Finding Your Natalie

Written by Stephanie Riebe

As a youth and family ministry pastor for most of the past decade, much of my role in the life of young people has been investing in relationships. I become invested in the lives of these students and their families, and they become invested in my life. Often, as these middle and high school students grow into young adult life and into their journey through college, I will receive a phone call or text with this statement: “I’ve found my Natalie.”

Whether male or female, I know what they mean the moment I hear that phrase—they have found their person. The friend who is not just going to invest in their college journey but who is in some way, shape, or form going to be by their side as they navigate the rest of this life. A friendship bound together as brothers or sisters in Christ for eternity.

There is so much that I took away from my years at Hillsdale. I learned how to speak and write well. I learned how to study the Bible. I learned the importance of community and realized God’s calling to me of a life of service within the local church. But if I had to say what the greatest take away was beyond my education, it was finding my very best friend. The sister I never had.

Hillsdale gave us our first chapter—walking through the heartbreak of failed relationships, finding a church home that would teach us what to look for for the rest of our lives, learning the value of friendship rooted in prayer, and too much fun to list. The memories of our Hillsdale beginning as friends is sweet.

But the years of our twenties, and now thirties, is the reminder that this friendship is truly a gift that keeps on giving. Through every job transition, blind date, and prayer request, Natalie is still my first call. So, when my former students call to say they’ve found their Natalie, I rejoice with them, because on this side of heaven, it doesn’t get much sweeter.

Stephanie Riebe is a 2006 Christian Studies major and Journalism program graduate of Hillsdale College. After nearly thirteen years of serving local churches as a youth and family pastor, she received her Master of Arts in Ministry in Family Ministry from Wesley Seminary where she now serves on staff full time. Stephanie published her first children’s book in September 2018 and manages a family ministry resource site for young families, Grounded in Love, Stephanie’s favorite Hillsdale memories include the yearly Gina Relays, working as a writer and editor for The Collegian, and her church family at the Hillsdale Free Methodist Church.

Published February 2019