As I near the completion of my freshman year of college, it is incredible to think of all that has happened over the course of the last several months. It feels like just yesterday that my heart was breaking at the thought of leaving my supportive family, loving horse and life-long friends to build a new life in an unfamiliar place. However, now I can hardly hold back the tears at the thought of leaving my new home and friends for the summer. It is almost unbelievable the amount of change a person can go through in a year and I could not be more thankful for the opportunities I have been granted and the experiences I have shared with truly remarkable people this school year. As this adventure draws to a close and another one begins, I feel it is only appropriate to look back and reflect on the moments that started it all.
Three years ago I began the overwhelming process of searching for a college by taking a trip with my best friend, Katherine, along with our mothers to the beautiful state of California. Knowing very little about the lives of college students, I began the journey unsure of what to expect. All I knew is that I hoped my family’s prayers for me would be unquestionably answered; that I would find the school that was right for me. The moment that I stepped onto Azusa Pacific’s campus I knew I had. Out of the six colleges I had visited and the four I had applied to, APU clearly stood out. It is difficult to describe how I knew with certainty that it was the right school. The study abroad program was appealing, the campus was beautiful and the integration of spirituality on campus was definite, but all these things seemed miniscule compared to the feelings I experienced while on campus. I felt satisfied and joyful. I felt like I belonged. I felt like I was at home. The next couple of years were full of applications, doubts, concern over finances and a struggle to commit to a place that would be my home for the next four years. However, I have never been more confident in a decision than the moment I chose to become an APU Cougar.
Although I have never doubted the fact that APU is the right school for me, the transition of leaving everything that was familiar and constant in my life was certainly difficult. After a long summer of anticipation, an indescribably painful goodbye with my horse and friends, and sixteen hours in the car with my father, I arrived on Azusa Pacific’s campus once again. Only this time it was not to visit. The rest of my family flew out to join us for one of the craziest weekends of my life filled with more boxes than I care to remember, thousands of unfamiliar faces and getting lost over and over again. By the time we finally had a moment to pause and take a breath, it was nearly time for them to pack up and return home without me. In our last chapel together the school president challenged each family to create an alter in order to remember our past and commemorate this moment of significant impact and a new journey. After we accepted a piece of chalk with which to create our alter, my family and I went to our favorite spot on campus and the place where my journey had begun; the turtle pond. We began by drawing a circle which my brother quickly turned into a turtle after his favorite animal. Everyone took their turns drawing on the alter and each addition had deep-seeded significance. My sister, Rachel, began by writing the words, “Sisters by fate, friends by choice”, a quote that has always described us perfectly. We hadn’t chosen to be sisters with one another, but it had absolutely been our decision to become so much more. I know for certain I could not have made a better selection when choosing my best friend. My brother, Jonathan, took the chalk and wrote the words “No regrets” to which he quickly added “or boys”. Although I am the oldest of my siblings, it meant the world to know that my little brother had my back and is always there to look out for me. I know that I will always have his support as I attempt to live a life without regrets. My mom then drew a butterfly and added the words “Spread your wings and fly” to the alter. This phrase, adapted from the song “Butterfly Kisses”, had been the theme of my parent’s senior dedication in the yearbook for me. My mom has always pushed me to be the best I can, and without her love and guidance I would not be half the person I am today. She has played an unmistakable role in helping me develop my wings and I know she will always be there for me no matter where life calls me to fly. Finally my dad took his turn with the alter. It was impossible to hold back tears as he wrote, “Dear God, Please take care of my baby”. I absolutely have missed receiving his hugs every day, watching Friends with him every night and laughing with him at things only the two of us picked up on. However, God stepped into my life in ways I can’t explain those first few months away from home and showed without question that He is my Father in Heaven. I have been so blessed to have such an incredible example of what God’s love looks like through my relationship with my dad. I also added my own personal touch to our alter. It consisted of lyrics from one of my favorite songs, “I Refuse” by Josh Wilson. As I wrote, “I could chose not to move but I refuse” in white chalk I felt true excitement for what the next four years would hold and the ways in which God would direct me to move.
Looking back, there is no question in my mind that God answered our prayers for the “right school” beyond what my family and I could have ever imagined. Not only did God direct me to the perfect university, but he also provided me with new friends and meaningful relationships, a deeper desire for learning and another place to call home. I am beyond blessed to have my family of four in Colorado supporting my every decision and waiting with arms open wide whenever I come home, along with my family of thousands in Azusa helping me to grow and mature into the person God created me to be. This year has been filled with more tears and smiles, loss and gain, heartbreak and healing than I could have ever imagined. I am so thankful that God has bigger plans for my life than I can fathom. As this year ends and another will soon begin, I feel sad because I know I will never exactly replicate the wide array of experiences I have had, but I am ecstatic to see where life will take me next. I know that no matter where I end up, I will always be at home in the presence of a mighty God.
What were you created to do?
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11