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praisefullacceptanceI just completed my second year of college, and to say that this past semester was a struggle would be an understatement. The literal failures along the way, the flashbacks to my childhood insecurities... all condensed into eighteen weeks. Through it all, God faithfully showed me the way and helped me put some missing pieces of my life into place.

This quote from Larry Bird is on the office door of one of my favorite professors, and I often think of it when I am putting in the work and it doesn't seem to be paying off: “I've got a theory that if you give 100% all of the time, somehow things will work out in the end.”

That, along with Galatians 6:9, has been my cheering section this semester: "So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time, we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up." My paraphrase of that verse is, "If you don't quit, you win!" Through it all, I kept reminding myself that God is on my side, and He’s the one who put it in my heart to go back to school in the first place. He’s not going to abandon me now.

It started rough. My first two exams in microbiology gave me reason to panic early on. I got a D on my first exam, and an F on my second exam, only getting bumped up a tad by my professor's curve. I started to question if I would even be able to pass this class. A few months ago, I was "conditionally" accepted into the nursing program starting next fall, providing I get a C or higher in both Microbiology and Anatomy & Physiology.

I began to wonder, If THIS is such a struggle, what is it going to be like for me when I actually start nursing school? All the memories of my past failures came flooding back to me, and these are the very thoughts and memories that have kept me from even finding the courage (or having the desire) to attend college all these years. I was the first person in my family to graduate high school. And I narrowly made it. In junior high and high school, all my poor choices caused me to miss a substantial amount of schooling. This is when drugs, treatment, and foster care entered the scene.

I was in some special education classes during that time and had some severe behavioral problems. Educational concepts were getting more complex and, of course, continually building on previous lessons learned. My classmates continued on, but I missed so many days of school, and that caused some major gaps in my education.

I am 43 years old, and it has been a long road of building up my confidence because of who I am in Christ and seeing myself through God’s eyes because of that rocky foundation.

I could not have been working harder, studying longer, and putting in more effort for microbiology this semester. I did all the extra credit that was offered, turned everything in on time, repeatedly listened to lectures I recorded in class, made flashcards, quizzed myself, created charts and spreadsheets, watched videos and animations, came up with mnemonics and games… all sorts of things. I just did everything I could think of to learn and memorize this material. I was in it every day. I wasn’t cramming before the exams to learn it, but I was obviously still doing something wrong. Nothing was sticking, and I was feeling more and more defeated.

Half the semester was now over, and I needed to make a change, though I wasn’t sure what to do differently. So, I prayed. I remember a pastor friend telling me once, “If you pray for one thing, let that one thing be wisdom.” That is a wise statement that I often heed, especially when I don't know what to do. I asked the Lord for wisdom in what to change, and I prayed He’d show me quickly. I was running out of time to get this figured out.

And if anyone longs to be wise, ask God for wisdom and He will give it! He won’t see your lack of wisdom as an opportunity to scold you over your failures, but He will overwhelm your failures with his generous grace. (James 1:5)

I started looking at how to pull out the right information from the textbook and my notes. I am the type of learner who needs to understand the details before I can understand the big picture. The big picture is confusing, unrelatable, and overwhelming if I don’t know the details, but the details can bog me down so hard, and for so long, that I never grasp the big picture.

It’s kind of like putting a puzzle together. I need to see the big, completed picture on the puzzle box, and then I need to look away because it’s too much to handle all at once. I look closely at the individual puzzle pieces, study them, and then I look at how the pieces relate to each other. I look up at the puzzle box every couple minutes to see that I am on the right track, and then I look back and forth while I fit all the pieces together. I began realizing that I was never looking up at the big picture on the puzzle box in microbiology while studying on my own.

I remembered a couple of my professors, and my daughter who is a nurse, had all told me at different times that you will be more successful in “the sciences” and in nursing school if you take the time and make the effort to teach the material to someone else. I recalled that they’d say, each in their own way, that there’s some kind of magic that happens in that process. Something transpires with the exchanging of thoughts and ideas that doesn’t happen when you’re sitting there reading the textbook or reading your notes or flashcards all by yourself.

All this came back to my remembrance, and I believe it was God showing me what I needed to change. I shared my microbiology struggles with a classmate and friend. We began meeting at a coffee shop to study, and we’d teach the material to each other, even while it felt clumsy. It was like teaching a foreign language to someone when you don’t even know the language yourself. I think this is what kept me from taking their advice sooner. I mean, it’s kind of embarrassing at first, and it doesn’t feel natural when you don’t know the material, but you are pretending you do! To do this, I had to set my pride and my fears aside and just jump in.

I began to feel that “magic” they all talked about, and things were clicking. My confidence began to build. It seemed like things were beginning to stick a little better, though still shaky. The true test, of course, would be the upcoming exam. After two bad ones, it was hard to know what was going to happen on the next. I studied so hard each time, and it didn’t work out as I hoped or planned thus far.

The next exam came, and I cried. But this time it was tears of joy. An... A?? All I could do was look to heaven and praise God. I was in complete shock.

My friend and I continued studying together and teaching the material to each other. We battled through it. It was difficult material for both of us. I learned how to study better and more efficiently through this process, and it seemed like my time was multiplied. I couldn’t have accomplished in twenty hours on my own what we would do in three. Hearing someone else’s perspective, in addition to my own, caused me to look up at the big picture on the puzzle box more than I would have on my own. This enabled me to see how the pieces work together.

The next (and last) exam was the final exam, and it would be worth 18.3% of my overall grade. I continued working hard, putting in the effort, and studying regularly with my friend. I was so nervous. I got a notification that final exam grades were posted, and my heart raced as I pulled up the website and logged in. I was hoping I would at least be in the B or C territory for my final exam. I literally refreshed my screen three times and blinked my eyes a handful of times to make sure it wasn’t a mistake.

Oh my goodness… 90%! Another A! Wahhhh! More tears.

I get choked up when I think about that moment. My final course grades for both Microbiology and Anatomy & Physiology ended up being As this semester. That is crazy freaking bananas after the struggle it was. I was so surprised and so thankful. Why I’m surprised, I don’t know. I know it’s just God helping me and showing me the way after asking Him for help. It’s not that I’m surprised He answers my prayers, but the surprise often comes in how He does it. After I prayed for wisdom, I realized later that I totally skipped the Cs AND the Bs... and went right to As the rest of the semester. I always marvel at His faithfulness.

There are many years of my life that I felt like I wasn’t smart, and I wondered why learning was SO hard for me. If I had only known then what I know now—that the struggle is a necessary part of the process, I wouldn’t have believed all the lies or given up so easily. It’s actually the struggle itself where the magic happens!

When I say magic, I mean like watching some beautiful event or transformation unfold—like the life cycle of a butterfly, for example. The process from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly is almost unbelievable if you didn’t see it happen before your own eyes. It’s mesmerizing. God makes everything beautiful, and He does the same with each of us. We just need to have faith and believe He is there for us in our time of need.

The smartest thing I ever did was ask Him for help, and I will never stop asking. He has helped me every single day, and no one knows more than me exactly how much. Whenever I lean and rely on Him, all things are possible. I am so thankful!

About a week after the semester ended and my professors had submitted my final grades to the school, I received notification that my status of "conditional" acceptance into nursing school was officially changed to "full" acceptance.

Thank you, Lord!

Next stop…

Nursing School!

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Julie Larson
cfaith staff


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