Eighteen years ago, as we struggled with sleepless nights, feeding schedules and messy diapers, a well-meaning friend told me, “Don’t worry, soon this will be over—just blink, and they’re all grown up!”
I blinked—and found myself in the passenger’s seat of a black Honda Civic, with a college freshman driving toward Collegedale, Tennessee.
Arriving late Friday night, we were thankful that Sabbath School started at 10:15, followed by Southern’s third church service at 11:45 a.m.
Looking around, Daniel wondered if other college churches were this big. Yes, I said, and bigger. Remembering his small, family-like home church, I hope someone will help him feel at home here, too.
We appreciated the music and sermon, given by University president and interim pastor, Gordon Bietz, and afterwards enjoyed a delicious potluck at the science building.
Sabbath afternoon, Daniel enjoyed the beautiful Chattanooga Riverwalk, a 9-mile stretch along the Tennessee River.
After sundown we moved Daniel into his Talge Hall dorm room. It didn’t take long to move in his clothes, basic supplies and books. Deciding it was “a bit lonely,” Daniel happily decided to stay with me one more night.
Sunday morning we breezed through registration. Expecting a long wait at the financial office, I was surprised at how quickly we met with a pleasant and helpful financial officer. The rest of the registration process was just as quick and easy and by lunchtime we were done.
Picking up pizza at the nearby Papa John’s (Daniel’s favorite) we enjoyed a picnic in a lovely area on campus with several tables and large, shady trees.
Walking over to the Parent Orientation at the Hulsey Wellness Center, I realized that I was already starting to miss my first-born child (who is no longer a child, I kept reminding myself).
The Parent Orientation was helpful and gave the opportunity to hear from President Bietz, and the heads of all major areas on campus, and included time for questions. I especially appreciated hearing from Brennon Kirstein, the campus chaplain, how Southern cares about the spiritual well-being of its students.
Later, time whizzed by as Daniel and I went to a nearby Target, picking up some last minute items.
Heading back to Southern, Daniel turned to me and asked, “When we get back to campus will it be time to say goodbye?”
A lump rose in my throat, tears came to my eyes, and all I could do was nod. Trying unsuccessfully to keep the tears behind my sunglasses, I choked out, “My advice to you is . . . always stay close to Jesus.”
Back on campus, there was a long hug, a kiss on the cheek, and he was off to the Freshman Welcome Party and his new life as a university student.
There are many places Daniel could have gone for his university studies, but I’m glad that he chose Southern. I believe it’s the best place for him and can hardly wait to hear all about his new experiences!