This summer we're sort of like a monastery unto ourselves. We're pretty isolated out here in Omaha and our focus is simple and clear. Our family life right now is comparable to the monastic life of the richest tradition in western monasticism, the Benedictine Order. The order has been around since the Rule of Benedict (amazing document) was written in the 6th century. The Rule prescribes three basic duties for the monks, summed up in the latin phrase ora et labora. This means pray and work. The three activities that would fill their everyday as monks were communal prayer (aka liturgical prayer), solitary prayer (through lectio divina), and manual labor.
Although, to be honest, there's not much formal prayer going on over here (except when Dennis insists that we pray several times during meals), we do have a considerable amount of solitude and time for reflection as I pursue my studies. One great, very unique characteristic of my masters program is how much it encourages reflection. Most people in academia are largely concerned with acquiring more knowledge; so, this is rare to be urged to reflect on the knowledge you are receiving or already have. Another great highlight of my program so far is that because we are so disconnected out here, so distanced from other obligations, both Lauren and I are able to reflect on my studies together. In fact, Lauren has been able to read a few of the books and articles from my classes along with me. We've been able to have some great discussions because of that. The manual labor aspect of our lives out here is evident in the fact that we do not have a car (extremely rare in Omaha) and so we ride our craigslist bikes everywhere. Unfortunately, Omaha, although it's in the middle of the "heartland", is quite hilly and hot in the summer. And when you're on a bike, those hills seem like mountains.
We're a little over half-way through our summer out here and, although it has definitely not been without its moments of loneliness, I'd say we have been able to embrace the simplicity and be thankful for such a time and opportunity. I know I myself am thankful, especially to my wife, for the gift she's given me in allowing me to do this program while she courageously cares for Dennis and the little one germinating in her belly. As the hip-hop world might say, what a soldier!