Hello again Friends!!
About this time every year I pull out my laptop and a blanket (because I have a macbook and it’s always super cold on my pale summer legs) and I write a post dedicated to college freshman. I grew so much as a college student and I have a heart to encourage students in where God is leading them during such a crucial time as those 4(ish) years on a college campus. This year, I thought it might be fun to hear from someone who just finished her freshman year – my sweet friend Margaret Anne.
Margaret Anne Byrd is one of my favorite people on the planet. I first met Margaret Anne and the entire Byrd clan when I was asked to lead worship at children’s camp in 2010 – the year her mom (one of the funniest people I’ve ever met!!) coined the phrase “Choices were made…” and then that was the theme for camp the very next year but that’s a story for another day. Since I met Margaret Anne, I have always prayed that God would give her a heart to serve the Lord in missions and I can’t exactly tell you why but I have just always seen her big heart and knew that she would fall in love with the cities and cultures and people if she ever took the leap to go on an international trip. I was thrilled when she shared about a trip to Haiti and was honored to help her raise funds to get there.
The reason I asked Margaret Anne to write this piece is not just because she just finished her freshman year – it’s because I believe she did it well. So many times I see college students who are so concentrated on their major (which they’ll likely change in 3 semesters) or even in finding a husband (live your life, he’ll be worth the wait!) that they miss out on just experiencing college and living in the moment. As much as social media will allow (I mean, how did we really keep up with one another before the likes of instagram??) I have watched Margaret Anne just CRUSH it – loving her sorority sisters of Zeta Tau Alpha (my grandma would be so proud – she too was a ZTA at Union! 🙂 ), making incredible grades, growing in her faith and making friends that she’ll have for the rest of her life! I’m so proud of you MA!
I hope you guys love her post as much as I do! Enjoy! ❤ C
Dear college freshman,
Congratulations! As an upcoming sophomore and someone who has just been in your shoes, I can tell you that you are about to have one of the best years of your life. Freshman year is all about finding your best friends, meeting new people, and finally having the opportunity to taste freedom for the first time. To put it simply, my freshman year of college has been the best year of my life. Hands down. That doesn’t mean it was perfect and picturesque, however. There was a lot of soul-searching, lessons learned, spiritual refinement, and up-hill battles.
So, from someone who has “been there and done that,” here are my two best pieces wisdom for you as you take the next big step!
- Go with God
It seems simple, but for me, it was hard…it was SO hard. For those of you who know me, you probably know that my whole family bleeds red and blue. We are ALL die-hard Ole Miss fans. We have season tickets to games, we spend more fall weekends in Oxford, Mississippi than our own hometown, and why wouldn’t we? That’s where my whole family has attended college since the dawn of time and everyone, including myself, had always assumed that I would continue the legacy my family started years ago. It was MY plan and had always been MY plan, but I quickly realized that none of that mattered.
During spring break of my senior year, I felt a strong calling to travel to an orphanage in Williamson, Haiti with some students from Union University and my best friend. (Casey’s generous donations had a huge part of making that possible!) Because I had never done anything like that at all, I was heavily relying on the Lord’s guidance. While I was there, not only did I realize that I was called to work with missions, but I also met some of the most genuine people I have ever have known. They weren’t like many of the college kids I had known. They were so genuine, compassionate, and so incredibly intentional. They asked me about my life story and genuinely wanted to get to know me for who I really was. They were servants and they were relentless in the pursuit of God’s will for each of their lives. That’s when I knew that I was completely missing the point.
It wasn’t about me at all. It was about God’s plan and doing whatever I could to further his kingdom. I wanted to be like those college students; I wanted to be intentional, love others, and serve others. In the next couple weeks, I fought God a lot. I tried to run from my calling to Union University like Jonah tried to run from his calling to Nineveh. At the time, Union was everything I thought I didn’t want and I still wanted so badly to go be an Ole Miss Rebel. It took several weeks of uneasiness and constant internal conflict, but eventually I stopped fighting and did what I knew I was called to do…and that was to go to Union.
Despite what I had planned, I knew Union was where God wanted me to be and I realized that following him was the most important thing. I was able to experience a peace and a freedom I had never felt before. I realized what true friendship was in the purest form and I learned how to accept myself where I am while also allowing God to mold and change my heart. For the very first time in my life, I was no longer searching for “one day” because I fell in love with every single day. Was it a fairytale? No, it definitely wasn’t, but by going to Union and following the Lord, I experienced everything I never knew I wanted. That is why, above all else, I knew I must follow the Lord before my own plans or desires. The idea is summarized in the Bible verse God showed me the day I decided to go to Union:
We make our own plans, but the Lord decides where we will go.
- Like Nike, “Just Do It.”
Getting good grades and maintaining a high GPA is important. I promise, it really is. But in the process, don’t forget that college is about the life experiences too. When I say that, I don’t mean waking up in the front lawn of a frat house with no recollection of how you ended up there. I mean quite the opposite actually. Do things that get your heart racing and make you feel alive. Allow yourself to be challenged and do things that scare you. Be stupid, go crazy, and stay up way too late. Eat pizza for breakfast and waffles at 3 a.m. because let’s be real…there is no bad time for either. Have a food fight in the dorm parking lot, pull all-nighters, put soap in the fountain, go to sports games, and play intramurals even if you only embarrass yourself. Wear face paint every single time it is socially acceptable, have sleepovers with your friends, go mattress surfing, and have a campout in the quad. Play hide and seek in the library, wear house shoes to class when necessary, and never pass-up a movie marathon. Prank the fraternity houses, go on road trips, have paint fights, and when there is just a torrential downpour outside, you absolutely must make a slip and slide. Break the rules and get yourself in trouble…but only a little bit of trouble. Get involved in something you love and genuinely invest in the lives of the people you meet. Soak in every single moment because it goes by way faster than anyone hopes it does. Most importantly, write it on your heart that every single day is the best day of the year. I promise it will change your life
The day I moved into my dorm, I bought a small canvas with the quote, “Don’t get too busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” I read it every single morning and did (and still do) my best to make sure that was true for my life. After starting college, I realized pretty quickly that the beginning of college means the beginning of freedom, but also the beginning of becoming an adult and being responsible. After all, college is primarily here to help us create a better future for ourselves. That doesn’t mean simply being successful by the standards of society. Being wealthy and “put together” is all fine and good, but pointless without learning how to live genuinely and fully. Too many people are just forgetting the whole point and leading unfulfilling and boring lives for the sake of existing and never learn what it means to truly live. Don’t just live to survive; live to thrive.That’s why I always say “Just Do It.” College has taught me to seize every single opportunity I can because I don’t want to lead a boring life. I don’t want to spend four years and a ridiculous amount of money trying to achieve academic perfection to look back and realize that I wasted what could have been some of the best nights of my life on nights in my bed binge watching series on Netflix. I don’t want to grow up to simply pay taxes and die. I don’t want to be on my deathbed and regret not living fuller or bolder. Making a living is important and that’s why I’m in college getting a degree. But I am also in here to make a life. I am here to live without regrets. I am here to love and to serve. I am here to try to make any kind of lasting impact that the Lord may allow me to make. Over the course of the past year, I have seen too many bright students and gifted athletes get stuck in the same toxic cycle. They leave the nest to spend every weekend of their first year of college drunk on the floor of someone’s dorm room or passed out in an alley. That’s the definition of a fun night for so many college students. Don’t be one of those. Hold tight to the Lord and his word and allow him to fill you with a passion for life and adventure. Freshman year is a good one. Don’t waste it on nights you don’t remember or with people you wish you could forget. Chase after the Lord with fierceness, never lose your thirst for life, and don’t forget to soak it all in because it goes by way too fast.
All the love,
Margaret Anne Byrd