I love scrapbooking. I think my enjoyment of this hobby of mine speaks to two truths about who I am. One, I love memories. Granted, I tend to cling to memories a little too tightly at times as a way to cope with the many moves and goodbyes of my young life. Which is why I need to balance it with the second truth: Scrapbooking is also a spiritual practice that helps me recall all the good and faithfulness of God. Scrapbooking often helps me remember the good in spite of or in the midst of the bad. It focuses my attention to celebrate the blessings of God and the ways He’s shaped me through the trials I’ve faced.
This Spring semester, I scrapbooked all of 2019 and 2020. Such retrospection on the past couple years of my life in grad school also prompted me to reflect back on my final semester of Baylor undergrad. If you’ve known me for a while or kept up with my blog, you’ll know that graduating from Baylor the first time was accompanied by a set of challenges and dashed dreams that I struggled to navigate. I floundered through a gap year, questioning God and wrestling with purposelessness. 2018 was a year marred by my own arrogance and selfishness. I’m more than a little embarrassed about who I used to be. Looking back from 2021, I find myself overwhelmed not only by how God has shaped me to reflect more of His Son over the past three years, but also by how He redeemed pieces of my first Baylor chapter:
In 2018, I left Baylor kicking and screaming and fretting. In 2021, I left peaceably and ready to move forward.
In 2018, my final semester was marked by my own arrogance and entitlement. In 2021, my final semester was marked by humility and dependence on God—by the grace of God alone.
In 2018, I was fearful of my unknown future. In 2021, I am at peace with my unknown future.
In 2018, I was spiritually ill. In 2021, I am spiritually healing: healthier than I was, but still aware of my need to grow.
Recognizing this pattern of God’s redemption in the story of my life, I can do nothing but worship the God who never abandoned me even when I deserved it. There is a sense of finality to my Baylor story because of this, too. I feel as if I’ve come to the completion of a narrative arc. God has brought me full circle in this particular lesson, and I certainly have grown deeper in my ability to trust Him, find hope in Him, and rest in Him.
This sense of a finished arc is also emphasized by my changed response to Andrew Peterson’s song “You’ll Find Your Way.” I first heard this song in 2018 at a summer writer’s conference, which I went to as a part of “finding myself” and trying to get out of the post-graduation slump. Andrew Peterson was the keynote speaker, and his words and music inspired me to hope again. “You’ll Find Your Way,” one of the songs he performed live, deeply impacted me and moved me to tears. It resonated with me at that point in my life. Listening to it again nearly three years later, it occurred to me: I had found my way. After feeling like I was in a constant state of wandering since 2018—even while in grad school, where I questioned my future trajectory and choice to even be in the program—it was only on the cusp of graduation with my master’s degree that I finally found my way, after all.
I had found my way back to Christ. Finding my way back home—as the song goes—was finding my home in Christ. It wasn’t finding my way to a place. Baylor, Oklahoma, some other adventurous place—none of those places could fill me. Even the people I love in those places leave or change or grow. Nothing stays the same. Which is why latching onto those places or people as my home (and hope) would not satisfy me. Only Christ could fill that void. Only Christ does fill that longing and desire for Home.
Learning this brings everything full circle in my Baylor journey. My first Baylor chapter, undergrad, ended on a cliffhanger. My second Baylor chapter, the gap year and grad school, ended the Baylor duology.
I often have to be careful about viewing my life and the lives of others as stories, since it can lead me to make connections that aren’t there and expect life to happen in certain ways that go unfulfilled. But God also made me a storyteller, and I do like to think that this sense of completion, this recognition of a full narrative arc in my life, is God’s way of speaking to me in a powerful, sweet way. Though my life won’t always follow a clear, understandable storyline all the time, I do think in this particular case, it might just be God’s way of emphasizing His love for me over the long haul and of pointing out to me how He has faithfully shaped me over the past couple of years. While I feared stagnation in my spiritual walk and continued distance from God, He revealed to me in the big plot twist toward the end that He was always there and that He is bringing this work in me to completion. My life doesn’t follow the pattern of a story in the ways I might write my own books, but that doesn’t mean that every once in a while, God can’t speak to me through a narrative in my life.
And I’ll admit—there’s a big part of me that’s tempted to view the immediate aftermath of the high of graduation as the dead space in between books, a time hop between this past book and the sequel to come. And while I can’t deny that’s how I feel—that this period of unemployment is a much-needed time to recuperate and rest—I also think it would be perilous to view my current season, however short or long it may be, as dead space in my life.
It is time to live out the lessons I’ve learned. To be intentional with people. To get involved with church. To walk with Christ and rely on Him for my strength. To trust Him as I make small steps towards what His future for me holds.
There have been moments in the past couple of years where I wished to start over, to go back to when I started at Baylor and redo the whole thing. If only I could take what I’ve learned back to the past and do it all over again, but better. Yet that thinking is faulty. I can’t redo the past. I will never live perfectly or orchestrate the perfect life. I can only move forward into the future, using what I’ve learned from the past in my present moment. My prayer for this season in my life is that I would move forward, walking in faith and recognizing that the imperfections will help me rely on Christ as I make the journey towards my ultimate Home. While I may look back, it is not to view my past with regret, but to remember what God has done and provide me with hope in Him for the present.
And so, with that, my Baylor story comes to an end, and I look forward to the future, filled with hope and joy for the next chapter to come.