Sunday, January 8, 2017

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

I can be intense, I don't like to cook, I only clean when it starts crossing THEE line, I don't mind doing laundry, I hate the NFL (football itself is fine otherwise...if you're into killing brain cells), I have a love/hate relationship with exercise, I have a weakness for candy, pop, and sweet tea, I have always been a working mom and have never regretted it, I've never participated in PTO or a mom's group by choice, I enjoy my teaching career and have loved quite a few students as my own over the years, I am proud of my talents although they don't always feel useful in the grand scheme of things, I will read and write like there's no tomorrow, I love words and I want to use them to inspire and encourage people, I hold my close friends close as my family, I adore my fur babies, I've enjoyed my own kids more as teenagers than little kids (for the most part), I don't deserve my husband but I'm awfully happy I have him, I love Jesus, I know Jesus loves me.

That's me. I've spent far too much time regretting who I am and who I'm not. Feeling bad and feeling guilty for what I like and don't like, for what I can do and can't do, what I do and don't do, in comparison to common social roles or just other people in general. Even if it's just in my head, it's gone too far. It's a lie.

Because the only thing on that paragraph list that matters is the last one: Jesus loves me. And the last one validates all the others. The Bible tells me "...I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well" Psalm 139:14. Everything about me has been a part of me from the start. I can't remember ever liking cooking, even as a kid with my mom. My mom says I've sat "reading" books since I was old enough to hold a book open. I never once imagined myself as a stay-at-home mom, college and career have always been on my radar. Regardless of what anyone has to say about this list of me, I should stand assured because it's who I am...who I was made to be. And every part of me - made fearfully and wonderfully - will serve the purpose God has for me to glorify Him.

What a great word God has sunk into my head tonight (as I'm writing Sunday at 2am), but it doesn't end there because I'm not in this on my own. My husband is laid back, he doesn't mind cooking, he cleans and actually does it right (I take short cuts), he loves the NFL and played football, he drinks coffee, he has useful computer skills, he does not read or write and doesn't have a way with words, we are agreed on our friends and family, he loves Jesus, Jesus loves him.

Do you see what I see? Two people who are opposites, put together as compliments of each other. Our personalities and abilities fit together like the pieces of a puzzle, one filling in the other's gaps. Where one is weak, the other is strong, and vice versa. Team Gleghorn - cause everything we do needs to be done as a team. My realization that I should accept who I am came hand-in-hand with the revelation that I don't truly view my work as a team effort with my family. Dare I say sometimes I forget I'm teamed up with God?! Yet, everything I do my family (and God) are a part of, whether they or I like it or not. For example, right now, my enrollment in grad school affects my whole family's schedules. Especially Brandon, who has to do the running around of kids and errands that I don't have the time for. The kids picked up certain household responsibilities and more independent time. All of which limits their time for other things. And the tables have been turned in other seasons of our lives. This team compliments me and I them, so that we can each be who we are.

2017 brings with it so many good things - I can just feel it. Possibly the biggest for me though is learning - really knowing - that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. That God knows me and wants me to know Him, if I would only seek.

To paraphrase author Ann Voskamp: I am hard after Him.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2017 Reading Goal

Waiting on two still, but this is it for
African-American Lit and
U.S. Lit - the Anthropocene
According to my Goodreads count, I read 28 of my 60 book goal for 2016. Wow. I can't remember the last time my year's reading record sucked as badly as 2016 did. (Actually, I can, cause I've kept track since 1997. It was 16 books in 2001.) Last year proved to be a busy year, divided into three time consuming parts, that left so little time for reading. January through May I was finishing off my first school year teaching AP Literature, which gave me the chance to read what I was teaching, but took much more time in preparation and grading. The summer was spent renovating our house and we didn't even go on vacation, let alone read much. And come August my PhD program started. I did a ton of reading for my two classes, but not in a trackable way. Bits of poetry and short stories here and there for British Lit and dozens of articles and academic book chapters for Methods.

That won't stop me from setting a reading goal for 2017 though! Even if I'm not reading a lot, one thing is sure, I am always in the middle of a book. You will never ask me, "What are you reading at the moment?" and hear "Nothing right now." The to be read list is a mile long and I own dozens of them, plus access to various library systems.

I'm setting a goal this year for two other reasons. My PhD reading this semester is solidly literature and my books are almost all novels! Everything I read will apply to my goal for 2017. Also, I'm hoping with that intensive reading schedule at hand and a goal to meet, I will gain back my focus. I find I am so easily distracted lately by technology, people, Netflix (I adore binge watching), staring at my new library shelves, you know, the usual. I'll be finishing off my current binge watch this week (the 100) and weaning myself from FB in preparation for the glorious reading to come...or at least I hope it's glorious, there's quite a few first time reads for me on the syllabi.

Here's to a new reading season!

Yes, it's so traumatizing, there are comics
just for PhD students. Ha!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Grade Perspective

After seeing the impossible syllabus first day of class last August, I had decided I would do my very best, but that I would be happy if my best was a B for my Methods in Study of Literature class (aka Thursday class). I would never have said that in previous English classes/degrees. I did get one A- in my masters program and was mad about it for years because it gave me a 3.9 GPA. However, this time around, I have a different perspective. This class was HARD before I even started! It challenged me and made me doubt myself and fight to get through it. I was working hard as I could but asking God "please just let me get a B." (FYI: B's are not good in PhD programs and you can't really get more than one, maybe two, and expect to be awarded the degree.)

Grades were in end of last week. I received an A in the Brit Lit class, which I expected. And an A- in Methods?! For me, a grade has never been more amazing, more hard fought, or truly earned. And even the minus part of it couldn't be more beautiful. This time, the minus is the difference between an A and B, not a low A and higher A.

Part of me wants to think the prof rounded it up or took pity, knowing I tried but fell just short. Not only is my prof not like that (hence the difficulty of the class), but I also know God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. My A- and all the change it represents within me (cause God knows how this class challenged me in personal ways as well) is to God's glory.

Monday, December 19, 2016

My Library - More Than a Collection of Books

The one thing I've been waiting for since we saw our new house for the first time almost a year ago is finally finished. My library - more than a collection of books now! A week and a half ago, we picked up nine of IKEA's Billy Bookshelves. Hand crafted shelving is hardy but extremely expensive and bookshelves in local stores are flimsy although extremely affordable. I was so pleased to find IKEA's shelves are sturdy and the prices comparable to Target and Wal-Mart shelves.

In three nights last week my husband pieced the bookshelves together and placed them accordingly. The room immediately transformed with their placement and the minute they were up, I unpacked tote after tote of books. My poor books had been packed up almost a year ago and although I knew I missed their presence, I hadn't realized how much it would feel like reuniting with friends as I unpacked them. My books have stories and hold memories...even if it's just the knowledge of where I was in life when I bought a particular book.

Front entry to library

View from front windows
So, the unpacking of books was glorious. With limited time that night - although I was up until 2 A.M.taking them out of totes - I simply stacked books on shelves according to genre. As only book lovers can imagine, that wasn't as easy as it sounds. I had to estimate how much shelving to designate for what I already owned and for how much each genre may grow in the future. Also, there's the matter of some books applying to more than one category. Let's be honest, I reveled in it.

That was Friday, 12/16. On Sunday, 12/18, my friend and fellow reader S.R. offered to come over to help alphabetize. I gladly took her up on it. What better way than to enjoy the project than with a friend? I want to say it took us about two and half hours. Seeing the empty space left when we were done was both sad and exciting. Sad because I had cleaned out my book collection before moving and now missed them, even if they were just to take up space. Excited because I haven't really bought a physical book just for the heck of it in a long time and Barnes & Noble will be exciting in a new way for the next few visits.

Anyway, I'm obviously excited, but who am I kidding? You just want to see the pictures!

The shelves along the back of the couch (left to right) hold Christian nonfiction and fiction, textbooks, childhood books, signed editions, and very old/first editions. The single bookshelf on the other side of the window holds biographies and general researched stories on people (mostly authors) and mythology/fantasy. The single bookshelf juxtaposed to it (only in profile here, but can be seen to the left in pic above) holds memoirs and general subject nonfiction.

The main wall has four bookshelves, where I decided to put fiction, since it is the largest genre in my collection and the most likely to grow. The single shelf juxtaposed to those contains Classics.

As you can see, there's room to grow. After that, well, who needs windows?

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Quick Hello

Not much posting going on around here, is there? Even now I'm supposed to be prepping for a final for tomorrow, but would rather throw out a quick hello to the blogosphere.

My bedroom/office. When we moved in August I
never bothered to put up a single decoration in
my room. It immediately became my work space.
First, finals week. I am excited to say that this time tomorrow I will only have one final to finish and the first semester of my PhD program will be done. I've worked so hard, so it's kinda depressing to realize that with all the steps I have to take I have only finished 1/4 of 1/4 of the requirements. Ugh. But for once, I may not be wishing away the hard work. Knowing there's something big this all leads to, I don't want to sleep walk through or wish away the lessons to learn and the character forming experiences. Among the things I hope to succeed at more next semester are time management and focus. I did what I had to do to survive this semester. Next semester I'd like to manage the work time I set aside better. That will mean learning to focus and will likely mean leaving my house to work more often. I knew I needed to study elsewhere this semester, but in the day-to-day it felt like a hassle to leave my house - see the pile of books in the pic above? At one point I had 40 some books checked out of the library - I brought the initial bunch home in a large 31 tote and will be taking them back the same way. You can't just casually haul that crap around! Next semester I will work elsewhere more often, thankfully with smaller texts.

This semester I've also surprised myself in some of my ability to "let go" of things. I'm a control freak. As many of you know, early in our marriage, my husband worked a night shift job that pretty much left him only with time to eat, sleep, and work...leaving me to make decisions and carry things out. It's very hard to drop that habit even though it's been years since he left that job.

Saturdays are big work times for me, so my husband took over the time consuming task of meal planning and grocery shopping, two jobs I did even though he's the one who cooks. He's done a great job and it's been a big help in relieving weekend stress.

I've also learned to live with a little mess - well in my car anyway (my house is still too new and exciting for me to let mess build up). I was so shocked by it one day that I actually took a picture. During a good bit of the semester my car floor was a mess of trash, books, bags, sweaters, and random other items from my travel between two schools. There's also a gallon size bag of cashews and almonds for snacking in there somewhere. Very not me, but again it worked for the days I found myself running from one place to the next, dinner in the car, and more stuff than my book bag could hold.

The excitement for this week isn't just finals though. We made our first ever trip to IKEA. We bought my daughter a desk and dresser - one as a birthday present and one for Christmas. With the move and school starting, the trip didn't happen until now and she's been patiently waiting for her "new room" to come together. I couldn't take pictures, cause she doesn't have everything arranged yet, lol. She'll be going to college full time next year, but has decided to stay home and commute to the local college where she has already been taking classes. We all thought it would be a nice fresh start with a new look for her primary living space. It's going to be a crazy transition next year, as college student life very much becomes living as an adult even if she is home with us...and it will likely be harder for us to adjust than her! Not that I mind the change, I just know I won't remember she's not a "kid" anymore.

My presents under the tree for now!
We also went to IKEA to buy my bookshelves for my library! There are nine total and they will cover three of the four walls. I am beyond excited. By the time finals week finishes up, they should be ready for my books and I'll have all the time in the world to arrange to my heart's desire. I can't wait. I promise to put up pics as soon as the library shelves are stocked and everything is decorated.

And FINALLY we were able to do something as a whole family. We went out to dinner after IKEA for our son's birthday. It's near impossible to have family time that consists of everyone these days. For us it becomes a matter of making sure we've spent time with all of the kids and each other at some points throughout the week. It's a new norm.

Hope everyone's December is treating them well. The month is flying by and that special time we wait for every year - (Christmas but also time off of work for those lucky enough to have it) will be over before you know it. Enjoy the time building up to it. Love.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

It's the Small Stuff That Counts

Last week was refreshing - a stop and consider type of refreshing. The kind that realigns your heart and mind, allowing your perspective to broaden. First, I realized I have only two weeks of the college semester left, that I've essentially made it to the end! All that crazy almost done. Hard to believe, but such a relief.

Then my son had a sleep over birthday party. I set a limited number of 12 year old boys who could crash at my house, but my husband said "No, invite them all." When I bulked (I don't "do" bigger groups of younger kids well) he said he'd take over the party. And that he did. I made sure the party had what it needed and hung out for happy birthday, then split. (Yes, I came back and spent the night listening to nonstop chatter except between the hours of 3am-6am, so I didn't totally abandon my husband to the mob!) But what a husband. Knowing I have limits to what I can take with a huge group of crazy younger kids, he was more than willing to take over and let me escape for the craziest part of it.

And escape I did, thanks to one of my best friends answering my picture and rhetorical question on IG about needing to escape the number of running, noisy bodies in my house. Hang out time and a movie and just a really nice night. It is rare to find people you can completely be yourself around. I have foot in mouth disease - the bad combination of a big mouth and a strong-will - so it's refreshing to find someone who knows who I am and I don't have to replay the night in worry later.

The weekend was also shared with a family friend who comes by once a week to watch movies with us. He owns over 2,000 movies and we've currently been binge watching our way through seasons of Survivor. We've been at it for 18 months now and we're on season 23...that's 11 1/2 years of Survivor! It's always a great night when he is with us - we usually eat dinner or have snacks and cheer or yell as needed at competitions that are years gone. Lol.

And the moments that started the refreshing of these past couple days were with my students. My Seniors, the majority of whom were my Juniors last year, started presenting their "Things That Happened to Me" slideshows last Thursday and finish up tomorrow. Based on Oskar Schell's photo book of the same name in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, I asked them to choose a combination 20 pictures of their own and internet that show me who they are. I don't think I've enjoyed any other project as much.

Can't put up my students' pictures,
but this is where we meet.
My Seniors told me where they've been and where they're going; what they've failed and what they've accomplished; what makes them laugh and what makes them cry; who they love and who loves them; how the world has changed them and how they want to change the world; how they're broken and how they've healed. They've shared their families, friends, pets, jobs, favorite colors, hobbies, interests, secrets, and dozens of little things in between. I've enjoyed every word of every presentation the past two days. How could I not?

According to the state of Pennsylvania they're my job, but to me, they're simply my kids. And soon enough, after two years in my classroom, they'll be graduating. So this week, for now, I am going to enjoy my time with them and all they're willing to share.

Yes, we have work to do, friendships have tough times, my kids and their friends can be a crazy bunch, my husband and I may not always be so mindful of each other, and my current journey is CRAZY, but it's the day-to-day where life happens - memories are made, lessons are learned, and lives are fortified.

It's the small stuff that counts.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Set Apart

I know I've been MIA here on the blog, but I'm just finishing up week 12 of 15 for the semester and the weekly assignments they come with! The work load stayed consistent up to this point, but I've slowly felt less crazy about it. All I have left are two final papers and presentations for each, one per class.

What's changed? My ability to schedule in family time and bits of fun around work and school work improved, although I will not claim perfection by any means. But, overall I settled into the new schedule; however, that happened in large part due to my perspective change.

I always thought I'd get my PhD as a career step, taking me to the place I've been working towards all this time: professorship. The final means to the final end. That might be the case one day, but it's no longer a certain goal. As I've worked, cried, and dragged myself through this first semester I've realized differently.

This journey is a dream realized, but it is not the destination.

This journey is going to change me like no other journey has. It's going to force me to face my weaknesses and broken parts and learn to live in them and through them, changing what needs to change to come out a stronger and better person than when I started. Deep? It was a crazy "Whoa" moment when it came to mind, so yea, I'd say so, but also not surprising.

I should know by now that it's always about the journey. When one ends another begins and so we are always living in an opportunity of personal betterment, if we're willing to see it.

I was not willing to see it for the first half of this semester. The work was immediately challenging and forced me to set boundaries on my time and energy. To do well, I had to change the routines I'd been living in (basically doing whatever I wanted to) for years. I felt left out and lonely on a journey that no one around me had taken before - so that even in the good moments I didn't feel anyone could share my joy. Because of that I tried to keep my schooling separate from the rest of my life and often found myself silent among people or avoiding the topic because my schooling is my life right now. I avoided the FB newsfeed to avoid the empty hole ache of what felt like friends enjoying life without me and spending time with their families while I had to limit my own. I felt guilty over the choices I made to balance my schooling with work and family. Feeling completely dumb, I kept wondering why something I wanted so much was so difficult?

I felt God had given me the desire of my heart and then left me there to struggle through it. Dramatic? May seem so, but anything life changing has the ability to turn you upside down and inside out, while appearing completely normal to everyone else.

Fortunately, I do have family and a couple friends who allow me to vent and babble my way through the emotion and revelations until it's all sorted in my head. Also, I read a few books over the summer whose lessons kicked in for me on a level I hadn't foreseen. One of my beloved authors, Lysa TerKeurst, states best what I've learned about this journey so far in her book Uninvited:

"There is something wonderfully sacred that happens when a girl chooses to realize that being 'set aside' is actually God's call for her to be 'set apart.' This is true.

To be set aside is to be rejected. To be set apart is to be given an assignment that requires preparation.

Embrace the preparation today. And remember you are 'set apart' beautiful one. Chosen. Adored. And reserved for a high and holy calling." the preparation for something else. God has not left me high and dry, He has set me apart. This is time to wait but also time to grow. If I put in the time now, seeking all God has for me on the other side, all the hardship and change will be put to good use - the best use as only God can manage. I don't know exactly what awaits on the other side of my next four and a half years of schooling. I am content to know I am right where God wants me and that He will guide my steps. I need only keep my focus ahead and remember He has me set apart for a higher purpose.

Wherever you are today, I encourage you to stop and ask God "Why am I here and what would you have for me?" He may encourage you in the direction you're already headed; He may surprise you with a turnabout; He may ask you to keep waiting on Him. Whatever the answer trust in it and keep at it!