how my freshman year of college changed my life

August 22, 2014 marked the day I began this wild, but oh so marvelous journey they call college. It’s difficult to comprehend ten months ago, I had no perception of the beauty, adventure, melancholy, mental weight, life lessons, friendship, and ambition I was about to come across when I stepped foot on the sidewalks of Concordia University, Nebraska. As the title reads, yes, college has most definitely made an incredible impact on my life for the better. I am in such awe reflecting back on all the blessings I’ve encountered this past year, it would be wrong of me not to share.

I made it a goal to write a significant amount over the year so I am able to remember the small, but important details of this endeavor. Unfortunately, like every other college student, finding a balance between classes, homework, practices, God time, socializing, and SLEEPING was MUCH more challenging than it seemed, so writing had to go on the back burner most of the time. Luckily, I found some alone time here and there, which I’m certainly grateful for, or else I would have no recollection of the substantial lessons I have experienced these past ten months.

-Not everything will be perfect. I entered the beginning of college with the next three to four months already planned out in my head. I was fortunate to already have developed friendships with a few future classmates over the summer. I only wish I didn’t expect so much or become discouraged when God’s plan didn’t meet up with mine. It is perfectly okay to look forward to something, but we must remember we have a present God. If we spend every day planning our tomorrows, and not enjoy the love and opportunities He brings us today, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. Expect the unexpected, because I assure you, the big man has some amazing experiences coming up.

-But naps are. Mom, I am so sorry if I ever argued, talked back, or went full-on temper tantrum when you told me to nap when I was younger. I should have taken advantage of it when I had the chance. Naps are small doses of God’s Kingdom and if you have even 30 minutes to spare, TAKE THE OPPORTUNITY. You’ll thank me later.

-We cannot fix people. I spent my entire high school experience and first semester of college exhausting myself, even to the point physically, trying to glue others’ broken hearts back together. As a “people-pleaser” since day one, I saw that I was doing the right thing. I fell into Satan’s lies believing I was irrelevant, deeply unwanted, and failing not just as a friend, but a servant in Christ as well. Thank goodness for wise friends who sit you down in residential hall staircases, take you by the hands, look you in the eye and say, “Liz, you have to stop fixing everyone.” So I did. The neatest thing is it didn’t take much to change. I simply picked up the glue and broken pieces scattered between my own baggage, and I handed them to God. God is not only completely sovereign over every aspect of my life, but He also is over every aspect of those I love and care about. I don’t have power (thank the Lord) to control circumstances. We must trust Him to take care of the ones we admire. After all, they’re His children too, and He loves each of them beyond understanding.

Make it a priority to show love to others no matter how unappreciated you may feel. Paul writes in Philippians 2:3-5, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (ESV). I learned to stop loving and serving others while expecting something in return. Jesus was humble, willing to give up his rights in order to obey God and serve people. We can approach life expecting to be served, or we can look for opportunities to serve others. Set a goal to write a small note to someone just telling them how much you love them, give someone a big bear hug, do the dishes for your mom, call up a friend and ask them to coffee. Going out of your way to make someone’s day is the perfect medicine for a heart on both sides of the act. If we say we follow Christ, we must also say we want to love as He loved too. 

-Don’t dwell in adversity. Change it into perseverance. A super rad guy came into my life a couple months back and taught me probably one of the most influential lessons I’ve encountered so far in my young adult years. I plan on dedicating an entire post to this concept in the near future, but I am still in the process of completing the experience myself. Check back soon, because it alleviates burdens upon burdens by just realizing how mighty God is over any kind of difficulty.

-If you’re passionate about it, don’t be reluctant. DO IT. This IS the time to explore. In college, you are surrounded by sports teams, intramurals, clubs, organizations, study groups, you name it. There’s many people on campus who have unique interests, it’s almost impossible not to be inspired by others. If there is a fire set within you, don’t hesitate to carry that passion out. If it wasn’t for the encouragement and inspiration of others, I wouldn’t of had the confidence to publish my own book! Take that scary risk and leap of faith, because I promise you right now, something amazing will come out of it.

-Pay attention to the people and nature around you. We often complain about how we can’t hear, see, or feel God’s presence. I am very guilty of this myself, but I learned that if we put the phone down, surrender the worry, rub the dirt from our eyes, and ultimately seek Him, we can go throughout the day indulging in God’s gracious treasures. I have seen, heard and felt so much of God through my friends, circumstances and His creation. I’m a firm believer that God sends certain people in your life for a purpose and speaks through them. I’ve been beyond blessed to have brothers and sisters in Christ to whom I can confide in everyday and hear Jesus’ words be spoken back to me. So, open your eyes, keep your ears from hearing self-focused thoughts, and lean back against Him and breathe. He’s there, so loud and clear.

-Pray for HIS will. No matter how hard it may be to sacrifice, sometimes we have to let things go in order to do God’s amazing will. God wants to give His children what they desire in their heart. However, since God is omniscient, if our desires are contrary to His divine plan, He must intercede. This was (still is) a difficult concept for me to tackle and I’ve been experiencing lots of it recently. I had such a strong desire in my heart for something, but as a Father who gives refuge to His daughter, I believe God was protecting me from terrible affliction that I could have possibly had in the future. Although I was devastated by the circumstance, I must continue to remember God’s love always knows where we need to be, regardless of the pain we have to walk through to get there.  Since God’s wisdom is unfathomably deep, “it is the glory of God to conceal things” (Proverbs 25:2). If we are fully aware of God’s plans, we actually will become even more overwhelmed than we are in our current situation. Jon Bloom writes, “the secrets God keeps from us are a greater mercy to us than we likely realize. We often forget just how thin is the sliver of reality we see and information we can contain at any given time.” There are endless reasons for why God leads the course of our lives. He is merciful to retain plans from us He knows we aren’t ready for. While Jesus was praying in Gethsemane before he was arrested, he prayed to our Father, “Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36). Jesus became obedient to God’s will humbling himself to the point of death, even death on the cross. (Philippians 2:8). We can take comfort in knowing Jesus understands obedience in suffering and what it is like to endure painful trials for the sake of eternal joy sent before us. However painful God’s will might be now, it results in joy inexpressible and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8).

Of course, there’s a large amount of lessons I’ve encountered this year that I have yet to realize and process. I still have a considerable amount of growing to do as well. I am so thankful I can confidently say I know who I am, I love who I am and I can embrace who I am, because of what I experienced my freshman year of college. Concordia has blessed me with memories upon memories including worshiping like never before, my first date, spontaneous midnight ice cream runs, a 24-hour bus ride from Michigan, auditioning for the NAIA All-American Dance Team, becoming a team captain, being hired as a barista, countless hammock trips, ask to lead next years incoming freshman, all-nighters at youth group lock-ins, and most importantly, the inspiration to fall into deep intimacy with the One who will never leave.

Thank you to my professors who incorporated their love of Christ into the lesson to make it less boring and caring not only about my academics, but well-being too. Thank you to my coaches who pushed me farther than I thought possible stressing my identity not being in dance, but very much in Christ. Thank you to my teammates for the opportunity to travel, perform, joke around, eat food and bond with the most beautiful ladies. Thank you to my “Big Sis” for always encouraging me, talking to me every day over winter break, and stroking my hair while I cried when life got hard. Thank you to my “Soul-Sister” who made me feel less crazy about my past, the multiple JD’s trips, Paul and Psalms bonding, and your loving presence. Thank you to my roommate and best friend for tolerating me for 16 years, buying me food, driving me crazy with “Your Mom” jokes, and the rolling on the floor laughing moments. Thank you to my “God-Moment Girl” for talking and crying with me about Christ’s love til 2:30 in the morning on school nights, not making fun of me an excessive amount by being almost a foot taller, and inspiring me to be strong no matter how cruddy we feel. Thank you to my “Double-Chin” girls for never ever failing to make me laugh, embracing our idiot side, and the DQ dates.Thank you to my favorite Colorado guy for the swing dancing, The 1975 fan-girl sessions, and the lesson about fixing hearts not being in my job description. Thank you to an impactful warrior of God for the coffee, the pursuit, the spiritual conversations, the beauty you’ve caused me to embrace freely and being my best friend. Thank you to all my brothers in Christ who embraced me with such brotherly love, something I never had until this year. Thank you to the best parents beyond imagination for supporting my decisions, waking up to late night phone calls, driving down for performances, giving birth to the funniest sisters possible, and your unconditional love. Thank you to everyone who inspired me to become a better Liz and face the world with Jesus on my side. You know who you are, and I love you immensely.

There’s a whole lot of love surrounding Seward’s streets and Concordia’s buildings. I’m extremely privileged to be a part of such an extraordinary university (more like a family) that makes saying goodbye for three months so hard. Driving away with the sign in my rear view mirror (sounds like some sappy movie) was more difficult than expected, but Concordia’s campus will be in my front window soon enough.

God Bless all of you, especially my fellow Bulldogs. Have a fantastic summer, and I’ll see you soon.

In Him,

Liz 🙂