Some Lessons And Highlights from a High School Graduate

As the year comes to an end, I can’t help but think of all that has changed since I graduated from high school last year. All throughout my teenage years, I was required to write an essay—reflecting on on the ways I’ve learned and grown throughout that year.

Now, even though I’m no longer in high school, I’ve decided to bullet point some of my biggest lessons and highlights from my first year as a college student. Hopefully, with any luck, this will provide inspiration to graduates who are reading this, and nostalgia to those looking back.

Thus, without further ado, here is a reflection of my year!

  • Friendship 

Throughout this year, I have been reminded more than ever of the importance of true friends in our lives. I have written in the past about the closeness of my friend-group and this year, I believe I’ve grown to appreciate my friends on a whole other level.

As I went through some of the more difficult parts of this year, they have been my anchor, as they listened to me vent about everything from crazy professors to my endless job hunt. I have also learned what it means to stay in contact with friends in the midst of ever changing schedules and paths. One of my biggest fears this year was that I’d loose contact with the people who have been like a second family to me all through high school. Nonetheless, I’ve found that with a little effort, a little scheduling, and a lot of texting and phone conversations, it’s not as hard as it seems to remain in touch with high school friends.

Especially if everyone makes an effort. 

  • Faith

I believe that my faith has grown immeasurably this year, as it has faced tremendous pressure like never before from outside forces. It was one of the few things I could hold onto as I made my way through a local college and struggled with more personal issues than I’d care to admit. Before this year, I was used to being in the majority as a Christian. After this year, I realized for the first time the stress of being one of the only Christians in my school open about my faith. Nonetheless, I believe that through it all, I’ve grown closer to God and learned to trust Him more in the process. Life doesn’t always make sense in the moment, but through it all, we can always trust that God has plans for us bigger than any of our wildest dreams. 

  • School

Though I’ve maintained high grades throughout my year, school has been one of my most difficult challenges this year. On top of the frightening realization that I’m officially out of high school and an “adult”, I changed my major, changed my career field, and changed to a school better fit for my career aspirations. I have also faced the struggle of shifting through various ideologies and world views at the local college I attended during the fall semester—deciding for myself what I agreed and disagreed with. Nonetheless, as I’ve begun my first semester with Liberty University online, I have regained a love for learning and feel content with my decision for college.

  • Work 

In addition to the excitement of starting at a new school, I have recently started my first real part time job in retail. So far, this has been an excellent experience and I have found it very empowering to have an official job in the workforce. It took a while to find a job, but now that I have one, I believe that the search has been worth it. In the end, I believe that all of my time spent sending in resumes and applying at various stores in the area has been worth it, as I enjoy both my job and working with fellow employees/managers.

  • Responsibility 

Lastly, I have begun to take on more responsibility. Between working, going to school, and driving more, I finally feel that I’m on my way towards successful “adulting”. I have also begun to make more decisions for myself and take on more responsibility—which I believe has been incredibly rewarding.

All and all, as awkward as this year has been at times, I wouldn’t change a thing, as each step helped me grow to trust God more and become a stronger person. We all face trials in our lives, but the important thing is not our struggles—it’s how we handle them. We each go through different seasons, but the important thing is that God is still God in the midst of every season of life, and He has our lives in the very palm of His hand.

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 hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11 

How about you? How do you believe you’ve grown this year? And if you’ve graduated from high school or college, how did that season of life shape you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! 

Thirty Day Blogging Challenge Returns: Day Fourteen

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Hey everyone, I’m finally back after a far too long hiatus! 

For those of you who have been wondering, everything is totally fine on my end. There haven’t been any illnesses or catastrophes of any sort—that is, unless you count the absolute frustration of writers block. For a while, I have been completely stumped on the prompt I’m about to answer today. I have had plenty of problems in the past, but I wasn’t quite sure which to use. Nonetheless, after talking with my mom about it, she gave me an excellent idea:

Talk about the transition from high school to college. 

As some of you know, this has been my first year out of high school and I’m currently in the process of transferring to Liberty University—a college that I believe will be the best fit for my future career. Nonetheless, before I decided on Liberty, I was attending a local college near my house—and the year of 2015 may be one of my rockiest years to this date. 

For a while, I have avoided writing about the fact that I was homeschooled on this blog. I wasn’t ashamed of it, but I was worried it would conjure up stereotypes of an anti-social, socially awkward girl in her room doing math problems all day—which is far from my actual experience. Nonetheless, because I strongly believe in the process of being real and sharing your stories with others, I have recently began to write about it—especially since I believe it had an effect on my high school experience and my subsequent transition to college.

Contrary to the stereotypes, I wasn’t raised in a church—but began attending with my mom during late elementary school. Nonetheless, because many homeschool environments (though not all) are run by Christians, I’ve pretty much been in that subculture for my whole life. College was the first time I was ever in a school that lacked faith. 

Because I was well aware of this, my best friend and I spent long hours talking about what college may be like and all-but planning an escape plan in the case of a God’s Not Dead scenario. When graduation night came, I felt more terrified than anything. What did the next chapter hold? What was my life going to look like? From the summer of ’16 all the way through the end of the year, I began experiencing weight gain, acne, and other physical stress syndromes.

During my time at college, I faced both internal and external conflict. I began to think about life after high school, and experience almost paralyzing fears about the future. I wondered if my unusually close friendships would survive into adulthood and if I would end up as the little personification of the crazy cat lady. I also worried about my career, missed my high school classes, and tried to figure out what the heck I wanted out of my life. I had a basic idea, but my career path changed during my time at college from teacher to journalist, subsequently affecting my degree and college choice.

At college, I was faced regularly with dramatic clashes of ideologies. I heard things that never, in a million years would have been taught in any of my high school classes. Friendship and family ties were all but mocked, prayer was seen as unimportant, an obnoxiously loud sociology teacher in the next room over taught that sex was between two or more people, and that rape was simply inconvenient, and I met a fellow classmate who was a self proclaimed witch. I felt like I had entered an alternate universe and all but emotionally shut down. 

Nonetheless, as difficult as this time was for me, God managed to teach me a lot and bring good out of bad. He taught me to depend more heavily on him and open up to wise Christian friends and mentors. The more stressed, anxious, and depressed I became, the more people God brought into my life to help me. It’s easy to follow God when things are going well and you feel like you’re on top of the world, but it’s a lot harder when you feel like everything you know is crashing down all around you. This experience taught me to trust and fully lean into a God who’s a lot bigger than myself. 

I also became more aware and humbled by the fact that everyone has a story—and that sometimes, we have to learn to simply love people where they’re at. It can be so easy to disregard people as some kind of giant agenda or conspiracy, but there’s always more to people than this. I learned that one of my professors, who I had a huge personality clash with had a much more difficult life than I had originally thought, and learned to have compassion through hearing their story. I also learned that the classmate who practiced wicca really wasn’t a “bad person“—just a lost one, who also had a difficult past.

Now, that season is finally behind me, and I couldn’t be more excited to start at the university I believe God is leading me to—but I don’t regret a moment of my time at my first college. I learned valuable life lessons and I believe I’ve become a stronger, more compassionate Christian and person because of it. If you’re going to college this fall for the first time, I’m not going to lie and tell you it will be easy. It will likely be a challenge—a grueling one, even—at times. But you’ll survive it, just like I did. Trust in God, lean into friends and mentors, and don’t let fear control you.

God has a plan for you even in the midst of your hardest battles. 

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4 

One Semester ~ A Story of Faith Overcoming Fear

Hey guys, sorry I’ve been sort of inactive on this blog lately – I promise to post again soon!

In the meantime, I’d love for y’all to head on over to Emily’s blog at Fearfully Wonderfully Me and check out a guest post that I wrote for her! It’s a reflection post on a specific situation that happened to me at college and I hope you guys are inspired by it! You can click through to the link here!

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Thankful List: 2016

Hey everyone, a year ago I posted a list of things that I was thankful for in 2015. Since I’m the type of person who enjoys frequent introspection, and since I believe practicing the virtue of thankfulness is very important, I’ve decide to turn it into an annual thing. Many of the things I wrote about last year still apply, but there are some new things that I would like to add or update as I reminisce the last eleven months of this year.

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  1. Jesus’s continuous provision and presence – Every year, it seems that God teaches me something new, and this year, there have been tons of lessons that I have learned about God, friendship, and life. I plan to talk about this further in an upcoming blog post, but for now, I would like to take this opportunity to thank God for helping me through this year in the midst of college and the pressures of adulting.
  2. My family My family has been a constant in my life throughout this first semester of college. They have seen me at my best and at my worst and have helped shape me into the person that I am today. They have helped me in my faith journey and I have seen God work in our lives in powerful ways. I am thankful for a stable home life – especially at the times when life feels anything but stable.
  3. My friends – As I’ve said so many times, I couldn’t have ended up with a more awesome group of friends. In my household, there’s only my mom, dad, cat, and I, but my friends are truly like brothers and sisters to me. I’ve grown up with many of them and I look forward to seeing where God leads us in our lives. They are truly like a real-life version of the old 90s show Friends and I couldn’t ask for a better squad.
  4. Lessons learned in college – Though this semester has been a bit of a rocky one for me, I have learned a lot in the midst of it. It has given me a greater appreciation for my roots, helped me grow in compassion, and has pushed me even more so to see everyone I meet through the eyes of Jesus. Oftentimes, it is common to hear stories of people falling away from their faith in college, but I feel that I have only grown stronger through it.
  5. The opportunity to go to Liberty – Though my current college has taught me a lot of life lessons, I am beyond excited to transfer to Liberty online this summer. The alumni is phenomenal and has produced amazing world changers such as TobyMac, Michael Tait, Meredith Andrews, Gabe Lyons, and the members of Anthem Lights. Furthermore, Karen Kingsbury is a professor there and I am beyond excited about the opportunity to take a class with her as my teacher.
  6. That I’m finally starting to feel comfortable driving – Over the past few years, driving has been a major kryptonite for me. When I first started, I was unbelievably scared and admittedly, not the most competent driver in the world. Now, a few years later, I’m driving myself to places with practically no problems and I’m planning to get my license sometime this spring.
  7. The opportunity to vote in my first election – Crazy as this election was, I was super psyched about the opportunity to vote for the very first time. There is something empowering about your voice being heard on a national level and I am thankful for this opportunity as an American citizen.
  8. The chance to blog – I have officially been blogging for over a year now and the experience has only become more rewarding with time. I have met some amazing fellow Christians on WordPress (You know who you are!) and I pray that God is using my humble little blog to impact believers in the body of Christ. Writing has always been my passion and I pray that God continues to open doors in this area so that I can make a greater impact for Him.
  9. The chance to work more on a longtime series – Tying into the whole writing thing, I have had the opportunity to work more on a series that I’ve been writing since I was fourteen and I’m super excited about how it’s turning out. My writing has changed leaps and bounds between my freshman year of high school and my freshman year in college, and I pray that my series someday has the chance to impact others.
  10. My church – I am truly blessed to have my church, which I have been attending for around two years now. The people there are super genuine and I am continuously inspired by the messages. I’m happy to be there and pray that God keeps me there for years to come, where I can continue to grow with my church family.

If you want to see last year’s post, click Here

If you want to share the ways that God has blessed you in 2016, feel free to write about it in the comments section! I always love hearing from you guys! 😘

 

Diary Of A Christian College Student: Chapter Four

Hey everyone, sorry it’s a little late! I was pretty tired on Sunday and on Monday I was out most of the day! Nonetheless, I finally finished part four of my ongoing series! 

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Dear Diary,

“I can’t believe we survived our first week of college.” My best friend Dana said, at the beginning of our sleepover on Friday night.

“Me neither.” I groaned, remembering the details of my week—particularly the remark my English teach made on the first day of class. “I am so ready for the weekend.”

“Me too.” Dana agreed, rolling over so she was face-down on the pillow. “I’m beat.”

“How were your classes?” I asked, trying to communicate with my friend who looked dead-to-the-land-of-the-living. “I feel like we’ve hardly had a chance to talk since Monday.”

“Pretty good. I wish I had a class with someone I knew though.”

“Yeah, me too.” I agreed, leaning against a pile of pillows that had been thrown carelessly onto the ground.

Dana sat up and grinned. “I think I know who you wish was in your classes.”

I rolled my eyes. “Here we go again.”

“Come on, we both know you like him.” She teased, something that was typical in our girl-talks.

“It’s just a crush.” I shrugged, trying to look nonchalant. “No big deal. Besides, you liked Benjamin for a while.”

“Not anymore.” She scrunched up her face. “There’s no future there.”

“I still don’t know how you rationalized your way out of it.” I said, still in awe at my friend’s ability to get over a guy simply by using the old trick of self-talk.

“I don’t know how you’ve had a three year long crush and managed to stay sane.”

“Valid point.” I admitted.

“So do you think it’s mutual?” Dana asked. “Do you think he likes you back?”

“I don’t know.” I said, sighing more dramatically then the moment called for. “Who knows what goes on inside of guys’ heads? I’m not going to drive myself crazy over it.”

Dana laughed. “Alright, I won’t drill you.”

“Thank you.” I grinned, emerging from the mess of pillows. “How about you, any new guys in your college classes?”

“Not really.” Dana said, making a face. “I mean, there are some that are kind of cute, but I have to get to know their personality before I can tell.”

“Gotcha.” I nodded. “Yeah, I’m the same way.”

“So how is your English class going? Your teacher for that period sounds pretty rough.”

“Mrs. Manchester.” I said, letting out a slight grown. “A little better since the first day, but she’s kind of cold. Nothing like our teachers back at Holy Cross.”

“I’m sorry. Most of my teachers are pretty OK, except my science class is sort of killing me.”

“How so?” I asked.

“Just the evolution stuff. The worldview is very different.”

“I’m sure.” I nodded empathetically.

“The scary thing is, the way they word it, it almost sounds convincing.” Dana admitted, her hazel eyes holding a note of uncertainty as she clutched a pillow to her chest. “I mean, they make it sound so scientific and factual.”

“Well, that is sort of their job. If they didn’t sound convincing about what they were teaching, they’d be pretty bad teachers, wouldn’t they?”

“I guess.” She admitted. “It’s just different than I expected, that’s all.”

“It’s not ‘Saved By The Bell: The College Years’, huh?”

“Not even close.” She agreed, laughing at my 90s reference.

“We’ll get through this.” I said, trying to remember a Bible verse that would help us have peace about college, and the new stage of life we were entering into. “We just have to be trust God, and not our own understanding of things. Right now, college looks pretty crazy, but God has a purpose in all of this.”

Dana smiled and sat up, as if she had gained the strength she was missing from my paraphrase of Proverbs 3:5-6. “You’re right Liv. We’ve got this.”

“And we’ve always got each other.” I reminded her. “And Nathan and TJ.”

“The squad.” She joked.

“Yup, the squad.”

“And your future husband.” She added in a sing-song voice.

“Don’t start again.” I rolled my eyes, tossing a pillow her way.

The rest of the night, we watched movies, made cookies, and had your typical all-American sleepover. Nonetheless, my words remained in my mind throughout the night.

Trust God and don’t rely on your own understanding of things.

Those might just very well be the words that will carry me through all of this.

God has a plan, even when I don’t—and it’s times like these when we’re called to lean on Him the most.

And He will direction our path.

Whatever that may be.

In Dependence

I have a confession to make: 

I’m a recovering independent. 

From the time I was a little girl, I’ve always been determined to rely on myself and never, ever ask for help with anything. I had four favorite words as a child—always in the same order.

“I’ll do it myself.” 

As I’ve gotten older, this symptom has only seemed to grow more severe.

Perhaps it’s a by-product of the thousands of self-help/self empowerment messages I’ve absorbed over my lifetime, an extremely perfectionistic personality, or the fear of depending on others. More than likely, it’s a combination of all of the above. Sometimes, this translates into positive character traits such as a good work ethic and healthy sense of independence. Other times, my self-relience becomes a vice. It can cause me to become stubborn, avoiding asking for help—even from the One who we’re called to lean on in times of need.

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This year, I feel like God is slowly trying to break this vice, helping me to rely more on Him and less on myself. Most of you know that this is my first year of college, but one thing that some of you may not know is that I was homeschooled K-12.

I wasn’t anti-social, sheltered, or otherwise freakish during my school years, but prior to 2016, I was in classes where the majority of my classmates shared my faith. I still saw and dealt with many of the same struggles that people in public/private schools deal with, but I was accustomed to being surrounded by fellow believers in my homeschool classes (Yes, many homeschoolers do take classes outside of the house). I had what many people would consider a “small town experience”. I knew most of my teachers before I took classes with them and grew up with a lot of the same kids all the way through school.

Oftentimes, I took the comforts of familiarity for granted, not realizing how comfortable I have become in the same building, with the same students for so many years. Now, I barely know anyone at college and I’m in a secular environment for the first time.

The rug of familiarity has been pulled out from underneath me.

Nonetheless, through all of this, I believe that God is trying to make me stronger and more reliant on Him. No longer can I depend on myself, familiarity, or the comfort of being surrounded by fellow Christians. When I’m alone and uncertain at college, I have to depend solely on God – trusting that He’ll give me the strength I need to get through the day. 

To quote Julian, a fellow blogger friend, I need to “Frog it“—in other words, Fully Rely On God. There are times that we can’t fully rely on ourself in this world. In a world where Christians are becoming more the minority every day, crime and death runs rampant, and a thousand choices lay before our eyes, we need to keep our eyes on one thing and one thing only—Jesus. He’s the only one big enough to help us through all of life’s ups and downs.

If you’re also a recovering independent, I urge you to sink into Jesus and give Him the steering wheel. It may be scary, but in the end, He’s the one that can sustain us and carry us through this rapidly spinning world. We need Him in every breath and every moment.

We need to FROG it, fully relying on a God who knows us in our weakness and strength, our doubt and confidence, and every moment of our life. God has entrusted us with this life that we’re living. 

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The question that we have to answer is this: Will we trust God? 

This is what the Lord says:

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
    who draws strength from mere flesh
    and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
    they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
    in a salt land where no one lives.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:5-8

Diary Of A Christian College Student: Chapter Three

Dear Diary,

They say there’s a season for everything.

A time to laugh, and a time to cry.

A time to be born, and a time to die.

A time to weep, and a time to laugh

A time to mourn, and a time to dance.*

In high school, it was a time of everything predictable. I’ve been around pretty much the same people since grade school. I knew the hallways as well as I knew my own home. I alternated between ordering the same three meals every day at lunch. It was a time when we were not-quite-kids and not-quite-adults. It may have had it’s confusions, but movies told us what to expect. It was a time of finding ourselves, a time for developing lifelong friendships, and a time for feeling things intensely, as if for the first time.

College, on the other hand, is a time of change. Nothing is the same anymore.

The hallways feel a million miles away from the halls of Holy Cross high school—cold and sterile. Lacking any sense of familiarity. With the exception of Dana, Nathan, and TJ, I haven’t spotted one familiar face. I may not have been friends with everyone at my old school, and it may have had it’s share of cliquey-ness and cattiness, but I could tell you the name of nearly every kid I passed in the hallways. These were kids that I went to school with from kindergarten to 12th grade. I knew what to expect. Now, it’s like a whole other culture.

On my first day here, I heard the F-Bomb dropped about ten times, in the presence of our professors. Sure, some of the students cursed at Holy Cross – that’s to be expected nearly everywhere. But never words like that, and never in the presence of teachers. If one of the adults at Holy Cross heard one of the students talking like that, they would have sent them on their way to the principal’s office in a second. The rules were strict and pretty obvious as to what you could-and-couldn’t get away with there.

Not to mention that there were about as many different kinds of lifestyles and beliefs among the students as there were students themselves. No longer were there moral absolutes – things that everyone knew to wrong. Things that were scandalous and gossiped about at Holy Cross were spoken about in broad daylight at Westside Oak. Nothing was off limits.

Perhaps the strangest thing was the student-teacher interactions. At Holy Cross, my teachers knew the name of every student in their classroom. They all shared a common faith and I could look to them not only as teachers – but as mentors and role models. Most of them were kind and seemed like they really wanted to be there, desiring to help each of us live up to our potential. As hardworking student who put her all into her work, I got along with nearly all of my teachers. Even instructors who taught subjects I struggled in were patient and happy to help me understand concepts that were difficult to me. Now, I’m lucky if my teachers even know my name.

One teacher in particular seems ready to stand in the face of all I believe in. My college english teacher asked on the first day who was Christian. Slowly but surely, I raised my hand, along with a handful of other students, uncertain of what she was doing.

“Alright.” She said, looking as if it was anything but alright. “You have your faith – that’s fine. But, in this class, I hope this won’t hinder you from being open minded to the reading material. We’re going to be reading a lot of different viewpoints. Not all of them will be consistent with fundamentalism. Most of them won’t be.”

Already uncomfortable with the way she was referring to my faith, I shifted in my seat, trying to figure out what she meant by that. She than went on to explain class procedure, as if to distract from that weird paragraph she just uttered. Finally, she handed us our first assignment – a short academic essay. My stomach churned as I read it – an explicit reflection an erotic encounter.

Was this really allowed in a classroom? Could they hand out something so full of filth to the students without any consequences? There was no way I would ever pick up something like this on my own, yet here I was, stuck reading it in school – of all places! I guess the shock on my face showed, as I stared blankly at the writing, because my teacher soon walked over to my desk.

“Ms. Bennett, are you doing alright there?”

I glanced up, trying to look less uncomfortable than I felt. I nodded my head quickly, hoping this moment would soon fade to the past. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Alright, I just want to make sure you can handle this class – that it’s not to hard for you.”

My face burned with frustration. Too hard for me? I was an AP student in my high school and made straight A’s in all four years of English! My dream was to become a journalist and write professionally. This was not “too hard” for me.

Although I suspected that she had a very different meaning in her words. It was a challenge; a dare.

A challenge I was willing to accept.

There’s no way I’m dropping there’s class now. I’m not going to prove my teacher right – that I can’t handle this. After all, I’ve always been a strong person. Right?

“No, it’s not too hard for me. I’m fine.”

I had just told my teacher that I could indeed handle this – no matter how horrible it may be. I told her I was strong enough to do it, even though it’s possible that my answer stemmed more from pride. I had made my declaration. I was strong and capable.

The only question was, did I believe it myself?

*Ecclesiastes 3