The annual routine had become very familiar. I would celebrate my birthday over the Labor Day weekend and start school at a new location the next day.

The gifts, cake and ice cream of my birthday never eased my troubled mind. Unfortunately, it was never a happy birthday for me growing up. The knot in my stomach grew as the countdown to the first morning of the new school year approached. A sleepless night always preceded that first day.

No, the anxiety of starting at a new school never wore off from year to year. I went to 12 schools in 13 years, including kindergarten. I am unsure whether I qualified for the Guinness Book of World Records back then, but I am certain that I had more school changes than any kid I knew.

With the scent of sizing in my new school clothes, I walked into a new school several times not having been previously enrolled for classes. Introducing yourself to school administrators and asking to register was scary. Having no records from the previous school in hand, or shot records, prolonged the process. I always sought for a sympathetic face in this moment of crisis. Few were ever found.

Being a new student on the first day of school was a profound experience. Kids would always check you out from head to toe, and make sarcastic comments. As I walked into the classroom, I inevitably found my way to a desk in the back of the classroom. As the bell rang, I frantically focused on my class schedule and the mystery of finding the next classroom.

Ultimately I would settle into the new school, only to discover classwork I had never been taught at the previous schools. I would graduate from high school having never being taught pertinent fundamental components of education. I would “fill in” the blanks in college. I had to dig deep within myself, and determine to not allow the voids to define me or hinder my future.

The journey I walked in my youth prepared me for the road ahead in my adulthood. While a storybook childhood would have been the stuff of a Disney movie, not many of us experience that. Most of us come from dysfunctional homes with hardship and heartache. Such is life, as unfortunate as that may be.

However, the changes wrought in my life shaped my outgoing personality, and imbedded perseverance and resilience within me. I learned to adapt to change and accept transition. I learned early that life was hard as well as unfair. I learned to make new friends as well as say goodbye to them much too soon.

Yes, life was a curveball, full of sudden change. Suck it up buttercup; nobody is crying for you.

As I became a Christian in young adulthood, I could clearly see the hand of God shaping me for the calling He had on my life. Hardship forges us in the crucible and thus us into a servant equipped for His purposes. God teaches us that all things work together for good to those who love Him. I discovered the truth of this promise.

While we may be trudging uphill today, we can rest in the assurance that we are in His grip. The trials and tribulations have an ultimate purpose. Stay the course; it will work out. God has His children in His grip.

Life is an adventure. Trust the process.

As many kids (and adults) return to school, this may be your new beginning. A new school; a new course load and new classmates. The new will soon transition into a new normal with new life lessons to embrace. Enjoy the journey! Have a great academic year, and remember, God loves YOU!

Reach Jon Shonebarger at

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