Faith and Fear

6:51 PM 0 Comments

Let's set the stage.

2 years ago, I put my loving parents on a plane in Phoenix, Arizona and drove away. Drove 3 hours up a friggin' mountain to a creaky, old house I managed to rent via Craigslist that I had just moved into. Alone, frightened, and kinda excited about what was about to happen. Hopeful that my husband of a few months would have the opportunity to join me with a great job. Terrified of what the next 2 years would hold for me.


Then, the hardest 6 months of my life occurred. I entered the world of graduate school in a state, town, and school where I had never met a soul. I cried nightly, missing the person I had just pledged to spend my life with and had endured a long-distance relationship with during my undergraduate career, missing my family whom I had grown very close to, missing my dear friends who were forever away, and missing the amazing professors I had known for 4 years. Missing a church family who could shelter me and distract me from the people I loved most, miles and miles away. Enduring professors I had never met, classes that seemed impossible, and grades that were worse than I had ever gotten in my entire life. I was shy, afraid to reach out to anyone and ask the simple question for help. Me, the goofy, outgoing person that wasn't afraid to ask anyone for anything, especially when it came to school. Who made friends easily, and was the person in the room who wasn't afraid to say hello to a stranger.

I didn't even know who I was anymore.

I laid in my bed, sobbing for something. Anything. Everything. Hope. Friendship. Love. Laughter. Courage. I realized that I was praying. Praying for deliverance of what and who I had become. Praying not to be alone anymore.

Then I realized I never had been alone. At my lowest point, I cried out to the only person who could hear. He had been there always, making sure I was surviving, making sure I had a roof over my head, gas in my car, the bus always making it to school, getting me through classes, making sure I put something on paper to turn in to my instructors at the end of the week. I was just too blinded by fear and shame to realize that Jesus Christ had never left. When I was crying out of loneliness, He chuckled and smiled down at me. He opened my eyes to reality; I was lost in my fear of what I was going through to see Him clearly.

I started praying in every moment. Praying to get through the classes I was neglecting, thinking I could do this on my own, when I never in my life done that before. Praying for my husband to answer the phone when I called, praying for my family to be thinking of me, praying that I would survive this semester.

Thankfully, God answered my prayers and my wonderful, dear father spent 3 weeks with me, after realizing that things weren't going spectacular in AZ for me. I thanked God daily that my dad was able to be here for me.

Thanksgiving came, and my dear, dear husband was able to visit and see Flagstaff. We went to McDonald's for thanksgiving, and I will never forget that meal we shared. He never lost faith that I would be able to succeed in this new endeavor, and his unwavering support is another credit to the amazing man I get to spend my life with!

I managed to get through the semester, and go home and spend 3 weeks at home. I treasured every moment, and relished the time I spent with the people I loved most. I had a change of heart. That turning point with Jesus made me realize I had to change, reach out, and find support at NAU.
He led me to some amazing people I am blessed to have known. He gave me all of the amazing classmates that didn't hesitate to help me when I asked a question, didn't understand a concept, and needed guidance on a homework problem. That I was too afraid that would judge me, ridicule me, laugh at my stupidity, if I approached them for help. He led me to a weekly bible study that helped me continue to foster my relationship with God. He helped me lead two classrooms of incredible students to know and enjoy mathematics as I did. (Well.... a few:) ) My grades improved drastically. I was participating in class, doing well on homework and exams. I became engrossed in learning more about teaching mathematics, and enjoying learning from my students, as well as helping them be successful.

I wasn't alone anymore.

And really, I had never been alone. I hadn't witnessed the greetings in the hallways. The questions from people in the office I shared about doing homework together. Asking me to go out to eat with them. Inviting me to movies, even just inviting me to have a conversation with them. My fear of rejection and judgement clouded my vision of the kind, helpful classmates and professors around me.

Psalm 121 7-8: The Lord will keep you from all harm
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.



The Lord was always watching over me. Leading me through what has seemed like the most empty, sad days of my life. He led me to friendships I'll treasure for the rest of my life, to a relationship with my husband I treasure each and every day we have been apart, to the career I want to pursue as long as I am able as a math educator, to a faith I've never had before in Him. To a confidence in who I am.

This year, after my husband and I realizing that being together during this time wasn't in the books for us, I was able to live with a great friend I had made. I (sort of) knew my way around town (although I've still never been to the Lumberyard). I knew the classes I wanted to take, with great professors I was looking forward to get to know better. I have made some great new friends from the new GTA's that had joined the motley crew of 2nd-year GTAs. I actually answer questions in class. (Sometimes....) I'm not afraid to go to office hours of an intimidating professor and ask questions, and be okay that I may be going down the completely wrong path for a question. I'm not afraid to approach the intelligent people I am grateful to be in class with and ask for help. 

Although I realize I'm not quite done with this roller-coaster of a journey yet (roughly a few weeks until the finish line y'all), I wanted to share my story for those who have felt alone. Are feeling alone. Will be feeling alone in their future.

This was also meant to say thanks to those who deserve it. Thank you to:

My professors at NAU: Dr. Burch, Dr. Hagood, Dr. Ernst, Dr. Degraw, Dr. Swift, Dr. Falk, Dr. Beaudrie, and Dr. Neuberger

The 2nd year GTA's my first year at NAU: Zowie, Eric, Tiffany, Jose, Erin, Mickey, Amy, Andrew, Selina, Woody, Avi, David, Matt, Andy, Thomas

The current 1st year GTA's: Allie, Marlene, Tyler, Faustina, Mavis, Jake, Philip, Nellie, Bri, Scott, Julie, Krista, Zach, Sarah, Daniel

Those who have been with me since day 1: Patrick, Kevin, Kayla, Jesse, Taryn, Zack, Janessa, Samantha, Roger, Dane, Esther, Teresa, Bonnie, Justin, Matthew

To the last group, my classmates for these past 4 semesters, y'all will always hold a special place in my heart and in my memories. It has been a pleasure to know y'all, grow with y'all, and learn from each other. Thank you for putting up with me, getting to know me, and helping me with anything I needed. Thank you for allowing me to be who I am without fear of judgement or rejection. Thank you for the friendships I have gained with y'all. I wouldn't have made it through this program without any of you. 

To Samantha, Tiffany, Janessa, and Allie: Thank you four ladies for everything. I absolutely treasure how y'all have changed my life and the dear friendships we share. For the times spent venting about students, life, classes, relationships, the future (and sometimes doing homework ;)).  Thank you for opening your hearts to me and allowing me to be a part of your life. 

To my family: Thank you for your enduring support. For knowing when to send a surprise in the mail. For my mother putting up with a phone call every single day, lasting at least for an hour. For my father spending 3 weeks both semesters with me. For my sister's love and encouragement. Thank you for helping me through this process, crying with me when I cried, rejoicing in my successes, helping me realize I could do this.

To Aaron: Thank you for always being there. Always believing in me at my lowest points, and when I had no faith in myself. For allowing and encouraging me to go on this journey. For loving me miles and miles away. For being as okay as possible with 2 more years apart. For pushing me to do my best. For sending me good morning text messages every single day. For traveling to visit me, using vacation days. For having faith in me, this program, and this decision that this was the right plan for our future together. 

To those readers who have managed to read this entire novel, I urge you to cast away your fear. I urge you to reach for something you've been to afraid to go for. I urge you to have faith in yourself. I urge you to pray to God, for his help, for his love, and for his guidance. I urge you to learn from my mistakes, my fear, and my journey. 

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Michelle Burt

Some say he’s half man half fish, others say he’s more of a seventy/thirty split. Either way he’s a fishy bastard. Google

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