Today we welcome Andrea McMillin as she shares some of her story and tells how she has known that God is So Good. Read the continuation of her story, What Does Jesus Want of Me?
As a child I can remember sitting in my grade one classroom. I was staring at these lines and circles they called letters. I was trying to make sense of them. The children around me could use them to form sounds that then made words and sentences. So full of anxiety and embarrassment, I would run to the coat room, hide and sob. In the coat room I would hear God whisper everything will be alright. He had a way of calming my fears that no human could. Too young to know my bible, too confused to read it yet, I could remember the song from Sunday school.
God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He’s so good to me
He hears my prayer, He hears my prayer, He hears my prayer, He’s so good to me
He loves me so, he loves me so, he loves me so, He’s so good to me
I love him so, I love him so, I love him so, He’s so good to me
Even as a young child, I knew I could call on Jesus in my distress and I knew without a doubt that he was there.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”Matthew 11:28-29
His grip on me then was strong, and though my path was not always straight he has never ever let me go.
Finding solace in scripture
My battle with reading and learning would be lifelong, but I knew that I was precious to God. Psalm 139:13 (NLT) says “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb”. His word told me I was made in the image of God, and that through his guidance, grace and spirit, I could face whatever challenge he put in front of me. I can remember reading my picture Bible all the time, it brought me great comfort.
To help navigate all the victories and trials, the Lord knew I needed warriors, so he gave me amazing parents. They embodied the verse:
“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.”Proverbs 22:6(NLT)
A supportive school
My mother went before the court and proved that my designated school was not fit for me and helped me find a wonderful school that met my needs beautifully.
This school was dedicated to helping children with learning disabilities. They chose to see my capabilities, which was in direct contrast to the psychologist who assessed my skills in grade three and informed my mother that they doubted I would make it past grade nine. I am grateful that the school was committed to addressing my learning needs and fostered my abilities during the six years I was there. They took the embarrassment and anxiety about learning disabilities away and helped me build the skills and confidence needed to equip me for the “real world.”
The role of music
My parents also helped me build a village of teachers, schools, choirs, churches and general community who would all play key roles in raising me well! We discovered my gifts with music which would prove to be vital in many aspects of my life. In fact, somehow when dots and lines were placed on a staff, reading became easier. I quickly realized that the words written below the music notes were written in syllables which I could decode easily.
Music played a key role as I worked on finishing high school. My mother discovered a rural university with a fantastic music liberal arts program. The classes were small, the faculty excellent and it had a strong connection to the Lutheran church. I made faith part of my life there and it brought great comfort to help me along the way. Not only did this school allow me to refine my gifts in singing, but it also helped me gain other knowledge that I would need later in life. Living in dorms and learning to be an adult also brought a steep learning curve that I desperately needed.
Struggles in adulthood
I graduated from this degree program and enrolled at teacher’s college. Soon after, I found a job teaching elementary school. I, who they said would not graduate grade nine, would in fact earn two university degrees. I taught in the public system in Calgary for eight years and one year in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
I learned a lot through this career, but the challenges I found in learning as a child manifested differently in the classroom as an adult. Managing to listen to children read, document students learning, ensure the safety of the children, stay in communication with parents and teachers, write individual program plans, report cards and work with a population of 75% new English speakers proved to be too much. In addition my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s while I was teaching abroad in 2010. A deep desire to spend more quality time with my mother was weighing heavily on me. It was clear I needed a change.
Finding a new path
In 2011 I quit teaching and found a job advocating for young adults with disabilities. My job was to help young adults with disabilities transition from high school to life as an adult. I worked to help them discover their gifts and build skills that would help them make their impact in the world.
I loved the work. I found I could help guide and lead them just as my mother had guided me. I taught them how to write emails to inform their teachers of who they were and what needs they had. I showed them that in their school(s) they had teams that were dedicated to helping them set up plans and tools so they could make the most of their studies. Through this, they learned to not be afraid of their teachers, and that most of the time their teachers were willing to find ways for them to understand their materials.
Toward a hopeful future
In the lessons taught by my mother, father, teachers and pastors in my own learning and advocating for the young adults in my care, I could see how valuable the lessons were that collectively they offered. Like a mosaic, they all played important roles in the big picture. My parent’s encouragement, in particular, played a key role in finding courage in the Bible, through prayer and perseverance, and to take the risk to just try something new like travel and explore new places. They helped me learn that positive things can come out of a failed experience. These lessons would ring loud as I helped others, raise my daughter and navigate life.