My countdown calendar that Hubby made for me for the last month of school
Sometimes dreams can sit on the shelf for a very long time. They get pushed back so other things sit front and centre – sometimes GREAT things, sometimes unexpected things – but nevertheless… other things. Dreams can get found among the clutter once in a while, taken down off the shelf and dusted off, held in our hands and coddled for a while – then put back on the shelf because for now that is their place. For now other things must sit where we can see them in full view, and that is perfectly OK. Really. Absolutely. As long as we choose to see it that way. Life is full of choices about what sits on the shelf and where it sits compared to everything else.
I started university when I was 18, and that was 21 years ago now. I left my home, my family, my town, and my friends to venture off to a university in Toronto and pursue a degree in Environmental Studies. I wanted to save the rainforests. I love nature, I love how God put it all together in His most marvelous way, I love trees and mountains and clean water. Somehow I wanted to help in all the efforts that were emerging to save our world.
Lack of finances meant I would take a year off after that first year of university (which had been almost completely funded by OSAP). I would only take one class the second year, I would live with my parents again, and I would work full-time at Subway. I became a sandwich artist instead.
I knew I wanted to finish my education, and I knew that university was way too expensive. So I went to college instead. I took two years to study to be an Environmental Protection Technician, and I loved the hands-on approach that college brought. I loved working in the labs and conducting field research. This degree helped me get a summer job at a local zoo, studying wetlands and writing wetland conservation newsletters. It seems that even when I wasn’t looking for writing opportunities, they were still coming my way. God was probably trying to talk to me about that, but I wasn’t listening to him much at the time.
No job in my field after that summer, now tens of thousands of dollars in debt, I took whatever jobs I could find as I tried to navigate my way out of my parent’s house and into life on my own. Many years of administration work followed, which I surprisingly loved and excelled at. One of my jobs was reception work in a chiropractor’s office. This is where I met up with God again after ignoring him for most of the previous seven years. This is also where I met my Joshua.
And this is where everything changed. The next decade plus of my journey was all about marriage, ministry, moving many times, and three baby boys. Talk about GREAT, unexpected things on the shelf of life. In a word – WOW.
I became a stay-at-home mom. The best ten years of my life – seriously and honestly. Also the hardest 10 years of my life. I learned about the best parts of myself and the worst parts as well.
Still the dream of finishing university lingered. I’d putter around on my shelf, take down a few things, dust them off, and see where they fit best in each new phase of life. I tried to take an online class when Josiah was only 2 – it proved to be way too challenging at the time, and I didn’t have enough confidence or focus (or money!) to put that dream on the front of the shelf for long. But I did finish the class, and eventually would earn my degree from that university.
My post-secondary education was becoming very dusty and very complicated, so I let it rest for a long while and just had fun with raising my boys.
Sidenote: Before marriage I also took a few Bible college courses from a couple of different schools across Canada – but that’s a whole different post!
Josh’s journey led him to pastoring in the local church – first with youth, then as an Associate Pastor. The churches were very supportive of continuing education and he was able to finish a specialized Leadership course and then use that course as a head start to a Master’s in Evangelism and Leadership. We all attended his graduation – the boys and I along with Josh’s brother. It was AMAZING and I loved watching him grab his degree.
Then I just knew. I had been doing a complete overhaul of my life as the boys were heading off to school, and finally I knew it was time for me to put university at the front and centre of my shelf. I had been really evaluating that dream, looking at the options, sorting through the possibilities for a degree, and settled on an Arts instead of the original Science I was going to pursue.
As Josh was finishing his last course for his Master’s, I was enrolling for undergraduate courses online. I decided to stick with a university that offered an amazing online program. This was the only way university was going to work for me – if I could set my own pace and work at 4am if needed (and it was – many times)! I was given credit for all the university, college and Bible college courses I had taken and I now had half a university degree under my belt. Another half to go. I wanted to finish in two years.
I got a part-time job at the local christian bookstore to pay for my degree. I loved the job and I loved getting back out in the world. When the boys were both in school full-time my days had gotten considerably lonelier! And online schooling wasn’t going to help with that very much, though I did enjoy meeting new people in discussion groups.
The job lasted almost a year before we finally admitted that our family life and ministry life were already full to the brim, not to mention how my schooling was adding to the mix.
When I wanted to give up and pack it in – I was 38 for heaven’s sake and couldn’t even see a job at the end of this journey! – Josh encouraged me to keep going. So I would enroll for another class or two or four at a time, and the number of courses required for my degree kept shrinking.
January 2012 – Fourteen to go
May 2012 – Ten to go
September 2012 – Nine to go
January 2013 – Six to go
May 2013 – Four to go
August 2013 – Zero to go
That’s where I am today. My last exam was written two days ago.
I was able to take a class on Jesus’ life and the last exam I wrote was all about Jesus. A great way to end it all.
All being well, I will walk across the graduation stage in the fall and grab my degree – a Bachelor of Liberal Arts with a minor in International Studies. This pulls the last two decades of schooling together in a wonderful way – some of the Environmental Studies classes I took back in the day, mixed with some of the Bible college courses, and a few of the recent classes thrown in… and voila! International Studies jives so well with who I am today, and where my focus is headed in the future. And it’s even similar to much of what I started to learn in Environmental Studies – except now it’s about saving people rather than saving the trees. And people need the trees, and the water, and we’re all in this together.
Amazing how things work out. How dreams can sometimes mix together so well, and more than one can be realized at the same time. That’s God for you. Working things out as only he can. I love to watch him work.
I already see which new dreams are taking their places front and centre. The shelf is already full. It was a little too full as the university dream was coming to an end, but I suppose it was best that way. It would have been very hard to let go of such an old dream, such a dear dream, without having new ones already poking their way through.
Maybe I’ll post a graduation photo when I have one? With a cap and gown and a degree in hand? I still have my suspicions about whether or not I ACTUALLY passed Economics…
I suppose a little more time will tell.
I learned so many amazing things as I was living out this dream – I’ll post a few of them to share with you tomorrow….