January 2017: Jacob and I in Michiana snow! 

January 2017: Jacob and I in Michiana snow! 

We had a brilliant holiday in the US. Truly. In every way possible, we were reminded of how we have the best of family and friends and that we are loved. Is there any greater reminder at Christmas time than the reminder that we are loved?

There was a shadow, however, that brought the holidays to an unhappy close.

After a series of unfortunate events, Lemony Snicket-style, Jacob and I had to make a difficult decision regarding our immediate future. On December 23, Jacob received word from KU Leuven that his PhD proposal was not approved and that it required revision and resubmission. After spending an entire semester working with a difficult advisor and forcing his academic work into the advisor’s mold, Jake saw the unfortunate news as providential. Jacob has decided against resubmitting his proposal for the moment.

Where does that leave Jake? No dissertation means no visa to return to Belgium, so these events leave him at home in the US. He is working as hard as ever and still forging a path forward to earn his PhD in the future. But he’s also taking a sabbatical. I’m immensely proud that he has the courage to walk away from KU Leuven, recognizing that he will not be able to make his desired contribution to the field of animal ethics there at this particular time.

Meanwhile, I am sitting in our apartment in Belgium. Like Jake, I am pursuing my vocation. For the next few months, that will entail living on opposite sides of the Atlantic.

God willing, I will graduate with an abridged bachelor in theology from KU Leuven in May and complete my Church of England Ministry Experience Scheme internship in June. Jacob return periodically on a tourist visa so that we can face those big milestones together.

So these are the bare facts.

Of course we never really experience the bare facts as bare facts. We experience the bare facts as immensely significant events, laden with meaning and heavy with emotion. We made our decision in the light of advice given once by Nelson Mandela, “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” 

Both of us have strong hope that the work we’re doing and the vocations we’re following tell the story of the Creator’s love for all creation. A few months from now, when we’re safely reunited and looking forward to whatever step we need to take next, we will be so happy that we remained dedicated to this story.

Until then, this sucks.