Once upon a time a skinny teenage girl with long brown hair set foot for the first time on an Idaho sidewalk underneath a row of tall trees in front of a pink brick building on Holly Street and she was home.
Those trees are gone. That street is now University Blvd. The pink building is still there though and the girl’s hair is far from brown and we won’t talk about the “skinny” word. But every time she steps foot anywhere near that place, even these 39 years later, she is home.
My father found my mother on Holly Street. She also was a skinny brown- haired girl. My husband found me there. Some of our children attended and graduated there. Cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, yep, they were there too. And this place is not even on the whole world’s radar. But it should be.
The months leading up to my first footfalls on the sidewalks of Northwest Nazarene College (now University) were tumultuous to say the least. They were also the most transformative of my life. I’ll bet my poor parents were exhausted beyond compare. I’m sorry for that aspect of it for sure. My college career began just after my 18th birthday on a large campus in Dallas, Texas where the mascot is a Mustang and the football team is now in the Top 25 for the first time in decades. It’s still hard for me to utter the name of the place because I had a terrifically terrible time of it, not due to its inability to educate me and feed me and house me and throw me headlong into adulthood, but because of my immaturity, my lack of a grip on the universe, my moaning for a boy back home, and most of all, for my deep need of Christ and a true foundation. That was 1979. I went in August and crawled back home in October.
In the fall of 1980 I landed in Nampa, Idaho after my dad had sent many cardboard boxes of my worldly possessions on ahead into the care of one of my cousins. It was my freshman year at NNC, I was a new Christian (thanks be to God and a wonderful congregation at the Rogers, Arkansas First Church of the Nazarene) had a new outlook, four college credits to my name (thanks to night school courses at community college), had turned 19, and was ready to start over. My poor parents (sorry again) were stunned when I’d announced months before that I’d like to go clear across the country from Arkansas to attend school in Idaho where they had both been undergrads. I felt I could really make a go of it there. The stories I’d heard over the years during my life and the deep connections I felt from those stories sent waves of almost a magnetic pull toward NNC. Well, that and Bruce Webb, the Admissions Director at the time, who once he got your name did not let go and sent card after card after card with actual hand written notes in his big black Sharpie pen encouraging you to come on out and give NNC a try. “Okay,” thought I. “Why not? Crazier things have worked out, I’m sure. And Mom and Dad would probably be relieved if I were 1,600 miles away for a change.” So off I went. I’ll bet they kept my room ready for when I came crawling back again. I didn’t.
Northwest Nazarene College and I went together like peanut butter and jelly. Sure there were “guidelines” that the big school in Texas didn’t impose on its students and I not only didn’t mind, but welcomed them. Finally somebody realized I wasn’t 40 years old yet. I loved my life there in little ol’ cowtown Nampa, lived in Morrison Hall as my mother had (the old part, not the new part where people were spoiled with actual shower heads in their bathrooms), participated in all the fun Fresheree activities foisted on us by upperclassmen (photos to prove it), went to classes, soaked up not only the academic instruction but the spiritual modeling from professors, actually did my homework and got pretty fabulous grades (thanks be to God). I just breathed it all in. Oh, and the smell of sugar beets gave me peace.
If I had to choose one scene among all the others that was the rock-solid anchor for my young soul during those days, I’d have to say it was the experience of singing in the presentation of The Messiah with Dr. Marvin Stallcop at the helm. That music was serious business and though as freshmen in what was then called the College Choir we must’ve been a daily frustration to him, he led us faithfully and without killing us through fall rehearsals in the old Emerson auditorium with its creaky wooden chairs onto the final performance at College Church (remember, no Brandt Center) during Thanksgiving weekend and it was G.L.O.R.I.O.U.S. We sang only selections from the entire piece but my heart swelled with heaven itself and I knew I had to keep singing. Want a link to one of my faves? Okay, I couldn’t resist. P.S. That’s not College Choir singing. Heh.
This weekend is my 35th class reunion. The Class of 1984 will be coming together and remembering good times. Not everyone will be there but a representation from all kinds of different arenas and friend groups probably will be. I’ll miss this one because GRANDCHILDREN. Are you kidding me? Enough said, am I right? Homecomings are wonderful times though. We hug and laugh and look back and feel 40 years younger. Some are absent because they’ve moved on to heaven ahead of us and though we can’t grasp that, we find solace in being together and remembering the dear one. I hope my friends will be doing that. My footing in my own class of ’84 was a little wobbly since I graduated high school in ’79 and was friends with lots of folks from Bob’s class of ’83. So . . . hope you guys even remember me! Long brown hair. Hung around the music building watching a guy practice piano.
If you’re an NNU student today, will you let me speak to you a moment through my gray hair channel? Embrace the campus atmosphere. Look for the good. Feel the earth solidifying under your feet with each passing week, month, and year you spend at school. (I know, you become sick of school sometimes; I get that.) The off-campus world awaits though and you’re going to need all the solid foundation of mental and spiritual fortitude you’ve developed in college to tackle it some days. There’s goodness available to you on campus. Seek it out. Participate in all that you can. Join in. Get up and out of your room. Sit next to people you don’t know. More than once. If they don’t like it, try different people. That’s how the world works, my friend. If it sounds oversimplified, take another look. There’s beauty in simplicity. When college life or life in general gets more complicated than you can handle, it’s time to get back to basics. Seek Christ and his Kingdom first. Pursue that and your foundation will be rock solid. I’m glad to share my Home on Holly Street with you! Okay okay, University Blvd. Go Nighthawks!
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Matthew 6:33 KJV
So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic.”
Isaiah 28:16 NIV