In May of 2022 we watched our son, Neal, graduate with a Masters in Divinity from Princeton Seminary. The fact that Neal graduated with all A’s and received a huge award is a really big deal in and of itself, but I want to share with you some events that happened almost 3 years before he started his master’s program. I pray that by sharing his story with you, it will encourage you of the importance of having a clear vision
Neal has ulcerative colitis. If you aren’t familiar with UC, it’s is a chronic condition and is the result of an abnormal immune system response, during which the body mistakes certain bacteria and other materials in the intestine for foreign or invading substances. It then sends white blood cells into the intestines, where they create inflammation. Normally, this would cause a temporary inflammation that would resolve itself but with ulcerative colitis, researchers believe that once your immune system is “turned on,” it doesn’t know how to “properly turn off.” As a result, chronic inflammation damages the intestine and colon.
Neal was diagnosed with UC at 15 and has had some ups and downs when trying to keep the symptoms under control. Right before he was scheduled to start his studies at Princeton he took a trip to Columbia. Near the end of the trip he started to feel ill. He assumed it was his UC flaring up so he reached out to his doctor.
Neal was already on a low dose of immunosuppressant drugs for his condition and then his doctor prescribed steroids too. In the past the steroids had helped him through a flare up but this time he just kept getting worse.
On the Sunday before he was headed out for Princeton he had to be admitted to the hospital. My son Neal is one of the toughest people I know, but he was really, really struggling with his health. After a lot of testing we found out it wasn’t his UC flaring up. He had Salmonella poisoning that was now in his bloodstream. His entire body was infected. The steroids and immunosuppressant drugs were not at all what he needed, in fact they were making it that his body couldn’t fight the infection.
Neal spent 8 days in the hospital and there were moments when I was super concerned that he would survive. The day he was supposed to start his masters he laid in a hospital bed so sad because he thought his dream of going to Princeton was slipping away. Princeton said he could miss a few days but if he wasn’t there soon he would have to wait another year to start.
Finally, the hospital staff said the infection was under control and he could be discharged. He had lost 20 pounds and was very weak but he wasn’t ready to give up on his dream. Neal didn’t have the strength to fly, get his apartment set up and attend his classes so my husband ended up going to Princeton with him for the first few weeks to care for him.
Even with all this, Neal made it to his classes and kept an amazing attitude. He did not give up because he had a clear vision of what he wanted. He was determined, despite the struggles and moments of feeling like it wasn’t possible, to get his degree from Princeton and that is exactly what he did!
I share this with you to remind you of the importance of having a clear vision of what’s important to you. Even with all these obstacles Neal kept moving towards his goal. Right now, close your eyes and picture your life in 5 years. What do you see? Do you know God has a purpose for your life? Do you believe God is with you and will help you when you don’t have the strength to carry on? Hold onto that vision and let it be what guides your daily decisions. Be prepared knowing the enemy will throw obstacles in your way. You may feel like quitting at times but if you remain steadfast with the vision of where you want to go in mind you will get there.
Where we go is determined by what we do each day.
Without a clear vision of where you want to go, you won’t make it. Knowing your WHY is so important. Neal had a clear vision so he continued to press on even when it got tough and friend I believe so can you!
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58
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