Let’s swap stories. Serve up your shot of faith by writing about: The What-If Challenge.
1. Write 300-700 words about what happened when you tried to follow through on one What If.
2. Keep it real.
Last week Bonnie, The Faith Barista, issued a "What if?" Challenge that you can find here. As usual, I'm a little behind the times. I got the message last week, but I shrugged it off. Too much to do, too many chores piling up, too many deadlines hanging over my head.
This morning I opened my email to find a note from Bonnie asking me to check out a short video she had created (watch it here). I won't give away the premise of the story, but I will say that it is an amazingly touching story that you don't want to miss.
Her story got me to thinking again about her "What if" challenge, and I decided that it was time to break the blogging drought.
I was a strong student in high school, but the paperwork began pouring in from colleges across the country after I took the PSAT and SAT. "Visit us! Look at our pastoral setting! Look at our urban hipness! See how many activities we support! See how close-knit our diverse student body is! Imagine yourself here! Take the next step in your life!" With enough pamphlets, brochures, letters, and applications to fill more than one large black garbage bag, I was overwhelmed. No one in my family had graduated college before. In fact, no one had even attended a four year school. I would be breaking new ground, forging my own path, shaking free of the past...
Or would I?
I know that measure of those mailbags-worth of material because that's exactly what I did: I tossed every last one of them--Harvard, Bryn Mawr, Northwestern, Randolph Macon Women's, Tulane, Emory, St. John's, Barnard, Dartmouth and more--into the big black bag. I tied it closed and hefted it into a dumpster. And I said goodbye to that dream.
I knew we were poor, but not so poor that I would qualify for enough aid. My parents weren't willing to help me with loans, although we may have figured something out if we had looked harder. For a family that had never been through the Big Game before, it looked insurmountable. Impossible. Out of reach.
So I closed the door on the "what ifs," graduated in the top of my class, and went to work.
It took several years, marriage to a wonderful man, the birth of a precious daughter, before I saw clearly what I had been too burdened to see then. I had doubted my competency, my ability to work through the hard times. I had thought that I wouldn't miss much by not asking "what if" and following through. I realized after our daughter was born that I was missing something. The "what ifs" were pulling on my sleeve, tugging at my shirt tail, asking a stream of questions:
"What if you had gone to college?"
"What if your daughter looks at you and doesn't go because you didn't?"
"What if you believed in yourself again?"
"What if you looked into going back to school?"
Finally, I listened to the "What ifs." A friend was starting classes at the community collge, so I decided to take a baby step. I sent in the application, knowing that they would accept me, but still afraid that for some reason they wouldn't. What if they didn't?
Of course, they did.
I took another baby step. I went to the learning center and took a placement exam with my daughter teething on cookies at my knee. I worried that I had been away from school too long to pass my math exam. What if I didn't?
Of course, I did.
I took a third baby step. I took my results down to the guidance center and spoke with a counselor to set up my first semester's classes. At the time, I still wasn't completely sure what direction to take, but thought that teaching would be something I could feel good about. So I was registered into a teacher education learning community. Then I worried I wouldn't receive financial aid and be able to attend. What if I didn't?
Of course, I did.
It took twice as long to receive my associate's as most traditional students, because I took classes part-time and took a sabbatical year after the birth of my son. But I am the proud holder of an Associate of Arts...the first in my family to graduate from any college. With support from my husband, who always ground the negative "what ifs" into the dust, and help from my family, blood and adopted by marriage, who stepped up to watch babies whenever I couldn't work class schedules around his work schedule, I did it.
And since then there have been more "what ifs": "What if I attend a four year university? What if I receive a degree? What if I find a professional job in my area of interest?"
But there are always "what ifs" in life. We'll never know the answers, unless we take the challenges.