As I grew older, God continued to answer my mother’s prayer by expanding my understanding of the ways in which he speaks. God would make a Scripture come alive in my heart and imagination — causing a story or passage to grab my attention like a colorful billboard on a desolate highway. God used everything from interactions with nature to experiences in everyday life to speak to me. Sometimes conversations with a friend rang in my spirit, or

I’d hear a sermon with an unforgettable refrain.

As a teenager, I often struggled with the awkwardness that accompanies adolescence both in my personal life and in my relationship with God. My first semester at college, I attended too many parties, kissed too many boys, and drank too much cheap beer. Everyone kept telling me that these were supposed to be the best years of my life, so I wondered why I felt so empty and my relationships so hollow. My best party friends on Friday night didn’t remember my name on sober Monday. Something needed to change.

My first summer of college, I attended a Christian conference in Colorado. As I listened to the speakers, I felt the hunger stirring in my heart. I was away from God and miserable. I laid my face in my Bible and cried out, asking God to become the center and focus of my life again. Calm enveloped me. In the stillness of my being, the following words ran through my mind: You are my child, and I love you. You are mine; you are not your own. Come back to me.

God grabbed me by the scruff of the neck. As God’s child, wholly loved, I found myself running back to Jesus again. Like a kitten flopping as its mother carries it to a safe place, I let myself dangle in God’s gentle grip — and experienced new depths of peace. The faith my parents had exposed me to growing up became my own. God was still answering my mother’s prayer.

I returned to college with the same haircut and student ID number, but everything else changed. The hunger for God returned to my life. Reading the Bible became such a delight that I became a religion major, focusing on New Testament studies. I also made a sincere effort to attend the campusbased ministries. Looking back, I realize that many of the students who attended these events were still wrestling to make the faith they had grown up with their own. While they engaged in all-night discussions on predestination versus free will, I found myself wondering about all of the young women in my sorority who didn’t know Jesus yet. Recognizing that I was one of the few followers of Jesus among this group of women, I decided we needed more believers. I prayed that during the upcoming rush, a two-week period in which we accepted new members, forty would be followers of Jesus. Since we were taking only sixty total, my friends thought I was crazy. They could understand falling to their knees before God during climactic situations, like a depressing diagnosis or gamechanging job offer; but asking God to engage in a silly sorority didn’t strike them as a good use of God’s time. One well-meaning Christian friend challenged me, “Aren’t you being selfish? If you ask for forty Christians, then none of the other sororities will get any.”

I didn’t care. I prayed anyway. And when rush concluded, forty of the new members were followers of Jesus. The experience taught me the power and potential of prayer and gave me the courage to make seemingly outlandish requests of God. I had begun listening and looking for God, and he continued to sing over me.

Though my faith was coming alive, I made countless mistakes during those years. Sometimes I tried too hard to convince someone of their need for God, and pushed them farther away. Other times I was afraid to speak up. My theology wobbly, my heart filled with pride, my hypocrisy often undermined anything I tried to communicate.