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Foreword: Did you know that giving thanks is actually good for your health? Research confirms that gratitude benefits mental, emotional and physical well-being. People who regularly inventory their blessings are less stressed or depressed, and more alert, energetic, optimistic and satisfied with life in general. They also show increased levels of exercise and fewer physical complaints. Apparently, counting one’s blessings only serves to increase them!

I have certainly seen that principle in action these days. My last two posts describe the thanksgiving that accompanied Katherine as she left for school, and the joy that was an unexpected dividend of that gratitude. That is why I dedicate this post to “Counting Blessings”—all the benefits and wonders brought into light now that the college door has opened.

The Blessing of Birthright

Their children and children’s children shall have it as their inheritance. Psalm 69:36 (The Voice)

I count it as a blessing to fulfill a lifelong ambition. When Katherine entered college, she realized a dream that was years—even decades—in the making. While I don’t want any of my children to take their education for granted, a college education has been their legacy. Katherine comes from a long line of highly educated people, entering the University of North Texas as a fourth-generation college student. Her family tree includes teachers, dentists, lawyers and judges, all examples of those who have invested significant time, money and hard work into education and careers.

This commitment to education was passed down to her through Brent and I. For the record, I count this same birthright as my blessing, too. I am particularly thankful that my parents introduced me early to a passionate love affair with learning, as well as higher institutions thereof. (Even as a child I was secure in the knowledge that my father loved me almost as much as his beloved alma mater, The University of Texas. Hook’ em, Horns!)

Small wonder that by the time Katherine was born, her college education was a clearly defined goal. Before Brent and I officially became a family (somewhere between “Will you marry me?” and “I now pronounce you man and wife”), we envisioned university degrees for our future offspring. As our family grew, critical decisions were aimed at higher education: where to buy a home (because a good school district was imperative), how to budget our money and even where to travel. We once spent an entire summer vacation on a cross-country trip just to tour universities on behalf of our college-bound daughter. Most importantly, our educational goals influenced the way we raised our children. From the first, we’ve tried to instill a love of learning and set high standards for academic performance. Like our parents before us, we have always been purposeful about college attendance.

The Blessing of Provision

God is the One who gives seed to the farmer and bread for food. He will give you all the seed you need and make it grow so there will be a great harvest from your goodness. II Corinthians 9:10 (NCV)

I count it as blessing that Brent and I can afford to send Katherine to college. I admit it—Brent and I had it easy. We never had to fight to pay for our college education any more than Katherine does now. We appreciated how fortunate we were to begin family life debt-free. Meanwhile, many other couples in our circle have struggled to enjoy their graduate-level careers in the face of staggering student loans. But for the sacrifices of our parents, that may well have been us, too. So we resolved to pass this same legacy on to our children. We met with the financial planner long before the first obstetrician appointment, setting something aside for the kids’ college tuition before there were any kids. In a way, our marriage only solidified the “academic dynasty” into which we had both been born. “For this child we prayed”—and paidbut once that first tuition bill was due, all we had to do was write a check.

The Blessing of Preparation

God is the one who began this good work in you, and I am certain that he won’t stop before it is complete. Philippians 1:6 (CEV)

I count it as blessing my child received a topnotch public education. Our school district is equally resolved that every child should be not only qualified for college acceptance, but equipped for college attendance. For years I’ve been awed by the scope of resources designed to shepherd students and their families safely out of high school and into college. Dual credit and advanced placement classes. PSAT, SAT and ACT prep. Parent education lunches and college nights. An abundance of counseling websites to help navigate the labyrinth of tough college questions: “Where should I go? What should I study?” And for many, the most daunting of all, “How will I pay for it?” Entire Academies of Study that prepare students for college and career success. Small wonder that just this year Midway was publicly ranked as one of “America’s Best High Schools,” proving itself to be “one of the most effective in turning out college-ready grads.” How truly fortunate that my daughter was able to graduate from there!

Clearly, if we wanted Katherine to have a college oriented education, we couldn’t have picked a better place than Midway ISD. However, I can’t take the credit for that one—it was “God, the Ultimate Realtor” who planted us here. By way of the ugliest home we had ever seen, He led us straight into the sweetest little elementary school we could hope for. The moment we entered the campus nicknamed “the private school that isn’t,” we found ourselves blessed both academically and spiritually. For years my children have been taught, directed, coached and guided by faculty and staff who are not only devoted to children, education, the district and each other– but to Christ.

The Blessing of God’s Handiwork

 We each carried out our servant assignment. I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plants, but God made you grow. It’s not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center of this process but God. I Corinthians 3:6 (The Message)

So many blessings. So many reasons to give thanks. I know that’s why we watched Katherine walk away with so much joy—because her way has been smoothed by many “raining” blessings over her life—and over us as we released her to go live it. I do not take such things for granted. There are many who have found this same path rough and full of obstacles, and I give thanks for them too:

  • I am inspired by first-generation college graduates whose families never planned for or even valued higher education. I give thanks for their boldness and courage as they dare to envision a more ambitious future.
  • I am humbled by the sacrifice and resourcefulness of those struggling to come up with college tuition. As they endure FAHSA forms, anxious waits and burdensome debt, I give thanks for their faith and perseverance.
  • I am encouraged by every student who goes on to succeed in college and beyond in spite of a second-rate education. I give thanks for their ingenuity and determination.

But most of all, I am thankful for the sovereignty of God, which enables Him to accomplish His purposes no matter what the odds or circumstances, through us—or in spite of us. No matter how well—or how poorly—we plant and water, He promises to make something grow.

I’m not sure I can count that high.

 Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done. I Chronicles 16:8 (NLT)