By Bernadette Cooper
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your mind in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7
It’s Christmas season. That time of the year where the temperature changes from cool to cold, nightfall comes earlier and earlier with each passing day, excitement about heading home for the holiday, anxiety over upcoming exams, compassion in this time of giving, reflection on the end of the year, anticipation at the beginning of a new year, humility for blessings, seen and unseen.
My favorite bear cub has been away from home for 15 weeks now—all of first semester. Folks get amused when they realize I’m still keeping count. I’ve missed her. More than I thought I would. While I’ve become used to the idea that she’s away at school, I think of her all the time. But the marked difference is I don’t worry about her as I used to. I lift her in prayer and trust God is taking care of her and I trust that she’s doing what she’s at Baylor to do: God first, studies second and sports enthusiast last.
We communicate often and the underlying theme of each conversation is how grateful she is to be a student at Baylor. She shares often that she’s fully vested now. That makes me giggle. I reply, You’re one semester in with seven more to go, how vested could you be? It’s more than just the classes, she explains. She’s embedded into the culture of Baylor and the community of Waco. And she couldn’t be happier. She is firmly planted and up for the challenge. And challenged she’s been. She made it through her first semester of exams, earned excellent grades in order to maintain her scholarship and before I knew it, she was walking out of the airport and ready to head home.
It may sound slightly cliché to mention how she’s matured over this short time at school. But she has. She looks the same and sounds like the Savannah that I left outside her dorm back in the Texas heat in August. But something happened during those 15 weeks of living away from home. I questioned her about her favorite things at Baylor. Her first reply is the uniqueness of Baylor—people in the library studying with you and praying for you; going to the professor’s house for dinner with her peers; having access to keep in touch with current professors, even after their classes are no longer part of her daily schedule.
The university’s interim president, Dr. David Garland, is wise…and kind. He made time in his undoubtedly full schedule to meet with me, last minute, above the 15 minutes I’d requested. Words cannot express how thankful I was for the opportunity to sit and chat with him but more so I was moved at the invitation to have my student reach out to him as well. A few of my favorite things about Baylor: Accessible.
Two semesters of Chapel participation and two semesters of religion classes are mandatory for Baylor students to graduate. My student enjoys the variation of Chapel topics, guests and experiences. Seek and ye shall find. A closer walk with God is there for the taking although not forced upon students who may not be believers.
While Baylor is not abundantly diverse, the school is certainly aware of this and working to add students of different backgrounds and racial makeup to its student body. In the meantime, the students of color are making things work for them. During my first visit back to campus—Family Weekend in September—one of the first comments my bear cub shared was about the group of students that look like she does. “Mom, it’s cool. We look out for each other and in turn, the school looks out for us”. That pretty much made my day. After hearing several stories about some of her friends, I know that my daughter has found like-minded sisters and brothers and I pray they will continue to be there for one another. The compassion extends through the parents. Savannah was unable to make it home for Thanksgiving and a family in Allen, Texas, opened their home to her for the holiday. A few of my favorite things about Baylor: Family.
My young lady has been home for nearly a week now. She’s been very vocal about the plans she’s working in order to pursue her degree. Her dreams and her hopes are lofty, and I couldn’t be more excited for her. She has learned her way during this first semester and assures me the discipline and focus is still very much at play. While she rests and recharges her batteries, she’s enjoying catching up with family and high school friends and sharing her experiences. A few of my favorite things about Baylor: My bear cub is content.
As we prepare to celebrate this holiday around a very beary Baylor-themed Christmas tree, decked out in nothing but green and gold bulbs, a handful of Baylor ornaments and one Baylor stocking hanging from the fireplace mantle, I give glory to God for placing her exactly where we both believe she should be.
A few of my favorite things about Baylor: Being in God’s will.