The Grad School Update

We thought last year would be our last Christmas in our first home together. And we’ll think that it is again this year. And we’re okay with that. Things seem different this year, and they are. Things didn’t go as planned last year, but we took things as they came and embraced 2011 as a transition year, and frankly, if it hadn’t been for this year, we would have not been able to announce that we’ll be adding a little girl to be named Clementine to our family this winter, as well as all the opportunities for growth and friendship that has blessed us this year.

Applying to schools this year looked a little different. A little wiser, Jason had the chance to be able to visit most of the schools he applied to or thought of applying to this time around. It was extremely beneficial to the process, as it affirmed his research interests and showed how he could fit in very well or just alright with the schools he was looking into. The list we end up with is a very precise list of schools that we feel connect deeply with where Jason’s passion lies as well as being places we could see us raising our family over the next three to five years. He got to meet with faculty in the department he would potentially be working with and studying under, as well as current graduate students, who were encouraging and answered many of his questions. Many of them have young families and were honest and open about what life as a graduate student while having a family would be like. For me, it’s nice to know that no matter where we end up, we may have quick friends in some of these people, and I may have playmates for my kids as well as new girlfriends that have already started the experience of being a wife of a grad student.

He re-took the GRE. His score improved notably! He had a couple significant writing opportunities that not only provided us with some extra needed money, but more experience Jason could use when applying to schools. And now, the visiting schools part of the process is over. The applications and references  have been sent. Fees have been paid. Now, the waiting. All over again, just like last winter. Let me also be clear: we don’t get to choose. They choose him (us). This is extremely competitive. They only have room for a handful of new PhD students per year. It’s hard to just get “in”- then if you’re lucky enough to get “in”- you apparently will be worked like a dog until they are finished with you. Sounds…exhilarating. And I’m glad I’m not doing it. I’ll gladly support my husband wanting to do it, however. I believe in him.  If more than one of them chooses him, THEN we do have the luxury of choosing between the two (or more). However, we will just be excited if one chooses us.

And now we wait to hear from:

• Marquette University, in Milwaulkee, Wisconsin

• University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, Virginia

• Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C.

• Baylor University, in Waco, Texas

There are a lot of things I could worry about right now. But all the worries depend on which school is the one. And I should say “if any” if I’m supposed to be responsible and all that grown up stuff. Last year there was no plan B. It just played out as we found out only one school accepted Jason and that it was not a school we felt led to be at. It had been a safe pick, one that Jason figured I’d be most okay with, seeing that it was so close to Ashland. Since then he has seen how that was not the case, that I am completely fine with not settling on a school based on the location, just so he could get a PhD. I want his experience to be the best it could be, with a department and faculty that took interest in his research interests and one that he would hold in great esteem, to get to work with people he admired and would want to have mentor him and he could really make the most of his experience with them. Why expect anything less? We only be saying, well, what if….you had tried again. Or what if….you had just visited and applied at this school instead. Or what if…you could have worked with that Dr. and helped write that journal article…or book….you get the idea.

I’m proud of Jason for being so ambitious and having this persistence. If I didn’t believe in him, I would have shut this thing down long ago. If married and embarking on this type of thing, you need the full support of your spouse. He has always been supportive of my hopes and dreams, and continues to be. I’m not giving up on what I want to do with my life so he can go “play” student or wanna be doctor or something. We don’t take this lightly- either of us. We are trying to follow God’s will for our lives and follow what gifts and passions He’s given us. I’m not going to engage in a debate on whether or not we’re hearing God right or should just stay in our comfort zone, because things are fine the way they are. Our decisions have to be public within our community because of Jason’s role in the church, but our reasoning is between the two of us and God and I don’t feel the need to apologize for that. I might sound like I’m getting all keyed up and defensive, but we actually we haven’t encountered much opposition to our plans, and so many have encouraged and affirmed us, prayed for us and have even given of their resources to help us in this transition year. We are deeply thankful for you. As for my role, right now, I see part of my story as being a support system to Jason. Which is what a spouse is, right? A helper? I am content in that sole role for now and being there for him and our son and the daughter on the way. That is an important role. And as I go, I find ways to use my giftings to bring joy to my life and I hope the lives of others, and for the glory of God. It’s always messy, life is just that way. And never perfect. But I can say that I learned a great deal more about trust and patience from the process last year and I can only expect that no matter how our plans shift from what we want them to be or think they will be, I will still have the love of my little family, a bigger extended family, my friends and my God. I’m looking forward to what may be in store for me in a new place, a new environment. I hope I change. I don’t want to stay the same. I want to grow and learn and if I have the opportunity to do this outside of the home I’ve known for 27 years, I will embrace it. I know I will cry. I know I will miss familiar people and things and places, but I’m excited to be stretched and pruned (for lack of a better non-“Christianese” word). I will be with my best friend and the two best things that have and will ever happen to us. That’s all I need. And that’s all I need, too! …I need this lamp!! and that’s all I need…

(thanks for laughing at “The Jerk” reference.)

I apologize for the lack of humorous musings on toddlers or everyday life in this post. I felt corny writing this mushiness. But after over a month of silence on this blog, I wanted to give an update on our status. I hope all of this made sense, because I am on some nighttime cold meds right now, so I can’t guarantee I didn’t say something idiotic. And goodnight.

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6 thoughts on “The Grad School Update

  1. Marcy Doyle says:

    Wow Ali, what a story. I read it word for word………twice. I am excited for you guys and am very proud to be associated with you three!!!

  2. Hey, Allison! What an exciting time for you guys!! I think you hit the nail on the head when talking about your role in supporting your hubby. My Jason started his graduate program last winter (online accounting program through Liberty University–its the only program he can do with all the traveling he does in his job)–right before Connor was born (he was writing a paper in the hospital room, the night I was discharged!). Its been hard and stressful (for him, just doing the huge amounts of schoolwork, and for me, just letting him focus on that and taking a larger role in everyday caring for the baby). Its not easy, but its good, and the end result will be worth the time and stress and effort. Praying for you guys and the doors God will open for you and the support people he’ll bring to your lives! *hugs!*

  3. Arden says:

    I read this very special blog with tremendous delight at the depth of your sharing and your transparent response to and reflection upon the whole Grad School journey to date. Your support of Jason is identical to the support that Bobbi has given to me through all of our marriage and ministry journey. I know experience how extremely valuable this support is. I deeply commend you and applaud your attitude through all of this. You are a true spouse and partner in ministry. I’m praying for you, Jason and your family as the journey continues, and pray that Jason will be admitted to the program that suits him best and will best prepare him for the future ministry that the Lord has for him.

  4. jenn baker says:

    dear friend
    i so, so, so appreciate your heart in this. this whole process. wow. it can be so incredible and painful and beautiful and crazy all at the same time. i really appreciated your last sentiment of, “i want to change.” the Lord will honor your willingness – to bend, to change, to be molded, pruned and shaped. whatever that may look like – it IS exciting to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. i had gotten to be completely complacent and quite content in our little home at 331 in ashland. we had a routine. i knew people. people knew me. i had significance at work. i was proud of that and my accomplishments. i was totally fine, at first, with not even considering supporting adam in pursuing more school. i tell you WHAT! i wrestled and wrestled and wrestled with God. because He is greater than our hearts and knows what we really long for. i KNEW i would remain the same if we stayed in ashland. i KNEW that He was calling us to venture forth, to try new things, to meet new people and to HAVE FAITH LIKE NEVER BEFORE. i was scared spitless, but, i tell you the truth. i took that first step of faith. and another. and another. and we keep walking forward. some days are hard as heck, sure. but, i wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. and THIS IS ME saying this!! i still can’t believe it is ME saying this and that we are living out of state. it has been so good, ali. so healthy in so many ways. freedom. healing. i am excited for you. in many ways. on the up-coming birth of your sweet baby. on learning where you will be living in the next year(s). truly. you are in such a good spot right now. the spot of in-between. keep pressing in. i’m reminded of this verse when i think of you all: “whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21

    many blessings, friend.
    in Jesus, jenn

  5. sabrina says:

    Allison i was so encouraged by your thoughts. We never can tell what God is up to this amazing God of ours! I am so glad that he brought you two together and then Miles and now Clementine on the way, Yeah! Where ever he places you He will hug you and hug others through you. I am praying for you right now that God will guide you and strengthen
    you and embrace you with love far beyond what you can even imagine. Sabrina

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