Why I'm a Believer

It’s so easy to worry in our world these days, even though Jesus once taught us not to worry about tomorrow. As a high school or college student, the pressure begins to mount – what should I do with my life? Where am I supposed to go from here? What am I supposed to become?

What kind of a career is set apart for me in God’s kingdom?

Like most teenagers, I once had to worry about the choices that surround the act of attending college – whether or not to go, where I would go, what I would study, how I would pay for it. Little did I know at the time, however, that merely trusting God would get me to where I needed to be.

From the time I was born until this very day, and even through all of my tomorrows, God knew where He needed me most. Despite my own times of mistrust, my selfish desires, and my failures to heed His encouragements, He got me there.

Even before I was old enough to attend kindergarten, my mother taught me to read and write. So excited was I over the many books I read as a child that I decided to make my own.

I remember getting white pages stapled together when I was four years old, painstakingly writing and illustrating my story, then taking it in to my mom and holding it out, proclaiming that I wanted to be “an author” when I grew up.

Years later, as a seventh grader figuring out my schedule for the next year, I was asked if I wanted to participate in yearbook staff. Most of my friends were joining, and it would get me out of a third consecutive year of taking Art, Music and Home Ec classes…so I said yes.

The year on staff went without a major hitch – nothing particularly exciting, but nothing particularly disappointing either. Not seriously considering this as a life path, however, I enjoyed the prospects of actually choosing and mapping out my classes for my first year in high school.

I happily numbered all of the classes I wanted to take, but when it came to choosing alternates – classes I would be put in if I couldn’t take the classes I originally wanted – I didn’t find a whole lot to choose from. I finally jotted down “Journalism” as a prospect, and turned my schedule in with a smile and the confidence that my freshman year would be a great and memorable one.

That summer, I received a copy of my ninth grade schedule – with “Journalism” typed there in taunting letters. I’d missed out on the choice classes, as far as I was concerned, and I went into my year-long journalism class with a heavy heart. Who knew what I would be doing in there for weeks and months on end?

Meeting a teacher who would eventually change my life, it turned out. Mrs. Rachel Stokes taught us everything about layouts – terminology, photo and story placement, photo captions, cropping, design, etc. We spent the year working on cut-and-paste projects in different groups – again, not convincing me that this was my line of work.

My sophomore year, I didn’t join yearbook staff or newspaper staff. I took a nice study hall, too – my first of my high school career.

Well, it was supposed to be. It lasted approximately 20 minutes, before Mrs. Stokes came in and drug my best friend Krissi out of the school auditorium and into the yearbook staff room. Five minutes later, they both returned for me. Krissi and I were then official yearbook staff members.

We worked hard at our personal assignments, but we didn’t have too many. We had a lot of time to pretend we were working hard, a lot of time to procrastinate and spend numbering pictures and other menial, less-involved work tasks. We had fun that year – interviewing students, writing copy and captions, and getting to know the rest of the staff very well.

It came as a surprise at the end of the school year when Mrs. Stokes named her editors for the next year. All of the section editors were seniors – that is, until she called my name out as the Student Life section editor for the next year. I was pretty dumbfounded. I was going to be a section editor my junior year? I didn’t know anything about editing or the Student Life section. I hadn’t designed any layouts, much less worked with the computer program!

Despite my surprise and my fears that I wouldn’t know what I was doing, I was elated inside. I immediately made a list of things I needed to do for my editorship the next year, proud of the responsibility that Mrs. Stokes felt comfortable and confident bestowing upon me. If she thought I could do it, I could do it.

And I did. I learned about Student Life, went to yearbook camp, chose layout topics I thought the students would enjoy, and taught myself the computer program.

I carried the Student Life section for two years, straight through my senior year as well. I had only two staff members my first year, and then only one my second year – so I was responsible for an immense amount of work on top of my AP, honors and elective classes, and with my job as captain of the school’s academic team both years as well.

I learned just how much I could do in those two years when it came to yearbook production and, consequently, the art of journalism – reporting on what people will want to see, to know about and to remember.

Somewhere in those two years, I also remember both of my AP English teachers either reading my essays aloud to the class themselves, or forcing me to. I’ll never forget the comments some of my peers made then – “Amanda, you’re a fantastic writer! I expect to see your writing in magazines and newspapers someday.”

Hearing such comments from my peers was a startling experience. It opened my eyes to the world of possibilities that lay ahead, and I began to consider journalism as my field of study. I was falling in love with it – interacting with the audience, interviewing people, taking pictures, getting all the facts for the story and writing it in such a way that the readers would find it interesting.

Soon enough, SAT season rolled around and it was time to start applying to colleges. I had wanted to go to one specific university my entire life, and so it was understood that I would be applying there. Although it was a private and prestigious university with only 2000 students, I was confident I would get in – I was in the top five in my class of 180 students, I had been involved in various clubs with several leadership positions, and writing essays was yet another strong point of mine.

The only obstacle to attending this university appeared to be finances, but with my family’s lack of available income to support my college endeavor – coupled with my academic achievements – I knew I would receive help in this area as well.

I only applied to one other college my senior year. It was a university I had never even heard of until our junior year college fair, but it was one of only two universities in South Carolina to have an accredited journalism program. It also had a relatively small student enrollment for a public college – between 5 and 6,000 students – with a very nice campus and a great location. Not as nice a campus as the $30,000-a-year private university I’d always had my eye on, but for roughly $3 to $4,000 a year, it seemed almost too good to be true…for a backup, of course.

I was accepted to both schools, to my delight, and was offered great financial assistance from each. To attend the expensive private university would only cost me around $4,000 a year in loans, and I could attend the public university for absolutely free.

To cement my choice, I attended student days at each university my senior year. These days were geared towards familiarizing the student with the campus and introducing them to the faculty and staff in the department under which they would be studying.

At the private school’s open house, I was taken aback by the faculty and staff involved in the communications department – the closet I’d come to a journalism degree if I went there. They had open office hours and welcomed the chance to work intensively with students outside of class.

However, they emphasized the nature of the private university’s liberal arts degree. “If you know specifically what you want to do in the future – if you specifically want to write for newspapers, or work on television or the radio – this is not the program for you,” one professor said. “You could receive more expert and intensive training at a university with a specific journalism or broadcasting degree.”

I looked at my dad, and he looked at me. Both of us knew that I was entirely aware of what I wanted to do in my future – write. We stayed after the information session and spoke directly to the professor, describing my long-term career goals and what I wanted in a college education.

I’ll never forget him looking me in the eye and telling me matter-of-factly, “Then this isn’t the school for you.”

That moment changed my life. I had thought I would attend this university for twelve years of my life at that point. It was prestigious, it was gorgeous, it was for intelligent people…and it wasn’t friendly, open, or welcoming to me.

I attended the information day at the public school I’d been accepted at, and it was like stepping into an entirely different world. The professors were open about the school’s journalism program, earnestly professing the ups and downs, proud of the program they’d built and currently participated in. They laughed with us, joked with us, answered our questions – and made me feel like this was a place I could easily belong.

While it was farther from home than the private university, I mulled over the great financial package, the amazing friendliness and openness of the campus, and the accredited and specialized journalism program available to me there. It came as a complete shock to my friends, to my family, even to some of my teachers…but I chose the school that had welcomed me and was right for me.

I had prayed about it for quite a while, but the whole time, I was feeling at peace with the idea of attending the public university, and apprehension and doubt about attending the private one. I didn’t want to owe almost $16,000 dollars to a university in four years that didn’t even give me an education I could use to land the job of my dreams. God had provided a way to the public university, and everything about it had fallen into place so beautifully that I could see his fingerprints all over everything leading up to my decision.

So I attended. My first year I fell in love with the students and faculty there, and I never lost that amazement throughout my college career. God had led me there for His own purposes, and whether or not I used my journalism degree in four years didn’t matter at all at the time – or whether I even earned my degree. I was where He wanted me to be for that moment, and I was content that He would lead me to where I needed to go.

My sophomore year, I found myself stepping out on a major limb and responding to an ad in the campus newspaper; the staff was looking for a copy editor. I applied, having had no experience editing in newspaper style and with only one journalism class under my belt. I didn’t know anyone on staff, and I wasn’t even sure what a copy editor did or when he worked, other than basic proofreading and before deadline.

I was hired, and before I even realized what was going on, I was also writing story after story for the paper. With about 27 total stories (a few editorials included) by the end of the year, I was given the “Staff Writer of the Year” award for my natural talent at banging out a compelling story on short notice.

I then applied for my absolute dream job the following year– editor of the Entertainment section – and was given it without an interview by the new editor, who had worked with me the previous year.

I was elated. Here again, I hadn’t even worked at laying out a page or with the computer program, but I taught myself and immediately jumped into my new role. I developed a fun and readable new column for my section, and I chose interesting and flexible topics for articles.

Even more amazing to me was the day I received a press release in my newspaper-related mail from one of my absolute favorite Christian bands, Caedmon’s Call. Releasing a new album and planning a visit to nearby Charlotte, the band was looking for publicity in magazines, newspapers – even campus newspapers.

I immediately started jumping up and down and screaming. This band had been nominated for Grammys! They had taken home several Dove Awards, the most prestigious award an artist can receive within the Christian music industry, and they had been on the cover of internationally distributed magazine “CCM” – which I had subscribed to for over a year at that point.

Even more amazingly, their latest CD had been in my stereo for months. I called and set up an interview with one of the band members, which turned out to be a truly unbelievable experience. I worked hard at getting the article written well, and when they played in Charlotte, I met them after the show. I was able to show them my article, give them copies and have them autograph one for myself.

I wrote reviews of musical artists who weren’t big at the time but who I enjoyed; those artists all eventually were on MTV, vH1, in the latest magazines…you name it, you could find them there. I wrote fun articles on movie quotes, new technology, and Internet sites and software. Later that year, I was able to interview and write about a new band hitting the music scene. That article would be the best I had written thus far, and also the longest and the most fun.

One of my articles was written in diary format and focused on a new do-it-all messaging system. I received compliments on how fun and readable the article was, and I decided to submit it for publication on a web site. This action would put me in contact with a student at Harvard University, who read my article online and then interviewed me for 30 minutes for a possible article to be published in the nation’s most-read college publication.

I was excited – who could have ever IMAGINED that would happen? A Harvard student was interviewing ME about MY article for one of her own, and as an informed reporter, I was able to give her much more information than she could have ever used. Just when I was getting used to one blessing from God, yet another came along.

Spring semester proved to be a very busy few months for me. I spent three months doing a Careers page for the local newspaper (on top of my job as campus Entertainment editor), which had a circulation of between 30 and 40,000 readers.

A new friend had recommended me for that job the past winter. He no longer wanted it or had the time for it after doing it fall semester, and he asked if I knew anyone who was interested in taking over. I jumped at the chance, met with the editor-in-chief and the editors I would be working for, and was hired for twelve issues the next spring.

I was also chosen by the mass communications department as one of four students best fit to represent our department for an upcoming accreditation review committee. We met one Friday afternoon to discuss the journalism and broadcasting programs at Winthrop University, and we were able to speak freely for several hours about our own experiences and the things we would change or keep the same about those programs for years to come.

I was very happy to have been chosen as a representative student for the mass communications department. It meant I had made as much of an impact on the Winthrop University professors and faculty as they had made on me, and that moment made my participation in the mass communications program here worth the money it had cost someone for me to attend.

At the end of my junior year, I was terribly sad to see my job as Entertainment editor end…but I also knew it was time to apply for the biggest publication job on campus: newspaper editor-in-chief. The current editor was asking me if I were interested in the job, and I knew in my heart that I was.

This was a position I had worked for the past six years of my life, the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a print journalist in college.

With experience on the campus newspaper as both a copy and section editor, and with 12 complete pages under my belt at the local newspaper, I applied to be editor of the student newspaper my senior year. I was confident in my experience and my ideas for changing and developing the publication, and I knew that if I wasn’t given the top position, I would very contentedly settle for editing a section again.

I prayed a lot before the interview, and I prayed a lot after it. I was given the position within an hour after interviews were completed, and yet I still prayed. I asked God to give me the strength and the ability to shoulder such a huge responsibility, and I acknowledged that He had successfully brought me to that point in my life and career.

After basking in the glow of my personal triumph, I was asked to speak to the freshman students at their “Student Day” – the very same day that had decided, for me, which university I would attend three years earlier.

And so I dedicated one of my Saturdays to answering interested student questions and introducing future freshmen and their parents to the newspaper I was chosen to represent. It was so amazing, to feel like I had done a complete 180 and was now standing and staring back at students who were sitting in the same desks as I had been sitting in years before – wondering where they were supposed to go and what they wanted to do.

Looking back, I can so easily trace the paths I was guided to take. Those paths pushed all of the pieces of the puzzle together perfectly to bring me to the place God wanted me to be. Even at the times when I was farthest from Him, when I didn’t know I was trusting Him, when I didn’t know He was leading me, I had been guided into the footsteps He had laid out for me.

It brings an incredible and breathless sense of awe to see God’s work in your life. Seeing His careful attention to even the tiniest detail in my past has ultimately led me to trust His guidance in my present and future.

And the most amazing part to me has been how very small a part I had to play in this plan for my life! All I had to do was know Jesus Christ as my savior and trust that God knew what was best for me and knew where He needed me most.

Even in my deepest doubt – even in those valleys when I was hiding from God and trying to control my own life – He guided my feet still. Even in my sin and my pain, I was taken care of by the master who still knows the number of hairs on my head, and who keeps all my tears in a bottle.

Sometimes faith can be everything we need. Worry and doubt are not necessary when we have a God who was willing to come to earth and die for us on a cross in a demonstration of His ultimate love and understanding. Accepting the invitation to be His child means inviting Him to lead us onto the path that will give us the most fulfilling life we could ever lead, one we could never have without His divine intervention and will.

And all it takes is trust. Trust God that His word is true, and He will do what He has said He would; worry and doubt will become a thing of the flesh that we no longer must experience.

Even in our sin and even in our darkest hour, God sees us. He knows where we are, and He knows what He is doing. Merely take His hand, and hang on for the ride!

It’s guaranteed to take you places beyond your wildest dreams.

-By Amanda M. Wilson

July 15, 2002

My faith - An Explanation through Song
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Find a volunteering opportunity in the area around you or online
Music that has changed my life
The Bible online - New International Version
CCM Magazine - for all Christians who love their religion and its music
Another comprehensive Christian music site
Short essays I wrote several years ago

Email: thumper7bg@aol.com