Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Advice to My College Self

I didn't want to go to college. I decided in sixth grade that I was going to be a movie star and I didn't need college. That was my mentality my first year at High Point University. Looking back, I wish I had made the most of my freshman year instead of going through the motions.

My mom told me I had to go to college, so I knew I was going to go. When it came down to time to decide, I didn't know where to go. I had great options - North Carolina State University, Appalachian State University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and High Point University. The problem was, I wasn't passionate about one over the other and I didn't want to leave home. I finally chose UNC-G and decided to live at home and commute.

My first semester of college was a struggle. I wasn't prepared for the self discipline it took to get to freshman seminar on time, I wasn't dedicated to doing well in my classes, and I was nostalgic for the simplicity of high school life. It was a mess. My GPA was less than stellar, and I wasn't completely sure I was where I should be. I started the process to transfer to High Point University, although I wasn't sure that was the answer either.

Once at High Point, I tried to enjoy college more. I tried joining some clubs, but ultimately I didn't have much reason to spend time on campus because I lived at home and still had local friends, so I didn't make many friends at first.
I was a theatre minor, and thank goodness for that - it forced me to spend many hours on campus working on shows. Through the theatre program, I started making friends.
During my senior year (fifth year I might add), HPU got a new sorority - Alpha Chi Omega decided to start a chapter there. This was my final attempt at making college somewhat meaningful. The process was a lot of fun and I ended up being not only a founding member of the Kappa Omicron chapter of AXO, but serving on the first executive board. I had a blast.
A few months later when my collegiate years were coming to a close, I wasn't ready.

I went on to attend graduate school at Appalachian State University. I had always been interested in ASU, but was never brave enough to do it. Although it was tempting to attend grad school at HPU and stay with my sorority sisters, the mountains were calling.

My time at Appalachian State was undoubtedly the most pivotal time in my life. I get chills writing about it. Getting away from home and making a new home in the mountains of North Carolina was an invaluable experience. In fact, it was essential. I cannot imagine my life without it. The spiritual and personal growth I experienced was phenomenal. I had a whole different outlook on life after Appalachian. I am a better person because of my time in Boone, North Carolina.

So there's my story; now here's my advice.

1. Go out on a limb. 
If you want to go far away for school, don't let fear paralyze you. It ended up being good for me to be at home because I got to spend a ton of time with my grandma for the last couple years of her life, so I don't regret not going away - I just know that getting away from home lends way to new perspectives and adventures. Even if it's hard at first!

2. Join clubs and organizations!
Joining the right Greek organization can be an awesome experience as long as you make sure to stay grounded in your morals and beliefs. But say no to hazing! I met some amazing women by joining Alpha Chi Omega. I was a maid of honor in one of my AXO sisters' weddings last year and now I'm the advisor for the AXO chapter at HPU, getting to work with awesome women throughout the school year and attend fun and informative workshops in the summers. Greek life doesn't have to end after college!
Joining a campus ministry (New Life) at Appalachian was SUCH a wonderful decision. Not only did I meet one of my best friends for life, but I grew so much in my Christian faith by having like-minded believers surrounding me and encouraging me. I'd recommend joining a faith-based group to anyone with any religious affiliation. I wish I had done so at High Point University.

3. Stay true to yourself.
Don't look around and try to mold yourself to the standards of others, or what seems to be the "norm." I teach high school, and I know that's how it is there. But in college, being different is more "cool," thank goodness. Definitely work hard and make good grades, but also take time to have fun. Find a balance. Don't have too much fun! College can be a time when it's tempting to get off on the wrong path. It is so easy to start following the crowd and doing what they do, and often that can lead to danger. Just because Mama and Daddy aren't there to make sure you're acting right doesn't mean you should go crazy and get in trouble!

Apply to the schools you want to get into EARLY. Find out the earliest deadline and have your application in by then. There's so much competition out there, so the sooner you apply, the better your chances are of getting into the schools you are interested in.
Apply for every scholarship that you think you can get. There are so many scholarships out there and no reason not to get FREE money!
There are also many loan options, so if money is an issue, it doesn't have to keep you from reaching your dreams. Know there are resources that can help. Like Earnest for example. They have a ton of information about how you can save money by refinancing your student loans! Check them out.

5. Make the most of it!
These four (or five :)) years will FLY by. Enjoy every minute, and don't take it for granted! The real world and a steady income may seem appealing, but you should never wish your life away. College is an amazing time in life. You get to make your own schedule, meet tons of new people, try new things, and learn so much. Don't waste any of it! Savor everything college has to offer.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Approval of Others

One of my downfalls is seeking the approval of others - of caring too much what others might think about the decisions I make / of wanting someone to tell me what THEY think I should do because I feel like an objective opinion is better sometimes.
Granted, I seek this advice and approval from spiritually like-minded friends, articles and books by Christian articles, etc, but the main source of my guidance and approval should be the Bible / the Lord.

Today, with social media and our lives on display, it's easy for everyone we know to know every little move we make if we choose to put our business out there. For me personally, with big decisions I've made, I've always thought "What would other people think about this decision?"
-choosing the college I went to
-choosing the grad school I went to
-what city I choose to live in
-buying my house
-the job I choose to have / where I choose to work
(just some examples)

While it's great to seek godly advice and read Bible-based literature, the main thing I should be doing is seeking God's guidance and letting Him lead me to do what His will is. He has a unique plan for MY life, and I will not find the answers for my life in the situations of others.

My friend Ashland always tells me "Do what makes YOU happy - you are the only one that has to live with your decisions."

My friend Grace told me just the other day, "You have to go off of what the Lord is telling you to do. Outside of that it's YOUR life."

And I knew these things, but boy, is it great to have friends who will constantly remind me of such truth!! Friends who will point me to Christ when my mind is getting bombarded. I am involved in lots of things, see many people all the time, and everyone has input and an opinion. It's important to stay focused, no matter how much you respect the opinions of these people.

The Lord loves you and wants His best for you more than anyone else in the world does.
Hello, He CREATED you! Of course He KNOWS you better than anyone...and has a perfect plan for you.

I also have gotten really caught up in looking to articles written by Christian counselors, speakers, pastors, etc. That's great, and God puts those people here to help guide us, but that should never be my first go-to when I need answers. They might not even have the answers I need specifically for MY life! They don't know me at all - the Lord knows me better than I know myself.

There's no recipe for success - God has a different plan for everyone, and your plan might look odd to some people in your life, and that's okay! Follow Him where He leads you. Let your heart be open to the opportunities He has, and if they seem sketchy or hard at first, have faith that He knows what He's doing. Because He does!

Pray, pray, pray! The closer you are with God, the more in-tune you will be with His Spirit and able to hear from Him.

Looking around, you'll lose your focus; looking to God, you'll be provided with direction, even if it doesn't seem like it. Keep pressing into Him and asking Him to reveal truth, make a way, provide clarity, and get rid of the things in your life you don't need.

*Constantly reminding myself of all of this.*

Image result for the approval of others

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Come Wrestle Us and Win

A few weeks ago, the message at church was about Jacob literally wrestling with God and God giving him a new name and identity. Jacob has been dealing with some hard things and plans to spend the whole night alone praying, but God interrupts his plans to come and wrestle with him. Jacob demands a blessing, which pleases God, and God delivers. 
“Your name shall no longer be called Jacob [deceiver], but Israel [strives with God], for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed” (Genesis 32:28).

I've been thinking a lot lately about Psalm 46. It is all about God's sovereign power and how He is with us through anything we go through, and how He will always win. He won against Jacob because after the match, Jacob changed his ways, lifestyle, and lived up to his new identity. At first, though, Jacob was headstrong and wanted his own way.

Thinking about times in my life that were difficult, or where I wanted my own way, I think about how I've spent so much time wrestling with God. He always wins. I have been headstrong and wanted my own way and begged Him to comply, but more often than not, He has said "No, I have something different for you."
And it has always been better than what I could've planned.

I wanted my first teaching job to be at Southwest. It wasn't. I was crushed. The Lord had other plans.
I grew in leaps and bounds as a person, and spiritually at Andrews High School. I also made some lifelong friends, including one of the best friends and spiritual encouragers I've ever had (or will ever have). 

I wrestled with God over many things while I was in grad school. Right before I moved to Boone, I experienced a horrible breakup. My first week in Boone, we found out my uncle had stage four lung cancer. A few months later we found out our 14-year-old family dog had cancer. She passed away, and a couple months later, so did my uncle.
I wrestled with God over these things. They were hard. I didn't want them to happen.

Looking back on that time in my life, it has been (so far) the most pivotal time as far as spiritual growth. I learned how to truly rely on the Lord and His will and guidance and judgment and power. 

I learned how to truly identify as a Child of the King and "live like I'm loved."

I learned how to truly praise Him in life's storms.

I learned how to say, "And if not, He is still good."

I learned that His plans are far better than the ones I create for myself, although it never seems like it at first.

I learned that even if He doesn't answer right away, or in the way that I want, awesome things can still come from the situation.

I learned to truly "rejoice in trials," for they bring about growth and endurance.

I learned that truly, when I am weak, Christ's strength is shown.

I wrestled God, and He won. He won because I grew in Him.

I went from 'saved' to 'filled with the Holy Spirit.'

I was broken, so He could fill me.

I became sanctified.

For my students' warm-up today, I had them write about a time when they didn't want to do something, but they did it anyway, and they were glad they did. They all had various stories about how they did something difficult or daunting, or something they just plain didn't want to do, and how they felt better after.

That's how it is with God, often times. His will might not line up with our own. But if Jesus Himself had to bow to His Father's will, how much more should we?

Usually when you do something God compels (or forces) you to do, you find out afterward, you benefit in some way if you let your heart be open to the opportunities and blessings that come with the situation.

AND, in Psalm 46, we are reassured that through it all, the Lord will be with us through the fire, as a shelter, through the fiercest battle. 

Going through things with Him by our side will only bring us closer to Him.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

When You Feel Like You're Not Good Enough

Last night at church the message was about spiritual attack and lies from Satan that distract us from doing God's work or tempt us to get off track.

I lead a small group of amazing middle school girls that I love so much, and our discussion after the message was great.

A couple weeks ago, I was talking to one of my best friends on the phone (she's in San Antonio) and she brought up a good point - Satan knows exactly how to tempt girls/women. He knows that we are, for the most part, concerned with our looks and being accepted and admired, and he uses that to feed us lies and try to get us off track.

Last night we talked about how with social media, it's harder than ever for girls and women not to compare themselves to others. With filters and HD photos and the ability to post only your best pictures and make it look like life is perfect, it's easy to scroll through the Instagram news feed and start to feel really bad about your own self because everyone else looks so perfect.

This is exactly what Satan wants. Ladies, he wants to attack your self-esteem and get you to think about and dwell on
how many likes you get
how perfect YOUR pictures look
how perfect your life is NOT
how are these other girls so perfect?!
They have perfect lives
and perfect looks
and perfect bodies
and perfect hair
and perfect friends
and perfect boyfriends
and perfect clothes
and lots of likes
and people love them

......and that's the opposite of my life...
and I'm not good enough.


Satan knows if he can get you into this rut - this negative thinking - that these thoughts will control you and get you down and keep you from getting involved in activities and investing in others, serving the Lord, etc.

Teaching high school and being involved on college campuses for different things, I really see the reality of this. It makes me so sad to know how genuinely concerned young ladies are about posting pictures that they think will get a lot of likes, and how genuinely crushed they are if the pictures don't get the amount that they desire.
How genuinely worthless they feel when they see another girl who gets more likes.

Ladies, social media can be used for SO MUCH good, but it can also be SO DESTRUCTIVE, very often without even meaning to. These girls don't post 'perfect' pictures to make YOU feel bad -- you feel bad because you are listening to Satan's lies!

IF you know you can't look at social media without feeling down about yourself, don't look at it!

Spend time in God's word, reading scripture and letting the Lord pour His truth into you.
His truth:

You ARE a child of the King - Galatians 3:26
You are worth more than gold - Proverbs 31
You are precious  - Isaiah 43:4
You are STRONG - Proverbs 31
You are ONE OF A KIND - Psalm 139:14
You are favored - Psalm 5:12
You are blessed - Deuteronomy 28:1-14
He loves you just the way you are - John 3:16
Because HE created you just the way He wanted you to be - Genesis 1:26

When you start learning and growing in the Lord, your self-esteem will increase and you won't worry as much about other girls and compare yourselves to them. You will go about your merry way, serving the Lord and feeling fulfilled in HIS love.

And remember:
*Never compare your life to someone's 'highlight reel.'
*That means:
-You know your life and it's a rollercoaster. Lots of ups and downs.
-Every single girl on Instagram has a rollercoaster life, just like you.
-Just because they don't post pictures of their tears and struggles and eating disorders and fights with parents and breakups and bad grades and not-so-cute outfits does NOT mean these things don't happen to them.
-No one's life is perfect, no matter how perfect it looks on Instagram.

Don't believe the lies!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Psalm 46

Last Thursday night I got in my car and drove to Hilton Head Island for a mental health mini-vacation. I was meeting two precious friends down there, and had five hours in the car all to myself. I had a LOT on my mind from last week, and although the drive was brutal for my legs and fanny, I got to talk on the phone with a precious godly accountability partner / encourager (BFF) and spend time in my thoughts in silence and with my worship music, and most importantly, talk to God.

I was listening to my worship playlist on Spotify and the songs ran out, so Spotify started playing songs recommended for me. "Psalm 46" by Shane and Shane came on, and I had never heard it before. I loved it immediately, so I played it again and really listened to the words.

O come behold the works of God the nations at His feet. He breaks the bow and bends the spear
and tells the wars to cease. O Mighty One of Israel you are on our side. We walk by faith in God who burns the chariots with fire Lord of Hosts, You're with us with us in the fire, with us as a shelter, with us in the storm. You will lead us through the fiercest battle, oh where else would we go, but with the Lord of Hosts. O God of Jacob, fierce and great, You lift Your voice to speak. The earth it bows and all the mountains move into the sea O Lord You know the hearts of men and still you let them live. O God, who makes the mountains melt come wrestle us and win. O God who makes the mountains melt come wrestle us and win. Though oceans roar, You are the Lord of all, the one who calms the wind and waves and makes my heart be still. Though the earth gives way, the mountains move into the sea, the nations rage, I know my God is in control. Though oceans roar, You are the Lord of all, the one who calms the wind and waves and makes my heart be still. Though the earth gives way, the mountains move into the sea, the nations rage, I know my God is in control.

This morning I decided to look up Psalm 46 and see what it was all about.
I was reminded of one of the sermons I sat through Sunday. It was about Jacob wrestling with God all night one night and the Lord asked him his name and he told Him, and when asked HIS name, the Lord did not reply (meaning He had won), leaving Jacob to realize that it was God Almighty. The Lord then gave him a new name (Israel) and identity and delivered him from a lifetime of struggle through sin and pride and jealousy.
"Come wrestle us and win."

What are we wrestling with right now that God needs to free us from? We are safe in Him.
He's with us as a Shelter
With us in the FIRE
With us through the storm
With us through the FIERCEST battles we face.
Through Him, we WILL prevail and conquer our sins and trials.

This passage / song speaks of the sheer power of the Lord and how nothing can defeat Him, although it may seem as if the world around us is going crazy, and the battles within ourselves even scarier.

Even if the Earth gives way and the storms become violent and the trials in life are as mountains that can't be moved, we know our God is in control.

"The Lord will fight for you; you only have to be still."

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Reality of Sin

Yesterday I was blessed to sit through THREE amazing church services. Lately, I feel like I really need to absorb as much of the Word as I can on Sundays in order to thrive through the week. It is so easy to get caught up in the stress of daily life, and I've found that the best way to combat that is to be poured into through spiritual teaching. I can't pour into my students or my family or my friends or my middle school girls on Wednesday nights if I'm not constantly growing and learning. 

It's also really cool / interesting to sit at different churches with entirely different groups of people and hear the Word presented in different ways.

Different churches appeal more to families or young people or older people for different reasons.

One thing I realized as I sat in my home church yesterday morning (OakView Baptist) is that although we don't have the lights and the music and coffee, we do hear the Word in a way that really gets deep into your soul.

It's a trend nowadays to preach and celebrate victory over sin and shout that we are conquerors through Jesus and be positive and happy and all of that is true and awesome and motivational!!!

...But I realized yesterday we (I) sometimes through this, lose sight of the realty of sin.
The detriment of sin.
The weight of sin.

Pastor Steve brought a message that desperately needs to be heard over and over again in churches all across the nation. It was timely and it was hard. It was necessary.

My heart has been so burdened lately by our culture. It seems like people are celebrating sin and godlessness everywhere we look. We can't escape it, and as a high school teacher I see it more than most. I see how it is affecting our young people. I see how it has affected friends and family members. It kills me.

But this weekend, I was challenged to ask the Lord to reveal sin in MY life through the Holy Spirit and deal with it accordingly.

I took some notes yesterday and wanted to share them here:

From Joshua 7 and the story of Achan who hid treasures under his tent (symbol / metaphor for sin we cover up in our lives) ---

-ONE SIN can ruin a WHOLE life.
Example: One episode of drunk driving is all it takes to kill someone.

-One 'small' sin can be a sign of a sick heart.
Examples: ONE cancer cell can spread and eat up your entire body.
                  ONE blood clot can trigger a stroke.

-Sin HAS to be dealt with -- you absolutely cannot defeat Satan if you are constantly living in sin you have covered up.
-You cannot ignore it, or it will get bigger and spread like cancer and ruin things in your life.

-You have to realize and admit what you are struggling with / doing wrong. That's the first step.

-If you struggle with being tempted to sin, if you don't look at what tempts you, you won't be tempted to covet (want) it.
Examples: Had David never looked at his neighbor (and kept looking), he would've never wanted to                     have an affair with her and later kill her husband to cover it up.
(Lives ruined because of one man's sin)
                 If I know it tempts me to look at websites where I like to online shop, I don't need to go                      to those websites!
"Don't look upon the accursed thing."

-Our sin GRIEVES God's heart. The Bible says it makes Him grieve.
Why would we want to do that to Him when He has done everything for us?
When He CHOSE to die on a cross for the very sin we keep hurting Him with?

-When I think about it that way, it hurts me to know I hurt HIM!
-My idolatry hurts Him.

-Your sin never affects just one person (you).
-Other people will always suffer as a result.
Examples: Innocent victims in drunk driving accidents.
                  Families of those who are addicted to drugs / pornography / gaining material things
-We have to think about our sin in this way: "How will this HURT the people I love? Is it worth it?"

-SIN keeps the Holy Spirit from doing what it wants to do in our lives. The Lord is trying to work in us and we block Him from doing that when we routinely participate in sin.
-We block ourselves from growing and living our best and most abundant life.

-There's nothing hidden that won't eventually be brought to light.
-You may hide certain sins for a while, but God sees all, and it won't be long before the side affects of the sin start to seep out and intoxicate every area of your life. Your heart will suffer, and will show it.

-Become sanctified (turn from the sin) or God will not stand by you.
(He is always with us, but His comforting presence will leave us if we keep sinning the same sins and not repenting of them.)

-There has to be repentance and there has to be change.

-Basically, you have an ultimatum. Keep living in this sin, or live in Christ.
-Choose God or your sin. You cannot have both.


***This challenged me to evaluate my pride and my idolatry. My lust for material things has gotten to the point where it scared me. It's a constant battle I fight, but the Lord has showed me over the past few years that clothes and jewelry AND EVEN CUTE SHOES won't bring peace or joy.

***When you realize your sin and how it affects you and your relationship with Christ and your friends and family and romantic relationships and your ability to live abundantly in freedom...
All of a sudden, going to the mall and seeing cute clothes and jewelry repulses me and I'm not tempted by it.
But if I were to get caught up in buying things all the time again, I would go right back to that sinful place where I want more and more and it's never enough.
And I would reap the consequences of that sin yet again.

I hope this helps someone!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Why Me??

I've written about this before - how could I not? Yesterday I wrote about how sometimes God allows us to go through things so that we can help others who go through the same things later.

Waiting is especially hard.
Why do I not have this or that yet? All my other friends do.

Why am I going through this particular struggle? When will it be over?

Why do I keep having to deal with struggles?

Well, absolutely NO life is struggle-free, and the Christian life was never promised to be easy.

James 5:7 says to be patient.
"See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains."

Sometimes we just have to wait a little longer to get a blessing that's just a little sweeter.

Sometimes we have to wait in seasons of wilderness and desert so that we can say "Christ is enough for me" because He's all we have.

Sometimes it's so that we can see HOW faithful He is when we see Him making "a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." (Isaiah 43)

Sometimes it's hard to remain positive because it's been so long and you've been so patient...
These are either opportunities to grow our faith or wallow in self-pity (and as I'm writing this, I'm half-wallowing in self-pity, so please don't feel like I have it all together AT ALL. I am working on this daily. This is where I'm at right now.)

Even the tiniest bit of faith can be grown into the kind that moves mountains.

"Faith commanded, and the mountains moved."

Why do I have these mountains in my life?

I guess so that my patience and faith can grow. I don't always know. I might not know til much later in life or I might know next week. I have to let the Holy Spirit bring me peace while I wait. And keep in mind Romans 8:28:
"For we know that all things work together for the good of those that love The Lord, who are called by His name."

Why me?
We will see.