Gratitude. Appreciation. Thanks. Indebtedness. Recognition. None of it seems to sum up what I am feeling right now. I have this feeling like I just jumped out of an airplane. Or climbed to the top of Mt. Everest. Or ran a marathon. Or was given a million dollars. The list could go on...
Over the last several weeks, I have had a lot of reasons for introspection. I have passed some milestones, and have been working on some perfectly timed projects. I have been looking backwards over my past, and how it has led to my present. I have really fought with decisions, promises and failures. Not at all wishing I could re-do my past, but just paying close attention to things that have brought me to this particular place.
I have been working on something for a little while, and have been struggling with the topic. Not going to go into a lot of detail here right now, but within another week or so, I will share. Anyway, I was doubting my potential and the ways that God has changed and used me. Then, this morning, I received a phone call that was so sudden, so unexpected, that I just am sitting here, in complete disbelief. I get so blown away sometimes. And, it has really made me think.
I am being recognized for outstanding academic achievement at school. One beautiful day almost four years ago, I made a huge decision. I had been given a mission, and I was so uncertain that God was really telling me to do it. Step out of my comfort zone, walk into the unknown, and just do it. I enrolled in school, in the middle of a really bad situation. I remember thinking to myself that I had lost my mind. You see, I was battling so many outside influences. I was praying for miracles in my marriage, struggling with two kids pretty much on my own, and trying not to watch everything I loved and worked for go down the drain. So, you can imagine my confusion when God pushed me to go back to school. I went with the understanding I would complete a course and drop out. That was my bargain with God. I would do the work, but not put extra time or effort into it. If I passed with a decent grade, I would continue. When I realized I didn't have time, or the grade wasn't to my satisfaction, I knew I would quit. I passed that first class with a 99.8. Apparently, failure wasn't an option.
Within 3 months of my enrollment, my marriage took an intense spiral downward. Within another 2-3 months, I found myself unexpectedly pregnant, causing major doubt's of God's plans within me. Within a year of that, things had gotten enormously worse. My years of school have seen me struggle with a massively colicky child, the pregnancy and birth of a third child, watching a loved one spiral down into the pits of alcoholism, a rocky divorce, and recovery and healing from abuse and all the things that come with it. So, you see, when I look back at my years of school, I cannot even begin to explain how I have a 3.98 GPA. It isn't something my human brain can even begin to explain. I literally do not understand. For the first time in a long time, I am proud of a decision I made, and the success that is coming from it. I am so thankful, that even in the midst of turmoil, God's voice was heard and obeyed. Would it have been easier to ignore the prompting? Absolutely. Would I be where I am today? Absolutely not. I am finally beginning to understand the way God works. He will give me the steps for today, without revealing the overwhelming magnitude of where those steps will lead over time. Because, if I had known that I would endure pregnancy, alcoholism, divorce, single parenting, sleep deprivation, and recovery while still in school, I never would have obeyed.
I can't help but think about those nights, when I wanted to sleep more than anything else. When I just wanted my world to stop spinning around me, unsure of how to get through the day, then adding assignments that were overwhelming and due that night. I think about those times when I knew it would be easier to walk away than to walk this thing through. I think about those countless nights complaining about a horrible assignment or a difficult professor, or just the fact that I was tired of continuing on. And, most often, I think about every single person, sitting in the background, cheering me on, silently or publicly. I know people have said prayers for me. I know they have encouraged me, reminded me that I am doing something with this life. Lifting me up, carrying me through this. Speaking kindness and courage to me. Reminding me that I can do this, and will do this. I think about this unseen person giving me strength and courage and grace to get through this, and do so in such a way that no one could doubt it was God who was with me.
After a miserable professor/class last month, I began to seriously doubt the ability to finish school at all, even more, maintain the grades I have worked so hard for. I called a friend, as close to a panic attack as I have been in a long time. I didn't share this with them at the time, but I have never been so close to giving up and walking away in my life. And, to hear the words, "Give up. Throw away all your work, all the grant money, all the scholarship money." I remember the conversation continuing, reminding me of how hard I had worked, how amazing my grades were, but that it would be okay to throw it all away. I have such a love/hate relationship with sarcasm, reverse psychology, however you want to put it. The words hurt. But not in the ways like a burn or a broken arm, more like in the ways a rosebush is cut back to its core to produce more blooms and strength. Obviously, I continued on. The strong-willed attitude within me rose up again. I didn't throw in the towel, I gave it all I had. And got the highest grade in the class. Those words have echoed in my mind every single struggle with school since. I have worked way too hard to walk away now. I hope the person that helped me through that night is reading, and can understand those words were exactly what I needed. I would've given up if not for them. While they didn't feel like God at the time, I am fairly confident God used this person for the positive effects those words would have on me now.
So, today, when my school called, the woman on the other end said, "You are an academically outstanding student. Our files show you are a single parent, and that you have a 3.98 GPA. You are in the top 15 of your graduating class, and have been almost your entire academic season. Keep it up and congratulations!" And, I sit back, in awe of the most amazing journey and the most amazing friends. I know at some point, I am going to look back at this journey and say, "Wow, there is no way I would've ever achieved any of this in my own strength. God has been here the whole time." I already see it, and seriously cannot wait to see what else is coming.
So, those days when you have seen me, happy, down, struggling, succeeding, whatever, and lifted me up, I want to thank each of you from the bottom of my heart. Those days you have made a point to encourage me, I needed it. I never would have thought at the beginning of this that I would come out of it where I am now. And, then to look forward to graduation, I can't wait to see where I am then. Walking across that stage is easily within reach now. I just have to keep my chin up and keep moving. Never could I have imagined the plans God had (and continues to have) for my life.