Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Asking for Grace at Not Quite 40

Ok, so for those not up to speed:

Last month I applied to college.  Specifically I applied to enter the Access Program for Adults at Atlanta Christian University.  The Access Program allows working adults to obtain an Associates Degree in just 18 months, and some Bachelors Degrees in as few as 24 months.

I was pretty much scared to death to actually apply.  The last time I was in college it was 1990, I was more interested in having a good time than persuing higher education, and as the baby in my family I was in many ways ridiculously immature. I didn't leave college of my own volition.  No, I was asked to leave.  Placed on academic suspension.  Sent home with my head hung in humiliation to face the disgusted disappointment of my parents and the "Awww, that's too bad" looks and head shakes from friends.

I spoke about flunking out of college with my friend Adam, who is usually wise and full of excellent advice.  I told him that I didn't want to include my two short semesters at Tarleton State University on this entrance application.  He said I should go ahead an include it.  He'd worked in college admissions years ago and assured me that they wouldn't even include that transcript in their consideration, it wouldn't even matter.

Guess what folks?  It mattered.

ACC cannot just approve my application.  Because of my low GPA from Tarleton, 21 YEARS AGO, I have to write a "Grace Letter" to the Admission Committee.  And so I have.  But I haven't sent it in yet.  I wanted you to take a look at it and let me know your thoughts.  I refuse to grovel.  I know where real grace comes from - the Lord - and He has given me more than my fair share (as is His usual way.) At the same time, I have to do what I have to do.  I want this for myself.  I need this for myself.  Even I deserve a second chance, don't I?  So, here's the letter below.  Feel free to offer your opinions and suggestions.  It is overly wordy in many sentences and I spell out numbers, that's because the letter has to be between 500-750 words.

Dear Atlanta Christian College Admission Committee,

The purpose of this letter is to seek your grace in accepting me into your program. Once a very long time ago as a young adult who was immature for my age and who didn’t feel ready to take on college, I told a lie. I began by telling the truth. I told my parents I didn’t want to go to college immediately after high school because I was not ready. Then I caved when I saw my mother cry. I opened my mouth and told her I’d changed my mind and I took on college, with no real intention of applying myself.

That attempt at college was twenty-one years ago. I was eighteen years old, not focused on academics, and had no grasp at that time of “the future” and what bearing my actions (or non-actions) would have on it. From the age of 18 until about 22, I lived in the moment and for the moment. To be frank, I drank heavily, dabbled lightly in smoking marijuana, and slept through most of my classes. It’s not a time in my life that I am proud of. I did not maintain my grades, my GPA was too low, and I was placed on academic suspension. Flunking out of college was and still remains a deep personal failure for me as well as a huge disappointment to my family and friends.

To say it took every ounce of courage I possess and a whole lot of cheering on by friends just to go on-line and fill out the application to the Atlanta Christian College Access Program for adults would be putting it mildly. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done – and I’ve done some seriously hard things. Everyone assured me that a low grade point average twenty years ago wouldn’t matter in the least. Yet here I find myself with my past failure rearing its ugly head. Mattering.

Although it was disheartening to receive, I took the news that I’d have to submit a Grace letter as possibly being God’s way of letting me know that undertaking this endeavor of obtaining (finally) that elusive college degree is going to be a lot harder than clicking submit and showing up for classes. It’s going to be a lot harder than telling people “I just applied to college!” and having them light up and say things like “Way to go girl! I’m so proud of you! You can do it!”

Twenty-one years ago the phone call from Earl informing me that my old GPA was too low for acceptance at college would have been the thing that stopped me dead in my tracks. That phone call would have been the thing that allowed me to convince myself it’s not worth it, that I’m not capable, and that I should just give up. Twenty-one years ago I would have been too afraid of my own weaknesses versus the strength of a college institution to keep on trying. Twenty-one years ago I would have given up. But today, I am not who I was.

Today I am a woman who survived and left a physically abusive marriage. Today I am a woman who for fifteen years, all fifteen years of my daughter’s young life, has been a single-mom. Today I am a woman who has twenty years of full-time work experience under her belt, which you can peruse on the attached resume’.

It was disheartening to receive that phone call from Earl – so much so that it made my tender-hearted daughter cry to see my face when I told her I didn’t just “get in”. However today I am a new creation by God’s grace and am seeking your grace also. My belief is that God has called me to His work and I am asking you to grant me one more shot at college. There is much I believe I will learn from your school. Additionally, it will be a testimony of God’s power in my life. The life experiences I’ve had over the course of the past two decades (which I am happy to discuss in a meeting with you), being transformed and sustained by my faith in Jesus (which by His strength is how these examples came to be), give me strong reason to believe that I am now prepared to successfully navigate the challenges I will encounter in an accelerated academic program. My hope and prayer is that you’ll agree.

Melissa M. Martin
This video featuring "You are More" by 10th Avenue North sums it up about right:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What "Full of Life" Looks Like

This has got to be one of my all-time favorite photographs. Ever.

Ashleigh, Full of Life at age 4 - June 2010

This photo of my fun godchild was taken almost 1 full year ago, in my TV room, during her 1st 2 week visit to my house in Atlanta.  Normally she resides in Louisiana.  To say that Ashleigh is a handfull is an understatement.   

To say I was in no way prepared for how full of vim and vigor and silliness, and energy, and constantly questioning, and never-ceasing movement she was during last years visit, would be accurate.  I had no idea what I was in for.  My own daughter was 14 - so it'd been a long time since I'd been responsible for all that your average 4 year old is, and Ashleigh was no average 4 year old!

She helped herself to anything and everything within arms reach, including, but not limited to: chocolate, green beans, nail polish, perfume, soap, shoes, markers, candy, laundry (clean and dirty) jewlry, books, movies, cats, towels, scissors, blankets, pudding, a noisy singing and swinging snow lady (that I'd not gotten around to putting back in storage after Christmas 6 months prior), the curtains, and almost anything else you can think of in a house.

She corrected, at about 10 decibels, a stanger's child in the local Chic-fil-A.  She smashed bags of chips at the grocery store (I think she liked the sound).  She sang songs from VBS, repeatedly, ad nauseum.  She almost always responded with a curt "No." the first time I'd ask her to do anything different than what she was currently doing.  She asked me "Why?" about five-thousand times a day.

I haven't had that much fun since I don't know when!  And I'll tell you the best "Why?" she asked.

Rebecca and I are very verbally and physically affectionate with each other.  Several times a day she'll say "I love you Mom." and I'll respond "I Love you too Becca." or vice versa.  We hug a lot, just because.  If we're on the couch watching a movie, her legs are draped over min, or we're leaning shoulder to shoulder.  While Ashleigh was with us, we'd be sure to also say "I love you Ashleigh!".  For the first week, she'd just look at us - with a quizzical expression on her face. At some point over the second weekend we had the following conversation:

Me:  "I love you Becca."
Becca: "I love you too Mom."
Me:  "I love you Ashleigh."

Silence.  Ashleigh comes near and very seriously asks,


And so I took her little girl hands in mine, I looked her in the eye and I said:

"I love you because your Mommy is my best friend and I love her, and we are like family.  I love you because you have pretty eyes, and a beautiful smile.  I love you because you make me laugh like I've never laughed before.  I love you because you remind me what it means to have a really good time.  I love you because of all the things that make you, YOU!  You're my godchild and that means you and I have a special relationship, you're my special girl and I just love you!"

A smile slowly spread across her face and reached all the way to her eyes.  Her face lit up and she said:


Yes, Ashleigh's a handful alright - she's a handful of pure Sunshine.  I can hardly wait until June!