Doing the ‘D’

 One of my favorite pictures of me and my 7 kids!  We did 4 museums and much more in a day in DC. 

The expressions and comments as I have told people I am working on my doctorate have been astounding.  Some place me on the pillar of ultra-super-Mom (the maternal equivalent of a triathalon finisher).  Others shake their head in disbelief simply confounded that anyone would WANT to study this long for another degree.  And then others have been outright critical, “How can you ever leave your children?”  “It is wrong of you to put Todd under this pressure.”  In other words. . . you are a bad mother and wife if you pursue this.

Few stop to engage me and to find out my story–how God opened the door and keeps nudging me through.  It started with a chapel message I gave at the AWM–Akademie fuer Weltmission.  Afterwards, a staff member approached me and challenged me to consider joining their new doctoral program–a Doctor of Education in International Theological Education.  I told them it was crazy while I was rocking my 6th child, a 6 week old newborn.  But, Todd and I prayed and God answered.  I applied for a grant from Sweden and very surprisingly got it.  Todd took vacation for my first class and everything went very well.  Then a few months later, we moved to Germany, now only a train ride rather than a flight from my home.  And best of all, our new mission changed their name and focus right after we joined them–to education.  Suddenly, I had not only support from Todd, but also from our mission.  They were excited that I was doing this degree and even allowed Todd the freedom to be at home when I was gone studying.  My grant ran out in August 2012, but I just news that Sweden is still going to give me the grant–possibly through the rest of my courses.

I will start my dissertation this January.  I am hoping to be done by June 2015, but am also holding this lightly.  I don’t know what will come or happen.  This degree is done out of obedience and I will keep pursuing it as long as God keeps the door open.  Here are some thoughts that I have had as I look to writing my dissertation.

As I approach this stage of my studies with my dissertation, I am torn. Part of me wants to be able to justify the crazy amount of time that I will spend on this—to know that the hours I missed out of life were worth it and that my dissertation will be meaningful and be read again. It really isn’t so much about being known or published, but making what I do worth the time and sacrifice. I have been privileged to be able to use most of my papers and projects to address specific needs that our mission had. I would love for my dissertation to meet a need, address an issue, solve a problem, or at least raise awareness of a critical situation. I don’t want to get it bound only to gather dust.

Yet, the other side of me is paralyzed by the fear of getting in over my head. “Make it doable.” “Get the ‘D’ as soon as you can so that you can get on with life.” “The ‘D’ will open doors for you for so many things, but only if you finish it.” “Do NOT make the ‘D’ your lifework.” The pragmatic side of me who is already overwhelmed with being a pastor’s wife, mom of 7 living in a foreign country wants to walk the easy road guilt-free. Rather than looking for what I want or am interested in, I want to ask, “What’s the easiest form of research?” “How can I finish as soon as possible?” I just want to say to my committee, “What is the least I can do to get this degree done?” I have real work and important things for our mission to do. Global kingdom work that is postponed each day that I spend on my ‘D’.

In the end it is all about balance. Doing my best in the time I have while maintaining the other tasks God has given me with joy. (Since the time I have is limited, this won’t become my life’s work, although I want to do well!). It is also about taking a few minutes a day to think, reflect and write. Like title of one of Eugene Peterson’s books doing the ‘D’ is a Long Obedience in the Same Direction. If I take a step each day, it will get done. If I lay aside MY desire to make this the most-read thought-provoking dissertation ever, I will finish. At the end of the day, I want to hit send. And move on with life. And use the ‘D’ for God’s work—to open doors to share the gospel, to gain admittance to places I wouldn’t be invited without it.

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