I have a favor to ask of you. Will you help me give Joel a birthday present this week and join me in praying for God to open doors for him financially so he can attend Berklee School of Music in January? He also needs to find housing he can afford. (Hmmm that sounds familiar–oh, yeah–Nathan two months ago!) But I learned my lesson when you prayed with me for Nathan! I would feel so very grateful if you would join me in prayer for Joel this week.
Here is the whole story: My first son, Joel, turns twenty-two on Wednesday. As a little boy, he was my gentle child, always singing, designing lego cities and castles, drawing hundreds of designs of jeeps, and almost always happy. He would always make the other kids jealous because he could hear a song played on the piano or guitar and he would just sit down and begin to pick it out or play it by ear. I remember one year when we were visiting some friends in Boston, Joel sat down at a harp and began to pick out melodies as though he had been playing for years.
His first year after graduating from high school, Joel attended a worship school, as we have tended to have our kids spend the first year at home as a sort of transitional year into adulthood. At the end of that year, Joel received a several scholarship offers from universities but ended up taking a presidential scholarship at Seattle Pacific University. He so enjoyed his first year and worked while he took a full load of classes and still made a 3.5 average. However, at the end of his first year, he and Sarah were chosen to be interns at a ministry outreach in Cambridge University in England to work with Ranald McCaulay in a ministry outreach to students and professors. Upon return from their summer there, Joel began to pray about changing his major. He began to clep out of some basic classes and said, “I have always wanted to be a musician. I don’t think I have much of a chance, but I really feel that if I don’t try to get into Berklee school of music, I might regret it the rest of my life. I think it is the best school in the United States for what I want to do–become a composer.”
So, last January he began to compose a song for his interview, which would take place in person in Boston. Now, as a mom, I felt insecure because with our 17 moves, travels in ministry and limited salary, Joel only had about 2 years of formal music lessons. But though he didn’t have a depth in musical theory or much experience at reading music, he had lots of other strengths in just musical talent and a good ear all by God’s grace and design. So our whole family prayed and friends prayed and Joel took a trip to Boston for his live audition. Before that time, he had to fill out pages upon pages of essays telling his philosophy, dreams, desire to study and so on.
He did great on his composition performance and probably was a little weak on the areas he hoped to study at Berklee–like theory! (You can hear his composition by connecting to this link: http://www.virb.com/thenorthcountry When you go to this site, place your cursor on The Night as Bright as Day.)
Then the wait began. They said it would be September before he would hear. This had been the year that I had truly decided that I was like the little boy who gave Jesus his fish and loaves and asked for a miracle. I had done my best, given my all to my children, but I knew that there were holes and that only the Lord could help to open doors for my children. This was the faith I depended on–that if the Lord wanted Joel into the school of his dreams, He would open the doors, knowing that He would be the one we would thank.
Finally, September 15, Joel got the word that he had been accepted at Berklee. We were all amazed and excited that now he was going to have the opportunity to pursue what he had wanted to do for many years.
It just happened that it was during the time of the bank failures. So, even though he was accepted, as a January student, there were no scholarships available, even though he pursued every office, every opportunity and every email address he could find. He was only offered $2500 in loans from government Fafsa loans, which is hardly enough to put his toe into the door. So, Joel kept working and praying that God would open the door for him somehow to get into school. In the midst of this, I sent him the book, The Spiritual Lives of Great Composers, which we had read from many years before.
The Lord seems to always use stories of faithful people who have gone before us to show us the way. Joel read several of the histories of the great composers. He called me last Friday and was renewed in his confidence to trust the Lord. He said, “Mom, all of these great men had to work so diligently. Most of them were dirt poor and they had to devote themselves to practice and discipline for years upon years. But because they worked hard, they became great.They also had this in common–they performed and composed for the glory of God. The most amazing thing was and epoch statement that Bach made. He said that anyone could do what he did if they would work as hard as he worked. I know I will never be a Bach, but I want to do what he did and work to my capacity. I really want to try to find a way to make it work for me to go ahead and start school in January. I am not afraid of working hard. I think I can make good grades and be a good student and then maybe I can get scholarships the end of my first year. I really want to do my best to become a composer.”
So, now, we are placing ourselves once more in the hands of the Lord and know that in some way He will greatly show his faithfulness. Having been involved in ministry for so many years, we have not had a lot extra to put into college for the kids. Yet the Lord has met our needs every year. But we have put our names on loans for the kids for their cars and for the school loans they have had to take out. All of our children have worked hard and have been able to pay their basic bills. But we are not sure if Fafsa will give loans to Clay and me as we have heard that all such student loans are very difficult to get since the fall of the banks and since we have already applied to Fafsa for financial aid and Joel just received a little. .
Yet, having seen the Lord work so wonderfully before in our lives with Nathan in New York city, we want to ask you to please join us in praying for Joel this week as we make one final attempt to secure a loan so that he can start school. Will you please pray for Joel to see God open a door for him with us? He is willing to keep working, but he has also come to the point of wanting to see God open doors in such a way that many will see His reality.
I used to worry so much more, but I have seen God’s ways more clearly in the past few years. When I wanted things to be easy, God was allowing them to be a challenge–because He was a Father with a training heart. He was answering my prayers, (Lord, please build my boys into godly men.) His ways are to build Joel into a stronger man so that he can be prepared for more difficult challenges ahead. Having had to work, to strain towards his dreams, to grapple with the Lord about how to make it all happen could be as important to the making of his character as school will be to his music education. I see his spiritual muscles growing, his confidence in God building and his whole life being stretched and in all of this, he will be much more prepared to be the godly, strong man God would have him be.
So, Happy Birthday, dear, wonderful Joel. I can’t wait to see what the Lord has waiting for you.
I love you!
(And thanks to you wonderful friends who join me in prayer before the Lord’s throne.)
PS Joel’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org