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My passions for writing and homemaking weren’t the only things I discovered in Jr. High.  I also discovered boys.   I had my first real crush in eighth grade and I wondered if he was “the one.”  I was consumed with wanting to know who my husband would be from that point on.  Even though I made good grades, was on the drill team, and had great friends, the most important thing to me was whether or not I had a boyfriend.    I didn’t have any ambitions for college after high school.  My dream was to be married.   If it weren’t for all of my friends making college plans and my boss at the time encouraging me to enroll, I don’t think I would have gone.

Like many college students, I didn’t make the wisest decisions.  But there was so much more to my college experience than partying and skipping class.  It was truly the great wilderness of my life.  I wandered around so desperate and lost.  Talking about this makes me think of the movie Runaway Bride.  Julia Roberts’ character assumed the likes and dislikes of whomever she dated.  And because she had no identity of her own, she would say yes to every marriage proposal, only to repeatedly run away at the alter.   Enter Richard Gere’s character.  He’s the reporter in town getting the scoop on the infamous runaway bride.  As he interviews her former fiances, they all remember one thing in particular: how she liked her eggs.  They could remember because it was the same way they preferred theirs.

I was her.  I had no clue who I was.  My identity was wrapped up in whomever I was dating.  I went through a string of boyfriends, some even talked love and marriage.  Because I was desperate for love, I would go along with it, but knew in my heart that it wasn’t right.  When I was twenty years old, I was swept off of my feet and fell head over heels in love.  He was tall, dark and handsome, and I desperately wanted to marry him.   We dated for one year before he broke my heart,  and I spent the rest of my college years pining after him.

It seems like I experienced one heartache after another in college.  Up until then, I had never experienced the loss of a close family member.  I lost three grandparents in four years.  I remember that after the loss of my grandmother, who was the first to pass, my boss asked my dad if I was close to my grandmother.  “Sharon is close to everybody,” he told her.

Right before the death of my grandmother, I suffered a miscarriage.  I was 18, unwed and scared out of my mind.  I lived in complete denial about being pregnant.  When it was all over, my parents and I scooted that secret under the rug and never talked about it again.

For years I blamed myself for the miscarriage.  It wasn’t until several years later when I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, which likely caused the miscarriage, that I felt relieved of the guilt.  But the under active thyroid went undiagnosed all through college.   If you know anything about that, it can have quite an effect on your life.  I was tired, lethargic, depressed, and the list goes on.  When I was first diagnosed, my TSH levels were so high that the doctor said he was shocked I wasn’t in a coma.   When I think back, it’s a wonder that I was able to get out of bed and function every day.

Some look back at their college days with fond memories of sororities, football games and frat parties.  I don’t.  But I do look back and see God’s grace and presence in my life.  Several years ago, I taught at a school that asked the teachers to display their degrees in the classroom.  As I pulled mine out of the tube that it had been rolled up in since I graduated,  I was faced with mixed emotions.  “This should be a source of pride for me”, I thought.  But it was more a source of shame because of the fluctuating grades, the dropped classes, the probationary period, the hardships and pain, and the seven years that it took for me to earn my degree.  Then it dawned on me.  This degree is like a stone of remembrance that God pursued me in my darkest days;  days when I searched for significance everywhere but with Him.  He guided me when I didn’t seek Him, and He taught me to persevere.  He is faithful.

If I had to define my college experience, I would say it is marked as a period of mourning, from which the ashes were turned into something beautiful.  Praise be to God!

Until next time,