Friday Frankness

All my non-clothing and non-toiletry items are packed into boxes and sitting here in my basement, looking sadly at me with mournful, boxy eyes. It's unreal to think that everything I own fits snugly into one small house corner's worth of cardboard.

The saddest items on scene are my empty bookcase and overstuffed, worn blue couch. Oh, the butts it has hosted, conversations overheard, popcorn scents soaked up and bedtime dreams inspired. This is its third home since I bought it, and it will soon acclimate to a fourth. So many have loved it despite its homeliness. Will my next set of roommates love it, too?

I think tonight also of my keyboard and microwave languishing away at home, waiting for the day I'll have my own place and can come for them. They have a good home for now, with my family, but there's no place like where Mama is. :)

I think all this prosaic, sentimental furniture-speak functions only one purpose tonight: A vain effort to suppress my deeper feelings of angst about the move next week, leaving my roommates for new ones, and what it all represents. Yet another closed chapter in the life of this solitary sojourner.

There is now no one making my decisions for me, and stepping away from this college-time dwelling place only serves to reinforce that cold, hard truth. Bills, work and responsibility are inescapable facts of of this post-graduation life.

At this point I am reminded of a dream I had a couple of years ago, just before I transferred to Cornerstone University. I only remember a few dreams in perfect detail -- just the ones that left a lasting mark on me. This particular one was significant for its heavy symbolism.

In my dream, I was in Mexico with my family for a festival, and they left me alone one night, insisting I stay behind because I had no walking shoes -- only my slippers.

I sat -- cold, lonely and weeping -- at the base of a stairwell. Through my tears I looked up to the floor above and saw a child with dark eyes, leaning over the railing, looking at me quietly. She stretched out her arm and pointed to a large clock at the top of the landing above and in front of me.

"Stay here and watch the clock," she told me, and disappeared.

I waited, watching, shivering, wondering if my family would ever return, and if I would ever find my walking shoes.


I remember that dream so vividly, so clearly. I remember the anguish I felt when I woke in the middle of the night to find real tears streaming down my face.

I knew instantly that the dream came from a deep place within to stir so much emotion. I knew I was afraid of leaving community college and home for a new life in Grand Rapids at Cornerstone.

It wasn't so much the school or city I was afraid to face. It was myself. I was afraid of facing my own inadequacy.

Now, two years later, I am so utterly beyond humbled and thankful to report that although I did face my inadequacy nearly every day at Cornerstone, it was a beautiful process that drove me closer with each passing week to a Savior who is more than sufficient for every need I have ever experienced.

Despite often feeling lonely, heartbroken and misunderstood, I learned to cling to the only One who will never break my heart.

In my last bittersweet week as a CU student, I remembered my dream of two years earlier, and wrote a farewell column to my Herald readers, addressing the issue of the need for walking shoes. I don't think anyone knew the back story there or read the subtle connection, but I knew, and I will definitely never forget it.

Please read this link to see the column on the Herald Web site, or see below.


Why I chose Cornerstone
By Rachel Watson

Two years ago when I was looking for a place to transfer to study journalism, I chose Cornerstone. I don’t regret my decision, and if I could do it all over again, I would still choose CU. Let me tell you why.

At first, some who knew I wanted to pursue journalism advised me to try Michigan State, a school nationally recognized for its excellence.

I wasn’t entirely sure why people were trying to dissuade me from Cornerstone. I knew I wanted a solid journalism education, but I also knew I wanted more than what a secular college could offer. I went to a public community college for my associate of liberal studies degree, and although I learned so much there, it wasn’t exactly a place to get equipped in the fundamentals of my Christian faith.

I chose Cornerstone because I wanted a holistic education — a training for the heart and spirit as well as the mind.

I did want to learn how to be a solid writer, editor and reporter, and MSU probably could have given me that education perfectly well.

But could MSU have given me a caring support system of Christian professors and fellow students to challenge me in my faith? At MSU, would we have opened a semester in Mass Media Law class with a discussion about what it means to glorify God? Would we have filtered ethical dilemmas and difficult decisions through the eyeglasses of a biblical worldview? No. We wouldn’t.

At Cornerstone I had all those things and more. As I struggled to shoulder the responsibility of being Herald managing editor for the first time last semester, I was daily reminded by my adviser Alan Blanchard of what really matters in the midst of craziness.

“Be anxious for nothing,” his e-mail signature said in irritatingly bright highlighted yellow letters every day, “but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

It was a message I sometimes didn’t want to hear, because I often WANTED to hang onto my anxiety in the middle of deadlines and miscommunication and lack of sleep. It felt like a friend I could hang onto. But see, that’s exactly what Christian exhortation is — a message you don’t always want to hear, but one that makes you stronger if you choose to heed it.

That’s why I have loved Cornerstone. Whether it was my adviser, fellow Herald editors, professors, roommates, or friends, there was always someone to challenge my assumptions, making me think through and explore and redefine the things I thought were “OK” about myself.

I haven’t been OK. I have been at times bitter, unforgiving, anti-social, a bad listener, a poor communicator, a difficult-to-live-with roommate, and a series of failures, one after another.

But instead of affirming and smoothing over those mistakes, the people of Cornerstone have helped me to face them, turn from them, and move on. I have learned that failure is a part of life — a part everyone experiences at one time or another. I learned the only thing that sets me apart from any other lost person on the planet is the grace of God working in my heart.

So thank you, Cornerstone. Thanks for being the safe space where this wobbly little girl could take her first steps. I think I’m ready to walk now.

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Pam Elmore said...

Wow. That was a beautiful article, Rachel... made all the more meaningful by the backstory.

THAT'S why I love working with college students.

Rachel E. Watson said...

Thanks for reading, Pam. It has been a good journey.