Surviving Grad School: or anything else

Two and one half years ago I found myself needing a career.  My husband of 26 years had left and I had to support myself. I immediately landed a third part-time job at 2nd & Charles, a used book store, which put me on the path to library school.

I am now in my last semester of a Master’s in Library Studies degree.  Before returning to school I had spent the previous 26 years as a housewife, raising and homeschooling my four children, working part time doing background checks, and teaching martial arts (stories for another day).

Since starting school 1 ½ years ago I have finished that divorce, suffered from fatigue related to an illness, worked 2 or 3 part time jobs at a time to support myself and my youngest, tried to help my four children in college, cared for one of those kids who has chronic daily migraines, taken 2-3 classes at a time, and maintained a 4.0 GPA. My father passed away as the current semester started 2 weeks ago. Writing it out in a list like that is overwhelming… but right now I need to remind myself of what I’ve already been through and survived, and even thrived.

I started this semester behind due to the death of my dad. When I got home from Texas I felt so overwhelmed with work and school and the never ending job hunt, in addition to grieving Daddy’s loss and worrying about my mom. It has been a very long two weeks. Yesterday I took some time to ponder all of these things. In an effort to keep moving and get through the last leg, I thought about this journey I’m on and how I have managed up to this point. It occurs to me that my list might be of use to someone else. These are the things that keep me moving and sane.

  1. Accept the fact that you do not have to have a 4.0 GPA.
    1. Read the abstract, intro, and conclusion. Skim everything else for relevant or interesting information.
    2. There is just not time to edit every paper 3 times. Sometimes not even 1 time. Turn it in and move on to the next thing.
  2. Work smarter. I recommend the book, Do More Better by Tim Challies.
    1. Todoist is a great tool. Pick some kind of planning system and stick with it.
    2. Evernote is also a great tool.
  3. Do the next thing.
    1. Plan out the big projects in advance. Look at the big picture, divide it into weekly and daily goals and tasks, and then keep working on the next thing.
    2. Work ahead whenever possible.
    3. Above all, do not wait until the last minute to start something!
  4. Be realistic in my expectations of myself. If you cannot do anything requiring thought after 9:00pm (or before 9:00am), don’t even consider those times for doing homework.
  5. Budget your money, your time, and your energy. I had to learn to budget my energy last semester when I had an overloaded schedule and fatigue. It can be done.
  6. There is not enough time or energy to do everything. My house will not be neat, my meals will not take a lot of time, I will not be able to do everything I want to do. But this season of life will end, keep your eye on the goal.
  7. Remember that it does take time to live life. Kids, parents, laundry, meals, groceries – all that life stuff takes time and has to fit in somewhere.
  8. I must also plan down time for myself. I have a list of things I enjoy that take very little time, planning, or money. Every day I try to work in something from that list. An audio book while I drive, reading something for fun while I eat, crocheting during class, dinner with a friend, a walk or a hike, and occasionally even the ultimate pointless pleasure: watching TV for an hour and playing with my Legos. Write your own list.
  9. Plan time to exercise. I have been very active in martial arts the last 8 or 9 years, and suddenly there was no time for it. But I have learned that if I will plan time to exercise I am more productive afterwards. I do a short stretching routine several times each day, I walk during my lunch break, and plan longer walks or workouts on the shorter work days or days with no class. This is the first thing I tend to cut out when time is short, but I always regret it when I do.
  10. Communicate with professors when conflicts or the unexpected emergencies happen. My professors have all been very understanding when I had even normal trips or life that interfered with class or schoolwork; when Daddy died they were all very considerate about assignments and missed classes. But if they don’t know why you are not in class or why your assignment was late they can’t give you extra time or extra help.
  11. Work on relationships. You need people, even when you are so busy you are overwhelmed.
    1. Family
    2. Friends
    3. Co-workers
    4. Classmates
    5. Teachers and Mentors
  12. Plan time to think and ponder life. I am an introvert, and I need time to sit with my journal and my Bible and a cup of coffee every morning.
  13. Lastly and most importantly, overarching all the things listed above, is my faith in God. I know that I am fulfilling His Purpose for me, and I trust Him to lead me each step. He will give me the strength and the resources to do what He has called me to do. I trust Him no matter what comes in the future, whether good or bad; I have seen Him work for my good even in the midst of terrible circumstances. I would never have chosen this life for myself, but I have never been happier than I am right now. His Plan for me is far better than anything I imagined.
    1. Stay in the Word.
    2. Stay in the church.

A Psalm for the New Year

The Psalm I read this morning is the shortest Psalm I remember.

Psalm 117

Praise the Lord all nations!
Extol Him, all peoples!
For great is His steadfast love towards us
and the faithfulness of the Lord
endures forever,
Praise the Lord!

How appropriate for the first day of a New Year. His steadfast love and His faithfulness will carry us through whatever this new year brings – good, bad, or otherwise.

How wonderful to belong to the One who is Sovereign, the One whose Plan and Purpose will stand and cannot be thwarted (Isaiah 46:8-11). The year may not go the way I want it to, but it will go the way He wants it to, and that will be better in the long run.

“Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.” Job 13:15

©Rebecca A Givens, January 1, 2017

Pick a Plan for the New Year

I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions, but I have always liked starting a new year. A new year, a new month, a new week… even a new day has always inspired me. I am not bound by what is past; there is always a chance for a new beginning. Every sunrise is a reminder that yesterday is past and I must not let the weight of what did or did not happen yesterday drag me down today. Every day God’s mercies are new, and I rejoice in that. Who knows what might happen today? Who knows what might happen in 2017? I don’t. But the awesome thing is that God does. God has a Plan, and He will accomplish His Purpose. Because I am His child, His Plan will be for my ultimate good… even if it hurts terribly right now. The question becomes, will I trust Him? Will I trust His Plan for 2017? Lord, I trust You, help me in my distrust.

All of that was not what I sat down to write. But there it is, and I will leave it.

What I sat down to write was about Bible reading plans. I love plans and planners of all sorts, and there are some good ones out there. The most important thing is to pick a plan that will work for you, in whatever season of life you are in. Do not be unrealistic in your plan! The important thing is to start reading and to stay in the Word.

Last year (I think) I started a read through the Bible in 2 (or 3) years plan. I picked it knowing I would not be able to manage it in the time allotted, but I liked the way it was laid out and decided to just mark chapters off as I read them. I have done pretty well, and am only a few months behind the scheduled date. What I have loved about this plan is that each day it has you read a few chapters in order, and then a Psalm or a Proverb. This has kept me in those books all year, and Psalms are definitely my sanity.

Last week I found a very pretty printable chart of all the chapters of the Bible. My plan is to continue the basic idea of last year’s plan, reading 2 chapters through the Bible on most days and reading a Psalm or Proverb each day, checking it off on this chart as I go. On early work days I might only manage 1 chapter or 1 Psalm. Other days I can do a lot more. The plan allows me the flexibility to do something different each day or each week, but encourages me to at least do something to progress each day.

If you are up to a challenge that will push you, pick a plan that requires that. There are several to choose from on Ligonier’s website. Several years ago I read through the Bible chronologically in a year. I won’t lie, it was a challenge. I forced myself to read 5 or more chapters each day, not allowing myself to stop and ponder single verses, which is my natural bent. In the end I had this wonderful sweeping overview of Scripture. I can hardly wait to be able to do that again, and I have this idea of designing a chronological Bible reading chart… but it is not going to happen while I am in grad school! So I will plod along at whatever pace each day allows, and keep myself in the Word. I wise man once told me, “Stay in the Word,” and that is the best advice for any difficulty you are going through, even if your difficulty is an overloaded schedule. As a believer, staying in the Word is your lifeline to God. Do not let your overloaded schedule, or anything else, take that from you.

Pick a plan, and stay in the Word!


©Rebecca A Givens, December 31, 2016


This is the end of the lovely little book If… by Amy Carmichael.  She beautifully sums up the lessons God has been teaching me for the last 15 years.

Let us end on a very simple note: Let us listen to simple words; our Lord speaks simply: “Trust Me, My child,” He says.  “Trust Me with a humbler heart and a fuller abandon to My will than ever thou didst before.  Trust Me to pour My love through thee, as minute succeeds minute.  And if thou shouldst be conscious of anything hindering the flow, do not hurt My love by going away from Me in discouragement, for nothing can hurt love so much as that.  Draw all the closer to Me; come, flee unto Me to hide thee, even from thyself.  Tell me about the trouble.  Trust Me to turn My hand upon thee and thoroughly to remove the boulder that has choked thy riverbed, and take away all the sand that has silted up the channel.  I will not leave thee until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.  I will perfect that which concerneth thee.  Fear thou not, O child of My love; fear not.”

And now, to gather all in one page:

Beloved, let us love.

Lord, what is love?

Love is that which inspired My life, and led Me to My cross, and held Me on My cross.  Love is that which will make it thy joy to lay down thy life for thy brethren.

Lord, evermore give me this love.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after love, for they shall be filled.

Amen, Lord Jesus.

if… by Amy Carmichael

if I ask to be delivered from a trial rather than for deliverance out of it,

to the praise of His glory;

if I forget that the way of the cross leads to the cross

and not to a bank of flowers;

If I regulate my life on these lines,

or even unconsciously my thinking,

so that I am surprised when the way is rough and think it strange,

though the word is,

“Think it not strange,”

“Count it all joy,”

then I know nothing of Calvary love.

Amy Carmichael, if