Monday's Food for Thought

Monday’s Food for Thought: Your Story

“If we don’t harness the stories we know and have, others will come in and wallpaper their own into our culture.”

 – Bobette Buster

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the stories of The Graduate Wife. We’ve been able to share some amazing stories with our readers: stories of hope, hardship, moving, family, love, and sacrifice; inspiring and encouraging stories that keep our readers continuing their own journeys.

As I think back on my own graduate journey, with its twists and turns, I’m thankful I had people around encouraging me to write my story down. I will admit I hate journaling, and often view it as a chore rather than a reflective exercise. However, I can say that when I have taken the time to journal, it’s been great. It’s meant much more to me in the long run, after walking through periods of celebration and difficulty, to be able to look back at the map of my life and say with the mark of an x, “I was there.”

That’s why this blog has been so helpful for me. Even though it was started at the end of my time as a current graduate wife, I have been so encouraged to hear the courageous stories of those who walked ahead of me, and those who walk behind me. The many joys, shared experiences, and adventures of the graduate life have been documented for us to read and learn from. How lucky are we?

If you don’t like to journal, I totally understand. I could probably out pace you in excuses given for not sitting down to write. But in answer to that, I say this: The only person living your story is you. If you don’t take the time to share it, it will be lost. Use your story to encourage and inspire others.

…And, when you’ve started writing, be willing to share it with us. I know our lives will be better because of it.


Monday's Food for Thought

Monday’s Food for Thought: Everyone has a Story

So you are standing in the massive line at Tescos, ready to check out, watching the clock to make sure you catch the bus on time, and your toddler starts to whine a little.  Maybe it gets a bit louder…and it becomes more than a whine…it turns into a full on cry.  You try to comfort, give in to temptation and try to bribe them…nothing is working.  You are exhausted in a hurry and have your hands full.  You just take a deep breath and try to make it through to the checkout.  The man behind you starts sneering.  He sneers some more and then it turns into criticism of your parenting.  He is grumpy, old, up tight and he has nothing better to do than to be angry at you for something you really can’t control.  Seriously…did he ever have kids?  Doesn’t he have anything more important to fret about?

Does any of the above scenario sound familiar?

In moments like this I find it easy for my anger to start building… especially in the heat of the moment when the man is getting grumpier and I start getting more annoyed.  However, over the past year or so I have started understanding something really important.  Something that is incredibly hard and something that involves stepping outside of oneself and really trying to ‘give the benefit of the doubt’ to another.

I came across this video recently and it really spoke to me.  Everyone has a story.  Everyone of us has a past and everyone of us has been shaped and molded by it.  We can never assume we know it in all about someone by a brief encounter…or even if we’ve known that someone for many years.

I hope this leaves you with much food for thought this Christmas season.  It’s a busy time of travel, hurry and family.  If you are stuck next to a grumpy gills on the plane, or are having a hard time relating to a difficult family member…. remember that everyone has a story, we just have to take the time to read it (or at least recognize it).



Monday's Food for Thought

Monday’s Food for Thought: Reading Between the Lines

The below piece featured on Monday’s Food for Thought, comes from an online Christian journal, RZIM.  Although it is a blatantly religious piece, the words of truth it shares about biographies, are a crucial part of why exists.  To journey with each other and to discover that “the afflictions we find wearing are given meaning in the (biographical) stories of ones who have overcome much.”  Life is indeed too short for us to journey alone.

Reading Between the Lines

by Jill Carattini

On any given week, three to five biographies make The New York Times best-sellers list for non-fiction.  Though historical biographies have changed with time, human interest in the genre is long-standing.  The first known biographies were commissioned by ancient rulers to assure records of their accomplishments.  The Old Testament Scriptures, detailing the lives of patriarchs, prophets, and kings, are also some of the earliest biographies in existence.  Throughout the Middle Ages, biographical histories were largely in the hands of monks; lives of martyrs and church fathers were recorded with the intention of edifying readers for years to come.  Over time and with the invention of the printing press, biographies became increasingly influential and widely read, portraying a larger array of lives and their stories.

The popularity of the genre is understandable.  As Thomas Carlyle writes,

“Biography is the most universally pleasant and profitable of all reading.”  Such books are pleasant because in reading the accounts of men and women in history, we find ourselves living in many places; they are profitable because in doing so, we hear fragments of our own stories. The questions and thoughts we considered our own suddenly appear before us in the life of another.  The afflictions we find wearying are given meaning in the story of one who overcame much or the life of one who found hope in the midst of loss.  Perhaps we move toward biography because we seem to know that life is too short to learn only by our own experience.”

As a Christian, I am called to move similarly.  The most direct attempt in Scripture to define faith is done so by the writer of Hebrews.  The eleventh chapter begins, “Now faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see” (11:1).  To be honest, it is a definition that has always somewhat eluded me, and I was thankful to read I am notalone. John Wesley once observed of the same words, “There appears to be a depth in them, which I am in no wise able to fathom.”  Perhaps recognizing the weight and mystery of faith and the difficulty of defining it, the writer of Hebrews immediately moves from this definition to descriptions of men and women who have lived “sure of hope” and “certain of the unseen.”  From Noah and Abraham, to Rahab and saints left unnamed, we find faith moving across the pages of history, the gift of God sparkling in the eyes of the faithful, the hope by which countless lives were guided.  In this brief gathering of biographies, the writer seems to tell us that faith is understood functionally as much as philosophically, and that our own faith is more fully understood by looking at the lives of the faithful.  For in between the lines that describe faithful men and women is the God who makes faith possible in the first place.

At the end of his compelling list, the writer of Hebrews concludes: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (12:1). The lives of those who followed Christ before us urge us onward, strengthening our hearts with stories of faith, stirring our minds at the thought of God’s enduring influence, reminding us that God moves in our biographies and yet beyond them.

Jill Carattini is senior associate writer at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

Inspiration · Moving · Patience · Roles · Sacrifice · Trust · Vocation/Gifts/Calling

Pilgrim Call

Written by Judy – a former graduate wife

Today I open the book of readings my husband gave me over 26 years ago—before we were married—and the author’s dedication reminds me of who I am: ‘For every pilgrim who yearns for God’

I am a pilgrim, though an unlikely one. When I was growing up, my family rarely traveled. We lived in the same house since I was four years old and the furthest we traveled was to a nearby campground for our vacations. We did not suffer from wanderlust.

So I think it came as a surprise to all of us when, at the age of seventeen, I became convinced that I was meant to go away from home for university. Far away. Three thousand miles away. And though I have been back for visits, and even married a man from the same state, I have never lived there again. In fact, I have never lived again in any of the nine cities (in three different countries) in which we have lived since getting married.

I could say I blame my husband for my vagabond state. He was a graduate student when I met him, and three graduate degrees and a job in academia later, all of our moves have been related to his career. But it wouldn’t be true to say that it is his fault. I knew before I met him that I was not called to stay in one place; I was called to ‘go’.

One of my favorite passages in the bible comes from Psalm 84. I can still remember reading it, before I had ever met my husband, and knowing that there was a message there for me: ‘Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage…They go from strength to strength…’ The Cambridge dictionary defines a pilgrim as ‘a person who makes a journey, which is often long and difficult, to a special place for religious reasons.’ I have made a journey, which has been long and sometimes difficult (and often amazing), to many special places because that is what I believe God has called me to do. I have set my heart on pilgrimage.

I say this, not because I think I am special—I believe we are all called by God to an amazing journey with Him—but because I think that unless you have a sense of calling, it is impossible to live the life of ‘sacrificial support’ that is the life of the wife of a graduate student.

I love that term, ‘sacrificial support’. I think it precisely embodies what it means to be the spouse of a graduate student. Because providing the support that a person who is pursuing a graduate degree needs does require sacrifice, often on a comprehensive scale: sacrifice in terms of career, income, children, family, home-making, personal pursuits, even attention and affection. It is not for the faint (or the selfish) of heart. And while in the early stages love for our spouse and a love of adventure may propel us along, there comes a day when the newness wears off and we begin to feel neglected and unappreciated and we wonder, ‘Is this what I signed up for?’ It’s then that we have the chance to truly understand the sacrificial part of the equation; it’s then that we have the chance to dig deep to find what we didn’t know we had.

Or not. I’ve seen graduate marriages fail, and others take a severe beating. This can be a very difficult road to travel. And while I don’t believe there is a formula for success, I do believe that it is essential to have a shared sense of call and vision, something larger than merely what this means to the interests and career path of the one who is studying, and something larger than the attitude ‘I’m letting you have your turn now so that I can have my turn later.’ There is no 50/50 in marriage. There is give and take; there is negotiation; but always there is sacrifice—on both parts, because that is what love is about.

So here I am, twenty-six years of marriage, fourteen moves of house and three (mostly) grown children later, looking back at the beginning of this adventure in ‘sacrificial support’. I had no idea what I was in for and it has not turned out anything like I’d expected. And I’m sure the adventure is not over. There have been wonderful experiences too numerous to count, and there have been difficulties I couldn’t have managed if I had not believed that this was all part of a bigger plan, part of a pilgrim call.

So I am very thankful for my pilgrim heart. I think it has helped me negotiate this sometimes difficult road. It has helped me to keep the big picture in view—that we are on a journey and that each stop along the way is just that, a stop; it is not the final destination. It is not the point at which I can say, ‘Well, that’s over. Now I can begin my life.’ Life is in the journey.

Words from a Michael Card song that I love:

There is a joy in the journey,
there’s a light we can love on the way.
There is a wonder and wildness to life,
and freedom for those who obey.

May we all experience joy in the journey; May we all experience the wonder and wildness of life and the freedom that comes from following our call.

As a graduate wife, did you ever feel ‘called’ to begin this graduate journey with your husband?  If so, how has that ‘call’ helped with your transition into this season of life? 

Children · Faith · Moving · Patience · Sacrifice

Little House on the…

Written by Michelle – a former graduate wife

Baths are done, pajamas are on, and teeth are brushed, so our boys cuddle up on our laps to listen to a chapter of a bedtime story.  Right now, we are starting the third book in the Little House series.  During last night’s reading, our eldest son realized that the little girl named Laura in the story is actually Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author.  We thought about the fact that our six-year-old son, who has moved five times and lived in four countries, probably already has enough material to create his own series.  My husband and I laughed as we suggested possible titles for each book in our own Little House series, a series that begins with my first year as a graduate wife.  Here are the titles we came up with and descriptions supplied afterward by me:

Little House on the Golf Course                                                                                                    Naperville, IL

A young married couple discovers that God has His own surprising plans as they face an unexpected pregnancy and Dad not getting into ay doctoral schools.  Will their brand new marriage survive the shock and loud pelting of golf balls on the windows?

Little Town near the Big City                                                                                                                     Glen Ellyn, IL

This year Dad is accepted to doctoral schools, but which will he choose? He must decide between attending an American university (fully funded) or following God’s leading to schools that have little funding and are an ocean away from family and friends.

By the Shores of the Sea                                                                                                                                    St. Andrews, Scotland

This year finds the family in a community of new friends in the wild, rugged beauty of Scotland.  Dad begins his doctorate, but just as they are settling in, unanticipated news makes it clear that another move is on the horizon. 

Two Rooms of Damp and Mold                                                                                                               Oxford, England

Did Mom and Dad make a mistake in bringing their family to Oxford for Dad’s studies?  Dad is exquisitely happy wearing flowing black robes at the University, but their housing situation is so difficult Mom is not sure she can manage.  During Mom’s second pregnancy doctors are convinced that something is wrong, yet she feels that the baby is healthy.  When the baby is ready to be born, the midwife, the doula, nor the paramedics arrive in time.   Will they welcome another member into their family safely?

On the Banks of the Rhine                                                                                                                          Bonn, Germany

With two healthy boys, the family settles into a new home in another new country.  The eldest son works hard to learn enough German to participate in school.  Mom finds her way through a new city on public transportation in German with two little ones.  She struggles to know how to support her eldest son who is floundering amidst all the transitions.  Dad finishes his doctorate, finds work at the university, and spends many months applying to jobs.  Uncertainty about the future weighs heavily upon them all . . . .

Little House by Donnington Bridge                                                                                                         Oxford, England

After holding their breaths through over 50 applications, the whole family rejoices when Dad receives a post-doc in Oxford.  Three years in one place!  What a tremendously gracious gift.  During this time of stability, Mom and Dad hope to thoughtfully and purposefully prepare for whatever God has next for them.

Coming soon . . .

Little House in South America                                                                                                                  exact location TBA

Dad begins work as a missionary scholar and Mom and the boys enjoy their own set of new adventures. 

As you can see from this description of our travels, chasing this dream of my husband’s doctorate has not been straightforward.  We have spent a lot of time agonizing about the future with questions like these plaguing us:

–      Will we ever find real community?

–      How will we get our visas extended while we wait to hear about job applications?

–      Where is the money going to come from for tuition . . . rent . . . food?

–      What will we do if after this degree my husband cannot find any job?

And equally heart-wrenching are our children’s questions:

–      Will I spend my next birthday in this country or a new one?

–      Will I get to keep my best friend or do I have to meet a new best friend next year?

–      Will we ever live near our grandmas and grandpas?

Over the course of my time as a graduate wife, I have learned to hold my plans for our family very loosely. I have tried to stop myself from thinking that I am entitled to have advance notice about what will happen next.  Sometimes when I pray, I try to visualize placing the things that I am gripping with white knuckles (like my desire for my sons to have stability and security) into God’s ready and open hands.  I have to remind myself again and again that my fierce, protective love for my sons cannot compare to the strength of God’s love for them.

I am learning that life is made of up of small moments, and that if I spend my time just waiting for the next phase to come, I run the risk of missing something in store for me in the here and now.  I just started reading a book recommended by a friend called One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.  That is my prayer for each of us graduate wives: that amidst all the uncertainty we face, we could embrace the change and live fully right where we are.

If you had to come up with a title for your graduate wife adventure, what would it be and why?  What would be the theme of your story?