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Posts Tagged ‘CIU’

It is graduation day. Finally, I’m a college graduate.

I have been having a lot of flashbacks from different points in my college career, and as I promised you around New Years here is some self-reflection. My mom’s verse for me is Philippians 3:12, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect,<sup class=”crossreference” value='(W)’> but I press on to take hold<sup class=”crossreference” value='(X)’> of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Nothing much sums up my life better than that. College really began in high school, when I took a few classes at local colleges. I learned then that I was not as outmatched by the big, broad world of adulthood as I had thought I was. I was still a bit of an introvert. And I spent every spare moment of that senior year writing or thinking about writing. It was the year I published Issym. And then I made the very logical decision to go to school for a business major.

Honestly, I don’t know that I would have gone to college if I had not started with a Business/Bible degree. It was the Bible degree that pushed me to head to South Carolina for college, stepping out of Maine, the only home I had ever known. I will never regret my one semester at Bible College. It was my chance to be a real student, to write on the side, to live boldly, to make friends, to feel warm everyday. I enjoyed Chick-Fil-A for the first time; I learned how to drive on a six lane highway; I discovered the value of coffee with the girls. Very importantly, the time at college granted me a deeper foundation of Bible knowledge and exposer to different chapel speakers and their ideas. I discovered that home could be found anywhere, even in the sweltering south. I made good friends that semester; not one of them lasted as more than a ‘Facebook friend’, which was okay too. Life is funny like that. What I desperately want to be permanent sometimes only lasts for a season. But oh, what a season! One must embrace moments. You do not reject summer because it cannot last.

My description of that semester at Columbia International University (CIU) would be incomplete if I did admit how very near death I seemed one fateful night when the chest pains I had been experiencing all semester surged to a new high. After not leaving my dorm room for a week, I was rushed home to Maine and admitted to the ER. I did homework in my hospital room, searching for the feeling of normality and holding onto hope that I would be able to go back to college. I remember being amazed how my heart (we had a special scan run) looked like an angry Muppet and how one floor of the hospital had the overwhelming smell of coffee. What was then diagnosed (although falsely so) as costochondritus allowed me to get on my feet, slowly. I discovered rest–pure rest–was about all I could do for myself. Somehow, through it all, I made it to the release of my second book, Asandra. That accomplishment may be my proudest because of how many obstacles seemed to get in the way. It was also the book where I learned how to be honest with readers, how to show them my heart. The reception was phenomenal. That semester I learned in a new way how true 2nd Corinthians 12:9 is, “But he said to me, ‘My grace<sup class=”crossreference” value='(P)’> is sufficient for you, for my power<sup class=”crossreference” value='(Q)’> is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” So I boast in Christ’s strength. I am full of weakness; He is not.

The fateful events that haunted me near Thanksgiving break led me on a journey back to Maine. At the time it felt like failure to leave my new home and head to my old one, to move back in with my parents, to have them carry my laundry, to barely drag myself to school every day. I was proud that I had finished the semester at CIU, but I knew that there would be no quality of life if I stayed in South Carolina. I could not have anticipated how good home would feel, how important it would be for me to work alongside Maine Bible Quizzing as a worship leader (for a pretty crazy crew of adults and teens), to participate in my nephew’s lives, to see my sister’s new home the day she bought it, and to take my place in so many little things. No, I have no regrets about coming home. Who knew then that what had been misdiagnosed as costochondritus would later give credence to my Lyme diagnosis as we came to understand just was really going on inside me. I could not understand during my semester at Husson University in Maine why I was not getting better from the supposedly curable costochondritus. So as my business grew and had me traveling, and when the opportunity for online college came along, I jumped at the chance.

I transferred to Nyack College where I completed my degree just today. The program was still business, but its title was ‘Organizational Management’. I think I had expected to be less of a guinea pig (I was in one of the first primarily online OM programs at Nyack), but all-in-all, I graduated and that is what is important. I published another book, the best yet (Xsardis). I invested in my home and family. I found an impact zone in Maine and outside, as  I began book touring. While I had lots of fun with friends in Virginia and met some awesome people at Soulfest, probably my favorite trip of the year was Ohio. The people I spoke with (young and old) and the reception I received was astounding and memorable.

During this last year of college I have learned more about myself than I thought possible. In understanding Lyme and what was going on in my body; in accepting whatever the outcome of my health is; in participating with friends and family; in investing in home and accepting the value of seasons that come and go; in traveling; in speaking; in writing; in worshiping God and writing songs; in choosing joy and peace; in seeking God’s will for my future; in meeting some very remarkable people that had a big impact on my life, I have discovered a fuller, deeper life. From uncovering my desire for coffee shops, to my love of Lindsey Sterling fiddle music, to my happy-place by my sister’s side, to the charm of dancing in my father’s arm, to the merit of playing guitar in an empty house, I have grown to understand a bit more of who God made me to be. I have learned that I love mentorship and so am working on mentorship programs with students. I have learned what I want to write about; who I want to be; and why it is so very important to live as God has called us to live.

So what’s next for me? Lots of family-time and reading by the fireside in the coming month. Part of my Lyme treatment is a doctor’s order for rest and that’s what I will be focusing on as much as possible. I head to the road in March to catch up with friends I have not had the time to see. I am highly motivated to work on my already-drafted novel, Mark of Orion, that has captivated my heart and my imagination. I plan to write/publish/and speak for six months as I look at buying my own printing equipment and try to gage how far I am from making a living based on my writing career. Whatever adventures come next, be they in this state or another, I will carry with me the lessons learned of joy and peace and seasons and the beauty of God’s majestic plan for my life and this world. I look forward to following where my Lord leads. The purpose of my life is to go where He sends me, to share His goodness with the world, to grow to know Him and love Him better. As my graduation verse, Ephesians 2:10, says, “For we are God’s workmanship,<sup class=”crossreference” value='(U)’> created<sup class=”crossreference” value='(V)’> in Christ Jesus to do good works,<sup class=”crossreference” value='(W)’> which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

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Finding a laboratory. What do I mean? Back in Maine, when I would need to spend or fall into spending a large amount of time in writing I would go up to my room, shut the door, (maybe open the windows), turn the lights off, light some candles, (maybe switch on my glowing flourescent eggs), take off my wrist jewelery that interrupts fast typing, turn some music that I knew was inspiring on, take a moment to get into the mind of my characters and their world, then write. This was my laboratory. Dinner was an interruption. Downing liquid was my only break. And… it was wonderful.

Here at CIU, even if I can get the room to myself and do most of those things, nowhere on campus, including my room, is a laboratory. There are too many distractions. It is too unfamiliar and not whimsical. It is difficult to be fun in writing in a room filled with so many other thoughts. CIU, South Carolina… its different. And that difference is not always easy. So if only for sanity’s sake, I needed to find myself a laboratory. I realized Monday that when things get difficult I stop writing. But that’s when I need most of all to be writing–to learn from characters, to express, to dream and to remember everything wonderful and that hard things work for the best. God was wise when He gave me a love of writing.

With all of this in mind, I was driven to my laboratory today (by a variety of incidences) and I found myself typing away at Olive Garden. It felt like home. The food tasted the same, the service was good, it looked the same, smelled the same, was the same pace. And in the same, I was able to write what is not the same. In between bites of food, I edited Asandra and it felt really good. Laboratories are portable. They changed locations as you do. And it takes some work to find them. But for sanity’s sake (even if you don’t write) and for good writing (even if you are sane), find yourself a laboratory.

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“I’m Jessie Mae,” pause for an answer. “What’s your major?” pause for an answer and a return question, “What’s your’s?” “Business,” pause for an answer. “Where are you from?” pause for an answer. Interject that I am from 20 hours away (without stops) in Maine. Sometimes we will delve a little deeper, depending on the situation and if the personalities mix or clash. This has been pretty much the conversation for the last three days between all the students. The shallow water is already getting old, but it will not take long before we will be in the deep end.

Once again I am surrounded by distinct characters: a photographer with a talent for acting (he had us all convinced that he was part of the senate here at CIU and the head of the cooking department. Everyone wanted to join even after we found out it was not real), a jersey girl, a sweet next-door-neighbor (who is coming over for coffee and Lucky Charms tomorrow morning before all of the freshmen head to some kind of beach/camp thing. I will be driving and she will be my co-pilot), an easy-to-get-along-with (blessing from God) roommate, a poet, a resident life director with a dry sense of humor that reminds me so much of my brother, Charlie… My mind is already percolating with new characters and plotlines and different twists on old ones. (That is what will make it so hard to stay focused on Asandra, which has a lot of editing left if it is going to be done by November.) I love drawing on inspiration of life! I love the feeling of imagination at work.

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Pulling into the CIU parking lot caused my stomach to do flip-flops as if I was at the top of the Griffin ride at Busch Gardens (on this ride they hold you at the top of the coaster for several seconds and let you stare down at the world). This morning, the excitement causing the flip-flops in my stomach is even greater than before. Today I get to hang with my roomy and set up our room and start orientation. I cannot wait.

People at home would ask me if I was going to have a job while I was at college and I would think, “I run a publishing company, I write books, I am a youth speaker, and I’m going to do all that (which is three jobs, by the way) at college (which is a job). What more can I do and still do things well?” Cutting back is not quitting or copping out. Knowing your limits is important. I know my limits. At home I worked some, did high school and ran my company. But Rebirth Publishing’s tasks are expanding, the Xsardis Chronicles are taking more time and I need to be a good student (and, as my parents have reminded me, I should have a social life too).

So here we go. Down the Griffin, through the mist and into the wonderful world of Columbia International University!

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