May 31, 2017
Julie Williams sat at the foot of the hospital bed.
She struggled to believe her husband was gone. Of all the thoughts racing through her head, one question echoed over and over again: “What am I going to do now?”
Although she believed she would see him again, Julie knew tough times were ahead of her.
An Uncertain Future
When her husband, Jeffrey, passed away in 2009 from a tragic work accident, Julie, then age 49, was tossed into a world of uncertainty.
“After my husband’s death, everything changed,” said Julie. “Before something like that happens to you, all your hopes and dreams have to do with being together — raising a family and serving a mission. Once the initial shock settled, I was left thinking, “What now? What comes next? Who am I now without him here?”
Faced with those difficult questions, Julie needed to plan for the future, but she didn’t know what to do.
She felt like going to school and getting her education was a good idea, but she was unsure about it — it had been so long since she had gone to school and she didn’t know where to start. She felt like she lacked the necessary direction to begin working toward a university degree.
“Continue Your Education”
Growing up in the small town of Beaver, Utah, education had always been a priority for Julie. She remembered loving school and always doing well, but when she got married in 1978, she decided to dedicate her time to raising and caring for their family.
“My instructors were so disappointed that I was not attending university,” she recalled. “But I was content in my decision to raise a family the best I could.” Julie knew that as a mother she would be busy taking care of her children, but she trusted that she would be able to continue her learning later in life.
This trust came from the patriarchal blessing Julie received as a youth, which directed her to continue her education. She never forgot that guidance over the years. “Each time I read my patriarchal blessing, I felt inspired to continue my schooling,” she said. Julie knew that if she followed her blessing the best she could, the Lord would help her.
But back before Internet or online classes were available, it was difficult for her to manage a university education. Julie said, “I tried taking occasional classes at a local university, but it was expensive and I didn’t do it full time.”
Instead, Julie turned to the programs around her for opportunities to learn. “I always called Relief Society and institute my education,” she said. “From them I have tried to learn what I could, when I could.”
Now that is something I could get a degree in … something important I could spend my time on.
During the tough circumstances surrounding her husband’s death, Julie was introduced to PathwayConnect, and everything fell into place.
Julie attended a stake conference where Elder Dennis C. Brimhall, Area Seventy and CEO of the nonprofit genealogical website FamilySearch, spoke about how members of the Church can earn a degree in family history through BYU-Idaho.
During the same meeting, a local leader spoke about how members whose spouses have passed away can still serve missions with them through family history. He explained that one person would just be on this side of the veil and one would be on the other.
Suddenly it all made sense to Julie.
“That is when I thought, ‘I need an education in family history,’” she said. “I wanted to feel close to the work my husband was doing. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Now that is something I could get a degree in.’ It seemed like something important that I could spend my time on.”
Not long afterward, her daughter told her about PathwayConnect and she fell in love with it immediately. It simply fit her needs — the convenient online classes worked with her schedule, it was affordable, and it set her up to earn a degree in family history from BYU-Idaho Online.
Armed with the necessary direction and resources, Julie enrolled in the program and began her journey toward earning a university degree.
“The program actually asks something of you. You don’t just learn, you apply what you learn.”
A Love of Inspired Learning
Going back to school was a challenge, but learning in PathwayConnect is not the same as in other schools. Julie discovered that through the inspired program, she was able to learn and grow in a special way.
“Compared to other schools, this program has just been so different. I thought I was educated before,” said Julie, “but nothing could have prepared me for what I am learning about in PathwayConnect. I think it’s because the program actually asks something of you. You don’t just learn, you apply what you learn.”
That kind of learning has made all the difference.
“Really, I love it all!” she said. “I have begun to think more eternally. Before, I saw things so shallowly, but I’ve learned how everything goes so much deeper than on the surface. That is what I love about PathwayConnect. Every day I leave saying, ‘Wow, that was neat.’”
Now, whenever Julie reads her patriarchal blessing, she feels comforted knowing she is following the counsel she finds there. She is grateful for the blessings she has received along the way. She is proud of what she is doing and knows her husband is too.
How do you find guidance and direction in your life? There are many ways — whether through friends and family, a patriarchal blessing, or priesthood leaders. Whatever the way, keep your heart open to the inspiration you will receive. Just like with Julie, it might be the exact thing you need to hear. Don’t forget to share your tips with us in the comment section below!