Sunday, January 31, 2010

"What do you do?" and "Do you have any kids?"

These are the top questions that reach my ears day-in and day-out. And as much as I hate those questions, I'll admit, I sometimes ask them myself. Although less frequently these days. I suppose I've become a bit more sensitive on these subjects.

A few years ago, it was somewhat easier to answer these questions. I could say that I was working in the Christian publishing field with a major Christian publisher and be done with the first one. As for having any kids, I'd say "I'm not married," and that would shut them down fast.

Now things aren't so easy...or as simple.

Those who know part of my story have heard that I met my husband on and after knowing him for 11 months, married him, and moved three hours away from everything I knew. And this was, frankly, one of the smartest things I have done in all my life. He's amazing, a keeper, a faithful partner in all things.

But then I moved...found myself sitting in a car insurance office transferring my insurance over to his...and the inevitable happened. "So what do you do?" the woman asked. To which I didn't actually reply because I had no idea what to say. I wasn't yet freelance writing, I had left my job, and I was actually getting settled in to my new home.

"Let's say you're a housewife," the woman casually said.

"No!" popped out of my mouth before I could censor myself. "Don't put THAT down!" And the husband began to laugh, guffaw really, his face all lit up with a mischievous grin. After he recovered, he told the nice lady to put down "freelance writer," thereby saving my sanity and the joy of my new marriage, in one fell swoop.

But to be honest with you, I still haven't recovered from that incident, and I'll tell you why: my life has not consisted of tending to a home as my primary occupation, and I'm not sure it ever will, although it could for a short season. And, truthfully, I do believe that I am presently a "homemaker" and "a seminary student" and "a freelance writer" and "a sometimes chaplain" and a "biblestudy teacher" and a wife, a sister, a daughter, and a friend.

Truth be told, my life is a great hodge-podge of activities these days, and it's a wonderful life. Just not easy to define. Not easy to categorize. Not easy to pin down.

And when I am asked if I have any kids, I say "no" or "not yet," and risk the stares of those who think I'm too old to be considering children. And then I smile, take a deep breath, and remind myself that I am my Abba's daughter, made in His image, as a strong ezer (helper, warrior, and rescuer) in the service of His Kingdom. It may not sound like much to the world at large, but in my heart it defines who I am, my next act of service for Him, and the importance of the work He has put before me, however varied and inconsequential it might seem.

"What do I do?" I literally ask my heavenly Father to order my days. "Do I have any kids in my future?" Maybe you should ask my Father in heaven. Only He knows. But either way, He'll be entirely good. That's one question I can answer before it's even asked.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Living in the right world

"Two commands direct us from the small world of self-help to the large world of God's help. First, 'Come, behold the works of the Lord...' The second command is, 'Be still and know that I am God.'"
-author Eugene Peterson

Thursday, January 21, 2010


The Smart Girl's Guide to Twittering ebook got me started, and I must say, it was worth the $19.95. Fun, festive, full of everything I need to do, and more. It certainly does make a girl wonder: what can't I do on twitter? Budgeting, twit-parties, friend-making, resource sharing, free giveaways, etc. There is, alas, some happiness involved.

So, if you don't believe that twitter is the craziest thing ever, and if you're about to take the plunge, won't you join me? I'd love to have more likeminded friends at:

You, too, can learn how to tweet unto others as you would have them tweet unto you. See you there!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Something spiritual is happening

I don't know where to begin, but nothing this week turned out like expected. I was due to complete one more week of physical therapy for the lymphedema in my leg, and the insurance company, inexplicably, canceled it.

Remember the quote on my blog that said there is no plan B? I told my therapist that Tuesday morning when she showed me a few tips and I said goodbye. Said God must have other plans. And He did.

Later in the day, I received an email from our church saying that someone needed  help, personal one-on-one ministry in a crisis situation. I realized my schedule was considerably freed up, so I called, and the rest of my week was turned upside-down.

There was spiritual warfare going on. My car wouldn't start (never happened before or since) at the most crucial moment. But it sputtered to life on the second try. I saw the Holy Spirit move multiple times, not the least of which is that I had any words to say or wisdom to offer in a situation I had never encountered before. I invited someone into our home. It was messy. It was right. The intention I wrote for New Year's about being willing to join God in his work even when it made me uncomfortable was tested. I was blessed. Any love I poured out in the name of Christ was returned to me.

Sunday school members brought meals, I spent hours conversing with one of God's creatures who needs Him desperately. Something spiritual is happening in our church, walls are coming down, church members are going outside the four traditional walls of worship to carry God's love to unexpected people, places, and situations. And, I for one, want to experience the brokenness I read about in Jim Cymbala's Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire--the brokenness that proceeds repentance and revival. I want to be one of the Jesus-followers who sees God moving and joins Him in His work, no matter the cost.

I long to see hearts and lives healed, flourishing in the freedom of Christ, standing in the dignity that comes from bowing the knee to an audience of One. Something spiritual is happening. And it's very, very good.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Online learning or bust

Tomorrow I start my first ever online course. "The Principles and Practice of Prayer." I'm thrilled to start out by reading Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala. If the first chapter is any indication, I'm going to be challenged to align my will with God's this semester and to pray for grace to join His work wherever it might be happening around me.

And being the over-eager student that I am, I was the first student to sign on the Learning Management System (LMS) to create my profile. Honestly, I love how neat and tidy everything is, how an entire semester's coursework can be found on a single page. A page that can be accessed while I sit in my pajamas or my fabulous pink sweat pants. Till tomorrow...
Suzanne Burden
enrolled in residential MA in
Theology program,
with interests in going deeper
in my walk with Christ,
encouraging others on the seminary
learning how to more
effectively teach and write,
and how to provide effective
soul care to hurting individuals
United States
PM 660-01 - 1001 -
Principles and Practice
of Prayer
Last access:
Sunday, 10 January 2010,
08:22 pm  (now)
reading, writing, music,
hiking outdoors,
gluten-free baking, travel

Friday, January 8, 2010

Aging Painfully--er, Gracefully

I go to the gym three to five times a week.

I use a total of four products on my face every night and most mornings--before I apply makeup. (Good grief! No one could have preferred me for the stage where my face is still breaking out while fine lines are popping up everywhere!)

I color my hair at home occasionally and due to the white hairs popping up a bit around my temple, hair color seems to be more of a necessity as I age. (I rue the day when I'll decide not to be a brunette anymore because being some shade of blonde better conceals my grays.)

I take one prescription and four different vitamin supplements on a daily basis.

Progesterone cream is my friend, as many an over-35 gal could attest.

I am of the age where putting on alpha-hydroxy lotion on my hands and wearing cotton gloves to bed is a good idea.

I just gave up coffee for awhile, I'm gluten-free, and the husband and I cook vegan suppers 4-5 days a week.

(You can see why the husband does not believe me when I say I am not "high-maintenance.")

None of this seems like a terribly big deal to me. Until I see it all documented. On my blog. For God and everyone to see. Then I start to wonder if I'm doing all this for the right reasons. If the caretaking I do for my body lines up with my theology. (Yes, some of it does; I feel called to be a steward of what God has given me.) If the fact that I secretly wish I looked like a movie star and spend time obsessing about which anti-aging products I should use is a waste of time that could be better spent in caring for and ministering to others. That's a no-brainer.

Maybe I should be MUCH less concerned with reading Redbook or watching celebrity interviews on morning "news" shows. Maybe I should work on my heart being at home, being at peace, because the Creator of the universe loves me as I am, calls me his daughter, knows every hair on my head, and is sovereign with "plan A" through every day he has planned for me.

Maybe I should ask Jesus how I can love my neighbor well today. Maybe I should pray that God helps me use all the gifts he has given me today, so I can be a faithful steward in his kingdom, a strong ezer-woman who offers hope, comfort, and strength through being exactly who I was created to be. Maybe you should, too.

I was reading Mary DeMuth's blog, and I came across an entry where she reflected on how she doesn't look like Jennifer Aniston. And how Jennifer Aniston, as she ages, will start to lose what society most values about her. Her stunning good looks. And that's when it hits me. We all age, but most of us do so painfully. With a good deal of resistance, sometimes projecting a "devil-may-care" attitude and purposely letting ourselves go, always wishing we were younger, seldom wishing we were in this moment, today, living out the plans God created for us.

And I would like to stop the madness, right here and right now.

I Peter 3:3-4, The Message
"What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition. Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in." 

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Plan B is a myth

"...if God is sovereign, then plan B is a myth. No matter how dark things look to us, or how big the mess we're in, we're in plan A. God's plan for us is intact . . . neither behind nor ahead but right on schedule. Nothing--not our sins, failures, disappointments, bad decisions, nor the sins of others against us--can deter a sovereign God from accomplishing his purposes."

-Carolyn Custis James, When Life and Beliefs Collide

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Semester #2 book list

It won't be long until I'm reading till the cows come home, writing papers, and discovering things for the very first time. In case you're wondering, I'm looking forward to all three of the above!

This semester's reading list will include:

Cross-Cultural Connections, Duane Elmer
Ministering Cross-Culturally, Sherwood Lingenfelter
Good Neighbors: Communicating with the Mexicans (reserved reading), John Condon
(Is it just me, or does the above make us sound like ugly Americans?)
Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, Jim Cymbala
Brokenness: The Heart God Revives, Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Transformed in His Presence: The Need for Prayer in Counseling, Tammy Schultz & Roger Peugh with Deb Nicholas
Journey to Victorious Praying, Bill Thrasher
Prayer, O. Hallesby
They Found the Secret, V. Raymond Edman

But, secretly, I was wishing it would work out for me to dig into theology courses this semester. To jump headlong into the deep stuff, to plow through Systematic Theology I, in the hopes of preparing myself for Sys. Theo II.

On the other hand, Cross-Cultural Ministry and the Principles and Practice of Prayer will most definitely help in shaping my practical theology. They are no less important, and maybe even more urgent than designated theology classes.

And because, transparently speaking, I am one of those individuals who isn't the greatest at Biblestudy unless I have to study to teach it, I believe the prayer class will help me do what I need to do most of all: pray. In addition to the reading and papers, yes, we actually are required to spend time praying.

It's not an obligation in my book, though: I'm being given an opportunity. The following is still true: less than 1% of 1% of Christians are given the opportunity to study God's Word in a formal context. I'm determined to make the most of it--with a grateful heart to carry me through the semester and beyond.

Soon to come: a review of Going Rogue by Sarah Palin. One. Tough. Lady. No matter what you think of her politically, she's definitely recast the mold for females in leadership by breaking a lot of rules and keeping her family commitments intact while doing it. Just finished the book today, and I sit here amazed by what she's accomplished. More to come...