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Square One Senior

I feel a mix of relief, nervous jitters, and unbelief as I say these words in my head: tomorrow is my last first day of college. Ever. 

I gradually begin to turn off my lights. I flick off my room’s switch. But I leave the lamp on for a while. I let it linger before I slowly hear the familiar click as I turn the knob. I have a small candle burning. I try to relax and decide to turn my thoughts outward and I begin to journal.

JANUARY 21, 2018. Scribbles of cursive tied together with print letters follow. It’s a mixture of prayers and conversations with myself. Some lines are addressed to Jesus. Other lines spill the contents of the various emotions I felt throughout the day. I try to recall the moments I felt most loved, most grateful. Anything to realign my perspective that I have it so good. That I have no room in my vocabulary for any words that remotely signals distress, pain, or suffering.

But my thoughts keep cycling around and around and I finally let my pen write the words my heart is aching to set free: I am afraidI am afraid of turning out my last dim source of light to face the still of night. Here alone in my thoughts, I have no option but to admit that what I feel in the pit of my stomach is not anything but fear.

I am so afraid of the mountain I see ahead of me. I don’t want the semester to begin because once it does, the change that is coming will be set in motion. No stopping it. As I take deep breaths and repeat, “One day at a time Izel” images of the past begin to flood my mind…..

Knowing zero English in preschool but making the girls in my class play kitchen with me. How I used to cry every single day of kindergarten because my mom was always the last parent to come pick me up. Feeling like a million bucks in fourth grade because I got picked to speak on stage during our all school program. And then the middle school years: my teacher encouraging me and trying to convince me that I NEEDED to become a doctor someday because I aced anatomy and human sciences. Trying (and failing) to start a harmonica band. Being called “twinkle toes” because I was the star female player of my class for flag football (or the only girl who wanted to play flag football with a bunch of sweaty prepubescent boys.)

Working my butt off in high school. AP US HISTORY (enough said). Learning what true friends were. My terrible case of senioritis and how I managed to walk across Lovett Auditorium flawlessly in 4 inch (blue) heels to get my high school diploma. Slowly discovering myself in college and realizing that I had no earthly idea what was coming for me these next four years. So much growth. Pain, joy, and authentic relationships. And stress. All the stress. My first clinical patient and how I did exactly the opposite of what I learned in lab from day one even though my nursing professors warned us and graciously repeated to bend our knees not our backs.

It can’t be possible. But then again, this has to come. I’ve worked for this. This is the very last stretch. Then I begin to write again — Jesus I am so afraid. You have the wrong girl. Am I even cut out to be a nurse? A missionary? I can’t even remember what I can’t remember. Oh my gosh. I am going to fail my NCLEX. I can’t serve as a FOCUS missionary. My prayer life is dry as heck right now. Jesus pick somebody else please. Why me? I feel like a phony. I’m going to be teaching younger nursing students and I STILL FEEL LIKE I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING. I don’t know if I can do this. Any of it. I begin to realize how much of a big baby I’m sounding like but the thought of leaving my home and family is enough to paralyze me.

Okay. That’s enough of being dramatic I feel Jesus say. I mean I know I made you a bit dramatic but that’s a lil’ much considering 1) The changes are not going to come all at once like snow crashing down from a rooftop and 2) Do you not trust Me? 

All I can mutter is a quiet, I know. But do I really know?

Recently Jesus has been shattering all my preconceived ideas and beliefs of how I thought I knew what this faith thing was and that I had all the boxes checked and all the right answers. “Let’s start again. But this time, learn with your heart, not your head. Everything has been thrown out the window. You were praying for eyes that see, a heart that feels, a mind that knows. Why do you look so surprised when I freely give you what you ask for? Don’t you see that it’s my delight to give you these things?”

So I feel like a senior that’s starting back at square one. This faith thing Izel, it’s not about numbers. It’s not about saving the world. It’s going to be hard. But to get a good foundation, you have to lay solid groundwork first. And slowly, I begin to see. The shoddy little shack I’d built myself labeled Faith looks lopsided and fragile. It’s patched together with other people’s beliefs and perspectives. The cement looks like it was slapped on much too thin then hastily spread about, and the bricks look out of line, carelessly piled one on top of the other. There’s no solid lock on the door. The windows are too small to let in much light, let alone allow others to get a good view of the inside.

And I see how gentle He is. Smiling as He shakes His head. The joy in His eyes as He begins to take everything apart and lay a new foundation. One by one the bricks go up. He lays down the rectangular pieces of red earth — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I glance at the bucket He’s pulling the cement out of. The side of it reads “Trust.”

I smile back with tears in my eyes. Tears that speak what my mouth can’t utter. Knowing that in this house, I have all I need and more. Much more in fact. An abundance of life and love that wants to be shared, but needs to be built up first by hands stronger and more capable than mine. That I don’t have the keys that hold the blueprint.

But maybe that’s a good things since I don’t know the first thing about architecture. And that my simple task is to extend an invitation to others, welcoming them inside to give them warmth, light, and shelter along their own journeys (and admitting that I did no interior decorating of my own, and referring them to the appropriate Source.) “See, you have the easy job Izel.”

And just like that, I blow out my candle.

Bring it on nursing school. Let’s. Do. This.

Izel

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