Semper Reformanda

...some days even my lucky rocketship underpants don't help.

[Thursday, May 27, 2010]

A reflection

Five work days left before I transition from my job at Maritz to full-time seminary studies. This has been such a long time coming (a year or so), and there were so many steps that had to fall into place *just right* to get me here. Thinking back to last May, I don't really recall being that optimistic about the whole process... I mean, come on I had to sell an entire house in a recession... and that was just step 1! But, I knew it was a road I had to start down, and just take a step at a time.

Fast forward to November 2009, and I'm under contract. Now what? I've got no place to live. Luckily for me, I have family in town who were nice enough to let me dwell in their basement until I figured things out.

I also picked up a second job near the end of the summer of 2009 at my church, doing facility support (i.e. janitorial stuff). It is a great job, but I'd be lying if I ignored the fact that part of the reason for getting the job was to prepare for when I'd be quitting my full-time job.

Parallel to this, I had to actually get accepted to the degree program at my school, figure out my loan/scholarship eligibility, and make sure I get all my t's crossed and my i's dotted. Since I was a part-time student initially (pursuing an MA in Theological Studies), I got the impression I could fall through the cracks pretty easily if I wasn't careful. However, since Covenant is a rather small school, the staff is pretty much on a first-name basis with me.

Somewhere during this time, I also approached my boss about the fact that I'd be leaving. This was about the end of November 2009, and so when I went into her office to tell her I was quitting on June 4th 2010, she was a bit confused -- instead of a 2-week notice, it was more like a 6-month notice. Then, I went on to explain the situation: my project is pretty intensive and would require a nice "phase-out" period with my replacement, and I really don't want to let anything fall apart after I leave.

I finally got my acceptance letter into the Master of Divinity program which would be dominating the next ~3 years of my life, and that's when I started looking at finances. Since I was going to quit my job, which accounts for ~95% of my income, obviously something had to give. I'd already cut my expenses by quite a bit, and was saving like it was my job, but I was still going to need more income to cover rent/insurance/groceries/etc... So I approached my boss at church about getting more hours. He said he'd think about it (this was still in the Winter mind you). Furthermore, I started looking at the fact that school actually costs money! Thus, I start anxiously awaiting the time of the year when FASFA's come due.

We've now shrinked from 6 months to 3 months before the Summer term starts (because of my program, the school recommends you take 6 credits over the Summer to prepare you for the Fall). I still have no apartment, no guarantee that I'll have the income to pay for it, no idea what kind of financial aid I'll be receiving, and no replacement to train on my project at work.

Around this time, the rumor that I was leaving got back to me. I had only told a select few people at work about this because being MONTHS away, I didn't want to send anyone into a panic. But, word did leak out so I went public (so to speak). I had the conversation with my project teams and I just felt a sense of relief. "OK, this is real... this is going to happen."

Finally, I got the name of my replacement -- he works in New Jersey. "OK, this should be interesting. I've never trained anyone over the phone before."

Around Easter, I get my financial aid letter -- a 25% tuition scholarship, and the ability to take up to the max possible in subsidized loans (the good ones). I was happy... not sure if I could have gotten any more as a first-year. This made it possible for me to use hard numbers to figure out how big of a hole I was digging. Surprisingly, I was pleased with the outcome. Because of my mad saving between selling my house and now, I actually felt pretty comfortable with the numbers.

Training my replacement went pretty well. He's got a good head on his shoulders and a ton of experience in the field. I felt pretty comfortable about the work situation, so I started to transfer my energy to other question marks.

I was still living in my sister's basement, and it was never intended to be a long-term solution (90% of my stuff stayed in boxes), so I started trying to figure out a new living situation. A few things had fallen through (which is why I moved in with Erin and Steve in the first place), and obviously my budget is pretty tight, so this was going to be interesting. That's when I got a phone call from my friend Ty whose living situation just changed as well. He was interested in living together. So we started looking at apartments. Before long, we found a place we could move into at the beginning of May.

Also, around this time I met with my church boss again about extra work. He sounded promising about giving me 2 full days of work a week during the Summer (in addition to my normal hours). Yeah, its only for the Summer, but that will get me through the Summer. We can worry about the Fall and the future later.

Somewhere in here, I received a letter that I was in my grace period on my student loans. A little history -- as long as you are in school, your loan payments are in deferment (they are deferred until you aren't in school anymore). On top of that, they give you a one-time 6-month grace period after graduation before you have to start making payments. I took the Spring 2010 semester off because of time commitments and everything mentioned above, and also because there wasn't a class I could take, so I went into repayment because from the perspective of the school/student loan people, I was no longer a student.

As soon as I was made aware of this, I got on the phones and tried to figure out what I was going to do. If I used all my 6 months now, that meant I couldn't use it after I graduated... not a deal breaker, but it would have been nice in case I can't find a job or something. Turns out I will be re-entering school one week BEFORE my 6 month grace period runs out. This means that as long as my enrollment status is changed to student before that 6 months is up, I get the WHOLE 6 month grace period back!!! I had to ask the guy on the phone twice to make sure I understood him right. This means that I have to be in contact with the Registrar to send a special letter to the loan people updating them on my status before June 15th.

I start school June 7th, 2010. Reflecting on this journey just excites me all the more. See, something I didn't really mention is that through all of this, I was lost and confused, unsure and suspicious. Yet, God remained constant. I remember praying back before step 1 was completed: "God, if you want me to do this, you're going to have to do something... because no one is buying my house." Look at where we are now. I see God all over this story, directing my steps and using some wonderful people in my life to help me along the way. Not my timing, but his. Not my will, but his. Not my glory, but his. How humbling!


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