This post originally appeared in a slightly different form three months ago. I removed it from my blog during a time of pain and heartache. I have decided (after some editing) that it still needs to be posted. I hope it is still encouraging to you today as it was for me write, read, and reread several months later. ❤
I graduated. I finished my MA, I closed the door on that part of my life and now I share a small apartment in the Charleston, SC area with my amazing husband.
On the night I’m actually writing this, it’s basically midnight and I just got home from a friend’s house. We spent the afternoon and evening playing with her baby, talking, making dinner (well, she made while I kept her four month old occupied), and reminiscing. You see, she’s the only one left in my life from the group of people with whom I spent my first full day in Greenville, South Carolina.
I have a photo of us all together. It’s still on my Facebook page, buried all the way back in albums from 2011, my freshman year of college. There are seven us in the photo. Over the course of the past six years, one of us would chose not to attend school at all in favor of joining the Navy, one of us would leave school for various reasons (including mental health), one of us would drift away from the group after a nasty love triangle, and one of us would be cut off from the group because of frankly creepy behavior. Of the remaining three of us, one would disappear from the other two’s lives because of (for lack of a better phrase) and strong difference of opinion.
And then there were two.
As I typed this, I can imagine each person disappearing from the photo until there’s only two of us left. There were actually more in our group of friends, but these seven were those of us who arrived in South Carolina a day early to meet in person and spend part of the day at the mall together.
Somehow, some way, I and the girl from the nasty love triangle (did I mention I was one of the points?) are centered in the photograph. Talk about awkward.
I still remember the girl that was me when that photograph was taken. It was actually a really hard day for me. I was exhausted from the time change, flying all day the day before, and the weight of good-byes that still weighed heavy on my heart. After the morning at the mall and lunch, I went back to the hotel with my parents and cried. And napped. And cried some more. I wanted to be there – I really did. But I was already feeling homesick. Back home were a brother and sister I loved dearly – despite the struggles we were going through back then – and two beloved pets that would not make it through that year. Back home was a home that would no longer be mine a year from then. Ahead of me was a year of many trials, health problems, relationship conflicts, and significant change.
But despite my tears, despite my homesickness, and all the good-byes I had had to say (not knowing that a year later, they’d be permanent and I’d be standing in a DMV getting my picture taken for my South Carolina driver’s license), I was fifty pounds lighter with the troubles of high school behind me and the adventures of college ahead of me.
These are going to be the best years of my life. I just know it.
I can honestly and truly say that these past six years have been some of the absolute best years of my life. But if you are a high school senior or college freshman reading this, please understand: What I now realize were the best years of my life were nothing what I thought the best years of my life were supposed to look like.
I came into my freshman year with a formula and a plan. I’d meet and become best friends with my future husband. We’d start dating sophomore year, get engaged junior year, and get married after senior year. I’d graduate with highest honors and a ring on my finger. I’d become a well-known and loved Christian counselor, write a few best-selling books, and ultimately spend most of my time at home with my four perfect children. The friends I made my freshman year would be my friends for life and we’d raise our kids together as friends themselves.
Sounds pretty perfect, right?
I praise God frequently that my dreams got dashed almost immediately.
My freshman year, I entered an abusive sort-of relationship, learned I have Celiac Disease, and got my first ever bad grade in a class.
My sophomore year, I got dumped, entered a rebound relationship, started mimicking Jonah, changed my major, broke up with my boyfriend, and thought I’d finally figured my life out.
My junior year, I discovered I hated my new major, changed back to my original major, fought major battles with my health, and at the end of the year watched two of my closest friends graduate and leave BJU.
My senior year, I pined after a boy who didn’t love me back, hid myself from almost all of my friends, watched two close friends get engaged and plan their weddings, and graduated with nearly every pound I’d lost in high school gained back.
My first year of seminary, I contemplated quitting school or running away into the night (or even just ending it all), watched the boy who hurt me do the same thing to another girl, and was a bridesmaid in two weddings as I myself remained single.
My last year of seminary, I (despite my best efforts) got my first grad school bad grade, had to retake my comprehensive exams twice, was forced to withdraw from a class for the first time ever, and had to defer my graduation for three months.
These past six years have been met with numerous trials. I have had sleepless nights, nights where I cried to myself, lost friendships and relationships, fought for grades I didn’t receive, questioned God, questioned my purpose, questioned my existence, and had weeks where I only had five dollars to my name.
But if this was all I told you about these six years, you’d only be getting a tiny glimpse into what these years were like, and you’d never understand why they were the best years of my life thus far.
My freshman year, I began a lifelong friendship, learned to love my family warts and all, got to be part of the events that led to my brother’s salvation, and began learning that it is God who writes my story – not me.
My sophomore year, I got to become a room leader during second semester, lived across the hall from my then best friend, and discovered my passion for education through a teacher who was an incredible testimony during her battle with cancer.
My junior year, I surrendered my life to God promising to go wherever He sent me and do whatever He wanted me to do, was mentored by incredible professors who encouraged me to consider studying theology and biblical languages in seminary, and learned to find joy in being a counseling major.
My senior year, I met the man who will tomorrow become my husband, I did (despite my efforts to push people away) forge a bond with the exact people I needed to get through my senior year, lost what I thought was love but gained what was a better friendship, and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biblical Counseling with a minor in New Testament Greek.
My first year of seminary, I got to be a bridesmaid in two weddings as two couples I love dearly pledge forever to each other, fell in love with Hebrew, was mentored by a professor who pushed me to reach higher, and at the end of the school year began dating my almost husband.
My last year of seminary, I started the year engaged, took a PhD class as one of two MA students taking it, got to be a bridesmaid opposite my fiancé who was a groomsman in the wedding where my brother married the love of his life, received my Master of Arts degree in Theological Studies with an emphasis in Biblical Languages, and promised forever to my very best friend and love of my life.
Six years ago when I imagined what my life would be like today, this was far from what I pictured. I expected good and God gave me best. As you have read from my dual summaries from the past six years, I was met with many trials, but I was also met with many joys. This is what real life looks like: numerous trials and numerous joys.
What I thought would have been my perfect life was far from what was best for me. And praise God that He kept me from it. These were the best years of my life because I didn’t get what I wanted – I got what God in His sovereignty had foreordained from before time began. These were the best years of my life because God gave me what was best for me each day – the pain and the joy and everything in between.
If you are just on the cusp of these years, if you are in the midst of them, and even if you are like me and leaving college behind, please don’t forget that ultimately you are not the one in control of your life and you never were. Our sovereign God is with you, taking care of you, and He loves you with an everlasting love. He is with you in the pain and He is with you in the joy. When you are lying in bed in the middle of the night wondering why He hasn’t shown up yet and made everything better, know that He has been there from before the beginning and He has seen the end. Not only has He seen the end, He is the one who wrote the end.
The lessons I learned, the blessings I received, the friendships made and lost and kept, the relationships started and ended and kept, the deep valleys I walked through, the high mountaintops I danced on, and every little thing in between was ordained by the loving and sovereign hand of God. Today I rejoice in His goodness, faithfulness, and patience. Today I am thankful for His chastening rod and His comforting staff.
Today I stand on the cusp of something that is almost déjà vu to six years ago. Six years ago, I said goodbye to my life in Ellensburg, Washington and entered a new life in Greenville, South Carolina. Now, six years later, I am saying goodbye to my life in Greenville, South Carolina and entering a new life where, for the next six years, my location will be determined by someone in the Navy who I’ll probably never meet, I’ll go on new adventures, learn new lessons, make new friends, encounter new trials, and experience new pain. Everything about the next six years will be very different from the previous six years.
Well, almost everything.
The one thing that will never change in my life is the sovereign hand of God through it all. He will never leave me, neither will He forsake me. His hand will guide me through the valleys and lead me to the mountaintops and steady me through everything in between. The idea of marriage, the navy, forging my own personal path with my “career” and someday having children is scary. But I know that God is with me and because of that, I have peace even when it’s scary.
If you do not have this hope or a relationship with God, please contact me. I would love to tell you about my Savior – without God, my life would be hopeless and confusing.