» Finish What You Start (My Seminary Journey)

Photo: Elliott and I at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary campus, November 2007

I have a funny story for you. It may or may not be known that after receiving my Bachelors in Elementary Education from Clemson University I headed down to New Orleans to pursue a Master’s degree in Missiology. Calvin moved there shortly after (because he loved me) and moved into an apartment about 20 minutes from where I was attending school and living. Things were looking pretty great and we were looking forward to engagement, marriage and on-campus (cheap) married housing.

The weather had other plans. Hurricane Katrina swept through just weeks later and Calvin and I found ourselves displaced. We both lived and worked in Charleston, SC for a year, got married, and headed back to Lousiana as soon as the seminary re-opened. Six months after our wedding day we found out we were expecting a little addition. We watched in awe as a 6-week-old little heartbeat showed up on the ultrasound. And then I threw up. A lot. I wasn’t the best pregnant person and a master’s program on top of that was even worse. I was also working. We look back and laugh right? There were also some difficult things and loss that happened with my pregnancies, something I’ve written about here to encourage anyone who has a similar story.

New Orleans City Park, November 2008

New Orleans City Park, November 2008

I pressed on and was blessed to have another pregnant friend in the same master’s program. Our baby boys were born within weeks of each other and we scheduled our classes around each other in order to care for the babies. Not paying for a baby-sitter was amazing, but supporting each other was even better. Once that situation ran its course another sweet friend stepped in.

Preparing to evacuate New Orleans due to Hurricane Gustav

Preparing to evacuate New Orleans due to Hurricane Gustav, September 2008 (that’s me sitting in the middle)

On Elliott’s first birthday, and one semester away from graduation we found out we were expecting yet another little one. Miss Charlotte. And she… love her to pieces… made me even sicker than Elliott had. I would later find out that there is an actual diagnosis for this level of pregnancy sickness. I reduced my class load a bit but continued toward the finish line. Let me also add that during this pregnancy we were displaced from our home again, with a one year old, when Hurricane Gustav came through. It was only for a few weeks. But those few weeks were spent living on a farm of a ministry friend and in a church. This would be the second time we lived in a church. The first time was as newly weds when trying to get back to New Orleans. You can read more on that fun here.

Fall Festival at Edgewater Baptist Church, October 2008

Fall Festival at Edgewater Baptist Church, October 2008

By the time I finished my program classes we were pretty much done with New Orleans. We loved it there… but we were done with hurricanes. It was time to move on. I was pregnant, sick and it was Summer in New Orleans. I was really just over. it. Calvin had a job offer in Nashville and I couldn’t get there soon enough. I hugged my friends, who truly are embedded in my heart till this day, and hauled butt to Nashville in our little U-haul. I didn’t even apply for graduation or take steps to actually confirm my degree. I had barely anything left to do. And I didn’t do it. My excuse? I was over. it. I was hot. I was pregnant. I couldn’t stop puking.

Valid things… but really y’all. I should have done the graduation thing.

First Christmas in Nashville, December 2008

First Christmas in Nashville, December 2008

Six Years Later. I’m tired of saying… well I finished but I didn’t. I didn’t apply for graduation. Yes, I made straight A’s. Yes, I actually enjoy school and want to pursue an even higher level of education… but no I didn’t actually finish.

A few months ago I pulled my paperwork out of a drawer and decided to apply for graduation. To walk, to do the whole gown thing. I thought it would be cool for the kids to see me finally graduate with my Master’s degree. I called the school and got things rolling. The office was encouraging, oh it looks like you’re good! We just need you to reapply and get back in the system. So I did all the things that felt very foreign and was officially re-accepted into New Orleans Baptist Theological.

Then my academic advisor called.

The degree program I was in had changed, there were now additional course requirements. And because it had been SIX YEARS since I was a student there, one who didn’t apply for graduation, I was going to have to do some work.

I almost didn’t y’all. In fact, I stewed for a whole week thinking… I just can’t do this. Four kids, full-time job, full-time house and a husband.

But then I remembered something my mom always said. Probably one of the greatest values instilled in me as a child.

Work hard. And finish what you start. 

Pretty simple right? But not really. If you believe that statement you’re going to have to finish some things you don’t want to. You’re going to have to do extra sometimes. Like taking extra classes to finish a Master’s you should have finished six years ago. 

So with my mom’s words I enrolled in the fast track classes and started writing. Writing until my eyes hurt and reading until I really felt like I could solve the World’s problems.

I’m going to finish. And in December I’m going to take the walk I should have taken six years ago. And my kids are going to watch and I’m going to hug them and say I did this to show you how to finish what you start. I’m hopeful that some dramatic music might coincidentally play while I say this.. so my life will look like my own version of Gilmore Girls…

So, What do you need to finish?


About the author


Erica is an advocate for simplicity, family time, making a cozy home and loving others well. She is the community coordinator for One Orphan, the orphan care ministry of America World Adoption Association. Erica and Calvin have four young children; Elliott, Charlotte, Lola and Liam. They currently reside in Nashville, TN.

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