It just so happened that my freshman year of college, nationals (for Bible quizzing) was held in my town. I got a ride from my roommate and her boyfriend on the spur of the moment that Wednesday, and spent an hour sitting in the lobby, doing homework and glancing around for familiar signs (“Quiz Site One”) and faces (the redhead with the glasses). I walked around the hotel by myself, watching the buzz of activity as teenagers and coaches from all around the country unloaded their vans and buses. I had to stop in a bathroom and squeal silently at myself in the mirror. I love nationals.
Nobody knew that I was coming, so the looks on my old teammate’s faces were priceless as they did double takes and then ran to hug me. They were all wearing their old “Stretch” shirts, and my nickname of “Mother Frances” (given because I would pick up after my teammates and generally keep people in line) resurfaced.
That night I tagged along with the team during their free time. While we were standing in line waiting for go carts, someone started being goofy and before I knew what was happening, Kasey, Val, Sarah, Angela, Jacque, Jessica, Ashley and I were all being squashed together against the corner and gate. Everyone was falling onto each other and laughing so hard we couldn’t breathe. All of a sudden it clicked into place and felt like this time the year before. Back at the hotel, a bunch of us just sat around joking and playing with rubber bands, talking and laughing, enjoying the familiarity of old friends.
I found ways to get to the hotel whenever I could for the rest of the week, staying up extra late to keep up with school. I made signs for the team and cheered for them when I wasn’t in class. It was all I could do to sit still during orchestra rehearsal. My stand partner kept staring at me, and afterward asked, “What’s going on? You are absolutely glowing!” I needed this so much, the reminder of who I am, the context of my life against the narrow focus of that hard year. Long before I knew I would be here for school, God was arranging to bring nationals to me that year. Wow.