general.

Two things I’ve realized this quarter:

* Sometimes I can be creative to finish my reading, sometimes I can’t. Not a single book from any of my classes are on Kindle this quarter – ALL of them were last quarter and I was extremely spoiled by the ability to switch my iPhone/iPad to the Voice Over accessibility feature (thank you Aaron Willett for turning me on to this tip!!) and it turned my texts into audio books for my 45-60 minute drives between home and school – or even while I’m in the shower or doing dishes (TMI?). Also with the Kindle app I could highlight and then copy/paste portions of the book into a document to be able to form my thoughts for papers or insert quotes. Not an option when all of your books are hard copy! I’m thankful for the YouVersion Bible App though – helps me listen through all the scripture reading necessary for my OT class (especially the Looooooong chunks we are asked to ‘skim’).

* Seminary requires a different kind of writing and thinking than coordinating childrens/youth ministry. So much of my time in ministry has been spent working to make theological information more concise and to the point to engage volunteers, teachers, children and teens, etc. I still have a hard time wanting to share too much and a tendency to provide too much information. In seminary, professors ask for “the deeper main points” of a theologian’s writings or two to three paragraphs on observations in scripture. It is a definitely a learning process, when my papers are returned I’m asked to give more information and expound upon my thoughts/observations. So my challenge now is to train/allow my brain to go the other direction for grad school while keeping it moderately condensed in my ministry.

All this said, I love my professors, I love my cohort and classmates, and my family is surviving with me (that’s another blog post in itself!) and it is all crazy hard, but I love it.

Ok, now that I’ve finally updated my blog, time to carry on and work on some more reading and writing!








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