Ivory Tower Dreams

7:30 AM

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I wasn't looking to go to college. Call me strange, but I saw no reason to drain four years, thousands of dollars and life itself on a piece of paper I wouldn't use five days a week for the rest of my life. If I went, it would be to get an education - something the view books, the admissions letters and the propaganda swarming my inbox didn't understand.

It wasn't that I didn't want to go to college. Rub shoulders with people studying the same books as I. Have coffee with my English professor. Debate current affairs in the lounge. That was dream-stuff to me. I loved it. I wanted it.

But for a while, it wasn't God's will at all. Expensive education lay every which way I looked, but none was my opportunity. As a steward, as a servant, spending four years of my life and thousands of greenbacks getting a half-helpful degree was not the best aspiration. Still, I settled on an online college and shrugged off the disappointment of never meeting a professor or stepping foot in white tower academia.

Not being college bound didn't hurt me a bit. Indeed, knowing nothing would come to me on a course plan made me study harder, longer, deeper. I wasn't locked into college planning: I studied theology, British literature, classical feminism, childhood development, things that interested me without earning school credit. Since entrance into an online school was practically guaranteed, I didn't take classes at the local college that would have made my transcript look trim but burdened me with repeat stuff I learned in eighth grade. I actually studied the hard stuff, volunteered and reveled in my writing obsession.

And I kept throwing away college propaganda.

So on and so forth until the daily mail yielded up two shiny brochures: one from a liberal arts college forty-five minutes away and one from south-central Michigan's Hillsdale College. Classical education. Judeo-Christian backdrop. Thriving Christian presence. Christian studies major. Study abroad options at Oxford. Need I say more?

They even had annual all-campus water balloon fights.

Seriously, seriously, it was too good to be true - and it was expensive beyond belief - and there was the problem that I'd untechnically sworn never to go to college - and I hadn't really prepared for a selective college - and did I really want to tell my mother, who was currently corresponding with the dean of the online school about my expected enrollment, that her flighty daughter had changed her mind again?

And who was I kidding? Eight semesters away from mi familia? Eight hours away from my friends, my home church, my Daniel Franklyn? Living like a typical college girl, homeless, family-less, who'd never been in a class setting in her life, whose ACT scores weren't anything to brag about, who would wilt at the first political debate under the shadow of the Winston Churchill statue?

No, ma'am. No, sir. I cried myself to sleep every night just thinking about it.

But I jump ahead of myself. At the love at first sight moment, I woke from my trance and snatched the brochure from the burn pile. Bailey Bergmann was never going to be a college girl. She'd said so herself. Everyone else had said so. But I hid it under my desk mess, guiltily.

I starting praying again: Maybe? Is it possible? Am I dreaming? Why now? Who, me? After becoming the congratulated spokeperson of stay-at-home-daughterhood by default?

My mum called me down to the computer. She wanted me to look over an email to the online college re: CLEP tests and courses. I told her then, like a girl breaking off an engagement, cutting her old life clean in two: "I don't really want to do this anymore."

We talked - we talked money, life goals, will of God, girls, home life, college.

"Bailey," my mother told me, "of course I want you here with me. I want all my children with me, always, but I would rather have you away from me in the center of God's will than close at home and far away from Him."

It was the first of many talks - how can I submit to my parents eight hours away? How do I involve my family? How do I stay strong all on my own? - but never, not once, did I doubt, though I cried and thought hard and worried what everyone would say.

The problem was money. No way did I have $120,000 for four years of college. No way did my parents have the means to get a second mortgage on the house. No way was I going into debt.

Scared out of my wits to lose my dream but determined to follow the Lord's will, I promised this: "If it's Your will, You will provide every single penny for this education. If it's not, You won't. And I will not circumvent Your will."

I would do His will His way. To do it another way would be to not do it at all.

The next day I received a thick packet in the mail (well, my school principal did, but that's beside the point) announcing that Bailey Bergmann was a National Merit Scholarship semi-finalist...which meant that I was now valuable property. Colleges would pay to have me if I advanced to the finals, and if I became a scholar, I would have more scholarships than years to do college. And guess who was an affiliate with NMSP?

That's right. Hillsdale College.

Funny thing was, I'd taken the PSAT (the scholarship test, basically) at a time when I didn't know I was going to college, at a time I didn't know what potential it held, at a time I didn't realize it was imperative that I get an amazing score.

Other little things fell in place, little doors letting in light on the bigger picture of God's will, and long story short, I'm almost finished applying, I'm visiting in November and if it's the Lord's will, I'll be enrolling next fall.

Will you pray for me? Will you walk with me? Will you encourage me to seek God's will whether or not this falls through?

Thank you, friends.

I am amazed at God.

p.s. Consider the comment section OPEN on the debate, "Should Christian girls desiring marriage and family go to college?" Ready, set, go.

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  1. All I can say is...*goosebumps*. = )

    P.S. I'm sending you a private email. Maybe right now, maybe later today. Depends on when my sick kids wake up.

  2. I feel like the one flaw with the conservative Christian/homemakers/stay at home daughters movement (I don't know exactly what to call it! :) is that we tend to expect things to look the same for every family. Or that there is only one way to go about things.

    Does that make sense? We say that future homemakers shouldn't go to college, that there's a certain way courtships should always happen, etc. But God has a will and a plan for everyone, and it's not always the same for every person. We shouldn't put him in a box because this is the way we think things should happen.

    If's God is opening doors and things are happening (like they seem to be for you), I say go for it. :)

    Having said that, I finished a two year program (in early childhood education) at my local community college. And that's all of the college education I expect I'll ever have. I didn't hear God telling me to continue on, and at this point it would be much more beneficial for me to stay home, working and improving my desperately pitiful homemaking skills, than to be sitting in a classroom somewhere. I've also seen far too many girls (even in my own family) go through four years of college and come out with a huge amount of debt only to realize that instead of working at their high-paying "dream job," all they really want to do is stay home with their kids.

    In other words, I think our society puts way too much emphasis on the typical "higher education." But I don't see anything wrong with future homemakers going to college if it's God's will.

    Sorry for the long, rambling comment. But this has been on my mind a lot lately. :)


  3. There's a flaw in the stay-at-home daughter movement? There's not a one-size-fits-all cookie cutter? Then how do I know which blogger to follow???

    End sarcasm.

    I agree with you perfectly. Thank you for your wonderful comment, Kristin!

  4. Oh Yes. I have lots of questions on this subject. I don't want to go into debt. But I don't want to work in a chicken barn forever, and it would take me years to save up money for college an minimum wage. And what if I were to go to college and then get married and never 'do' anything with it? And why would I go to college in the first place? I don't want a career. But what if I don't get married? What'll I do with my life then?
    Lots of seemingly unanswerable things. :) Good reminder to pray about it. Somehow I'd been forgetting that, and forgetting that God can do whatever He pleases.
    God bless!

  5. I just wanted to let you know that I have been reading your blog for a while now and it has been an encouragement and an enlightenment to me! I definitely agree with you Kristen, so much of the "stay at home daughter movement," has been caught up in legalism. I know I personally fall as easy prey to a set of rules that I recently read in a book, blog post, etc., rather then waiting and having God lead me. If God is leading you in a certain area, you should follow through and trust Him because He has a beautiful life story scripted for each one of us, (and we don't want to miss out on it!)

  6. Bailey~

    I agree with Kristen. Every family is different. I think the key thing about the decision to be a "stay-at-home-daughter" is that we're choosing to submit to our parents authrority until such a time when we become married and that authority passes to our husband. If you and your parents are in agreement, then you are honoring them with your choice!

    Though I chose not to go to college, I'm not against it for others if that is what God has called YOU to do. Every person's story is different! My life looks very different from other stay-at-home-daughter's lives. I don't play a dozen instruments (only one!). I don't run a thriving home business or am able to sew like a professional. Instead I'm involved with youth-training at my church and find other ways of keeping busy. God has made each of His daughters unique. And I think the worst mistake we can make is denying ourselves the gift of following His will for us just so we can fit the "cookie cutter" image of what a stay-at-home-daughter should be.

    Just keep following His leading, Bailey! I'll be praying for you!

    God bless!

  7. I loved reading this... It's amazing how God can work to bring about the opposite of what we've always thought, isn't it? I'll certainly be praying as you go through this process.

    Should Christian girls desiring marriage and family go to college? Have I ever wrestled with that question! Ultimately, like Kristin said, there is no cookie cutter solution... more and more I find myself drawing away from "movements" and formulas. There is so much disillusionment stemming out of conservative Christianity that I certainly don't want to become a part of. Don't get me wrong, I'm pretty conservative, but I don't want that to define me in any way - only Christ and Him alone.

    That said, I'm planning to go to a secular university next year. And actually, I'm rather terrified. And excited. And I certainly will have to get out of the habit of starting sentences with "and".

    And they all lived happily ever after.
    The End.

  8. I think the only thing I really want to say (besides Congratulations - it sounds like fun!) is to please choose your friends wisely.

    "Iron sharpens iron,
    So one man sharpens another." Proverbs 27:17

    There are still people at Christian schools who are not good to be friends with... so even though it's Christian, discernment should still be used.

    You seem to be wise in this regard, but I thought I'd issue a warning anyway... out of love for my fellow sister in Christ...


    P.S. I hope you are still going to post on your blog. ;) Tell us all about your adventures!

  9. Justine - I know, right? I think the worst thing to figure out is the whole "when I'm going to get married" question...it clouds God's will. I'll be posting something about that Monday. ;o)

    Brenna - Following the hottest stay-at-home daughter blog was my ticket to holiness, instead of actually praying about it and seeking the Lord's will. This was so scary for me, stepping outside the cookie cutter.

    Rachel - You are so sweet and encouraging. Thank you so much, dear sister!

    Nina - You stole almost the exact words of a post I've been working on. I love, love, love your comment. And your ands. And you too.

    Carrie - Thank you for that. I plan on keeping in touch with my family and connecting with wiser brothers and sisters in Christ at a local church to help me in that regard. I've seen the damage of running with the wrong crowd, of the total erosion that comes from the drip, drip of bad influences, and by God's grace, I refuse to fall sway to that.

    And actually the school's not Christian, so in some ways it might be easier to identify true Christians, since it's not an assumption they're saved. We'll see. :o)

    Oh, of course I'll still blog! How could I leave all of you? You girls brighten my day and make everything worth it. I'll definitely be sharing the culture shock of Homeschooler Meets Liberal Arts College. :D

    Love you all!

  10. Mmm, everything I was going to say has already been said. :) So I'll just say, well, I'm going to college right now. Debt-free. Why? National Merit! :) Praise God, He is awesome! Keep in touch, I have loved your college posts so far!

  11. Confession: I have been checking your blog every day for this post (mentally dubbed "the college post"). Not because I plan to cling to it as to Scripture, but because I was insanely curious. And now that my curiosity has been satiated, I can only say . . . wow.

    We serve a big God. Enormous. Inconceivably so. And even when we think we've got everything figured out, He surprises us again-- and tells us we're thinking too small. Granted, our definition of "small" rarely matches His, but in the grand scheme of things, His prevails. He might tell a girl that pursuing a Ph.D is too small: He wants her teaching at a poor elementary school. He might tell another that teaching is too small: He wants her using her gifts at a 9-to-5 office job, or staying at home, or serving Him overseas. He doesn't fit in a box. He doesn't think as we do.

    (Hallelujah for that.)

    You might go to this college. You might not. But remember this: you can no more see the big picture of God's plan than an ant can see New York City. Because it's just too big.

    I had a similar experience a couple weeks ago (albeit on a smaller scale) that left me speechless. God had orchestrated everything--and what's more, He used me. In my failures and brokenness He used me. And I know that He will use you if you let Him.

    Grace and peace to you in this time! I'm praying.

  12. Legalism seems to be a problem with not only the more conservative crowd, but also with the very liberal crowd. But instead of following a bunch of man-made rules, they follow no rules, and scoff at anything conservative. Have you ever been to a pool wearing a modest swimsuit, and been looked at like you were doing something wrong? Lots of conservative people, sadly, do the vice versa. I would continue on, but that's not even in line with what you asked, Bailey dear. (:

    Personally, I think there is nothing wrong with going to college. Personally, I think there is nothing wrong with not going to college. I think what should always define our ways is what lines up with God's will in our lives. While one young woman striving to be a homemaker/wife/mother someday may not feel like college is necessary for her future and feels at peace doing so, another young woman witht the same goals and aspirations may feel like God is leading her to attend a college for a year/few years. For me, I feel called into the full-time youth ministry someday, and I, who also definitley feels called to be a SAHM and wife, would like to attend SAGU (Southwestern Assemblies of God University), Lord willing, to get a Youth and Student Missions B/A. But, being young (14 today, just so you know, Bayleaf :D), I still am not sure what God wants for me. I just am following what I know God puts on my heart, and I think that is what everybody should go by, is what God puts for them. There is never a one-size fits all approach with God. He carefully crafts our futures and knows His plans for our life (Jer. 29:11).

    Oh my goodness. This comment is kinda, er, long. :-0

  13. Quick question: If God is literally handing you a college degree why is the post script even on there? It is obviously his will.

  14. Briana - Congratulations! National Merit is just plain awesome.

    Miss Madison - This post was for you. Just so you know. And your last paragraph broke me. It's my heart's cry of confused love to an amazing God who chooses to use...me. Inconceivable, indeed.

    Great. Now I'm thinking of The Princess Bride.

    Alexxus - So true. I read some comments on a modesty post where women were high-fiving each other for wearing "normal swimsuits" unlike their overly-modest sisters...as if being normal was more important than being modest. There's legalism all over the board.

    I am totally emailing you birthday wishes, friend. Stay tuned.

    Tuathal - :o) Because girls known as stay-at-home daughters love tusseling over this issue...so I thought I'd open up the grounds for discussion, even if I've already determined my path. I'll explain later.

    You know, I've found it interesting that everyone here is very open to alternate paths for SAHDs. I thought I was the only one. :P

  15. I am so happy for you, Bailey! It's always wonderful to hear of the Lord opening doors and windows. Praying for you, girl, wherever God leads you in your life.

    As to the postscript, I do believe that college is definitely a matter that must be carefully considered and prayed about--and I know it is not for everyone. God has a different plan for each of His children and, as with anything in life, we should prayerfully seek what His will would be. I'm not very good at expressing myself on subjects like this, so...ditto to what has been said before me. :) *hugs*

  16. I agree that one should always follow God's will, no matter the cost. If you're in God's will you're in the best place possible.

    I'm praying for you.

  17. Wow, Bailey. Thank you so much for talking about this. I, also, recently came to somewhat of a decision on college. I want a music degree; probably vocal performance. I have a college in mind.
    See, one question I struggled with was, "What if I go to college, work super hard, get a nice degree, then marry a man I met there, become his stay-at-home-wife (which is what I have always wanted to do), and forget everything I learned?!" (Sorry for that run-on sentence. ;)
    So, I agonized over that for a while. Then I looked at my father's life. He got a degree in music. He uses what he learned every day.
    Singing, playing songs for our family, giving me pointers on my piano playing. Even leading the whole church in singing hymns. I have decided that a musical degree is worth my time and money, and that I will not forget everything I learned.

  18. Oh, and Bailey? Could you post/email me about that scholarship you won? I need scholarships, too. How do you do a National Merit Scholarship?

  19. Bailey, I will keep you in my prayers as you continue to discern God's will in your life!

    I went to college. In fact, I went to graduate school and took post graduate classes. There are many days that I wonder how all of that education has served my life or if it was just a waste of time. My degrees are in Education and when I look at it, I have been teaching in many capacities for many years. It is truly a vocation and calling. I teach at night for a local Christian college, I teach at our Church. I teach our children. So, it was all worth it. God had a plan. No, all of my years of college did not prepare me for laundry, meal preparation, home management, and the like, but little did I know then that I'd be homeschooling and supplementing our income by teaching at night. God has a way of making it all work out, and I truly believe that His plan for you will have such results, as well.
    God bless! :-)

  20. Concerning alternate paths for SAHDs: I believe most of the legalism occurs when girls take their eyes off the goal (glorifying God) and focus on the SAHD popular opinion (you must have a home business, you must be homeschooled, you must never go to college). Not that any of these things are bad, per se; they're just bits and pieces of the big picture. The girls fail to see the forest for the trees.

    We can shout and thump our Bibles and hurl verses from Titus 2 and Proverbs 31 and conclusively prove that girls should not go to college. We can yell and stomp and point out unique circumstances and ramble about different callings and conclusively prove that girls should go to college. But it boils down to this: it's all about God, His glory, and His will for your life.

    After all, isn't that what everything's about?

  21. Oh, Bailey, that's amazing! I'm so happy for you :) I'll be sure to pray for you.

    Also, thank you for always being so open and honest to us readers you've never met. Your struggles with imperfection and following God's will while wanting the typical experiences of American young women help me to understand and let go of my very similar struggles.

    I once read that a Godly leader doesn't try to be a leader; he follows Christ and, before he realizes it and often against his humbled will, people begin to follow him. I'd say that is definitely you - the reluctant but powerful leader. Thanks for being there for us.

  22. Aemi, to enter NMSQT you have to take the PSAT (preliminary scholastic aptitude test) in your junior year. Your scores are automatically sent to NMSQT. If they're high enough, you'll move to the semi-finals, then you have to complete a bunch of paperwork and an essay, take the SAT and then wait impatiently to find out if you're a finalist.

    www.fastweb.com is a great place to start looking for scholarships, by the way. :o)

  23. Miss Bailey,

    I have a few thoughts:

    1) I know many people without college degrees that make very good money, more than most people with degrees. It takes hardwork, risks, drive, and resilience; not a degree. They started at lower wages, but no one has to stay there.

    2) A woman, I work with, went to college. There she met a man and married him. They had three children. She stayed at home with her children, then her husband died, suddenly, of a heart attack. Her parents lived far away and could not help her. Her in-laws were already deceased. She was able to obtain a better [more flexible] and higher paying position, because she had a college degree.

    A college degree can be very beneficial to a stay at home mother, whose husband is killed, injured, or otherwise incompacitated.

    3) Prayers



  24. Congratulations on becoming a National Merit semi-finalist! That's wonderful. :-)

    The only thing I can add to the debate is that IMHO the question of whether you will "use" your college education is not important whether your goal is to get married and be a homemaker or not. College is not trade school. Undergraduate education is about learning to be a life-time learner, learning to think clearly, read critically, and express yourself articulately. It's about expanding your horizons and challenging yourself and actually about solidifying who you are and what you believe. And you will use all those things every day no matter what you do with the rest of your life. I think you are going to college for all the right reasons and it sounds like you have found a school that will be great fit for you. Good luck! I am looking forward to reading about all your adventures. :-)


  25. I freely admit to not being a regular reader of your blog but I found I had to respond to this question:

    Should Christian girls desiring marriage and family go to college?

    I am a Christian woman who has always desired marriage and family, yet I never hesitated about going to college. I went to college right after high school and earned my bachelor's degree. A year and a half after graduating college I married the man of my dreams (actually, he far exceeds my wildest dreams). Six months after getting married, with my husband's complete support, I applied to grad school. A year ago I finished my master's degree and am currently pregnant with our first child. When the baby's born I'll be a stay-at-home mom.

    I am so glad I went to college. Both times! I learned so much, and had wonderful and challenging growing experiences. I earned both degrees without going into debt (it can be done!). My college experiences helped shape me into the woman I am today. And while my husband wants me to be a stay-at-home mom when the baby comes, he is also incredibly proud of my academic accomplishments and often talks about how I'm the "smart one." (Which, by the way, I totally disagree with. The man's an electrical engineer - I don't even begin to understand what he does!) My husband is a wonderful provider, but with our first child on the way I can't tell you how reassuring it is to know that if for some reason he was no longer able to provide for our family, I would have the skills and credentials to acquire a good job that would provide a living wage, insurance benefits, etc. for my family.

    I know that there seems to be this idea in certain Christian circles that college for young women is a waste. I won't go into the details here, but I can say that if my mom, a Christian woman who always put her family first, hadn't gone to college, it would have been disaster for my family. So, if you feel led to go to college, do it! Education is a good thing! I know a lot of people who have regretted not going to college, but I don't know anyone who regrets going.

    Best of luck,

  26. YES. You hit the nail on the head. It's all about God's will. Which looks different for everyone. I think that, even if a girl is planning on being a stay-at-home mom eventually, college can be great. I mean, after all, the main purpose of attending college should be (emphasis on the should; it isn't always) to grow, experience, & learn.

    I do think, though, that college isn't the only way, and sometimes not the best way, to grow, experience, & learn. But, yet again, it all depends on God's will. And, like everyone before me on this comment thread has said, it's different for everyone.

    Me? Funny, I was just thinking about it this morning, right before reading your post. I don't feel called to go away to college. Maybe I'll take a course or five on subjects of my interest locally, but, being passionate about photography, I want to be able to take advantage of any opportunities that might come my way. Regardless of whether or not I "go to college," I'm going to continue studying & learning.

    But, I've taken up way too much space on here already; I just need to write my own post. :)

    End ramble.

  27. oops, meant to click the "e-mail follow up comments to" box. figured i'd just write another comment and select the option this time. :)

  28. Young women should never think they must not go to college. If you choose a place where you will truly learn, and not just be indoctrinated, than it might be the best thing for you.
    But, it is wrong to pressure a young lady to go to college, just for the sake of going to college. There are other ways of learning. They are many. (Have you ever read "Carry On, Mr. Bowditch"?) For some, it is better for them to stay at home to learn.
    Education is NOT a one-size-fits-all. A lady should choose a path with much prayer, research, and advice.
    And thank you for the response, Bailey.

  29. I think we're kindred spirits.

    We shall go to college if God is there, motioning for us to follow. I'm looking for Him right now myself, just a step behind you (though who knows if I'm on the same path at all.)

    I love God foremost, or at least I try. My family reins supreme in my earthly priorities. Marriage is my hope (not to mention my perceived calling) and I love learning. I love feeling productive. I have interests. I want to be useful in many fields.

    Online? Correspondence? Actually go? Dare I even pray.

    Yes. With you. For you.

    Thanks for this post! You're open-mind is so refreshing.


  30. Seems like it's all been already said, but I wanted to echo Tragedy101's second point. What if you do marry and become a stay-at-home mother ... and then your husband dies?

    Or what if you don't get married at all?

    Either way, or if you're happily married early and until the rest of your life, a higher education should never be ruled out simply on the hope of marriage.

    It's my two cents, anyway.

  31. Oh, and to share some grown-up wisdom:
    Daddy and I decided that a young lady (or at least me) should not be as driven to finishing a higher education as a young man should. A man needs training for whatever career he is going in to, while a woman with marriage in mind mostly wants to expand her mind, to become a more well-rounded help meet. We decided that if, while I'm at college, a marriage opportunity presents itself, I am free to quit if it seems that would be best.

  32. I know this is a fading post, but I wanted to add on re-skimming that this seems to me to be a clear case of God directing Your life in an amazing and unmistakable way.

    So, I say ...

    Go for it!


Hit me with your best thought! I'm very interested in your unique perspective. If you'd like to discuss things in private, feel free to email me! :)