Of New Year’s Resolutions and One Word

Bridge over a pond in the winter, Johannapark, Leipzig, Germany

Happy New Year! I hope that 2015 is off to a roaring start for you all.

I’m not a New Year’s Resolutions girl. I wrote last year about why I had ditched them in favour of picking one word for the year. It’s something that’s worked really well for me, and for friends who’ve done it as well. Personally, it’s simplified my life in ways I hadn’t expected. The things I’ve accomplished over the past 2 years have literally been due to living life in a purposeful way.

This past November, I sat down to reflect on the year. I looked at what worked, what didn’t. I kept coming back to a specific word that I was sure was going to be my word for 2015. However, as December life events unfolded, I began to waver a bit.

The first weekend in December found us on a plane returning to our beloved city of Atlanta for the celebration of my best friend’s wedding. We were able to be with ‘framily’ that have been part of our lives since before our marriage; people who’ve known and loved us and been part of our life community as we’ve lived far, far away. It was a joyous occasion, and to be honest, for someone who is not often sentimental, my heart nearly burst with love and gratitude as we travelled back to the UK.

The third weekend in December found me on a plane returning to the place I was born for the funeral of my 80 year-old Grandmother. It was a completely unexpected departure from this life to the next. I was able to be with my family that have known me since I was born; people who have also loved us and been part of our life community as we’ve lived far, far away. It was a sobering occasion, but we celebrated her life lived well. I know she would have enjoyed all of us being together, as we are a family that does laughter and tears well.

The juxtaposition of those two weekends shaped my last week of December. Recovering from intense jet lag, I struggled through the days, putting one foot in front of another. As grief and emotions whirled around in my head, I kept thinking about the word I had originally chosen for 2015, and now how it just felt wrong.

Thinking through the time I spent in both places, with the people that I love, I kept coming back to the word intentional. While in Atlanta, we were with friends who had been intentional with us at the start of our marriage, providing guidance and support as we moved from our family of origin to our family of choice; we were with friends who intentionally chose us to be godparents to their children; we were with friends who had been an intentional part of our graduate journey. While in my birth place, I was with my parents who had been intentional with they way they raised my brother and myself; I was with family that have played intentional and pivotal parts in my life.

2015 will be my year of being intentional.

I made a list and set some goals of the important ways I want to be intentional this year in my family, friendships, faith, and health. The death of my grandmother caused me to refocus on the fact that we all are here for a limited time, so we should be living purposefully, with intention, all the time. In the mundane moments of time, it’s hard to remember that. This week, I was reminded by a friend that it’s the mundane moments where we should be living our best, as they make up the bigger picture of our lives.

The good thing is, it doesn’t matter what stage of your life you’re in right now; maybe you’re a graduate wife, maybe you work full time or maybe you’re a stay- at-home-Mum. No matter where you are right now, I want to challenge you to do something different this year. Pick a word and live by it. Set some personal goals. Pick three things you know you’ll do well this year, and do them. But whatever you do: Love well. Live purposefully. Be intentional.


Holidays · Inspiration

A Moment of Gratitude


Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.

-Melody Beattie


When Strangers Become Your People

Sometimes, graduate school is hard.

But, it’s even harder when you don’t have your people. A couple of weeks ago, Elissa wrote about diving into the graduate school dating game,  speaking eloquently about how we all long to share history and be known; essentially longing to share our lives with our people.

Recently, my dear friend and former graduate wife, Allison, recounted an experience she had while on the subway in Atlanta, an inspirational story of hope and love and what happens when strangers become your people. As I read it, I couldn’t help but think of all of us on this graduate journey, who are learning what it means to place trust in people who aren’t necessarily known to us. I was reminded of my own graduate school experiences, and the people along the way who were there during the unexpected times. My heart filled with gratitude. I hope you enjoy it. – Mandy


We all have our people, the tribe of folks providing a safety net of security so that we can take courageous leaps that would otherwise paralyze us in fear. These are the same faces that breathe encouragement into us when we are broken and joyously with us celebrate in our highs.

We can live life more fully because of the support of our people.

This weekend I had the opportunity of attending the Allume writer’s conference in South Carolina. On my way home, I stopped through Atlanta for a night with my sister’s family.

As I waited at the Marta station this morning to take a train to the airport, I noticed an elderly woman standing uncomfortably, hunched over, clutching her bag as if somebody were going to grab it and run. Her acute self-awareness clearly communicated this was her first and last Marta trip to the airport.

In an effort to put her at ease, I engaged in small talk about my three children. Her flight was not for another 6 hours, but she worried about this trip to the airport, a ride her children had assured her was a simple process.


The direct train to the airport never arrived. I explained that we needed to hop on a different line and switch trains, but not to worry because we were going to do this together. This overwhelmed her. She did not yet trust me, but realized what we both knew…I was her best option. She had no people.

We rolled our bags onto the train to get situated. As the train jerked into gear, the next few minutes felt like slow motion. My new friend had such a death grip on her bags, she had forgotten to hold on. Her 78-year-old self went flying through the cabin. Several of us attempted to break her fall but failed. She went down…hard. She yelled in panic. Bags scattered. We all jumped to her aid.

A homeless, toothless man locked eyes with me before speaking,

“Ma’am, I may be dirty, but I’m honest. I’ll get your bags, and you help her. She don’t want me touching her.”

I saw straight into his kind heart wishing for a different conversation I knew we had no time to have.

A teenage punk previously entranced by the music on his headphones turned out to be a medic-in-training and assessed her for injuries before two construction workers lifted her to a seat.

As the homeless man gathered our bags and purses, he guarded them with great pride. A sweaty runner who had just finished a 5k offered up her water as I rubbed our shaken friend’s back.

Hips were thankfully not broken, but her spirit was. Embarrassment now trumped her trepidation over this adventure. We surrounded her with reassurance and comfort, little of which was received. The construction workers made some cute jokes to ease her tension before everybody went back to their seats.

I sat in the next row offering her enough space to recover alone, but close enough to jump to any need.

As her head leaned onto the train window, her eyes shut. I quietly prayed. When her eyes opened, tears poured down from underneath her wire-rimmed glasses falling onto the gray shawl draped across her shoulders. Her pale skin was still void of any color. Her hands shook. I understood the recovery was temporary. I asked,

“Is there anybody I can call for you?”

She responded in a whisper.

“They said this would be easy. But it’s not. Unexpected things happen that change everything. This is too hard for me.”

In that moment, my eyes filled with tears. I understood exactly how she felt. She’s right. It’s hard. All of it. So many times when it’s supposed to be easy…it isn’t.

Just before exiting the train, a businessman sensitive to her embarrassment gave her a wink.

“I didn’t see a thing, Beautiful.”

A little color reappeared in her cheeks. Each person in our group spoke to her before exiting, and with each comment her breathing deepened and confidence reestablished. But it was the homeless man at the second to last stop that got me. He looked at her and simply said, “Ma’am” and then gave her a nod.

With tremendous grace and gentleness she uttered,

“Thank you Sir for helping me with my bags today.”

And she offered him her hand. He looked at me as if for permission to accept, and I smiled. He shook her hand, a physical touch meaning more to him than she understood. As he turned to leave, he stood taller…exiting the train with a greater sense of dignity than when he arrived.

Seven people entered a train this morning from very different walks of life and in a matter of moments became a team with one purpose, to support a 78-year-old woman we had never met. We became her people, even if just for a train ride.

Sometimes our people look different than we imagine.

Sometimes they are only in our life for a train ride.

But we need them to get us through the unexpected.

Today I am grateful for my people, both the ones that support me in my daily walk and the ones God provides simply for those unexpected moments when it’s just too difficult to stand on my own.

*reprinted with permission by The House of Hendrix – please go visit!


Humans of New York: A Peek into Graduate Life

Stories are worth sharing.

I’ve been a big fan of Humans of New York, both on Facebook and Tumblr for some time. Brandon has done a tremendous job of sharing amazing stories of people all over the world, and it truly highlights that fact that no matter what culture we’re part of or country we live in, a lot of the same fears, hopes, and dreams are universal.

One of the stories he shared recently was from a couple from Vietnam who had weathered graduate school in the USA. Here’s a snippet of the post:

“Our daughter was five months old when I got a scholarship to Johns Hopkins. My wife came with me to Baltimore so that our family could stay together. I will always be thankful for that sacrifice, because I know it was the toughest three years of her life. She didn’t speak a word of English…”

It’s a beautiful story of giving, sacrificial love, and the deepening of relationships. No matter where we sit in the graduate life at the moment, it’s stories like this that keep me going, and I hope it does the same for you too.





The Top 10 Things I Learned as a Graduate Wife


As my graduate wife journey has come to an end, and I have transitioned onto the next adventure, I have had time to reflect on what I have learned as a graduate wife. I have also had time to be thankful for the opportunity to share this journey with so many other graduate spouses, through this blog and the University communities I was a part of. Here are the top ten things I have learned, paired with some of our best posts that highlight each lesson.

1. Graduate life is only a season. During our time in grad school, I was friends with a woman whose husband had completed grad school 20 years prior. She constantly told me that grad life was a season. Although my head believed her, my heart did not. When we were in the middle of it, and the process was continually kicking us in the face, it was easy to lose hope. After 9 years of grad school life, and 1 year of being back on the ‘other side of real life,’ I can say….she was right. It really is only a season, and to be honest, it will probably end up being a short chapter in my life book!

Savor the Here and Now

2. Investing in relationships takes work. Moving, starting over, and building a new community is hard work. You have to be willing to invest time in people around you. A community doesn’t happen over night. The time you’re investing now will pay off. Stick with it!

The Mark of Friendship- Response

3. Grad school is a marathon, not a sprint. There will be times that grad school will feel like it’s never ending. You get through one goal, only to discover there are 30 more in front of you. When I started to focus on what seemed like never-ending goals in front of us, I immediately became overwhelmed. I learned to take life one day at a time. I only needed enough strength to make it through that one day!

Six Stages of the Graduate Journey

4. Living simply is an art.  For most of us, the stipends and scholarships barely cover living expenses. I had to learn to live a much more simple life. It wasn’t easy to do, but once we settled into just taking care of what was needed, we became used to it. Since we were also part of a community that was living the same type of life we were, it was good to share ways with each other to even further simplify the simple.

Beauty and the Budget Series

5. Having your dreams shattered might the best thing that’s ever happened to you. My husband and I have always been planners. Unfortunately, graduate school is not kind to planners. It’s hard when your entire life is being determined by a hiring committee. We definitely had our fair share of disappointments: failed grant proposals, interviews that didn’t end with job offers, interviews that didn’t happen, etc. Looking back, it’s now easy for me to see that those things had to happen in order for us to be who we are and where we are today.

Grad Wife to Farmer Life

6. You are not alone. I remember vividly sitting in a coffee shop with a dear friend of mine telling her I didn’t think I could press on any further with this grad school thing. I also remember being shocked as she told me she often felt the same way. The very act of being really vulnerable with a friend turned the tables for me. I left the coffee shop with a resolve and strength that I didn’t have when I arrived….I was not alone.

A Name for Pain

7. Don’t put your own dreams on hold. It’s so easy to slide into being the ‘support’, but if you stay in that mode for too long, you will lose yourself.  I have a friend that moved with her husband to London when he started grad school. While they were there, she was offered her dream job in California. They had long talk(s) and decided they could live a part for year, seeing each other in person once every three to four months, to make both their dreams happen. While that scenario wouldn’t work for everyone, if you have your own burgeoning career, figure out a way to make it happen, and do it!

Don’t Put Your Life on Hold

8. Learn to live in the present. My friend, Betsy, always said to me, “Bloom where you’re planted.” It resonated with me then, but especially now as we’ve entered a new city. Do I miss Oxford? You betcha. I miss our friends, the familiarity, the little family we made there. I also miss those things from Orlando and Atlanta (and if I’m honest, a pretty long list of our favorite restaurants). Even though these places are part of my story and woven into the fabric of my heart, I no longer reside in them. I am still learning what it means to embrace where I am placed.

Life is Now

9. You will change. Grad school changes you. You will not be the same person at the end that you were in the beginning. The experiences will mold and shape your character, teaching you so many wonderful lessons about life, love, and sacrifice. Some of it will be hard. Some of it will be amazing. But in the end, as your life words are being penned, allow it to permeate your soul and become part of who you are. There will be purpose and joy in your pain. I promise.

I used to…

10. This will be an experience of a lifetime. As more and more time passes between our time in grad school and this new season of life, I have come to realize what an absolute irreplaceable gift it was. From learning and living life lessons, to being part of an amazing community of people, to watching my husband obtain one of his dreams….it was all a gift. I’m so thankful we were given this amazing opportunity.

Love, Written on My Heart

As a former, current, or soon-to-be graduate wife, if you could add your own point to this list, what would it be?







Grad Life Voices: Making Sacrifices

Peter Hayes

written by Lacey, a current graduate wife

In the past couple years, my husband and I have learned the importance of working together in order for him to get through grad school. Most of his colleagues don’t have families, and sometimes it seems it gives them an advantage. We both agree that it is important that he focuses as much as he can on his work. I don’t want him to have to deal with the stresses of family life especially when he’s approaching a deadline. His schedule is crazy. I’d say most days it doesn’t bother me, but then other days I feel so alone.

About six months ago, I was just about done with all of this grad school stuff. I was working a job that I absolutely hated and after applying to job after job with no luck, I felt like I was trapped there. As much as I hated my job, it had its benefits. It was close to home, I got a lot of time off and although it wasn’t great, the pay was manageable. I would go through times where I would just tell myself to suck it up, but the job was so draining. Around the time that I quit, we started to have childcare issues. With both our incomes combined, we could not afford most daycares. We first enrolled our girls into a program that we liked, but the hours didn’t work for us. We had to hire a babysitter to fill in when the daycare’s schedule didn’t fit with ours. We found someone I loved and who was able to work with us on price. But then, of course, she moved, and we had trouble finding a good replacement for her. I think losing the provider that we loved was where things went downhill for me. I hated that I was dropping my kids off with someone I wasn’t crazy about so that I could work a job that I hated. I really felt I had no control over my own life. I was so unhappy and it was really starting to affect my life with my family.

Finally, we discussed my quitting. I opened up a shop online before the awful job just to see where it would go, and I used it while I was employed to help relieve stress. Since quitting, I’ve been able to focus more on it. Some months I make pretty good sales, but it nowhere compares to my old income. I’m a lot happier now and it’s been easier for me to be the support my husband needs. I miss being able to eat out whenever we wanted and not having to worry so much about finances, but I don’t have the stress from the job and childcare. My husband doesn’t have to work his schedule around dropping off and picking up kids. We don’t have to stress out about snow days and one of the kid’s billionth sick day. I will be honest and say there were times that I resented my husband because I felt I was putting aside my happiness for his career. I’ve always been an optimistic, happy person, but the job I had brought out a bad side. I’m happy to be doing something for me for once. I get to work towards my goals and I get to spend quality time with my girls. Still, it’s a short term solution, and I am currently on the job hunt again. I’m hoping this time around I will find something that’s actually rewarding!

It seems with this journey, we’re going to make sacrifices no matter what, and we have to figure out which are worth making. If we really knew what we were getting ourselves into, we may not have chosen grad school. I’m happy we did though. We may not be living a comfortable life now, but I know in the long run this will be worth it, and my husband will actually be doing something he enjoys and believes is important.

As a graduate wife, what sacrifices have you had to make?


Grad Life Voices: Life is Now


“It’ll only be two more years,” said the professor’s wife, smiling. She looked so confident, her dyed-blonde hair attractively styled, clothes and jewelry perfectly coordinated. As she encouraged us that we could do it, that seminary wasn’t all that long, I tried to smile back while a voice inside my head screamed, “Two more? Not for me!” Not even a month into the school year, I already struggled to find joy in my circumstances and the speaker’s intended encouragement felt more like a bag full of rocks.

I sat with a group of first year student wives; we listened, a little wide-eyed, on comfortable couches nestled close to the expansive fireplace. Every month, the seminary women met in the administration building, an old mansion, to socialize and listen to a professor’s wife or guest speaker give a short talk. When I walked through the mansion’s huge double doors into the wood-paneled foyer, I felt as if I should be greeted by a butler who would bow slightly and say, “Right this way, Madame.” Even with no butler, the opulent surroundings dazzled me a little in contrast to our run-down little house which boasted rusty well water, a miniature oven that burned everything, and living room windows so low that you had to sit down to see outside!

Many husbands of women in the room planned to be pastors and would indeed finish school in three years. Mine, however, looked ahead to a PhD and at least five additional years in school, which sounded to my new-bride ears like an eternity. Although I still had much to learn, that day I realized that I couldn’t just count the years, the days, until school was done and, “real life” could begin. If I did, then time, a precious gift from God, would slip past unnoticed while I pitied my hardships as a student wife. No, I realized. Life is now.

I am now six years into my journey as a student wife (with at least four to go) and I would like to offer encouragement to those of you on the same journey. G. K. Chesterton wrote that “an adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered.” My husband and I often refer to our grad school life as an adventure. We could endure this time as challenge, and we might survive. Or we could choose to enjoy it and really live.

So how do we live in the now instead of straining our eyes to glimpse the future, that elusive time when our partners have a “normal” job? I’ve found that it helps me to focus on the good things about this time in graduate school instead of the difficulties. And don’t get me wrong, I fully understand that it can be tough. I too stare at the budget and wish the stipend stretched just a little further and I can feel jealous of the Latin book which often replaces me as my husband’s evening companion. And yet, this time on our grad school journey has been a wonderful time of new places and experiences. We moved from a little Mid-Western town to the Pacific Northwest, back to the Mid-West, then to the Eastern coast. In each place, and during the long moves in between, I met many interesting people and stocked my memory full of beautiful places: orcas swimming in Puget Sound, deep shaded evergreen woods, long stretches of desert studded with strange and fantastic rock formations, fields upon fields of corn and beans, peaceful bay waters stretching past seeing. All these experiences I owe to grad school.

Not only is it important to find the particular benefits of being a grad student wife, but I have found that simple gratitude helps me live in the now. This past year, I read a book by Ann Voskamp entitled One Thousand Gifts. In it she encourages readers to notice and give thanks for God’s abundant blessings in our lives. As I tried to follow her advice, the sheer number of blessings overwhelmed me. I saw God’s love as I savored morning coffee steaming in my favorite pink mug, I found it in a fog-breaking rainbow across the harbor and when I basked in a quiet golden-pink sunrise. Simply noticing and thanking God for His blessings has been perhaps the most important way for me to remain content with my current season of life.

While gratitude is the key to enjoying our time during grad school, I have also found several practical tips which help me fully live in the present. First, keep your priorities and passions alive. My husband and I place a strong priority on remaining open to children, so now outstretched arms and excited cries of “Daddy!” barrage his ears as he steps in the door, a daily reminder of life beyond the papers and lectures. Our choice to start a family, perhaps more than any other, has helped us to recognize that our life is not on hold during school. Families and situations differ but what is most important to your family should dictate your life during grad school, not the other way around.

Supporting a partner through grad school is a worthy task, but don’t let the busyness drive you to abandon your own interests. It may sound implausible to fit your own interests into a schedule already overflowing with housekeeping, child-raising and perhaps a job or homeschooling. And yet, I have found that everyone in my house benefits from a happier mama. If I stop to read a good book, or play the piano, or sew something, it helps me remember the person that I am, one that I often forget amid crying children and piles of laundry. Being a graduate student’s wife requires sacrifice, but we don’t have to play the martyr by needlessly giving up what we care about.

One of the most important ways to live your life now is to keep a strong relationship with your partner. One practice that has been very important to my husband and me during graduate school is our weekly date night. I use the word “date” rather loosely since it almost never involves leaving our house. Our actual activities may not seem that exciting to anyone else: watching Star Trek re-runs or classic movies on Netflix, reading The Lord of the Rings or Flannery O’Connor’s short stories aloud, my husband attempting to teach me chess, or just sitting on the couch to talk. Perhaps the best part of date night for me is that my husband schedules time to be with me. No books, no papers, no planner, just us. As I’m sure all of you student wives know, school work is practically endless and it is important for you and your husband to set boundaries. My husband also schedules time with our children during the week. These set aside times help keep our focus in the right place. School, however important, is just school. People come first.

Mother Teresa once said “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” We wives have great power to set the tone for our families. It is in large part up to us whether this graduate school season is miserable or fabulous. So ladies, let’s make time with our partners a priority, let’s keep our passions alive, and let’s choose gratitude. Your life is now. Let us begin.


Family · Inspiration · Marriage

Grad Life Voices: Living in the Moment


– written by Tash, a current graduate wife

I am a planner; not a meal planner – that would be helpful, but instead, a crystal ball planner. I know I want to build a family home, and although it will be years before we can finance such a project, I feel like I am already intimate with every nook and cranny of the design. I knew how our wedding would look years before our engagement, and what we would name the family dog. I’m so goal driven and outcomes based that I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the uncertainty of our current situation and feel an inner desperation to settle, to relax, and to take a breath.

My husband has been my very best friend for a very long time. He is incredibly intelligent, loyal, and loving. He is deep, intuitive and the most incredible thinker. Like most of us, if he isn’t following his passion, he is simply a shadow of himself. Our children are 3 and 5, and, quite frankly, amazing human beings. It’s so important that my children watch what my husband is going through, because, dare I say it, I believe they are wired in a very similar way. It’s so important that my significant other is at university, because he is happy and healthy and smiling!

And then there is me. I am 27. I am a Mum and a youth worker, but most critically, I am the wife of a post grad student. I say most critically because my children deserve the stability of a strong and connected Mum and Dad. Given the pressures of the grad life, I’m okay with my order of focus.

Looking back on my past plans, it seems my crystal ball lead me on a defunct path. Where I once thought I would be a stay at home mum, I actually work. With living in a small country township, and with extended family members who could have that magic time at home with their own children, I was initially resentful.

Eventually I came to an understanding about the gift of our circumstances. My young children have genuine and incredible friendships, built through their time at preschool. They have an understanding of the outside world and a light, but clear belief of the importance of societal contribution. Through the work opportunities I have had, I’ve discovered more about myself and my abilities in the last few years than ever before. My husband’s return to university has pushed me to discover who I really am, and the gifts and talents that I have to offer. Interactions and progress within my career has given me a personal confidence that positively impacts my parenting. The intensity in which we as a household live drives us to be conscious about getting quiet time out in wide open spaces. Grad Life is a gift that has allowed for self development and enriched family life.

Despite this, I still fall into patterns of fear and loss.

I’m lucky in that I know my home is ‘home’ until The Engineer finishes his PhD. But where is home base for the long term? What if I have to let go of the community I’m so attached to, of the friends and neighbours that have been behind us during such an intense time? What if my children will have to learn to let go of their real world relationships and substitute them for Skype and Facebook as they go about making new connections in another town? What if this path isn’t leading us to the security that we convince ourselves it will, and if the husband doesn’t find work that meets his emotional, social and intellectual needs?

It’s a big, scary, wide world out there.

We can plan until the cows come home, until we’ve got the future colour coded, alphabetized, and listed. Then, when plans don’t come into fruition on our time line, it can be a lonely experience, and it can hurt.

So, we have to consciously rewire our brain. We have to push against ourselves, and we have to settle. Because as morbid and as cliché as it sounds, we get to be alive today. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. What works for one may not work for another, but I highly recommend reading “The Happiness Project” by Gretchin Rubin, to help get the inspiration flowing. Listed below are some of the wee baby steps that are helping retrain the way I approach this stage of life.

I began a gratitude journal. It’s where I slow myself right down, and take note of how good I’ve actually got it. My children are healthy, my husband is healthy, and my life has purpose. Some days, it’s simply I found the energy to make my morning coffee – that’s okay too. It’d be far worse a day if you didn’t have the energy to make your morning coffee!

Photography is therapy, it simply changed my outlook on life. I by no means sing my own praises, but I am fortunate to have a camera, and a great local camera club to learn from. I have slowly become aware of natural beauty, the colours of the sky, the shapes of the clouds, and the tranquility of water. I think my children are having a hard time with our lifestyle, but then I look back at the photographic memories and realise just how much mood and attitude can mess with our outlook and opinions. It turns out my kids are having an incredible childhood, and I’ve got the images to prove it. I have amazing relationships with my children’s teachers and they reiterate the balance in our children and the stories they share. So actually, as far as parents go, we’re doing just fine.

I’ve created shrines in my house. A ‘happy place’ shrine has little mementos of time with my family, and a bunch of my favourite flowers. I walk past it and smile, regardless. A shelf in our bookcase has been dedicated to our wedding, with the photo album, a shell from the beach we had our photos, the communion cup and a few other little extras. These things remind me that I am loved.

When I finish work early, I head to the university. It means the hubby and I get to travel home together and score a few minutes down time in one another’s company. Friday nights are simply not work nights. Sure we both want his PhD, but we want our marriage more. We have a jar with about a dozen washi-taped sticks. I googled ‘in-house’ and ‘budget’ date ideas, wrote them on the sticks and the stuck them in our jar. On date night, we don’t have to think about what to do, the jar will tell us. It doesn’t have to be flashy or expensive, but it means I’m not waiting for the day I get my husband back.

I accept where I am right now, in this moment. If I’m happy, that is okay. If I’m sad, that is okay. If I don’t feel up to entertaining once a month, it is okay. I am me with my strengths, weaknesses, dreams and desires and there is nothing wrong with that – in fact, it’s perfect. There is a reason I am the way I am, no justification required. There is a roof over my head, so therefore I need to love it. This is my home, and I am blessed to have one. It’s a time consuming but incredibly rewarding project to make it the best darn home I can, spending as minimally as I can. The future house loses its lustre when it means I have to leave the one I’ve created!

I haven’t nailed it, I still struggle with the concept, but living in the moment is certainly one of the key and most meaningful lessons that is emerging throughout our journey. Rest assured that if this post resonates with you at all you’re not alone, and that supposedly, one day we’ll look back and realise just how awesome we all really are.

Graduation day will come, for our significant others, and for us.

 As a graduate wife, how do you live in the moment?


The Journey of a Year


In November/December 2012, I read several articles (many sent to me by various friends, others randomly) about rest/self-care/sabbaticals. By the 4th or 5th article in, I remember thinking that this was too coincidental. I started thinking about the concept of rest, and how it could be incorporated into this crazy graduate life we were living. Everyone that knows me knows that being still is not my forte. I like to make lists. I like to check things off said lists. I like to be busy. I like Excel. I like to be challenged. I like to be around people. I like to work on lots of projects. I like to read books. Translation: I. Never. Stop.

In that late December, the dots finally connected. A friend of mine from Florida posted on Facebook information about this site: My One Word, then asked her friends what their one word would be for 2013. I started to read through the comments, and 56 comments later, I realized what my word should be.

For those of you that don’t know about this site, here’s the basic cliff notes:

If you’re like most people, each January goes something like this: You choose a problematic behavior that has plagued you for years and vow to reverse it. In fact, you can probably think of two or three undesirable habits—make that four or five.

Thus begins the litany of imperfections to be perfected commonly known as “New Year’s Resolutions.” All of which are typically off your radar by February.

“My One Word” is an experiment designed to move you beyond this cycle. The challenge is simple: lose the long list of changes you want to make this year and instead pick ONE WORD.

This process provides clarity by taking all your big plans for life change and narrowing them down into a single focus. Just one word that centers on your character and creates a vision for your future. So, we invite you to join us and pick one word for the next twelve months. 

It should be noted that I’m not really into New Year’s resolutions. I loved (and still do) to set outlandish goals or targets that I was more than certain could not be reached in one year. It was (and still is!) fun to look back to see if I actually achieved any of them.

But the concept of one word to describe my year? I loved this idea. I loved that literally one word would and could define not only a year of my life, but also the activities I was involved in, bringing focus and clarity to whatever season I was living.

It would make the things I said ‘yes’ to much sweeter, and the things I said ‘no’ to much easier to let go.

I spent a lot of time over that Christmas break doing a lot of reflection on 2012; what it meant for me emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Even though the year ended on a good note, the only word I can use to describe that year was ‘loss’. As I came up on the first anniversaries of my Mom’s cancer diagnosis and my miscarriage, I felt like I entered another season of mourning, although it was not the raw, gaping wound that it was the previous year. I knew that it was part of the grieving process – c’mon now, I was a psych major in college- but I also knew, if I’m honest, I had not allowed myself time to completely heal- this is strictly in the emotional/spiritual sense – because that would call for me to Rest. And since I don’t sit still very well, any kind of healing would be difficult.

So, I dubbed 2013 a year of Rest for me. I had absolutely no idea what it would look like, as it was a definition in progress, but knew it would not involve me lying around all the time on a couch eating chocolate and drinking wine, even though that was a terrific thought. :) It had to be something more uniquely attuned to my personality and the way God designed me.

The very first two things I did identify that needed to be answered:

1. I had to ask myself why I was so afraid to be still and silent. I knew only I could answer that question.

My answer? Staying busy was an avoidance therapy, a place I visited when I didn’t want to address potential emotional issues in front of me. When I realized that, full healing could begin.

2. Could I do this alone? No, I could not.

I decided then to email some friends for help. I sent the email to 30 friends and family members, and asked them to keep me accountable. That might seem excessive to some, but I was intentional about who I asked. I selfishly chose friends that lived in Oxford and Orlando who were part of my graduate journey; friends and mentors from previous cities and walks of life; family that was far away. I asked them to partner with me as I began, asking for prayer (or good thoughts and wishes if prayer wasn’t their thing) so that all my decisions for that year would be clear and focused, completely surrounding the word Rest. I also gave them permission to ask me at any time if I was resting, knowing full well I would and could easily slip back into my busy ways.

I did ask one thing of them – to send me their word for that coming year. It allowed me to reciprocate in both prayers and good wishes, and asking them the same question.

I had no idea who would participate, or if everyone would think I was a rambling idiot, but their responses were astonishing. These are some of the many words I received:










I saved them all in an excel spreadsheet, and agreed to journey with them over the coming year, as they lived their words.

So, what happened?

This one word journey was a definite life-changer for me. I think my friends would say the same thing. It is something I intend to do every year going forward. As I sit in early January 2014, reflecting on 2013, I’m grateful I put aside time to Rest last year. In an ironic twist, it ended up being the busiest year we’ve ever had in the graduate journey. We went through a myriad of changes that I didn’t know we would be going through as we headed into 2013: new jobs in a new city, new house, new nursery school for our son, new community, new church, new everything! I think if I hadn’t given myself that space to heal, I wouldn’t have been emotionally or spiritually ready for those changes.

This past year also gave me the space to dream again. It’s amazing what happens when you sit still. I didn’t realize the constant busyness was stifling my creativity. I said no to a lot of things (but not all) that I would have loved to do. My friends were very respectful of my ‘no’ decisions, which I appreciated immensely.

I also learned to accept where I was in life. My good friend, Betsy, always quoted Theodore Roosevelt’s famous quip – “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Let’s be honest, graduate life can kick you when you’re down, and I was spending far too much time being jealous and wishing my life were better like so-and-so, and not living in the present moment that I’d been given. When I started to accept that this was my current season of life, I found joy and peace in the midst of my designated rest. That was a bonus.

My word for 2014? Hope. I love the definition of hope: state which promotes the desire of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one’s life or in the world at large.

I have so many hopes and dreams for myself, and for my family as we’ve entered into a new season of life. I am relishing in the hope of seeing those dreams (all or some) fulfilled this year.

What would your word be for 2014?

Maybe you’re in the middle of graduate life. Maybe you’re at the end of graduate life and starting a new season, like me. Or, maybe you’re just at the beginning. Wherever you are, I challenge you to pick a word to shape your year. Maybe your word is perseverance, as you trawl through another graduate year. Maybe your word is community, as you seek to bond with others around you. Maybe your word is peace. Whatever you choose, live it for the next year. And if you feel like sharing your word for 2014, please put in the comments below, as we’d love to see what you word would be!

From my heart to yours,


Inspiration · Marriage

REPOST: Pockets of Time

-written by Keeley, a current graduate wife

It was Valentine’s Day of the first year in our marriage, and we were living in Cambridge, Mass. in a little apartment halfway between Harvard and Central Square. I was scheduled to work the closing shift at Au Bon Pain, a bakery chain that’s very popular in the Northeast. Instead of having a fancy dinner, I decided we’d do a special lunch before I went in to work, composed of meatloaf, green beans, and mashed potatoes (incidentally, the supper my mom fixed on my husband’s first visit to our home while we were dating). It wasn’t until the phone was ringing did I realize how silly I was being, calling my mom at 7:30 in the morning to ask her how to make a meatloaf. It was one of those dinners I had made about four times growing up, on those nights when my mom was coming in late from work and I had to pinch-hit, so I couldn’t remember the details but could have sworn it took 3 to 4 hours to cook. Fortunately for me, she was awake, she is ready any moment of the day to share how to make a meatloaf, and it doesn’t take nearly that long! We will never forget the Valentine’s Day morning we spent watching a movie and enjoying our home-cooked lunch before walking to work through a snowstorm.

That Valentine’s Day, and that year, will always be special to my husband and me, partly because it was our first year of marriage, but partly because we made such an effort to spend pockets of time together whenever we could. Finding these pockets is a skill which only grows more valuable as time passes and a temptation to take one another for granted subtly sets in, particularly once children arrive, so I’ve heard. I remember our Monday afternoons, especially. I had work at Au Bon Pain from 7 a.m.-3 p.m., and Jason had work at City Sports, about a block away, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. We decided to meet in the middle and spend the hour together, sitting on the grass and enjoying the occasional treat I was able to mooch from work, sometimes a scone or a “practice” sandwich I had learned to make out of the extensive lunch menu. We were creative and resourceful about our time, because for whatever reason, we felt compelled to make the most of every moment.

Our rhythm has lost some of the urgency of that first year–we’ve moved and are now in the fourth year of Jason’s PhD program and have settled into something of a routine. But I am grateful for the habits that we formed so early, particularly sharing meals together. Breakfast, dinner, and the occasional lunch will find us at the little round wooden table we found at Target the summer we were married, one or both of our cats looking on curiously. We both are great appreciators of food anyway, but it’s also a time when we are completely focused on the conversation between us, looking directly at one another as opposed to having a computer or two in the way, as is so often the case!

My work schedule is odd because I work retail, so my day off is Monday. Just this week, we packed a simple picnic lunch and found a new hiking trail that led to a small pond, where we enjoyed skipping stones and looking for frogs. I haven’t had regular Saturdays off since we first moved to Massachusetts six years ago, but it’s fun being able to have a special outing on an otherwise nondescript Monday. Because Jason is at the writing stage in his program, every day is pretty much the same–full of writing with a few breaks!

Another tradition we have is to take a day trip sometime around our anniversary. This doesn’t have to be expensive, although it will of course depend on where you live. We’ve enjoyed getting away and seeing some of the sights around where we have lived, whether it’s to the mountains or the beach, or to Amish country. A few times we’ve saved up and stayed in a bed & breakfast, but other years we’ve just taken a day off to spend together in a different setting.

One thing that I hope we never forget is the reality that we will always be busy. We will always (hopefully!) have work to do, other friendships and relationships to pursue, and chores to get done. But for us, finding a moment here and a moment there has made our marriage a lot stronger than I think it would otherwise be, and has made us a family, operating with a sense of unity and a mutual rhythm in how we live our days. I am grateful for a husband who values this as much as I do, and pray that we will continue to find ways to take advantage of these pockets of time as we grow and pass through the seasons to come in our life together.

What are some creative ways that you make the most of the time you have with your spouse? Do you have any weekly/monthly/yearly traditions that you feel have especially enriched your marriage?