August 29, 2009, Orientation was to begin at 7:30. Not knowing how long it was going to take me to drive, with great excitement, I was out the door at 6:30am. I arrived to TNU at 7:10 and found the parking lot empty. I was a little concerned as I thought the place would be buzzing with college students. (I didn’t realize that there had been a previous orientation in June.) I sat in my car, completed some last minute paperwork that I had to sign, and then reviewed the schedule for the day. I was not overly nervous but still slightly, was more excited than anything.
At 7:30am, I walked through the doors of the Boone Building (one of the many buildings on campus). There was a young lady still setting up the table. She jokingly said to me, “You must be excited to be here this early”, and I responded, knowing that I was there with 18 to 20 year olds, “Nah, just responsible.” She laughed and then informed me that it would still be a few minutes before she was ready to ‘check me in’. As I turned around to pace the entryway, I noticed my long time friend, Becky, also employee of TNU, walking outside. I ran out to her and exclaimed, “They’re making fun of me for being here so early.” We giggled, as they really were not.
I walked back inside and paced the entryway, checking things out, looking around, continuously glancing at the papers in my hand, as I found myself singing these words, aloud yet softly: “I have been waiting for you. Walk on in. Come as you are, won’t you. Walk on in. Behold the door is open. Walk on in. Welcome to your promise land. Walk on it. I’ve been waiting for you. Walk on in.” Those words continuously poured through my head and out my mouth. At the moment, the words weren’t registering with me; I was just walking around singing this little tune.
Finally, it was time for us to enter the conference room area, more like a smaller version of a concert hall. There were round tables everywhere with card on them for every degree imaginable. There were tables with bagels and fruit, coffee and juice, it was wonderful.
My friend, Becky, came up to me and greeted me with, “Hello Ms. Shire. Allow me to take you to your seat.” And we giggled. See, Becky was just as excited that I was there, if not more so. Becky and I had attended church together for nearly 5 years, going on 10 years of friendship at this point, and she was there at the hospital with me when my son was born. I was adorned in hugs and love which melted all nervousness away. She disappeared to do her job and I ventured off to the coffee table, of course.
Upon returning to my seat, Becky introduced me to Dr. Carpenter who would be my Life Calling and Purpose professor. Dr. Carpenter had a sweet spirit about her and was joyous while bouncing around to tend to her duties. What I didn’t realize is that Becky, my friend, was telling everyone about me, my story, how I was here… she was bragging on me with joy and if honest, I loved it. A few moments passed before this well dressed, more seasoned in life, lady walked up to me. She reached out her hand and introduced herself as Carol Maxson. She began sharing with me how Becky had shared with her my story and that she was so thrilled that I was there. She then shared that we had similar stories and told me how she was a single mom of four boys when she decided to go back to school. She then told me that her door was open to me at any time and she would enjoy visiting with me. Becky walked up and rubbed my back at some point while Carol was speaking and in the midst of conversation, not sure who said it as I found myself speechless, I was informed that Carol was Dr. Maxson, Assistant Provost and Dean of Academic Affairs. The Assistant Provost knew who I was and was talking to me; I was overwhelmed with joy and very humbled.
Orientation begun and I was sitting at a table with two transfer students and another first time freshman, all of course 22 and younger. I pulled out my packet, a pen, and began making notes. First note was to write down “Dr. Carol Maxson, Assistant Provost – make point to meet with her”. About 20 minutes into the orientation, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned and found a lady slouched down next to me. She reached out her hand and whispered, “I’m Tammy Bennett and Becky was just telling me your story. I wanted to introduce myself to you and let you know that I too am a single mom working toward my Bachelors and I work in the Admissions Building. I just want to encourage you, welcome you, and let you know that my door is open anytime. I would love to have you come visit me.” Wow! Tammy is the Admissions Event Coordinator at TNU, I discovered later. At this point, I am so overwhelmed and feel truly blessed. This is where I’m supposed to be.
It was as if an alarm was going off in my head at that very moment, “ding, ding, ding – you got it right Penny!” I lost track at that moment of who was speaking and what they were saying as my mind wandered to the words I was singing in the entryway just an hour previously. “I have been waiting for you. Walk on in. Come as you are, won’t you. Walk on in. Behold the door is open. Walk on in. Welcome to your promise land. Walk on it. I’ve been waiting for you. Walk on in.” If you remember in my blog titled Update on My Life https://pennyshire.wordpress.com/2009/05/21/update-on-my-life/ I shared with you how I was sitting on the plane and felt I heard God say to me that this is what I was to do. I had never given college a thought at this stage in my life. If you’ll also remember in my blog titled College Acceptance Timeline, https://pennyshire.wordpress.com/2009/10/03/college-acceptance-timeline/ I shared that I was questioning if I truly heard the voice of God speaking to me. At this moment, without a shadow of doubt, I knew that I knew that this is where I was supposed to be.
I continued through the rest of the day meeting and greeting, obtaining my course schedule, having a picture taken for Student ID, and went from here and there and everywhere around the campus with a smile on my face and no trace of fear. To this day, I don’t know who sings that song I was singing. I’ve tried googling it and come up with songs by Janice Joplin and others but they are not the lyrics to what I was singing. It was indeed a word from the Lord for me on that morning. I left that campus filled with joy, excitement, and much anticipation as well as believing that everyone needs a Becky in their life!