Some Lessons From College: What I’ve Learned So Far

Last week, I started my first day back to college for the fall semester—after a summer that flew by way too fast.It was also my first day of my third year of college, which feels funny to say, considering the fact that it seems like just yesterday that I started my first year as a nervous and excited college freshman.

Since then, I’ve learned a lot. About myself. About life. About my faith. And though I still have a long ways off until I graduate, I feel led to share about what I’ve learned so far, and my personal journey as a Christian college student. Hopefully, if any of you are going into college, or in the midst of the insanity of college life, you’ll find this post insightful and helpful!

So, without further ado…here is my list on how to survive as a Christian college student! 

  1. Find a community of believers who share your faith – This is so important y’all. I cannot emphasis this point enough. As Christians, we weren’t meant to do life alone. This is a point that’s emphasized time and time again in Scripture, and through the example of the early church in Acts 2:42-47. Furthermore, Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”                    Depending on the college that you’re attending, there is a very good chance that you’re going to be a minority in your faith. Even if you’re going to a Christian college, it is a good idea to get plugged into a smaller club/Bible study/church where you can meet people on a more intimate scale. College life can get pretty hard, but it is so much easier when you have a solid group of Christians in your circle to do life with.
  2. Stay close to God This is an important one for any stage of life, but when you’re in college, it takes on a whole new urgency. College is a time filled with changes. Odds are, you’re probably going to change your major at some point, and a lot of people even change their career path during college. You will probably also have a lot of changes to your schedule and sometimes, even your state. This can be pretty hard for a lot of people (especially if you’re and ENFJ like me!) and staying close to God will give you the security and solid ground that you’ll need to endure these changes. College can be a time for real growth in our faith, but if we don’t actively pursue God through prayer and Bible reading, it can be all too easy to miss out on the lessons that He is trying to teach us.
  3. Ask Questions – For many people, college is a time when people really start thinking about what they believe and why. Many Christians see this as a bad thing—but it doesn’t have to be. I have learned so much through the questions that I’ve dared to ask and the answers that I have found. I would never detour someone from asking hard questions about their faith – because there is no question too big for God to answer. So dare to ask questions and think critically about the world around you. Read books. Listen to lectures. Engage with your faith and make it your own. Asking questions doesn’t mean your losing your faith – it means that you’re growing in it.
  4. Life probably isn’t going to go as planned…and that’s OK – When I got to college, I thought I knew exactly what my plan was. I was going to do two years at a local community college and than transfer to one of my state’s universities. I was going to major in teaching or psychology and than become a teacher. I was going to work at one part-time job all through college. However, when I actually got to college, everything changed. I still am taking classes at the local community college, but rather than going to the university I was planning on, God led me to get my bachelors’ through Liberty University Online with a double major in Linguistics and Theology. I still am working towards becoming a teacher, but there was a journalism detour along the way. And I did get that part time job—but it closed down a few months after I started working there—leading me to a brief office internship and later, to a position at a different store in the same mall. Long story short, nothing turned out the way I thought it would. But God’s plan was better than my plan (isn’t it always?). And now, as chaotic as it was, I’m thankful for every experience that God has given me.
  5. Stay true to your convictions – In college, you’re probably going to meet people who live pretty differently than you. That’s almost inevitable. And as we probably all know, sex, drugs, and alcohol aren’t exactly a rarity on most college campuses. But as a Christ-follower, you have the power within you to stand against temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.Through Christ’s power within us, we can stand courageously against peer pressure and the attacks of the enemy – and dare to live original and be a light in a world surrounded by darkness.
  6. Study what interests you – In college, we have an opportunity like never before to study the subjects that we find interesting. You need electives for your degree anyways, so why not take the time to study things that you care about? You want to become a better communicator? Take a public speaking class! You want to improve in your creative writing skills? Do it! You want to learn more about politics and policy in America? Go for it! You’re only in college once, so take full advantage of the opportunities that God has placed in front of you!
  7. Schedule, schedule, SCHEDULE! – If there’s one thing that any college student will tell you, it’s that time is valuable because in college, you don’t have a lot of it! Between part-time jobs, classes, and church activities, your schedule is going to be full! The good thing is, if you’re careful to plan out your time, you can usually get everything done with some free time still available. Make a to-do-list, or get a daily planner. Prioritize, and decide what’s important and what you can do without. In the words of a quote I found online, “You gotta make it a priority to make your priorities a priority.”*
  8. Have a healthy view of your GPA – Grades are super important in college. Many of us know this and have been preparing all through high school to succeed in college. And for those of us aiming to get into a post-bachelors program, the pressure is all the more real. However, never let your grades define you. There is so much more to life than getting that A+ on your exam or making the dean’s list. You have inherent worth as a Child of God that is not rooted in your grade point average—and there is nothing that you can do to change that! So work hard and study hard, but never put your grades in the place where God should be.
  9. Find Godly mentors – 1 Peter 5:5-7 says, “In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”[aHumble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.Having godly Christian mentors is such a blessing, and I am grateful to all of the older women who have spoken into my life through my transition from high school to college. I would highly recommend finding someone (or a couple of someones) who can speak into your life, and help you through the ups and downs of college life.
  10. Have fun – You’re only in college once, and one day, your going to look back on these days as a faint memory in your rearview mirror. Make them count, and take advantage of the blessings and opportunities that God has placed before you.
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My first day of college back in 2016.
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My first day of college this year.

How about you? Do you have any advice that you would give someone in college? Or any experiences from your own college days that you’d like to share? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below! 

*This quote is by Riche Norton, whoever he is.

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Salt And Light

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:13-16 

If you’ve been in church for a while, it is more than likely that you’ve heard this passage before. You’ve probably also heard variations of it – with faith-based tee shirts and song lyrics by Christian bands and artists. But what does it really mean to shine your light? What does it look like to impact people for Christ at your school, work, or area of influence? 

In short, shining a light means being bold. It means stepping out of your comfort zone and letting others see that you’re a Christian sold out for Christ. It means being open about your faith, and sharing it through your actions and words with those around you. It means offering to pray for a co-worker who’s struggling, sharing your story to encourage others, and being aware of the needs of those around you—even when you feel as though you are at a deficit. It means daring to be brave through God’s grace and strength in us.

This has been something that I’ve been thinking about and praying about a lot over the course of the last couple of months. It has been one of the many things that God has been speaking to me about and something that I’ve been striving to make more of an effort to do—both in my writing and in my day-to-day relationships and interactions with the world around me. Little by little, I’m learning how to be more bold—stepping out in faith and being brave for Christ in my actions and words.

It can be so easy to get caught up in the status quo. To get so caught up in the things of this world that we loose track of the one thing that we are ultimately chasing after. It’s easy to stay quiet—and keep our light hidden under a bowl. But as Christians, we are called to something greater than this. Something big, and scary, and wonderful, and amazing all at the same time. We are called to boldness for Christ. We are called to take risks in sharing our faith for the sake of His Kingdom. We are called to look a little crazy sometimes, as we seek to live to change lives through the power of the Gospel.

And as Christians, we are never in this alone. 

In John 14:15-21, Jesus says, If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us, to give us courage, peace, and bravery as we seek to live for God. He does not leave us alone to fend for ourselves—He is always with us. And if we continue to press into God and seek His will, the Holy Spirit will lead us in ways that are beyond our wildest dreams. He will bring us closer to who God intended us to be and guide us towards living confidently for Him! And He will help us to be bold for Christ and make an impact on the lives around us.

We don’t know everyone’s story. There’s an old quote that says, “Be kind, for everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” There’s another quote that says, “You may be the only Bible someone ever reads”. There are so many people in this world who are hurting and broken. There are so many people who are looking for hope—and something to hold onto. There are so many people who have the wrong idea about Christianity—and feel that they can never be good enough for God.

In a world filled with the wrong voices, we are called to be a bold voice of love. We are called to show people what it really means to be a Christian. That it’s not a list of rules and orders. It’s not a contract with an impersonal god. It’s not a life without joy. It’s an invitation to a table where everyone is welcome. It’s a joy beyond reason. It’s a a heart for the broken, the outcast, and the marginalized. It’s a love that changes our lives.

This world will someday fade away, and it will take with it our possessions, our accomplishments, and awards. The one thing that will never fade away is the souls of the people around us—and the difference that we make in their lives. I don’t know about you, but I want to invest my life into something that will matter. I want to make a difference and leave a legacy—something lasting, that moths and rust can’t destroy.

I want to shine with my life. I want to be bold for Jesus. 

And, I want to challenge you to do the same.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9 

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Joy In Christ

Hey everyone, I just posted a new vlog at the request of my awesome Instagram followers! Vlogging’s a tad new for me, so it’s a little raw – but I hope you guys like it! I just started a YouTube Channel here, so hopefully I’ll be posting more of these in the future!😃

If you have any thoughts, feel free to post them in the comments section below! The format may be a little different this week, but as always, I love hearing from you guys! 

Fearless

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

For many people, fear is a familiar face. 

It’s the thing that we feel deep down as we step out of our comfort zone. The feeling that we get when we go up on stage to sing or give a speech. The worry that plagues us as we talk to someone new. It’s likely something different for all of us, but regardless of the specifics, there’s something that we all have in common.

We all struggle with fear in some capacity. 

Maybe not on a daily basis. And maybe we don’t experience it to a crippling degree. But, if we’re honest, we’re all afraid of something. And whatever it is, I believe that it’s something that we can overcome. I believe that we all have the capacity to move past the grips of fear.

2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” God doesn’t want us to live our lives out of fear. He wants us to have peace, to trust Him, and live courageously and confidently through His power within us.

I’m going to be honest, fear is something that has often been a stumbling block in my own life. I touched on this a couple of posts back, in my post about vulnerability. It’s a real struggle for me to open up to people, and let people in. I consider people who open up with ease to be some of the bravest people I know, because it’s one of the things that I struggle the most with. But lately, God has been helping me overcome this. He’s been helping me learn to break down my wall. To let people in and trust that they won’t let me down.

Maybe for you, fear looks a little different. Maybe it’s a fear of public speaking, or of talking to someone you don’t know. Maybe it’s a fear of the future, or of the unknown. Whatever it is, God already knows about it. He sees you and loves you in the midst of it.He’s not disappointed in you for having fears—but as our Heavenly Father, He wants us to have peace and joy. He wants us to lay down our fears before Him and trust that He’ll trade those fears for joy. He wants us to learn day-by-day how to live confidently in Christ. 

Here’s the thing guys, we’ll never be able to live out the fullness of the plans that God has for us if we remain trapped in the prison of fear. God calls us to be bold, and boldness can only really happen when we lay down our fears at the foot of the cross. He wants to use us for big things—and oftentimes, that means stepping outside of our comfort zone, and daring to be uncomfortable. These are the times when we bring what have, and God brings the rest. He will never bring us to something too hard for us to accomplish. In the words of Luke 1:37, “Nothing is impossible with God.”

This week, I want to challenge you to live fearlessly.

To embrace the fullness of God’s plans for you.

To live boldly, to love fully, and to be the change right where you are.

Dare to be fearless; embracing the freedom found in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in Whom we find our strength, power, and perfect peace. 

Strength In Vulnerability

You never lose by loving. You always lose by holding back.” – Barbara de Angelis. 

Vulnerability. Transparency. Openness.

There is a lot packed into these three simple words. Things that are scary for many of us. Choices that make us feel afraid. Decisions that force us out of our comfort zone.

But recently, God has been speaking to me about all of these things, and I feel led to share what I’ve been learning with you, in hopes that maybe, just maybe, it might inspire someone.

So, here it goes…

* * * *

For as long as I can remember, I’ve never been good at opening up to people. I don’t have a specific reason exactly – likely some mix of being a more reserved personality by nature and going through seasons where I’ve been hurt by people – but for as long as I can remember, this has always been my story. I could write and speak about my faith and beliefs, but anytime I tried to get personal—about my life and my own struggles, I choked. It was easier for me to talk about things from an intellectual standpoint than a personal one.

This got a million times worse once I got to college. 

My first year of college, I slowly began to feel like my life was falling apart. First my schedule changed, and than my expectations changed, and than little by little, I began to feel a lot of my friendships beginning to change—until eventually it felt like everything that had come together so perfectly towards the end of high school was gone, never to be recovered again.

My life, little by little, began to turn into something of a to-do-list. 

I got up. I went to college classes. I went to work. I did my chores and daily-tasks. 

And shut down almost 100% emotionally and relationally. 

In some ways, I felt hurt. Why was it so hard to get together with old friends? Why were people changing so much? Where was God in the midst of all of this? I began to fear that if I let anyone else in, I would only get hurt—over and over again. And somewhere down the line, I held back from fully letting God in. On the outside, I looked strong. On the inside, I was a total, complete train-wreck—with OCD and anxiety slowly starting to run my life.

In retrospect, I was somewhat aware that I had a problem—even if I didn’t know how to fix it. But to be honest, most days I was trying so hard to just get through that I couldn’t really see the full picture, and how much I really was falling apart. In my mind, it was all just a part of life that I’d have to get used to. 

But recently, things have changed. And that’s what I want to share with you. 

As some of you know, I’ve started going to a new church, which I wrote about here. It has been an incredible blessing, and I’ve loved going, but I had no idea when I first went how much this church would end up helping me. And how much it would change my life.

My first week there, I was blown away by how connected everyone seemed—and how everyone really seemed to interact as one big, awesome, diverse, beautiful church family—taking the words of Jesus in Matthew 12:50 and putting them into action. The following week, I saw it even more up close and personal, as I went for the first time to the church’s young adult/college group. And that’s when things really started to change.

After taking note of how genuinely nice the people in this group seemed, the second thing that I noticed was how they opened up. Like, really opened up. More than I’ve ever seen people collectively open up in a church group before. And not only did they open up to each other—they opened up to God. Being a part of this church, I’ve seen so many people on fire for Jesus—striving to grow closer to Him above all else. And little by little, I heard God, starting to convict me. 

“You need to start letting people in. You need to start letting me in.” ‘

This has completely changed my life, and my outlook on life. It wasn’t a call to come to Christ—I accepted Christ years ago, back when I was still pretty young. But it was a call to give God all of me. My hopes. My fears. My dreams. My carefully laid out plans. 

And it was a call to start really opening up to those around me.

Slowly, I’ve started doing both of these things. It’s been a process—I can’t say I’m where I’d like to be quite yet, but I’ve made progress, even admitting in front of my whole group that I struggle with OCD and anxiety (which, by the way, has slowly been lessening). And I’ve found that the more that you give God your all, the less you worry about being hurt by other people—giving you the freedom to really open up to those around you. 

These last few years have been a journey—but for the first time in a while, I’m living—not just breathing.

And I can’t wait to see what else God has in store for me. 

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Through Christ

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

From the time that many of us are young, we have dreams for the future.

Maybe our dream is to write a book, or go to college, or enter a certain line of work. Maybe it’s to start a family, or become a missionary in a third world country. Likely, the details of our dreams and desires will look somewhat different for everyone, but there is one thing many of us struggle with, regardless of our many differences and strengths. Something that is a common fear amongst many of God’s children, and that can be nearly paralyzing—holding us back from our destiny and our calling in life.

And that thing is, the fear of failure. 

This can be especially highlighted for those who have graduated this year—either from high school or college, and who are faced with a new chapter in life. I remember my own high school graduation just a couple of years ago, and the feeling of being plagued with a sense of fear and anxiety as I stood on that stage to accept my diploma.

What did God have next for me? And what did life after high school look like?

Many of my friends who have graduated this year have expressed similar concerns. Some are still trying to decipher God’s calling post-college graduation, and some will be entering college campuses and universities for the very first time.

Even if we aren’t one of the lucky graduates of 2018, we likely still deal with some of this same stress and worry about the future. A lot of us have a dream for the destination, but don’t know how we’re going to get there. Some of us may feel hesitant to even try.

Nonetheless, while these are all very legitimate fears and concerns, there’s something very important that we can remember as Christians during times like this. Something that can carry us through any fear or doubt or worry that we face, and something big enough to carry us through any trial that we encounter.

We aren’t in this alone. 

We serve a God who painted the stars into the galaxy. Who said ‘Let there be light’ and there was. Who created the Heavens and the earth and who knows each of us by name—and who wants a personal and intimate relationship with all of us. The same God who tells us that “If we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains” (Matthew 17:20).

Here’s the thing guys, we are never alone in our hopes and dreams. We were never meant to try to do big things for God. We were meant to do things with God—as image bearers and beloved children of our Heavenly Father. And if we trust our dreams to God (assuming they’re His will), they will come to pass.

God wants to use each of us to play part of His larger story in humanity. No person is too small, and no dream is too big for the God of the galaxies. He has a history of using ordinary people for an extraordinary purpose. He transformed Shepherd boy into the king of a nation. He used a young girl from an ordinary family to give birth to the Savior of the world. He used a former murder to write most of the New Testament.

If God could use David, Mary, and Paul, than He can use you too.

As you go throughout this week, I want to encourage you to pray big for the things that you want to see come to pass in your life. Pray with confidence over your future and the future of those around you—believing wholeheartedly that God will answer your prayers in His timing. We were each made for something incredible, that we were meant to accomplish with and through Christ, who gives us strength.

All that we need is faith the size of mustard seed. 

 

Real

“Oh craaaap, why did I just say that?”

“Is it seriously that late? I’ve gotten nothing done!”

“Please tell me I took my phone out of my pocket. Please tell me it’s not in the wash…”

Let’s be honest. These aren’t exactly phrases you’d typically utter on your average Instagram post or blog. They’re not the kind of thoughts you want to tell the whole blogosphere. As humans, we typically don’t stand on street corners with a megaphone yelling “Hey—guess what?! I’m a hot mess!”

But this is the stuff of real life, isn’t it? They’re the kind of thoughts we think in our everyday real-as-can-be-lives. They’re the kind of things we vent to our best friend about, but not the whole world. And they’re sure-as-heck not the moments we put in a scrapbook to remember ten years from now. They’re messy. They’re embarrassing. They’re the kind of moments you’d find on AFV.

A few weeks back, one of my good friends and I were taking note of this. She noted how on social media, our lives look perfect even if our real lives are falling apart. We post about the relationship but not the breakup. We post about the success but not the failure. We post about the final product but not the hours dying with a glue gun ready to call it quits. We like things photoshopped and auto-tuned. We like things to be perfect.

Now, to be clear, this is not a urge to post your entire life online. Many of us are private people would prefer to keep things between just a few close friends. That’s perfectly fine. Normal even. Nonetheless, there is one person who we should never keep our most embarrassing and painful blooper moments from.

God.

Unfortunately, this can often be far too easy to do. For many of us, being real with God can feel vulnerable or even downright scary. We worry whether we sound church-y enough. Whether we have the “right” kind of problems (as if there are any). We worry God will end up face palming and shaking His head as we give our whole laundry list of all the things stressing us out. But the truth? God already knows.

God knows about that dream you’re worried will never come to be. God knows you’re worried about schoolwork and grades and getting into a good college. God knows about that guy that’s been on your mind more than you care to admit. If you’re older, he knows about your marriage, your finances, and your children. He knows us at our high points and He knows us just as well at our lows.

If you look to the Psalms, it’s clear that David, who was “A man after God’s own heart”, was brutally honest with God. He showed a full range of emotion—from praise, to frustration, to sadness, to anger, to joy. Psalm 69 is a perfect example of King David’s honesty, as it reads…

Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help my throat is parched. My eyes fail,
looking for my God. Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs of my head;
many are my enemies without cause, those who seek to destroy me. I am forced to restore what I did not steal.” Psalm 69:1-4

Throughout Scriptures, those with the strongest faith were the ones who were the most real with God, as Paul laments “doing what he does not want to do and not doing what he should do” (Romans 7:15) and Thomas outright asked Jesus for evidence of His Resurrection (John 20:25).

There’s nothing that we can ask or express to Gd that He doesn’t already know.

He is always someone we can feel safe to be real with—even with our most un-instagram worthy moments.🙂Unknown-1