“Don’t do it, Steffi. Ahh, don’t do it…”
But it was too late. The Alma Mater started and, as if on cue, tears began streaming down my cheeks. With my diploma case in one hand, I slipped my arm around my friend Natalie and swayed alongside my fellow new alumni. As quickly as my college career had begun, it was over. This chapter of my life was officially complete.
I learned a lot in college. For instance, don’t take a Calc II class just “for the fun of it”… especially on MWF at 7:30 in the morning. Llamas will spit if you stand too close. Climbing a fire escape at 2 a.m. is rarely a good idea. Always, always, always carry your dorm room key, because the one time you don’t bring it, your roommate will lock you out… especially if it’s raining. Sometimes ice cream breaks are more important than studying. A sturdy umbrella is a good investment. Don’t wait until the week of a deadline to ask for a letter of recommendation. Make sure you have your football ticket before you walk to the stadium. Don’t put flannel pajamas in the dryer. And some of the best memories happen by accident.
I could go on and on and on about all the goofy and serious little lessons I learned in college. I could probably write a book of them (hmmm… that’s an idea. Maybe I will). But in this blog entry, I think I’ll focus on the most important lesson I learned in college.
God is good. Always.
Looking back over my college career, I can’t help but be amazed by just how good He really is. For instance, He brought me to OSU in the first place. My senior year of high school, I applied to eight universities around the country, and OSU was not one of them. But at the end of March, my top choice schools were out of the picture, and suddenly I had no prospects. Until my mom stumbled upon OSU, that is. I finished my online application, five minutes later hopped in the minivan, and five hours later arrived in Stillwater, Oklahoma. As soon as I set foot on OSU’s campus, I knew I was home. This was exactly where I needed to be. Now in hindsight, I can’t imagine myself anywhere else, and I thank God every day that He brought me to Oklahoma State University.
That August, I went through Recruitment or “Rush.” I knew nothing about any of the sororities, and I had no idea what to expect. All week long, I prayed that God would give me wisdom. As I trudged from chapter to chapter, positively dripping with sweat (Why does Recruitment always have to be the hottest week of the year?! Not cool. Literally.), I asked Him to show me where He wanted me. And as the week went on, one house stuck out in my mind: Kappa Delta. Somehow I knew that Kaydee was the house for me. Obviously, being a Kaydee definitely had its ups and downs. But now looking back, I know beyond all shadow of doubt that God brought me to this house, to these girls, and I am so thankful for it.
Now that I was a college student and a sorority girl, it was time to find my niche. Where should I invest my time and energy? A year earlier, my dad had taken me to a movie screening at our friend’s church (“Dragged” would actually be a more accurate word. I really didn’t want to go, but he made me. haha). This film was produced by the Christian singer/songwriter Sara Groves and recounted her journey to Rwanda with an organization called the “International Justice Mission” or IJM. This video was my first exposure to global injustice and to IJM’s work, and it stayed in the back of my mind for the next year. I knew I wanted to get involved with IJM, but I wasn’t sure how. Unfortunately, though, OSU didn’t have an IJM campus chapter. I could start one, I supposed, but I was already busy with so many things—schoolwork, sorority stuff, other organizations—that I wasn’t sure if I had time or it would be the right thing for me to do. Then my advisor gave me a nugget of advice: The only difference between dreamers and ambitious people is action. In other words, don’t just sit around waiting for something to happen; just do it. So I did. To make a long story short, God provided for and blessed our IJM group in unbelievable ways. Now, three years later the OSU IJM chapter is thriving and is excited to continue raising awareness about injustice and helping those who are suffering. To date, we have raised around $4,000 to benefit IJM’s work around the world. I have been so incredibly blessed to work with such amazing and passionate people. They constantly inspire me, and I am so grateful to call them my friends.
And then I went to Austria. Ahhh, wonderful Austria. The land where the hills are alive with the sound of music, where Milka chocolate comes in half a million flavors, and people wear lederhosen to go grocery shopping. My exchange semester in Graz, Austria, was the greatest adventure of my life thus far. Yet again, God proved His faithfulness. He blessed me with incredible friends from all over the world, with the opportunity to travel around Europe, and most importantly to grow closer to Him. While in Austria, I learned to trust God like I never had before. I discovered that my identity rests in Him alone, and that He holds my life in His hands. Through the friendships I formed and the conversations and experiences I was able to have, I could see Him working in my life, shaping it, guiding me, and most of all using me. It was both amazing and life-changing, and I am so grateful for it. And even though I still miss my friends like crazy, I am so thankful that God chose to intersect our lives for those six wonderful months, and I have faith that He will cross our paths again. Love you all. (Follow this link if you’d like to read more about my experiences in Austria).
Last but not least came my senior year at OSU. I learned that reverse culture shock stinks, but time heals all wounds; the best friendships often come by surprise, and the road to your dreams may contain potholes and detours. But God always knows best. His plan may not always match ours, but in the end, He works things out beautifully. As King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He also set eternity in the hearts of men, but they cannot fathom what He has done from beginning to end.” In short, God is good. All the time.
Last Saturday marked the end of this book in the series of my life. As I swayed during the Alma Mater, trying in vain to blink back my tears, my mind flipped through the figurative pages of my “college book.” And though there were painful moments mixed in with the good, though sometimes the tears seemed to douse out the laughter, and though I didn’t always understand why things happened as they did, the story was beautiful–just as God had promised. In the midst of my tears, I felt a smile overflow from my soul onto my face. My God is “loyal and true.” And though this part of my life has ended, my adventure with Him is only just beginning.