“Dear Baylor, Please handle with care…FRAGILE. Sincerely, Mom”

By Frances George

A few weeks ago, I was in the Baylor Bookstore—the most beautiful bookstore in the nation, by the way—purchasing a few items to be given to our North Carolina Baylor Nation senior parents at our final care package dinner in late April. (Side Note: Class of 2023 parents, you are in for a big treat with the Parents Network and all that we do to support each other while your student is at Baylor. We celebrate students and parents!)

The items I purchased from the bookstore would not fit in my suitcase, and the items were glass, thus needing to be shipped and shipped carefully so as to arrive intact and ready for use. I approached the checkout and a senior member of the team behind the counter took my items and said he would make sure they would be carefully wrapped and shipped to our home in North Carolina.

When the box arrived to our North Carolina home a few days later and I opened the box, I noticed the items had been packaged as if they were the most expensive Waterford crystal, bubble wrapped, and on multiple sides of the box for all to see, the familiar red and white stickers reading “FRAGILE” had been attached.

However, the stickers were above and beyond the command to handle with care, above and beyond just the statement “Fragile.” These stickers added the words “Please and Thank You.” “This is no ordinary package” is what the box screamed! “This is no ordinary place,” is what I thought, “a place that goes to such lengths to insure safe and intact arrival (of coffee mugs)!”

"Handle with Care--FRAGILE"

I have used that box on several occasions this spring to transport items, as it is sturdy and deep and just the right size. Yesterday, as I went to put the box away in the “box closet” (I keep boxes in order to ship things to my Baylor daughter through the year), something about that box made me smile, and I realized once again, this is a picture of the Baylor difference.

And I hope the following will be a word of encouragement to you, parents, who have chosen to send your beloveds, your “fragile treasures” to Baylor, a place, like the box, which is sturdy and deep and is for our students, just the right size, a perfect fit.

As you think of your student leaving home, “Fragile” is the word that, in one sense or another, may come to your mind… new experience, new roommate, new professors, new opportunities, new life! “Oh, please handle with care! This one is so dear to me.”

May I assure you, the same care with which my items were wrapped in the Baylor Bookstore is the same care with which Baylor University will “handle” your student. That box is a picture of that to which you have to look forward. You have carefully prepared your student for eighteen years while they have been at home. And now they are ready to experience the next four years in preparation to launch into the world.

Your box is sturdy and deep and the right size, but it will soon be time for your student to be fitted for a new box. The next four years will be the time your student will grow in remarkable ways. And it begins in just a few weeks.

When your student arrives on campus, a most wonderful community of professors, administrators, new friends, and amazing opportunities await. People will literally line the streets on campus as you arrive, people who understand the care with which you have prepared your package, and yes, those people are the faculty and staff and our amazing President Linda Livingstone and the fabulous First Gent Brad Livingstone.

They are there to joyfully receive your boxes, and they will spend four years “preparing” your most precious package to be shipped out again, but this time to the world, as young adults perfectly poised to make a difference, prepared by this place called Baylor.

So, as your student prepares over the next few weeks to leave the safe and “bubble wrapped” life you have provided for them, know that Baylor is a great place to step out of their box and into a world that will challenge and broaden them, strengthen them, show them the world and introduce wonderfully new opportunities that heretofore they have only dreamed.

And in four years they will need a new box, one that has the ability to hold all of the new experiences they have encountered, the new academic prowess they possess, and the new confidence they exude!

Remember, however, the contents, once on campus in August and out of the bubble wrap from home, will be bumped around a little over four years, as they are challenged academically at a level they have not known. Yes, they will suffer a scratch or two along the way as they learn to navigate living with a roommate for the first time. And when they receive that first letter grade they’ve never seen, the contents may get a little wet with a few tears of disappointment.

But in the end, oh, in the end, that once “FRAGILE” treasure will walk across the platform at graduation strong and secure, better and brighter, prepared and possessing tools that make most anything possible for their future. I know. My first daughter did it not once, but twice at Baylor, earning two degrees in two different disciplines! And now my second daughter, a senior, is looking toward post-graduate work at Baylor with every intention of giving back to the University that has given her life beyond what she ever dreamed possible, encouraging and training students as she herself has been encouraged and taught.

So, don’t worry parents, as you begin to pack your boxes in the weeks to come—boxes of sheets and towels and pillows and pictures from home—and you prepare to deliver it all to Waco. Don’t worry as you place those final pieces of bubble wrap around that most FRAGILE item, speaking words of wisdom to your student.

Those words will not be lost at Baylor. They will be strengthened. They will be re- enforced. You see, even though you may not audibly voice it, everyone knows you are saying, “Please handle with care. FRAGILE TREASURE INSIDE!” Baylor understands that. Because Baylor wraps their own with the same care as you. Sturdy. Deep. The Perfect Fit.

Baylor is the next step of package preparation and delivery into adulthood. And you’ll see, when that once FRAGILE treasure dons cap and gown at graduation four years from now, the new box will say,

“READY!
STRONG!
CONTENTS PREPARED FOR IMMEDIATE AND AMAZING USE!
WORLD AND CULTURE SHAPER INSIDE!
(“Thank you for sending your student to Baylor.”)

How can just an ordinary box sent from a university bookstore carry so much meaning? You’ll understand soon, as I have seen for years now, even the boxes shipped from the Baylor Bookstore represent, on full and beautiful display for all to see, The Baylor Difference!

Watching from a Distance

By Frances George

Sometimes we see more clearly from far away than when we are close in proximity. I know. I’ve watched from a distance of 1200+ miles since my first daughter came to Baylor in 2012 and my second daughter in 2016. And the view… spectacular.

Watching from a distance is not what you think you’d want. It seems counter intuitive. It’s more fun to watch life happen up close, in person. Right?  But watching our students grow and mature from a distance is good. Very good, in fact, and yet it does require certain things from us as parents.

First, watching from a distance requires trust. When I’m far away, I’m not on hand to experience each triumph. I’m not there for the disappointments sprinkled through the four years of growing up that takes place in college. I am forced to trust when I don’t see it unfold before my eyes, when I don’t get the phone call, or when I know I must restrain myself and not call (or text) that piece of wisdom that I am “certain” would make the difference. Trusting when you know a heart is breaking or a disappointment is crushing.  Trusting conversely when the joy is so immense and the first to know are peers… not parents. It isn’t just a blind trust, however. It a trust in One who is completely trustworthy. I can trust, fully knowing that distance is one of His most useful tools, shaping and molding and making a life most beautiful. Watching from a distance is a very good thing.

But so too, this “distance watching” requires not only MY trust but also trusting my STUDENT. Trusting her to walk gracefully through triumph and tragedy, knowing that out of each will be the burgeoning of a young woman, strong and secure in who she was created to be. Both traits found and fostered at Baylor while I stand at a distance.  Trust her. Difficult at times? Yes. But worth it? Without a doubt!

Watching from a distance has its bonuses, however.  When my view is almost exclusively from far away, there is a new and deep appreciation for the rare times when I do get to see up close, in sharp focus and in real time.

This weekend I flew to Texas and drove to Waco and spent three days… for a 45 minute Mother/Daughter event on Sunday afternoon. I got a new t-shirt in the bargain, one that matches my daughter’s! That was it. My sole purpose in coming was to attend this very brief event. Oh, but what I observed in the unscheduled time that filled the remainder of the weekend was so much greater than I could have ever imagined. And it was most telling as the gift of this rare up-close glimpse unfolded outside of the 45 minute event.  I realized it was the distance that made the difference.

On Sunday morning, I saw three young women worshiping next to me at church (my daughter and two treasured friends), each taking copious notes and at the end of the service, as I stood to sing, one remained seated, head bowed, considering in the still moment what she had just heard. Life coming into focus right before my eyes and I had the rare privilege of witnessing it up close and sensing the enormity of the moment, witnessing three young women walking with God.  Afterwards, brunch, with more treasured friends, all telling me about how they plan to spend their summer, serving and thinking well about their future and loving each other well. They call each other “The High Council,” offering wise advice to each other, holding each other accountable on a myriad of topics, some serious and some just plain fun!  These four will make a difference and enjoy great joy in the journey.

The up close glance continued in a mid- afternoon concert with still another friend, listening to the strains of music that brought tears to this old mom’s eyes and when I turned, I noticed my daughter was equally moved, so rich was the text, so ethereal the notes, so perfect the setting. And I was able to see it up close. We looked at each other with a knowing glance. Maturity produces that. It was a gift. It was a rare glimpse provided to me by the One to whom I must entrust my daughter every other day of the year. And when I see life unfold up close and because of the rarity of its occurrence, it makes me appreciate the close-in view as it comes into sharper focus and I watch it with greater intensity.

The clarity of what I see in my daughter lies in stark contrast to the young girl who left home for college three years ago, so unsure of so much but now seeing with remarkable clarity.

I realize the distance has made her a woman in whose image I most wanted her to be all along…His image. And He needed to do this from a distance. Would it be fun to see this up close each day? Of course. But the deep joy of knowing that God worked while I watched from far away and prayed to the One who never leaves her, is even richer.

You see, at Baylor, Catherine has found life, her life. Distance ensures it’s her life, not mine, not even her big sister’s. Catherine found herself at Baylor.

Tomorrow night I’ll resume my watching from a distance until mid-June. But you know what? It’s okay. Because what I have sensed and prayed all along would take place, is actually coming to fruition at this remarkable place called Baylor.

Watching from a distance requires trust and letting go. But it’s okay to do both at Baylor. The key, however, is to do it at the right place. Baylor is that place. Won’t you join us? And watch. Soon you’ll see as I have seen for many years now and with not one, but two daughters ….the beautiful Baylor difference.

The Crosses That Make Us Beautiful

By Frances George 

New semester! New start! New opportunities!

As you and your student consider the college choice for next fall, consider this truth: College is full of so much joy, so much laughter and so much fun and yet life, even in college, has its share of sorrow and disappointment. And when those hard moments come in our students’ lives, believe me, there is no place you’d rather have your student than at a university that navigates well those rough waters alongside your student. And that is found at this place called Baylor.

My Baylor daughters, Class of ’16 (second Baylor degree Class of ’18) and my current Baylor daughter, Class of ‘20, all have experienced their share of extreme joy and excruciating disappointment, while in college, one example as recently as this week. And with our children’s sorrow, comes our own agony as parents, watching our beloveds walk through these rough places in life. We are sad when they are sad, despite how much we say it all works for good. We know that it is true, but our frail, human hearts ache for our sons and daughters.

Just this morning, I was talking with several mothers regarding new semester hopes and disappointments and offered perspective. The Baylor Family is real (and yes, it includes mothers and dads, not just students!) and distance is not a factor, as one might think. I can encourage a mother in Los Angeles, California while I’m in Raleigh, North Carolina about our treasures in Texas! That’s what the Baylor Family does. We rejoice together and we walk through trials together. So, file this blog away for that day that, I promise, will come during the college years. “Into every life, a little rain must fall.” To our students, it may seem like a deluge and a flood. We are here to remind them of the truth below. And the great thing is this, at Baylor, the faculty and administration are there too, standing in the gap with our students.

It is one of the things Baylor does best. They stand at the ready, walking, counseling, and encouraging our students in a way that feels like home. I know. I’ve talked to one shining example of that kind of Baylor faculty just today.

So, the advice… Our crosses, make us beautiful. The scars of difficulty that mark our students’ paths in college serve a greater purpose. Whether it is the disappointment of a grade that wasn’t what you had hoped, was in fact, a nightmarish result, or a heart suddenly broken without warning by a young man or young woman, an internship that you thought for sure was going to be a reality that went to someone else, or a recruitment outcome that left you wondering, “Why?”, college is a microcosm of life at sea with its sunny, smooth sailing but yes, also with its storms. And yet, at Baylor, the microcosm comes with an amazing lifeboat – friends and faculty who are standing with you and will be there when the storms come.

As I wrote to a mother and to my own daughter who suffered a disappointment recently…

“These difficult moments make our daughters more refined, less “young”, more dignified young women of God. It teaches them to walk more circumspectly through life and carefully, as they now understand a modicum of what pain looks like and how badly it can hurt. But pain grows them. And because they love Christ, it makes them wiser and reminds them that our home is not here. And they see others more tenderly when they are hurting because they can easily recall their own pain. Our treasures aren’t in a perfectly ordered outcome. It is, oddly, the scars we bear from our cross that make us more beautiful. And yes, more confident. God’s economy works that way. It seems upside down but it isn’t. God uses all of our crosses… but it doesn’t mean the cross doesn’t hurt and that the cross isn’t heavy. It is dreadfully painful and at times we may feel we will collapse under the weight of it. But He will redeem it. To the world, disappointment is the end. To us, the path is the destination, with all its pain and all its joy. Eyes on Jesus. Mind of Christ. Result: Beautiful young women of God used on this campus.”

How do I know this to be true? I’ve seen in in both of my daughters’ lives. Shaping, molding, beautiful in the Father’s eyes and in mine as well, even through the tears.

These lessons shape our students into amazing adults. At Baylor, this eternal perspective permeates all that Baylor is. In joy… it’s the happy Baylor difference. In sorrow, the Baylor difference shines brightly from the faculty and the caliber of students on our campus that help steer ships through storms. But the real treasure is the brilliant gem that is discovered, polished and illuminated within our children’s own heart as they grow into adults who will make a difference on their campus and in their world. And you know, that is our ultimate goal; to teach them life. And Life is found at Baylor. Remember this.

Yes, it is, as I always say, The Baylor Difference.

Why do I feel like such a nag?

As my sons were growing up, I did the “right” thing…of giving them age-appropriate responsibilities.  Like “making” their beds.  Check.  Putting their toys back in the box.  Check.  Saying “please” and “thank you.”  Taking out the trash.  Feeding the dog.  Participating in Boy Scouts.  Getting a job.  Putting (a little) gas in the car periodically.  Check, check, check, check, check, check.

These building blocks continued and according to parenting experts, were the steps to help them become responsible young people, taking charge of themselves.

So why I am I still nagging them to get their college applications finished?

You’ve asked yourself (and them) the same question.  Again.  And again.  And again.

Baylor’s application process is open until February 1, 2019.

You want your student to complete the application, so that there is a “check” in that box.  Why is it so hard for them to get it done?

Students procrastinate…for many reasons, and rest assured, it’s probably NOT because of something that we did (or didn’t do) as we raised them.  But it can be frustrating for us to watch application deadlines loom while Suzie spends hours on social media or Johnny finds excuses to check his fantasy football team.

Baylor understands that students procrastinate.  (In fact, Baylor’s student engagement program, recognized as one of the best among national universities, offers a wealth of 1:1 resources to help students…more on that in a future post.)

Make sure your student completes the Baylor application soon, because Baylor loves all their students.  Even the procrastinators.

It will feel good to stop nagging.

Taking a Moment to Pause

And for a few days, the country pauses.

This week, we’ve watched the ceremonies commemorating the passing of our 41st President of the United States of America, George H. W. Bush.

Texans, particularly, stand proud, welcoming President Bush home, to join his beloved wife, Barbara, and daughter, Robin, at his museum in College Station, Texas.

Flags are lowered. Stories shared. Government quiets. Heads bow.

We pause.

For high school seniors, it’s the admissions season, often filled with stress. With waiting. Worrying. Disappointment. And often, joy.

George H.W. Bush shouldered more challenges than we can imagine. From being shot down in World War II as a 20-year old naval pilot, to losing a young daughter to leukemia, to moving his young family to Odessa, Texas, where he lived in a rooming house with others less fortunate.

We know how his story ended. And as Americans, we are grateful.

So, parents, during this busy season of admissions with our sons and daughters, let’s help them to pause…to find joy in their letters of acceptance. Perseverance in their disappointments. And fortitude to carry on through their senior year.  Remind them that their story is just being written.

Join us at Baylor, during this season of Advent, as we pause in anticipation of the joy who is Christ to come.

Coming Home for Christmas… with a heart of gratitude, for Baylor

By Frances George

Thousands of college students are completing their semester finals, packing suitcases and preparing to come home for the Christmas holiday. After the requisite “long winter’s nap” where they will no doubt, enjoy the comfort of their own bed, they’ll wake up, and without rush, without concern for completing an assignment, your student will relax and be home. Enjoy. And somehow, as the days unfold before you, you will notice and enjoy something far greater than just their presence in your home. You will notice they are different somehow, more mature, more confident in who they are, maybe even wrestling with, but thinking in an adult manner, about their future, in a way unlike they did just a few months ago. They are looking toward the future and smiling.

What is the difference? In a word, Baylor.

Just last week, our junior daughter posted an Instagram story from the last Vertical meeting of the semester. Vertical’s campus-wide ministry met at Common Grounds coffee house where hundreds of students gathered to reflect on the past semester and look with great joy toward the new one. It was a collective “thank you” among the students to God for a semester of growing and walking with God.

While standing among the throng of students at Common Grounds, Catherine paused, snapped a picture that included not only the students around her but also the Collins parking deck in the distant background. She marked the photo in true insta story style, writing: “it was in this general area that I watched the sunset, the breeze surrounding me and thanked God for bringing me to Baylor and for what He had done so far in my freshman year. How amazing is it that 2.5 years later, I’m a junior standing here next to dear friends, praising God as a Vertical volunteer on the prayer team. God is so good.”

Baylor is a place where students are encouraged to reflect, take stock of where they’ve been and where they are going and then get to work doing what God has called them to do in this moment, in this season. They do this so often in the rhythm of the semester, that it becomes second nature to pause and reflect and record what they’ve learned wherever they are on campus. “Be the very best you can be. God uses it all! What unique thing does God have planned for your life? Here at Baylor, you will find your way.” This is not unique only to a few hundred students involved in campus ministry. It extends to the field of play. Football Coach Matt Rhule was recently quoted, saying, “I preach this message to our team that all the things that happen to you, happen to you for a reason. And they prepare you for the next opportunity.” This from a D1 football coach who thinks well about all things, the good and the difficult. This is a coach that does all things with eternity in view and he models it for his athletes. This is someone who reflects, takes stock, and gets to work, trusting God with the results. So, far… so Great! Sic’em Bears in the Texas Bowl!

However, this is not unique only to students in campus ministry, not only unique to student athletes. This commitment to excellence extends into the classroom… oh yes, one of the primary reasons your students are at Baylor!

“Be your best! Do your best. What does God have for you to do that is uniquely YOU? Find it here at Baylor.”

How do I know this to be the Baylor tenet repeated over and over and taught with practical application to each student? Princeton Review has recently released the top 25 Schools for Entrepreneurship Studies for 2019. Baylor has dramatically risen to #6! No surprise! In the classroom, students are encouraged to train their minds to think well about all things, to think beyond what they see and peer deeply and thoughtfully in to the unseen world of what could be. And apparently, they do it very well! I know this to be true from a 2018 alumnus, now living in Dallas, successfully working in mergers and acquisitions consulting, but not before co-founding a small business while an undergraduate (sophomore) at Baylor and successfully selling majority interest upon graduation, yet retaining a percentage of the enormously successful company right here in Waco, a business that serves our very own students on and off campus! He is an amazing young man, gifted and winsome and wise.

“There are so many opportunities out there. You’ll never know if you can succeed unless you try.”
–Ryan Snitzer, Baylor graduate Class of 2018, co-founder, Campus Crates

This type of thinking is fostered at Baylor. It is encouraged in the classroom every day and becomes reality on a regular basis. This ranking is real and deserved. I’ve seen the results in actual lives, Ryan Snitzer is exhibit A! I look forward to the day when Baylor is #1 and fully expect it to happen! Congratulations Entrepreneurship Studies!

But from where does all of this excellence originate: at the top, in an administration that seeks to educate students to think well, to be their best, to go beyond the status quo, not only in the classroom, but on the field of play, and in ministry. Because this administration too, does all things with eternity in view.

So, as you are sitting by the fire with family, wrapping those last minute Christmas gifts, traveling to visit family, listen well to your student. Listen for the lessons they have learned this semester. Listen to their words of gratitude, perhaps not in actual words spoken to you, but in the manner in which they carry themselves, more confidently than just a few months ago. Notice it in the way they speak, more eloquently than even last summer as they interact with their peers and elders over Christmas dinner and more compassionately when they speak to you. Baylor students are more poised, more purposeful than most.

“Thank you Mom. Thank you Dad, for sending me to this place called Baylor.”

You may not hear those exact words, although I’ll bet many of you will, but you will see those words in the life of your student. Growing up at Baylor is a blessing unmatched by any other school. God uses it all and in a moment, He will bring to remembrance, as He did with Catherine, a sense of tremendous gratitude for the privilege of attending such a university as this. And then in an instant… in an insta story, perhaps…you will be given a great gift, the rare glimpse into your student’s maturing heart, as they say with their life, “Thank you God for bringing me to Baylor.”

And that, as I always say, is the Baylor difference.

“The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

By Frances George

What follows is a tangible example of why we chose Baylor. There are stars among our students every day, though we as parents, may never see them. They are illuminating our students’ lives and minds and hearts day in and day out. And once the sun sets on our students’ time at Baylor, these stars’ influence will shine brightly. And you will be grateful for this place called Baylor…

Baylor Homecoming weekend was just a month ago, and you might have been expecting a blog about that happy event from me as Homecoming at Baylor is one of the highlights of the entire year on campus and this year was particularly special for our family. But what transpired this week on campus while I was 1,200 miles away in North Carolina, is the reason we have a Homecoming at Baylor to celebrate.

I, like probably many of you, have become jaded and/or deeply concerned in recent years by what transpires in the hearts and minds of many students across the country in a typical, top academic tier university classroom over the course of four years. The words “subtle (and not so subtle) indoctrination” come to mind. We read on almost a daily basis how many students walk away from their faith in college. We see pictures on social media and in the news, ad nauseam, of protests on campus and sit-ins, common at university administrators’ offices. We hear of rude and untoward behavior toward guests of the university when non politically correct speakers are invited on campus. (Even as I write this, I am so grateful for Baylor, a place so “other”.)

These behaviors and paradigm shifts among students take place on so many campuses and the genesis of this worldview shift begins in the classroom. Professors wield enormous power over students during critically formative years. You may wonder, is there a university anywhere unlike that which I just described? Even our thinking can become clouded with the constant barrage of negative images.

And so, when you receive a text from your student late in the semester, immediately following a class and the text reads:
“Wow. History class was, um, one for the books,” you might find yourself wondering, as I did, with a little trepidation… “Oh my! This is Baylor! What happened in the classroom, a history classroom, no less?” As a history major, my heart was conjuring up images of the aforementioned fears. Thus my immediate (yet calm and measured) response to my daughter was, “How so?’
What I received next brought tears to my eyes (and it was a bit of a “shame on me for thinking that” moment!) and reminded me again that this place called Baylor is unique. This is what Catherine wrote…
“It was about WW2. Our professor showed us a picture of his grandfather reading to him as a little boy. His grandfather was the only one of ten siblings to survive the Holocaust. Then we watched a video of college students last year (not on Baylor’s campus) protesting against Jews on their campus. And then we watched a documentary on the Holocaust. I understood Hitler in a way I had never understood. How could this have happened? What kind of a person can do that? I have so much sympathy for my professor and his family. Part of me wants to go to Europe now and see a concentration camp. This is real. Kate and I almost cried a couple of times during class. Oh Mom.”

I read that and put my phone down and once again thanked God for this place called Baylor.

It would have been easy (and immensely fun) to have written about Homecoming, that happy annual event of remembrance and celebration. But writing about this “50 minute moment” in my daughter’s life, a moment that no one will see on social media, reflects the heart of soul of why we all want to come to Homecoming at Baylor. At the end of the day, we want to remember well. We want our students to learn how to remember well. This history class is a microcosm of what takes place throughout Baylor’s campus every day, not only in the classroom, but on the field of play, among students involved in campus ministry and even as they walk from class to class with friends.

History came and sat next to my daughter this week and in that moment history reached not only her mind but her heart. “Remember well, Catherine.” My daughter grew up a little more this week and the result is an increasingly wise young woman with a sense of who she is and what she wants to become because of this place called Baylor.

One could say this is just one professor, in one section, of one history class, in one classroom, on one campus, unseen by millions in the world. However, I believe this professor is an example of one of Longfellow’s stars shining brightly at Baylor, though unseen my most, illuminating in my daughter’s heart and mind something deep and reverent… a renewed love of country and appreciation for those who sacrificed so much to secure freedom, a deeper compassion for those who hurt, and a renewed inspiration for making a difference with her life. One day, her light will shine and reflect the light she gained at Baylor in this class. And she will remember that Baylor’s light is simply a reflection of the Light that illumines all.

“Um…this class was one for the books.” No doubt. But what a book it will be.
Won’t you join us and begin your own book? Be inspired every day at this place called Baylor.

And that is, as I always say, “The Baylor Difference.”

This Place Called “Baylor”

By Frances George

It’s Homecoming week at Baylor. Sic ’em Bears!

And although I did not receive my undergraduate degree from Baylor, I am looking forward to Homecoming as if I had run the Line with my very own freshman class back in the day! I’m packing my suitcase, pulling out my Dapper Bear green and gold scarf, securing my BU luggage tags on my carry-on, and making sure I have my “Baylor Kappa Mom” big button to wear on Saturday! I’m getting excited about Torchy’s, ready to find a new food truck at the Pep Rally on Friday night, and telling parents of freshman about shopping at Spice and eating at Ninfa’s!

I have two daughters with three Baylor degrees between them as of 2020 and so I make my way down to Waco several times a year. I look forward to driving onto campus from I-35… always under some sort of construction I have learned from years of driving in from DFW… but no matter! When I see McLane stadium on the left and the beautiful suspension bridge ahead, the Clifton Robinson Tower on the right and the Alico building downtown in the cityscape skyline, I feel like I’m home even though I am 1,200 miles away from my house! Exit 335- C here I come! This place called “Baylor.”

How can that be? My college campus in Chapel Hill, North Carolina is beautiful and storied, full of ivy covered buildings and a college- centered downtown and fun football Saturdays. It holds many memories, to be sure. It is the place where I became a follower of Christ.
But there is this place called “Baylor”… and it is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

Just last week our younger daughter was getting ready to go on a date with a young man she is just beginning to know. They serve together in Vertical, the campus ministry. As she was getting ready and as you might imagine, a little nervous, she texted me later, after the date and said, “Mom, while I was getting ready, I was reading and praying Hebrews 3 and I surrendered the night to God. We had a blast!” What college develops and encourages that kind of thinking among its students, students who absolutely know how to have great time but also know how to keep their eyes on Christ? This place called “Baylor.”

Last Monday, we hosted twenty parents of current students in our home in Raleigh, North Carolina for a NC Baylor Nation Family Dinner and Prayer time. The scheduled end time was 8:30. The last guest left at 10:15! But that’s what family does. We lingered over coffee and dessert and prayed for our children by name, from freshmen to seniors. At one point, several parents said, “This night was like a Thanksgiving dinner with family.” What college has regularly scheduled Parents in Prayer Dinners throughout the year across the country praying for students by name? This place called “Baylor.”

Later in the week, I was reading an Oswald Chambers devotion from the early twentieth century and as I read, I thought, “This could be said of Baylor today, one hundred years later!” “I have chosen you.” Keep that note of greatness in your creed. Here in this college, God is at work, bending, breaking, moulding, doing just as He chooses. Why He is doing it? He is doing it for one purpose only – that He may be able to say, “This is My man, My woman.” This is true at this place called “Baylor.”

As I walk through the campus and meet new students with each visit to Baylor, I see malleable young men and women, eager to know God’s best for them academically, socially and spiritually. I see it in the way they carry themselves on campus. I see it in the way they honor their campus and its heritage and history. I see it in the way they do all things with excellence. I see it on Sunday mornings when I worship with them when I could return to my home state and my home church but I’d rather be here with the students and catch a glimpse into the future of what God is doing with the next generation. In these students I see great hope. I see it at this place called “Baylor.”

There may be a college campus that has more history or more ivy-covered buildings, but when you look for the light, the illumination emanating from the institution, what do you see? Increasingly so at many colleges and universities, there may be “lovely” but there is very little “light.”

Recently I heard an illustration that makes my point: You may have the best logs for a fire, arranged in a most lovely and perfect manner that will give the most light and yet, if you never light the fire, all of the perfection of the logs and their arrangement is for naught. At Baylor, not only are the “logs” arranged in a most beautiful manner, from Fountain Mall, to the statue of the Immortal 10, to the flowering gardens in front of Pat Neff, and of course the Baylor Bookstore (the most beautiful campus bookstore in the country!) but the logs have actually been lit by Baylor’s forefathers and founders, and the fire continues burn brightly by our current faculty and staff, as they fan the flame, giving light to our students. This is a rare find at a top tier university today. But it is commonplace… at this place called “Baylor.”

So as you pack your bags and plan your visit to Baylor for Homecoming where you’ll see (and feel the heat from!) the greatest bonfire you’ll ever witness, as you pack that sweater to stand on the sidewalk early Saturday morning with hundreds and hundreds of students, faculty, families, and friends and watch the largest and longest continually running Homecoming parade in the nation with floats that have been designed for months and built by students, as you get ready to watch the freshman run the Baylor Line in McLane on Saturday and see 1000+ students spill onto the field in their yellow jerseys like yellow paint… as you do all of this and more, know that there is this place where hope resides, where students are of the highest caliber in character, where faculty and staff are intentionally pouring into our students to grow them into young men and women who will give light to the world because they know the Light of the world. As you do all of this, know that you are in a unique and wonderful place.

This place called “Baylor.”

And that name, in and of itself is, as I always say, the Baylor difference.

“Oh, but look how much you’ve gained!”

By Frances George

Are you and your student in the midst of college applications? So many choices. Are you wondering, “Should my beloved stay close to home, close to me for college, attend my alma mater, or should I let him or her try their wings and take flight and go to that school that is not just down the street or down the interstate, or even within the state?” This blog will hopefully remind you that yes, though you may think you are losing something by sending your child to a school that is not your alma mater, not just down the street, you are actually gaining so much and more importantly, so is your student.

This truth came to my mind with several non-connected events just this past week.

I was at a leaders’ meeting early this week for a women’s Bible study I attend. One of the leaders walked in and though her mother had just passed from Time to Eternity the night before, there she was. At one point, she answered one of the study’s questions, making a personal application from her mother’s very recent passing. She said she woke up and was struck by not only the death of her mother but her father-in-law’s death just the week prior and a difficult season in her own personal life. She said she had prayed that morning, “God, so much loss.” And then she said that it was as if an audible voice spoke to her heart clearly saying, “My dear daughter, you see loss. But, oh, look how much you’ve gained…a new grandchild from one child and a son-in-law from another. So much gain.”

We are halfway through the semester at Baylor. Week 8.5. Midterms are piling up. Papers are coming due for our students. Thanksgiving and Christmas seem so far away. Rehearsals for Pigskin Revue are getting later and later…so much loss…of sleep! And for you as parents, you might be thinking, “How could I send my child so far and not be there to help navigate it all?”

But may I remind you, that though those things may hold a modicum of truth in one sense, let me assure you, the gain of being at Baylor far outweighs the loss of distance and familiarity. Just now, I listened to a podcast of Dale Wallace from Baylor’s “Vertical,” a weekly Baylor Bible study with over 1,000 students in attendance. Dale challenged our students to find their rest in Jesus. He reminded them that, yes, we need to pause. We need to stop, to rest, and take stock but without Jesus at the center, it is hollow rest. “The purpose of the pause is to point to the person of Jesus.” Oh, look how much our students have gained from the wise words of a Baylor graduate, who has chosen to stay on campus in ministry and encourage our students concerning matters holding eternal significance.

This is the gain of choosing Baylor: students constantly encouraged to press into knowing Christ more.

In another Vertical Bible Study earlier in the semester, Dale encouraged the students to live on mission with 5 challenges:

  • To work while they wait for God to move in circumstances
  • To develop a heart for others in class and on campus
  • To be faithful no matter the place or platform…be faithful with the little things. The platform will come in time.
  • To be bold and relevant in their conversations about Jesus with classmates–to develop that heart and establish rapport and then give the reason for the hope they possess, in Christ.
  • To be obedient no matter the outcome and remember, the outcome isn’t up to them. It’s up to God. Trust Him.

This is the gain of choosing Baylor: practical ways to live out your faith presented to you and 1,000 of your closest friends each week! (I have actually, with Dale’s permission, shared these five truths with a women’s ministry team here in North Carolina! The gain goes beyond the Baylor campus!)

And yet there was more: The evening concluded with the story of a former Baylor graduate student who was challenged by a friend with this statement when he arrived at Baylor and started a small Bible study in his apartment. The friend said, “God has brought you to Baylor for a purpose.” That Bible study grew to the point that over 10% of Baylor’s entire population came each week to study the Word (Baylor has nearly 17,000 students. You do the math!). After ten years on Baylor’s campus, this graduate student, Louie Giglio, finished his work at Baylor and founded The Passion Movement where millions of college students have gathered around the globe annually to worship and know God more fully and deeply. And it all began at Baylor, with one Bible study, in one graduate student’s apartment, who understood what living life on mission meant and a friend, who was an encourager, reminding him that “God brought you to Baylor for a purpose.”

This is the gain of choosing Baylor: a place that develops leaders who go on to impact a generation and a place that develops friendships that encourage a heart.

The evening’s message ended with a prayer for the students who represent the future, the classes of 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022… “You can have an impact now. May this group of students gathered here tonight change the world as you begin to realize you are here on mission. You are here for a reason.”

This is the gain of choosing Baylor: students who realize they are at Baylor for a reason, a reason that intentionally weaves together their Baylor experience with their academic endeavors. Each student’s Baylor degree serves as a launching pad for living life on mission, changing the culture, changing the world, skills honed while at Baylor.

Could it be that God is saying to your student, “God is bringing you to Baylor for a reason.”

You see, at Baylor our students don’t only hear this at a campus ministry gathering. They hear it in the classroom, from professors who challenge them to be their best academically and spiritually. They hear it from their peers, a student body made up of a caliber of students unlike any other university in the country. Baylor students are not only exceptional in academics. They are exceptional in character. I see it in the little things, in the way a young man asks for a date by saying, “May I have the privilege of taking you to dinner?” I know. It happened to my daughter.

The measure of Baylor students is found in the strength of their character. Character begins at the top and is found in the example of a President whose first act as Baylor’s President was to gather her closest staff… and pray. And it makes its way down to professors and in the life of campus ministry directors who challenge the students to find rest – even during midterm season – by residing in Jesus. It is found in the upperclassman taking a young underclassman under her wing and showing her the way.

The loss you may sense because of distance is far outweighed by the gain of all that is Baylor. You cannot understand it until you spend some time here. Baylor is more than a university name.  Come for a visit and you will begin to see all you will gain and say with me from 1,200 miles away, “Loss? What loss? Oh, look how much we’ve gained.”

It is… the Baylor difference.

A Large Place, Indeed… Filled with Delight!

By Frances George

There is a verse in Scripture that says, “He brought me forth into a large place…because He delighted in me.”

As I just now read this passage, my mind suddenly pictured a myriad of parents across the country who have a student beginning their journey at Baylor, and maybe today Baylor seems like “a very large place.” And you may wonder, through a few tears on the phone with your freshman and when you see that item at home that was accidentally left behind, “Was this right? Did my beloved choose well? It’s so big and (for some, like our family) so far!”

I am here to assure you, you chose well. Very well.

Our family first came to Baylor in the fall of 2012 when our elder daughter began her Baylor journey which would ultimately conclude with two Baylor degrees in 5 years – a BA and a BSN.  Now she is supremely happy as Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse, serving the tiniest among us. He brought her to a large place: Baylor University in Waco and then in Dallas at Baylor Medical and Baylor’s Louise Herrington School of Nursing. Now she is in an even a larger place. Baylor made the difference. Our younger daughter, whom we thought would never leave the close proximity of home (we are 1,200 miles from Baylor, in North Carolina), chose Baylor over eight other schools across the country and over a million dollars in combined scholarship awards. He brought Catherine to a very large place: Baylor. And as she began her junior year this week, coming “home” to Baylor was a seamless transition and as easy as walking on our family farm – a large place with hundreds of acres but secure and safe, every acre known, paths traced and retraced, filled with happy memories dotting every step along the way. The swing under the tree on Fountain Mall, the event where we met, meals in Memorial, the classroom building where I found my best friend in that 8AM class, and McLane Stadium where I cheered until I was hoarse after running the Baylor Line in a sea of yellow “painted” jerseys. A large place, indeed, but one that is the epitome of joy realized and dreams fulfilled.

Coming back to Baylor this year, I watched from a distance, as I helped Catherine set up her new house with her roommate, and saw firsthand the steady stream of friends coming and going, welcoming each other back. I stepped back and observed, hearing joy in the squeals of delight of girls seeing each other after a summer of traveling abroad, working at camp, or just sitting by a pool taking an academic hiatus for a few weeks.  You would think they hadn’t seen each other for years instead of just weeks! I smiled as a young man helped Catherine hang curtains and set up the heaviest pieces in her room, laughter floating down to the first floor where I was working on another project. The depth of friendship that has grown over the past year through good times and hard times, always being there for my daughter, made this mother smile. (Yes, young men at Baylor are a different breed. They are gentlemen and well-spoken, thoughtful and yes, reams of fun with their big black trucks!)  The very first weekend back, the girls hosted a housewarming to invite friends to see the new house named “The Owls’ Retreat,” enjoy dessert and their big new porch, followed by a very large annual “Welcome Back” event hosted by a group of young men for hundreds of students! A large space but one that feels like home.

This scene was repeated all over campus among returning students. A large family on a large property with large joy… because He delights to give good gifts to our children. Parents, remember this: Baylor is a gift. And when, as a parent of a freshman, you wonder, “How will they ever learn to do all of this – navigate classes, and campus and coeds – remember, it’s Baylor. It’s a university filled with students who are set apart from other schools, one that grows young men and women into adults over the course of four years, and along the way there is much laughter and love to enjoy. “Oh, I’ve missed you!” being repeated a hundred times over the course of the first days back, the big “Welcome home” hug of a treasured friend, reminding me, that my daughter has gems in the form of close friends, makes me realize that this large place is very special indeed. These four brief years are the treasure where life lessons are learned, where friendships for life are grown and where the shaping of the next generation is taking place in a most wonderful place.

Be at peace, parents of freshmen. This large place will soon feel like home, full of delight and life lessons, laughter and love, and though it may seem large today, Baylor will feel like their own back yard so very soon. You’ll see the transformation and shed tears of happy joy, like I did this past week. And then, they’ll wish it would all slow down so they could linger a little while longer. You will too.

And that, as always is the Baylor difference.