October 08, 2013

Lesson 110: A Masters Degree and Two Babies: Part 1 (Making Time at Home Matter)

During this "Making Time at Home Matter" series, I'd like to tell you the story of how I earned a Masters of Arts in Biblical Studies from RTS-Charlotte, while raising two babies.

However, I would like to be clear right from the start. I do not think every mama needs to be in school while raising their kids! Mama-hood is plenty good and awesome in and of itself!

I am sharing this story merely because there may be some of you who do think it would be enriching or beneficial to return to school. And so, since I've done it, I thought I'd let you know how.

The story will be told in 5 parts:
Part 1: Seminary and Babies at the Beginning
Part 2: Seminary and Babies in its Completion
Part 3: Ways to "Make Time Matter" During Seminary
Part 4: During Seminary I Did Not ... 
Part 5: Reflections on My Children's Experience During Seminary


(For time's sake, I'll skip the portion of the story which explains my desire to pursue ministry full-time. I'll simply pick up where seminary entered the picture.)


Mark had just broken up with me. (Every good story begins with a break-up.)

Yup, the LOML (love of my life), who was a missionary in China (my desired profession), had cut the cord of our relationship, and I was left alone to figure out what the next step in life should be.

The Lord had been clearly pulling my heart towards full-time ministry, but I felt completely inadequate. I loved the Bible and loved to study it, but I intensely desired further instruction. I wanted the whole picture, as well as the minute details. I wanted someone to teach me!

So, I applied to seminary.

It was the summer of  2007, right before I left for a year-long overseas mission assignment in Dublin, Ireland. I was fully expecting to be a single missionary for the rest of my life, and I wanted a few years of foundational training before setting out. I was hoping to return from the field and find this training in seminary.

In January of 2008, I received my acceptance letter. Wahoo!

A week later, Mark called and said he wanted to marry me. (A story for a different day).

I liked that idea!

We returned to America the summer of 2008 and were married in December. In the meanwhile, Mark applied to seminary and was accepted.

Young and "open the Lord's will for our lives," we thought we might like to spend a few years together in China or Ireland first. We wanted to continue to explore and learn while we were unhindered enough to do that.

However, soon after the wedding, we received some big, unexpected news!

We were in Scotland with Holly when we found out. Interestingly, she and her husband left Scotland shortly after this picture and came to seminary at RTS Charlotte!
Globe-trotting with an infant did not seem wise, and so, instead, we decided the most responsible course of action was seminary.

Did you catch that? We ultimately made the decision to attend seminary because of a baby! (If you've ever been in seminary, you understand that this is a hilarious decision.)

Fast forward at few months.

We were set to move to Charlotte, so Mark could begin summer Greek in 2009. Four days before departure, my water broke (unexpectedly) at 32 weeks.

Samara was born soon after.

First Family Photo

Did you catch that? We were prevented from moving to Charlotte because of a baby!

Turns out the issue was entirely with my health (again, a story for a different day), but the long and short of it is that what followed Samara's birth was six weeks in and out of the hospital, three surgeries (for me), and whole lot of wreckage to my body!

We also were given the gift of a sweet baby girl! Praise God!

Out of the hospital healing took another six weeks, but by October, we were finally ready to move. (Exactly four years ago today.)

Seminary here we come!

Man, I was looking rough!

Class officially began in February, and Mark was psyched!

I, on the other hand, was still exhausted. The pregnancy, disease, surgeries, (and nursing), had taken a huge toll on my body. I slept all the time. I lost fifty pounds. And I began to process the emotional trauma of the past six months.

Seminary was going to have to continue to wait. 

However, on the first day of school, my sweet friend and neighbor told me she was planning on auditing a night class, Hebrews-Revelation. She asked if I would I want to go with her?

Thanks, Judy!

Though I did not really feel up to it, I agreed to go. And if I was going to make the effort to go to the class, I was going to make the effort to do the work for the class for credit.

Friends, agreeing to go to this class was the first step towards getting a master's degree as a mama. I had to show up!

I didn't start out anticipating actually finishing degree. Rather, I remembered why I wanted to attend seminary in the first place. I wanted someone to teach me the Bible. Whether that ended up being one class or twenty, one was better than none.

So I went.

The class was such a blessing, I cannot even describe. In fact, the goodness and richness of that class still brings tears to my eyes.

At seminary, I made friends. Real, loving, gospel-centered friends, who began to sustain me physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I got to act like an adult, dress like an adult and interact with other adults. (This is priceless for stay-at-home moms.) I was required to use my mind. Most importantly, my professor, Dr. Michael Kruger, opened up the Scriptures in a way that I had never before experienced.

Through all this goodness, I began to heal.

Mark and I could not have been more grateful to the Lord!

Mark with our first seminary friend, Trey. He ended up marrying a friend of ours from Virginia Tech!

Now, how does the baby factor into all this?

Well, I was still nursing at night.

And I hated to pump.

So, Mark (my sweet, wonderful, special, brave, phenomenal husband) would bring Samara over to campus during my twenty minute break and I would nurse her in the study lounge.

The typical night went something like this:
- Listen to lecture on different views of eschatology in Revelation for 80 minutes.
- Nurse Samara for 20 minutes.
- Listen to lecture on recapitulation in Revelation for 80 minutes. 

And so on, week after week.

Somehow, finals came in May. I wrote the longest, most well-researched paper of my life (in my bed, during nap time), took the hardest exam I've ever sat through ...

And with that, I had 3 seminary credits.

And a 10 month old.

The adventure was just beginning.

Lesson Learned: "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

Finish the Series With:
Part 2: Seminary and Babies
Part 3: Ways to "Make Time at Home Matter" During Seminary
Part 4: During Seminary I Did Not ... 
Part 5: Reflections on My Children's Experience During Seminary


  1. God really is amazing how he leads us and it's so comforting to know he IS in fact leading us as believers!! You have a wonderful and beautiful testimony of God's goodness bringing y'all through seminary in Charlotte through so much....still can't believe we're on the other side of it with two littles! I loved that Heb-Rev class and always liked our drive there and back ;)

  2. I'm SO happy you're telling this story! And I'm SO happy for friends like you, who are entirely different than me, that show and teach me all sorts of awesome stuff! love you, friend!

    1. We are different, and yet, we are both super passionate, which I think is one of the reasons we love each other!

  3. Oh I just love this! What an amazing story, and I am also MORE than thankful that y'all had to be postponed for a lil bit to get to seminary so I could spend more time with y'all!

  4. This will cause me to stop complaining about seminary while working at a Middle School: thanks!

    1. I cannot even imagine attending a seminary class after spending the day with middle-schoolers! I will pray for you friend!

  5. Brad chose a seminary (for his MDiv degree with YL) where I could attend for free, but I've told him repeatedly that I'm not interested. I already have a Bachelor's and a Master's in Art Ed, and I'm not too keen on going back to school anytime soon. And there's the 3 kids ages 4 and under who keep following me around... ;) I did consider a seminary degree back when I was young and single, but times have changed. I don't know if God will lead me to attend seminary someday or not.

    1. Jessica, Is Brad with RTS or with Gordon-Conwell?

      Either way, at some point I hope to suggest in a post, all of RTS's classes are on itunes for free. Some are obviously better to listen to than others (I'd be happy to point you towards the more interesting ones), but the point is, you could listen to lectures during the day while you do other things: folding laundry, etc.

      It could give you a feel for what is going on! And it can be really edifying.

      Also, I will say, the majority of my mama friends did NOT take class. (In fact, I only know one other mom who took for credit.) Most of the moms of students, however, spent time auditing a class. Basically, they sat in for all the lectures, occasionally read the book, and learned the material without the exams or papers. I highly recommend this!!!!! It is possible to learn so much!

      It's also really helpful to help understand exactly what their husbands are doing (and why they are so stressed all the time!)

      Also, there's no reason you can't go back when the babies are grown. I'm taking 20's. We don't ever really retire in ministry, do we?!?! :)

      You do a great job with those kiddos and supporting YL!!!! I wouldn't stress it, but if there is a genuine desire, an itch you can't scratch, then you can always try.

    2. Ha, one more suggestion. You could always listen to the lectures that Brad is on, b/c then you guys would have great stuff to talk about!


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