Things used to freak me out a lot. I’m a person with a short fuse, descended from a long line of people with short fuses, and when I ran into a setback or some other form of adversity, I could lose my temper fast. I would get angry, and most people didn’t like me when I was angry. If I wasn’t getting angry, I was otherwise pushing the “panic” button.
I find that, these days, I’m seldom like that. I can’t even remember the last time I got angry or upset. The biggest reason for the change is that I’ve learned peace.
Joy is a Christian virtue that I find especially difficult. When life is going well, you don’t need to be told to have it. When life isn’t going well, having it is nearly impossible.
The Bible tells us otherwise. It tells us to be joyful, even in tribulation (James 1:2-4). Gotta admit, still getting there.
What I do know is that, when I look back over my life at the times when I have been most filled with joy, I see that those moments occurred after painful trials. Moments like:
When I was accepted to my undergraduate school, having been rejected the first time I applied and having spent the previous six months trying to improve my high school résumé for the re-application.
When my son was born after an emotionally difficult pregnancy, and after 8 hours of laboring without pain medication.
When I finished my master’s degree in spite of my ex-husband’s abandonment.
I may not have always had joy while these things were going on, but once I overcame them, the joy I experienced was nearly overwhelming. I’m not sure this would have been the case without the preceding experience of pain.
The victory and promise of Jesus is that his people can and will, someday, overcome all things. Even death.
Seems to me that they ought to spend a lot more time agonizing over what male love should look like. In general, there is far more benefit to be derived by pondering what love is and how it should be applied than there is benefit derived from pondering submission, obedience, and subjection. Jesus said that all of the law and the prophets hung on the commandments to love God and love one’s neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). That’s how important love is.
On October 29th, 2013, I asked my husband of ten years for a divorce.
Our newborn son was one month old, exactly. The previous nine months had served up near non-stop, blinding emotional pain. The pain of his glaring and inappropriate devotion to his co-worker, the pain of his declaration that supporting the family and keeping a roof over our heads were my problems (not his), the pain of job interviews spent trying to hide my baby bump with strategic wardrobe choices, and the pain of nights spent not knowing where my husband was, having to deal with his lame excuses when he finally materialized the next day.
I remember visiting a two-bedroom apartment model and looking around, then closing my eyes. I pictured me and my children living there, on our own, surviving, even thriving. I pictured my unborn child’s crib in the master bedroom with me, my daughter occupying the other room. No more surprises in the bank account, no more waking up in the middle of the night and wondering where my husband was.
I opened my eyes and sighed. Those apartments might as well have been on the moon. No one was ever going to rent one to me when I had no job and no savings.
And yet, there was the hope of a better life, even if I had to go to the moon to get there. So I set my sights above, and I set out.
These were the books that I read (or re-read) in 2016, and how I rated them. I set a GoodReads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books (2 per month) and exceeded that with a total of 27 books. 24 of those books were read between August and December. What I have found is that, since completing my master’s degree and Harper classes, I have a lot more free time for reading—and I am loving it.
Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, to Take Control of Your Life  by Henry Cloud & John Townsend (Religion / Self-Help) – 5/5 stars
Essential Car Care for Women  by Jamie Little (Automotive) – 3/5 stars
Leave a Cheater, Gain a Life: The Chump Lady’s Survival Guide  by Tracy Schorn (Relationships / Self-Help) – 5/5 stars
Shadows of Self  by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy) – 5/5 stars
The Bands of Mourning  by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy) – 4/5 stars
Secret History  by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy) – 3/5 stars
Road Rage: Two Novellas  by Richard Matheson, Stephen King, & Joe Hill (Horror / Suspense) – 3/5 stars
After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters  by N. T. Wright (Religion / Theology) – 5/5 stars
The Turn of the Screw  by Henry James (Horror / Suspense) – 5/5 stars
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde  by Robert Louis Stevenson (Horror / Mystery) – 4/5 stars
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency  by Douglas Adams (Science Fiction) – 2/5 stars
Everyone has been saying that 2016 has been “the worst.” For me, it’s actually been a really good year. These were the ups and downs of my year:
Completed and Defended Master’s Thesis – I turned in my master’s thesis for defense on March 16th, successfully defended it on April 15th, and submitted the final copy for ProQuest publication in early May. The thesis was called, As God is, Woman May Become?: Women and the Mormon Doctrine of Exaltation, and I was very blessed to have LDS feminist scholar Maxine Hanks serving as an outside reader on my defense committee. I had been working on my thesis off and on for years, so it was a amazing to finally get it done.
Septorhinoplasty – Yup, that’s right, I got a nose job. (more…)
I had thought that by my current age, I would have a husband, three healthy children, a PhD, a house, a growing list of publications, and a career that I was proud of.
I don’t. I have a divorce decree, two disabled children, a master’s degree that took me 7 years to finish, a tiny apartment I can barely afford, a small list of publications, and a job that could be much better.
I was scheduled for a job interview for a promotion last week. I was practically walking on air all week prior. I did not have the job, but I had the hope of having the job in the very near future. Hope is a powerful thing.
The interview was scheduled for tomorrow. They called me late on Wednesday afternoon, just before the holiday, and cancelled it. (It wasn’t anything that I did, it appears they decided not to create the position after all.)
I’m still a lucky woman. I had a great weekend. I went shopping with my kids, ate out several times, went bowling, and saw an amazing movie (Arrival—no seriously, it’s amazing, go see it). I had Thanksgiving with my kids, decorated the tree, and got to hear my autistic son yell, “Look at that!” for the first time ever. It wasn’t so long ago that I never would have spent a weekend like this.
It was only 3.5 years ago that I had no job, my then-husband was spending all of his time with another woman, I was pregnant and had no idea how I was ever going to take care of two kids alone, and my credit wasn’t good enough to get even a tiny apartment by myself. I wasn’t thinking of publications and didn’t believe I was ever going to finish my master’s degree. Hope found a way.
And while I mourn for my children’s struggles, I know it could be worse. I thank God they are a least physically healthy. They are beautiful and loving and like to run up to me and yell “CUDDLE PARTY!” I have great kids.
The first Sunday of Advent is the time to reflect on hope. I have a lot of it.
Today is Good Friday, the day when we remember Jesus’ suffering on the cross, in anticipation of Easter Sunday, when we celebrate his victory over death through resurrection.
Peter spoke of this on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:22-24, when he said (emphasis mine):
“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agonyof death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (NIV)
What most people don’t know is that the part I highlighted in v. 24 is a bit of a mistranslation. The Greek for “agony” there, ōdinas (ὠδῖνας), doesn’t just mean “agony.” It quite specifically means “birth agony.” The pains of labor and childbirth. The correct translation of the passage would be, “freeing him from the birth pains of death.”
I know of no English translations that preserve the true metaphor of the original Greek. Why is that? Are we uncomfortable with the idea of a man suffering the pains of labor? Does that make our God too feminine for our liking? Or is it simply because the idea of “birth pains of death” is too confusing? Birth, after all, is supposed to be about life, not death.
Today was a different kind of Christmas for me. The brokenness that is divorce means that I only see my children every other holiday. My XH has them in Florida, visiting with their grandparents. I spoke to them on Skype today and they seem well. They return tomorrow, and we will open the presents under the tree on Sunday morning, so it isn’t much of a delay. Still, it is sobering to realize that I will only spend four more Christmas days with my daughter before she becomes an adult. Today I only had my brother with me for Christmas, and though he is wonderful and I love him a lot, it’s been my loneliest Christmas so far.
I don’t feel alone though. As hard as it is to be without my kids, I know that, given the circumstances, everything is as it should be. Their grandparents love them and they are making new childhood memories in Florida, and I won’t have to wait long to see them. I have a roof over my head, food to feed them, and there are presents under the tree for them. God has blessed us.
I spoke earlier this year, in my testimony, about my beliefs on the Incarnation and what it means for humanity. I will lay down my life to empower the weak and helpless, just as Jesus did for us by choosing to become human, walk among us, and die for us. Christmas is when we remember that first step he took for us.