Once I finish my last class in August, then I'll be completely finished.
I made a pledge to Tara that I would be done with my M.Div by the time Emma started kindergarten. I finish my last class on Friday, August 8; Emma starts her first class on Wednesday, August 20. Cutting it kind of close...
It was so much fun having Tara and the kids join me on campus - for the very first time. Tara had been there a few times, but my whole family had never been there with me. All those days, weeks, semesters, years at TEDS, and it was like my own little world. It was also neat to have my parents there with us - they've been so supportive in thousands of ways...it was important to Tara and I that they join us for the weekend. Since schooling was such a big part of our life for so long, it was also important to have as much family join us as possible - since so many of them gave something to help us get through. It was fun hanging out at the hotel with the family, swimming, eating breakfast, and taking lots of pictures by the fishpond!
With all the family joining us, there wasn't much time to pause and reflect on that actual experience of graduating. My first moment came when all the graduates were gathered in a large tent prior to the processional. Even though there was a loud and constant buzz of conversation, there was this moment where it dawned on me: Thanks God! God has been so loyal and patient with me these past five years. It was a hard endeavor in many ways, and God proved himself kind and providential. Classes schedules had a way of working out around personal commitments; class topics had a way of tying in with key pastoral issues; spiritual needs and financial needs had a way of being addressed and taken care of. Being a TEDS grad is a special opportunity; only a few people in all the world get the opportunity to be part of such an exceptional school. Thanks God.
Being a part-time student, full-time pastor, and all-the-time husband and father, I didn't have alot of time to meet alot of fellow students and develop life long friendships. Not being that connected, I was a little fearful that when I graduated, I wouldn't know anyone in my class. Fortunately, some of the students that I got to know were graduating with me - it was a pleasant surprise as one by one I met another and another friend on Saturday that was graduating with me. During my Greek-summer, I sat next to Leslie Aylesworth; we had some great talks and I was able to have dinner with his family a couple of times. Good guy, neat friend. I was pleased and surprised that we were able to graduate together. It was also neat meeting and talking with students who I'd not ever met, but standing in line for forty minutes prior to processional makes for a good time to make new friends. I even met one guy named David, standing a few paces away - I had just found his blog the other day...and now I'm meeting him on graduation day...how odd is that?
There are also some interesting family stories: we went to Rainforest Cafe in downtown Chicago for our celebration dinner. We had no problem getting there. Mike and Jana got there early and confirmed with the restaurant that the rest of the 18-member party was on its way. We underestimated traffic and completely forgot about parking issues. Tara drove Amy's truck into town, Shirley followed in the Magnum - they both ended up paying $24 each for parking! I happened to find a parking spot on the street (the car topper prevented me from going into the parking garage) for only $2! Once we got all parked we found our way into the Cafe - very neat! And loud! After a tasty dinner and a flaming desert, we attempted to leave the city. It's a lot harder than we thought. Since I was parked on the street, I ended up trying to leave the city before the other two cars. I accidently got on I94E instead of West, so I had to take the next exit and get off and try to find a new exit. That wasn't easy without a map. But then Jim remembered we had a Garmin; we typed in the address for the school (which was close to the hotel...we couldn't remember that address), and we were finally able to escape. But then Tara missed the exit and never even got on I94...so I'm talking to her on the cell phone, while she's trying to talk to Faye on the walkie-talkie, and I'm trying to give them directions...with no map. Crazy! They finally...somehow...miraculously find the right exit, and we all ended back at the hotel a lot later and a lot more tired than we planned! But oh the memories.