Danielle and Me Heading to Wheaton
Well, here it is! A little glimpse into my year at Wheaton College. I know I promised many of you I’d do this while I was actually at school, but as you can see, it didn’t quite happen as planned. But does anything?
When I last saw some of you in August 2008, I had just finished wrapping up my job as translation coordinator for Gospel Translations. Although it was hard to say goodbye to all my dear friends at Sovereign Grace Ministries, it was clear that God was calling me into a new chapter of my life. That summer, my health issues worsened, and I spent a good portion of the summer undergoing various tests at Johns Hopkins. My parents and I discussed the possibility of postponing school until spring, but God gave me faith to move ahead, and I was able to make the 11 hour drive to Wheaton, knowing I was right where He wanted me. What made it even better was that a friend decided to return to Wheaton that same semester, and we were able to drive out together. On the way there she didn’t have a place to live yet, but by the time we’d arrived she was moving into the same dorm as me.
A Home Away From Home
Originally built in 1895, Williston Hall has more charm than most dorms. It was home to both Ruth Graham and Elisabeth Elliot during their college days. I lived in a single on the third floor (yes, it was the first time I’ve ever had my own room!), and although it wasn’t ever home, it quickly became a special place to me. It’s funny the little things I miss now – the glittering icicles that adorned my window ledge outside, having windowsills where flower pots could rest, my view of Blanchard Hall’s bell tower out the window, running up and down seven flights of stairs to use the kitchen each morning (well maybe I don’t miss that one as much), time in the prayer room on the floor just above me, quiet times in the sunlit stairwells, study breaks in friend’s rooms, the smell of our RA’s homemade bread on “bread nights.” Yes, it was also a dorm complete with hall bathroom and modular furniture, but it was a special place, too.
Academics is definitely one of the top five words that would describe Wheaton College. After five and half years in the workplace, it was an adjustment to become a college student again, but I had to learn quickly or fail. My fall semester’s 12 credits consisted of Latin 101, British Literature (Early to 17th Century), and Old Testament Archeology. It might sound like a manageable plate, but believe me, it kept me hopping! If you’re a Wheaton student, you likely lean a tad (well, maybe more than a tad) towards the perfectionist, driven, overachiever side and could be prone to spend your Saturdays in the library with the rest of your fellow students. As an “older” student, I thought this wouldn’t be an issue for me, but God quickly showed me how much I needed balance. It seemed I was always studying, maybe not for that “A” but just to pass the class! God graciously taught me how to approach this issue through conversations with friends wiser than me which led to my committing one day a week as a day of rest from homework. What a gift (and a necessary one) I found that to be! The faculty at Wheaton are simply the best. They make you work hard, but they truly care about you as an individual and desire to see you growing both intellectually and spiritually. My favorite fall semester class was Brit Lit with Dr. Alan Jacobs. That may have to wait for a separate blog post, though.
Blanchard Hall Just Before Christmas
Throughout the fall, my health continued to be a struggle, but God gave me understanding and grace from my professors, and I returned home for Christmas, immensely grateful to have made it through that semester, aware that it was only His grace that brought me that far. Over break, my family and I wrestled with the question of whether I was healthy enough to go back, but come mid-January, I was back in the depths of a frigid Chicago winter. Let me just say that I’ve never been so cold in my life! Williston was always cozy and warm, and thankfully, it was centrally located and quite close to most of my classes. My sisters, Tiffany and Laura, came for back-to-back visits which was a wonderful treat. I took each of them into the city, and although they are big-city lovers, the cold was a bit more than they had anticipated.
Tiffany and Me
Spring semester meant memorizing more Latin verbs and declensions than I could keep up with, along with hours of writing, editing, and rewriting poetry, creative non-fiction, and fiction, and another semester of British Literature with the distinguished Dr. Leland Ryken, an icon at Wheaton. Creative Writing was my favorite course, but it also stretched me immensely. I don’t think I would have passed Latin 102 without the wonderful help of Julia, a grad student who ran tutoring sessions each week and spent extra time helping me, becoming a dear friend in the process. And in my humble opinion, spring semester should be called “winter semester.” Spring doesn’t make it’s entrance until finals week.
Laura and me on the steps of Williston (the temperature was actually in the teens outside – we just wanted to wear our new t-shirts)
Health, Church, & Friends
God blessed me with dear friends at Wheaton that served as a source of constant supply, encouragement, and reminders of what was true regardless of how I felt. I spent most of the school year attending College Church, just a short walk from my dorm. Though quite different from what I’ve grown up with, one thing was not different – the church was deeply committed to preaching the Gospel, and I learned a great deal from the pastors and friends of that church. Most mornings it was still a fight to get out of bed, head to class, and find the strength to keep going, but God met me there. I was so blessed by the girls on my hall and the other two floors below mine (as well as other friends from other places on campus) who would come by to study, talk, or pray with me. In my most difficult moments, they were there to bring comfort and truth. If that’s you, and you’re reading this, my friend, thank you. That semester proved to be the most difficult on many fronts, but God carried me through both the unexpected and the daily struggles. My professors graciously allowed me to take incompletes and finish coursework from home over the summer. After saying goodbye to dear friends who were graduating, I returned home.
Jen, Me, and Marie
Thank you for praying for me and for every phone call, email, note, and text of encouragement. It meant so much, and God sustained me with your faithful care and prayers. They were answered, and how grateful I am to have had your support in prayer.
As I sit here writing this report, I can only marvel at His goodness. He truly is faithful to His promises. There were many moments when I thought I would have to quit, but He always supplied grace for that moment and each moment that followed. New grace and hope always waited around the next corner to be given just when I most needed it. I know I learned so much more than Latin, literature, Old Testament and how to write better. I learned that Christ is sufficient all things, and his Church is much bigger than I ever dreamed. What an incredible thing it is to have Him as our Shepherd.