Remembering My First Year at Liberty University

After coming home from church conferences in previous summers, I would be so full of my experiences that it took awhile to truly process everything the Lord was doing in the midst of the weekends. As I have now been home from Liberty University for about two weeks, I am trying to remember all of the moments Jesus walked me through.

Months leading up to August 18th of 2020 consisted of finishing up my season at home, praying for the Lord to prepare me for what was next, and packing all of my dorm room and life belongings. I would never want to relive the day I left home for the first time ever and hugged my dad goodbye. On August 18th, I walked outside near my beloved woods and spent a few minutes with my dog Lacy. After the car was packed up and ready to go, my dad came into the room I was in to tell me bye. He hugged me and told me to enjoy my life. He knew I had waited and prayed for the year at Liberty for so very long. It was a miracle that I was able to go. I started crying as he left the room and tried to disguise my emotions. 

My mom, Darby, Remington, and I went to our favorite local restaurant to pick up lunch on our drive to Lynchburg. We made sure to get a few sugar cookies for the road too. Once we made it into Lynchburg, we checked into our hotel and got dinner at an O’Charleys. We also went to Target that night to get a few things before move in day. Trying to imagine where to place all of my dorm room decorations, I barely slept the night at the hotel.

We woke up early the next morning and prepared to go onto Liberty’s campus! It was surreal living in the middle of an answered prayer. I know my God was the only One capable of writing the pages that led up to me being there. Only He gave me the provision. He had undeniably opened up the door for me to attend Liberty when I had least expected it. 

Cars lined the parking lot in front of Commons 2-my dorm building. While trying to hunt down a red bin to load all of my belongings, I saw an old friend from CFAW going to Dunkin! My brother and sister were active in helping me quickly load things into the red cart while my mom was navigating parking. Since my roommate did not arrive until later that afternoon, my mom, Darby, Remington, and I started cleaning my 332 room immediately. Remington helped me move the furniture around while mom and Darby cleaned my bathroom. It eventually smelled like lavender oil spray and was mopped. Everything had been cloroxed. After a few hours of working in my room, my family left and got lunch at Cracker Barrel. We picked my roommate Elise up from the airport and then headed to Target. My mom and I both were exhausted, tired, and emotional leaving there. We ran by a home supply store before Elise and I went back to our room. My family went to their hotel to rest before waking up and telling me bye. That was another day I would never desire to relive again. Elise and I had walked to the bookstore, gotten our books, and then hung out with my family near the welcome center. We took a few pictures and then hugged one another in a parking lot one last time. 

Although I was living in a miracle, saying goodbye to my parents and sweet siblings came with a lot of unknowns. It was in the middle of a pandemic. I would be living about five hours away. I honestly had a fear of never being able to see them again. It sounds dramatic but there are many thoughts twirling around a college student’s mind whenever leaving home for the first time. I had trusted in the Lord to carry me to Liberty. I trusted Him to be my everything as I lived there. I believed that I would see His goodness in the land of the living. I believed He would be faithful despite any circumstances that could happen.

Covid quickly hit my hall in the first few weeks of the semester. We had gone on a hall hike to Cole Mountain. The friend I rode with and hung out with on the hike was experiencing symptoms but had not noticed it was Covid yet. After coming down the mountain nauseous, eating more McDonalds than I ever have before, and placing “wildflowers” (weeds that cause allergic reactions) near my bed, I was notified of my need to quarantine. I then went through the stressful process of notifying my friends of the situation, going to get tested, and packing up my necessities to spend fourteen days in a location off campus. I did not get Covid. I had no symptoms or fever. While I still had to quarantine in my room for the period of time, Liberty changed the rule of negative tested individuals having to leave campus. The Lord worked it out in perfect timing for me to stay in my room instead of moving to a Covid facility off campus.

The first day of classes was the most powerful. All of the students in the School of Divinity gathered together at the tower steps. Our professors led us in prayer over our year, praying for the Lord to protect our campus and praying for Jesus to move as He desired. My friends Grace, Mia, and I all gathered together in a circle and prayed over one another. I was in tears, changed my outfit a few times that day, and finally found all of my classrooms. I had a few sweet phone calls from loved ones at home and people who were checking in on me. I was first experiencing having family in two different states and in two different ways.

The Lord introduced me to Mia even before the first day of school began. I had been hanging out in my hall’s common room meeting people, having fun at orientation events, and just getting dinner with strangers. Whenever I was in a meeting for the School of Divinity, I talked with Mia. We found out that we had the same major and lived on the same hall! The Lord is so faithful and is involved in the details of our lives. Since Covid was a reality, Liberty did not allow students to visit any hall except the one they lived on. Mia and I hung out for the first time in her room, shared our testimonies, and talked for about two hours. We also realized that we were in many of the same classes for first semester. We had no clue how close we would become over the year.

Campus community is a weekly gathering of our student body at Liberty. It is not mandated but is given as an amazing opportunity for students to take advantage of. We meet together to worship, pray, and hear the Word of the Lord preached. I remember being overwhelmed looking out at all of my brothers and sisters in Christ as they worshipped Jesus in our football stadium. Our campus pastor led and spoke from his heart. He was vulnerable, honest, and committed to serving Jesus with us. He shared his life with us. One of the most impactful nights of campus community was when Levi Lusko came to speak. I was battling impatience and the timeline of my expectations not being a reality. While speaking and sharing some words from Charles Spurgeon, he said, “If God refuses to give you the silver you ask for, it is because He wants to give you the gold you didn’t know you needed. If He says no to the gold you prayed for, it is because He intends to pay you in diamonds. If God ever withholds something from your request, it is because He knows you need something you do not even have the words or language to articulate.” This was a pivotal moment in my journey of laying down my expectations in order to watch God exceed them.

Mia and I both had dinner at the rot (our school’s dining hall) with our RS (resident shepherd) friend Grace! Grace pursued us, loved us like Jesus, and always exuded the joy of the Lord. Grace later approached me and let me know that our hall needed another community group leader. Liberty has a tier of leaders who serve the student body through the Office of Spiritual Development. I was shocked yet thankful to the Lord for approaching me with an opportunity to do ministry at Liberty. After serving in different ways at home, I had prayed for opportunities to love those around me at school-whether those opportunities would come with a title or not. I had even applied to a program that is not through the OSD. After submitting my application, I prayed for the Lord to close the door if that was not the route He had for me. Grace’s conversation with me happened right after that. I applied to be a community group leader and spent an hour sharing my heart in the interview with Emma and Grace. I was hired and agreed to fulfill the role of loving girls, but I had no clue how stretching and refining the process would be. Through weekly meetings with the OSD, I was being poured into but also showed up in need of fuel. I was able to attend leadership teachings, days in the prayer chapel, hall leader rallies, and a weekly Bible study with the other community group leaders on my hall. We gathered together with our brother hall leaders occasionally as well. It was a refining, enlightening, and encouraging process getting to have conversations with my brothers in Christ. I was inspired by their dedication to ministry and enjoyed learning how guys reach other guys uniquely. We were able to learn from one another. 

I was entrusted with a total of six girls first semester. I was figuring out the structure and style of community groups as I had never been in one myself. I was only one year older than the girls I led and did life with. We met in the stairwell of our building for most of first semester due to Covid precautions. I earned the right to speak into my girls’ lives by being consistent in my own example and by reaching out to them regularly. Leading a community group on Wednesday nights at 10pm was a lot different than other ministries I have led. Community groups are circles. They involve doing life together and discussing the messages shared at campus community. I realized that I was doing life WITH my girls. It was not a ministry of me preparing a sermon to stand up and give to them. My life with them was the sermon. Jesus was the main character. Their voices needed to be heard. I was challenged in being available to my girls almost 24/7. I counted it an honor to be the one they called whenever hardship was happening or whenever advice was needed. I will never forget the moments I was able to spend with them. We walked through so much together that I cannot even write about. We were honest with one another and experienced the Holy Spirit working in the midst of heartbreak, hurt, pain, and loss.

I enjoyed trying out the coffee shops of Lynchburg starting with my first friend coffee date with Breea! Homework was more fun whenever having a different environment and a cup of coffee at my availability. I also started making time to be alone at LU bookstore’s Starbucks. Before my meetings and classes on Mondays, I went there and had dates with Jesus, wrote, sometimes studied, talked with people, and edited photos. It was a time where I could be creative and have a getaway from my normal routine. 

The Lord used the Barrick family to deeply impact my life this year as well. Their story is one full of seeing God birth a ministry from a devastating circumstance. All members of the family were taken to the hospital after a terrible car accident many years ago. None of them were expected to live. Jen (who is the daughter of Linda and Andy Barrick) experienced trauma to her brain. Whenever she could not remember things or communicate, she was still able to pray and talk to Jesus in the hospital. Her spirit was not tainted by her physical impairments. I heard their family speak three times during my year at Liberty. Jesus used them through the empowerment of His Holy Spirit to speak life into my soul whenever it was worn out, discouraged, or under attack. Their reliance on the Spirit of God makes their ministry impactful.

Other special moments from first semester included prayer chapel times with my friend Emily, having visits from my friend Jonathan, and walking around campus in the afternoon with Elise.

My professors taught me the holiness of God’s Word and how dearly I should treasure it. I was shown the importance of the local church and how it is God’s plan A for restoring the world. There is no plan B. I enjoyed getting alone with the Lord at our school’s pond. It reminded me of home and was a place of retreat. In the fall, I was able to win two football tickets to watch our Liberty flames play!

The Lord allowed me to see my family again at the end of September! It was fun yet interesting showing them my new home and catching up on how their lives had been continuing in our home in NC! We had many FaceTime checkins, phone calls, and texts in between visits.

My friends and I got acquainted with fire drills and our school experiencing power outages all in the same week. My going away gift from my granddad was put to good use. He had gotten me a flash light!

Elise was the main character in her play, Mia and I shared a love for Texas Roadhouse, ate Millies and Rookies quite often, and started our obsession with “oil shows!” I met so many friends and people whom the Lord ordained to place in front of me. Hallie was one of them! As Hallie, Mia, and I all sat outside of the bookstore’s Starbucks, I was in tears seeing Jesus answer years of prayers. He was giving me the people He always had in mind to intertwine my life with for His glory!

Christmas break arrived sooner than I had anticipated but it was a much needed time of rest and rejuvenation! My body crashed whenever I came home. I was sick for a little while but thankfully got better! My mom redid my hair the night I came home. I was able to enjoy church with my family and going to favorite local coffee shops with my sister. She is a senior this year and I loved having the break to live next to her. I wanted to be present for her season of senior year. My brother and his girlfriend were fun to hang out with too! While at home, I was able to catch up with friends and girls I had in Cultivate girls ministry. My family celebrated Christmas and saw loved ones even though it looked different than normal. We appreciated time with loved ones we were able to see more. Right before I left home to head back to Liberty, my siblings and I enjoyed a cold day at the beach! We also celebrated the life of my great grandma Pearlie who left earth to be with Jesus.

Both mom and dad drove me back to Liberty for my spring semester! They were able to go have a little romantic getaway! Mia, Elise, and I were still trying out local churches in the Lynchburg area and all of us ended up deciding to attend and serve at Thomas Road Baptist Church second semester. That was one of the best decisions I have made. I trusted the leadership and sound teaching of Thomas Road having a few of my professors on staff there. I needed a church family to do life with and serve alongside of. I longed to be consistent in being with a body of believers and getting to know individuals. Since I am majoring in Christian Leadership and Church Ministries with a cognate in Women’s Leadership, I get to work with churches as a part of my curriculum. Mrs. Debbie Miller at Thomas Road kindly welcomed me onto her team in the Women’s Life department. I love her and learned so much about leading women just by observing her life. She welcomed Mia, myself, and other women into her home and truly practiced hospitality. She was hospitable inside and outside of her home. Mrs. Jamie Bullman opened her arms up to me weekly and was a mother figure to me. I got to do life with women older and learn from Mrs. Janet Martin. She is a dear friend, mentor, and coworker for God’s Kingdom. I was invited into women’s homes, studied the book of James, and grew in my knowledge of inductive Bible study.

I strived to make my little room a home open to the people who desired to come in. Many hours of my life at school were spent cleaning! I was privileged to sit with girls and open up God’s Word. I loved seeing their eyes radiate with hunger seeking more of Him. Mia and I explored many food options and made sure our bellies were full. She taught me how to eat more healthy for the glory of God. She also taught me how to workout in the gym. I am thankful for her holistic lifestyle and example to me and many others. 

In January, our campus and Lynchburg experienced a lot of snow! Although classes were canceled a few times, we basically scooted across ice to go eat at the rot! It was a fun time trying to navigate walking around campus with friends. 

In February, my birthday was celebrated in a way that made me feel most loved! I was curious how birthdays are away from home and family. The Lord gave me more family in a new home that showed me His love in deep ways! My mom, cousin Temple, and sister Darby also came and visited me! We went on many adventures, got our nails done, ate at Texas Roadhouse (our favorite birthday spot), shopped, and hung out on campus. It was a short but sweet visit with them! My friend Mia decorated the hall and surprised me on my actual birthday. She bought us matching coats (which we did end up wearing at the same time)! I was overwhelmed by the love of family and friends at Liberty and at home. 

My friend Jessica and I were able to grow in friendship during the spring semester as well! She has such a passionate heart for the Lord and rejoices in Him daily. She is a blessing to my life.

Over a weekend when Mia and Elise were away from campus, I got a big matcha coffee from Dunkin and curled up in my room with the book of John. I was earnestly seeking the Lord for wisdom and direction. 

Around March, I met my resident shepherd partners for next year! I had been in the process of applying to be a resident shepherd over Christmas break. The Lord entrusted me with a position and placed me where I had felt led! My RS partners and I were given many tasks to accomplish immediately after meeting one another. We spent the whole semester conducting different interviews trying to build a team for next year while faithfully serving our current teams. 

On March 6th, my treasured friend Rebekah married the love of her life! I went home for a short wedding weekend! It was such a sweet time getting to witness God’s purity, favor, and blessings over her and Will. They honor the Lord and I was privileged to stand by them on their special day! I was also able to have a meal with my family and grandparents one night before heading back to school! I slept for most of my time home.

My friend Emily and I were able to watch a baseball game together in the spring semester and enjoy spending time together! I made many trips to the concession stand and enjoyed some warm hot chocolate sitting in the cold!

My community group changed a bit as two of my girls decided to do Liberty online! I also got a new girl to do life with after they left! My five girls and I did one on ones to catch up and talk, met together weekly for group discussion over campus community, ate at Cracker Barrel, went to Rookies, had a facial day, and enjoyed movie nights! 

Easter break was another big gift of my year! I was feeling exhausted and almost burned out from all I had going on (all good things!) in Lynchburg. Both mom and dad came to get me, and being at home for a long weekend felt like a huge vacation! Mom, dad, and I got ice cream before even getting home. Mom and I got our nails done. I saw the baby chickens my family had gotten. I soaked up family time and was able to take my sister’s senior pictures! I designed her announcement card and we got everything ordered! 

Heading back to Liberty, my dad dropped me off at a friend’s house locally so that I could ride with her! We stopped at Starbucks and I got the best matcha of my life. Leaving home this time was not so hard. I was more in the pattern of it and knew it was what was required of me. Once I got back to school, schoolwork almost paralyzed me. I had a “come to Jesus” meeting begging Him to help me finish the semester. On top of all of my ministry things in multiple areas, I took 18 credit hours of classes all year! The Lord was my strength and helped me survive. While I did not feel like I was thriving most days, He sustained me. Mia and I continued to go to Rookies (the best ice cream cookie place ever) and shop at Target in order to have little breaks from work! We enjoyed a cake decorating class with ladies at Thomas Road and also tried out a lot of different Lynchburg coffee shops. I am so thankful for the Lord giving me a best friend who loves Him passionately. Mia helped me grow in healthy confrontation over the year. I felt like a true adult handling different circumstances and navigating them with the Holy Spirit’s help!

My friend Mikaylah was a gift getting to know this past year too! She is so creative, humble, and wise! I loved going to the mall and getting coffee with her!

Mia’s birthday was a highlight of the year! She is so loved and also poured into her friends on her big day. While eating smoothie bowls, she picked out a fruit of the Spirit she saw most evident in her friends’ lives. 

As the semester and school year came to a close, we drove up the Blue Ridge Parkway and celebrated a friend named Claire! After standing in awe of God’s handiwork in nature, I thought of how He views us humans as His most beautiful piece of creation! That is mind blowing to me!

In the last few weeks of the semester, I took Emily’s graduation photos, navigated a few different situations alongside of my pal Mia, and compiled a Bible study project that was fifty pages! I was also able to get in a twenty page Bible study the day after the biggest one was due. Many coffees were consumed as I stayed in the library until closing hours. 

The last main highlight of my year was getting to celebrate Emma Mae Jenkins as she walks into a season of marriage with Josh this summer! A few years ago, I only knew Emma from social media, but I greatly admired her. I thought it would be so cool to be friends with her in “real life!” The Lord is so faithful in connecting us with siblings in Him. He also does not overlook our hearts’ desires. I no longer view Emma or her friends through a celebrity lens. They are sisters I have the joy of doing life with. Emma often reminds others that we all have platforms that the Lord entrusts us with. Whether we have a million followers or five, we are to be faithful with what the Lord has entrusted to us. I am thankful for these older sisters who pour love, God’s Word, and wisdom into my life. Mia and I both love Emma, Karsyn, Hannah-Mae, Millie, Abby, and the rest of their pals!

On our last nights in Commons 2, Mia and I self tanned, watched movies, and packed up! Our families came to get us on May 12th! I have been at home trying to unpack, settle in, and recharge since being home! I am thankful for the Lord and His million little miracles wrapped up in my first year at Liberty University! He receives the glory for the memories shared and the ones He and I will always remember. He is my strength.

“I love you, Lord, my strength.”

Psalm 18:1 (CSB)

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