I promised myself that I wouldn't fall in love with this place. I promised myself that I wouldn't get attached. I promised myself that I wouldn't end up comfortable in a Christian bubble. I promised myself that I wouldn't let this campus leave such an impact on my heart. I promised myself all of this because I knew it would only be temporary. But that was then, and this is now. That was my first semester as a freshman and this is my last semester as a senior.
My promises to myself aren't the only things that have changed through out the years.
I experienced my first real rejection, my first real friendship, my first real heartache, and my first real set of responsibilities. I was challenged in my faith in the worst of ways and in the best of ways. I met professors that have forever shaped the way that I look at the world around me through their meaningful prayers before classes, their intentionality of getting to know me, and their willingness to lay anything aside for us, their students. I have become close to people that look much different than me, yet have learned that we are similar in more ways than I could count.
I don't know what to really do with all of it, ya know? All of this affection that has grown in my soul for ENC. Where do I put it? This isn't a hypothetical question- I'm really asking. Do I just move on to the next chapter of my life like my universe wasn't entirely altered by this community made up of less than 2,500 people? Or do I hold on and just never leave?
I've been taking long walks around campus just to reminisce on some old memories and I've been attempting to make new ones. During my last walk, I think I found my answers to the questions above.
God is a God that works through seasons. If you are a Christian, you know that seasons can be short or awfully long, but you know that God accomplishes a lot during these periods of time. As a Christ follower, we either bare fruit or we are pruned and that all happens within the duration that God allows. It's either a joyful season or a trying season. My four year season, with many mini seasons in between, was nothing but pure goodness. So as I get ready to transition out of here, I want to give some wisdom to anyone who is blessed enough to stay in this ENC season a little longer.
1. I have developed a deep friendship with Don Reed. This is first on my list for a reason.He is the man in his 90's that comes to ENC daily with a shirt and tie on. He's the one handing out two dollar bills in the cafeteria. The bottom floor of the library is named after him and he works as an ESL teacher in Wolly church. He is easily the best man I have ever met. Do you know the book "Tuesday's with Morrie"? I have had "Tuesday's with Don" for about a year now and I have grown so much, spiritually and mentally, because of our time together. Find Don Reed when I leave and take over my Tuesday's. Soak in his wisdom because he has a lot of it. Hear his stories and write them down.
2. If you grew up in church, you may dismiss chapel completely because you're "just so over that scene", but let me tell you... In the real world, you don't get the luxury of having a break for an hour to just praise God and lift your requests up to him within a community of people who accept and love you. Appreciate it while you can. Go up to the front and pray by the alter. I loved all of our chaplains at ENC, but the one that affected my life the greatest was Corey Macpherson. He was a true shepherd of his flock. He cared. I mean, really cared. And though I was a mess, and I sure was a mess my freshman year, he reminded me that I was God's daughter and that I was made for more. So, my advice is to seek after Lynn or to seek after Stretch. They are just as incredible and they are willing to love you in the valley or on the mountain top. Don't take their guidance for granted.
3. I didn't want to go to the Brickley Center. I actually begged God to keep me from going because it was such a knock to my pride, but I was lead right to Jannette's door for one reason or another. I went in there with my ENC baseball cap on and we still laugh over the first words I said. "Ok. Let's get straight to the point. I'm damaged and I know why I am, so we're not getting into that. I just want help with my anxiety. Are you qualified? How old are you?" Yup. That's what I said to this amazing Christian therapist the first time I saw her. I'm telling you, I was a mess. But I never stopped going. All four years, Jannette has been my soundboard, shoulder to cry on, and my encourager. Do yourself a favor and sign up for an hour appointment with her each week...you won't regret it.
4. Don't get distracted by counting his "Right, ya knows?". This man completely changed my Christian life. Dr. Phil Lafountain. How we met is quite the story... I was reading something in the Bible that made me so angry, so I ran over to Angel Hall and knocked on a random door. I didn't know who was going to be on the other side of that door, I just knew I needed to talk to somebody... fast. Lafountain met me and saw how troubled I was so he went ahead and canceled whatever he had going on that hour, took me into the room next to his office, and wrote things on the board trying to explain to me these theological complexities. I was in such awe with the way he taught, that I took a class with him that next semester. DOCTRINE OF HOLINESS. I fought him in the beginning for a while, but then surrendered to God's word. This was absolutely earth shattering for me. Take the class even if you're not a religion major. Go and knock on Lafountain's door.
5. Get ready to have your spirit humbled, your patience tested, and your world twisted upside down. SUMMER MINISTRY. Whoever has been on a Summer Ministry team will be able to relate, but if you haven't spent a whole summer on the road with strangers, living out of a small van before, then you'll never be able to get it. Our team woke up at 5 AM each morning and went to bed around 2 AM every morning after. We bickered and fought, but God's love prevailed. That was the summer that I was forced to grow up and, though incredibly hard, it was amazing and a once in a life time experience. We traveled for three months, we were able to pour into people's lives and worship our hearts out on stage each night. I honestly still haven't fully digested that summer yet, because it was so impactful. If you have a summer left at ENC, try out for a team. They don't even require you to be musical now so you have no excuse not to. Just do it.
6. Other random things: Ask Rick for your favorite recipes from the cafe and he will give them all to you, never miss Chicken Noodle Soup day when it's being served, go and pick KP's brain about old stories and Europe, find Sue Ramey in the bottom floor of Gardner and keep her company since she works in the office all alone, offer to babysit the Cherry twins, KinderHaus is the most rewarding job you could have at ENC - so work there even if its just for a semester- never trust your advisor fully- always double check with the registrar that you have all the credits that you need before you finalize your schedule (they also give you some tips/tricks on how to graduate most effectively), go to the top floor of the library and do your homework/read a book - it's never packed- go to late night and become friends with Jill Dean - sweetest spiritual mama in the world- if you are ever sick and you don't have your parents around here, just visit Nurse Patsy- she will make you feel right at home- don't roll your eyes at hall meetings - you'll miss them when you don't have anymore to go to, take a friend and jog to the beach together and just reflect on your life, and lastly, visit the little chapel in Angel Hall to lift your requests up to God - He's broke me and put me together in that place so many times.
I wish ENC was its own little world so I didn't have to pack my bags and go... but my time here is almost up. So, don't take this place for granted. Make the most of it while you're still here.
Maybe there will be another blog post when I've processed through this transition fully, but until then, this is what I got. A raw and unedited vent session. I hope my words have helped you to experience all the amazing qualities that ENC has to offer.
Keep me in your prayers as I prepare to enter this new chapter of my life. God knows I need em'.