From the Basement

December 15, 2010

Things God is Teaching Me Right Now (very uneloquent)

Filed under: Faith,Grad School — jeannablue @ 7:11 am

I turned in my first grad school app tonight (!) and it’s for some reason inspired a lot of reflection. It is late, I am tired, and the migraine is still going, but here are some random and unedited thoughts about what the Lord’s been teaching me, even in my ignorant state.

#1: My nanny jobs, a.k.a. Housewife Bootcamp, are throwing me headfirst into the (crazy) realities of running a household and are also helping me consider biblical passages in a new light. For example, I caught myself being crazy-judgmental of the mom of the family I work for. A thought something like this crossed my mind while I was doing dishes: She needs someone to cook meals, and clean once a week, and then have me to keep track of the kids’ homework and get them everywhere? Seriously? And then I realized, STFU, self! The Proverbs 31 woman managed her household. Now, family always comes first – and I do believe that you should reconsider and seriously cut back if things start to threaten that Lord—Husband—Children—Everything Else order. But sometimes, your family is freaking crazy and trying to manage everyone is far easier said than done and does, really, require help. And if we think about it, it’s the post-industrial phenomenon of the middle-class nuclear family (a.k.a. only one woman to get s**t done) that brought on a lot of this division-of-labor debate.

Also, I am learning how to time my household duties/chores to the laundry cycle.

#2: To trust myself and to trust him more. I’ve been working on grad school apps and He’s been on the backburner. And, specifically, I have been soliciting everyone’s advice. Not everyone – I have selectively solicited the advice of either professors, friends who are in grad school, friends/advisors who left grad school, or friend – one friend in particular – who has an editorial eye like you’ve never seen before so once she goes through grad school she’s going to be an unstoppable machine.

But. I have been anxious and worried – not nearly as much as last year, yet – about things and the paper and the statement of purpose and getting stuff done and making sure I have at least one other person “sign off” on all my stuff.

And I’m realizing, I cannot function like that. I am blessed to be surrounded by a village of people and I am well aware that God has allowed that to happen, and I am so, so grateful he has. But at the same time, I need to learn to trust myself, trust my instincts… trust the abilities that he gave me. Not trust that my abilities will inevitably merit something – but just trust that, to do the work at hand, he has fully equipped me. Sometimes that equipping means he brings in other people to help me out. But when I feel like I need approval before I can move forward… when I am wringing my hands over the fact that trusted advisors gave me different advice… that is, perhaps, a mite too far.

So. He’s teaching me about yet another nuance of trust. Big surprise.

#3: He’s got it under control. He really does. And I could have prayed for hours over my applications each night… I could have been polishing this paper for months… but he has it under control. He knows what’s best for me. He knows what’s best for my fiancé. He will put us where he wants us. And I do hope against hope that he may even offer us a choice as to where to go. Grad school is the desire of my heart and it is the desire of my fiancé’s heart. And I know that God knows that. And so I am doing my part… come the end of January, we’ll start to see his response.

#4: Be faithful with the time we are given. This is something that’s come up repeatedly over the last few months, but it’s so true. We are not guaranteed tomorrow, and he has given us today for a reason – to glorify him, to love him, to love each other and share his love with others. And we are given seasons in life where we sometimes don’t feel like what we’re doing is overly relevant, but he leads us places for a reason. Today, one of the kids I nanny for – well, perhaps not a kid, seeing as how he’s fifteen – asked me if I liked college or the real world better. It was an interesting question. On the one hand, I’ve outgrown college – I was ready to leave. It was a healthy departure. At the same time, though, I’m sort of in limbo, knowing what’s coming – marriage, hopefully grad school – but not being there yet. In the meantime, though, I’m being faithful with what God has given me – two jobs nannying for two families. Two opportunities to love on kids and make an impact.

I am going to have to write a blog on how both of these families, while surface-y Christian, are not really devout believers – and how the support staff who works for both families are devout believers. Seriously. The full-time nanny for one family is a believer (this came up during our coffee date where she talked about how the kids love Veggie Tales) and the housekeeper for my other family is also a strong believer and we had an incredible conversation the other day when we were both at work.

God so knows what he’s doing.

So thank you, Lord, for this time. Thank you for your patience. Thank you that you know me, and that none of my behavior surprises you. I am sorry for my sins and for my ignoring you and for not taking enough time, but I am so thankful that you have still answered my prayers for energy and endurance and for hope, even when it’s not a prayer I voiced. I am hopeful, Abba – I know you know what’s best for me and I am pursuing this course hoping against hope that you see fit to allow its continuance come this spring. Thank you for the people you have surrounded me with, for their love and support. Thank you for your reminder that even if I am literally alone, and even if no one is responding to calls or emails, that you are with me always, even to the end of the age. Thank you for your constant companionship and for your love that buoys me even when I don’t see it. Thank you. I love you.

December 9, 2010

Writing, Music, & Little Women

Filed under: Grad School,Writing — jeannablue @ 3:35 am
Tags: , , ,

Over the last few years, I have come to appreciate the role that music has in writing. And not only in creative writing, but critical as well. I’ve had a playlist going for my graduate school applications, composed of rather different tunes:

Siuil a Run – Celtic Woman

The Mystic’s Dream – Loreena McKennitt

Love Game – Lady GaGa

Marry Me – Emilie Autumn

The Highwayman – Loreena McKennitt

The Mummers’ Dance – Loreena McKennitt

Fairytale – Sara Bareilles

Telephone – Glee Cast Version

I recently added Sting’s “Field of Gold” and Loreena McKennitt’s “She Moved through the Fair” and “Annachie Gordon.” I like songs that will soothe in the background as I concentrate intensely on a passage. Others, like “Marry Me,” really articulate the context of the paper I’m writing, and still others  – like Lady GaGa – serve to rev me up when my energy is flagging. I know that Love Game is playfully explicit, but I dare you to not sit up a little straighter when you’re listening to it.

Those songs, however, are not what is so deeply affecting me. Thomas Newman’s soundtrack to the 1994 film Little Women never fails to move me to tears. Someone – bless their heart – has put the entire soundtrack on youtube videos, and I am listening and am just still in a way I haven’t been in a long time. There’s something about that film – and its music especially – that holds a powerful place in my heart. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been watching it since I was six or seven years old… I don’t know if it’s because growing up, I wanted to be Jo the writer who moved away to the big city… who sacrificed a safe marriage to pursue her dreams. She was – is? – one of my heroes. If there is a character in all literature who I adore, it is Jo. Above Elizabeth Bennett, above Anne Eliot, above Elinor Dashwood, there is Josephine March, and hers is the story I will watch on screen over and over again. Honestly, I don’t know that I’ve ever made it through the entirety of the book Little Women – I’m sure I did once upon a time, but when I want to be comforted or encouraged, particularly when writing, I watch this film. It is a powerful sensory experience.

Given that I’m not working on my applications but rather am basking in the glory of the music of one of my all-time favorite stories – in any medium, print or film – I should probably stop listening to the soundtrack. But I can’t just yet. … not quite yet.

December 7, 2010

a disjointed, erratic post on worry

Grad school apps have been consuming my life. When I say that, I mean that finishing (and not finishing) the statement of purpose and writing sample have been consuming my life.

He’s in control. When I’m freaking out and worrying that the paper won’t be good enough – well, who am I kidding? It won’t be. My paper will be finished literally the day I turn it in. And the statement of purpose won’t be much better.

Perfection is unnecessary and what’s more, it’s unrealistic. The idea that human perfection immediately merits results is ridiculous and completely unfounded. We are to work to the best of our abilities… and then to see what he allows to come our way. Example: I recently landed two part-time nanny jobs, and I started one of them today. I have work! This is cause for much celebration! And I find it rather entertaining – I interviewed with this nanny agency in September and they wanted me to start then, and I stopped the process because I was still seeking full-time work… how entertaining that it’s in fact where I end up. And I’ve spent some time thinking, oh, if only I’d started then – how many more months of income would I have accrued! But thinking like that is fruitless. It’s pretty much the same thing as thinking, “Oh, what if my writing sample was perfect already?”

God’s timing is perfect. We act, and then there’s his timing.

Over Thanksgiving, I read a bit of Kevin DeYoung’s Just Do Something – which on the basis of 60 pages alone I’d recommend – but I had to fight my own spirit of condemnation when reading. His thesis is that our generation spends so much time trying to discern God’s will when, in fact, we just need to make decisions and go for it. Praying for direction is good, but dawdling about in some quasi-spiritual state waiting to hear from God is ridiculous – he says it much more truthfully, lovingly, and thesis-ly than I can. But you get his point. So I was reading this book, still unemployed, I was thinking, what the heck? I’ve been trying to just do something, and that hasn’t worked! (… immediately after the holiday I got in touch with the nanny agency – within the last week I’ve interviewed and been placed, so boo yah, when God lets something happen it happens fast – at least in this case. After the ~counts~ 7 month build up?)

There is not a thesis to this post. I’ve been feeling bad about not blogging and wanting to just write and reaffirm… yes, I trust God, yes, I know he’s in control, yes, my abilities are God-given but his will is ultimate, and yes, it is okay that I am exactly where I’m at with my grad school applications. I need to stop comparing myself to other people and ask, am I pursuing this in a godly way?

Cue the wave of conviction that hits like a tidal wave. Okay, God. And what am I feeling convicted over suddenly? Not that I procrastinated – well, I’m worrying that I procrastinated too much to submit a strong application. Worry is what I feel convicted over. I worry … so much. Ask my fiancé. I worry and he is calm. In that way I’m sort of freaky-similar to his mother. ~not contemplating that similarity~ Of course, I’m also similar to my own mother in that way. And most women I know. I worry. So much. So freaking much. My fiancé likes to quote that verse about how worrying will not add one cubit to my height.

Well, this post might have a point after all. I’m going to go dig for some verses on worrying and share them. Sound kosher? (Have I done this before? Hmm…)

Matthew 6:25-27: “For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life span?”

Matthew 6:34: “Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. [Each] day has enough trouble of its own.”

Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.”

Philippians 4:6: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Psalm 23:4: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.”

Psalm 37:5: “Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.”

Psalm 46:10: “Cease [striving] and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 121:1-2: “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from whence shall my help come? My help [comes] from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

There are so many rich promises in these verses. Lean on them! I want to let each of these verses fall as a seed on my heart, and just nurture it, cling to it, and protect it from the fear and worry that creep in… fear and worry are never from the Spirit – joy, peace, and righteousness come from the Spirit. We can be assured of our savior’s love and of his desire that we not worry and that we trust him for every day’s needs simply because he told us so. And this is what Kevin DeYoung talks about in his book – why do we spend so much time striving to discern God’s will when he has graciously written so much of it for us?

His will is that we follow him. Simple.

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