This is Chapter 20 in a series entitled Telling My Story.
Someone once said about the later season of life, that by then most of your life is "in the rear view mirror". I had never thought of it like that before; because I am a future-oriented person.
I am one of those "what's done is done, let's move on" kind of people. But that rear view mirror business, that got me thinking.
I used to teach "What Matters Most" business classes, about prioritizing, making informed choices, assuring that your talents and skills were aligned with your actions.
Part of that class was to draw a timeline and then ask people to place an X where they thought they currently were on their life's timeline. That always seemed to get everyone's attention. Now it has mine.
By this estimate it can be clearly seen that, in fact, much of my life is in the rear view mirror as it were. What does that image look like? Who am I now and how did I get to be here?
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I always loved to learn - not about any one thing in particular, but just about everything in general.
However, given the limited financial circumstances in which I grew up, it just did not seem to me that I could attend college after high school. No one in our family had done so, and if I even talked about the possibility I was accused of "putting on airs."
In mid-life, after a series of losses and a painful divorce, I decided that I could, and would, finally obtain an education. I was relentless in going after that goal, and although it would take me the next ten-plus years taking a class or two whenever I could; I graduated magna cum laude, with two of my children and my mother in the audience when I received my diploma.
During this time, I also worked full time in a series of increasingly responsible positions. My company had a tuition-reimbursement program, and I maximized its benefits each and every year. However, when I applied for benefits to obtain a master's degree, I was initially turned down. My boss, and my boss's boss, both told me that:
a) I worked too hard already, and
b) my current responsibilities needed my full, and undivided attention.
True, I was managing a staff in a fairly large organization, and running a budget of several million dollars; but I believed I could also pursue the masters. Thus, I was more disappointed than I can tell you at their decision. However, I accepted their decision with as much good grace as I could muster...and started praying about it.
About that same time, our church was in the middle of a building program because the congregation had outgrown the current facility. They were holding up to seven services each weekend, and still there was no room for parking, or seating in the auditorium.
By now I was making good money, and began to pray about what God might be leading me to donate to the building effort. I did not just "pick a number" out of the air, or out of my imagination. I truly prayed and tried to listen to that still small voice in my heart to see what God might have in mind.
I had long since experienced that anytime I gave with care and prayer, all my other needs would be met. As they used to say in the churches where I grew up, "You can't out give God."
After prayerful, consideration over a period of a couple of weeks, I turned in my pledge-card stating the amount that I planned to contribute over the next three years of the building program. I knew I was blessed to have the resources to contribute to this effort, and I remembered that everything we have really belongs to God.
Still, I gulped a little when I turned in the card, because it was an amount that represented a stretch of faith for me. However, over those next three years, as I watched that new church building take shape, it was also a constant reminder to me of God's faithfulness in my life.
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A funny thing happened about a month after I submitted my building fund pledge. Without any preliminary discussion or warning, I was called one day to my vice president's office. She was my boss's immediate superior, and thus I did not generally meet with her unless my manager was also present.
That day, however, she asked me to meet with me alone and I arrived curious to find out the reason for the meeting. B. quickly got to the point (as she generally did). She informed me that she had given further thought to my request to obtain a master's degree through the company's education reimbursement program and asked if I was still interested.
I said that I was. She then informed me that the company would pay for the entire program - all of it. Tuition, books, fees, everything. Generally the program was a 75%- 25% split, with the employee paying the 25%. I always thought it a generous program, since I believe people value something more if they have some "skin in the game."
But for whatever reason, an executive decision had been made to pay for 100% of my program. It represented between $15,000 and $20,000 dollars and was a gift that was so generous I was overwhelmed. I thanked her and assured her that my job responsibilities would not suffer any neglect whatever as I worked my way through the program.
Then I went to my car, and sat there and cried, thanking God for his tender watch care. While I did not need the advanced degree for my current position, God had further plans for me.
The next two and a half years did not "fly by." It was hard work, and I often flew out of the company parking lot, racing through the drive-thru at Burger King, eating a sandwich as I drove the twenty-two miles to my campus. Classes were from 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. two nights a week. I did homework, wrote papers and participated in group projects the other three or four nights a week. It was exhausting. But it was also rewarding.
Little did I know that shortly after I finished the master's course, God would open a series of promotions for me that would eventually result in my becoming a vice-president, only the second woman in the company's history to hold that position.
Once again, I learned through experience that if I will trust Him, he will lead me into green pastures.
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Hope your pastures are green, or are "greening up" this weekend. God bless you - Marsha