31 Days...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

An End and a Beginning

Today was the first day of Spring. It mostly felt like it - at least if you could dodge the wind and soak up the sunshine it felt like it. 

Spring is the time of new birth, rebirth, starting over...and for us Christians a time to look forward to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. For me today was not only a beginning but an end. 

I have spent the last four years slowly but surely working toward attaining my graduate degree in Practical Theology. I started this journey in the fall of 2010...after a year and a half of really hard stuff in my life. I'll sum it up quickly for you:
2008 - Financial/real estate industry crashed, had to sell my dream house, my marriage began to unravel, I went back to work full-time after 10 years as a stay-at-home mom
2009 - My now ex-husband and I separated and my dear grandmother died all within 6 weeks (during the spring I might add)
2010 - My father died (spring also)

Good things happened in the midst of all that craziness as well - but that time was intense and I sometimes wonder how I survived it all - but well... I know the answer! And just to prove to me that He was in control God pressed harder about this so called calling into ministry.

So Fall 2010 I enrolled in my first graduate class, History of Christianity. I wondered what I had gotten myself into as I read the syllabus. I was certain I had gotten in over my head. But I stuck with it and here I am four years later! DONE! With all A's I might add! (I am pretty proud of that since I worked full-time most of that time as a single parent!)

The final piece of my degree requirements was to do what is called CPE - Clinical Pastoral Education - otherwise known as a chaplaincy internship. I really didn't want to do it - it seemed unnecessary to me. I tried to do something else, but (thankfully) the department chair said no! So here I am done with CPE and I must say it was perhaps the most important part of my training and education. 

Not to say that the classes I had weren't wonderful, and the professors were great - but this experience was putting the rubber to the road. When our precious CPE supervisor told us we were just going to go "do it" we really thought we would at least follow him around one or two weeks and get a feel for it. Oh, but no! We really did just have to go "do it!" 

I read something the other day that said "Life doesn't begin until you get out of your comfort zone!" Well - if that is the case - my life began six months ago when I started my CPE experience!

I have laughed, cried, and even argued. I have lost sleep, eaten bad hospital food, and seen things I never really wanted to see. But I have also heard precious stories, sat with families who just lost loved ones, held mothers terrified for their one month old babies who were so very sick and offered hope and encouragement to young people who seemed to have none. Being with people in their time of need, worry, sickness, loss and death is the most awesome privilege I could ever have had. I have been humbled. I have learned to listen and to wait. I have found that I can hear a story and not have to share my own similar experience. I have learned that it really isn't all about me.

I have also gained 8 very dear friends. The seven people I went through this experience with will always have a special place in my heart. I could not have survived without them. We leaned on one another, sought each other's advice, laughed till we cried, read silly books, argued over theology, ate together and nearly blew up our phones with texting madness! I love them dearly. They are, as my friend Marie said, "tools in my tool belt." And the 8th, my dear supervisor - what a gem of a human being. He is definitely where he needs to be. 

So as this chapter of my life ends, I look forward to waking up tomorrow and knowing that I have done what I needed to do. I have been successful. I can really say to myself, "Job well done Merit." And I know that I know that it was all through the power and grace of God and the people He placed in my path these past four years. It took a village - for real! My only regret is that my dear Granny and my dad aren't here to celebrate with me. But they know...

I look forward to that next chapter...I think it's gonna be a great one!

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