Friday, May 13, 2016

The End Is Just the Beginning

It is hard to believe graduate school is over.  I've always enjoyed the challenge of learning, and as hard as the late nights, early mornings and weekends of pouring over material has been, a part of me will miss it.

I'm writing this post today not to brag about the degree conferred upon me last Friday, but to brag on God for the past three years.  While I am extremely proud to have the book knowledge, and soon the piece of paper reflecting that, there were lessons learned that simply aren't reflected in the title I can now add behind my name.

When God guided me back to school three years ago, I knew I could do it...the book work that is.  I've always done well in school.  I graduated salutatorian of my high school class, and magna cum laude in undergraduate.  Studying isn't a hard task, and I was taking classes in the area of my passion.  Sure it would take work and dedication, but the degree was something I was confident I could accomplish.

It wasn't long after I started graduate school that I began to have some health issues that took more than a year to get diagnosed, and another year or so of treatment to get things under control on most days.  Studying isn't easy when you have a hard time holding your head up because you don't feel good and have put in a full day of work already.  It never seemed to fail, too, When I needed to be at my best to finish a project by a deadline or to take a final exam, my vertigo flared up.  I took many tests with my head planted on my desk to make the room stay still long enough just to get through.  There were many papers (including my final senior project) that were finished in the same condition.

So as I stood Friday, my Masters hood being placed over my head by the Dean of the Graduate School at APSU, it was a humbling experience.  Looking at a 4.0 on my transcript even more so.  I knew, standing on that stage, that degree was not accomplished under my strength.  If it had been, I would surely not be standing there.

Here are a few of the lessons I learned during graduate school that I didn't find in my textbooks:

God's plans for our lives are perfect.
I know the decision to return to school, while encouraged by family and friends, was divinely appointed.  I heard his voice clearly driving down the road one day.  Getting past the hurdles of getting into school were easy ones.  And just like we so often do, I expected the rest of the journey to be easy as well.  Isaiah 43:19 says "For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland."  Three years ago I could see something new about to happen.  If I had paid more attention I would have realized the new thing was on the other side of the wilderness and the desert.  But we always come through the wilderness and the desert stronger and much more appreciative for it.

God places people in our paths to help us along the way.  
In the process of trying to be the perfectionist of a wife, mother, worker and student I expected myself to be there were some other important things that fell off my spinning plate.  I'm so thankful for supportive friends and family who prayed for me and encouraged me along the way.  The sacrifices you made have not gone unnoticed.  I'm thankful for second and third and fourth chances.  Don't forget your support network.  That is what God placed them there to do.

Never Stop Learning
The very reason why I went back to school was to freshen up an outdated degree.  We are never too old to learn, and we should never quit learning.  God, through the hands of some very special men, gave us an instruction book for our lives called the Bible.  Each time I open it I learn something new.  Each new phase of life, each new day for that matter, brings challenges that he has prepared us for if we will take the time to read the instruction book.

The End is just the Beginning.  
The moment that hood was placed on me, I was oblivious to the crowd of 2,000 or so, imagining the day when we stand before God and hear those beautiful words, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."  To stand there at the feet of my Lord one day and know he used me on this earth, while he was capable of doing things perfectly well without me, will be an amazing experience.  I just can't wait.

I won't be discouraged by the statistics that say blogs are on the decline, and people are reading less (okay,,,I did learn that in grad school).  I appreciate each of you that take the time to read mine.  I hope it makes a difference in your day.  It does in mine.

Father, thank you for the lessons you teach us through everyday life.  Help us to see a fresh new word in your word each day.  Thank you for grace and mercy, and for the promise of heaven.