Category Archives: seminary

Our house, our home.

It’s taken me one day shy of a month to continue my saga.  You might want to go back and read the last post, because I’m going to pick up where I left off:

I wanted to quit.  I wanted to pack up my kids and our stuff and my books and head back home to the safety of our house.

Next up:  the apocalypse continues . . .

I finished that post in such a clever way, setting things up perfectly for this next installment in  Apocalypse Now.

January was dark.  I really did want to quit.  I doubted everything.  But then the semester started.  And my very first class on that very first day of my fresh start was with my very favorite professor in all the world.  I walked out the door into the cold January air at eight o’clock in the morning on January 22nd.  My fall semester had been the most challenging of all of our semesters in this fine institution.  It was very heavy on the Church History.  When I arrived for this degree program, I really was all fired up to study American Church History.  I had left behind my former academic passions and was ready to pursue this new one.  But as the semester progressed and I found myself in history classes and required, given the discipline, to bite my tongue on my judgmentalism strong opinions, I realized I’m no Church historian.  My passion for missional theology was reignited.  So when I headed off for that first day of class in January, it was to reengage my passion with the professor who had ignited it in the first place: missional theology.  

The first week of class held such promise for me!  Professor Awesome’s words washed over me, feeding my spirit-hungry self, reminding me what it is all about.  All of it.  All of life.  All of our lives:  participation in God’s mission to the world!  Once again, I was looking at Ph.D. programs.  This time, in missiology.  The future was bright.

And then.

Then.

then.

On January 30th, 8 short days into this semester, I received a phone call at 7:15 AM.  No one is dead, I’ll just take that fear right off the table.  But some thing died that day.  And it has taken me two full months to stop hemorrhaging from my heart.

Our house.  Our home.  The home we loved and wanted to hang on to forever.  The home we daydreamed about.  The home we planned to honor and do up right when funds were available.  Our home  had been irreparably broken.

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When we got to the bottom of things, we learned that our furnace had failed, turning off the heat.  This led to water pipes freezing and bursting and gushing water for over a day through from the second floor to the first floor, where it drained down through our basement.  7,700 gallons of water.

Our kitchen that we had renovated five years ago as part of operation “honor and do right by this house” took the brunt of the blow as it was below the affected pipes.

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Insurance will cover most of everything, though we’re still working through all of that.  I’m grateful for that.

But.  The people that the insurance company sent in to “prevent further damage” ripped up our hardwood floors.  Likely unnecessarily.  Certainly in a manner that raised all sorts of questions for us.

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Our house.  Our home.  My first home, really, despite the fact that I’d lived six other places in my life.  This one was home. We knew we had entered a phase of moving about here and there, but our plan was to keep the house where it was, renting it out, so that we could some day return to it.

I can’t really put into words how deeply this blow has impacted me.  I think that’s why it’s taken me a month to sit down to write this post.  I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t face it.  I couldn’t think through it.  My floors that have eighty-eight years of footprints and memories embedded in them are gone.  And this house will never be the same.

People have tried to point me toward the positive.  And I appreciate their efforts, I really do.  But our house was like the sixth member of our immediate family.  It’s not about its value, it’s not about being fancy.  It was our home.

I’ve spent the last two months reeling from this blow.  I think I’m finally coming out of it, coming to a place of peace about it.  But how I have arrived in this place is part of the larger story of these past two months that includes other blows, other challenges.  It’s been a time of despair, of confusion, of more darkness.  And through all of this, I’ve been trying to work on this degree.  Dragging myself through classes, trying so hard to make it happen.  That, too, is a story for another day.

For those who are keeping score, the apocalyptic signs have now included natural disaster in the form of a hurricane and now tragedy in the form of flood.  Hold on to your seats, there are more to come . . .

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Ruth’s face, 2012 edition

When last we saw our fair heroine, she was bent in half from the blow to her gut leveled by Hurricane Sandy . . .

After dragging myself through November, I finally gathered the wherewithal to make it through my finals and my final papers.   I was in sight of the finish line.  It was the night before a sit-down final exam and due date for an 8-page paper for the same class (who does that to people??!!) when I received another blow.  And this one was bloody.

At 8 o’clock at night, after a lovely dinner out with dear, dear friends (celebrating the birthday of my curmudgeonly friend), Ruthie fell up the concrete steps to our third floor apartment.  When I turned to look at her, her face was dripping blood.  Dripping.  From inside her mouth and from the spot on her face where 2.5 years earlier a dog’s tooth had gone through to the inside of her mouth, a spot that had been repaired by a plastic surgeon.  I panicked.

Did she need to go to the emergency room?  Did this tear open an old wound?  WHY oh WHY?! does my poor baby have to keep suffering injuries to her face???!!

And her poor siblings!  Isaac especially, I think, continues to have some post traumatic stress from her other facial injuries: the awful dog bite when she was three and the run-in with the post when she was 17 months old.  But God bless him.  He was a trouper.  His initial response was panic and “RUN AWAY!!” but he held it together for the sake of his sister and stood firm.  Hannah, too, held it together.  Heeded my instruction to try to remain quiet and calm, to refrain from asking me too many questions as I tried to gather my own wits about me.

Have I mentioned how the Go-To Guy for all things bloody (or vomitous, or bodily-fluid-y in general) in our household is, indeed a Guy?  The Man, to be exact?  I rely more than I should on his training and experience in first aid he received as a 7-year veteran lifeguard.  Also, I do little to fight against my general response of Flight to all things stressful.  I’m the one who holds and comforts, who tends to the care of the bystanders (i.e., the siblings) and who grabs supplies like paper towels, towels, ice, and bandages on demand.  I’m like the administrative assistant in emergencies.  My husband is the calm in the storm, the level-headed, the stare-death-in-the-eye-and-declare-it-not-really-death-just-a-boo-boo Go-To Guy.

And yet, here I was.  With my youngest poor baby bleeding and scared because she’s been down this road before and it weren’t pretty.  And my oldest poor baby trying to be ever-so calm and cool and collected while his uber-empathy was trying to take him over.  And my middle poor baby who would have loved nothing more than to take charge and fix things, if only she had the answers to all her myriad questions!  And, me.  Pretending to be calm.  Pretending to know what the hell I was doing.  Pretending to be in charge and in control, reassuring everyone of things about which I had no assurance.

Finally, I concluded an emergency room was in order, but I didn’t even know where an emergency room was!  So, I left my three babies in my apartment while I went knocking on the doors of neighbors.  It only took two doors to get the information I needed (oh! how I love living in an apartment complex full of people whose vocations revolve around helping people!).  When I returned to our apartment, I found a beautiful sight.  Isaac and Hannah were in front of and along side of a sitting Ruth, rubbing her back, touching her leg, assuring her it would be OK.  They had brought out to her the big bucket of stuffed animals so she could pick out the one she wanted for comfort.  (Ruthie’s one of those stuff-animal-obsessed kids.)

My two olders.  They had set aside their own fears and anxieties enough to be present with their injured sister.  My eyes are welling up with tears now as I remember it.  I know they were scared.  I know Isaac was having flashbacks to the dog bite.  And yet, there they were:  surrounding her with their love and care.

So, off we went, just Ruthie and me.  Thankfully, Ruthie’s very lovely, wonderful, I-love-her-so-much babysitter was able to come and stay with Isaac and Hannah while I took Ruthie to the emergency room.  No stitches necessary, though as I look at the scar that remains, I still wonder if we made the right decision there.  There was so much of a scrape, I think it was hard to see what all was going on.  Her tooth had, indeed, gone right through her skin to the other side.  Her lips had begun to swell.  She was an awful mess.  But not nearly so bad as the last two facial injuries, so . . . well . . . yeah.  My poor baby.

Finally, at 10:30 PM, we returned from the hospital.  I tucked my baby into bed and went back to the table to finish up my paper that was due the next day and to try to study for the exam that was covering church and state relations from around the 8th through the 15th centuries.  No prob, bob.  ::sigh::

I skidded into the end of my semester, handing in work I can’t even read again (neither my writing nor the graders’ comments), getting grades I hadn’t seen since 10th grade, and feeling overall completely defeated, out of my league, and like a dingbat for ever considering coming back to school in the first place.  January found me in near fetal position and sucking down the entire Friday Night Lights series in the course of three weeks between semesters.

I wanted to quit.  I wanted to pack up my kids and our stuff and my books and head back home to the safety of our house.

Next up:  the apocalypse continues . . .

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Filed under academics, Family Life, Hannah, Isaac, Ruth, seminary

A hurricane is coming!! a hurricane is coming!!

That’s what all the news reports said back in October, anyway.  But that’s what they always say:  DEATH AND DESTRUCTION ARE ON THE HORIZON!!! BATTEN DOWN THE HATCHES!! (I don’t really know what that phrase means, but I love how it sounds.)  BUY ALL THE BREAD!!!  BUY ALL THE MILK!!!  BUY ALL THE WATER!!!

So, generally I don’t listen to all that.  Because they say it all. the. time.  Seriously.  Have these weather forecasters and news “reporters” never read “The Boy Who Cried Wolf?”  They really should.  There’s a lesson in that for them.  I’ve lived all but 18 months of my life in the land of Nor’easters and hurricanes riding up the coast just close enough to maaayyyyybeeee, posssssibly cause a problem.  And, admittedly, every once in a while they do, indeed, cause a problem.  But for weeks at a time, I hear about how This one.  This one is going to cause real damage.  And the newscasters are super stoked! to report the potential for complete and utter destruction and devastation.  What is wrong with these people?  If they’re right, it’s a tragedy about to unfold.  Tragedy! people.  To real, bona fide lives.  If they’re wrong, they’re scaring the pants off of people for entertainment.  bad.  Just bad either way.

So, October.  It’s October and I’m all buried in school work, dreaming and scheming of PhDing in the not-so-distant future.  Learning all about 1800 years of church history all at once, to various degrees of depth.  I’m not watching TV, I’m not really plugging in to the outside world much.  But then I see things showing up on my friends’ Facebook feeds about some storm on the way.  So I check out the links and I listen to the weather people tell me yet again that “If this air moves this way, and this air moves that way, and these three things come together allllll at the same time, then maybe, just maybe there might be COMPLETE AND UTTER DESTRUCTION AND DEVASTATION!!!  wooo-hoooooo!!!!”  and I roll my eyes and go back to the Middle Ages where people did up destruction and devastation with abandon.

As time moves forward, though, people don’t stop talking about this storm.  People talk and talk about how all those variables are coming together.  And I think, “Hunh.  Maybe we’re actually going to get some sort of storm this week.”  And so I drag myself out to the store to buy some water.  You know.  Just in case.

Well.  Turns out if you wait until the day before the storm’s supposed to hit, buying water is no longer an option.  Go figure.  And canned goods are slim pickin’s.  And forget about bread.  So, you feel like a doofus for participating in the frenzy and you feel like a neglectful mom for not actually acquiring the life-saving essentials that all the other good mothers have acquired.

The storm hits.  Her name is Sandy.  Perhaps you’ve heard of her?  and I live smack in the middle of New Jersey.  Perhaps you’ve heard of it?

Now, thankfully, I do live in the middle of Jersey, and not at The Shore.  So, we had insane winds and not a whole heck of a lot of rain.  So, no flooding.  But our power went out.  For a week.

While that sounds like no big deal, for this widow-light mom to three, attending grad school full-time, it really was quite devastating.  Quite destructive.  Because, really, to that point I was just hanging on by my finger tips.  Of all 13 semesters of seminary my husband and I had experienced to that point, that one was the most labor-intensive, demanding, challenging, difficult, overwhelmingly-holy-bananas-are-you-trying-to-kill-me-with-work??!! semesters ever of all time. ever.  (and, it retains that title, as this semester is far easier than last.)  So, this little storm named Sandy showed up when I had just kind of caught up after reading week, but still had a very tight schedule laid out for finishing all of my requirements for the semester.  And she took away my power.  And she kept my kids out of school for a week.  Which meant I had to actually be a mom to my kids for a week instead of handing them off the state for their care and feeding.

I did what any wise woman living in an apartment with no electricity to fuel her stove would do:  I ran away.  I gathered up my children and I headed for the hills.  Literally.  Higher ground, further from the storm’s devastation.  I spent the next week with family, trying desperately (but failing miserably) to keep to my tight school work schedule, trying to keep my kids feeling safe and content while we were living somewhere other than our already temporary home in New Jersey.

Sandy sucked out an entire week of my life, of my school schedule.  And really, with that, she pretty much sucked out my PhD dreams.  I  know it doesn’t seem like a week without power should have that much of an effect, but it did.  I never regained that week, I never could pull together the rest of the work I needed to do to finish the semester up to my standards.  Even up to my lowered standards.  And the entire event left me feeling like I had been kicked in the gut.  Really?  The year my husband is far, far away and I’m trying to do grad school as a single mom is the year that the Worst Storm of All Time has to hit the state in which I am temporarily residing?  Really??!!

yeah.  just a kick in the gut.

more to come . . .

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