So after the contract was cancelled I figured I would wait for the government jobs to be listed and see what happened. In the meantime, I went back to pet dog training and decided to look at college again. The GI Bill had changed quite a bit and now I could afford to attend an actual University. I had experienced one dream coming true and it had emboldened me. I started to believe that I could work in a job I was passionate about and make a living. I was just doing that as a K9 handler and it was an amazing feeling.
I started looking for programs like animal behavior, but there was NOTHING in my area that even touched close to that. Except for Psychology. There was a lot about psychology that I was interested in. Remember Pavlov’s dog (classical conditioning)? I had learned attending Von Liche that many terms and research was from Psychology realm. Operant Conditioning, a conditioned reinforcer, positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, flooding and extinction, to list a few. I started to like the idea more and more.
I found a University in my area, Regent University, that had a great Psychology department. It was also a Christian University. I liked that, but I didn’t know what it would entail. I considered myself Christian, I had been baptized for the first time in 2005 on the USS Nimitz. But I was not a knowledgable Christian. I didn’t know the Bible. I had never heard of apologetics, and if I had, I would have certainly misinterpreted what it was! (Are you wondering what that is now? :))
I had never consistently attended Church. I did attend a lot while on deployment, but I was still very new and I couldn’t navigate the Bible well at all. I was insecure about that. So when I saw that Regent University required “religious” classes as part of their degree programs, prayer in class and an integration of faith in all classes I was intimidated.
Eventually, I applied and was accepted to Regent University. I remember that one of my first classes was a New Testament class. I was SO uncomfortable. Mostly because I was worried about being embarrassed because I didn’t have scripture memorized and couldn’t find things in the Bible like some of the other students who could open right to the page. I might have to flip through the Bible a few times to find the book and passage. But, as it usually goes, those fears were magnified in my mind and I learned I was not the only one feeling that way.
There was a diverse population of Christians attending Regent. From New believers who couldn’t find a bible verse in 60 seconds to save their life (me), to long-term devoted Christians aspiring to be pastors, and I was surprised to even learn that there were many who had been raised in the church and immersed in Christianity that had not yet really come to know God personally. They felt as though they had just been living a lifestyle and hadn’t begun to personally explore what it meant to them. I had a personal experience and a growing relationship with God, but I was was severely lacking in knowledge to grow that relationship.
Regent University has a great Veteran Affairs program also. It was just getting started when I first attended Regent but it made a huge difference to be able to connect with Veterans and feel comfortable in a new environment. At first I felt like everyone was speaking this foreign Christian-ese language and I didn’t understand it! It was comforting to be able to go somewhere that was familiar. I learned a lot from that class and eventually felt as much a part of the campus as anyone else. I loved the prayer at beginning of class, although I didn’t quite master praying in front of everyone by the time I graduated. I had an amazing professor who was also a Pastor and I continued to try to get him for my religious classes. Spiritual Formations was a class that changed my life. I learned so much and my spiritual life grew immensely.
Little did I know how much all that would be tested in just a short time. Just when I thought I was figuring things out I would become totally lost. I would struggle with my faith, God, life, death and everything in between after Tyler died. Eventually it would all come together. It would just take a lot of endurance, work and holding on to what faith I had left to survive and then rebuild.
To be continued…..