I had a very different college experience than I imagined I would. The daughter of two college sweethearts and Baylor alums, I spent much time on the Baylor campus frolicking around the football stadium and pressing my face against the glass of the Bear cage. When my older sister confirmed she would be a Baylor Bear come Fall, I realized that in four years, I would follow in her footsteps and put on the green and gold as well. When my older brother committed to play football for Baylor, it only solidified my fate. I had always been more interested in Art than anything else, and I was nervous that maybe this wasn't exactly Baylor's specialty, but I never paid much attention to the knot this tied my brain into- I was to be the next Singletary graduate, and I would surely continue the trend.
I spent the last two years of high school making terrible decisions, spending all my time and energy on a doomed relationship rather than my studies. All the free space in my brain was taken up by the enormous effort it took me to lie (and remember a lie, and not mix up a lie.) Needless to say, my grades quickly started to slip, and I began to worry for the first time if my GPA would even grant me a chance at the school of my dreams. By senior year I had really taken to Volleyball and spent my time in a three way split: volleyball. boyfriend. art. At this point, my main concern was making sure my grades were enough to get me out of that school, and earn me a ticket to my destiny for a grand chance to start over and continue my family's legacy. Sic' Em Bears.
As you can probably tell from the build up, this "continuing my family's legacy" did not happen. Not at Baylor, anyways. In late Spring of my Senior year I found a letter addressed to me from Baylor University Admissions. This was it! I ran upstairs and closed my bedroom door, sat on the bed, tore open the envelope and began reading. "Dear Jill, we regret to inform you…"
Is this happening?
I had so heavily fallen into the comfort of my last name still ringing through the campus years after my Dad had graduated that I didn't take the time to notice that my last name wasn't strong enough to bridge the gap between my high school performance and what Baylor looks for in a student. I was crushed, humiliated, and so instantly lost with the realization that the only school I applied to had rejected me. This, friends, is not a great feeling.
In the next few weeks I was offered a Volleyball scholarship to San Jose State and a chance to pursue my dreams of being a Fashion Designer in Chicago. The scholarship offer was nice, but I had to get out of California, at least for a little bit, or I am confident I would have destroyed both myself and my future. After an underwhelming visit to the Illinois Institute of Art with my mother, I was discouraged but determined to succeed. So in August of 2008, I left home in need of fixing. I had a broken heart, a crushed spirit, and a complete loss for who I was in Christ and what He had in store for me.
The nine months I would spend attending school there would be the most transformative nine months of my life. (Except for my forming in my mama bear's womb, I guess.) I lived on my own for the very first time- which was a huge adjustment coming from a family of nine. It was very quiet, and very strange. But in that quiet I was able to find out who God was and that He loved me. I had been a believer my whole life, but I had always known God through my parents. Those nine months taught me to love Him, seek Him, and know Him for myself. I met my best friend in class, because at a wildly liberal Art College, we were both the only people looking for a church. I met the love of my life and learned how to build a Christ centered relationship. And after those nine months, I was offered another volleyball scholarship- this time at The Academy of Art University in San Francisco. I had soaked up all the knowledge, wisdom and experience Chicago had to offer me, and I was headed back to California a new woman.
That was five years ago. When I was a young girl, I had only been able to paint the image of the college experience I could create in my head. I pictured football games and parties, sororities and enormous lecture halls, dorm rooms and letterman jackets…and even though that is what I thought I wanted more than anything in the world, as always, God had a better plan for me. His plan was terrifying and confusing, unusual and uncomfortable, but here, on the other side of it, I can say that though it was all of those things, even more so it was purifying, gratifying and empowering. The way that a diamond sits stubbornly nestled in stone, unwilling to budge, hiding it’s unmatchable shine under the dirt and grime has become the illustration of my life, and the perfect illustration of my college experience. My father has called me his diamond in the rough ever since I can remember, encouraging me that even though I saw myself as dim and hidden, one day I would shine for all to see. The Lord mined me out of the stone, ever so gently, and allows me to look back on what I went through and proudly say, “It was so worth it.” This is my reminder to never fear when our plans don't work out, because God is always preparing something so much better than we can comprehend.
I will share a little more of my college experience in the next couple weeks, as I am currently preparing for my last string of college Finals. Now that is a sentence we can celebrate.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.