Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Open letter to college students, interns, and those seeking direction

The other day, our interns at the NFL offices gathered for a presentation by my department. The goal of the presentation was to walk the interns through each of our job responsibilities and initiatives in hopes of giving them a better understanding of our jobs as they begin to discover their careers. After the presentation, the interns had an opportunity to ask questions. Inevitably, I braced for myself for the question: “How did you get to where you are today?” 

Sigh.

“God!” I want to scream. “God is how I got here!” 

But, as the Community Relations Manager for the NFL, I can’t exactly say that because I am in a corporate setting and that answer may be considered unacceptable. So, I proceed to speak with short, relatable stories as Jesus would, and I included as many Biblical principles as I could into my answer, in hopes they got the drift that I arrived at this place by grace (and hard work, too).

As a former high school educator and coach, I have an unending passion for mentoring and pouring into students. Pouring into youth is what drives and fulfills me. So, at times, I feel incredibly discouraged to leave out my No. 1 piece of advice for all students: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

As I look back on my journey leading to where I am today, I want to share five unfiltered tips for those seeking guidance and direction in life. Navigating into new territory can be intimidating and frightening; we’ve all been there. Hopefully, you will take these tips to heart and realize that your purpose will be a natural byproduct of the process you experience.

NEVER FORGET: YOU WERE CREATED WITH PURPOSE

That’s a crazy thought, right? God strategically and intricately created you to accomplish a unique purpose in this world. You look the way you do, have the qualities that you do, enjoy the passions you do, and have the gifts you do because God desired you to have them and use them to bring Him glory. The Bible says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). Remind yourself of this truth, every day.

There are going to be days when you feel confused about your path or direction. There are going to be days when you’re not going to feel like you have a purpose — but you do, and it’s important that you never allow the world to convince you otherwise. One of my favorite scriptures I try to model my life after is John 4:34: “‘My nourishment,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.'” This scripture reminds me that no matter what happens in my life, my fulfillment is in God and walking in my purpose to finish His work.

DO NOT STRESS ABOUT YOUR PURPOSE

This piece of advice sounds like a catch-22, doesn’t it? I told that you are created with a purpose, and now I tell you to not worry about your purpose. Let me explain. The moment I found out I was created with a purpose, I felt overwhelming pressure to get it right because I felt like I was going to miss it. In hindsight, I wish I would have known that God’s purpose for my life has always been one thing no matter where I am: to love God and to love people. That simple.

As long as you love God and love people, every day, wherever you are, then you are walking in God’s purpose for your life. As you do those two things and pray for where God wants you to use your unique talents and abilities, He will begin to show you where He wants you to walk in that purpose, who He wants you to reach, and how He wants you to do it. Focus on fulfilling your purpose where you are now so God can get you to where you want to go. Think of it this way: A running back has to start somewhere on the field and gain yardage before he can make into the end zone — and so do you. 

EMBRACE THE PROCESS

Making a plan is vital, but it’s only a rough draft. Oh, and don’t forget to write it in pencil because God will make a lot of edits! Another of my favorite scriptures is Habakkuk 2:2, which states, “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that he may run who reads it.” There is something powerful about writing your dreams on a crisp sheet of blank paper or a napkin (my best ideas started on napkins) so that they come to life.

However, Proverbs 16:9 reads, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Oh, how true this is. Your plan will change, and that’s OK! Change is the fun part of the adventure. The journey and its respective process are what you must learn to embrace. Do not despise small beginnings (Zechariah 4:10) because in the process is where you will grow and learn what you need to know for where you are going.

Initially, I went to college to study biology so I could work in sports physical therapy. After taking math and science courses during college volleyball season, I quickly realized that God was nudging me in a different direction. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in communication.

After graduation, God decided to take me on a whirlwind to get to where I am today. From working odd jobs after graduation to make ends meet, to working in broadcasting to working in ministry, then being a high school teacher and coach, to running a foundation and now working at the National Football League, I was not always sure if I was achieving my “purpose” because my roles always looked so different. I learned to listen to the nudges of God, who was directing my every step in this process.

Life is a constant process, and it remains continual until the day you leave this earth — which should lead you to live intentionally and purposely, every day. Your purpose in every season will be the byproduct of living intentionally in the process.

LET GOD CONNECT THE DOTS

Networking drives me crazy because it seems surface-level and, well, fake. There is so much pressure these days for people to make connections. While I am not opposed to expanding connections, I oppose this process if you are not actually connecting.

Instead of focusing on building your network and exhausting yourself by printing one million business cards and running around an entire event to make sure everyone has your card before the event is over, pray before you go into an event. Pray that God will open your eyes to those you are to truly connect with and build working relationships. God will build your network, naturally, and it will not be superficial. Do not focus on networking for personal gain. Instead, build relationships for collaboration and wisdom to accomplish your purpose. If I know one thing, it’s that God is strategic and will coordinate divine appointments with those He wants you to meet so that you can accomplish the purpose He has for you while you are on this earth.

Before working for the NFL, I managed the Rashad Jennings Foundation for four years. I did not meet Rashad because I was trying to network or run a player’s foundation; I met Rashad through a concierge employee at an apartment complex. Rashad and I, separately, shared our faith and current events to the concierge, who connected the dots and simply said, “Christina, do you know Rashad? You both come into the building talking about the same events and your faith, every day. You should meet!” Our faith was the center of our friendship, which laid a foundation for God to move.

Years later, after I was a high school teacher, God connected the dots and had us as a power team to change many lives through his foundation. Moral of the story? Don’t stress. We live in a world that screams that you must have a hustle mentality to succeed. The world is constantly telling us to strive, strive, strive and grind, grind, grind. Let me rest your mind with this: God will make sure your path crosses with absolutely every person you need to meet so you can fulfill a greater purpose for Him.

YOU ARE NOT DEFINED BY YOUR JOB OR ACCOMPLISHMENTS 

You will accomplish some great things in your life, and those feats will be amazing. However, I need you to understand me, and truly let these words settle in your heart: Your career is what you will do, but it’s not who you are.

There will be times that you will be tempted to have your identity wrapped up in what you’ve accomplished or titles that you will be given. Do not fall into the trap. You are a child of God and you are loved with or without a title, and with or without an accomplishment tied to your name. Stay humble because pride comes before the fall (Proverbs 16:18). In my experience, God always chooses to elevate and promote those that are pure in heart, not those who merely have a solid skill set. God does not need another skilled professional or talented person in a position; He needs a heart fully surrendered to Him that will be committed to walking in purpose to bring Him glory.

So, there you have it — my real and unfiltered tips for those seeking purpose and direction. I am confident that if you keep God first in every decision you make, with every person you meet and every opportunity presented to you, God will show up and show out. He has in my life, and I know He will in yours, too. Stay true; stay faithful. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13). 

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20).

— Christina

Christina Hovestadt is the Community Relations Manager for the National Football League in New York City. As a former collegiate athlete, high school educator and coach, Christina has a passion for pouring into youth and using sport as a means for social change. She is passionate about social justice, philanthropy and advocating for the voiceless. Whether speaking in boardrooms, classrooms, fields or locker rooms, Christina’s message is consistent: Live intentionally, and activate your life with purpose.