What Does a Balanced Life Look Like? III (Faith)

 

The below question and responses were compiled by fellow graduate wife reader, Laura Lee.  She surveyed several women on the journey and is sharing with us their answers. You can see her original post here, where she outlines her journey towards discovering the answers of a ‘balanced’ life during this season of being a graduate wife and beyond. This is part III of the ‘What does a balanced life look like?’ series.  Enjoy!

2) If developing and deepening your faith is important to you, how do you find time to do that with jobs, families, and supporting your grad student spouse? When do you take time and what do you do during that time?

  • Devotional time – this one has suffered greatly since my son’s birth. I used to put enormous pressure on myself about spending time reading my Bible, praying, etc…to the point where I was getting no sleep trying to do it all, and feeling like a bad mother and horrible wife, and frankly, that was true. I spoke to a mentor of mine – who has 5 grown adult children – and she basically said, “God extends grace to mothers.” For whatever reason, that put a new spin on things for me, and I didn’t look at it as such a chore. So now, I look for pockets of time in the day to reflect and pray – I find my runs to be a good time for that – and I usually read my Bible at night before I go to bed. And, by serving my family, I am serving God. I’m finding that God is meeting me right where I am in this current season of life – he sends little nuggets of truth my way all the time. I also listen to sermons when I run as well.

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  • I am far better at making time to run than to spend time with the Lord (I am willing myself not to delete that comment). That being said, I have found that my most ‘centered’ times are when I am running, so I will often listen to readings or sermons while running. Here are two sites I frequent for sermons:Tim Keller’s free sermons and Lyle Dorsett’s sermons (an old prof). Also, I enjoy using a study or commentary to guide my reading, like Tom Wright’s ‘for everyone’ series. I’m a school girl at heart, so I love filling in blanks and completing lists. It’s always been easier for me to read during the evening sometime, even though I’ve always wished it was the morning.

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  • I try to spend time with the Lord throughout my day.  I am the queen of “breath-prayers” which are just a sentence or two speaking to God.  It has been a challenge for me to have a set “quiet time” with the Lord where I’m not praying and doing something else…but it looks like I’m not alone.  I tend to pray in the shower and when I’m on walks with my son, or on the treadmill.  I also like to listen to sermons from our church back home when my son is napping.  My husband and I recently decided that we are going to spend an hour in the evenings, after our son goes to bed, reading the bible and praying together.  We used to do it before our son was born and started it up again.  I love the Psalms and Proverbs and enjoy reading those before I go to bed.
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  • I think I’ve mentioned this before but I am NOT a morning personal by nature.  Morning is not the best, freshest time for me to give a chunk of my time and attention to God.  So I often do this before bed (assuming I’m not passing out on my pillow exhausted from the day!)  Occasionally, and this is my favorite way to do this, I make myself a cup of tea and spend my daughter’s nap time reading/in prayer.  But mostly I just pray about 800 times a day… trying to include God in each small choice I make (and attitude I assume) all throughout each day.  My husband and I always pray together before we drift off to sleep.  I’m not big into ‘devotional’ style books but I do enjoy reading and there are lots of good books out there which challenge me to read the Bible in fresh, deeper ways and cause me to hear God’s voice in new ways too.
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  • Someone talked to me about ‘seasons’ when my first son was little bitty baby and I have to say that was the single best piece of knowledge I got about having kids and being on a graduate student schedule/lifestyle. Life comes at you in seasons and having little kids in your home is a season like none other! I can remember amazing times with the Lord sitting on my steps in our little flat in Cambridge while I was breastpumping in the middle of the night. BREASTPUMPING!!! As my friends in East Texas might say, ‘Who’da thunk it?’!   Regarding seasons, I do have to say about a year ago, when my last one was 2’ish, I realized that I was out of the ‘baby season’ but that my time with the Lord hadn’t progressed past that season. So I kind of had to kick start myself since I realized I was beginning to have more time to invest in spiritual disciplines again.   I’m a one book at a time kind of girl. I love to be absorbed in a good book and I read, read, read until I finish it. I find this is how I like to do my Bible study. Whatever we’re studying in church or my Monday Mums group, I like to just bury myself in it. So for example right now, I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into Isaiah as we go through the book in church. My husband is a biblical scholar so he will give me a good book to go along with whatever I happen to be into at the time and it helps me through the hard bits or historical stuff.  Also, I’m not really a ‘doer’ but more of a ‘be-er’, so I find passages like John 15 where Jesus tells us to ‘abide in Him’ really encouraging. I just want to be connected to Jesus. I want to interact with him, complain to him, talk in my head to him and rest with/in him. But I also want to be stretched by him. I’ve been learning over the last couple of years to allow the Holy Spirit to use my spiritual gifts in ways that I know are not my own ideas. Often times I find it really easy to operate while using my natural gifts. I even find it energizes me. But I’ve been praying that God would use my gifts (hospitality, mercy and giving) in supernatural ways to benefit his people and his kingdom. Last year I felt urged to call a friend and tell her I was bringing them dinner one night. I knew she was pregnant (and due soon) but I had no idea all 3 of her children had had the stomach bug and that she hadn’t slept in 3 nights! That meal was like a love letter to her from God. Then there was a time I felt God lead me to buy one of my best friends back in the states some make-up. I obeyed (with trepidation wondering how I was going to explain to my husband why I spent $80 on make-up for my friend miles and miles away), but then was astounded that she (who’s hubby is doing a PhD and they are on an extremely tight budget) had been praying specifically that God would send her some new make-up! My husband couldn’t argue with that! In fact, he rejoiced with me that his hard-earned money was used by God to love on our friend.  Sorry, that was kind of a tangent, but I’m very relational and to see my relationship with the Lord benefiting others is a real motivating factor for me.

A Graduate Degree in Suffering

Written by Katherine – a former graduate wife
 
Just over 3 years ago, our lives were the normal but fabulous, “the world is our oyster” lives of a
broke graduate law student and his wife.  With a precious 6 month old baby boy, living in married
housing on Pepperdine’s Malibu campus with a view of the Pacific Ocean, tons of friends and pursuing our dreams, we thought life was perfect.  Then, our world was turned completely upside down. 

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I wrote this on April 22nd of this year (“Katherine Lived Day”).
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My husband, Jay wrote this around that time on his blog
(a beautiful memoir of our married student housing).
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This has all been very hard.  I am still in rehab today.  My husband has had to be both mommy and daddy, both husband and wife.  My mother is an almost full-time caregiver to my son.  I cannot drive and can only barely walk.  Read this and this about the hardest time from my ordeal.
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Interestingly enough so many cool things have come out of this, and we are extremely grateful for each and every blessing.  One of the biggest blessings has been this I get to do the work I feel I was created to do–to speak about Hope.  We cling to that hope every single day.  We may not ever understand why this happened to us, but we know and trust the God who does know–and that is enough.
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Thankfully, we are done with formal schooling of any kind and are enjoying real life, 
though if there were an honorary degree in
“Surviving and Thriving After Suffering and Trials”
we just might be awarded it…


Little House on the…

Written by Michelle – a former graduate wife

Baths are done, pajamas are on, and teeth are brushed, so our boys cuddle up on our laps to listen to a chapter of a bedtime story.  Right now, we are starting the third book in the Little House series.  During last night’s reading, our eldest son realized that the little girl named Laura in the story is actually Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author.  We thought about the fact that our six-year-old son, who has moved five times and lived in four countries, probably already has enough material to create his own series.  My husband and I laughed as we suggested possible titles for each book in our own Little House series, a series that begins with my first year as a graduate wife.  Here are the titles we came up with and descriptions supplied afterward by me:

Little House on the Golf Course                                                                                                    Naperville, IL

A young married couple discovers that God has His own surprising plans as they face an unexpected pregnancy and Dad not getting into ay doctoral schools.  Will their brand new marriage survive the shock and loud pelting of golf balls on the windows?

Little Town near the Big City                                                                                                                     Glen Ellyn, IL

This year Dad is accepted to doctoral schools, but which will he choose? He must decide between attending an American university (fully funded) or following God’s leading to schools that have little funding and are an ocean away from family and friends.

By the Shores of the Sea                                                                                                                                    St. Andrews, Scotland

This year finds the family in a community of new friends in the wild, rugged beauty of Scotland.  Dad begins his doctorate, but just as they are settling in, unanticipated news makes it clear that another move is on the horizon. 

Two Rooms of Damp and Mold                                                                                                               Oxford, England

Did Mom and Dad make a mistake in bringing their family to Oxford for Dad’s studies?  Dad is exquisitely happy wearing flowing black robes at the University, but their housing situation is so difficult Mom is not sure she can manage.  During Mom’s second pregnancy doctors are convinced that something is wrong, yet she feels that the baby is healthy.  When the baby is ready to be born, the midwife, the doula, nor the paramedics arrive in time.   Will they welcome another member into their family safely?

On the Banks of the Rhine                                                                                                                          Bonn, Germany

With two healthy boys, the family settles into a new home in another new country.  The eldest son works hard to learn enough German to participate in school.  Mom finds her way through a new city on public transportation in German with two little ones.  She struggles to know how to support her eldest son who is floundering amidst all the transitions.  Dad finishes his doctorate, finds work at the university, and spends many months applying to jobs.  Uncertainty about the future weighs heavily upon them all . . . .

Little House by Donnington Bridge                                                                                                         Oxford, England

After holding their breaths through over 50 applications, the whole family rejoices when Dad receives a post-doc in Oxford.  Three years in one place!  What a tremendously gracious gift.  During this time of stability, Mom and Dad hope to thoughtfully and purposefully prepare for whatever God has next for them.

Coming soon . . .

Little House in South America                                                                                                                  exact location TBA

Dad begins work as a missionary scholar and Mom and the boys enjoy their own set of new adventures. 

As you can see from this description of our travels, chasing this dream of my husband’s doctorate has not been straightforward.  We have spent a lot of time agonizing about the future with questions like these plaguing us:

–      Will we ever find real community?

–      How will we get our visas extended while we wait to hear about job applications?

–      Where is the money going to come from for tuition . . . rent . . . food?

–      What will we do if after this degree my husband cannot find any job?

And equally heart-wrenching are our children’s questions:

–      Will I spend my next birthday in this country or a new one?

–      Will I get to keep my best friend or do I have to meet a new best friend next year?

–      Will we ever live near our grandmas and grandpas?

Over the course of my time as a graduate wife, I have learned to hold my plans for our family very loosely. I have tried to stop myself from thinking that I am entitled to have advance notice about what will happen next.  Sometimes when I pray, I try to visualize placing the things that I am gripping with white knuckles (like my desire for my sons to have stability and security) into God’s ready and open hands.  I have to remind myself again and again that my fierce, protective love for my sons cannot compare to the strength of God’s love for them.

I am learning that life is made of up of small moments, and that if I spend my time just waiting for the next phase to come, I run the risk of missing something in store for me in the here and now.  I just started reading a book recommended by a friend called One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.  That is my prayer for each of us graduate wives: that amidst all the uncertainty we face, we could embrace the change and live fully right where we are.

If you had to come up with a title for your graduate wife adventure, what would it be and why?  What would be the theme of your story?

Courage Lessons

Written by Julia – a former graduate wife.

My husband, Dave, and I have been married for five years, and in that time we have lived in four different countries. The growth of our marriage, my career and our family has taken place in a different zip code, post code or Postleitzahl every year until this one, when we are finally experiencing a second year in one city.  And all this for a girl from the American South, where roots are important.

In our first move abroad, while skirting the North Sea in a taxi cab from the Edinburgh Airport to The Flat I Had Not Seen, Dave praised the rolling green hills spotted with sheep and lined with stone walls, enraptured with some sort of pastoral bliss. I, on the other hand, cried. Putting thousands of miles and an ocean between us and our friends and family somehow did not have the same inspiring effect on me.

At least not at first. In between that day and this one, I have lived in places of unspeakable beauty. I have shared a running route with Eric Liddel, regularly visited splendid castles and wandered around the Black Forest. Just yesterday, I happened upon a 12th century church with a well which served as inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland – just before dinner, a fifteen minute walk from my flat. Those back home who think of living abroad as an enviable adventure are not far off.

But that’s not the whole story. While there certainly is some romance to country hopping, such transience brings with it layers of challenge, from the mundane to the profound. What on earth is the German equivalent of condensed milk? Why does it take four hours to wash a load of laundry here? Where will I work? Will my niece and nephews remember me after not seeing me for long stretches at a time? How will anyone really know me if I don’t stay long enough in one place to form genuine relationships? The questions trip over themselves at first, and transform over time from the urgent practical questions that require immediate answers, to the deeper questions about vocation and identity. Uniting them is a sense of unsettledness, of disquiet in the face of change.

Facing an uncertain future – practically a definition of time spent with a spouse who is studying – invites one to engage the unknown in the mode of trust. Each move, whether physically moving to another place or simply reaching a new season, represents another chance to show bravery. Most of the time, I feel more like an ostrich hiding its head in the sand than an eagle taking the opportunity to spread its wings and soar (can you tell I’ve been reading animal books to my nine month old?), but because of my faith, I am learning that God condescends to meet our cowardice with courage.  In spite of my grumbling recalcitrance, God in his rich love chooses to give us more than we need to press on. In the end, the most lasting help against fear is not a stable income, a comfortable living situation, a routine, but the accompaniment of God himself. But the fact that courage is commanded in Scripture, rather than portrayed as the constant possession of the believer, suggests that this courage is always something to be sought and re-sought:

Have I not commanded you?

Be strong and courageous.

Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed,

for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Most days I find myself living somewhere between the promise and the command, called out of fear and into trust, but struggling to meet the future without nail-biting apprehension.

Anyone else facing these difficult lessons in courage?


My Mantra, My Prayer

During the season of our lives that was a Master’s degree, I struggled daily with where God had placed us. Because of my faith, I never doubted that we weren’t supposed to be there, but I did doubt that God was around, walking the journey with us. I smiled through my frustration, cursed through my fear, and let my heart cry silently as life moved ever so slowly by.

For my birthday, I asked my husband for The Message Bible. (Secretly, I wanted it because of the psychedelic 3D cover. I have strange taste in art…..ask any of my friends).  He granted my wish – hooray! – and as I read through the New Testament I stumbled on this verse:

So if you find life difficult because you’re doing what God said, take it in stride. Trust him. He knows what he’s doing, and he’ll keep on doing it. 1 Peter 4:19

I literally felt the verse lift off the page, as if it had been written for me. I made several copies of it, placing them in my car, my bathroom, and my office. It became my mantra, my prayer.  It encouraged me.  My head and heart repeated constantly, ‘Trust Him. He knows what he’s doing, and he’ll keep on doing it.’

I have walked around with that verse for the last 5 years.  It will always be meaningful to me, even when this season we are in passes.

What verse, quote or book has carried you through this season of your life?

Mandy
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