So I actually wrote this farewell blog the day before graduation. Silly me didn't realize how crazy those last two days would be, and I completely ran out of time to post the blog before Saturday. Here is what I wrote though, along with some final words...
“I graduate tomorrow.
That, my friends, is one crazy thought. All of us graduates have put so much effort into these last four years, and tomorrow all of that effort will manifest itself. It will show in the regalia we will wear, the uncontainable smile that won’t leave our face all day, and the diploma we will receive.
Hands down, these have been the best four years of my life. I don’t know that I ever told you guys my story of picking Liberty…honestly, I think I was saving it for this moment. I never wanted to go to a Christian college. You can ask my mom if you don’t believe me. I wanted the “real” college experience, I didn’t want to feel sheltered, and I didn’t want to live on some little Podunk college campus. But throughout my whole college decision process, little obstacles kept popping up in my applications to other schools (like one not even receiving it), and God kept leading my heart to Liberty. When I first got to Liberty I’ll admit I felt suffocated by the rules, and I did not understand why I, as an aviation major at the time, needed to take Bible classes like New and Old Testament. However, God kept working in my heart and on my attitude. I am so glad that phase of bah-humbug-ness did not last for long.
Eventually I learned to not only appreciate, but to love, everything that makes Liberty, well, Liberty. Over the last four years Liberty became my second home. And that’s what makes graduating so difficult. At regular state schools, you’d be sad about leaving your friends, but you would not be sad about leaving the campus or the faculty. Here at Liberty, the entire campus atmosphere is like that of a family. We mourn tragedies together and we rejoice in celebrations together. Graduating doesn’t just mean leaving your friends, it means leaving your family. It means leaving home.”
Since writing that original post, I have actually now moved all my stuff to where I will be attending graduate school for the next two years. After walking around the campus, interacting with various people, and looking at the typical student life, I am missing Liberty more than ever. Nothing here is as good as it was at Liberty. And it probably never will be. For me, Liberty was a utopia of sorts – I was safe, I was surrounded by likeminded people, I didn’t have to worry about compatibility of lifestyles or morals, I also didn’t have to worry about coming home to a drunk roommate or a boyfriend spending the night. I was surrounded by professors and faculty who truly loved and cared for me. The girls on my hall encouraged my spiritual walk, and it wasn’t odd to hear snippets of a theological discussion on my way to class or see strangers praying for each other.
However God doesn’t call us to create little communities of Christians who ignore the lost people of this world. And Liberty recognizes that. They realize that most of us will be gone in four years, and so they use the time they do have to train us to be Champions for Christ. There is a difference between a “Liberty Christian” and a “regular Christian.” I 100% believe I would not be the same person I am today had I not followed God's calling to go to Liberty. Now I know that my faith is my own and that it is rooted deep. One thing is for sure, going to Liberty was the best decision I ever made.
Graduation day - God blessed us with four years rooming together and was so faithful to get us to this point. We did it!
Nevermind that it was the weekend before my huge internship project was due and my hardest final – there were special “senior status” activities to be a part of!
The first one was Liberty and Alluvion’s stage production of Tarzan. Okay, so technically this isn’t just for seniors…but it was the last chance I’d have to see one of the Liberty’s awesome productions. And it was totally worth it. Every show I see I am completely blown away by the talent here. Before the new Tower Theater was built, I remember the old room in the music hall that used to be called the theater. It was so small….everyone was crammed inside and the plays never had any set changes because there wasn’t enough space nor was the budget big enough to create more.
Now, though, the seats are plush and comfortable, the aesthetics are welcoming, and the theater department has the resources to put on high quality plays. They’ve got room for multiple sets, a budget to provide excellent costumes, and even rigging for flying. The actors and actresses have so much talent as well. My favorite character was Jane’s dad, he was so funny and really took on his character! Friday evening was also one of the talk back shows. This is when the main characters come out after the show to sit and answer questions from the audience. The director, stage manager, light coordinator, costume designer, and set designer also answered questions. I had never been to a talk back performance, and it was really neat to hear about the process of putting on a production like Tarzan. The students also explained all the preparation they had to go through – like watching a lot of YouTube videos in order to emanate apes and exercising every day to increase their endurance for dancing and singing. Even though I won’t be here next year, I was excited to see that their big productions next year will include Mary Poppins in the spring and in the fall…..Les Miserables!!!
On Saturday, I did do something specifically reserved for seniors. For the past six years Jerry, Jr. and his wife Becki have opened up their home to the graduating seniors for an event known as the Senior Picnic. This year they hosted a Hawaiian-themed picnic organized by Student Activities where there was delicious food, t-shirts, horseback riding, volleyball, a Ferris wheel, big inflatable toys, mini golf, a photo booth, a Ferris wheel, canoeing/kayaking on the lake, and fireworks. The best part of all? It’s completely free. Seriously, if you don’t go to the senior picnic you’re missing out. We even got to tour Jerry and Becki’s house, which was like a Pinterest board in real life. Absolutely stunning.
I had such a great time hanging out with friends, making some of the final memories of my time here at Liberty, and reflecting on how cool of a school I go to. At other colleges, kids barely know the name of their Chancellor/President let alone know what he looks like. Here, not only do we know exactly who our Chancellor is, he invites us over to his house. Let that sink in for a sec. It’s one of the reasons why we have coolest Chancellor ever.
“All I saw was white.”
That was the reaction of a fellow student when we hit our first class IV rapid. This past weekend I went on Liberty’s white water rafting trip through Student Activities. I love that Liberty offers this trip every semester, and the price is the best you’ll find. For a mere $40 you’ll get to spend the night at Alpine Ministries, have a quick breakfast, and then hit the water for a full day of white water rafting, which includes a stop for lunch along the river. You definitely won’t find a better deal than that.
Last semester I wrote about the trip down the Upper Gauley, so this semester I decided to take one for the team and let you know about the spring trip on the New River. Also important about this trip was that it would be Courtney’s first time white water rafting. We took off Friday afternoon and arrived in West Virginia early enough that this time we could have a legit bonfire! Needless to say, I rediscovered my love for s’mores and got my hand completely covered in sticky marshmallow-y goodness.
Oh and just F.Y.I.: one blanket is perfectly fine for the fall trip, but you’re gonna wanna bring at least two in the spring. Or a really warm sleeping bag. Anyway after a very cold night, we were ready to tackle the rapids that awaited us in the New River. We started out on some baby ones to get us used to working with each other and then we hit a class IV rapid before stopping for lunch. I asked Courtney how she was doing and she responded with an enthusiastic, “This is so much fun! I love it!” After lunch we set out for the Lower New River which had more higher classed rapids. The Upper New River was a good warm up, but I was ready to hit some crazy rapids. My favorite rapid out of the entire trip was called the Keaney’s. There’s an upper, middle, and lower part that you kind of hit all at once, and this was definitely the one that soaked us the most. It was awesome. And before the trip was over we found ourselves navigating two more class V rapids.
Just like with the Upper Gauley trip, there was an opportunity to swim a rapid as well as to jump off a rock into the river. I would encourage you to take advantage of both. White water rafting is one my favorite outdoors-y activities and between Liberty’s fall and spring trips you can totally find one to suite your style. If rafting is new for you and the idea of it kind of makes you nervous, I would suggest taking the spring trip. The rapids aren’t quite as crazy, and everyone considers it a good “introduction” trip. If, however, you’re an adventure seeker like myself, you like to see how far you can push your adrenaline, or you live by the motto “Go big or go home,” you must go on the Gauley trip. You won’t regret it.
Sports are a big thing in college, and a popular activity for students to watch – seriously, if you don’t go to at least one football game, you’re missing out. However many people may not consider all the work that these athletes put into their preparation for game day. This semester God basically handed me an opportunity to intern with Liberty’s men’s soccer team. Even with 6:30 a.m. practices and super cold days that made my fingers numb, I have loved every minute I got to spend with these guys. And throughout the semester I got to observe some pretty neat things...
Early Mornings: Right from the start these guys were waking up for early morning training sessions that began before the sun was even up. And every morning it was like watching a sports movie in real life. Ya know, the ones where the underdog wins the championship in a come from behind win that just inspires and moves the whole audience. The work ethic, drive, and teamwork these guys displayed was incredible. I tried to do a couple of their workouts–in the privacy of my own dorm room of course–and I couldn’t even do half of what they were putting out every morning.
Quality Leadership: When I started this internship, I knew next to nothing about these guys. However it literally took me only one practice to figure out which guys were the leaders. They were the guys who everyone else deferred to, they were the ones pushing themselves to do harder variations of the same exercises, they were the ones encouraging everyone else to push harder, and when a teammate was close to quitting they were the ones pulling him up by the waistband of his shorts (true story!) to complete just one more push-up.
Overcoming Injuries: Throughout the course of the semester I saw plenty of guys sit out practices and games in order to nurse an injury - from a sprained foot to torn/strained muscles, stress fractures to some long complicated medical names. However sitting out didn’t mean being lazy. These guys would do push-ups, sit-ups, light jogging, or ride a stationary bike in order to keep their fitness level up. It was the coolest thing to see a guy who had been sitting out for a while finally get the OK to play.
Heart Rates: This was the actual part of my internship, all the other stuff was just a bonus :) During circuit exercises and fitness tests, the guys would wear heart rate monitors that would record things like their maximum heart rate, average heart race, average pace, and training effect. It was my job to then take the data from these watches and put it into a personal profile for each player.
God-centered: And on top of all that, I also got to see God in this team. Every practice and game started and ended with prayer, and the coaches were incredibly supportive with the guys and would constantly be reminding them to play for the Lord. During the games I saw how tough it can be to maintain a Christian testimony when you’re playing against teams who don’t have to worry about representing Christ.
A couple of weeks into my internship, my supervisor asked me, “So what have you learned so far?” Without skipping a beat I responded with a laugh, “That I could never be a soccer player.” And it’s true. Few people have the dedication and the mental toughness to do what it takes to maintain a spot on the team at this level. I have thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with these guys, and I am really looking forward to seeing how they do in the fall.
It wasn’t until I came to Liberty that I got hooked on beach volleyball. It all started when I joined an indoor team for intramural volleyball. Through that I met some awesome people who invited me to play beach volleyball with them once the weather got warm. I’m pretty sure we were out on the courts every weekend, and even some days during the week. At the time, Liberty only had two courts and, to be honest, they were in pretty bad shape. Nonetheless, I have some great memories out on those courts. A couple years ago, with the impending destruction of David’s Place (where the Center for Worship and the Department of Ministry Teams used to be) and thus the volleyball courts right next to it, Liberty decided to give us students a completely new set of courts.
And just bragging on Liberty for a sec (but then again, when do I not brag on Liberty?), the new courts are absolutely amazing. I’ve seen the courts at other colleges and even at public recreation facilities, and they are not nearly as nice as the courts here. I’m definitely going to miss them when I graduate! Since the addition of these new courts, sand volleyball has been added to the long list of intramural sports that Liberty now offers. And not only did Liberty give the students new courts, they also built additional courts for the new club volleyball teams to use so their practices won't interfere with students’ activities.
On a nice day, the courts are packed with kids playing pick up games and even tournament type play. It’s a great way to meet people and to build a network of other volleyball loving friends. This semester I took a volleyball class as part of the requirements for my major (I know, best major everrr), and through that met people who invited me to join an intramural beach volleyball team. My answer? Uh heck to the yes! The first couple of games were really really cold, but then spring finally decided to make itself known in Lynchburg and now we have our first play-off game on Sunday!