Can we talk about college graduation for a minute? I mean college graduation when you aren’t in your early twenties, that is. SO, I graduated college with my BS in Christian Ministry and Ethics (Summa Cum Laude!), and I am NOT in my early twenties (GASP!). I really had no desire to participate in this ceremony but I decided to for several reasons. First, my husband said I couldn’t have my graduation gift (Vegas!) if I didn’t participate, second, my boys were so excited to watch me graduate and I owed this to them, and third, I have some beautiful friends who encouraged me to do it. SO, I listened to all these people and went through with it and I am SO thankful I did. What I thought was no big deal turned into such an emotional journey as I remembered all the statistics repeatedly quoted to me when I was younger. You guys, I just became a positive statistic for girls who grew up in poverty, were abused, who moved around a lot, and so much more. Let’s start with some very brief history.
When I was younger we were pretty poor (though to my mom and family’s credit, I never knew this until I was a little older). When I say poor, I mean I have washed clothes on a washboard and heated water in a pot on a propane stove to take baths in poor. I mean we got things that could be bought with food stamps for Christmas poor. I mean we really did walk about a mile to the bus stop rain or shine (or snow, or ice, or smoldering heat). There were times we were like seriously super-duper poor, and you know what kinds of things come with poverty usually: drugs, alcohol, and abuse of all kinds. It is a very sad reality and also the reason for so many negative statistics; the cycle of poverty and abuse is a very hard one to break.
So, back to graduation, I was really against participating because I thought at my age it was kind of silly, but it was so far from that. I began my higher education journey in January of 2011 and while I finished in November of 2015, my ceremony was in May of 2016 so I seriously had a LOT of time to think about this ceremony and I still didn’t quite grasp what it meant to walk across that stage.
Walking across that stage meant so many things. I want to start with what it meant for my husband and children; what they contributed to this amazing feat. When I began school, I attended campus at St. Gregory’s which meant on top of working 32 hours a week during the day and evening, I was now going to be away from home one evening a week and miss bedtime. I also had different meetings with my classmates for school projects and study groups at other times during the week. There were some school things I missed for Isaiah when he was still in public school, but the thing I hated most was missing bed time. There were times my husband had to pick up my slack when he had a 60+ hour work week. They also sacrificed having me available, even when I was home. I worked so very hard to get good grades (hard work pays off, seriously) that my family got very used to seeing my body but my face was replaced by the back of a laptop. And my family is so gracious and forgiving and supportive and loving and wonderful because they never acted upset when I had to miss something to do school.
Now to extended family; my parents sacrificed time as well watching the boys when Scott worked late. Every Monday night my mom either came to our house or I took the boys to her house where Scott would get them after his LONG day at work. My nieces and nephews, sisters in law and their husbands, mother in law, grandparents in law, my own aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents (and, you get the idea, right) also sacrificed time and even memories. I lost count of the gatherings I missed or birthday parties I had to skip because I was either at school or “doing school” as we called it. They are also so gracious with love and forgiveness and understanding. The truth is, all of these people were a support system for me. They all had a hand in cheering me on and helping me not to give up when times were tough.
There were at least two times I really wanted to throw in the towel and quit because life was just too much for me (well actually three times, but I’m only going into two because one is too personal). One was when the love of my life was diagnosed with Sarcoma cancer. This was one of the scariest times in my entire life and I had to think of so many things and take care of so many things, I just knew it would be impossible to continue on, but I did. My husband told me to keep at it and I continued without taking a break (I schooled year round sometimes with no more than a week off a year). The second time I thought I needed a break or just to give it up was when I found out I was pregnant with Myrah. I knew I could do school throughout pregnancy, but how was I going to manage with a newborn? Well, I just didn’t have it in me to take a break at this time either! It may sound unbelievable, but I continued class during a week-long labor and even completed a final in the hospital room while my baby girl was in the NICU. I was a day late, but I had a VERY understanding professor and a good track record; having a good track record gives room for leniency sometimes.
SO, this journey was made possible by these amazing people. I fought hard for this degree and the honors I graduated with by never giving up, but most important to me is the fact that I have finally broken through a statistical barrier many thought I never would break. Walking across that stage and having the president place that diploma (holder) in my hand put all of this into perspective. These are the things I thought of as I walked through the sanctuary, around the foyer, up those stairs, and finally across that stage. I heard all the hollering and screaming from my family and my throat closed up and my eyes got blurry and I realized that I did it. I did it for me, I did it for them, and I did it for a little girl who will hear my story some day and realize that she can do it too. I broke free.
God is so amazing, you guys. He led me to, and through this journey. He laid this path out for me before I was knit together in my mother’s womb. He knew this play even when I didn’t. When I wanted to give up, God gave me the strength to continue. God gave me the drive and the desire and it is God I wish to glorify. Even if I never get a job associated with this particular degree, I know without a doubt that God has a very good reason for me taking this path. I’m still not sure where He is taking me (us), but I know it will be somewhere good for the glory of Him. I went through hell on earth and there are many times in my life that could be played out in Lifetime movies, but through all that, God allowed me to overcome; to rise above; to break free. He gave me strength to push through, HE put the people in my life that I needed to push me, HE put me exactly where I needed to be to get where I need to go and I know He is in control of the next move too.
So, you can do it. You can rise above. If I can do it, so can you. I promise if you are seeking the path God laid out, He will absolutely guide you through.
“I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:10-13 NIV).