Year One.

What a year. I am left nearly speechless as I look back at my first two semesters at Evangel. So I’m going to write about them instead!

When I traveled to Springfield from my home in the south suburbs of Chicago, I had no idea what my college experience would look like. I had heard stories from current college students about their transition, their dorm life, their classes, and their new friendships. Still, I had a difficult time picturing myself as a college student. I couldn’t help but view life from the frame of reference of a freshly-graduated high schooler, and I couldn’t see myself as a college student no matter how hard I tried.

However, reality hit when my dad and mom helped me trudge my belongings into my new “home” in Walther Hall. There was a definite moment when I felt like this is finally happening. And that was an overwhelming moment. Through the many tears I shed during that transition of saying good-bye to the life I had always known, I gingerly entered a life uncharted.

As I began to attend my classes, the weeks began to quickly pass by. I realized that when I occupied my time with academics and took opportunities to go on floor events, I began to form memories. And memories made me feel like I belonged to this new life. The college life. Filled with many hours of studying, beautiful encounters with God in chapels and hall discipleship events, enriching conversations with friends, impactful Concert Choir tours, interesting academic courses, and the constant attempt to get enough sleep–it has been a full and exciting year. An adventure. And these experiences are just a snapshot of my time here so far.

My relationship with God has grown so much deeper since I first began college. Having to be separated from my life of comfort at home, I quickly realized that my only constant is God. No matter how I am feeling–or what stressors may be plaguing me–I have found that God is wants to meet me where I am. He fills me, sustains me, loves me, gives me His grace, and allows His Holy Spirit to use me to bless others. These simple concepts have had a profound effect on my life these past eight months, and I am ecstatic to see what He teaches me in the times to come.

Evangel IS family. In my first year here, I have already met so many incredible individuals who have impacted my life. They give selflessly, provide accountability, encourage, share God’s love, pray, and support me from day to day. These are the kind of friendships you will find here, ones that have the potential to last a lifetime.

If you’re beginning your college journey in a few short months, and you feel a bit (or a lot) of apprehension, know that you’re not meant to already know what the journey is going to look like. Your college journey is for YOU to find out step-by-step, moment-by-moment. Adjustment will happen, and it is necessary. It may be difficult to bear at times, but know that as you look to God to give you strength each step of this new journey, He will provide you with that strength to sustain you. It’s a beautiful journey, and it’s waiting for YOU!

I’m excited to see what year two has to offer…

Going Home.

With summer quickly approaching, and my heart feeling bittersweet, I wanted to list some of the beautiful things I’m looking forward to this summer. Things that were part of my everyday life that I had to build a new routine apart from. Things that make my heart happy.

  • Going to Baker’s Square with close friends on Wednesday nights for free pie. (With another menu item purchased of course!)
  • Sipping coffee at the Starbucks by Lake Katherine and discussing life with my girlfriends.
  • Going on walks with my family at Lake Katherine–taking in the sights of the baby ducks and geese at springtime, the new blossoms on the trees, the great outdoors.
  • Watching Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant movies on the Turner Classic Movie channel. What beautiful, classic movies.
  • Listening to the crackle of my favorite records on our record player. I always have a specific Frank Sinatra record I listen to when I do the dishes. (I miss that record…not so much doing the dishes every day!)
  • Falling asleep on and waking up on a queen-sized bed that I don’t have to climb up to. It is by the grace of God that I haven’t fallen off my lofted bed this school year!
  • Going out to dinner with my family and enjoying whatever conversation pieces come up. Seeing God work extraordinarily in the ordinary moments.
  • Traveling to Plush Horse on a whim and getting a double-scoop cone, even though I always know that a single-scoop there is like a triple-scoop anywhere else. Oh well!
  • Having dates with my brother in Orland. Eating lunch, sipping Jamba Juice, browsing through books at Barnes & Noble, and talking about life. It’s the best.
  • Worshiping the Lord with friends and family at church. Seeing how God is working in each others’ lives.
  • Waking up by the sound of my daddy’s voice (instead of a harsh alarm clock).
  • Being able to read FOR FUN!
  • Taking the Metra to downtown Chicago, and allowing the beauty of the city to sink in. 
  • Traveling to LaGrange to eat at Casa Margarita and watch a bargain movie at the theater.
  • Smiling as my mommy strokes my hair at nighttime. 

I know it’ll surely be an adjustment going back home, especially after having to accommodate for many things being away at college. And as much as I frequently get nervous about what changes have happened since being gone, I am looking forward to this list of simple joys and comforts that make my neighborhood and my house a home.

I’m going home! It’s starting to sink in…Ten more days! (I can count the days on my fingers!)

Springtime.

Even though I’ve grown up in Chicagoland my whole life, and most recently have spent a winter in Springfield, MO, I have never been one who particularly enjoys winter. Snow is beautiful, yes. (Especially when it has freshly fallen onto tree branches!) But the consistent cloudiness paired with a chill in the air gets to me after a while.

However, I sometimes wonder what it would be like if we didn’t have the hope of a spring. I try to imagine a state of constant winter with little hope of new life sprouting up from the ground. The thought of buds on the trees not appearing, the sun not peering through, and new life not coming leaves me feeling terribly sad.

The first two tulips outside my residence hall bloomed yesterday. As I beheld the beautiful light pink flowers, I took a deep breath and smiled. I never cease to be amazed by the annual promise of new life. No matter what, in our hearts, we are able to live with the hope that we do not have to experience a state of constant winter.

What a beautiful reflection of what God does in our lives. Never do we have to grapple with the uncertainty of whether or not we will see spring again. For, God brings restoration to us even in the midst of our life’s winters. He comes to us when we can’t bear the bitter chill or the clouds which seem to always darken our days. When we are grieving a deep loss, when we have questions beyond the answers we have received, when we cannot understand why we are experiencing an indescribable pain–God promises to not only create purpose during that season, but He will also give us new life.
 
A verse that continues to speak to me through the different seasons of life is Ecclesiastes 3:11. It speaks of the beauty God has in store for those who love Him. It gives assurance that God’s purpose is being performed even when we cannot comprehend His timing or His plan.

   

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”

What’s so incredible is that God even uses the winters in our lives to point us to Him. For, if we never experienced the depth of grief and sadness, we could never sense in its fullness God’s overwhelming comfort. If the tulips were always in bloom, I would not sense to the fullest extent the beauty of a withered plant dying only to be renewed in full beauty. 

Allow God to speak to you during this season of your life. Perhaps you are in the midst of a grave winter, and you sense you cannot see any signs of life. Know that God is with you in this season. While your circumstances may not make sense, trust that while they may not be “good,” God will work them out for your good as your desire is to live according to His purpose. 

Spring is coming.

Katie’s Age.

For the past few months, I’ve been trying to work through the fact that I’m passing up the age my sister Katie was when she went to be with Jesus. My mind struggles to deal with the notion that even though I’m her little sister, I have now passed my big sister’s age. I am now living days that she never got to see on this earth. But also, I am living days that I have never seen her live. And this is very difficult for me.

This past Tuesday, I officially lived past the age she was at the time of her accident. Tuesday morning, I woke up around 7:00, and I could not help but ponder what Katie was thinking before the time of her fatal car accident at 7:30. What were her prayers? What song was in her head that morning? Did she consciously put on the colorful friendship-bracelet-like necklace I sent her for her birthday just a few weeks before? What was it like when she KNEW she was going to see Jesus in a few seconds?

These are things I don’t know right now, but at this age, I can’t help but grapple with where she was–because where she was is largely where I am in my life right now. And what’s most difficult about it all for me is that I can’t ask her what she was going through during her first year of college. What did it feel like for her to move away from home, meet new friends, experience God’s presence in a deeper way?

Yet, I am left without answers to those questions. But, I am not left without comfort. And THAT’S what allows me to rest in God’s purpose for Katie’s life and His purpose for my life too. I suppose these unanswered questions at the core of my heart are just another reason for me to rely on God to provide the answers in His timing. He promises that in His time, we will fully see Him. We will see His purpose.

Steven Curtis Chapman’s song “SEE” echoes my feelings so strongly. As much as I would LOVE to hold my sister at this moment, I know that where she is is a place far better beyond anything I could imagine. And in her heart, I know she would want me to continue to holding on to the promise of God’s comfort for me.