It’s time to tell a story.
To truly understand this story, you need to know a little bit about what I believe.
I believe in God.
I believe that life is a learning experience that will ultimately help us to become more like God.
I believe that God is involved in our mortal journeys – that He blesses us and guides us.
I believe in prayer, and my understanding of prayer has changed a lot throughout my life. Prayer is not just about asking God for the things I want. Prayer is an act of bringing my will and desires into alignment with His.
I believe that God communicates to me (and anyone else who has the desire) through the Holy Ghost. I often use phrases like, “Heavenly Father told me…” or “God let me know that…” When I make those comments, I’m referring to experiences I’ve had where I’ve felt the Spirit. For me, that communication comes through thoughts and feelings which I then pray about so I can make sure I understand them correctly.
I believe that God knows far more than we do. I believe that He often puts us in circumstances and ask things of us that we don’t fully comprehend. I also believe He gives us choice. He will not force us to choose His way, but if we seek His way, He will provide a path.
A little over three years ago, I wrote a post about my comfort zone.
To this day, I love my comfort zone. I've learned to live in it very cozy-like. I rarely venture out, and when I do, I keep one foot planted firmly and stretch my other leg out as far as possible without having to actually breach The Zone. In essence, if I can't reach it with my big toe, I don't reach for it at all.
At the time I wrote that post, I'd been sensing something coming for four years. I felt that God had a request for me, but I didn't know what it was. I only knew that it would force me to leave The Zone.
A month after I wrote that post, I felt a prompting from the Spirit that I needed to go to school. Ten years prior, I'd earned my Associate's, and when I'd prayed about continuing my education, my answer was to wait. I felt great about that because I suffer from self-diagnosed "University Phobia."
The prompting to return to school came as the result of a Google search. I don't remember what, exactly, I was searching for, but I suddenly found myself staring at a list of BYU-Idaho online degrees. I thought it would be interesting to see what programs were offered because maybe I would go back to school in fifteen years when my children were older, so I went ahead and scrolled.
As soon as I saw that BYU-I offered a degree in Marriage and Family Studies, I felt something overwhelming, and I started bawling. It wasn't what I was looking for, and it wasn't what I wanted, but as soon as it was on the screen, I knew.
This was it! It was time to leave my comfort zone.
I tried to suppress it for a while. For one thing, it was July. You can't apply for a school in July and start in the fall. On top of that, Scotty had just gradated after eight years. I was looking forward to a period of calm in our lives, a time when we could just coast for a while.
The following week I was driving my daughter home from Primary Children's Hospital, which is by the University of Utah, and as I navigated the campus, I remembered the prompting I'd had. While sitting at a stoplight, I told Heavenly Father, "Fine. I'll look and see when I can apply, but that's it. I'm just going to look."
I wasn't sure God knew that you have to apply for school much earlier in the year, and I was determined to help Him realize this. I knew I'd be a year out, at minimum, from going to school. I trusted that something would change in that year, and that I could still get out of it.
When I got home that day, I looked at the BYU-Idaho website and found that the application deadline wasn't for another week. I knew I would need to meet with my bishop and stake president to even apply, and the odds of both being available at the drop of a hat were slim. I fully planned on getting out of it and was more than happy to shrug my shoulders and blame my Church leaders. To my dismay, my bishop was able to meet with me that very night, and the stake president was available that Sunday.
Every excuse I came up with to get out of it got crushed under the weight of God's will. When I whined about money, He told me not to worry about it. When I worried about neglecting my children, He reassured me that it would be fine. When I asked if I would get to be released from my Church calling, He said no.
And then, just to be funny, He sent us a little surprise the week after I registered for classes: a positive pregnancy test. When I thought, "Surely I can't go back to school now!" He reassured me that yes, I could.
With much resistance, I did it. I went back to school, and I thought I’d never see the end of it, but now it’s been three years, and I’m graduating!
I believe that I followed God’s will by getting my degree. At this point, I can look back and see so many ways that I was prepared for it. The timing wasn’t convenient, but it was exactly right.
I don’t know what I’ll do with my degree in the future – God’s will can be funny that way - but I’m okay with that because I know I will receive additional guidance as opportunities arise. I know that, regardless of whether I go into a career in my field, I will always benefit personally from what I’ve learned.
I realize that getting a Bachelor’s degree doesn’t make me special. Lots of people have Bachelor’s degrees. Lots of people work really hard to get an education. This story isn’t so much about the degree as it is about following the Spirit and doing what God wants me to do.
Going back to school was hard, especially with four young children. There were times where I thought I couldn’t go on, but any time I became discouraged, I would have an experience that would motivate me to keep going. I was repeatedly reassured by the Holy Ghost that I could do it. God didn’t make it “easy," but He made it possible.
That is the story.