The year flew by, and yet last January seems like ages ago. About this time last year I had begun to toy with the idea of going back to school, not knowing why I wanted to or if it was even God’s leading. The idea was simply there, and it refused to leave. So, about a year ago scared little me visited campus for the first time. I had no idea what I was getting into, and I didn’t even have any confidence that the visit would lead to anything. And yet, a year later, here I am getting packed up to head back for interterm and spring semester 2017.
I know for sure, all this had to be God’s doing.
It’s funny, because 2016 has become infamous, yet for me it proved the biggest adventure I’ve gone on yet. When I started the year out I had no idea what was going to happen or where God was leading for sure, but I stepped out the door like a hobbit and followed with faltering steps. I visited campus, hunted for scholarships, worked at my job, went to Bible study, and in general just did life. I knew that I couldn’t get to college in my own strength, and quite frankly I wasn’t sure I would make it there at all. But I felt like that was the direction everything was leading. Then God decided to test my trust. He chose to close the coffeehouse where I had happily worked for almost two years, and consequently took away the only steady income I had. It was as if He was asking – and I could almost physically hear it, it was that clear – “Do you trust Me?” And I had to learn to answer yes, and trust that He knew what He was up to.
Then He gave me another job – actually two – working at the school there in town. I never, never in my life dreamed that I, the introverted and awkward homeschooled kid, would someday work in a public school (no matter how temporarily). It’s funny how the Lord works! It wasn’t a job I would have expected, but it kept me going until school closed for the summer. And then as I felt the strangeness of being unemployed once again, He asked me, “Do you trust Me?” Yes, Lord, I do. I was looking to serve on staff at STEP (you may remember, that’s the camp thing I’ve gone to several times and absolutely love), and waiting to hear back whether they needed me. I desperately hoped I could go, but God inexplicably told me no and closed the door in my face. Instead, He asked me to give towards scholarships for several girls who wanted to come as students but didn’t have the money to do so. He asked me to give way more than I was comfortable with – so much that any reasonable person would look at me – the girl who didn’t have money for college but was trying to get there anyway – and announce that I was insane. And He asked me again – did I really trust Him enough to give away what I had been saving for school? Yes, Lord, I trust You.
So I did it. And He showed me an ad in the newspaper. Someone was looking for youngsters willing to work and do odd jobs around their property. I didn’t know the person, and my parents didn’t either. I didn’t really want to call the number (I hate making phone calls), but the ad had been in the paper for several weeks now and it seemed they must not have gotten any responses from people. So I called and discovered a wonderful lady who was overjoyed to have Noelle and me come as often as we could to help her with various odd jobs. She paid us well, and when the summer was almost over she even gave us extra to put towards school. And so, God used a stranger whom I didn’t even know existed until I needed her to provide yet again.
Then He gave me generous gifts from the former coffeehouse board and my church board to help pay for college. It was enough that I could make the first tuition payment right before I was supposed to move on campus. I barely had anything leftover in my checking account afterwards, but it was enough for the moment. At about the same time, He also provided me with the promise of a job. It was one where most college students work as walk-ins; that is to say, they walk in whenever they have time and if there is something for them to do, they work. Yet for me, He gave me a steady position helping one specific person. I could have a regular work schedule, always knowing there was something there for me to do, and I could start as soon as I moved in.
It has been such a blessing to have the job, but with the very few scholarships I was able to hunt down my tuition payments were still impossibly high. I had made the first one, but only by the gifts given me by people I love back home. The next one was staring me in the face, and I did not have nearly enough to pay for it. I panicked, and turned to my two mentors, begging them for prayer as the deadline loomed closer. And then, at pretty much the last minute, after I had spent the day pleading with God to provide somehow, I found that someone had paid the vast majority of it for me, and I needed to pay less than $75 to make up the difference. I have never in my life felt so relieved and thankful and joyful and humbled and ashamed of my unbelief all at the same time!
Later on in the semester I had a new need – one that I had not anticipated at all. I came back from Fall break to find that my bike was not where I had left it. Nor was it in any of the other places where I would have been likely to leave it. (That bike was the only means of transportation I had with me because my parents couldn’t afford to send a vehicle with me, and I couldn’t afford to buy one for myself.) It was just a rusty old garage-sale bike with no brakes or gear shifts and no suspension whatsoever. And now it was gone and I had no bike to ride the mile from campus to work. To say I was upset would be an understatement. I was distraught and furious at whoever decided my bike was up for grabs, and panicking because I couldn’t afford to buy a new bike – not with my tuition payments!
I did the only thing I could think of. I told my online friend group among whom we have all shared prayer requests as we need extra support and asked them to pray for me, and then I walked to work. The next day I found my bike laying on the ground under the tree in which someone had decided it would be funny to hang it. Its chain was broken, rendering it useless, and so I walked to work again. And that’s when God provided again. That day a friend gave me some money for a bike, and my supervisor at work offered to get his buddy to fix the old one. After work he drove me back to campus and picked up my forlorn-looking bike to take to his friend. I asked him to see if his friend would put brakes on it while he was at it (I would pay him). But God had something else in mind, and the next day when I got to work and neared my desk I found a beautiful brand new bike with the glitteriest giant red bow on it. My supervisor had decided that the old bike was too junky to be worth fixing, and so he and his wife bought me a new one. Once again the Lord overwhelmed me and provided more than I could have asked or imagined.
And so the whole semester went. God has provided for me, not all at once like I wanted Him to, but enough for every step just as I needed it. He has provided for me in countless ways, both big and small, and never the same way twice. As if to top the year off, just before finals He provided an extra grant for the next semester that lowered my tuition payments to a point where my income should be able to cover it, with some left over. He is so, so good! I wish I had trusted Him more fully, and stressed less along the way. I wish I hadn’t doubted Him so often. He has brought me on this incredible adventure, and though I still don’t know exactly why He chose to send me back to school, it has been such an amazing experience to stretch my faith and grow closer to Him that it has been worth it. So tomorrow I head back for Round 2. It will probably be crazy. It will most likely be exhausting. I doubt it will be easy. Contrary to popular expectations, I don’t know if I will finish my degree. But I do know that the God who has brought me this far will continue to take me as far as He wills, and when He changes my direction (whether with a degree or without one), it will be just as wonderful an adventure.
God doesn’t work according to human understanding. This whole adventure has proved that to me over and over. Everyone expected me to get loans for school, and took it for granted that I would do so. Yet I believe that debt is not God’s will for anyone, and so I trusted Him to provide without my going into debt. He has. Human understanding would never say to give away the vast majority of your school savings, but God asked me to do so, and provided for me just the same. He cares for me even when I am doubtful and fearful and emotional and react in ways that don’t honor Him. Last year was a crazy roller-coaster, but I am so glad that He took me on the roller-coaster with Him. I can’t wait to see what adventures He brings this year!