A little more than two and a half *decades* ago, I began my college career at the University of Louisville. I was a young single mother of a two month old; also working a full-time, early-morning shift at a local bakery, attending school full-time in the afternoons and evenings, and relying heavily on the availability and generosity of my aged grandparents (and sometimes parents-both mine and Rick’s) as my only babysitters. It was a heavy, heavy load and I failed miserably under the weight of it all. I continued in that failing misery for a couple of semesters, until I finally came to the realization I just didn’t want a college degree badly enough; and to compound that lack of desire, there were other more pressing matters that required my complete attention, like my now recovering marriage and striving to sustain the healthy balance between working and parenting. So I dropped out of school.

The next couple of years were important years of growth for me personally. I got married, almost divorced a year later, was saved by Jesus’s grace, gave birth to another little boy, and became a Stay at Home Mom….in exactly that order. Going back to school had flitted in and out of my mind from time to time, but I needed to be sure I was ready to commit. In the Fall of 1997, I knew the timing was right. My life was stable-and more importantly, *I* was stable. I was desirous of my degree and felt I had acquired the maturity needed to make an honest go of it. I spent the next five years taking part-time classes at UL and acquiring 67 credit hours in the process. One story I often (and proudly) tell my children is of having my third child, Jake, on a Wednesday afternoon, discharging from the hospital that Friday, and showing up for my 8 a.m. Final Exam the following Monday. I got a B on that Math Final, but I was immensely proud of every bit of that B, given the extenuating circumstances!

In the Spring of 2003, having just had my fifth child, I knew the time had come for me to conclude my schooling. I wrestled and wrestled with that decision, because it felt so much like quitting and leaving something unfinished. But in the end, I recognized my kids and husband needed to come first. I wanted to continue homeschooling, but that school choice was not going to be conducive to nursing clinicals, which required my full-time work presence. There was no way homeschooling, along with being mom to another newborn, fit into that picture. I was heavy-hearted, but lightened by the freedom that only true obedience and right prioritization brings.

The last sixteen years have been filled with the births of two more precious children and the adoption of four medically-needy little ones from China. I was privileged to be my Grandpa’s caregiver, until his health declined beyond my capacity. We’ve travelled with Rick on many of his work trips and cheered the kids on in their vast extracurricular endeavors. When two of my children were walking devastating, destructive pathways that required my complete and undivided attention, I was able to enter into their distinctly unique but equally painful despair in a way that I would not have been able to had my attention been drawn away elsewhere. I’m so thankful for those seasons of great joy and unspeakable sorrow, always intermingled, yet ever and always making us look more and more like our Savior! We will never *want* these things, but we absolutely NEED them in our lives!

Today marks the introduction of a new season and the start of, what I hope, is a redemptive chapter in my life. I am beyond excited to tell you all that I have made the decision to go back to UL to complete my degree! I went to Student Advising this morning and made the initial contact with the Financial Aid Office. As usual, my ever-present and faithful hubby was right by my side. I’m so thankful for his unwavering support!! I am declaring my major in Criminal Justice, since I am/have already been employed for many years now in the positions of teacher, elder companion, nurse, social worker, social justice advocate (specifically as it relates to orphan care), caregiver, dietician, etc. Simply being a mother has provided a myriad of real life learning opportunities that a single collegiate degree could never offer. This journey is not so much about a well-earned piece of paper as it is the restoration of the years the locusts have eaten.

This pursuit is extremely personal to me. To answer a few obvious questions. NO, I am not interested in entering the job market upon graduation. Yes, I still LOVE being a SAHM to my children. I very much enjoy partnering with CEC in the collaborative education of three of my middle kiddos. I fully intend to bring the Quad Squad home during their middle and high school years and either work with CEC or, for the first time in Kelley kid-dom history, teach them solely at home. The jury’s still out on that one. šŸ™‚ I recognize Benji’s health needs (or something else providentially hindering) may cause this desire to, once again, end in ‘unfinished business’. And that’s okay. But I have a strong sense that *now* is the time and space to pursue this. So I’m going with my gut on this one and praying God’s continued blessing and sustaining providence over Benji. Besides, I fully trust God in His sovereign plans for my life. His Will *will* be accomplished one way or the other. I’m just an instrument in the hands of my Redeemer. But I also know God loves to give good gifts to His children. And how I’m hoping this desire of mine-to make an end of this ‘unfinished business’-is one He’ll grant to me! May He not only grant it, but give the strength to see it through infinitely well and for HIS glory. Amen!

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