Saturday, August 17, 2013
UTD held a private little ceremony for their summer PhD grads. They granted me seven tickets, though I managed to get three more for family members, some of whom flew in or drove more than a thousand miles.
I had planned simply to come home afterward and plop down. But my sister Mary insisted that doing so would be anticlimactic. So she sent eVites and Facebook and email invitations to a bunch of my friends announcing a little party. She also invited people to send messages for her to give me.
At the last minute, we discovered many eVites got caught in spam filters. So who knows what friends are wondering why I left them out after all their years of support and love and prayers! :/ If that's you, believe me, I would have loved to have you there!
It was a wonderful celebration. Afterward, Mary noted, "Your friends really stepped up." And, indeed, they did.
Amanda Simkins, my young traveling buddy who is a fab event planner in Manhattan (until this week when she landed a new job), did a fab job with food. Ohmygoodness, was the food ever yummy! Pies, pies, pies, as well as cookies and fresh fruit in whipped cream—set on platters atop stacks of books I'd had to read. She and her parents, longtime friends Jon and Cheryl, kept the food coming and the dishes washed.
Felicity, my incredibly talented Aussie friend, did a fantastic job—along with her hubby and four kids—of creating decorations around a "book" theme. Beforehand, she asked if I had a philosophical problem with ripping apart used books. (I did not—especially since they were supporting Half Price Books in the process.) They made table runners from old-book pages. And they also used books I'd had to read as centerpieces with some candles and flowers. (They didn't rip those apart, though in some cases I wouldn't have minded.) They made lots of other gorgeous stuff. And Gary's dad contributed the flowers.
My friend Carolyn put together a play list and handled sound and tech. And I saw her carrying coffee pots, so who knows what else she did. And my family handled a lot of the clean-up.
Mary printed out the messages people sent and mounted them on the wall. The one thing missing there was a box of tissues for me as I read them.
There is nothing quite like attending a party where you know every person present and you love them all. And they have all helped you get to where you are. What a beautiful sight!
Mid-party, I provided some remarks. First, I said that some Christians view marriage as the man being the center of the universe and the wife's life revolving around him. I said, "Thank God I did not marry that person!" Gary has always viewed marriage as a partnership in which an investment in me is an investment in himself. He has encouraged me to be all I can be, and even more than I thought I could be and do. I could not and would not have done this without his support and cheerleading.
Our daughter prefers to stay behind the scenes, so I promised not to embarrass her by talking about her. :)
I spoke of my many friends who have endured a winter of friendship, seeing little fruit but waiting for spring when they will see more return for their patience as our roots grow deeper.
I explained my fields of study—part history, part philosophy, and part art (in my case, the novel). This resulted in a focus in first-century Ephesus, gender studies, novels set in the first century, and a dissertation that reflects all three fields. Part of it was non-fiction focusing on first-century Ephesus, and especially Artemis. Part of it was a survey of novels such as Ben-Hur that were set in the first century. And a big chunk of it was my own novel set primarily in contemporary Ephesus and told from the perspective of a female New Testament scholar and exploring women's social history.
I also answered the question many are asking: What next? My answer: I didn't get a PhD so I could "move on," to seek other employment or move somewhere exotic. I did it to keep the job I love, working with fantastic students. So I plan to continue doing that, with no desire to take on a heavier load or have more committee assignments! I get to return to teaching women's Bible study in my church now that I have a bit more time. But I don't see a lot changing anytime soon. That was not my goal. I said maybe now I can watch an occasional TV show with my husband on a Tuesday night. :)
Finally, I showed a photo of a corridor of trees through which I passed on the UTD campus on my way from the parking lot to class or meetings or orals or my defense. As I entered the campus, I would always pray there, knowing that on many days I was going into a territory where I would face a clash of cultures and ideas. My request was that God would help me be like Daniel, who found a way to meet the king's requirements without compromising himself. And I couldn't do that unless God showed up as my help!
Before I left campus on graduation day, I went with my husband to that pathway of trees and had him take a photo of me in the garments of completion. That shot will stand as a reminder to me that God has been my help. "Here I raise mine Ebenezer."
In Exodus 3:12, we read where Moses asks God "Who am I?" as he took on the challenge to which God called him. And God answered, "Surely I will be with you, and this will be the sign to you that I have sent you. When you bring the people out of Egypt, you and they will serve God on this mountain." When I read that some years back, I was struck by the oddity that God's sign of assurance would come after Moses endured, not as a miracle beforehand. God was saying Moses would look back as the people were in the place to which God had led them, and they would recognize God's "sign" that he had led them all the way.
Standing in that place on graduation day, I acknowledged the faithfulness of God in this task. As I look back, I can see he has kept his promise to be with me. Indeed, "he has led me all the way."
And he will lead you, too.
Posted by Sandra Glahn at 8:06 AM