This is the second post in a series in which I'm going to share my story with you guys, this time focusing on my college years. Because my story is so long, I'm breaking it up into more manageable pieces (if you missed the first one, you can catch up here). My hope is that you can relate to some part of it, find hope in it, and walk away thinking about your story and how you want it to continue from where you're at right now.
Transitioning to College
From the beginning, life in college wasn’t all that different from what it had been in high school. I worked hard in my classes, went to church or CRU (a non-denominational Christian student organization) gatherings several days a week, and got a job. I struggled, though, to find a place where I felt I belonged. It seemed like I didn’t quite fit into the world of La Crosse or the world back home in Maple Grove, but that I was somehow stuck in between, neither place really feeling like home.
I started questioning whether I made the right decision about where to go to college. I knew I was only going to be in La Crosse for a few years, so I struggled with wondering whether it was worth my time to begin new friendships that would be short- lived. I figured I had friends back home that I planned to stay close to, but it slowly dawned on me that my plan was flawed. Those friendships were dwindling faster than I planned, and I was feeling lost.
I eventually learned that vulnerability is a good thing; deep relationships have a place even in short-lived situations. I couldn't hold back just because I know seasons of life can be temporary. My entire life is temporary!
I wanted (and still want) to live fully every day, as if it were my last. I wanted to cherish the friendships that come my way, for some of them will prove to stand the test of time and distance. It was in that realization that I had the opportunity to think about who I wanted to be and the chance to build relationships based on authenticity; I got the opportunity to break down the walls that had confined me to my “good girl” image that made me so preoccupied with perfection.
Learning to Let Go
I realized worrying, whether about what others thought of me and my “good girl” image, or whether I was involved in enough or performing well enough in college, wasn’t going to benefit me at all (Matthew 6:31-34). Although I accepted Christ as my Savior at a young age, and had been steadily growing in my faith up through high school, I had not fully entrusted all of my heart and life to Him, truly trusting Him as Lord, believing that He was working to bring about good in my life through the challenges I was facing. Instead, I had fought to have my own way, which left me frustrated because inevitably, things didn’t always go according to my plan. I can only do my part and leave the rest to God, letting go of my fear of failure and desire for control.
Acknowledging Jesus as Lord meant surrendering all of my life to Him, driving me to see His plan as superior to mine. And I knew I was going to continue making mistakes, so trying to find worth in perfection was useless. Instead, I found rest in God’s grace, mercy, and peace. I learned that I need to rely on God and His plan instead of trying to do it all on my own, letting Him orchestrate the things in my life, choosing to praise Him no matter what happens.
I still worried about things sometimes, but I was able to let more things roll off my back, and when things still made me anxious, deep down, I knew God had it all under control, and He had a good plan for my life. Jeremiah 29:11 says “’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 a hope and a future’.”
God taught me in that season of life that homework and work will always be there; opportunities to build your friendships and create memories may not. Life ought to be about investing more in people than in things, and I wanted to be able to look back in a few years and see that I gained more from my college years than a diploma and a paycheck, but that I was able to accomplish far more in the way of life experiences.
Preparing for Post-Graduate Life
As I prepared just a couple years later to graduate from college, I agonized over the fact that I didn’t have a job lined up for after graduation. It tortured me, keeping me up at night as my mind spun long into the night, trying to devise a new plan of attack to provide my own safety net in what felt like a free-fall with no view of the ground.
I worked myself into the ground applying for jobs, stressing out at the apparent lack of options, wondering why it was taking me so long to find something, asking myself where my plan had gone wrong. But the moment I let go of my will was the very moment that the pieces started to fall together without my interference.
Leaving those close friends behind was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, especially since I didn't have a concrete plan for my future in terms of a job or solid support system. To say that it wasn't a smooth transition is a serious understatement.
Where it Began to Turn Around
Shortly after moving home after college, I was approached by Phil, a member of the church I had attended up until I left for college, and offered the opportunity to help launch Clarity, a new church plant in the area. Quickly seeing the similarities between everything I loved about CRU’s philosophy and the heart of Clarity, I jumped on board, knowing the timing was from God, as I was about at the end of my rope without having a solid community here.
Helping with Clarity and having a couple friends around is what got me through the first six months of life back in the Cities. I took a part-time job when I felt I had hit rock bottom, just to make some money until I could find something better.
Because I was so burned out from months of job searching, I decided I would take a break and temporarily be content with my part-time job to recover emotionally. Shortly after that, I got a call out of the blue which quickly led to me getting a full-time job-- the very thing I hadn't been able to get on my own, despite my best efforts.
I have a tendency to work really hard to try to get things to work out in a certain way, praying that the Lord's will would be done, but all the while basically just asking Him to bless my will instead of submitting to His. I came to see that I need to be willing to let go of my plans and remain open to the idea that He might have something far better in store for me than even my wildest dreams.
God has already done and is going to do far greater things than what I can even imagine. There have been a lot of painful goodbyes involved, but there have also been times of joyous celebration as I’ve seen how He will graciously provide for all of my needs. Looking back, I can see how He was working all the while, putting the pieces together to create something beautiful.
Stay tuned for the next installment, where I'll tell you about where I am now!