But now, something has changed, and God told me this is what He wants me to write about this week. I’ll see if I can get a smaller post out about this week over the weekend. But I feel like the Lord was really pushing me to write this now. It’s His business and I’m sure He knows what He’s doing.
Topic of choice: What I want to do after grad school.
It turns out, I already know *exactly* what I want to do.
For whatever reason, I seem to be slightly ahead of the curve for refining and figuring out what I want to do and end up deciding before most people. Since I’m going to talk about this, I feel a story is the best format, along with a few other examples, to defend myself. So, bear with me, if you would.
John, My First Miracle
I had a long list in my mind of the kind of person I wanted to marry. At the top of that list was someone who loved the Lord, but it included a lot of things. It was very stringent. I prayed about who I’d marry for who knows how long.
When it was clear that John wasn’t going away, like normal people, I asked him a whole litany of questions after the first two weeks of knowing him and interrogated him about all the things on my list. After all, I wasn’t going to get all worked up and excited about someone who I couldn’t marry anyway.
John passed the tests.
So I said basically: Check. Excellent. I approve. It’s ok for me to like you. Let’s get married, tomorrow. Well, not really, but essentially. I met him in February 2007 and we were married by December 27, 2007 when I was 20 and he was 25. Let me just say – *that* was a stressful year.
Getting married was the last thing on my mind in February. I thought I’d die an old maid, actually. I’d never dated anyone before John. I couldn’t even imagine what any of that would be like. And, I couldn’t hear the Lord anywhere near as well then as now. It turns out though that the Lord can tell anyone anything He wants to at any time, if He so chooses. I didn’t always believe that, but I do now.
I prayed about marrying John for at *least* six solid months straight. I was really freaked out about the whole thing. After all, that’s a huge decision and I hate huge decisions.
For it to happen, the Lord had to work out some serious miracles.
1. My mom
My mom is *extremely* overprotective of me. My brother and I were homeschooled from 1st - 12th grade - the first time I went to a real school was college. She did it because she has type I diabetes and kidney trouble. Having kids was really hard for her, but it was her dream, so she did it anyway. Afterward, the doctors told her she wouldn't survive 10 years, because of her kidney problems. So, she homeschooled us to have as much time with us as she could. Fortunately, her prayers were answered and a new kidney medication was developed that have nearly cured her condition and she is still in good health.
When I met John, I was 19 and not dated anyone before. She’d vacillate between, “oh John is wonderful!” to “is he secretly a murderer?” She wanted to protect me from anyone who was actually bad. At least three separate times she slammed the door in John’s face, due to a misunderstanding, and told him not to come back.
I considered myself to be under my parent’s authority until I was married. Since it says in Ephesians 6:1-3 to honor and obey one’s parent’s, I told the Lord basically, “Well, Lord, you wouldn’t have written that command and created a situation where it was your will to disobey it. If you want John and I to get married someday, I trust You’ll work out this crisis.”
I had to surrender John back to God over and over again. It was incredibly exhausting and the most difficult thing I’d done in my life up to that point. But, it turned out, each time it happened, God brought John back and everything was resolved.
Poor John. That was another reason I ended up loving him so much. He was willing to fight through so much stress and crap to keep me. His friends told him to give up and that no one was worth that. He disagreed. He told me later that lots and lots of girls had refused him, ignored him or stood him up and he was beginning to wonder if he’d ever marry anyone. But none of the others he’d tried to date in the past had been anywhere close to as amazing as he thought I was. I was exactly what he was looking for. It turns out in my case, he was also exactly what I was looking for.
The amount of respect John gave me during our entire dating relationship was incredible. I’d never seen the like modeled before. He opened the car door for me on our first date and has done so every time we’ve driven together after that since I’ve known him. And he agreed to let our first kiss be on our wedding day. Who does that?
John had just started working at Lexus shortly before he met me. That’s a story by itself. In short, he’d been going to seminary, his advisers mixed up some of the classes he was to take, and he ended up having a year left when he thought he was supposed to graduate and ran out of money. The classes he needed were also on a three year rotation. So, he got a job in hopes he could one day finish them.
Then he met me. But he wasn’t making quite enough money to support me, at the time. My parents were paying for my college, but he wanted to make sure he was supporting me himself. So, he prayed about it and said, “Lord, if you want me to marry Jessica, I *need* so and so much more extra money. Please, make a way for this to happen.”
A few weeks later, his boss gave him a surprise bonus because he liked him so much – it was *exactly* the money John had asked for.
3. My dress
My dress isn’t such a big miracle except to me. We found it the first day we looked for dresses. It was the exact type of dress I’d always imagined myself in on my wedding day. Its type had been discontinued and so it was on clearance and hugely cheaper than all the others I didn’t want. I was so happy.
4. Planning the wedding
The wedding had to be planned in a pretty short amount of time. My mom did most of it. I was in my first semester of college at Oxford at the time and wasn’t really paying any attention to the wedding plans. Mom would just ask me questions and I’d say, “Yes,” “No,” “Yes that color’s good,” “I really would like to see this,” or whatever.
We had no idea where to get a reception hall, a florist or a caterer. We prayed about those. They dropped into place without a hitch. It was truly amazing.
How Much John Means to Me and How Little I Can Explain It
And I feel like most people sideline him, especially in the science world. “What does your husband do?” “Oh, he works with cars?” “Oh.” You don’t know how much that hurts.
I want to say, “No! You don’t understand! He’s so much more than just his job! He’s *everything* I was ever looking for and wanted! He’s my hero, support and best friend! I wouldn’t have survived college without him. He willingly lays down his dreams and everything of his own, so that I can reach for mine. He unstintingly supports me, no matter what, through all kinds of long hours that I work, through all kinds of crap. Someday, I’ll repay him. You have no idea the miracle you just overlooked and ignored. It’s like a knife wound every time.
John is my silent hero: the best man I could ever have been given, the *only* one I’ve ever wanted.
God Pointed Me to Emory
At first, in my senior year of college, I was really worried about the fact that it didn’t look like the Lord wanted me to leave the state. After all, most of the coolest science is in places like CA or up north.
My last PI, Dr. Kushner basically told me, “Jessica, get out of GA. There are much better grad schools in other states.” I just said, “Um, ok. I’ll think about it.” And I felt sad. Because I already knew that it wasn’t going to happen. I had sensed for years the Lord wanted me to be at Emory. Years.
I rebelled against that for quite a while. I thought, Emory, really? What if I’m missing out on something by staying in-state? I didn’t really *want* to leave – I’m so attached to the people I’m close to – my family and Oxford – that I think it would have destroyed me. And John had his job. He didn’t really want to have to start over again. I could tell it wasn’t the Lord’s will. But I worried I’d be missing out on some cool science. It was really a rock and a hard place to me.
And then I actually saw Emory and the Lord started pulling out all the stops to show me, “Yes, this is precisely where I want you.” It was incredibly obvious. So obvious, that I was on a solid cloud 9 euphoric high for a month and a half straight afterward, which I tell you, is very exhausting, by the way.
I didn’t sleep at *all* after the visitation weekend. At that point, it was more about knowing I was about to start on my lifelong dream of research, than about the Salaita lab. I wrote a stupidly long 8,000 word account of the whole thing that’s on this blog. I think it’ll forever be burned into my mind.
Before, I'd read science articles and was like, “oh” *shrug* “that’s nice.” It didn’t hit me until I *saw* Emory that I finally realized that my dream of researching things was coming true. … I could finally read science articles and USE them! I could actually build my *own* project! I could DO things!! I’ve never been so excited *ever* in my entire life – and the sheer, overwhelming euphoria of it drowned me for weeks.
To give a few more facts, although I applied to many places out-of-state, God made my decision easier for me by only having Tech, Emory, UGA and GA State accept me. I refused GA State out right. I already knew I was not supposed to be at UGA, confirmed hugely when I visited, and you should already know what happened at Tech.
The Salaita Lab
I was like, “God did I say I wanted to go out-of-state? Never mind! How stupid of me. You had a much better idea. I like your plan. It’s *so* much better than mine. What was I thinking?”
Because basically, the Lord gave me precisely everything I asked for from Him in a lab and in Dr. Salaita. I checked off and approved everything on my list after about a month or so of observation, saw the other signs the Lord provided me and was like: Check. Excellent. I approve. It’s ok for me to like this place. *attach myself like a barnacle*
I’m not really sure if Khalid has any idea yet what has really happened or how difficult it might be to get rid of me. For, you see, if I could have any job I wanted in the whole world and work anywhere in the whole world, my first choice by a WIDE margin is to stay in the Salaita lab as a staff research scientist, if I can. I have five years to figure out how to do that and convince Khalid that it’s a smart idea. *pounds fist* Challenge accepted!
It turns out, I figured out what I wanted to do faster than I thought I would and than most others do. I’ve known I wanted to do scientific research since middle school. I figured out more specifics and started refining what I wanted to do after grad school while in college. One professor I was interviewing for undergrad work (the one who ended up refusing me) told me, “I feel like I’m talking to a grad student. Those questions you’re asking don’t even matter right now. Come back in two years and then ask those.”
In the first few months of this year, I finally figured out why I don’t want to be a professor and why I really want to be a research scientist – like my old boss Bijoy or like Anil, in the Lynn lab.
There are many different flavors of research scientist. I don’t really understand the whole picture completely. However, unlike some, more understanding won’t change my mind, because this is already something ingrained in me that I want to do. I’ll just be able to look out over a bigger vista and say, “Oh yes, now I see how this works better. Let’s do it!!”
I didn’t understand what it would be like to get married when I married John. I haven’t changed my mind about *him* in five years. Best decision I ever made. I didn’t understand what research would be like before I did it as an undergrad. And I didn’t change my mind about *that* or about working in scientific research in my four years of college, despite intense difficulties. I just understand it better now. So, why would I change my mind about what I want to do after grad school during the five years of the program?
I’ve always wanted to work for someone like Dr. Salaita. I can’t imagine liking anyone else I worked for better than him – though it’s true I’ve not been able to imagine much in my life so far, but still. When I married John, people were like, “Are you sure you want to do that? He’s the first guy you’ve dated. You need to shop around more to really know.” My philosophy: Why the heck is that? You found everything on your list and you’re going to keep looking? That should be the new definition of insanity. I'm pretty sure I've said that before.
The most important things that I want to do are…
1) do as much research as I can get my hands on
2) learn to mentor other student researchers, to infuse them with an excitement about science, give them a good research experience and avoid a lot of the negative things I had to go through
I like teaching, but teaching is somewhat impersonal and often times, entirely frustrating, because 90% of the students don’t really care about really learning for real. I’ve hung around professors far too much and taken too many classes myself not to know this. What I really enjoy is a more personal, one-on-on interaction where I can help mentor someone. I’d like to learn to be a good mentor, like the best who mentored me. No one should have their dreams crushed out of them by a bad mentor.
Now, the only problem is it’s entirely possible, as I see it, that Khalid could easily get a research scientist at any time that was way better. After all, I’m just a first year grad student – who am I to say anything? There’s plenty of people with way more experience than I have right now who could immediately step in and fill such a roll.
But, if Khalid decided he wanted to be patient with a student, he *could* grow his own research scientist from scratch to fit his lab, who would stay unendingly and work with the greatest of happiness. But that would take a long time and isn’t as fast as just hiring someone. I have no idea if that’s something he’d consider to be a good idea or not.
However, if the Lord wants it to be so, He’ll make it happen. And, in fact, I think He does.
Some Things the Lord Showed Me
The more I thought about it, the more solidified the idea became, until I became completely certain that it wasn’t just mine.
I mentioned before that while I was praying, the Lord told me that one of the reasons He brought me to Emory was for Dr. Salaita. He gave me a few specifics. This is one of those. He told me that bringing me here was fulfilling my greatest dream and Dr. Salaita’s at the same time. Well. That’s what He said. I can’t confirm that and I’m not really sure how that could be true. It’s all I know so far. It’s certainly my biggest dream to be here.
While I was cleaning my bench one day, a picture suddenly dropped into my mind of some future day, maybe 7-10 years from now. I saw myself working in the Salaita lab doing everything I always dreamed of doing – so much amazing research, and mentoring students, and other possibilities that never had even occurred to me before that I feel as if the Lord wants to do through this whole thing.
I straightened up and was like, “YES! That’s *exactly* what I want!!” And I’ve been praying for it to happen ever since. The enemy doesn’t give one beautiful pictures of how the Lord could be glorified in science like that. I know who it’s from.
So, on the whole, that’s the long and short of it. Now anyone who reads this can tell me I’m insane. *sigh* But, I don't really mind. Time will bear me out, I think. I feel it in my bones. I’m not very worried about it. If the Lord wants it to happen, it’ll happen. And I think He does. So, what’s to stop Him? He’s very good at doing what He’s set out to do. And, I’ve heard it said and I think it’s very true, that when God shows you something He’s doing, the plan is already firmly established, for He *will* do what He has said He will.
Isaiah 46:11 “What I have said, that will I bring about, what I have planned, that will I do.”
Isaiah 14:24, 27, “’The Lord Almighty has sworn, “Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand.’ ... For the Lord Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?”
On Wednesday morning, the Lord implied that I would be writing about this as my next post. He said some of the things I’d already asked for for Khalid were answered and gave me a whole new litany of things to pray for for him. I was like, sweet! I’ll pray those.
By Wednesday night, He’d shown me the way I was to write this post. I asked Him for shortness of words to write it (under 8,000 – I’m a wordy person). Oh hey! Look at that! This post is only about 4,000 words! All right!
Anyway, I also asked for the time to write it *in,* because time has been so short lately.
Last night, I asked the Lord to help me sleep and John and I went to bed early at 9:30 p.m. He helped me sleep, but then I woke up at 4 a.m. and words for this post were pouring into me like a flood. I felt like I was just as awake as if I'd had coffee at 2 p.m.
I asked the Lord to help me sleep again and take the thoughts from me and He didn’t answer. So, I asked, Lord, do you want me to write *now* at 4 a.m.? He just said, “Yes.” So I did, from 4 a.m. to ~6:45 a.m. I feel like He really wants this to be posted. Yesterday morning, He told me there was a huge attack of warfare going out against Khalid that day and I said, "Ahh!!" in my mind. But He said, no, no don't worry about it. He'd already won the battle. But the enemy had to try, didn't he? He told me to pray through it. I said ok and He was unbelievably right. I don't know what happened to Khalid, but yesterday was *really* weird. So much more to tell, but that'll have to wait til the weekend.
Thank you Lord for how cool you are! I don’t know what you’re doing always, but it’s always the BEST and you're the COOLEST Person ever!!