Well, it’s becoming my M.O. – if life isn’t crazy enough, I get uncomfortable. If the last few years have taught me anything, it’s to be up for whatever. When I look back at my 2008 self, I cannot believe how fragile and easily shaken I was. When Jon was first laid off, he called me while I was in the car and can you believe I was so hysterical that I actually had to pull over on the freeway and stop driving. My whole world was falling apart.
But that’s just the thing.
It was my world that was falling apart.
It’s not until now that I realize we’d done just about zero in trying to find out what God wanted for our lives. When God would tell us to do something that was outside our 5-year plan we’d say, “that’s great, God, we’ll pencil that in for oh, say 6 years from now – we’re working on something else right now.” I don’t think I recognized that our disobedience was so blatant at the time, and God has sure let us learn that the hard way. But I’m grateful that at least He still let us learn it – to be allowed to move forward in our own complacent plan would have been a tragedy.
In Haiti last fall.
So that brings us to now, and lately we’ve been nervous about how we might afford to move to whatever school Jon might get accepted to for the Fall. We’ve been crunching the numbers, trying to figure it all out. We had a little pity party; how could a family under the poverty line like ours possibly be expected to finance a move potentially across the world?
And then one day I came home and had a “what the heck” moment.
We have a whole HOUSE full of stuff.
I have 6 frying pans. 6. And a TV in our bedroom we haven’t used in over a year. And 8 coats and 12 scarves. And wasn’t that me complaining just this morning about how we are overflowing with toys?!
Jeez, what is my problem? We are NOT impoverished. We are fine. Looking at all our stuff, I was ashamed. We’ve believed society when it tells us we live in poverty and have a good reason to pity ourselves. We are in the top 5% of wealthiest people in the entire world, and we have the nerve to call ourselves poor?! Ugh, gross.
Poor is all about perspective.
1 John 2:15-17 (MSG)
"Don't love the world's ways. Don't love the world's goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity."
Ahem. So. Right when I’ve been having these epiphanies about consumerism and perspective, some girlfriends of mine have been reading this book, 7 by Jen Hatmaker
. With similar feelings, Jen
and her friends took 7 months and did an experiment to find simplicity in a culture of prosperity and excess. Each month had a different focus, the first being on food – eating only 7 things for a month while focusing on how most of the world lives and how much food we waste in America. So wouldn’t you know it, our little group decided to follow with their own 7 experiment and I of course, (missing a little extra crazy in my life), am joining them.
So starting today I will be eating only 7 things until June. Chicken, Spinach, Avocado, Bread, Potatoes, Eggs and Bananas. It’s going to be a ride, but it’s chaos with a purpose, right?
Last week, Jon got his first invitation for an interview from Ross University, on Dominica! After months of waiting, finally we have some forward motion, and it feels good to move (in any direction) again. Boy, what a great way to start the day, to read that e-mail! Even better, the interview will be in Portland, which from what we’ve gathered is a complete anomaly that it just happens to be exactly where we live – apparently most of the other students being interviewed in Portland will have to fly out here. Thank you Jesus we won’t have the extra expense of airfare!
Jon read the invitation first and called me from school. As soon as I read it I went to send the good news on to our immediate families and that’s when it got bittersweet. Typing on my iPhone “Mom,” “Dad,” “Robin” (Jon’s mom) and… that’s all. It was a weird feeling. Sure, there’ve been times over the past year - the engagement of Jon’s sister, the holidays, Lincoln starting to talk - when Curt has been glaringly missing, but this instance came a little unexpectedly.
Jon used to accompany his dad to his oncologist appointments at OHSU and try his best to act as interpreter for the family through all the medical terminology and jargon. Curt’s doctor (and his staff) made a big impression on the kind of physician Jon wants to be someday; he took an authentic interest in Jon’s pursuits and in the year+ since Curt’s been gone he and his nurse have checked in on the family a few times, has let Jon shadow him and given him advice, and even wrote him a letter of recommendation.
Jon’s dad was and would have been very excited for him as we near the end of the chapter of pre-med and get ready to move on to the next. We are fortunate that Jon was already on the path to medical school so Curt knew where we were headed before he died. We are grateful that God gave him that gift – the opportunity to be proud of his son.
Ross University's front entrance
Well, the MegaBall jackpot is at its highest ever, and I have to admit it’s hard for Jon & I to resist thinking about how we’d handle that much money. Years of living below the poverty line has made us, at times, a little weary. It was four years ago now that Jon & I first started talking seriously about going into medicine, and at the time both of us had flourishing careers, we’d just finished remodeling our house, and pregnant with Solveig. Although we were convicted, we just did not see a way that Jon could fit going back to school around his work schedule. Also, once the baby came I planned to quit my job, so we had to have Jon’s income to survive. Over that year thoughts of medical missions sort of fizzled out and we filed it away in our minds under “someday, but not now.”
Isn’t it funny how we think we know what we need? Looking back, we feel so fortunate that God didn’t take our “no” for an answer – instead He said, “Okay, you think you can’t live without Jon’s income? Well, I’ll take it away, and Elise’s too, and you’ll see.” The second Jon got laid off we knew God was clearing the way for Jon to go back to school, so he enrolled in classes the very next week.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how, if we don’t put ourselves in positions of vulnerability, be it emotional, physical, or whatever, we miss opportunities to know God better. Just this week, Jon and I have been burdened because we have absolutely no way to pay our bills this month. I say this not to say we need help, or even empathy; we've really become, well, I guess used to it, and I've gotten really good at finding ways to earn just that tiny bit extra. Lately though, we’ve been especially tired. Looking at all our options, we’d pretty much concluded that, well, we only have a couple more months before we move and if our landlord started eviction proceedings they’d legally last until about then anyway so maybe that’s just what we have to do. But I don’t like the idea of not paying those you owe money too (and it’s not Biblical, either).
Jon’s been trying to find a job since November, and we’d been praying for that for months. But this week we’ve shifted our prayers into asking for God’s provision, however that comes. On my way to a meeting yesterday I talked to God about trust, and how vulnerable I’ve been feeling. I told Him how I knew He was taking care of us, and that I truly wanted to be obedient in whatever He was having us do, but I was worried I was getting in the way, too loud to hear His direction. I am such an overanalyzer I think it’s easy for me talk myself out of things, or question whether I really did hear God. During my meeting I saw a friend and we chatted a little before she went back to her work. A couple minutes later, though, she came back and asked how we were doing, “oh, good,” I said, and then she asked if we’ve been paying our bills. I fought my pride and was honest. My BAM moment came when she said they had some money set aside for just this type of thing and asked, well insisted, to help us with rent.
Again, we thought we knew what we needed, a job for Jon, but at this specific time God wanted to take care of us another way. Not even one hour had gone by since I prayed and God came through. He is teaching us lessons in humility, community and dependence, lessons that we would miss out on if we were financially independent. Of course there’s lots of things we can think of to do with a lottery jackpot, but we’re growing where God has us now and enjoying the closest relationship with Him we’ve ever had. Being able to talk to Him and that He heard us and responded is huge. He is reminding us that we are right on the path He's put us on, and we're going to keep going with confidence until He gives us the next direction.
One of the apartment complexes we could live in on Dominica
So, we get asked a lot "What's the word?" on our hopes for med school, so here it is:
We are in the secondary process with two US schools, both Osteopathic (DO):
Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
So, the next step with those is either a rejection or an in invitation to fly out for an interview, which we hope to receive in the next 2-3 weeks.
We also applied to two international schools, both Allopathic (MD):
Ross University on Dominica in the Caribbean
and St. George's University on Grenada in the West Indies.
These both are highly recommended from doctors Jon's met with who attended there. They only do primary applications which we've completed, but they also need copies of Jon's passport and transcripts, so once they receive those from ITT, Clark and WSU, we will get word on interviews with both of them. They both have offices in America, so Jon won't have to fly quite as far should he get an interview.
We never would have considered international schools except that they are easier to get accepted to and Jon's MCAT score isn't as high as it would be if he didn't have so much else going on. But the more we think about it, the more we love the opportunity to live in a developing country, even more than Jon's strong desire to be a DO over an MD.
We would be moving for all these schools in July, unless Jon gets accepted to one of the international schools for their January rotation (they metriculate three times a year; August/January/April), in which case we'd move in December.
Solveig looking at Jon's neurology textbook while he studies
Applying to med school is a flurried, grueling task. The first application alone took like 30+ hours to complete, and then we had the all-important Personal Statement: see, Jon is up against a multitude of 22-year-olds who's only responsibility is blowing everyone else out of the water with their strong grades, millions of volunteer hours, and high MCAT scores. We know Jon is at an academic disadvantage because he has a family to take care of, so we are counting on our story to be compelling enough to convince med school admission boards.
After all the dust settled from the primary application, the offers for secondaries came in. More essays and more paperwork, and this time letters of recommendation too, which means putting together a portfolio for each letter writer, sorting and organizing the letter requirements for each school (because of course they aren’t all the same), and writing thank-you's. And then there's requesting transcripts from the three colleges Jon's attended so far and sending passport copies to the international schools. Oh, yes, and don't forget the application fees - we had to wait to send Jon's secondaries until we could afford it.
A short time after finishing Jon's secondaries I started having a crisis of belief. Jon and I are quite sure God pushed us into the medical field, and again quite sure He pushed Jon into the specific direction of physician. I'd become cavalier about all the chaos, shrugging it off as "God has a plan." I had this attitude of "Welp, if God wants us to pursue medicine, Jon will get into med school. If He doesn't, then Jon won't."
But then a friend suggested, "What if Jon does get into med school and it's still not what God wants you to do?" Crap. How would we know that? I realized then that we had been relying on circumstances alone to guide our life. I'd been expecting God to open and close doors, and that it was our job only to recognize the closings and find the openings. But that takes two crucial things out of the picture: our free will and God's power. It takes away our burden of responsibility, expecting God to close the door when we're doing the wrong thing, making it virtually impossible to continue, so that we only ever head in the right direction, never having to make a decision for ourselves.
And then, what of God's power to make the impossible possible? I think of all the examples in the Bible where God asked people to do impossible things - Moses to confront Phaoroah, David to fight Goliath, Gideon unmanned against the Midianites. All of them faced closed doors but God made it happen anyway.
So we've been waiting and waiting for the big answer: where will Jon get accepted? We've received no rejection letters or interview invitations. Even though we are weary of waiting, I have realized that God may be withholding direction from us right now because He wants us to seek Him more intently. It is more important that we have a relationship with God than what it is we can do for Him. It is through that relationship that we will know what to do, not circumstances.
And so, we wait.