Patty was in tears when I picked her up from college yesterday. Although I commiserated with her, I can’t tell you what an answer to prayer her tears are.
“Today was my last lecture in undergrad. I wish I could still be a student,” she said, “I want to go to graduate school as soon as possible.”
Five years ago, Patty ran away from home. I took her to a Bible Institute about 100 miles from our home, and dropped her off. She had begged to be allowed to go to this school…”to get away from my sister and brother. To get away from autism. I want to be in a place where I can be myself without always having to think of autism.” We didn’t think she was ready to go away from home. Although she is not autistic, she was immature for her age in other ways…perhaps affected by growing up in a house dominated by autism. So we relented, and I took her to this school, the car stuffed with everything she needed and more for college life away from home. And we paid up front for her tuition, room and board, because the school was not accredited…it’s purpose was to train missionaries and other ministry leaders. She said she felt called.
While there, she struggled with illness (recurrent and severe sinus infections), and with getting along with so many new people. And she was terribly lonely. Although she was an excellent student, earning straight A’s, they asked her to leave after eight weeks. She was devastated and weeping when I picked her up from school. I was in tears as well, for her. And I prayed.
When we arrived home, she went upstairs to her room, and Ralph talked to her for a while. Downstairs, I cried out to God in anguish over my daughter. I had no words.
We were not angry with the school. We told them we understood why they sent her home. Many of the lessons we had tried to teach Patty had fallen on deaf ears. Now she heard it from other people, and it had consequences. I prayed that this pain would not be wasted in her life.
We allowed her to grieve. We took her to our pastor for counseling. And we worried and prayed. She spent many long days at home alone in our house while Ralph and I worked 40+ hours a week, and her brother and sister attended college full time.
But the week after I brought her home, I had Will take her downtown to our local community college to sign up for classes for Winter semester. I wasn’t about to let her mope around all winter. During that winter, she told me, “You are very controlling, you know.” “You think so?” I said. She completed the semester, agreeing at the end that it had been good that she had something to keep her busy, even though she didn’t like going there.
That winter, we urged her to go to the same small Christian college that her brother, Will, was attending. She didn’t want to go there because he was there. But I suggested that she apply for financial aid for that college as well as the local state university, and see what they offered. The local state university offered her less than nothing. Their financial aid “award” letter suggested that she take out student loans, and that her parents take out parent plus loans. The Christian university offered her $8000.00 per year for four years, student loans, and work study. She decided, reluctantly, to attend the Christian university, even though Will was there.
At first, she she struggled with choosing a major. I prayed that God would direct her, help her find her passion. After a year, one of her classmates remarked that she was very good at history; that she should consider majoring in history. She took his suggestion and flourished. She took her capstone class a year early, because her professors thought she had the ability. For the last year and a half, she has been the teacher’s assistant for the history department.
Last week, the Humanities Department had their own chapel. The chair of the department asked the seniors to give a word of advice to the rest of the students. Patty was the last one to speak because she had hidden with the other history major at the back of the room. She spoke to them about the importance of finding their calling and pursuing it with passion.
This coming week she will be taking her final set of exams as an undergrad. Then she will graduate on Saturday. I thought when her brother and sister graduated from college I would would be a little weepy, but I just felt incredibly proud and joyful. I know I will have joyful tears at this one.
Patty has read this post, and agrees with my assessment. History is her major, with a minor in economics.