Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Interview with a Seminary Momma

Hello, hello! Haven't blogged in a LONG time. Basically, I'm burnt out on writing and have lost all connection with myself in the midst of the spring busy term and the woes of motherhood :) I recently received a request to answer some questions about the inside scope on being a Seminary Mom. Thought others might be interested in hearing my take. So here we go:

The basics: Name, age (if you want), where you are in your seminary journey, kids and ages while you were in seminary, any other basic info
Eve, 26, I'm halfway through my seminary degree- 29 of about 60 credits completed. I am going for a Masters of Arts in Christian Education (though I started as a Youth Ministry degree). I have one child who is 2 and a half (was 1 and a half when I started).

Questions:Why did you decide to go to seminary?
This was not something I had planned on doing. My husband was here and finished a degree and I, through various means, received a call from the Lord to pursue seminary, specifically focusing on youth. It was hard to stay here after my husband had finished his degree and we thought we were moving closer to family, but it became obvious we were to stay put for a few more years.

What was the greatest challenge of going to seminary while being a mom?
First, I'd say mother guilt. Feeling like I do not have the time or energy to give both quality time to my child and to my school work and to my marriage (Time in solitude with the Lord is rarely an option). This includes feeling like I am neglecting my child when homework, papers, classes are an urgent priority. A challenge coinciding with this is finding good childcare around a changing and random class and study schedule. And, in the midst of discerning a ministry call, I feel an extra weight of trying to balance my vocation as a mother. I feel anxious and stressed about how I will be able to balance the two in the future.

What has be the greatest joy of your seminary journey?
The greatest joy has been being a part of a worshipping community that is seeking after the will of God. Rather than feeling totally isolated as a stay-at-home mom as I did previously, I feel a part of something a little larger than my home. I have been reminded that my identity is not solely in changing diapers or pleasing the whims of my toddler. I must say that it has been nice to have a playmate when I come home who could care less about my ability to grasp theology, write papers, or add into class dicussion. I am loved for my simple existence and presence when I come home to little arms.

Any unique stories from your seminary experience that resulted because of your stage in life?
At a small gathering for professors and classmates in the same degree program as myself, one of my professors offered to take my daughter on a trampoline shortly after a meal. Trying to entertain my daughter, my professor bounced so high that she flew off the trampoline and landed on her tailbone. A week later, I received an email from my prof. letting me know how sore she still was...It's fun to see your professor make fool of themselves sometimes to get laughter out of your little one.

Advice do you have for moms who might be considering going to seminary?
Don't take on too many credits at one time. Spread it out- this may mean attending more january and summer term classes, but it is worth the daily quality time that is left over for spending with your child. Also, studying at home (unless they are down for the night) is nearly impossible. Even when I've pretended to leave, my daughter has found me and demanded I play. I would also say to make sure you get involved with a group of mothers in the community (even if they are just spouses). Having that support system is SO helpful. At the same time, make friends with single seminary women. It is nice to talk faith and theology with women who don't have mommy responsibilities overtaking their minds. It helps you recall and articulate some of your underlying thoughts and dreams that can be clouded by daily tasks.

What advice do you have for student who are in the class with a mom?
Don't mess around with group projects if there is a mommy in the group. She has limited time for joking and messing around. Single males seem quite unaware of this fact. Delegate tasks and keep up your end of the bargain- mommies have enough responsibilty watching over their kids and don't need to oversee anyone else. Also, if you are single student, offer childcare so the mom can either go on a date or get an extra nap in. Us moms never get to sleep in you know!
How did you balance school and family (and work if applicable)?
Keep a tight schedule. Take life in four hour chunks. Be where you are when you are there. If you're in the library, be all there. If you're with your child, be all theirs. Make sure you schedule in your marriage. It sucks to have to budget every minute of your day away, but it is the only way to keep from feeling overtaken. At the same time, you have to know that you cannot control every minute. Your child may refuse to get into their carseat in the 30 seconds you have allotted or the prof may keep you over 5 mins when you have a babysitter waiting at home. Be gracious and receive grace when offered. Ask for help! Take a Sabbath, no matter what.
Any regrets about the decisions you made regarding seminary?
At times, I wish I had done seminary before children. It would be so much easier- I'd have better focus, more energy, and more time to devote to learning and to my personal needs. Yet, I don't know that I would be mature enough or spiritually formed enough to truly gain the blessings of seminary if I had not gone through the various stages of motherhood that have brought me to my knees before God crying out for help and sustenance.
At times, I also regret that I did not attend a seminary closer to our families. It would be so nice to have the extra assistance and care in times when I am utterly drained.
If your kids were old enough, how did they feel about you going to seminary?
I'm not sure. I think my daughter would wish that I was on my computer less and able to play more. I can tell, especially in the thick of the term, that she misses me. Someday I think she will admire my courage and endurance in following my call to ministry, but may always be sad at the time I had to sacrifice with her. In the end, I think I am more grateful for my time with her and make it of greater quality than I otherwise would have.

What are you plans after seminary (or) what do you do now that you've graduated?
No idea. I think I might try for another baby in the transition time. My husband has a PhD to pursue, so it may be more schooling for us. I hope to get involved with ministry, at least, part time. I also hope to be a coach at some point.
What question should I have asked you, but didn't (and what is the answer)?
What sacrifices have been made for you to be in seminary?
-My husband has to take on extra childcare responsibility, though he already works fulltime. So, he gets less time to himself and has to put up with my demands, whines, and worries because of the tight schedule I have to keep.
-Money. We are not only paying for school, but I can't find the time for a sufficient job while doing school and motherhood.
-We have not been able to invest as much time as our marriage needs. Keeping up with bills, meeting our childs needs, and getting my schoolwork done often put our marriage on the back burning and leaves us feeling more isolated than we need to.
-Grandparents do not get to see my daughter much. We live at quite a distance and have little time for traveling and visiting during the terms.
-Stability. It is hard to buy a home, establish a social network, or get involved in a church or local community when you are unsure as to how long you will be around.
-Sleep. Children certainly cause all parents to lose sleep. As a studying mom, though, her nap times are not an opportunity for me to rest, but for me to get more done.

Felt like I repeated myself on most of those questions...It was interesting to think about, though. I realized some intricasies of my life as a mom who studies on behalf of a call that I was not fully aware of. So, any of you want to babysit!?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Beasley weasley

Well, we've finally ripped the plastic covering off our windows. Spring is here in wilmore! How do we know? Mr. Beasley Weasley (Kelly's cat) has drug, not one, but two live snakes into the house! One left a trail of blood on the carpet. Claire reminds me daily that "beasley weasley" likes to eat snakes.
Minus the snakes, it's nice to have a breeze flowing through the house again. Spring should be better than Fall:
-Claire is potty trained -We will have lots of family visitors -the School year has an end in sight
-we can start planting and harvesting a garden again - we can take afternoon walks while it is still light out -claire can go to the park again!
We still feeling like we are in a bit of survival mode. It is hard to be away from family and friends and to live life in such a hectic schedule. The weekend feels like our only rest and, even then, we feel like we are playing catchup on chores and claire time. The weekdays are full of studying and rushing claire around back and forth from sitters from morning until evening. I'm also doing an internship with the youth at our church so wed and sun evenings are taken up for me and taken away from our family time.
There seem to be new babies and pregnancies galore. Claire is ready for a little brother or sister- everywhere we go she plays with babies and oohs and aahs more than the other kids. I feel like my mommy hormones are ready again, but I just can't fathom trying to have a newborn on top of grad school. So, Claire and Keith will just have to wait....
Keith has been attending a program in Pittsburg that teaches the intricasies of spiritual formation. He seems quite enlivened when he returns home from long weekends on these retreats. It's hard for him to leave Claire and I behind and hard for us, but it seems like it is going to pay off in the long run for everyone's spirits.
I am diving further into understanding God's call on my life, the details of ecumenical Christian theology, and how to study the bible inductively. I've also sat in on some wonderful seminars related to children's spirituality and the theology for women in ministry and the practical issues that women face in ministry.
I enjoy what I'm learning, but hate the deadlines and pressure to perform as much as I did in undergrad. I think I'm starting to get over it, though which reduces my stress level greatly.
We will probably not even be going home for Easter, but sticking around here to finish out the term. I hope to take 2 or 3 summer courses to move my degree along, too. We will get back home once or twice this summer, though, I think especially for Luke's wedding at the end of June.
Claire will soon have a twin bed, dresser, desk and hutch that was her Aunt Laura's while growing up. I'm quite excited about getting her little bedroom setup so she can begin to have more of her own space and take up less of ours;). She seems to be clinging more to Keith than in the past. It is nice for him to finally feel like he is a beloved "daddy" and nice for me to get some more space. We thoroughly enjoy every minute of her. She continues to be an extraverted, strong willed little lady -yet she exhibits Keith's deep sensitivity at times.
That's about all we have to report!
I'll have to post some claire pictures soon....

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Stranded in Wilmore

First term of seminary is completed. Am I burnt out? I am burnt out in one specific way- that of being in Wilmore. I'm tired of the "Christian" bubble, the tiny town atmosphere and all that goes with Kentucky rural living. I miss crowds. I miss excitement. I miss friends. After being here for four years, I'm beginning to feel restless, lonely, and basically left out. We hear from many friends about the wonders of Chicago living and I have to admit it sounds enticing. Yet, we know this is where we are supposed to be. We need cheap living, childcare co-ops, the medical support of the KY government, safe street, spiritual refreshment in community, and a quiet atmosphere to make it through the challenging times of grad school, early marriage, and young children.
What have I learned this term?
1. Studying youth ministry and seeking future ministry work among youth is humbling. Most people who do youth ministry do not have a degree in it and certainly don't see it worthy of their life's work. Just saying I'm studying youth ministry makes me cringe because I know most people are either thinking I'm a nut or that I'm wasting my time. Humbled.
2. Group work is still group work. One person does all the work, the rest ride along even in grad school.
3. Saving in more than one place is tough as a mother. I lost my flash drive. I lost my work. I lost control. The last was good for me, but was also terribly frustrating. I will now save in 4 places and take myself and my work less seriously, because let's face it- I'm also a mother.
4. The health of my spirit will effect the excellence of my work and my physical stamina. Worship needs to be my number one priority or I will seek studying as an end in itself rather than as a means to more effective and efficient service for God's work.
5. There are many struggles ahead for myself as a female in ministry. It is sad in class how many men dominate the conversation and leave little room for the wisdom of women to speak through.
6. Specific to youth ministry- youth ministry needs to be taken seriously, undergirded with theology and spiritual formation rather than suffocated with endless programs and trends that create good youth ministry kids instead of life long Christians. As a youth minister, the most important thing I can do is encourage and train parents to live out and teach faith to their children in the home. Many youth in America are looking for means to feed their Spirit. They need to be taught to overcome distractions and choose faith as a piece of their internal identity. Nurture and conversion must be in balance for youth to form, commit, and grow in relationship with the Living God.

Juggling the roles of wife, mother, and student is difficult. At this point, my life almost needs compartmentalization in order to stay task-oriented and accomplish what I must in the time I have. It is my hope, though, that these three will come together while outlining a proper way for me to maintain priorities.
I'm gearing up for another term and aim to be more flexible, less controlling, and more content with our station in life. The station of Wilmore is simply the center of my current labyrinth of life. It will soon be the maze of the past. It is my time in the belly of the whale, a time to cease my struggle and open my ears again to the voice of God that I might live into the mystery of obedience after the the 3 days (or years) are up.