Thursday, June 2, 2011

God is full of surprises

I was surprised and honored to be asked to give "student remarks" at my graduation ceremony.  That meant I had the privilege of sitting on stage with the president of Gordon-Conwell, Dr. Dennis Hollinger, our campus dean and my advisor, Dr. Tim Laniak, the keynote speaker (president of the Bible Society of Egypt), Ramez Atallah, and others.  Best of all, I had a great view of the audience and the graduating class.  A professional photographer captured some great shots of the event.  The text of my 3-minute speech is below.

God is full of surprises, isn’t he?

When we moved to Charlotte in 2006 we were entering a new season of life.  My husband, Danny, and I had been missionaries with SIM in the Philippines, where we were involved in Muslim outreach.  But Danny’s skills were more critically needed here at SIM’s International Office.  So we came … away from a ministry I loved and a master’s program I had just begun.  We put my dream of becoming a college professor on hold.  Someday, we told ourselves.  By the time we arrived in Charlotte we had two small children and my hands were full at home.
But God is full of surprises.  After just 6 months of living in Charlotte we discovered that Gordon-Conwell offered a scholarship to SIM missionaries.  Danny suggested that I take a class or two, just to keep my brain alive. I needed a little more than Goodnight, Moon. It seemed the fiscally responsible thing to do.  I vividly remember my first meeting with Octavia in admissions.  I told her I had no intention of graduating from Gordon-Conwell -- I simply wanted to take a few classes so I could transfer the credits elsewhere someday. 

But God is full of surprises.  Before I set foot in my first class, I had fallen in love with Gordon-Conwell.  The course schedule has been ideal for a stay-at-home mom.  Only once or twice in 5 years can I remember hiring a babysitter so that I could be in class.  My husband deserves a medal for the way he has selflessly arranged our schedule so that I could squeeze two years of full-time study into five years of full-time life.  I entered the program with 2 kids, and I’m leaving with 3.  The idea was that someday, when our kids were grown, I would pursue a PhD.
But God is full of surprises.  Just after I crossed the half-way point we had the growing sense that now was the time for me to pursue a PhD – crazy as it sounds .  My sense of calling to Bible teaching ministry grew stronger with each class I took.  Our children are now 10, 5, and 3 … a long way from being grown, but next month we’re headed to Wheaton College Graduate School in Illinois to embark on the next phase of God’s adventure for us – a PhD in Biblical Theology.

People say that seminary can be a dry time spiritually.  But God is full of surprises.  These 5 years have been some of the most exceptionally rich years of our lives.  Classroom learning has energized Sunday worship.  Ministry has fueled my quest for deeper understanding.  And the rhythmic alternation between seminary and family life has brought great joy.  It has not always been easy.  The steady pressure to use every minute productively has sometimes been more than we thought we could bear.  But the Lord has carried us through those valleys and brought us to green pastures time after time.
I should not be standing here.  And neither should you, fellow graduates.  Life is busy, and seminary takes time – a lot of time.  We’re in the midst of a recession and seminary costs money – a lot of money.  But God is full of surprises, and one of the most precious is the strength he gives us to do the impossible and to do it joyfully.


  1. LOVE your speech :) Fabulous and motivating! Thanks so much for sharing!! I have a dream of someday pursuing a higher degree in child development. Maybe someday it will actually happen! :) And what a blessing I'm sure it has been for your children that you haven't pursued your dream at whatever cost to them. As a nanny I see lots of things and its beautiful to see that even with your dream, and even if at times a struggle, your children come first. I love it!!! Congratulations to you and your precious family!

  2. So nice to see the photos and read the speech. My heart swells with pride in all you, Danny and your kids have accomplished with school and life. You all make a great team!!