I just submitted a petition to graduate. As of June 13, 2011 I will hold a Master’s Degree in Special Education. Lest you think I’m bragging, please allow me to elaborate.
Twenty four years ago (ouch) I graduated from high school and went off to college, not knowing anything about who I was. Or who I wanted to be. I landed myself into a MOTHER of a depression during that semester. I ended up spending inordinate amounts of time at the local cemetery (It was OLD, and I love history, so it’s not that big of a stretch). By November I had lost 25 pounds and could barely drag myself out of bed in the morning. At Christmas I made the decision not to return, which, in retrospect, probably saved my life. I honestly don’t believe I would have come out of the second semester alive.
Over the next 20 years, I got married, had three amazing kiddos and kept sliding. You’ve heard it said that when you hit bottom, there is only one way to go. I can attest to the fact that you can crawl around down there for a LONG time before you look up. About 5 years into my marriage, I finally got a tentative grasp on my depression, began to put my marriage back together and emerged from what had been a very long, very dark fog. When you’ve been in the dark for a while and suddenly the lights come on, it takes time for your eyes to adjust, and you are naturally hesitant to open them. That was me for a while. I was afraid if I opened my eyes, I would see something I didn’t like. Or worse yet…someone would look into them and see something that THEY didn’t like. We went back to church, and I discovered that the God that I had been running from was right there, waiting for me to finally settle down and listen.
Jump ahead to 2006. We are now on the mission field in Quito, Ecuador. We have a fourth child. Our marriage is strong, and I’m not talking to the flowers in the wallpaper anymore. In my heart, I’ve always regretted not finishing college. I think somehow I thought I was less of a person because I didn’t have that diploma to affirm who I was. In February, I began earnestly seeking a way to go back to school. I filled out several preliminary forms, and one day the phone rang. The next thing I knew, I was enrolled in college, ordering books, and feeling completely overwhelmed. How does one manage four (actually, at that time five, but that’s another story) children, a husband, a full time ministry, a full time job, and be a full time student? By the grace of God, and a very patient family, I managed. It took me 3 years and 11 months, and I finished it. A Bachelor’s degree in Education. At this point, I was 39 years old, working at the school, and had come to the realization that what I wanted to do when I grew up was to work with Special Education kids. My Patrick has more learning issues than I can count, and he’s not the only one. I made the decision, just three weeks after graduating with a Bachelors (which was, honestly, more than I ever thought I could do) to try and get my Masters. Another 19 months of constant homework, juggling family, work, ministry and just life in general. As of today, I am three classes away.
There have been a lot of changes in me over the last 24 years. Here is what my overly-caffeinated mind has come to realize. When I graduate in June with that degree, it’s going to be pretty cool. I’ll feel pretty good about it, and I’ll look forward to putting it into practice in the classroom. BUT. It’s not who I am. It’s one little piece of the puzzle that makes up me. I’m still scattered all over the card table, but I’ve got the edges together. The outline is there. And I’ve started filling in the middle. One piece at a time.
“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.” Psalm 139: 13-14.
“I know that full well.” That’s a tough sentence to handle. Do I know it full well? Maybe “I know…I think” No. It has to be full well. Half knowledge and partial truths don’t get to the big picture. So I will choose to know it “full well”. And I’m going to celebrate that knowledge. I’m going to celebrate that degree too. It’s part of the big picture.