Have you ever had a desire, a niggle in your soul that wants to do something different, something more, but talk yourself out of it before you even take one step in that direction? Do you often see so many roadblocks in the path of what you might like to do that it is just easier to try and stay on the road-of-no-hurdles? I understand. I have moments like that too. However, every once in a while a dream is sparked- it glows and grows- and will not go. You are compelled to walk towards it and with each step, obstacles break away and flames of possibility grow stronger.
I did not attend one day of high school. I dropped out in middle school- the ninth grade. I was not pregnant and did not hate school. I was a lost and angry 14-year-old with safety issues at home and someone willing to marry me to get me to higher ground. From fourteen to twenty-seven major events shaped my life: I divorced, birthed three children, had previously been a maid, a waitress and even owned my own restaurant for a brief stint. I found Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and was currently living in a mountain cabin with no electricity or running water where my family had resided for several years.
One day, my friend Debbie asked me to go to the local college with her to complete some paper work needed for her to attend her first semester. I get how corny this is going to sound- but walking around that campus was like the jittery homecoming of long-hidden yearning. My senses awoke. I could smell learning, hear people shifting books from side to side traveling from class to class, taste the sweetness of challenging new ideas, almost feel the growing of open minds. My unexpected excitement went deep. A past dream flickered. When other little girls in our neighborhood were playing with Barbies and baby dolls, I would seclude myself in my crowded bedroom, line up well-used stuffed animals against the headboard of my bed and stand before them imparting magnificent lessons of math, reading, and spelling. It was my safe place. It was what I wanted to do when I grew up.
On the way back to my mountain road that day, I timidly shared this dream with my friend and the utter futileness of even hoping that this could ever happen- so many obstacles- it seemed impossible. She encouraged me. She explained that I could get a GED (General Education Diploma) by taking and passing a test to prove proficiency and then start taking classes. Oh, if only that was the single blockade to allowing my dream to come to fruition. But…what if?
I went home and broached the subject to receive a resounding “No!”.Before you are tempted to think too harshly about my husband’s negative response, let me explain. He was very old-school and had made this clear from the start. He wanted a Christian wife who did not work, who stayed at home, and took care of the family. He felt very strongly about this and I had signed on from the beginning. Not only did his desires permeate his decision, he also did not have fond memories of education in general. I sadly relented. I knew it was an insurmountable long-shot when I brought it up. A dream seemingly extinguished before it could light and take hold.
The trouble was… that day walking around that campus had sparked a tucked away aspiration. Hearing about the experiences my much younger friend, Debbie was having at college only fueled the glowing embers. I questioned her about everything. What classes were she taking? What books did she have to read? What new concepts was she learning? I could not get the idea out of my head. As my desire to go to college grew stronger so did I. After a year and a half (when all three kids were attending school) I broached the subject again.
This time he said, “You can go, but there is no money to pay for tuition or books. You will have to figure this out on your own. I don’t think it is a good idea, but I will not stand in your way.” Yay! Now all I had to do was pass the GED having had no high school education, somehow find money to pay for books and tuition, figure out how to provide gas money to get back and forth from the college almost twenty miles away, still make sure the kids and house were taken care of, and a myriad of other challenges. I took my concerns to the Lord.
I barely passed the GED test, especially the math portion where I squeaked by on literally a hope and a prayer. I began cleaning houses in town that spring to pay for my tuition and books. I knew that the chances of me being able to earn a degree were extremely slim. However, my plan was to start with two classes in the summer so the fees were less and I could still clean houses. I would just see what happened from there. I tucked away extra dollars for gas and other expenses and registered for English 101 and Music Appreciation. I felt sure the Lord had given me the ability (after much studying on my part) to pass the test and provided enough funds to pay for that first quarter’s tuition. I, then, waited to attend my first quarter filled with red-hot excitement and gut-burning fear.
I sat among a group of much younger students in my first class on that first day-a transformed person. I was not the troubled and troublesome teenager I was when I had last attended school some 15 years previously. Back then I lacked motivation and reeked bad attitude. Now, I could not wait to learn-excited to do what it took to succeed. The professor was not much older than I and she started the class by going over the syllabus (whatever that was) and relaying the expected homework due for the next class (in two days)! “Please read the first 120 pages of the textbook and write a 2-3 page essay comparing two things of your choice.” I started to laugh. Then shrunk as she popped her head towards me with a withering glance over her glasses. Surely she was joking. I did not know how I would find the time to read 120 pages in two days and I had no idea how to write a paper. Later, in my Music Appreciation class, I was given a hefty assignment there too. All work due by the following class on Wednesday. What? I assumed I could ease into this education thing, not be pushed in with the force of a bulldozer placed firmly under my well worn sneakers. Help!
I drove home that evening watching for wayward deer along the stretch of highway between the college town and ours. I maneuvered the dirt road to the cabin, built a fire to cook dinner, fixed our meal, helped get my kids settled for bed, and then lit the Coleman lantern above the kitchen table where I sat and began reading the textbook pages I had been assigned. In no time, I was consumed with the thrill of learning about things I had never known before. I read about different musical styles from the Middle Ages. I studied how compositions differ according to audience and purpose. The lantern kept burning and I kept reading long after the rest of the house had softly gone to sleep . The flicker of my excitement became a blaze.
The next morning after sending everyone off to their own busy day, I pulled out my dusty little blue Smith Corona and began to plunk out my very first story. I wrote a narrative comparing the lifestyles and adventures of my youngest son living on a mountain and his cousin (of the same age) who lived in the city. I was so nervous. I had not written anything for a very long time. I did not know where to put commas, colons, or how to structure an essay, or much of anything where writing was concerned. Nevertheless, once I hit those first keys and got into my head and the process, I was filled with a kind of jubilance that has nothing to do with correct syntax, spelling, or grammar and everything to do with the joy of putting what is in your heart and head into somewhat coherent sentences. It was about the elation of telling a story. I was hooked.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and inChrist Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen’ (Ephesians 3:20–21).
Dear Readers, Thank you so much for taking your incredibly precious time to read my blog. I decided to break this blog into two or three parts in an effort to make it more of a quick read. Last week’s was so long!
Also, I am thinking of many friends and family out there who have their own “dream come true” story. They worked hard and did not give up. I just want to say “Good job!” and encourage those “in the midst” to keep walking towards that dream!
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I pray for a wonderful week for each of you. If you are facing some seemingly impossible challenges, I pray that you receive hope and encouragement today to help your situation. I pray for direction and clarity if you are trying to decide “next steps.” I pray for peace. In His love, Kristy