My room hadn’t changed a bit. The same books and photos lined my shelves – even the post-it notes I used as reminders in high school still stared at me from the mirror, making me feel as if I had a long-forgotten assignment left to turn in.
Standing there, with all the familiarity of home embracing me, I felt like perhaps the past year had been a dream. Perhaps I hadn’t really moved five hours from my family and spent all those nights in a musty dorm trying to fall asleep to the sounds of an unfamiliar city. Perhaps I hadn’t spent all those hours studying for exams and learning how to function on a few hours of sleep and several cups of coffee. Perhaps I hadn’t found a community of friends who strive to love like Jesus or a church where I encountered Him almost everyday. Perhaps my world hadn’t actually changed at all.
But it had. And now I found myself facing another season of change and wondering how to bring my two worlds together.
The summer after my freshman year kept me rejoicing in the reality of being home with my family and free from studying, yet longing for the embrace of my friends and the spiritual home I had found at school. Looking back, I see how God walked with me during this season through prayer, exploration and love.
Prayer: Whether I had twenty minutes or two, taking the time to invite God into my life each day gave Him the chance to journey through summer with me. While some days were better than others, I knew that all the goodness I witnessed in the past year had been rooted in prayer, and if I wanted it to continue, I had to keep my heart open to receiving the love Jesus wanted to give me. So if you find yourself feeling something similar, stick a post-it note on your mirror to remind yourself to pray. Take a walk as the sun sinks beneath the sky, or go for a run as it rises. Sing along to your favorite worship songs as you prepare for the day. No matter where you are in your faith, our Father is longing to embrace your brokenness and welcome you home.
Exploration: Before last summer, I had never been on an airplane nor set foot outside the U.S., but God really likes pushing us outside our comfort zones. So of course, He nudged me to drive from Texas to Canada with three of my best friends and then board my first airplane ever – alone – to get back home. Talk about learning to trust amidst the unknown. Not long after, I boarded another airplane, but this time bound for Mexico with my family, where I found God in the deep blues of the ocean and in conversations of broken Spanish with the locals. Aside from adventures abroad, I saw God revealing Himself to me in the moments when I stopped to look at my home and really see the place I thought I’d known all my life. Wherever you find yourself this summer, discover more about the world around you. Maybe you can make a day trip to a pilgrimage site or perhaps there’s a hidden gem down the street from your house. Watch for God to surprise you with something new when you feel stuck in the old. Let the beauty of your surroundings point you to heaven.
Love: The best part of being home for the summer was catching up with my family and friends from high school, while the worst part was being away from my friends from college. A crippling paradox, but God leads us to the right people at the right time, whether they’re the ones changing our lives or we’re the ones touching theirs. Summer gave me the chance to love and appreciate my family after a year of going through life without them constantly by my side. I was able to share the things I learned at college with my hometown while also experiencing my community from a new perspective. So spend time with your family and reconnect with your old friends. Look for Jesus in them. Share your story with them and let them see how you’ve grown. Join a bible study, or start a new one with your friends at home. Serve your community and find a way to use what you’ve experienced at college to give back to your home. Stay in touch with your new friends over the summer. Invest in the people God places in your path and let Jesus love them through you.
Wherever you find yourself this summer, hang tight. Trust that God is with you, ready to brave the journey by your side.