Monday, January 19, 2015

A Birthday with a Zero

What a weekend I just had!  I don't know where to start. Before I can tell about it, I have to give some perspective on just how rarely I see my kids.

I've mentioned my children on here, and it's common knowledge that they are grown and out of the house. Really, really out of the house. None of them live nearby.  One lives a half day's drive away, but the other two live in two different states to the east and west of here. I've learned to accept the situation and have come to expect to see the two that live farther away once or twice a year. Last month, as a rare treat, they all three came in at once for my graduation from college.  It was the first time I had seen them all at the same time in 3 1/2 years.  

So, this weekend, even though they had just been here a month ago they all three came in again to celebrate my 60th birthday, which is coming up on the 20th.  They threw me a surprise party at a local pizza place. Unknown to me, my daughter and my best friend had been working together for several months to make this party happen. Several white lies were told in the process to pull this off.

Friday night my friend texted me and said we should go shopping the next day. I didn't think too much about it; we don't shop often, but we do on occasion.  I told her ok, and she said she would come pick me up about noon or a little after (we're both night owls. No early shopping for us!). 

She showed up at my house as she said she would, but she looked at little upset. She told me she was sorry, but she had forgotten she had to make an appearance at a co-worker's birthday party before we could go shopping. She said not to worry, though; they wouldn't mind if she brought someone and we would only stay 15 minutes.  

She was very convincing. I trust this woman with my life. She and I are like sisters. I was still not suspicious; it sounded reasonable. So we got in her car, and I saw the gift with the person's name on the card.  More evidence to support her story. 

We got to the restaurant and went inside.  When we got close to the party room, I was greeted with a loud "surprise!" There, in the party room were all three of my children, my son-in-law, my granddaughter, and some close friends and family members. I. WAS. SHOCKED! 

The prettiest cake ever!
I've never been so surprised in my life! They had totally kept it a secret for months!  It was the best thing that has happened to me in a very long time. I have never been given a party like that. I was so touched that they had gone to so much trouble to make this party happen for me. 

Everyone has gone home, and I'm sitting here alone in my house just trying to process it all. I knew that for a Big Deal like this, I had to blog about it. I have the best children, family, and friends in the world!  I know that one of my love languages is quality time, and I was given a bunch of it this weekend. We all had the best time visiting at the party and afterward.

God is so good to me!  He brought my children home to help me celebrate this zero-ending birthday number (that also involves a 6) and "soften the blow" in the process. We've already established that I don't act my age, anyway, so it's just a number. It does not define me. Tomorrow morning, I leave my fifties and enter my sixties.  

But the world will keep on turning.  Hello 60!

Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things He does for me. Psalm 103:2 NLT

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Hat Hair and a Diploma

I'm sure some of you have wondered where I have been. I'm sorry it has been so long since I have written. I've been mulling over in my mind how to put what I need to say into words.

I was about to graduate from college at my last writing; as of December 11 I did just that. However, I have simply been at loss for words. I just don't know how to describe this huge event that just happened in my life. I am going to try, though, to put some words out there in an attempt to describe what I felt and what I am still feeling.

All three of my children came to see me graduate, which made the event so much more special. Since they all live away from this area and a couple of them more than a day's drive from here, they don't manage to all come in at the same time very often.  It definitely takes some coordinating and effort to make this happen, but they did it, and I was overjoyed. By Thursday afternoon, they were all in my house at the same time. Amazing.

The evening of graduation, I had to be in the building next to the arena by a certain time.  I was there, in the room earmarked for "languages and communication," and I found that I was very nervous.  How much skill does it take to walk in, sit with the other graduates, and walk across the stage when my turn came? I didn't have to say anything at all.  I just had to hand the Dean of the English department my reader card that had my name on it, smile, and walk across the stage when he said my name. It would seem to be a cakewalk, but I had a bad case of butterflies in my stomach nonetheless.

 hat hair and a diploma
Additionally, I had the worst case of hat hair I have ever had in my life!  I could not get my hair to look decent with the mortarboard on no matter what I did.  I finally gave up.  A quick look around the room revealed that most of the women had the same dilemma I did.  There were a few that looked adorable, but they were also probably 22 years old and couldn't really help it. I relaxed a little.

The time finally came to line up and walk in. This process took a long time, but at last we were at the doors to the arena.  I started to tear up when I heard "Pomp and Circumstance."  I was not going to cry!  I couldn't! Why was I tearful all of a sudden?

The years of working full time while going to classes part time at night, on weekends, online, and even during the work day during the last two semesters suddenly culminated into this night. The long wait was over; the work had been done.  Now all that was left to do was walk. Just walk. Just follow the person in front of me until we arrived to our row of seats. Yeah, right.

I knew that the professors would be lined up on either side of us, but somehow it was very intimidating.  I passed by instructors I knew, and many that I didn't know, all lined up, cheering us on. Some of them shook hands with me and congratulated me.

Finally we were on the arena floor and people in the crowd were cheering and calling out the names of the graduates they came to see.  I was still choking back the urge to cry. I was filled with such an overwhelming sense of joy to be there, to finally, finally be there, graduating. I have always considered the opportunity to get an education such a privilege. I do not take it lightly. It means so much to me! I looked up and saw a very dear friend (who is more like a sister), her husband and granddaughter, waving like crazy from the top row. She believed in me when I didn't believe in myself. She encouraged me all through the journey I had just come through. Now I really had to fight the tears.

As we neared the row where we would be sitting, I finally saw my children. They had great seats, really close to the stage.  I can't describe what I felt, seeing all of them standing there in a row, waving and cheering me on. They had never stopped encouraging me in my quest for an education. They always believed I could do it. I waved back at them, and I noticed that my cousin was there with them. I just had time to turn and wave at my friend, and then we had to sit down.

I can't remember most of what was said from the stage during the ceremony. It's all kind of a blur. I somehow managed to put one foot in front of the other without falling down.  I made it to the stage, gave the Dean my reader card, and started walking when he called my name, along with the words, "bachelor of arts in English." There were pictures, I waved at my children and my friend, and then it was over.  I had graduated.  I did it!

Though I say I did it, it was not something I could have done unless God had enabled me. He blessed
me with the ability to do the work necessary to complete the coursework.  He helped me to remember what I had learned when I was taking a test. Because of Him, I was able to draw from the skills I had learned over the years to write the papers I had to write. Most of all, He gave me the grace to be able to keep on going. I got discouraged sometimes, but I never seriously considered quitting again, as I had done over and over since my first "Intro to PC" class in 1988. I made my mind up in 2007 that I was going to go for it, and with God-given fortitude I pressed on until I got there. That, my friend, is the grace of God in action.

To get a degree at any age is not an easy task.  It takes a lot of work and determination. I believe that it means more to me now than it would have when I was in my twenties. I have walked through much adversity over the years, but God enabled me to persevere and reach my goal.

My mother and father were poor growing up. Neither of them had a formal education past the eighth grade. I was the first in my immediate family to graduate from high school, and I remember how proud my mother was.  Before she died, she encouraged me to go to college when I expressed a desire to do so. I started and stopped several times because I lacked confidence, but I kept going back. Now, as a very non-traditional more "mature" student, I have graduated from college. My mother would be so proud. I wish she had lived to see this.

Somehow, though, I think my mama knows it. I believe God let her see me graduate from college, and she is smiling.

All things are possible to him who believes. Mark 9:23 NASB.