Tag Archives: personal journal

Saturday is for Waiting | Third Draft Submitted

imageIt is Holy Saturday. This is the day the disciples waited in fear. Of course, they did not know how long they would wait, or what exactly it was for which they waited. My guess is that many of them were waiting for the guards to barge into the house and arrest them.

Jesus was dead. Hope seemed lost.

Today I wait as well. I turned in the third draft of my dissertation yesterday. I turned the first draft in on January 17. Looking back at that one, it really was a stinker. I revised and rewrote, met with two of my panel members on February 17 and was told that it still wasn’t ready, so I continued to deconstruct, write new material, and reorganize.

I turned the second draft in to my advisor last Saturday. The new draft had seven chapters instead of four. I did a much better job of describing and analyzing the research data. But, there was still too many weeds. It wasn’t quite tight enough. My advisor came back on Monday and said, “You’re so close…” She gave me a couple more tips and I have been rewriting specific sections all week.

I’ve been writing this paper since last July. Ten months.

I turned in the third draft yesterday morning. It is Holy Week, so my advisor is non-responsive until Monday. So, I wait. Will the dissertation come to life this time? We’ll see.

For now, we engage in Holy Saturday. Tonight I will lead the Easter Vigil at church. Tomorrow we celebrate God’s Holy Restart on Easter morning.

In this moment, on Saturday morning…we wait.

So Close…

photo credit: http://www.ehow.com/how_2045123_make-backyard-horse-shoe-area.html

Apparently dissertation writing is not horse shoes or hand grenades. You know the saying. “Close only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades.”

I heard back from my advisor yesterday, regarding the second draft of my dissertation. “SO close,” she said. She challenged me to refine it a bit more. Weed out some extraneous authors, follow an unexplored connective thread, things like that. Today I will attempt to make sense out of her comments.

SO close…

Tear it Down, Build it Again

reframing the addition
Yes, that is actually me, on the right, wearing a tool belt.

The current state of my dissertation reminds me of something that happened when we were building an addition to our house in Las Vegas. We hired a friend to be the general contractor and he had sub-contracted the framing to a carpenter that he trusted. The plan was to have all the framing completed over Memorial Day weekend. The only problem was that the general contractor was going to be out-of-town for the weekend. That left me with the framer.

Remember, this is Las Vegas, NV at the end of May. It was 106 degrees every day during the framing process. The first level went well. I had a tool belt strapped around my waist and I drove in nails wherever the carpenter told me to pound. It was pretty fun, even though it was really hot.

Then we started to work on the second level and things got interesting. We had to tie the roof line into the existing roof, so the geometry was tricky. I hate math, and I’m not much of a construction man, so I was completely at the mercy of the framer (without the guidance of the general contractor, remember). The framer convinced me that the only way we could make this work was to extend the roof in such a way that the outside wall of the room would only be six-feet tall.

I agreed. What did I know?

We spent all day cutting lumber and framing that second-story room…in the scorching heat. It was a thing of beauty.

Then the general contractor showed up and I thought his head was going to explode. He and the framer had some words, the framer walked off the job, and the general contractor and I were left with a very difficult decision. You guessed it. We completely dismantled the second story, tried to salvage what we could, and rebuilt it so that we could have a real, eight-foot wall in the room.

That was a disheartening set-back. However, when the addition was finished, I was so glad we took the time to make those changes.

That is where my dissertation stands today. I wrote a first draft based upon my inexperience as an academic writer and my emerging, and incomplete understanding of the participatory action research project. I now realize that I must disassemble what I have written, recalculate the angles, and reframe the entire structure. I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to salvage.

I know that I will be glad I had to do this in the long run. I’m just glad it is not 106 degrees!

Setback or Blessing?

I met with my thesis advisor and one of the readers on my panel yesterday to discuss the state of my dissertation. The question that had the most emotional impact came when my reader asked, “How important is it that you graduate this May as opposed to next May?”

He suggested that I take a deep breath, give myself eight more weeks, revisit the entire dissertation based upon the conversation we had during that meeting, and plan to defend in May or June. That way I won’t feel the pressure of having to get it turned in by March 1st and I can make it really good. I learned a great deal about the real nature of a PAR dissertation and how I am still missing some key components.

Of course, every fiber of my being was internally screaming, “NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!” My plan is to be DONE, so I can move on. My advisor told me that she has seen me turn things around very quickly, and that I’m closer to finished than perhaps I think. So, she held out a glimmer of hope that I could finish on my time table.

Hmmm… My time table. This morning I wrote a devo on Matthew 18:1-9 and tonight I will preach a sermon on that same passage for Ash Wednesday. Jesus said, “unless you humble yourself and become like one of these little children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

For whose Kingdom do I strive, again? Who called me to this PhD? Whose time table do I follow? Does it really matter if I rush to finish and walk this May, or give myself a little more breathing room, finish when I’m actually finished, and wait until next May to “walk the platform?”

Honestly, it doesn’t really matter. It’s not like my job depends on it, or my family desperately needs me to have three silly letters after my name, or somehow the fact that I wore a goofy hat and had the magic academy dust sprinkled on me will make me a better teacher and servant of God’s mission in the world.

So, I will work diligently, managing work at Grace on one hand and finishing this paper on the other. If I finish in time to walk this May, wonderful. If not, so be it. Perhaps this is my version of becoming like a child. Word to the preacher…be careful what you preach. 🙂