His Faithfulness, Our Standing Place

December 20, 2013

I don’t post much on here about the man of the house. He’s private and doesn’t care to have his life measured out in blogs and tweets (though he might not mind measuring it out in coffee spoons!) But today is a day for public celebration.

Today (one day after our 10 year anniversary) you graduate from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School as Dr. Jared M. Compton with a doctorate of philosophy in Theological studies, and with a concentration in New Testament. Your dissertation title: Psalm 110 and the Logic of Hebrews.

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There was a time early on in your seminary career that I despaired of ever having a “normal” marriage with a 9 to 5 office job, date nights and family vacations. Those early seminary days were training grounds for both of us–for you to learn to manage your personal ambition and family responsibilities, and for me to learn to be patient, to temper my expectations and to trust God to change us both. Somewhere along the way, those early fears vanished (completely vanished!) and you emerged a fine scholar, a solid family man, and a mature christian with strength of character.  I’ve watched how you’ve repeatedly sacrificed personal ambition to serve your family. I’ve seen you stay up far too late and get up much too early, all the while purposing to do well in school, care for your family, and use your gifts in the church. Many times I just desperately wanted to take something off your plate–to make things a little easier for you, but you are not one to give way to self-pity. Even in the midst of mounting pressures, you recognized the opportunities they provided to teach you how to rightly prioritize and to diligently persevere.

It has all been a part of God’s process of maturing you and further equipping you for ministry. And through these last ten years, you’ve set a good example of persevering through many obstacles. Besides the rigorous demands of grad school, you’ve held up under all the normal pressures of life. Your “personality disorder” is a joke between us. But, although I tease you about your perfect cord knots, your essay-length footnotes, and your inability to sleep unless the basement playroom is picked up, I know that nothing short of that personality disorder could have pushed you through ten years of grad school and ten years of circumstances that (from a godless perspective) seem designed to drive you to quit. That personality disorder is one of God’s best gifts to us, enabling you to push through the Herculean labors of being a husband, a dad, a student, a teacher, a friend, an active church member, etc.

Grad school is the stuff of nightmares, they say. I remember having a grad school prof offer this encouragement when I told her we would be living in campus housing while you worked on your PhD: “It will go quickly and when it’s all over, it will just seem like a bad dream.” And truly we’ve heard some horror stories (and even lived a couple of our own).

I remember the night you were accepted into the program at TEDS. It coincided with our church baby shower for Asher. After we loaded up our treasures from the shower, we went home and thanked God for the gift of life and his faithfulness in planning our next step. But first you had to finish your MDiv and pass your doctrinal defense (which was scheduled on my due date, naturally) So, Asher was born. And the next day you left the hospital to go to work (to help prep for an audit) and from work to your doctrinal defense. Graduation was three weeks later and 7 weeks after that you were scheduled to begin coursework for your PhD.

Here we are with my parents on the night you graduated with your MDiv.

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Then there was the problem of trying to sell our house. It needed some work before we could put it up on the market. Never mind that it was already May and we had to be at TEDS by early July. So when we should have been packing, you, my dad, and David were pulling up tiles off the basement floor, painting the floor, and whitewashing the walls, setting off a few carbon monoxide detectors along the way. We all evacuated the house that cool Spring night, wrapped ourselves in blankets, bundled the babies and ate ice cream–of all things–on the driveway while the toxic fumes dispersed. My mom painted our front porch that same trip, and later your dad helped us do some much needed landscaping.  But then I got sick. The nurses had warned me that I was leaving the hospital with a low grade fever, but I didn’t feel sick at the time. Six weeks later, however, I ended up in the ER with a severe kidney infection where I had to stay for 4 days and 4 nights receiving heavy duty IV antibiotics. When would we ever pack up that house?!

But God proved his faithfulness again and again. I recovered, and with the help of family and dear friends, we packed up our belongings and moved into campus housing. Here’s our little family (Asher was just under 10 weeks old at the time) setting out for TEDS. image

And though our house never sold, God did bring along renters at a crucial moment.

You dove right into your studies. Within one week of starting your summer school course in German, you were translating Karl Barth.

We lived in that campus apartment above the boiler room with the paper thin walls and the in-perpetual-disrepair washing machine for three years (There were 3 coin-operated washing machines to service 8 families and one was always broken). Remember how we left our windows open all winter because we were dreadfully hot above the boiler room, but then the pipes near the window froze, then cracked, and began to flood our apartment? Oh and remember all our those brushes with the stomach flu and swine flu on campus and how they forever sealed our fates as germaphobes? Remember the intrusions from servicemen who followed the “if they don’t answer after the second knock just barge in rule”? Along with the “track as much mud and snow through the apartment as possible rule.” It seems like we were always under a boil order for our water too. Either that or totally without water. And how easy it was to get locked out of our apartment. Yeah, Asher locked us out twice before we were on to him. Here’s the little tease…

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And you at the annual Christmas party

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17 ½ months after moving, Jude came along.

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And then our first RSV incident. Poor Jude, hospitalized at just 6 weeks.

Then you finished your courses. (Here you are on your last day of classes.)

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And passed your comps. Just to keep things interesting, Jude decided to throw up everywhere the day before you took those comprehensive exams. You came home and helped rather than cramming for your tests. Here’s the sick Jude.

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And here you are multitasking the week of comps.

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here you are again, this time walking the hallowed sidewalks at Trinity:

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After you passed your comps, we decided to spend a year in the Kenosha, Wisconsin area to be closer to our church and to give you some concentrated time to work on your dissertation. A generous man from church offered us a tiny country house at a rent we couldn’t resist. So I packed up our stuff again (this time pregnant with Haven) and we set up shop in that country house. There were farms all around, and we’d often stop to buy fresh-picked corn and other veggies for our dinners. Here’s Jude enjoying corn on the cob for the first time.

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Here we’re playing in the leaves at the country house

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But that stint in the country was short-lived. I still miss the gorgeous sunsets from my kitchen window, though I’m thankful the well water is a thing of the past! (And our brush with field mice too.) I broke my foot that fall and a couple days later, Jude broke his wrist. Your computer crashed too bringing your early dissertation writing days to an abrupt halt. Joel and Shelley moved overseas around that time and two months after moving to Wisconsin we got the news that our renters had lost their jobs and were moving out within the month. We weren’t able to find replacement renters and so we had to abruptly move back to Detroit the last weekend in October. Knowing we wanted to do some work on our house before moving back in, we unloaded our moving truck into the garage and hired a company to refinish our floors while we stayed with your parents. But that company was responsible for a garage fire that destroyed all of our stuff. The ensuing months were stress-laden as we combed through our useless belongings, attempting to put a price tag on all we had lost and haggling with three different insurance companies in order to rebuild our nest.

Here’s a picture of our loading the dumpster with our melted, molded, mangled stuff.

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And another shot of our demolished garage several months later:

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But God, proving his faithfulness again, cared for all our short-term needs with gift after gift from generous friends and family. We still enjoy recounting how God used his people to bless us after that fire. And in his wise ways, he used that fire and the insurance hassle to further provide for us. It did not sink us into financial ruin, but we were able to replace what we needed and even to tend to some other needs around the house.

4 months later (still not having seen a dime from the insurance companies), Haven was born. We brought her home to a partially furnished house. She was a treasure, a sweet haven for us in the aftermath of our recent trouble.

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You handled all the communications with the insurance company while I did the cataloging and price finding. You helped me slowly sort through all our stuff while the time we had set aside to be your dissertation-writing period seemed to sprout wings and fly. You were scheduled to start teaching in just 9 months! And still you hadn’t had time to complete your dissertation proposal. But these were old lessons to you by then. You’ve only gotten better through the years at handling the surprises and setbacks that life brings. And you trusted God-who had proved his faithfulness many times–to provide the time you needed to complete the project.

I can’t reduce our 10 years of marriage to one (albeit LONG) blog post.  There are hundreds of other details I could record. And although there is nothing very extraordinary about all these little life details, they are OUR details. And I love them, because woven together they reveal a beautiful tapestry designed by a faithful God who has gone before us, planning our every step and providing for our every need as it arose. And seeing his proven faithfulness through these last ten years fills me with great confidence for our future where he will continue to faithfully lead and provide.

Happy anniversary, and happy graduation! As an an eye-witness of your disciplined pursuit of this degree, I know that you are worthy of this reward. What a pleasure to see how God has worked in your life these last ten years to bring you to this point. And I am grateful to have lived them beside you. And I am blessed to have a husband whose example I can hold up to our children–the example of a godly man who has labored with the grace of God to bear fruit in every good work. God’s faithfulness has and always will be our standing place. And our feet are firm there, held by his grace.

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