Summer in the City of God

Yesterday I received the textbook for my summer class. 1,200 pages, friends. And I will be reading every word.

So if you happen to find me missing sometime between mid-June and the end of July, you’ll know why.

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It’s Been A Month Already??

Well, I’m sorry. That month just flew by! I knew I had been slacking, but a whole month?

I guess The Unhurried Chase is due for an update! Here’s what I’ve been up to:

I finished my semester! Phew. I wrote my final paper on Pacifism, particularly the thoughts of Thomas Merton — a Catholic monk who lived in Kentucky. He believed that the Just War, while in line with biblical teaching and Catholic tradition, was out-dated and impossible with the advent of nuclear weapons. It was an interesting paper, and I found myself leaning closer to pacifism than I expected.

We are working on potty training! Yikes. It’s been about two weeks, and there have been moments of great triumph and days of discouragement. Let’s just say we’ve done loads of laundry every day for these weeks. She was doing wonderfully before the long weekend, but long days of graduation, wedding, visiting grandparents, strange sleep schedules, etc. just really threw us off the groove! But back at it this week.

Summer is here! We got a wading pool for our sweet girl, and she loves it. And just being outside in general. I planted a garden! I’ve been raising little baby tomatoes and peppers in our window for weeks, and it feels so good to plop them in the ground. I have my fingers crossed for them — we’ve typically had really bad luck with a garden because we have a very shady yard and a black walnut tree. But this year I’m determined. Maybe I’ll show you some pictures — gardening has been quite the creative process this year.

I’ve been reading — so much! Two weeks ago I finished Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (audio). Last week I finished No Little Women by Aimee Byrd. This week I finished Out of a Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (audio). I’ve also started the graphic novel The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, by Sydney Padua, and I’m also listening to The Light Between Oceans. I’m nearly half-way finished with my Challies challenge (woohoo!), and I think I may be over half-way on my Goodreads goal. I really needed to get ahead during break — who knows what these few months will hold!

I called the exterminator. I think we have mice (but not in our food, thankfully!).

I found a new favorite bread recipe: Cranberry Pecan Rye Bread. I skip the caraway, and it is amazing. My daughter doesn’t like it, but we aren’t complaining!

What’s Next?

My summer class begins in two weeks, as I mentioned before. I’m eager to dive in because it’s an entire class devoted to Augustine’s City of God, but to be honest, I’m a bit nervous because the summer semester is pretty intense. Also, I really love break.

As far as extra-curricular reading, next up after my current books is Understood Betsy. I’ve heard it’s excellent.

So there’s the update. I hope that I’ll be able to get back into a regular rhythm here soon. Thanks for your patience!

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Extra-Curricular Learning

As some may know, I’m currently working on an MA in Catholic Studies. Yes, I’m a Protestant. Not Roman Catholic. I was the only non-Catholic in the program for more than a year. It has been really good, and difficult at points. And it has made me profoundly grateful for the Reformation.

In undergrad, I took a class entitled Renaissance & Reformation that was really helpful. But now, quite a number of years later, I’ve been really feeling an itch to learn about the Reformation in more depth.

I’ve talked before about my love for podcasts (I think), but something I haven’t mentioned before is iTunes U. Have you heard of it? I’ve used it several times, for a class on Irish history before my trip to Ireland, and for a medieval church history when I was struggling with some of the Catholic portrayals of history I encountered during my first semester in grad school.

I’ve particularly enjoyed these two classes that I’ve listened in on from Carl Trueman, faculty at Westminster Theological Seminary.

[Sidenote: My one complaint is the sound quality is not always top notch (and is sometimes really bad). I struggled more with it in The Medieval Church, but it has not been an issue so far in the four lectures on The Reformation that i’ve listened to.]

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5 Favorites

We are nearing the end of the spring semester. Finally. Working on homework and a final paper means that blogging is taking even more of a back burner than normal. So to get us by, here’s a list of some of my favorite books from childhood. I cannot for the life of me pick favorites, so assume that these are listed only according to the order in which I remembered them. Not all of them are “all-time favorites,” but they are books that I returned to time and time again throughout my late elementary and junior-high years. And sometimes even now.

  • The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy. The story of the power of love, and a daring Englishman who puts everything on the line to rescue French aristos from the jaws of the guillotine.
  • Mara, Daughter of the Nile, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. This book is unlikely to be historically accurate, but is a captivating and so exciting book about spies and intrigue (and love!) in the house of the pharaoh.
  • The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. You all know about it already. I’m always proud to divulge that I read it because I found it in our library (no one in our family had ever read it), and fell head over heels in love with Middle Earth entirely without the help of recommendations or movies.
  • Prince Caspian, by C.S. LewisAll of the Narnia books, but this was my favorite when I was young. I may have had a small crush on Caspian.
  • Touchmark, by Mildred LawrenceI’m not sure what made me think of this book just now, but I remember it as the beginning of my enjoyment of Revolution-era history. An orphaned girl interested in a career path that was never open to women, swept into the secret revolutionary movement. It’s been years since I picked it up. I think it’s due for a re-read.

Let me know if you’ve read these, or what books might be on your list!

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Things No One Told Me: Adult Friendship

I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up. But when I moved to college, I finally felt like all of the pieces were in place to develop real friendships. Proximity made getting to know people pretty easy, and I had more genuine friendships than I had ever had in mere weeks after moving into my dorm. They meant the world to me (and still do, actually!).

And then I graduated from college and my closest friends moved away. It was hard. Most of the people my age at my church had been involved in our college ministry, which meant that we had sort of tried to be friends and given up years ago.

Working as the only single female in a workplace made up almost entirely of complementarian, married men who seemed to mostly follow the now-famous “Billy Graham rule” also made friendship difficult. Needless to say, friendship was slow in coming. I thought it would be easier after I got married, but it turns out that marriage doesn’t cure all of your relationship woes (who knew??).

As newlyweds, we had lots of acquaintances, a few baby friendships, and very few come-over-and-watch-TV-with-us friends. It’s amazing how much you miss the lazy Saturdays of college dorms with all of the back-and-forth visiting, and spontaneous outings. Outside of college, you have to work to make friends and plan activities with friends ahead of time because  your best friends don’t live with you or down the hall.

In my grad school class this semester, my professor mentioned that working “full-time” means that you use all of the time you have available outside of helping your family to function and thrive, to work. That feels real to me. With a full time job and real life responsibilities, friendship takes more effort, motivation, and time than I ever realized. It can be hard. And lonely.

It is possible, though, to make friends. And it’s worth it. I think we’re finally on the up-swing of what has felt like a long year. It took several years to build solid friendships, and it has been hard this year to watch many of our good friends moved away. Here are some things I’ve been learning about making friends as an adult:

  • Plan and persevere. We’re in a particularly busy season, parenting a toddler while both of us are in grad school. We have felt lonely this last year, but it has been difficult to use even the dregs of our energy to invite new people into our lives. We have needed to get better at planning ahead and getting out of our comfort zone to build friendships.
  • Join the club. It is rare to make good friends quickly, as an adult. Maybe some people can do it, but most people find it hard. It didn’t take long for us to figure out that our few friends who didn’t move away were feeling like we were. So we started a small group with them for people like us: busy people without time for a lot of extra responsibility, but who need a place to intentionally study God’s word and build new relationships with peers. It has been a great blessing to have a few new friends to focus our limited energy on.
  • Every minute counts. I’ve been learning, or trying, to initiate openness in a healthy way. When time is short, it is easy to let relationships stay in the awkward small-talk phase. Realizing that most people hate small talk has helped me take steps toward having real conversations in even those small moments. I’m trying to learn to ask and answer questions in a way that feels like “relationship building” even in short conversations. In other words, I’m trying to just get to the point instead of wasting precious moments in small talk.

Life is full of transitions, I’m learning. Stability rarely lasts more than a few years: jobs change, friends move, families grow and change. Life just happens, whether you’re ready for it or not. It’s a reminder that we, too, are not permanent. Even the longest friendships on earth are but a breath. The good news is that “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). Is that a comfort to you? I want it to be a comfort to me when I’m feeling lonely. In the comings and goings of precious and dear friends, we can remember two things:

  1. Jesus will never leave you or forsake you, if you are his. He made us for community, but when we inevitably feel lonely, it is a comfort to know that we are truly never alone. Jesus spent 40 days in the desert alone. Before the crucifixion, every single one of Jesus’s friends let him down in a major way. He is the best person to understand our loneliness, and he loves to care for us in our pain. We can cast all our cares on him.
  2. If our distant friends are in Christ, we will never be permanently separated from them. Moves across the country and around the globe will only mean a delay before we spend an eternity with them in heaven. Now that’s something to look forward to.

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Review: The Skies Belong To Us

Reality TV. Everyone mocks it, but there’s no denying how easy it is to get reeled in if you give it a chance. During my high-school years I watched my fair share of Survivor, American Idol, and even The Bachelor. And Dateline, which I know claims to be news, but seriously. Who watches it for the purpose of gathering information? We watch it for the scandal, the drama, the crime.

I don’t watch reality TV anymore, (except for The Great British Bake-Off, which I need, of course). Mostly, I just have other things to do with my time. But I still get my dose of real-life drama through reading. I love thrilling books. And historical crime books combine my love of a good thrill and my love for history. One of my all-time favorite books is Public Enemies by Bryan Burrough. And The Devil In the White City was also great (even if it was a bit gruesome at points). In the same vein, I recently listened to The Skies Belong To UsLove and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking, by Brendan Koerner.

Koerner writes of the five-year period of time when plane hijackings occurred as often as once a week. He follows the story of Roger Holder, a veteran of Vietnam, and Cathy Kerkow, who planned the longest-distance hijacking in U.S. history. With their story as the unifying narrative, Koerner peppers the book with countless other stories of hijackings to give a larger picture of the history of hijacking and the slow progression of the airlines and FAA toward instituting airport security.

Some people will find the many stories of hijackings repetitive, but I enjoyed them immensely. They were, honestly, hilarious. I remember an old TV show called “America’s Dumbest Criminals,” and truly, many of these hijackers belong in that category.  For example, one hijacker’s demand included not only a parachute by which to make his escape with the ransom money, but also an instructor’s manual on how to skydive. Destined for success, that man.

I don’t like to give away too much about the books I review, so I won’t say very much about the actually story in the book. But I can say a few things:

  • The characters are fascinating. Cathy and George, primarily, but the other, minor characters, are also really interesting people of their time — political leaders, other hijackers, roommates, family members, etc. I liked learning about them.
  • I learned some things about the history of airlines and the FAA that I didn’t know. Just small nuggets that help me make a little more sense of airports. It’s a pretty minor part of the book, but I thought it was interesting.
  • Cuba! I had no idea that Vietnam war protestors defected to Cuba. I enjoyed learning about the relationship between the two, and also the places where wanted criminals could take refuge. And Castro’s reaction to receiving hijackers.
  • I learned a little about the international reach of the Black Panthers, and their exiled leaders.

I think, though, that what this book does best, even if accidentally, is give a clear picture of how so many social issues are interconnected. In this one story, this one snapshot, so to speak, readers see how issues like race, mental illness, war, national politics, international relations, and corporate greed played into this one episode of American history.

The Skies Belong to Us may not be for everyone. I really enjoyed it, but not everyone in my book club found it as interesting. It takes quite some time to tell one rather short story, but remember: the goal isn’t necessarily to just tell that one story, but to give a picture of that period of history. I listened to it, so that may have helped me stay engaged — I’m not sure if the stories of other hijackings would have seemed repetitive if I had been reading a hard copy.

That said, I think you will enjoy this book if you are an adult who likes crime and adventure, Vietnam-era or flight history, and is used to reading non-fiction.

[Note: There are references to sex, nudity, and drugs, but it is not excessively graphic and Koerner does not condone drug use or extra-marital sex in the book.]

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For the Beauty of the Earth

We have seen some difficult things this week. With the losses I mentioned in an earlier post on my mind and the additional grief over the chemical attack in Syria and the news that today will bring news of the life or death of a young mom who is battling two severe illnesses at the same time, I have felt myself being tempted to despair. When I think of the world that my daughter will grow up in, I worry. What if the world we know collapses and before long our daughters and sons who are being gassed in their homes? Yesterday I told God out loud “Okay, this isn’t fun anymore. Jesus, you can come back now.”

But we aren’t forgotten. God knows what is going on down here, and Christ’s return will be perfectly timed. We will all agree, when we see it. So for now, we wait. In agony, sometimes, but always in hope. Hopefully.

This morning, as I felt myself slipping into the bog of despair, I was thinking through ways to combat my worry and anxiety. Pat phrases have no effect on me, and even sturdy Christian truths sometimes are not enough to bring me out of my slide. What helped me this morning was an unexpected song: For the Beauty of the Earth. A song of thankfulness. What I needed most was to have my attention drawn to the wonderful things we have hear on earth. Amidst the pain and problems of this world, there is beauty all around us. What a gift! Even when everything is going wrong, we have so much to be thankful for. I needed to hear that this morning. Maybe you do too.

1. For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

2. For the beauty of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale, and tree and flower,
sun and moon, and stars of light;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

3. For the joy of ear and eye,
for the heart and mind’s delight,
for the mystic harmony,
linking sense to sound and sight;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

4. For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

5. For thy church, that evermore
lifteth holy hands above,
offering up on every shore
her pure sacrifice of love;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

6. For thyself, best Gift Divine,
to the world so freely given,
for that great, great love of thine,
peace on earth, and joy in heaven:
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

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