December 31, 2011

A Change in a Girl

Hello Friends

It's done.  I can't believe it.  I can truly say that I'm a graduate of Purdue University!!! :D  God has blessed me as a first-generation graduate for my family, and I am so thankful for this journey.   It's been a long, hard 5 and a half years at Purdue.  Yes, 5 and a half.  That's like 11 semesters!!  (I'll explain in a moment. )  I have been waiting for this moment since Spring 2010 with such anticipation that I've nearly fallen off my seat 8 or 9 times (metaphorically speaking).  Let's go back and look at the timeline.

Let's Go Back

Fall of 2006, I walked onto Purdue's campus, with the fear of never meeting the same person twice.  Really.  I thought that I would meet so many people that I'd never get to see them all.  Only partly true.  I made so many friends that my best friend would often say "how is it you know so many people?!" and I had no idea! We were in the same major, so we had the same friends.  But I joined a sorority and sang at the Black Cultural Center.  So I met many people along the way.  Through these I had many college adventures, before my relationship with Christ really began.  I hopped parties and hung out with a bad crowd.  

Story: A Change in a Girl

On the other hand, Rachel and I had been going to Purdue Christian Campus House since the 1st Sunday before classes, August 2006.  I hadn't been very involved in church activities; I didn't go to events.  I didn't do much of anything there.  I was faithful Sunday seat filler until Fall 2008.  She joined the Worship band, playing piano for bible study.  Even though we were inseparable, I still didn't go.  Didn't think I had the time.   But one faithful day, on a particular Sunday she turned to me and said "I think I'm going on the Arizona mission trip."  Without much thinking, I replied "I'd like to go too".

Now, I'm sure Rachel gave this trip some thought, but I did not.  Funny how God works.  When I seemingly made an impulse decision to sign up for a trip that I knew nothing about, having never been on a mission trip in my life,  He had already set the gears in motion.  Something was going to change for me.  I was going to be changed, as a person, and maybe,  just maybe His message would finally sink into this thick head of mine.  But I didn't know this at the time.

A week later, the Arizona trip filled up (like immediately!) but the Texas trip was still open.  Rachel and I wrote our names down, so this trip wouldn't pass us up like the other.  After a couple meetings with 20 people I'd never seen before, we were almost ready for the trip.  I remember a Campus House intern named Jason asking me one day "Hey Jess, ready for the trip?"  All I said was "yeah."  So anti-climatic.  If only I knew where my life would lead after this.  THE TRIP

Back Home

Upon returning from Texas, a new semester began!  I began to go to Bible Study (called Thursday Night Thing) and I signed up for tons of different activities.  I confess that it was for social reasons.  I just wanted to see my friends.  God used my selfishness to teach me more and more as 2009 went on.  I signed up for a community group.  I volunteered at Greyhouse Coffee (owned by our church) to take out their recycling.  I also was the first to sign up for Campus House' Spring Break trip to Temple, GA and the Women's Retreat right off-campus.  Lastly, I began to volunteer to work the computer/light system during services.  I was on a roll!!

But alas, I was out of control.  I stopped studying, I hung out with people almost every night of the week.  My grades suffered, because I was being so careless.  Mid-February I went to the Women's Retreat and although I was more into socializing than reading my Bible, God had me right where He wanted me (doesn't He always?)

A woman named Tanya came and spoke to us about her life.  In the first year of her teaching in elementary school, her feet began to bother her.  She visited doctor after doctor, specialist after specialist.  Nothing.  They found absolutely nothing.  Although sitting at work helped some, she eventually had to quit her dream job.  That was in 1999.  Ten years later, she is still in tremendous pain, everyday.  Even at our retreat she kept off her feet most of the night.  But that's not all she shared with us.

Tanya, like many young women, was looking for a husband everywhere she went.  While at a conference, she walked around meeting the other attendees and spotted the only single man there.  As many women do, many many times, she thought to herself, "I wonder if this guy could be the one.  Is this a sign?"  She avoided him like the plague.  Back in her room, she prayed, "God, if I talked to this man and started dating him, would this work out?"  God responded with "You have to trust Me, whether it works out or not."

  She spoke to him, and yes, it turns out that he was the man she would marry a year later. But in the first year of their marriage tragedy occurred.  Her husband fell ill.  Having tremendous back pain, he could not stand or sit without coming to tears.  It was unbearable.  Doctors could find nothign and told him that he'd be in a wheelchair the rest of his life.

Everyday is a struggle for them.  My heart went out to this couple, because so much was happening to them at once.  But they knew God was on their side.  To this day, they are both still in pain, but Tanya was not looking for pity.  Her attitude was "Although I didn't know at the time, God allowed this pain on me so that when my husband was put in a wheelchair I would know and understand his pain.  And we'd get through this and praise God together."
I thought this story was so beautiful.  Profound because here I was, sitting woefully and complaining about my life.  And not doing a thing about it.  But no matter what life throws at us we cannot break.  As my pastor from The Word Church says "When life hits you, you will bend but you will not break."  They asked us to reflect and I just broke down.  I wasn't even trying to have a relationship with God.  This was the first time that I truly felt like I wanted Jesus in my life, no matter what it would take.  I was saved and it felt great.

New Beginnings

By the fall, I slowed down, knowing that I wanted to serve but needed to take a chill pill.  I continued to volunteer at Campus House with PowerPoint & lights.  I still went to events, but I began to form an awesome support group around me of amazing women.  The next Spring semester, I got baptized in the Hills; as in Pigeon Forge, TN with three other girls.  That week, 20 more people got baptized.  It was beautiful, as many of them felt this was right.  Many also just jumped on the band-wagon out of impulse instead of faith.  From then on, the ministry asked students to really pray about this decision before jumping in.

Upon my Senior years (yes 2 years) I continued to grow and struggle.  I wrestled with many doubts and had many late night talks with the awesome people in my life.  Whether it was my best girlfriends sitting up all night helping each other or sharing testimonies with 8 other men & women on an overnight Roadtrip with other students, I don't regret a single moment.

My story is so intensely compact, in three years (since 2009) God has changed so much in me.  It's taken temper tantrums, many tears and many late-night talks but I am so thankful for my season at Purdue.  I am a changed woman and although my struggles continue, all I can do is look to God and hang on to Jesus for dear life! 

If you ever want to know my testimony, just ask.  I'd love to tell it!

Until we meet again,

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