People come to college searching for a lot of things. You would hope that on the top of that list of things that people search for is an education. That’s up for discretion. Most certainly some incoming college students are seeking gained knowledge. Some are seeking experiences. Some are seeking opportunities. Some are seeking relationships. Some are seeking freedom. As I stated before, people are searching for a lot of different things. One thing I can say with confidence though, is that most (if not all) are seeking purpose. I came into college seeking not much more than a Bachelor’s degree, and if I was lucky, maybe a few friends. But by God’s grace, through all of my searching I stumbled upon my purpose.
I am a local student. I graduated from one of the two high schools in Springfield, Oregon, just about 15 miles away from NCU. It wasn’t a tough decision to apply and enroll at NCU. I felt safe there, being close to home, and I was going to get to continue doing what I love; running. By being so close to home, I kind of got to treat going to college as “no big deal”. I am like my father in a lot of ways. Not liking change is one of those things that we have in common.
My freshman year of college was probably pretty comparable to lots of college students’ freshman year. I lived in the dorms, stayed up late, ruined my goal of maintaining a 4.0, made some friends, and attempted to get familiar with the NAIA level of competition. As far as school goes, I performed so-so because I put in so-so effort. As far as running goes, I performed so-so because well, I was just not used to running quite that much yet. Regardless of how unremarkable my athletics and academics were my freshman year, I was thriving. In the winter of 2009, during the all-night-prayer in the NCU chapel, I began to realize my purpose. I can’t really explain the process by which this happened, but the best interpretation that I can give you is this: I wasn’t living for myself anymore. I was going to do everything I do (and in college, that’s a lot of things) for the glory of Christ. I had known for a long time that Christ had given everything for me. But this was the first time that I realized that I need to give everything back to Him.
My sophomore year brought lots of challenges. Classes were a bit harder. Having moved home, friendships were a little more difficult to maintain. Besides relationships with my friends and teammates, I maintained another new relationship. This one, I would soon find out, would last the rest of my life. In December 2009, my now-husband and friend of 10+ years proposed at the end of a 10-mile run over Christmas break. (It took me a while after that to complete a workout and not expect an expensive piece of jewelry as a reward. Just kidding!) In addition to all of this excitement, sophomore year was also the first time I qualified for the NAIA National Championship in Track and Field.
This leads me to the one boast I get to make in this blog entry: I have the best coaches in the world. Heike McNeil and Dan Jackson pour their lives into their athletes. Heike was beaming every mile of the 2,290 mile trek to Marion, Indiana. (Let’s not talk about the trip back.) They were literally jumping up and down when I made it to finals and got 14th place. (14th, people. There were only 16 in the race!) If you want to see selflessness and passion lived out, look no further than these two. To say that they’re awesome is a gross understatement. Amongst many other things, they taught me what it means to work hard.
Up to this point, college was mostly just fun. Don’t get me wrong, I do think that life in general is fun. But junior year is when things also got difficult. Being an education major, I was off-campus often teaching and compiling work samples. I was enrolled in one of my most overwhelming (but also one of my most rewarding) classes, Public Speaking & Story Telling. (Six speeches to give and four stories to tell. And thanks to one fantastic professor, I left the class with higher self-esteem than when I came in.) I was juggling wedding planning and a part-time job.
The one thing that was consistent was my running. My teammates and I enjoyed being the first-ever athletic team at NCU to be ranked nationally. And, in addition to all of the other things that I had my sight set on, I (and the other upperclassmen on my team) was determined to take our team to nationals. Long story short, it didn’t happen. Inexplicably, I ran one of the worst races of my life at our conference championship. The silver lining to the situation is that TWO of my teammates did make it (One of them, my friend Stephanie, was the only one to qualify for XC Nationals up to this point. She’ll deny it, but she’s a stud.)
I wish I could say that this was the only bad race of my college career, but I can’t. What I can say though, is that I have learned a tremendous amount from each one of my bad races. The most important thing that I’ve learned is that it’s vitally important to never give up. I like to think that the reason I don’t like giving up is because I know that God never gives up on me.
Senior year, not giving up paid off. Big time. I was placed in two fantastic classrooms with extremely supportive teachers for my final year of student teaching. (Again, being an education major, most of my coursework was completed off campus.) This experience totally equipped me with what I think I will need to be an educator; if that is the route I decide to take. My duties on campus were limited to running and other team-related activities. I’d be lying if I said that cross country wasn’t the highlight of my senior year. FIVE of our girls were new this year. There are only ten of us total. Of all five of those girls, I couldn’t pick a favorite. They’ll laugh at me for saying this, but I really love them all. We obviously work out a lot together. But, we also prayed together, listened to each other, took care of each other, and cheered each other on. I’ll always count being on that team as one of my life’s greatest blessings.
Aside from the mushiness of all this team talk, we were actually pretty good. Again, we got to celebrate being ranked nationally, getting as high as third. By the end of the season, we had faltered at our conference meet and went into nationals (finally made it!) ranked 9th. In a race of over 300 girls at Fort Vancouver in Vancouver, Washington, we ran our guts out. Just as Heike and Dan trained us to do, we worked hard together. And, as stated above, it paid off. I’ll save you the drama and just tell you: NCU women placed fourth at NAIA Cross Country Nationals.
There’s much more to be said for my senior year; a trip to Indiana for track nationals, completing my work sample (not as much sweat involved as running, but MANY more tears), seeing teammates getting to know Jesus, my first year of marriage, graduation…the list goes on. But I want to get to the point. The point is, God is so worthy of honor and glory. He used my whole college experience to teach me this. At this point, I’m not sure of a lot of things. I’m not sure what my profession is going to be, how many more races I’m going to run, how often I’ll see my friends and classmates, or even where I’ll be living next year. One thing I am sure of is my purpose. My purpose is to use everything I have: my job, my competitions, my education, my relationships, and my whole life, to worship an awesome and perfect creator. I wasn’t searching for it, but I found my purpose.
Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction. – John F. Kennedy
Brittany Petersen ’12 graduated this May with her bachelor’s degree in Teacher Education. She was a four-year member of the NCU cross country and distance track teams. One of the greatest runners in Beacon history, Petersen holds multiple school records and was a two-time All-American. A true student-athlete, Brittany was also a six-time Academic All-Cascade Collegiate Conference selection and a four-time NAIA-Daktronics Scholar Athlete.