To The Doubting College Student

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Dear Doubting College Student,

I cannot speak for you. Only you know where you are right now. Maybe the things you want to go well in your life just aren’t. Maybe the things you don’t want in your life keep coming. Maybe you feel so completely and utterly confused, lost, alone.

I’ve been where you are.

There are good days. There are great days. And there are days where absolutely everything feels out of place. My freshman year was full of those out-of-place days.

I questioned my decision to go to college. I questioned the school I chose. I questioned my major. I questioned my roommate. I questioned my classes, my ability, my promises, my role in it all. There wasn’t an aspect of the college journey that I didn’t question.

I cried. A lot. I got angry. I ran, ran from everything I knew. But worst of all, deepest of all, I ran from God. Hadn’t He told me to go to this school? Hadn’t He given me these talents? Hadn’t He sent me this roommate? Where was the blessing of obedience? Where was the peace, the success, the grades? I did all the right things and I didn’t feel successful. I didn’t see it. I was frustrated. So I ran.

I can’t tell you exactly when it was that I started to see God working. But I can tell you that it happened in baby steps. I knew I wasn’t where I wanted to be emotionally, spiritually, mentally. I talked to close friends, ranted to my parents, went to counseling. I sought out mentors, advisers. I asked questions. I questioned everything. Again and again, I was faced with one word: SURRENDER.

I was searching for success in myself. I tried to create stability in myself. I wanted to go to college, to do well in my classes, to prove myself worthy–worthy of admiration, worthy of praise. I told myself it was for Him and yet I worked for myself. Once I realized that, I had a decision to make: was I going to continue to do my own thing or was I going to start to let go?

Letting go is scary. Trusting is scary. Giving up yourself is scary. And it’s hard. Am I willing to trust that God is truly in control, that He is perfect, that His plans for me are higher, better? Will I allow Him to fulfill my dreams, the dreams He placed in my heart?

It was a long, grinding process. But slowly and surely, I learned to let go. Little by little I opened my hands and my heart and gave my dreams to God. In return, He gave me peace. Peace and hope.

That’s how it can be for you.

Deep down you know what you need to do. You are standing in your story. You know the dreams that God has given you. You know the costs of surrendering. But only you can make the decision to do that.

The change won’t happen overnight. Be patient with yourself. Give yourself the room to struggle with questions. Allow yourself to think and wonder. But ultimately, allow yourself to come to Him. Give Him a fighting chance to prove Himself. Because He will.

signi

Be Still

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Life as a Christian can be a roller coaster. There are days when we feel on top of the world and so close to God and there are days when we feel so far and lost amidst the fog. There are even times when I start to convince myself that I would rather take charge of my own life than to let God have His perfect timing.

When those days come, I try to escape the pressure, trying to do things myself to make myself happy. So I start running. Soon, the running turns into walking and the walking turns into sitting and the sitting turns into thinking until, finally, I am face to face with the reality that I am never going to be able to find fulfillment in myself.

It’s hard being alone with your thoughts and the truth. We as humans want to do things ourselves, to be in control of our own lives. But the truth is, God is the one in control.

Once sitting alone with my thoughts becomes too much, I am forced to let go and surrender my desires. Now I am only left with one option: just be. Be alone. Be open. Be humble. Be His. It is only in these quiet, being moments that I am fully open to hear God’s voice. It’s in these moments that God opens my eyes His love.

So I’m surrendered. I’m finally ready to hear what He has to say. But His voice doesn’t come in a thunderclap. It doesn’t come in a loud declaration. It comes instead in a quiet, lightness of a feather. Like a feather floating down from heaven, God’s promise of His love comes down to me. I wouldn’t notice it if I weren’t sitting, waiting. And to be honest, there are times when I sit impatiently and leave before that feather of a Truth lands in front of me. But when I wait, when I allow myself the time to sit and be, I allow myself to see His Truth. The feather floats down, carrying the message from my father, and lands perfectly in my lap. It’s simple. It’s quiet. It’s right where and when it needs to be.

“I am.” I stare at the little feather in my lap. Only two words; “I am.” Slowly, like a sun rising inside of me, I see the Truth and accept it. He is God. I am not. He is perfect. I am not. He loves me even when I run. He accepts me even when I walk. And he hugs me when I sit.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalm 46:10

So here’s my challenge for you: sit. Be. Open yourself up to hearing and seeing those simple quiet Truths. Where are you in the process? Are you walking faithfully with God? Are you allowing yourself to run from Him? If you’re running, what will it take to quiet your soul and open yourself to hearing Him? He wants to show you His Truth. He wants to comfort you. Will you sit and allow yourself to see His love?

signi

Dear Sixteen-Year-Old Me

Dear little sixteen-year-old me,

You’re so full of dreams, so full of hope.

Take a deep breath. Slow down. Find your favorite spot in your room, light that candle you’ve been saving for special occasions, and put on your comfort socks.

You’re sixteen! I know that seems so old right now, but you really do have your whole life in front of you. Sure, you’ve had ups and downs, heartbreaks and celebrations. Sure, you’ve got plans for the world and hidden ambition to match. But there is so much still to learn. There is so much time.

I know you’re impatient to chase your dreams, to finally make a difference and have a purpose in the world. But here’s something you need to know: you’re still young, your dreams will change, there will be more ups and downs, more heartbreaks, more celebrations. More than that, you have a purpose right now. If you continue to trust God in everything, He will show you new dreams, better dreams, and such beautiful blessings. And even then, He has you right where you need to be.

You are now in a transitional period, trying to decide where you want to go to school and who you want to be. If you let Him guide you, you’ll find some amazing adventures with some pretty amazing people. But you’ve got to trust Him, let go, and take that first step and then another, and another until you find yourself walking in His footsteps. Don’t be in such a hurry to rush past all of the brokenness of the world. You can never outrun pain. Give it to God. Trade it for joy.

When you find yourself becoming impatient, ask God to help you BE.
When you find yourself disappointed in yourself, ask God to help you LEARN.
When you find yourself becoming confused or lost, ask God to help you SEE.
And when you find yourself losing hope, ask God to help you HOPE.

Everything will be made perfect in His timing. You are still learning. It will be okay.
Keep that hope. Keep those dreams. Keep following Him.

signi

101 in 1001: A Year Update

Start date: Friday, May 11, 2018
First Update: 6 Months
End date: Friday, February 05, 2021

Hello everyone! It’s been a little over a year since I started my 101 in 1001 challenge so it’s time for another update. The 101 in 1001 challenge is a list of 101 things I want to do in 1001 days (2.75 years). I’ve timed it so this challenge will end by my 21st birthday but I’ve got so much still to do! You can see the full list of goals and check my progress here.

Goals I’ve crossed off:

38. Take my sisters on “sister-dates” (March 2019)

Being away from home was pretty hard. But setting up sister-dates made for an extra something to look forward to. Spending that one-on-one time with my sisters gives us a chance to catch up and just enjoy each others’ company.

39. Volunteer with my family a Saturday morning (March 2019)

My church back home has a homeless ministry that serves breakfast downtown every Saturday morning. My roommate and her family have been going for a while and my family has gone as well. But with school and being away, I needed to plan for a chance to finally go and see what the ministry was all about. Spending the morning with like-minded people while catching a glimpse into the world of others was interesting and challenging. I am glad for the chance to go and broaden my worldview and I am looking forward to the next time I can serve again.

43. Go to a drive-in/outdoor movie (April 2019)

Every year my school hosts a Spring Festival which includes flower crowns and tie-dye shirts and an outdoor movie! This year we watched Mary Poppins Returns and it was so much fun. (I mean it’s Mary Poppins!!) It was my third time watching the movie but it was still so fun to be there with friends and enjoy the outside festivities.

52. Explore downtown Charlotte (July 2019)

This one was fun to do too because it included my cousins (who are pretty awesome people) and my family. We were going to go on a walking tour but instead explored the streets on our own as well as the major stops like King’s Kitchen, NASCAR’s Hall of Fame, and the Mint Museum. I highly recommend checking out downtown Charlotte if you are in town!

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59. Find a church by the university (Spring 2019)

Finding a church by my school was harder than I thought it would be. With so many churches in the small town, you’d think we’d have no problem! But when it comes to finding a church, my friends and I knew that we wanted to find somewhere that taught the Truth, not just a good-feeling message, and somewhere we could get involved. We visited big churches, small churches, contemporary, traditional and everything in between before finally deciding on a small Baptist Church. It took time but it was totally worth it.

74. Visit my high school teachers after I graduate (March 2018)

High school was such a good time for me. Junior and Senior years specifically shaped a lot of my views and challenged me in and out of the classroom in ways I couldn’t imagine. The teachers those two years played an important role in that. Going back to visit the school and personally thank those teachers for challenging me and preparing me for this college journey was an important thing. It was great to reflect and thank those who work year-round preparing students for the future. And I think they appreciated it too.

80. Celebrate Easter really big (April 2019)

Easter has always been one of my favorite holidays and potentially one of the most underrated ones. Christmas gets most of the celebration in both the religious and non-religious worlds but Easter is most important! Without Christ rising victoriously from the dead having had defeated our sins, we would still be searching for a way to prove ourselves worthy of God’s acceptance. So Easter definitely deserves more praise. This year my family went all out with a Bible-themed scavenger hunt, pastries made by my sister, and a big meal with the extended family. Hopefully, this tradition will continue.

88. Make a new vision board (January 2019)

The vision board concept it a cool one for me because I find that each time I make one I learn more about myself. It’s true that images speak louder than words and often hold concepts and ideas that can reveal themselves over time. As I made this vision board, I allowed myself to just pick images that I was drawn to. Those images ended up being more “outdoorsy” than I would have initially chosen but as time moved on, I found those things reflected interests and opportunities I didn’t know I had. It’s fun to see visually how those interests change over time and how they come out in my everyday life.

I’ve completed 25 of my 101 goals! How have you been coming along in your 101 in 1001 journey? What things have you learned about yourself through it? Follow my progress and see the complete list here.

signi

Accepting Imperfection

In a world ruled by an Instagram-perfect life, we as a society have been conditioned to hide our imperfections, not only in our beauty and outward appearance, but also in our everyday lives. We take the brokenness of life and hide behind the stories we filter for others to like. We push down our brokenness, forgetting that our mistakes and imperfections are what make us human and are oftentimes great ways through which we can share the Gospel.

God does not call us to be perfect. But He does call us to trust Him and follow Him in every point of life. We may be broken but our brokenness emphasizes God’s perfection and the fact that He is the only way to true life.

We need to always be working to live a life that is better and more Christ-like. The point is that we should not be discouraged when we make mistakes or don’t live the perfect lives. We are not perfect beings. We are going to fail. That is just a fact of life.

But the hope is that God uses our weaknesses and makes us strong. Through our brokenness, God’s strength and power and love are emphasized. Our imperfect stories are the ones that are most relatable. When we let our facades fall, we open the door to acceptance and reality and give God a chance to use us – the real us.

So we don’t need to live every day perfectly. We don’t need to hide behind our Instagram-perfect images. It’s okay to be real. It’s okay to open up about what you’re struggling with. This gives us the freedom to show God’s glory and strength through our weaknesses. This points to the trust that we have in His power.

What is it that you feel you should be perfect in? How is that need for perfection preventing the Gospel from getting through? Find those spots, give them up to God in prayer and trust, and learn to accept the imperfections.

A Letter to Freshman Year

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Dear Freshman Year of College,

College. The best four years of my life. Or so I was told.
They were right in a way. If this past year has been a testament to what is to come then there are many many great things in store for my college adventure.

What I wasn’t told was how fast the years would go.
I’ve only finished one of the four years of college and yet those two semesters have flown by. If I didn’t pay attention, I would have missed it.

My first semester was crazy with settling in and figuring out a routine. But it was fun and welcoming as I learned to call this new school home. And home it really became with new friends and great mentors. Suddenly I didn’t need to focus on anyone else’s growth. Here I could be free, be me, and take the time I needed to grow and explore the world and new opportunities.

My second semester was a little bit harder. I missed my family like crazy but I learned to let go and trust God’s plans. This semester provided many opportunities to grow in faith and trust and it gave me many opportunities to step back and remember that I’m not in control.

It’s been a week now since I’ve closed my textbooks and turned in my final exam. Every day since then I’ve reflected over the many blessings that one school year gave me and I’ve missed those times. I’ve also realized how much I’ve grown in faith, in confidence, and in heath as I learned to navigate a new world where decisions became mine and mine alone. There were times when I didn’t want to change, to move, to leave the comforts of wherever I was in that moment, but I learned that change is good, change is natural, and when I surrender those moments to God, change can be such a blessing.

One year, one-fourth of my college career has come and gone. But the memories and the many lessons will forever be remembered. I am so grateful for this time and I so look forward to the next three years. May I always remember to trust God, to remember the little moments, and to not waste the precious time that I have.

signi

Seeking God’s Kingdom in a World Emphasizing Success

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There are a lot of things that people tell you bring happiness and success. Great grades, double- or even triple-majoring, being involved in a lot of activities, and having a great internship to name a few.

I struggle with focusing on God because it seems that there are “more important” things pulling for my attention. There are due dates and events. There are meetings and projects. These things have deadlines but they are not important in the long run. Classes will end. Papers will be turned in and graded. I will move on. God is the only One who is constant.

To keep God as my ultimate focus in life, I need to keep a godly perspective on my past accomplishments and failures. God ultimately gave me the ability to study and think. He gave me lessons to learn through my failures and the family that cheers me on as I push on in my classes. He is the ultimate Giver and He expects us to remember that.

I can strive for perfection in my classes, but that won’t bring me happiness. There will always be people smarter than me, more advanced that I am. True happiness comes with gratitude through remembering that God has blessed me. I can only go so far in striving for happiness, but seeking God’s kingdom is what brings true success.

Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

My challenge for you is to remember that it is more important to be faithful to God than to be noticed by our peers. Start now to remind yourself of God’s glory in everything you do.

signi

a short life lesson

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Life. It’s full of good days and it’s full of bad days. Some days we feel like we are keeping everything under control, while others, not so much. No matter how life is making you feel right now – calm or stressed – the life you are living now is preparing you for the future.

For my life right now, I am feeling pretty full. I have finished my first semester of college, I get to spend time with my family, and I am looking forward to hanging out with my friends come second semester. There is nothing pulling for my attention, no assignments to do. But it wasn’t always this calm.

I remember those days when I questioned everything: my life purpose, my family, my friends, even God. But there’s the thing, every minute I spent stressed, depressed, questioning life, was another minute closer to where I am now.

God uses all of those tough times to shape us into the people He designed us to be. While life isn’t a finish line that we can cross – there will always be more to learn – we can have hope in remembering that God uses everything for our good. Do not be discouraged and do not lose hope. Rather, trust in God who is in control. Trust that those tough times will help you to grow stronger as a person and in your faith.

That is my challenge for you this week. If your life is calm, thank God for using those though times to shape you. If your life is rough, remember that strength comes from perseverance and that you are not alone.

signi

My New Year Goals – 2019

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New years are great because they gives everyone a chance to start fresh even if things in your life keep right on going. There’s a new mindset and a fresh look on the projects we’ve been working on. And I think that’s great.

1. Take up photography again.

I’ve always loved photography. It’s such an easy way to capture life’s big (or small) moments. While I’ve taken a break from photography, I’ve been saving quite a few ideas on Pinterest and admiring some of my favorite photographers’ works. I hope all of that inspiration-searching pays off in my own work.

2. Make it to a least one (but hopefully more) sporting event.

I’ve never been a fan of playing sports, but I can appreciate those who are. College is great because there are always sporting events happening on campus and most of the time, the tickets are either free or cheap. So this should be a good time to get out there and cheer on my classmates.

3. Go camping with some friends.

Camping is one of those things that I’ve never done but I’ve always wanted to do. Last semester, I gathered up a group of friends to go camping but due to weather and other things, we didn’t get out. Hopefully this year I can be more intentional about making that camping trip happen.

So those are some of my goals for this year! If you’ve been following on my Instagram, you’ll also know that I’ve been striving for sustainability and less waste in my life. I wrote a blog post with more goals specifically for zero waste over here. What are some of your goals for this new year?

signi

My Christmas Wish List 2018

Christmas is coming up and there is a lot to do to get ready! I’ve already finished my Christmas shopping but that’s because I like to get it done really early. Here is my Christmas wish list including links to the sites in case you need some inspiration for your shopping list.

Something I Want

  • Record player
  • Essential oils
  • Brush calligraphy pens
  • Antique tea set

Something I Need

Something to Wear

  • Ankle boots
  • Knit sweater
  • Black flats
  • Grey cardigan

Something to Read

What’s on your Christmas list? Which stores do you go to to buy your Christmas gifts?