Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Finish Line

It was late 2007 when Ex and I split up, and around that same time when I began to think long and hard about what I wanted my life to look like. I was in sales at the time and hated every minute of it. I was good at it. I could build relationships quickly, people liked me, and I could put up some impressive numbers when I really wanted to put in the effort. But most of the time, I hated what I was doing, so my effort was limited. Then, in the spring of 2008, it hit me in the middle of a praise team practice that I was supposed to go back to school to get my masters and be a therapist. And just like that, I was in motion. I applied to the Master of Marriage and Family Therapy program and got accepted to begin in the fall of 2008. There were plenty of reasons not to go. It would mean taking time away from my beautiful baby boy, and it would cost a lot of money. It would take a lot of effort, and would suck.

In late August, 2008, I parked my car in front of Greathouse Science, the building where I would spend A LOT of time over the next couple of years. It's an older, red brick building, and the floor mat as you walk in the basement level double doors smells like a wet dog. There was a girl walking in at the same time as me. She asked if I knew what room we were in. In a moment of sheer departure from character, I whipped out my planner and glanced at the note that I had jotted down about the room number, which happened to be on the fourth floor. It was strange for me to be so organized and on top of things. (And I learned later, that it's CRAZY out of character for her to NOT be organized and on top of things.) But we huffed our way up four flights of stairs and she seated herself at my left side.

That day, this girl and I went to lunch at Subway, because neither of us knew anyone else. Little did I know that she would become one of the greatest girlfriends that anyone could ever ask for, and I had no idea that we would walk up those stairs and sit just like that for the next 2 and a half years. But we did. Every class...every lecture...every step of the way. We are different in more ways than we are alike. She's structured and organized. I am not. She is a planner and prefers details. I am not. But we forged a friendship that I honestly don't know if I would have survived grad school without. This is partly because she became my support system, and partly because I stopped buying the books during the second year of school and she panicked about my complete lack of preparation and unfailingly made copies for me. Some might say she is an enabler. I say she's a DAMN. FINE. FRIEND.

We graduated today. And during the (really...insanely....obscenely) long commencement service, as they were calling name after name of people I'd never met, I realized she was sitting on my left side. Again. And always. And I was reminded that I am one lucky chick. She is, without question, the biggest perk of getting a Masters degree.

There were plenty of good reasons to get my Masters. I felt like God had created me with a purpose, and now, more than ever, I realize that purpose is to offer healing in the lives of other people. I knew ever so slightly what healing looked like in 2008, but PRAISE JESUS, I KNOW HEALING NOW. I know what it's like to be my own biggest stumbling block, to invite toxicity into my life, to breathe in and breathe out in order to survive and do no more, and to mess up time and time again. But I also know HEALING. I know what it's like for God to extend his Grace, for Jesus to be enough, and for the finger of God to pull back the curtain on my shame so that I might again see a glimpse of the beautiful woman he created me to be. I have both spit in His face and curled up in His lap more times than I can possibly count. And whatever I was doing, being a bratty child or a tender heart, He received me with Grace. He ALWAYS receives me with Grace. Because that's MY God. And I can say with complete peace, that I know Him now.

There were plenty of great reasons to take this path, and at various times there were plenty of pretty great reasons to step off it. But one thing kept me going. Just one, very small thing. In 2008 I woke up to a life where it was just me and E. And I knew there would never be a better time for me to embrace education so that one day I could provide a better life for him, be more available to him, and do great things that might leave my son with a living legacy. It took a lot of sacrifice. I dropped him off at a grandparent's house more times than I can count. (And by the way, if you are one of those grandparents...I owe you. 'Thank you' will never be enough.) I left work many nights only to go to class instead of home to him, and on more occasions than I care to admit, someone other than me picked him up from school. So many times I felt guilty for sacrificing my time with him, but I kept reminding myself that SOMEDAY it would be worth it all. Someday, this process would end, and I would have opportunities to create a better life for us than I could back then.

"Someday" is here. Because today, I graduated with a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy. The irony of this is still pretty tough for me to swallow, but when I actually started working with people in my internship, I realized that I had something special to offer them. I am able to offer understanding and empathy to a degree that I would never be able to if I had not had to WALK HEALING. He really does make all things good. And I have waited two and a half years for this picture:

the one with my degree in my right hand...

and the reason for it in my left.

"Vitality shows not only in the ability to persist, but the ability to start over."

~F. Scott Fitzgerald


Lora said...

hey, i know that building. and that rug. some things never change!

congratulations! i'm so incredibly happy for you and i LOVE that you are going to be able to release healing over people God loves! woooo!

Lora said...

(ps, i may have had a tear in my eye because of your picture and the explanation for it...

Amy said...

I. LOVE. YOU! I know how hard you worked to get where you are. I know what you've sacrificed. And the other side of that degree is going to be a great place for you. I know it! Love you so much and I'm so proud of you. :) And you look beautiful in those pictures! You wear happiness well.

NilesCoaching said...

Hey there, this is Eric. I am a friend of one of your friends (Jennifer) in Mt Juliet. We met on a date site several months ago but she look elsewhere for her romantic interest and hasent stayed in touch, But thats cool. She told me of your blog.

I cant believe our similarities. I too struggled intensely through a divorce and the fallout beginning in 2007. It took a few years of suffering and loss and God awakened me to my calling as a professional counselor. So I am a part time grad student(LPC tract). However after another job layoff I had to temporarily withdraw due to stress. I hope to fulfill this calling but if God wants me too, then I certainly will

Feel free to start following my blog,

Be blessed and worship well.

Eric Niles

Jenny said...

I. LOVE. YOU. PERIOD. You are the best thing that happened to me in grad school and I thank God that we walked in to that first class together... and then to EVERY class after that. You are an amazing woman and I'm so proud of us!!!! :)