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Guest Post: All Grown Up and Ready to Graduate

By January 27, 2016 4 Comments

Jennifer is away today. Subbing for her is Ansley Kelly, a Calvin College senior.



I bought a dress for graduation this week and when I sent a picture of it to my mom, I captioned the selfie “all grown up and ready to graduate.” I knew it would make her cry, but was a little surprised when my own eyes started to water too. I stood there looking at myself in the mirror and pictured a May day that’s only four short months away. Then I pictured myself as a freshman in college, seventeen and hungry to prove myself but still learning how to do my makeup and manage a savings account. I took account of all of the changes that have happened in my mind and heart over three and a half years and marveled at how it could still feel like they happened all at once. Suddenly, I find myself all grown up and ready to graduate.

Maybe it was because I got a haircut that makes me look about five years older. Maybe it was because my big brother got engaged and I started to use the word sister-in-law. Maybe it was because I started looking for apartments in Buffalo where my full-time employment will begin this summer. Maybe it’s because I’m swinging from the last monkey bar of my college education with just finger tips holding me back from flying into the wild blue sky.

As I let myself swing forward, I feel remarkably ready for what lies ahead, and tremendously grateful for God’s steady development of a so often uncooperative heart. Through papers and classrooms, professors and parents, searing disappointments and soaring triumphs, I have arrived at a little pausing point along the way and I must say, the view from twenty looks pretty great. Looking back I see hours spent writing and reading and trying to learn how to think in disciplined, rooted ways. I also see so many worried moments where I wondered about God’s plan for me. And thankfully, I see a handful of people who have shepherded, and coaxed, and spoken tender truths. Ultimately I see how over four years, a girl who was terribly anxious to grow up and into herself actually has.

Ahead, it’s blue skies and butterflies in my stomach. I wonder if I have what it takes to do the good work ahead of me, and then I rest those fears in the hands of a God who loves to prepare us as we go. I wonder what I will be like in another four years. Will I look back on this semester and see a senior with moderate delusions of having “arrived”? I hope that I do. I hope that the next four years push me way outside the bounds of my comfort zone because that is the only place where I even come close to hitting my knees enough. I hope that I can find the joy in never getting comfortable but in knowing that the work in me is active.  And I say those things to myself every day because stability is seductive but it is a myth.

In four months I will be a college graduate moving to a new state with a new job in a new apartment with (hopefully) new friends. It would be so easy to wish that season away in favor of a mortgage and two car garage. It would be easy to grasp at a life that feels a little bit less like Jello under my feet, but college wasn’t that way, and look at the beautiful work God did as I wandered and tripped. I never would have seen all that He does to love us if I had chosen the safe route.

When my parents and I started the road trip from Pennsylvania to Michigan three and half years ago to move me into my dorm room, I played a song by NEEDTOBREATHE. The chorus goes:

Cause if you never leave home, never let go

You’ll never make it to the great unknown till you

Keep your eyes open, my love

So tell me you’re strong, tell me you see

I need to hear it, can you promise me to

Keep your eyes open, my love

At the time that song was my courage, my reason for leaving home, and in another time of leaving I find it’s words helpful once more. With eyes open wide with wonder at God’s works, I feel all grown up and ready to fly through the air towards all that comes next. Graduation here I come.

Jennifer L. Holberg

I am professor and chair of the Calvin University English department, where I have taught a range of courses in literature and composition since 1998. An Army brat, I have come to love my adopted hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Along with my wonderful colleague, Jane Zwart, I am the co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, which is the home of the Festival of Faith and Writing as well as a number of other exciting endeavors. Given my interest in teaching, I’m also the founding co-editor of the Duke University Press journal Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture. My book, Nourishing Narratives: The Power of Story to Shape Our Faith, was published in July 2023 by Intervarsity Press.


  • Jessica says:

    Ansley, thank you for this reflection! Best wishes as you prepare for all that lies ahead. Enjoy these next few months and savor the relationships that have formed and sustained you these past few years…they will continue to nurture you as you go forward.

  • Jan Heerspink says:

    Beautiful. May God continue to work his good work in you.

  • Great reflection. I remember the day your parents were married. Hard to believe that they have graduated one fine young son and are getting ready to graduate one talented daughter. May God continue to lead and bless you. Judy Gordon Friend of the Young family

  • Clinton Young says:

    Wise words. So often we are racing to the next thing that we miss the moment of reflection on who we are and where we have been.

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