Social Media

In our modern world, social media is something that we use at rapid pace. 

Between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and a host of other apps and websites, we have information at our fingertips literally twenty-four-seven. We can go on Twitter to see the latest thoughts and anecdotes of our favorite celebrities. We can go on Instagram to see what our friends and classmates are up to. We can go on Snapchat to chat with our friends and post to our “stories”. We can go on Facebook to see everyone’s opinion on literally everything.

And in many ways, this is good. It lets us keep up with those closest to us and allows us easy access to what’s-going-on-in-the-world. But, like with most good things, social media also has it’s drawbacks. And as young people setting out to impact the world for Christ, it is important to be aware of these drawbacks as we navigate the wonderful and complex world of social media and devices. 

A couple of weeks ago at my church’s youth group, our youth pastor mentioned social media in his lesson. He was talking about culture, and he said that statistically in our modern world, the average teen gets anxiety when separated from their phone. That’s scary y’all. Have we as a culture become so attached to our phones that we get stressed out when we don’t have them? And, is it possible that we could be part of that statistic?

The truth is, I’m writing this to myself just as much as I’m writing to you. As a blogger, it can be a real challenge for me to keep my social media use in balance, and not spend more time online than I should. A couple of weeks ago I was at a leadership meeting and before it started, I was hanging out with a group of my friends, laughing and talking. And as we hit a pocket of silence, I got out my phone and got video footage of the room for my Instagram story. And thinking back to that moment, I couldn’t tell you why I felt such a compulsion to post over just enjoying the moment. But at this point in our society, that’s part of the culture that we live in. You do something fun and post about it—without stopping to just soak in the moment free of phones and devices. 

Yet at the same time, social media can be used for so much good, right? It can be used to spread the Gospel and share God’s Word with the world! You often have a bigger audience on platforms like Twitter and Instagram than you do in your real-day-to-day life, giving you the perfect opportunity to use those tweets and posts for good—and for the glory of God! So, how do you balance it? How do you use your social media for good without letting it run your life? 

I think the first thing remember is to keep it in moderation. Try to limit the amount of time that you’re online per day and try not to mindlessly scroll when you have a free second. There are so many things that we can do when we’re bored besides go online—read a book, listen to music, pray, or call a friend! Live in the moment, and try to enjoy the minutes of your day, without feeling that you have to post everything online.

Second, give yourself a mission! I talked last week about being leaders and social media gives us the opportunity to do just that—right where we are! Use your social media to share your favorite Bible verses, or highlights from a really good sermon at church*. Use it to encourage people and help them in their faith. I have one friend who recently started an online prayer ministry, which I think is an incredible idea! Be creative, and let God show you how He wants to use you in the online world!

Third, be realistic. This is something that we don’t always do with social media but that I feel needs to be said. You know that girl who always posts those perfect pictures of herself at the beach or in meadows of flowers? The girl with the perfectly braided hair who always looks happy and excited about everything? Her life likely isn’t as perfect as it appears online. We have a tendency to post our best selves on social media, which can make many of us think that everyone else’s life is going better than our own. But we don’t see the ugly cries behind the scenes. We don’t see long nights of insomnia. We don’t see the stress, insecurities, or piles of homework. We don’t see a person’s real life on social media—so never compare your behind the scenes to another person’s highlight reel. 

Fourth, be careful about oversharing! This pertains both to safety and to spilling our personal lives online. Not everyone should have access to your personal information (which could be used against you by online predators) and not everyone should have access to your most personal moments. Rather than share your schedule, share your heart. And rather than posting about your messy breakup with your boyfriend, call a close friend who can talk to you and pray with you about it! Social media has a purpose, but it should never replace our real life interactions with those closest to us! 

Fifth, never post anything that you wouldn’t want your children to see or read in the future. Some of you may read that sentence and think, “I’m twelve. That’s a looooong ways off Courtney!” But the truth is, things online have a tendency of sticking around for a while. And if you don’t want your future employer, your children, or your future spouse reading something or seeing a questionable picture, than you probably shouldn’t post it. I’ve tried to live by this rule for as long as I’ve had social media, and it has helped me keep the right perspective when posting stuff online. In the worlds of Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.Post about the things that will uplift and inspire, not that will tear down or embarrass you later down the line!

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How about you? What are your thoughts on social media and stewarding it well as Christians? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below – I always love a good conversation!😀

*But for the sake of your pastors, please do this after the service is over.

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True Beauty

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

For many of us, we see things that we don’t want to see. Acne. Weight. Hair that’s too curly/straight/some weird combo of the two. A nose that’s that’s too big or small. etc. etc. etc. Odds are, if you look closely enough, you can find something that you don’t like. And in the world that we live in, we’re told that’s the norm. We’re told everyone hates the way they look. In fact, we’re told that unless we look like an (airbrushed) model on the cover of a magazine, we should hate the way that we look—and do everything in our power to change it.

But God’s word says something different. 

Psalms 139:14 says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

In our world, we have a very narrow definition of beauty. To the world, beauty means being a size two with perfect hair and a flawless complex. To God, beauty means being you—because every single person that He created is beautiful in His eyes. Every perceived imperfection that you have is beautiful, because it is part of what makes you you—and when when the God of the universe looks down on you, He doesn’t see anything less than someone who is beautiful, worthy, and loved!

Furthermore, despite what our society tells us, beauty is so much more than skin deep. 

1 Samuel 16:7 says, “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” And 1 Peter 3:3-4 says, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

This does not mean that it’s wrong to care about your appearance – it is perfectly OK to enjoy dressing nice or wearing makeup and jewelry! But our self worth should never come from these things, and we should never use these things as measuring sticks for our beauty as human beings! Ultimately, the most important thing about us is our heart; and God values the state of our hearts far above our appearance or outward beauty! When a person is truly kindhearted, compassionate, and caring, it makes them a billion times more attractive than someone who just has their looks! 

This week, as you go throughout your days, I want to challenge you to see yourself as God sees you. To wake up each morning that you are loved, beautiful, and cherished by your Creator! To see your self-worth and be able to praise God, because you are fearfully and wonderfully made! And to ultimately, focus on your inner beauty—choosing every day to be the kind of person that you would want to have for a friend!

In the words of the old song by Johnny Diaz,

There could never be a more beautiful you. Don’t buy the lies, disguises and hoops, they make you jump through. You were made to fill a purpose that only you could do. So there could never be a more beautiful you.

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How about you? Have you ever struggled with the way you looked? If so, what helped you to see your worth? I’d love to hear your story in the comments below! 

Guest Post – Because He Is, I Am

Hey guys,

So…I have some good news and some good news (you were expecting me to say good news and bad news, weren’t you?)! The first piece of good news is that my life is finally getting back to normal and I should be back to my regular posts next week! The second piece of good news is…this week’s post was written by my good friend and sister in Christ, Julia Carvalho! 

Julia and I met back in April at a Bible study at my church and she’s legit one of the coolest people that I know! She also has a lot of wisdom – so I’d strongly advise you read on! You won’t regret it!

So…let’s all give a big round of virtual applause for Julia! 

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It is only when I know who God is, that I know who I am and discover the purpose and calling that God has placed upon my life.

“’But what about you?’” Jesus asked. ‘Who do you say that I am?’

Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’

Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah…And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it.’” (Matthew 16:15-18).

So, who do I say that Jesus is? He is gracious and compassionate. He is holy and awesome. The works of His hands are faithful and just; all His precepts are trustworthy. He is good. He is love. He is my anchor when life gets rocky. He is my mountain, my safe place. He is my fountain of living water. He is light—shining into the darkest parts of my life. He is peace. He is joy. He is patient, even when I make the same mistake over and over and over again. He is my shield, my refuge. He is my Savior—bearing my burdens daily. He is with me, holding my hand in every moment. He is my king, my friend, my father.

And because I know who He is, I know who I am. Because He is my father, I am His child and I reflect His image. Because He is strong, I am strong. Because He is peace, I am filled with peace. Because He is a leader, I can lead in confidence knowing that He is going ahead and paving the way for me. Because He is brave, I am brave. Because He is a rock, I am a rock—stable, unwavering, faithful. Because He is patient, I am patient. Because He is beautiful, I am beautiful. Because He is confident in who He is, I am confident in who I am and who He created me to be. Because He is, I am.

And it’s in the quiet moment when I am declaring who He is, and I am being reminded of who I am, that He whispers to the depths of my soul my purpose, my calling. It’s a path that only I can walk. A calling that only I can fit into. A purpose that only I can fulfill, because He has created it uniquely for me, just as He has created a unique purpose just for you.

So, who do you say He is?

Scriptures referenced:

Psalm 11:4,7,9; Psalm 34:8; 1 John 4:8; 1 John 1:5; 2 Peter 3:9; Psalm 68:19-20; Isaiah 26:3; Psalm 36:8-9; Colossians 3:15; 1 Peter 5:7; 1 Peter 1:8-9; Romans 15:13; Matthew 16:13-20; Mark 10:46-52

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If you want to hear more awesomeness from Julia, be sure to check out her vlog, Jewels From Jules! Just click through the link below and subscribe to her channel! I promise that you’ll love it!😃

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2OKlYvzTybAOgwkxUzzG2g

 

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.

The Power Of Words

The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” – Proverbs 15:4. 

“You can’t sit here.” 

I still remember the first time I ever heard those words. I was in a Christian girl scouts group in the 6th grade. I was a gawky and awkward preteen. I was also painfully shy. I remember being partly in shock; why was it that this girl was refusing to let me sit with her, when as far as I could tell, she wasn’t saving that seat for anyone? I had never done anything to make her not like me—I didn’t even know her! I also remember feeling hurt, unsure what I could have done to make her respond the way that she did.

Over the years, I’ve dealt with more incidents like this. Incidents where I was forced to sit by myself in a classroom. Incidents where the ‘cool girls‘ refused to talk to me. Incidents where cliques and girl-politics abounded. I also witnessed friends deal with this. And sometimes, it was what wasn’t said that spoke the loudest. 

Like many teenagers in high school, I’ve dealt with my share of being-bullied and being on the outside. I’ve dealt with my share of loneliness. I’ve dealt with the creeping feeling that I don’t belong. I am grateful to say it was never as terrible as what some have experienced—with constant torment or physical abuse. But words can still hurt—and our words and actions can carry a lasting impact on the lives of those around us. 

However, because of my own personal experiences with words, I have become more aware of their affect on the lives of those around us. I have become more aware of those on the fringes, and have made a promise to myself that whenever possible, I would use my words to uplift, encourage, and include. That I would never use them to make a person feel less-then or to tear someone down Today, I am determined to never make another person feel the way that I felt back in jr. high school. 

Because if there’s one thing that I’ve also learned over the years, it’s that words of affirmation can make an impact too. An encouraging word, a prayer over a friend, and a decision to befriend someone who’s new all have the potential to turn someone’s whole year around. And every day, we have the opportunity be this person to someone—whether it be at school, work, church, or the local grocery store down the street. We have the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and show others the amazing love that He’s shown each one of us—shining a light for His Kingdom and reaching out to those who are hurting and broken.

John 13:34-35 says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

No matter who you are or what your life looks like, you have people in your sphere of influence who are watching you. Who know that you’re a Christian and are looking to you to see what it means to be a follower of Christ. Whether your the head cheerleader at your high school, or the shy girl hiding behind the safety of a textbook, your life and your words matter. And you have the chance to impact those around you with your words.

We hold within us the power to touch lives in our conversations and the choices that we make every day. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” (NLT). As we go into this new and upcoming school year (whether you’re still in school or not), let us make a conscious effort to let our words be a light, and a city on a hill that cannot be shaken (Matthew 5:14). Let us reach out to those who are hurting, and stand up for those who are being bullied.

Let us love with our words and with our life. 

Let us never miss out on a chance to speak life and shine our light for Christ. 

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“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” – 1 Peter 4:8-11

One Of The Guys

Ever since high school, I’ve always been one of the guys.

It was never a conscious decision, or something that I “planned” in any way, it just sort of happened, and to be honest, it’s not something I’ve thought too much about. It’s just sort of a fact, similar to the fact that I love hot tea and binge watching sessions of Friends.

Something commonplace and totally normal in my life.

Nonetheless, one day, not too long ago, I actually did happen to think about it—due to the fact that I was going to a graduation with a group of friends to watch three bros graduate. I was naturally nostalgic, as these were people I grew up with, so I decided to google one of those articles on Buzzfeed like “What it’s like when you have a lot of guy friends” or “Humorous things that happen when a lot of your friends are guys“. And, while doing this, I ended up stumbling across an advice column on this very topic.

Long story short, this person was borderline negative at the prospect of having a friend of the opposite gender – accusing it of simply being a way to “get attention from guys”. After, researching further commentary on this topic, I found other articles from similar viewpoints, one calling it an avenue for “confusion and frustration” – even going so far as to call opposite gender friendship a sin!

Sadly, as much as I’d like to believe otherwise, I don’t believe these viewpoints are all too uncommon in some circles. Oftentimes, both the church and society can become so obsessed with sex and marriage that any kind of platonic interaction between guys and girls is viewed with suspicion.

Even movies, such as When Harry Met Sally, that address the age old “can guys and girls be friends” question typically end up with the two friends becoming a couple. And while I don’t disagree that this can sometimes happen, I personally find it rather ludicrous to say that every guy-girl friendship has some kind of Fruedian undertone just waiting to emerge at the worst time.

Thus, to contrast with an article in support of guy-girl friendships, I’ve decided to list a few reasons why having friends of the opposite gender can be a good and godly thing for us as Christian teens and young adults.

  1. Jesus did – As Christians, Jesus is our ultimate role model. In the 80s, the old slogan WWJD was popularized, and ever since, faithful Christians have asked the famous question, “What would Jesus do”? If we’re going to look closely to His example, we’ll be quick to find that Jesus spent time with both men and women.

In Luke 10, it is clear that Jesus was close friends with two sisters named Mary and Martha, even going over to their house for dinner. Furthermore, in Luke 8, Jesus travels with friends of both gender, and the women traveling with him helped support Him in His ministry. According to www.gci.org, this was simply unheard of during this time era. Nonetheless, it is evidenced that Paul follows a similar pattern later on in the New Testament, and even calls Persis a “dear friend” in Romans 16:12.

2. We learn from each other – I have always believed we grow through having friends who are different than us. Whether it be culturally, racially, gender-wise, or anything else, we understand those who are different than us through relationships. We learn to appreciate each others’ differences while learning that we’re not as far apart as we usually think.

While guys and girls have their differences, we are ultimately all human beings, with individual stories, testimonies, and personalities. Having friends of the opposite gender can help us realize that maybe guys aren’t so much from Mars and girls aren’t so much from Venus—maybe we’re all actually from the same planet earth.

3. It reduces stereotypes – When I was in middle school, I used to have a legit fear of the opposite gender. It sounds crazy in retrospect, but because of some of the stereotypes I was hearing about guys at the time (They’re all crude, they’re only interested in one thing, they have no manners etc.) I used to feel borderline panicky around anyone of the opposite sex.

Nonetheless, once I started making friends with actual guys, the stereotypes began to fall away one by one. No longer did I characterize the whole male species as being somehow dangerous. I began to realize they’re just people, like myself. And, I soon found that a lot of them can actually be pretty cool.

4. It lets you feel comfortable having a feminine/masculine side – According to psychology, no one is all “masculine” or all “feminine“. This doesn’t mean anything strange or that gender differences aren’t important. It simply means that we each have different sides of our personality—and not all of them fit neatly into boxes.

Around my guy friends, I often feel a freedom to let out my sarcasm and joke around in a way that might come across odd with a close girl friend. Meanwhile, I was once talking with a guy friend who confided that most boys don’t like to sit around and have discussions, so it would be difficult trying to sit around and just talk with another guy. With our opposite gender friends, we can feel free to let sides of ourselves show that might not come out otherwise.

How about you? Do you have any close opposite-gender friends? How do you believe they’ve helped you grow? Feel free to share in the comments!

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Diary Of A Christian College Student: Chapter One

Hey everyone, I have officially entered the Wattpad community! For those of you who don’t know, Wattpad is an online story sharing site that allows you to share your work with fellow readers! I have begun my first fiction work on the site, called Diary Of A Christian College Student.

Since I already have a faithful audience over here at WordPress, I decided to post my chapters here for y’all to read! I hope to publish a chapter weekly, and I hope you guys enjoy these writing shorts! My longterm goal is to publish a fiction series the traditional way, but I’ve heard that this is a good foot in the door. Since I love writing anyways, I figured, “Why not give it a shot?”

So, without further ado, here is chapter one of Diary of A Christian College Student!

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Dear Diary,

They say that your faith grows the most in the face of adversity – in the face of major life changes. These are the times that make you grow – and show you where you ultimately turn in times of chaos and uncertainty.

If this is true, I’m in for huge spiritual breakthrough.

In just two days, I’m starting my first day of college at Westside Oak, a nearby university in the humble state of Indiana. Leaving my small, Christian school behind, I’m heading into the “real world” for the first time – at least that’s what my dad would say.

Not that Holy Cross Academy was perfect. It had the same problems as every school – cliques, mean girls, boy  problems, and everything else under the sun. But, whenever life felt like too much to handle, I always had my friends to turn to – especially my best friend, Dana Sanchez.

Dana and I have been friends since the 8th grade – when we sat next to each other in English class. We started off talking about the usual things – school, books, music, TV….but soon moved on to more personal details. We were both going through a rough patch during this time and helped counsel each other through it.

We’ve been best friends ever since.

Another close friends – who could be more accurately described as a brother – is TJ. We met when we were only kids and he used to annoy me like crazy. When we met at only eight years old, he would constantly pester me. One time, he planted a frog in my bag when I wasn’t looking, even though he knew I was petrified of frogs. I screamed so much when I saw it, but he only laughed, clearly getting a kick out of the whole thing. I later got even by telling him soda was made with cow pee. For a month he avoided any kind of soft drink like the plague.

Somehow, despite our bickering and childish pranks, we managed to eventually become close friends.

And then, there was Nathan.

Nathan and I have had classes together for years, but we’ve only become close within the past four. My relationship with him was easily the most complicated.

Two years ago, I developed a crush on him, and it hasn’t let up since. It happened on a day like any other. We were both taking a theater class together and we were assigned a skit where we had to play a couple. In that moment – a moment I remember like the back of my hand – I realized that I had feelings for him. I say “realized” because I suspect feelings were dormant much longer, but too subtle to notice at first. When you’ve known someone for so long, it can be difficult to see them any different than the way you always have. They’re familiar, snow on a cold winters day or the sun in the middle of summer.

Nathan had a naturally magnetic personality. His smile was genuine and his posture was confident without being cocky. More reserved and introspective than the other guys, I could easily have long conversations with Nathan, about life, school, current events or literature. I think he’s one of the few people in my life who understands my love of writing – my desire to share the depths of my soul with the world. With dreams of becoming a pastor and a hobby of sketching, he understood the burning desire to make a mark on the world.

The complicated part? He couldn’t be more oblivious to the fact that I liked him. The only people who know are my mom and my best friend Dana. Other than that, my secret crush has remained just that – a secret.

This year, in the midst of an entire new chapter to open, I had one major blessing to look forward to. Dana, TJ, and Nathan would all be at Westside Oak with me. 

No matter how much might change, and no matter how many trials I may encounter, I knew I had one thing I could count on.

Three crazy and amazing friends who would stay together.

No matter what.