When I first started graduate school in the fall of 2012, I noticed a survey marker embedded in the sidewalk leading up to the business building. It was something that jumped out at me every single time I walked that long sidewalk. It wasn't long before I began to correlate the journey to a masters degree with climbing a mounting. I told myself that one day I would stand at the survey marker on the sidewalk and take my picture...because I would have finally made it to the summit of Mt. Masters.
My bachelors degree is in Kinesiology....which means I didn't have very many business classes. I stepped on UTA's campus in 2012 knowing that I would need to take 52 hours of graduate school before I could obtain my degree. At that point....it seemed like the summit was so far away it was insurmountable. When you haven't been in school for 12 years...it takes some time to get back into the habit of homework and reading textbooks. The first few semesters were very difficult. Who am I kidding...all of the semesters were hard! It wasn't just hard on me mentally...it was hard emotionally and hard on my family.
I don't want to count how many baseball games I have had to miss because I had class....or times I have left sick children with Mike or my parents because I had an exam. I have also had to cut back on other things I enjoy doing (volunteering at school, helping friends, being involved in different ministries) so that I can focus on getting school finished. I am not one of those "life long students" who just love going to school. It has been a huge sacrifice for me to go back to school. I would much rather be at home tucking my kids in bed than listening to a lecture. However, I set out on this road for my family. When I reach my goal of being a CPA, it will allow me to help support our family financially while working out of the home. It will allow me to be there for all the school events. I will be blessed to be the one greeting my children as they get home from school. It will be a huge blessing to our family....but it requires sacrifice to reach that blessing.
I will never forget the deepest, darkest low...when the pressures and burdens of school and family felt like they would crush me. It was the fall of 2013. I was taking 2 classes that were both incredibly hard and very time consuming. I remember leaving school and driving to the gas station on my way home. The thought crossed my mind, "I wonder how much it would hurt if I just drove off the bridge?" What?! Where in the world did that come from?! I have always been a "glass is 1/2 full" kinda person. The thought alone scared me to tears. I called Mike crying from the gas station parking lot.
It was this moment that was the turning point for me. Mike could have just listened to me vent about how hard my class was...yet how pointless I felt like it was because I won't use what was being taught in my practice. He could have validated my feelings and tried to gently cheer me up with "you can do it" kinda talk. But he didn't. Praise the Lord I have a man who loves God and wants to lead his family spiritually. Mike didn't speak softly to me...he spoke sternly. He informed me that my attitude was horrible, selfish, and spiraling downward. He told me that if it was really too hard...then I should just quit. He told me that he knew I was smart enough to keep going...but if I decided to keep going I needed to realize that was the choice I was making and I needed to change my attitude!
Mike encouraged me to find ONE thing good about each class and to focus on that rather than on all the difficult aspects. At first I was defensive that he would tell me I couldn't complain about class....but then I could hear the Holy Spirit whispering, "He's right!" I won't claim that I never again complained about a difficult class or exam....but that one conversation changed my entire outlook on school. I came out on the other side of that really dark day because of the unconditional love of a man who was not afraid to speak the truth to me.
When a person decides to climb Mt. Everest, it is not something they take on alone. There are expedition leaders, Sherpas, cooks, helicopter pilots, and climbing partners. Mt. Masters was not something I was able to take on alone either. I had a village to help me.
God sustained me during this time...spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Without fail, I would receive a text from a friend letting me know of their prayers or a song on the radio that spoke to my mood at just the right time...every.single.time. I would open up my daily devotional and would always find just the verse I needed that would remind me to focus on what is really important in life...things of eternal consequence. God time and again would put things in perspective for me in various ways...showing me how temporary this "trial" really was in my life.
My amazing husband has been the anchor in the rock for our family during this climb. He goes into work early so that he is able to get home for me to leave for school. He makes dinner for the kids. He takes all the kids with him to practices and games. He encourages me and has never once made me feel guilty for having to spend "free" time studying. I know that he prays for me all the time and he has been the main one who has kept me going. He tells me how proud he is of me and makes me want to succeed!
Brody, Barrett, & Brianna have brought smiles to days where all I felt was stress. I would look at them and think, "I'm too blessed to be stressed!" The boys have spent many nights going to sleep praying for one of my upcoming exams. Sometimes I would get home to find Brody still awake. He would whisper as I leaned in to kiss his cheek, "How did you do on your test?" To them...Momma passing her test = Momma's finished with school sooner!
My parents, Daddy Steve & Namaw, have also made huge sacrifices. Namaw has worked more hours to help make up for me working less hours in order to study. They have watched our children more days than I can count so that I could get to school on time or spend a day studying for exams. They have encouraged me and prayed for me every step of the way!
My mother-in-law, Grammy, has spent many weeks at our home helping with the children and helping me get caught up on household chores. She even drove one night from Abilene to get to our house to watch a sick kid so that I could go to school the next day. I know that she has spent countless hours in prayer over our family.
My sister (in-law), Audria, lives just 1 mile from me. She is blessed to stay at home with my nephews right now and has opened up her home many, many, many days to watch my children so that I could study for school. I can't tell you how many exams I would have done really bad on if she hadn't volunteered to watch Barrett and Brianna so I could study!
My good friends, Ashely & Jenn, have also stepped in to take my kids for the day or drive them to practice/games or bring me coffee to keep me going. My sisters, Ann & Julie, have always been there to listen to me and pray for me when days are tough and I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. Many other friends and family have been a shoulder to lean on, a friend to talk to, or a prayer partner.
So while I may be the one who has the privilege of writing MPA after my last name....know that I am representing all of you when I do so. Each and every one of you who supported our family during this time has played a part in my success.
If you want to summit Mt. Masters...you need a village.
I thank God every day for mine!
Staci Knowlton, MPA