To The Doubting College Student

doubting

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

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.

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

His Plans Are Perfect

Have you ever had a situation in your life where the path or the plan didn’t really make sense, the pieces didn’t seem to fit, but somehow God worked through it and presented you with a final product better than you could have ever hoped for? For me, this is exactly what happened in my homeschool/high school transition experience.

As I had mentioned earlier in this blog, I was homeschooled for a while. But, when I started thinking about going back to school, there was a huge part of me that really didn’t want to go. And I mean really didn’t want to go. In my Sophmore year of high school, I went to a sleepover with one of my best friends. She asked me “what if we went to school together?!” Outwardly I said “that would be so much fun!” but inwardly, I was thinking, “there’s no way I am going to switch schools again.”

It’s a good thing God didn’t listen to me.

A couple of days after that sleepover, I applied to a private Christian school and got accepted four weeks before the first day of school. God opened door after door on my way to the school. That in and of itself was a huge miracle because I had applied late and there wasn’t much space for more students. Even though it was last minute and all of the available spots in the school were filled, I was able to obtain a spot and was admitted into high school. And it was the one of the best things that happened to me.

It was through this journey that I met some amazing people, building friendships that I never thought I would have. I met mentors and was pushed to study harder and better. Eventually, I graduated and now I will be attending a Christian university with some amazing fellow English majors and a whole world ahead of me.

Way back in Sophmore year, I never even thought I would some day end up sitting around a lunch table with some close friends or dancing in a room filled with classmates at prom or even traveling on a school trip to Peru. Those things just didn’t seem even remotely possible to me.

Looking back, I am so glad that I said yes to God’s plan even when I didn’t want to and it didn’t make sense. Homeschooling was great, but it was only to be a part of my path. I loved being at home and spending time with my family, but I wouldn’t have been able to grow so much if I had stayed. Not in the ways I have.

When God’s plans for you don’t make sense, remember what Proverbs 16:4 says: “the LORD works out everything to its proper end.” He wants you to grow in your trust for Him as He shows you His will for your life. But it’s important to remember that the things that don’t make sense now are only just the beginning of a wonderful adventure in God’s perfect plan.

God’s Perfect and Powerful Love

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Love. That is one thing that no one can live without. And yet, it is the thing that we, as a society, have broken. Love has seemed to have lost its meaning. After all, there is no way that we can love another person perfectly.

There is hope, though, because we are loved by a perfect and wonderful Father. As Christians, we celebrate Jesus rising from the dead. This powerful miracle is the ultimate example of God’s love for us. Jesus defeated death so that we could spend eternity with Him. John 13:1 says this:

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

As sinful and fallen people, it is impossible to love the way that God loves us. Despite the pain of our immense sin that was placed on Him, Jesus fought and destroyed death so we could have a relationship with Him. And through all of the pain, all of the sufferings, He still loved us. Isn’t that perfect love?

My challenge for you this week is to remember how powerful and perfect God’s love for us is. Remember that, even when we don’t feel loved, God loves us with an unending, all-powerful love.

signi

Learning to Pray Expectantly

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Prayer is an important part of having a strong relationship with God.

I remember last fall, my school took a trip to Windy Gap. We spent the week worshiping God and getting to know one another before heading back to school. One of the last nights we were there, the leaders sent everyone off to have quiet time with God. I found a spot beside the sand volleyball courts. Looking up at the starry night sky, I thought of how cool it would be to see shooting stars.

Immediately after that thought, I frowned. Why should I ask God for shooting stars? Aren’t I supposed to ask for important and meaningful things? How can I ask for shooting stars when there are so many other things to be praying for? I bent my head and looked at my hands, convinced that something as little as shooting stars should be something I should have prayed for.

You could probably guess what happened. When the bell rang and everyone was called back to the chapel, my friends ran up to me speaking quickly about how beautiful the shooting stars had been. I stopped in the path, shocked. God had answered my prayers but I was so busy convincing myself it wasn’t worth the time that I had missed His answer all together!

While we should pray with full faith that He is able to answer our prayers and do everything we ask, we have to remember that it’s God’s Will that is to be done. God wants us to accept His Will completely and give our lives to Him. Once we do that, He openly answers our prayers because we are praying for His Will to be done! Sometimes, though, there are things that He gives us anyway, like shooting stars. But we have to remember that it is God that we are serving, not ourselves. James 1:6-8 explains this idea:

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. ~ James 1:6-8

My challenge this week is that you would pray expectantly, knowing that God can answer your prayers, giving us everything we need, but also remembering that His Will comes first.

signi

Praising God Through the Storms of Life

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There will be storms in life. That is inevitable.

I’m sure we can all remember a time when everything seemed to be crashing all around us, the sky growing dark and cold. During those times, it can be hard to see God in the midst of the pain and the hurt. But, no matter what we feel, we are not alone.

God is in the midst of the storm. He is in the calm after the storm. He is there before the storm.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. ~Isaiah 43:2

When we remember that God is continually with us, the darkness around us doesn’t seem so dark anymore.What a great promise! So when we find ourselves in the midst of the storm, we can still praise Him for His promise to continually be with us.

My challenge for you this week is to remember God’s promise to be with you and praise Him for being faithful in that promise. Even though these storms can be difficult and painful, there is comfort knowing that we are not alone. For that, we praise God.

signi

Trusting God in His Plans

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I’m not ready.

As I enter into the final months of my Senior year, that is all I can think about… I’m not ready. Some of the people around me are getting so excited to leave high school and head off to college. But I just don’t feel ready.

Should I feel ready?

I was reading Isaiah a couple of nights ago when I came across the passage in Isaiah 6 where Isaiah was called to speak for the Lord.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

~ Isaiah 6:6-8

Isaiah didn’t stop to think whether or not he was qualified for the position that God was asking him to fill. He didn’t wonder if he was ready or had the time. He didn’t consider what he would be missing when he went on to continue God’s work. No. Instead, Isaiah heard God’s calling and immediately said, “Yes, I’m here, open and willing to do whatever You ask of me, Lord.”

During the Great Commission, Jesus commanded everyone to go. He didn’t say, “wait until you’re ready.” The command was to simply go, out of our comfort zones and into the world. But with that command, He promised that He would be with us. (Matthew 28:20)

So even though I don’t feel ready to head off to college, there is comfort in Jesus’ promise to be with me. Like Isaiah, I need to be willing and open to go wherever God calls me without hesitation. And that’s hard. But I’m not expected to do it alone.

My challenge for you (as well for myself) is to trust God in His plans for you. Whether He’s preparing you for a new chapter of life or simply giving you another week, trust His plans and say, “Here I am, Lord. Send me.” Remember that His plans are perfect (Psalm 40:5) and trust Him completely.

signi