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Saturday, December 31, 2005

Gratitude for 2005

Newspapers and magazines, in print or online, take the last few days of each year to sum up “the year’s biggest stories” and the like. I thought I would make a list of things God wrought in 2005 in my life and in the lives of those I know for which I am grateful:

1. Godly Christian husbands for several of the many single female friends for whom I have been praying (for some for years!). The average age of the brides was mid- to-late 30s.

2. Healthy babies for married couples I know. I am particularly thankful for my little niece, who is my goddaughter. She learned to crawl, to clap, and to stand up by herself this last week, and I am besotted by her cuteness and proud of these eighth-month accomplishments. It was also so special to be there at the birth of my honorary nephew in VA. He is adorably round.

3. Good physical and mental health for me—no major depression, and the OCD is under control, the MRI and EEG scans were normal (and I got a migraine diagnosis at long last), and I didn’t break any bones or lose large quantities of blood (hey, in my family, that’s something!).

4. Passing my Russian language exam. Fourth time’s the charm!

5. Getting into the Biohazardous Threat Agents and Emerging Infectious Diseases MS program. (Boy, I hope those turkeys give me a scholarship next week!)

6. A successful year selling my jewelry—I finished the year out of debt to myself, after some thirty-six months of in-the-red operations. And I have plenty of components, packaging and display materials with which to proceed.

7. Continuing and new friendships. God has blessed me by giving me a good Bible Study (and full of kindred spirits) to attend, and Christian friends on Georgetown campus, where they are sorely needed. He has encouraged me further by maintaining my relationships with dear ladies in DC, IA, VA, NC and SC and Russia, some of whom have been close to me for more than ten years. It is hard indeed to wallow in loneliness with such a great cloud of witnesses just a telephone call or an email away. And of course, I am most grateful of all for my relationship with God Himself—getting to know His character better is something I’ve relished this year and look forward to most in 2006.


Resolutions for the new year? Not really. Beyond-wildest-dreams hopes? Of course! Lessee…

1. Get first book published.

2. Oh, heck: get first article published in refereed history journal.

3. Be awarded National Endowment for the Humanities translation grant, so that I can go back and forth to Russia and finish “Two Motherlands, Two Fatherlands.” Get a book contract for its publication in Russian and in English by major firms.

4. Finish the MS in Biohazardous Threat Agents and Emerging Infectious Diseases program and graduate in December.

5. Pass my History Ph.D. comprehensive exams and apply successfully for dissertation research-grants.

6. Have a fantastic romance and fall in love and get married to a good-looking smart and kind Christian guy and be pregnant with triplets by this time next year.

7. Win a jewelry design award.

8. Commission a tiara from Ricky Frank and wear it at my wedding.

9. Get my two volumes of Voyage into the Levant preserved, restored and rebound by a professional bookbinder.

10. Learn to dance. Better. This one might actually be doable. Anybody for volunteering to be my partner?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Weaponry

I have acquired a 1946 Mosin-Nagant M44 rifle in exchange for my Kalashnikov Saiga 12 shotgun, which I never used. I did, once, take the Kalashnikov (no, it didn't look much like an AK-47, though I did have a banana clip) out to target practice at my grandparents' farm, but it was frankly too big for me, and I've never been a huge fan of shotguns. The main attraction was really the name: owning a Kalashnikov sounds cool, doesn't it?

I much prefer my new acquisition for its historical associations alone: the Mosin-Nagant is the same rifle that was used at Stalingrad and other actions by the Soviets against the Nazis. It's just a good gun. But the rifle has real aesthetic appeal, too. This one hadn't been fired until two months ago--it was still in its original grease. The bayonet is a thing of beauty, but most definitely for working use, not show (thankfully, it folds neatly alongside the stock). The stock is somewhat battered honey-colored wood, with a steel plate at the butt, and discreet Soviet markings on the steel action. According to the tiny factory-mark, it was made at the same place my Kalashnikov was put together--but this is the venerable great-granddaddy of that gun.

My brother Nate gave me a box of Czech-made ammunition for Christmas, and told me that the Mosin-Nagant makes enough noise for a cannon. Good hearing protection is definitely in order. Too bad I'll only get to see my new 1000-meter (calibrated range) baby on the holidays--there is no way that it's coming back with me to Northern VA. But maybe I'll have a chance to go out to a range before my return...

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Chri'mas Eve

We went to the Christmas Eve service at my parents' church this evening, my brother, my mother and I. My father was away on general call this evening. The day after Christmas, he's on OB call, and then again on New Years Eve, when delighted parents will be welcoming their little last-minute tax deductions. He loves babies, and so though it usually means being up for 24 hours straight, he prefers OB call to the other kinds.

The service was pretty good. I love Christmas hymns, which I think shouldn't be relegated just to Christmas (why can't we sing Silent Night in July, I want to know?), and I love singing. I just wish I knew the carols' alto parts. When I learned them, I was a soprano. Now I'm an alto, and some of the high parts are murderous. "Noel, Noel, Born is the King of Israel" nearly kills me every time, and especially when the hymn was started a bit high.

The only drawback of the service was the decision to hand out wax candles to the children as they came in. At the end of the service, as we sang the last two songs, all the candles were lighted. Little children who had been poking their siblings throughout the entire sermon were suddenly entrusted with fire. In the end, nobody had torched themselves or anybody else, but all the burning candles in little hands freaked me out--they'd turn around and miss their neighbor's ponytail by inches, or wave their taper in time to the music. Aack. And the pastor said the closing prayer while all the candles were still lit. My eyes stayed unreverently open and glued to the kid in front of me, who was industriously attempting to blow out his sister's candle, and not exactly trustworthy with his own.

Christ is Born, let His people rejoice!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

This Guy's Chestnuts Ought to be Roasted over an Open Fire

Peace and goodwill shall not extend to all men from my quarter this Christmastide, least of all to this archetypical "Christian" male chauvinist pig whose recent spleen-leakage appeared in the online version of Christianity Today, of all things. I am still reeling from the notion that CT--whose doctrine has long been considered by many of my dear friends to be too liberal--should have endorsed this particular piece of anti-female bigotry by giving it electron-space, but my aforementioned friends might opine that when one looses one's moral moorings, all sorts of odd combinations develop. I reserve judgment, being still so shocked.

Riddled as this article is with infected sores of logical error, insulting misinformation and deliberate misunderstanding, it is difficult to know which pustulating boil to lance first. I think, though, that the best approach is to proceed from the opening sentence, having donned a exegetical hazmat suit with oxygen mask, carrying a large can of grammatical sulfur powder in one hand and a sharp red pen in the other.

Mr. Illian, age unknown, begins his diatribe with a disgusting episode from his own past, wherein he was lip-locked by an aggressive woman on a dance-floor, a woman who, despite her diminutive stature and claimed church-going habits, displayed all the tact and reserve of a hungry pit-bull. He continues thereafter: "Now, I'll admit this is an extreme example of an aggressive Christian woman, but there are other documented examples out there. In the last month alone, I've spoken to about half a dozen godly men who have been dumbfounded by the bluntness and aggression of our female counterparts."

He then cites examples of similar Christian female "aggressiveness"—a woman who incessantly telephones the unfortunate man who took her out just once, and a girl who apparently was in league with a roommate, so that a hapless suitor, thinking he had a date with one, found he was squiring the other. While both these behaviors are annoying in the extreme, I am not sure they can be accurately categorized as "aggressive." Irritating, yes. A sign of mental imbalance (in the first example), also likely. And in the second, what could well could have been conceived as a subtle and face-saving way to AVOID a date (one can just imagine the conversation between the girl roommates: "I know I said I'd go out with him tonight, but I couldn't think of a good excuse, and he'll be here any minute." "Oh, I think he's nice, he probably won't mind if I take your place, this is only the second date, after all." "Would you??? That would be so sweet!") on the part of the one girl, was perceived by the man as a brazen move by the roommate.

What is doubly curious to me is Mr. Illian's application of the word "godly" to the men of his acquaintance while he castigates "Christian" women for behavior that in and of itself implies they are not, indeed, Christian (I speak of the lip-biting, not the subsequent examples, which to me have no moral scandal about them, but instead are issues of purely social faux pas). A few nice remarks about one's church attendance does not a Christian make. And yet this was apparently all he knew of the background of a woman—she who subsequently snogged him at the danceclub—before he deemed her a "safe" date and asked her out. One wonders what sort of godly Christian man presumes so much of the character of any person, male or female, based on the barest acquaintance.

Frankly, other than Mr. Illian’s own testimony, I would find this story of the unwanted and painful smooching hard to believe. I have quite a few non-Christian friends, and I don’t think any of them, however steeped in the highly-sexualized popular culture his article so deplores, would—without the assistance of significant amounts of intoxicating substances, and the direct connivance of the other party—engage in such intimate interaction within an hour or so of their first meeting.

But to move on.

In the briefest of conciliatory gestures, Mr. Illian reflexively indulges the tender feelings of his female readers, saying that “the majority of Christian women are doing a wonderful job of being approachable and noticeable without being predatory.” Oh, really? Do tell us more. But no. Immediately, he’s back on the attack: “But like most things, the misguided minority can give the whole female gender a bad reputation….” It’s petty of me to expect Mr. Illian to have respect for the English language when he has so little for fifty percent of its speakers, but the politically-correct misuse of the word “gender” (as any prim English teacher will tell you “people have sex, nouns have gender”; “gender” is a grammatical construction, not a physical one) particularly rankles, given his approach to his subject.

Both “genders” are treated to a perfunctory scolding in the next paragraph, which claims that they are “pursuing relationships and sex all wrong.” This although Mr. Illian has mentioned heretofore—and will mention in whole of the rest of the article—no examples of male malfeasance. Other than (unintentionally) his own.

But, this wouldn’t be a truly “Christian” article if God’s Word didn’t get dragged (however unwillingly) into the mix, and the author have an opportunity to show off his little Hebrew language skills. He knows how to use a concordance! I’m impressed. It’s a pity, again, that his English grammar skills are far inferior to his Hebrew vocabulary. After millennia of church history, it is to Mr. Illian, a young single male who demonstrably conflates nominal and real Christianity, that a “fundamental and profound truth about women,” hidden in Genesis all those many, many years, has been revealed! The problem is, it isn’t, and hasn’t.

Genesis 3:16 reads, as Mr. Illian quotes it, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you,” which he takes to mean that women “desire to be desired.” His Biblical quotation is correct, except for a single, signal word omitted at the beginning: “yet”. Still, with or without this pivotal conjunction, his interpretation is in error. The pronoun “he” is an unequivocal reflection of “husband”; if the text had meant that the desire would rule, the pronoun “it” would have been used. The “desire” is not what will rule over the woman—the ruler is her husband. Here or elsewhere, the Bible does not say that women “desire to be desired” any more than men desire to be desired. And about that omitted “yet”…

This verse follows on the heels of Genesis 3:15, which declares that, as a result of the Curse—the burden laid on people as a result of sinning—women would have pain in childbirth. So for God to say that women would “yet desire” their husbands (after all the discomfort they would go through having babies) was actually one of the blessings on the sex that made his judgment bearable, if you’ll pardon the pun. Given this context, and the fact that this was not part of “God’s original design” of women (being part of the Curse, not the Creation), the “desire” in this verse cannot be justly mixed-and-matched with sin itself, which Mr. Illian does, using the neat fact that “the Hebrew word for “desire” in Genesis 3:16 is the same one used in Genesis 4:7—“Sin is crouching at the door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” Having deliberately misapprehended his proof-text in the same way that popular sages opine that “Money is the root of all evil” (rather than, properly: “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil”), Mr. Illian says “This seems to imply that a woman’s desire, like that of a lion, will defeat her, subdue her, and exploit her if it extends beyond God’s original design.” Given the hundreds of other, more direct Bible verses about both sexes’ need to maintain mastery over their desires, I do not see how the warning about indulgence should be limited to just the one here. But, clearly, Mr. Illian has an axe to grind. Except it’s a spoon, and he is fruitlessly digging to China with it.

Finally, Mr. Illian concludes his essay by distinguishing three “types of predators”: three villainous archetypes against which he admonishes his female readers to measure themselves. This would be well and good for a summary—and in fact useful from a social and spiritual point of view—had any of these sorts of les femmes dangereaux actually been mentioned in the preceding article, and thus form part of a logical argument. Or had I, or any other genuinely Christian woman (by which I mean having a personal relationship with Jesus as her Savior that affects her private and public life, bringing her ever closer to the standards set forth in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments) I know actually met women who fit any one of these profiles. The Barbie Doll Girl, the CEO’s Wife, the Suga Mama—all are catchy titles (much like the article’s oh-so-clever moniker “Let Us Prey”), but totally unreal even in the abstract.

The “Barbie Doll Girl,” for instance, is a shallow nymphet who hangs around bars (!) seducing men through sexual favors. Um, didn’t Solomon cover this type (in much more sophisticated terms, she’s the “Wayward Woman”) in Proverbs? And Solomon himself didn’t allege she was a God-follower. The notion that any godly man would be “unsuspecting” around such a obviously nonChristian creature, or frequenting the spots or situations that Mr. Illian says are her regular hangouts (What sporting events is he talking about? Is he describing athletic team groupies?) is preposterous, and disrespecting the intelligence of his own sex.

The “CEO’s Wife” is another “Christian” type I have never encountered in the churches that I’ve attended in several different states and across multiple denominations over the past twenty years. But then again, “prosperity gospel churches” (since when are these considered Christian?) and country clubs are not my turf. Apparently Illian moves in more monied circles than I do. Besides, most of the women I know who have genuinely expensive taste can satisfy it themselves, thanks to their own self-provision. But I don’t know many of those, and few I would call believers.

Last but not least, Illian’s description of the “Suga Mama” reveals more about so-called “Christian” male shortcomings than about the character of the type of woman he so despises. I know literally dozens of attractive, talented, and successful women who are single, but none can be accused of using these good attributes to “draw in a man.” That any person, male or female, is distracted from previously intense and oftentimes noble desires by present comforts is a sad tendency of human nature, not necessarily something that can be blamed on someone else. Illian is obviously hurt and chagrined by a friend of his, once married into wealth, losing the wherewithal to produce his first musical CD. But the world may be a better place for an insufficiently self-disciplined not-quite-musician’s not having afflicted a lengthy sample of his less-than-stellar talent on the general public.

A common thread of “it’s all the bad woman’s fault” runs through all the reportedly real-life examples which accompany each of the aforementioned typologies. But, away from the immediate acquaintance of Mr. Illian, I am hard-pressed to find similar examples. The sweet lady who initially sent me the link to “Let Us Prey” [she had noticed the article initially because it had—in its author’s only other sop to female frustration—a one-sentence admission (prior to further criticism of “love-hungry tribal women”) that “many men are simply sitting in the stagnant pond of romance like a bloated water buffalo”; she thought the male passivity point was overlooked] could think of only one hypocritical “Christian woman” she had seen: on a TV reality show, a buxom blond in a bikini sitting in a hot tub with an interested male, lecturing him, Bible in hand, about the evils of lust. But in real reality? I won’t say presumptuously that these women don’t exist simply because I haven’t met any like them myself, but it does seem strange that physical-beauty-centered, cash- and status-directed women who are also (in a contortion of worthy of a circus troupe) Christ-followers are not to be found throughout my life experience. If these are indeed the sorts of people Mr. Illian regularly encounters, and not just broad paper targets he’s set up for the perverse purpose of ripping them to shreds, he needs to check his own definition of Christianity.

In its parts and as a whole, this article is not, I believe, an accurate or even approximate picture of what is truly Christianity Today.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Happy Birthday, Granddaddy!

Yesterday was my Granddaddy's 89th birthday. As we celebrated with him and Grandmommy on Sunday, a day early, and this post is going up a day late, I figure it averages out to punctuality!

Like my father, Granddaddy has been a constant, steady, hardworking and faithful presence in my life from the day I was born. He, like me, is cantankerous sometimes, but he believes in the Almighty, the USA, and the unsurpassibility of my Grandmommy's cooking, all of which good qualities mitigate his periodic prickliness. He is violently opposed to squirrels and to Osama bin Laden, and would like to do to the latter what he regularly does to the former: trap him and shoot him in the head, and then use the body for blueberry-bush fertilizer. He grows the world's best blueberries, giant orbs that explode between the teeth and drip juicily down the throat.

In the last two weeks, I have learned neat details about two noteworthy figures who served, like Granddaddy, during World War II. When I met Zak at the Georgetown Christmas sale, he mentioned (don't ask how we got on this subject!) that he used to get his hair cut by an old barber down in Fairfax, VA, or thereabouts who, given the location, had a fair number of well-connected clients, including a retired high-ranking Naval officer who had served in the Pacific theater. Once, the barber asked the old salt what the most difficult thing he had done in the war had been. His answer: "Ordering the assassination of Yamamoto." Apparently, before the war broke out, this American had been a friend of Yamamoto's--they used to get together to play cards on a regular basis when the Japanese was stationed in the US. I imagine that the attack on Pearl Harbor, which was organized under Yamamoto a few years after their poker nights came to an end, put a wrinkle in that relationship, but apparently it was still tough for this guy to pull the trigger, so to speak. But he was philosophical: "That son of a bitch would have done it to me had he gotten the chance." Pays to have perspective.

The other person whom I "ran into" through a mutual acquaintance, surprisingly enough, was General George S. Patton, who, (perusers of my blogger profile will already know) was the subject of one of my all-time favorite movies. Although Granddaddy did not, and does not, approve of the General's personal morals (Patton's regular application of his own principle, "he who can't fuck, can't fight" comes most quickly to mind. Frankly, I'm not sure there's any historical foundation for this antic adage, given the performance of the Janissaries, for example, but I digress; perhaps Patton's profound appreciation of military history stopped at the Dardanelles.), he did admire his guts, his ability to stand up to Rommel, et al. I was at the Intervarsity Christmas party over on Capitol Hill two Saturdays back, and over a table loaded with delectably caloric confections I got into a conversation with a lady who had once been the governess for the general's great-grandchildren. Apparently, Patton's wife had prepared a New Jersey estate for his postwar retirement, an estate he never got to enjoy, but which was still very much awe-inspiring for this woman who stayed there as a family employee some fifty years later: there was a giant room lined floor-to-ceiling with books arranged around a large formal portrait of Patton. Interestingly, my acquaintance was hired because of her bilingualism in German and English: a Patton grandchild had married a German, and the parents were determined that they be reared with facility in both languages.

Patton would probably have approved. Now if the foreign spouse had been Russian... I imagine he would have expressed himself in the peculiarly direct fashion which so un-endeared him to some of his fellow generals, and the politicos directing the wartime coalition.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Hill of Beans with a Kitty on Top

Petkya is sprawled on my lap, warm and furry and purring loudly. What a cuddly kitty to wake up to in the morning! I bury my fingers in the thick downy fuzz around his neck, his purring redoubles and he raises his head to have his chin scratched. Petkya is one of several treats I look forward to in North Csrolina--he is a gem among cats to begin with, but since I cannot have a moggie of my own in the rental housing I share, his company is especially welcome.

I've added yet another link to my blogroll: Hill of Beans, by the 16-year-old daughter of the Canadian lady who writes The Upward Call. I'm almost twice the young lady's age, but she has good insight about issues that concern me, too.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Rained In

The rain has left me stranded in DC today--it snowed this morning, and then icy water followed. I figured it was wiser to postpone my departure for a day rather than risk my neck on the slick roads between here and North Carolina. In the meantime, I have been getting my last month's sales tax ready to pay, and arranging other financial matters that need to be attended to. And cleaning my room. Big job. It still would not pass my mother's inspection, but it's much more livable. The stacks of clothes on the coffee table are over a foot high, but they are clean and folded. The floor still has piles of books here and there, but it has been vacuumed. Wall-to-wall carpet is a tool of Satan. It's impossible to get really clean, and it collects hair, which is nasty. And if you spill a lot of tiny beads on it, you can't just scoop them up, you have to pick them up painfully, one by one. I know whereof I speak. Speaking of unpleasant housekeeping, my evil roommate left the front door not only unlocked, but open this morning, so when I got up I discovered we were heating Arlington County. She left her television on, volume loud, too. So the gas and electric bills next month will no doubt be gargantuan. At the very least, though, I'll be returning to one clean room.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Narnia

I did enjoy The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which I saw with a friend tonight, although it was nothing like I imagined the story, and they omitted some of my favorite details: Father Christmas presenting the Beavers and the children with a giant breakfast tray, and later, the Witch picking up her skirts and fairly running for her life when Aslan roars. Ah, me. And Giant Rumblebuffin, "may it please your worship" wasn't seen, either. Still, it was a good movie, and I hope it will be fabulously successful.

Aloysha seemed pleased to see me last night. I was surprised the Rehabilitation Hospital was so nice--I guess I had a Russian ward hospice image planted in my mind, rather than the American version. Though drowsy from an injection they'd given him to manage his leg pain, he was mentally alert, and that alone gave him an aura of health. But he is terribly, terribly thin, probably half his former bodyweight, and obviously weak. After I gave him a hug, he clasped my hand for a long time, like so many nursing-home inmates I've visited. It is awful to be left alone. I told him I would be back after New Years, when I'll bring some music. He still finds it difficult to read--his sister was reading to him in Russian when I arrived--and so as much as I wanted to afflict him with selections from my personal library, I am forced to forebear.

Speaking of my personal library (and no, Zak never wrote or called--I must have scared him off!), it's been expanded further by gifts from professors. One man, having received extra desk-copies (gratis editions from the publisher as "thanks" for assigning them as required texts for a course), gave me one of each. Thus, I acquired Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia by Rebecca West. History like an adventure novel. Great stuff by the former mistress of H.G. Wells.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Dancin'

I'm going swing dancing with my coworker from the History Department again tonight. I need to get out of the house, away from the repetitive thoughts which have bothered me throughout the day. Tomorrow I'm supposed to go to the National Rehabilitation Hospital, where a guy I know (a fellow History grad) has been moved after coming out of the coma that was the result of a September attack by thugs three blocks from campus. Problem is, he's suffering from horrific leg pains, which have hindered physical therapy, and now his doctors want to write him off (his insurance has run out), stick him in a nursing home and leave him to rot instead of continuing the effort to get him back to normal. I am torqued. This is one subject Silverman and I can agree on. The two of us met with another professor this evening to do a bit of preliminary strategizing about a campaign for university support for the poor guy. He's getting really depressed, I've been told. Well, yeah. To have come back from the edge of death, fight off brain infections, heal from broken bones and lacerations and then have somebody tell you, effectively, "That's as far as you go." Makes you feel so helpless, frustrated, mad and impotent.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

When the Presbyterian Fell Down the Steps...

He said, "Thank Goodness that's over!"

You know you have a singular preordained talent for messiness when you manage, as I just did, to spill your evening glass of milk over the back of your own head. Yes, my hair is getting washed tonight.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Ann Louise's New Blog

A dear, dear girl from my hometown who is now in seminary in St. Louis, MO, has finally begun a blog of her own. Ann Louise's contribution to the blogosphere, entitled The Vulnerable Church, has already been added to my blogroll, since she is truly one of the better theologians of either sex with whom I have associated. Ann Louise asks questions few cultural Christians consider; in part her frankness is thanks to her not being raised in anything resembling a godly home, and her having been a radical leftist-feminist her first years in college, before she met Jesus. The reality of her relationship with her Savior affects her intense zest for life, and she expresses her fears and joys, her love and frustration with (what is to me) an enviable clarity. Ann Louise: a great lady who demonstrated the purest empathy with me during my own struggles several years ago, who encouraged me then and whose writing makes me glad still. I hope you will find her posts similarly edifying and thought-provoking.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Wonderful, Wonderful Week!

...And it's not even over! So, last Saturday I was accepted into the Biohazardous Threat Agents and Emerging Infectious Diseases MS program over in the Georgetown Medical School, which was nice. Sunday was the good sermon, followed by a successful preliminary meeting for the Phi Alpha Theta fundraising sale, and then my first-ever-on-my-own clothes-shopping trip. I had a 30% off coupon for the GAP, and at the end of two hours had acquired the goods to temporarily shed my external "country come to town" look. And it was a DC sales tax holiday weekend, so I not only got almost a third of my purchases for free, I didn't have to pay the city for the privilege of doing so.

Monday was good. I was productive at work, though filled with occasional fits of nervous anticipation as I waited for my language exam results, which were supposed to be available that afternoon. They weren't. Surprise, surprise. Multiple phone calls from family anxious to hear what I heard. After handling these, was up until 2 AM as fit of creativity hit and I wanted to realize necklace and earring designs before they slipped from my mind. Made the most beautiful peridot set for a certain female relative's Christmas present.

Tuesday, I rolled off my air mattress at 6:10, having had less than four hours' sleep. Frantically stuffed extra inventory and cashbox into my snow-covered car, then busied myself with the scraper. By 7:20, I'd met my potter-friend Hannah and helper John at the History Department, and the three of us were soon rolling a caravan of loaded carts to the student center. Fill six folding tables with our wares, and by 9:15, we were selling. John soon left to write a term paper (he's an undergrad), Hannah went off to Northern VA where she teaches elementary school art, and I was on my own. The students were definitely in a buying mood, and I spent the next nine hours standing, selling. I love selling. I love standing. And I love to talk. But the duration doing all three simultaneously almost killed me. I was flat by noon, and a ragdoll by three. Thank God Hannah came back to help the last hour and then John returned to assist us with the packing. 6 PM came and went without the professor's promised phone call reporting my test results.

Bob Fleischmann showed up with Zak in tow around 1 PM. I was too tired to be shocked--talk about going out of your way to set two people up! But I wasn't too tired to notice that Zak really was my type. He IS a Messianic (attended a PCA church during college) Jew, a graduate-educated (law school) guy with a good sense of humor, a reader who loves his avocation-turned-vocation of selling antique prints (he has a gallery in Soho). Not handsome, but not ugly. And in contrast to my sister's pessimistic prognostications, not fiftyish--I would say he is in his late 30s. We exchanged business cards. We'll see what happens there--I'm sure Bob will want to know my impressions when he sees me this Saturday, particularly since he kept butting into pauses in our conversation, telling each of us about the other. A male version of the matchmaker in Fiddler on the Roof.

Wednesday I sold even more, I think. I didn't eat much of anything all day, but enjoyed that adrenalin energy that comes from doing brisk business. I kept my scarf wrapped around my sore throat the whole time--I was hoarse from chatting up potential customers for so many many hours--and sucked on Vitamin C drops and drank orange juice. I also was perfectly giddy with joy from having passed my language exam. I PASSED!!! The lady professor who had administered it emailed me late Tuesday to say that the joint opinion of her and Silverman was that I had done a good job. An answer to prayer is what I call it.

This afternoon was the History Department Holiday Party. Courtesy of the secretary, we have a manger scene--sans donkey (it broke); in all other aspects, our heavily-decorated department is without a religious theme. We have Santa Clauses all over the place (there was a live one--with a real beard--come for the handful of professors' children at the party), live poinsettias and tinsel galore, though. No mistletoe, thank heaven, though that didn't stop some people--I got kissed twice in thirty minutes, before the drinking had even begun (People congratulating me on my good exam results in enthusiastic fits of unprecedented intimacy). A bit of a shock, when I'd only expected a hug or a pat on the back. I was staggered enough by a hug, anyway--Silverman got me in a headlock at the start of the party and told me that everyone in the department loved me for helping out at the front desk. Oh, man.

Then I got three presents! A tiny bottle of champagne and a large bottle of bubblebath from the department coordinator (ah, something to look forward to at Christmas!), a stuffed animal and some nice glass beads from my supervising secretary (she knows I make jewelry), and a welcome bonus in an envelope from the department chair. Sweet. Now I'm home and totally zonked. Must go to bed before I keel over. It may snow/sleet tonight and close the university. Here's hoping--I could use a good fifteen hours of uninterrupted slumber.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Fundamental Question

Is God still God when He doesn't do what we expect, what we desperately want and pray for? We should ask Him this question, not debate its theoretical veracity--He wants us ask hard questions, sincerely, without litmus tests, to prove Himself to us on His own terms, and in His own time.

An agnostic friend of mine told me this afternoon that her stepfather was diagnosed with bone cancer just before Thanksgiving. Two of his vertebra have disintegrated, and he is being treated with chemotherapy and radiation. She is devastated, her mother overwhelmed, all her dreams lying in shambles. My friend, for all her agnosticism, is staggering under the weight of "Why? Why?" Her stepfather is a "very religious man," a seemingly healthy, robust man who has never smoked, doesn't drink, a good man. His body is riddled with cancer. Why?

Tuesday, we read the events surrounding the death of Jesus' friend Lazarus. "Why didn't you come?" was the desperate unspoken question of both the dead man's sisters, who cried, one after the other, "If you had been here, he would not have died." There was a dramatically happy ending to the sisters' sorrow, but not for John the Baptist, who asked basically the same question from his prison cell, the sermon this morning pointed out.

John sent his own followers to ask Jesus, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we look for someone else?" John had been the first to recognize Jesus' Messiahship, and here he was, locked up in prison while Jesus went around preaching. Unfair, disheartening? But he didn't convene a committee to consider the philosophical strength of Jesus' claims, he went straight to the Man Himself. And Jesus didn't rebuke him.

Jesus didn't rebuke Mary and Martha, either. There was no condemnation for their almost accusatory declarations, which mixed faith ("you could have saved him") with total disappointment over his not answering their messages, their prayers. Nor was there condescension towards their ultimately needless feminine emotional display--in fact, he wept with them, validating their feelings, their expression. He answered John's messengers not with the monosyllabic affirmation which they might have expected, but with a firm reference back to the Old Testament messianic prophecies which he was daily fulfilling. John's martyrdom and Lazarus' resurrection were allowed, planned by the same God, with the same character, who loved both of them with everlasting love, as he would show at Calvary only a few months or a year later.

God does what He wants to do, in His time. Reconciling ourselves, submitting ourselves to this reality is at the same time mortally painful and incredibly exhilarating. Some of our dearest dreams may never be realized on this earth, we may be stymied despite all efforts we make to achieve them. Other experiences and opportunities, though, paths beyond our wildest expectations, so radical and exciting that we could never have imagined them, may be ours. God is God, I am not. But creaturehood in the service of a Creator who loves me and gave Himself for me is more awesome than I can express.

No matter what happens, Jesus is Lord!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Thanks, Thanks

I do not know how I did on the Russian test. I do thank God for getting me through it, and the many friends who prayed on my behalf to that end. I have been told the results will be available on Monday.

Four days prior to the exam, I found out that Silverman would not be administering it. I consider that, of itself, an answer to prayer. I find it hard to dislike people for long--I have a short attention span, and a profound lazy streak, and so I do really forget my anger, and don't exert the energy to maintain a grudge. There are a few old wounds, though, that do break open occasionally, and then I find myself close to tears, clenching my teeth at the injustice of this or that person, and afterwards abruptly reminding myself that I have forgiven them, that I must forgive them. This is an effort even though I have effectively forgotten (and know I will again soon forget) all the wrongs they once did me. But Silverman is one of those people who is not just a foul shadow, a measmic memory banished to some dusty corner of my rambling mind, but a frequently-encountered person who actively triggers those unpleasant thoughts that make me sigh, shaking my head at my own sensitivity and others' brutality. Alissa, of course, is the only other.

I was so, so very relieved that Silverman would not be giving the exam. Instead, it was administered by a woman who I respect as a teacher, upon whom I can rely to give me a fair grade. If I fail this time, it will be on my own lack of merit, not because I have to worry about the proctor's personal prejudice.

Bob Fleischmann intends to bring Yitzak to the Georgetown show next week. Today, at the market (which was beyond cold--28 degrees when I arrived, with a windchill of 15, which did not improve through the day) I found out a bit more about this guy--apparently, he "goes to church every Sunday" (Wow! Messianic???), and is passionate about books--he buys and sells rare editions. [I wonder what he would think about my spending so much of my stipend last year on that 1718 first English edition of Tournefort's Voyage into the Levant?] This fellow actually sounds nice--"studious" was how a friend of Bob's described him--and certainly worth meeting.

Got good news today on another quarter of the academic front: I received a letter from the Georgetown Graduate School admitting me to the MS in Biohazardous Threat Agents and Emerging Infectious Diseases program. If I can work it out, I would like to use my proprosed teaching assistanceship in the History Department (Please God, don't let me be assigned to Silverman as his TA!!!) next term to pay for my classes in the Medical School. It may take a bit of arranging, but I think it can be done--perhaps simply because it's not been tried before, and so no one has thought to prohibit it!