About two years ago I wrote a post warning you, my beloved readers, that I would not blog much during grad school…and I am proud to say I kept my word. 😉 Now that I’m nine weeks away from completing my program, and am feeling the weight of things lessening, I am venturing outside of my den of books and papers to offer some reflections and highlights from the past 24 months. I’m seated at my dining room table in the middle of the day, sunlight streaming through the gray clouds, hot tea and vanilla candle at my side. Pull up a chair and join me!
I started my new job at Whitworth University as Assistant Director of Student Success, and also began my master’s program in Spiritual Formation and Leadership. That was a hard month on the job! Because students weren’t on campus it felt like there wasn’t much to do yet…or maybe there was enough to do but it didn’t seem to have any context since I wasn’t yet working with students. I read a lot, got to know the history of my department and began trying to find my place within the campus culture.
We spent lots of time at the Spokane River, soaking up the last days of summer…
My parents were able to visit! Jon and I enjoyed showing them around some of our favorite spots in Spokane–hiking, farms with cider and donuts, a beautiful garden. Jon also got hired to work part-time at Whitworth as a Digital Content Assistant in the University Communications department, creating and managing video and social media content (much like his job at Fresno Pacific).
I remember October feeling difficult. I was still struggling to find my place at work, and had strong urges to escape the constraints of my job and go exploring–the fall colors and crisp air always generate wanderlust for me! I was also struggling to balance work and school…I remember many a night coming home from work and heading straight to the back room to do homework, while Jon cooked and served dinner, cleaned up, and tried to occupy himself. I think our schedules made us feel very lonely at that time.
On a lighter note, I took a quick trip to Michigan to be in Jessica’s wedding, a dear woman who has been a friend of mine since second grade! My dad officiated the wedding and it was truly an honor to be part of the celebration.
We celebrated Thanksgiving with friends in our home in Spokane…our first time away from family for a major holiday! The five of us were pretty proud of the delicious food we made. In my graduate program, I became very interested in different spiritual practices that I hadn’t been acquainted with before. The idea of following a church calendar for liturgy, Bible readings and celebrations caught my interest and has been something I continue to think about.
Jon and I stayed in Spokane for winter break and enjoyed quality time with one another. We took long walks in the subdivision behind our apartment complex and had great conversations about our dreams and hopes. We’d experienced so much change in the preceding months! It was good to reconnect and enjoy a slower pace of life.
I had my first residential course for grad school in Scottsdale, Arizona. My cohort of fifteen people and the cohort ahead of us met at a lovely Franciscan retreat center and enjoyed phenomenal teaching by one of my favorite professors from college, Nate Foster. This was the first time my cohort had meet in person, and we had a wonderful time expanding the relationships we’d already built in our online courses. One of our course texts was The Making of an Ordinary Saint: My Journey from Frustration to Joy with the Spiritual Disciplines, written by Nate. It was based off of Nate’s experiences with the spiritual disciplines written in his father’s classic book, Celebration of Discipline (Richard Foster). I loved our conversations about how the disciplines create spaces in our lives for us to hear from, connect with and worship God.
We traveled to Fresno for a quick weekend trip…Jon’s sister Rachel married Erik, and we were thrilled to be there celebrating with them! It was good to see that side of the family again, and it was a beautiful wedding.
My friend Morgan also came for a visit! She and I met in the fall of 2010 and have been friends ever since. It was such a treat to have her travel across the country to spend time with us in our new home. We enjoyed coffee shops, geocaching and hearing about her (at the time) new boyfriend, Tim. (They are getting married this August!)
Our dear friends Chase and Emily Conklin came up from Fresno Pacific for a few days! Emily worked for me as an RA for two years at FPU, and then “took my place” as an RD on the team when I left. We really love this couple and it was a joy to spend time with them in Spokane.
Our friend Steven came up from Fresno for a visit…we always love having him around and–at the time–were really hoping he would move up to Spokane over the summer. Spoiler…he got a job in Residence Life at Whitworth and now lives up here! We now have five of us who worked at Fresno Pacific together and “transplanted” up to Whitworth/Spokane.
Jon and I also took a trip to Portland, partially funded by some generous friends! It was my first time in the city, so Jon got to show me around his favorite places, and we discovered some new ones together.
Jon and I headed back to Michigan for a very special celebration…the wedding of my younger brother Josh and his high school sweetheart, Maggie! The bride and groom were stunningly gorgeous, the wedding ceremony and reception were beautiful, and we were so blessed to have the time with family!
Life (thankfully) slowed down a bit here…students were gone for the summer and my class work was a bit lighter in preparation for our trip to Guatemala. Jon and I found a quiet, beautiful campground not far from Spokane, and quickly became addicted to camping together. So fun! I also made a trip to Orlando with some colleagues for a work conference. Tough life! 😉
This month was one for the books, so full of so many good things! I have an eleven month contact at work, so July is my annual month off. Jon’s mother, Valerie, came up for a visit, and we were so thankful for the time with her. We got to show her around Spokane and just enjoy her company again! While she was visiting we began looking for a new apartment, since our rent was going up. We found a beautiful two bedroom, two bathroom apartment just a mile away, and made plans to move at the end of the month. Valerie’s visit was followed by a brief overnight visit from two students at Fresno Pacific..these guys had worked for us in Residence Life and were on their way to Canada for a vacation. It was a blast to reconnect with them on their way through town! The next day Chris and Mandie came into town from Fresno…Mandie and I worked in the same office at FPU and still catch up on a weekly-ish basis now that I live in Spokane. We were so thankful they were able to make the trip so we could see them in person again! A few days after their visit Jonathan and Rachel came to town…Jonathan had also been a coworker of mine, and he and Rachel now live in Texas. We cherished our time with them and their willingness to fit us into their trip to the Northwest! After they left we had a few days to pack up the house before I left for my second residential class, this time in Guatemala. I spent 11 days with my cohort in a country I had fallen in love with during college, and came away with meaningful memories and lessons (see the previous four posts on this blog). While I was gone, Jon moved us to our new apartment!
Unpacking boxes, moving in. And I aged another year.
We enjoyed a visit from Jon’s dad and his dad’s wife, Richard and Rhonda, too! It was nice for me to get to know them more and to show them around our town. It was amazing to realize that even with all the visitors from the past six months, we never got tired of showing people around Spokane! There is so much beauty and character around this town!
I was invited to a small, 24 hour event in Houston, put on by Renovare. My friend and professor from college, Nate Foster, now works for Renovare, an organization started by his father which exists to equip people and churches for life with Christ through spiritual formation. It was a very rich time of connecting with other believers and learning more about formation in the church. In September I also began my first foray into adjunct teaching at Whitworth! I am a Core 150 D-group leader. All students are required to take Core 150, 250 and 350 during their time at Whitworth. Core 150 is a history of Christianity in Western Civilizations…we begin with Abraham and work our way through history, all the way up through postmodernism. It’s a fascinating course! As a Discussion Group leader I meet with two classes of students (20-26 students per semester) once a week to facilitate discussion and learning around the content provided in lectures. I grade over 200 assignments per semester in addition to leading the discussion group times. While it’s been difficult to manage the grading on top of my job and my graduate school work, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the classroom experience (and the extra paycheck!). I’m learning a lot and getting to interact with even more students than I usually would, all of which are blessings. I’ve completed two semesters of adjunct teaching, and this fall Jon will join our discussion group team! We look forward to this adventure together.
We enjoyed another visit from my parents, as they had a conference that brough them to the Northwest. We also had some of my dear friends from college visit with their daughter–Kayla, Brian and Addison. Once again, we loved have quality, in-person time with people we love!
Some friends blessed us with tickets to a wonderful marriage conference in Seattle…Jon and I loved having an excuse to get away together and found the conference extremely valuable. We took an extra day just to visit the Seattle Zoo (I just LOVE zoos), and that was pretty special for me.
Jon and I got to drive down to Northern California to spend Thanksgiving with his family at a lovely campground. It was so good to see everyone again (most of them live in Fresno) and to be back in that beautiful state!
Thanks to Dan and Bri, the Rhodes family received another beautiful baby boy! Jon and I flew to Southern California to be with my parents, Dan, Bri and the kids. Barrett David Rhodes arrived just a couple days before we got there, and we delighted in getting to meet him! Wyatt and Olivia are at such fun ages, as well, and Jon and I took them on a day trip to the San Diego Zoo while we were there. It was good parenting practice for us, because NOTHING went as planned, but it was worth it to have some quality time with those cuties!
I went to a conference for work on Trauma Stewardship, a fascinating topic I hadn’t heard of before. I learned a lot about the importance of creating sustainable rhythms of work and self-care when you’re involved in work that consistently brushes up against other people’s trauma. It was powerful stuff!
I had my final residential class in Hillsdale, Michigan at Camp Michindoh. This time my cohort was the older crew, and we enjoyed meeting and welcoming to the newer cohort to the MSFL family. We had some excellent teaching around the topic of hospitality and welcoming the stranger, and it was pretty poignant to all be together for the last time.
A relatively quiet month! I am increasingly feeling more at home in my work at Whitworth and I am so thankful for my supervisor and coworkers. I’m part of an excellent team and feel honored to learn from people who have been diligently serving college students for years.
Jon got hired for full-time work at Whitworth! He is the Training Develoment Specialist in HR and so far is loving his job. I’m so proud of his patience and persistence during the job search, and so thankful the opportunity to remain at Whitworth opened up. We love working at the same place, sharing lunch breaks and holiday time and commutes. He works with a great department and is now located a bit closer to my corner of campus. Hooray!
In March we also spent almost two weeks house- and dog-sitting for some friends. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in their beautiful home and we absolutely love their dog. It was like being gifted a “stay-cation” for free!
We celebrated Jon’s birthday and Easter with a trip to one of our favorite cities, Portland. We spent two nights in the city and two nights at the coast. The ocean time and the time in the car together were good for our souls, and we were thankful to have the means to get away together!
My parents were also able to stay with us for a few days while they were in the northwest for a friend’s ordination…it was so fun!
This brings us up to the present! Jon and I took a trip to Michigan for my graduation ceremony, where all but two of my cohort members were able to attend. I celebrated Mother’s Day with my mom for the first time in years, and got to hear her speak at a Mother-Daughter event! Jon and I took a quick trip to Washington DC to see my friend Morgan and so Jon could see the capital again. (The last time he was there he was only six months old). Lastly, Dad invited me to be part of a southern michigan conference event called Ignite. I was one of three speakers and was privileged to be able to speak about some of the things I’ve been learning in my graduate program. We had a wonderful time with my parents that week and were sorry to leave so soon.
I have nine more weeks of my graduate program and am looking forward to my first “quiet” summer in years. While I have July off, Jon will still be working full time. I plan to slow down, rest, and enjoy the sunshine. As someone else put it, I will need the time to “let my brain ‘un-cramp'” from these two years of study and work! Jon and I anticipate lots of camping, and we will travel to Portland for a half-marathon over my birthday weekend. It should be a sweet season of rest!
Thanks for reading! (And even if you didn’t make it this far, it was a good reflection exercise for me!) We’ve had a full two years and are grateful for all the friends, family and beauty surrounding us. Until next time!