every milestone = a miracle || the story of our PhD journey

Hey, guess what?
As of today, my husband is halfway through the classes for his PhD program. The program is 3 years of classes + 1 year of dissertation writing. And today marks 1 1/2 years into the program.

CUE THE CELEBRATION, PEOPLE. Because I realize that might not seem terribly impressive, but if you only knew how we got to this point…

The year was 2010.

Jonathan and I had been married 1 1/2 years and I had recently given birth to Anna Grace when he broached the topic. It was a mild suggestion. Something like, “I think sometime down the road I’d like to take some more classes.”

To which I responded like any sweet, submissive, and trusting wife would: “WHAT?! You’ve got to be joking! Maybe…as long as it’s a loooong time down the road.”

To say I was feeling the stress of marriage + ministry + new mothering responsibilities would be a massive understatement.

Fast forward a few months. Jonathan had not yet taken any more classes, in part due to the overwhelming support from his wife. This time he had a new idea. “I really think I should pursue a further degree, like a Master of Divinity.”

Okay, since I had a freak out sesh about him taking a class or two, you can guess what happened to the Master of Divinity idea. “How are you going to find time to do that? How are we going to afford this? I’m never going to see you!” It’s important to note here that I never exaggerate. Ever.

2011-2012: Jonathan took several local + online classes towards an M. Div. degree. He excelled in his classes, while still managing to be a great Daddy and husband. But although he was doing well, it was more of “his thing” instead of “our thing.” God had been working in my heart and convicting me of the sins I displayed in my reaction against Jonathan’s idea and I was truly trying to be a supportive wife by encouraging him in his studies. But if he had given up on the idea of further schooling, I most certainly wouldn’t have argued with him. I didn’t encourage him to quit, but I would have been the first to throw a party if he had.

So when, in 2013, he said he was thinking about pursuing a PhD, I remember the presence of tears. Of feeling like this was going to be the rest of my life: school, school, school, school…ad infinitum ad nauseum.

He said he wanted us to pray about it together.
We did. We prayed, we talked, he researched, I worried.

There were 2 degrees he was considering: a Doctorate of Ministry degree (less time + less $$) or a PhD (a great deal more of both time + $$). We continued to pray and talk. He continued to research. I started reading a book called Running Scared. Appropriate.

And then finally it came to this: because of the cost and time difference, he was strongly considering doing the DMin. It wouldn’t be as much pressure on our family and it wouldn’t require as much time and intensity from him.

Time out. You know when someone tells you about a decision and the reason behind it, but you can tell there’s something more there? Yeah. That.

Now I realize all of you reading this can tell that I was the big problem in this situation, but you can all just…you know…go eat pie or something while you pray for me.

Each time Jonathan talked about getting the DMin degree instead of the PhD, I could tell his heart wasn’t in it. When he discussed the rigorous studying required of PhD students, the challenge seemed to motivate him & put a light in his eyes. But when he talked about doing the DMin, the excitement wasn’t there. It was like we were going to do this degree instead of the PhD because it wouldn’t be as much of a strain, but not because it was necessarily what God was calling us to do.

I believe God allowed us to come to this point for my sake. So that I could see the way God has gifted my husband in studying and researching and be the one encouraging him to go for it instead of just dragging myself along until the torture of school ceased.

And so I sat in the living room after Jonathan said he was leaning towards the DMin for time + financial reasons and said, “I really think God wants us to pursue the PhD instead.” I remember saying those words and believing them with all my heart. But I also clearly remember a good bit of, “I cannot believe I’m actually saying this.”

It was a collision of fear and faith. Fear because I knew what I was saying was going to be hard – that the numbers didn’t match up and neither did the hours. But faith because God allowed us to see that this was exactly the plan He wanted us to pursue.

God brought me to this realization:
I could hold my husband back from pursuing God’s plan because of my fear.
Or I could have a faith-filled attitude and be his biggest cheerleader.

One is a whole lot easier than the other. And I’m not gonna say I’m the best cheerleader that ever existed. But God is doing a work in us individually, as a couple, and as a family through our pursuit of this degree. We have seen God provide in energy, health, time, encouragement, and resources. We have seen God give encouragement through others and recognize it as His way of saying, “Yep. This is what I have for you right now. Keep going.”

Not that God really says, “yep.” But I don’t know, maybe He does.

And so today is a celebration. All glory to God for bringing us to this point. We’ll keep following and see what He has for us tomorrow.
Every milestone is truly a miracle.


// related: the future is bright //

the future is as bright as the promises of God. Amen!!!

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