Perseverance--anyone with a disability understands the meaning of this word and how vital a commodity it is when life presents us with chronic challenges. So often we feel that we take two big steps backward for every baby step forward, but perseverance keeps us going. As it says in Ecclesiastes 9:11, "...the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong...but time and chance happeneth to them all."
This week we will attend the college graduation of our oldest daughter. Her diploma will be a testament to her perseverance. Her quest for this degree began in the fall of 1994, when, at the age of seventeen, she entered a prestigious university on an academic scholarship with the dream of becoming an elementary school teacher. By the end of her first week of classes, she realized that where she really belonged was in the art department and so switched to a major that demanded many extra hours of time in studio.
Then, two and a half years later, she married the boy next door, whose college major was not available at the same university. Not to be deterred, only delayed, this daughter-of-mine took what classes were available at his college and, when he finished and they moved on, kept going with correspondence courses, necessitating yet another change in major to an emphasis in history. Now, these fifteen years after she began, she is receiving the long-sought-after diploma, and we are going to give her all the celebration she deserves. In those fifteen years, she has had five pregnancies, three live births (including an emergency C-section), a husband with cancer, a child with chronic health problems, another child with severe allergies and severe ongoing health problems of her own. She currently homeschools three boys and volunteers in several church and community organizations.
My daughter's grandmother (my own mother) started college at the age of sixteen and finally received a bachelor's degree at the age of sixty-three. And a great-grandmother, a Danish immigrant, received her college degree at almost that same age. So this daughter comes from a long line of determined women who understood what it means to persevere toward a personal goal, even if it takes many years to accomplish. Though she certainly has had much encouragement and support along the way, my daughter would not be standing there at the podium this week in navy blue cap and gown were it not for her own strong will, her own perseverance.