Transitions: Thoughts After Graduating

Graduation Cap, Graduation, Cap, Achievement, Education

I graduated from high school on Wednesday.

As I sat down to write the first draft of this post, I had no idea what I wanted to say about that. It definitely hasn’t sunk in yet, and I’ve barely had an emotional reaction. I keep telling myself that I never have to go back to another day of high school, and yet my heart hasn’t absorbed the news.

Basically, I feel exactly the same.

I guess we all expect these milestones to feel incredible, to cause an immediate, major change in our lives. My sister told me I needed to start dressing more like a college student, and I was like…what does that even mean? I’m still the same person, and how I dress isn’t going to change overnight because I’m handed a diploma. I still struggle with the same things, like and dislike the same things, wake up and do the same things every day.

Yes, graduation is a huge milestone. And once we get to the fall, everything in my daily life will look different. But this week, I still had to wake up on Thursday and continue living my life.

That’s certainly not to say that high school hasn’t changed me. This week has provided an opportunity to look back and marvel at how far God has brought me. While I might not have changed from Wednesday to Thursday, I’ve definitely grown from freshman year to senior year, becoming more confident in myself, watching relationships develop and grow into friendships that I hope will last my whole life, pursuing my goals and seeing God richly bless that pursuit.

I haven’t changed into a different person. I’ve grown into myself.

And of course, there are many ways I still need to grow, and so this week has also been a time to look forward and think about how best to serve God in my future. Thinking about all of the experiences I’ve had and things I’ve accomplished in the last four years, it’s mind-boggling to realize how much more is probably ahead in the next four, as yet unknown.

Graduation isn’t just an ending, certainly. But I wouldn’t really call it a beginning, either – it’s just part of the middle, another stepping stone on the journey of life.

Because a few days later, I’m still just living my life, one day at a time, seeking God’s will at every new turn.

What do you think? Have you been through a graduation yet, and if so, was your experience similar to mine? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

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Advice to My Freshman Self: Get Involved

action, athletes, black and white

Four years ago, I entered the world of public school for the first time. There are so many things that I wish I knew then, and my hope is that by sharing those things with you, I can help you make the most of your high school experience.

First of all, get involved. 

As a freshman, I was shy, and doing new things scared me. So I didn’t.

As a senior, I really regret it. This year I’ve been finding my feet and trying more things that used to intimidate me. Volunteering at choir events. Doing Latin competitions. And so on. Every single time, I wish that I had started sooner and had more years to participate.

So my biggest advice for teens, especially middle schoolers and young high schoolers, is to get involved in something now. Don’t wait. The things that you are afraid to try? Those will often end up being your best memories of high school.

Especially if you are an introvert, don’t let fear of new social situations keep you from doing things that sound fun. You will almost never regret doing more and going places, at least to a certain extent. It’s how you will feel included, find friends, and enjoy yourself throughout your teen years.

If you’re already involved in a performing art or sport or something, make it your goal to get even more involved. Go for more days each week. Take the extra opportunities that are offered. Find ways to serve and give back to your organization.

If you go to a public school, stay up-to-date on what’s going on. Especially during your freshman year, try everything that interests you at least once. You can narrow it down later to the ones you really care about.

If you’re homeschooled or your school doesn’t have a lot of opportunities, seek them out. Take classes in your town, join a sports team, get involved with your co-op if you have one, do community theater, etc.

And in the later years of high school, once you know where your interests lie, choose a few things that you can invest in and be fully a part of. Don’t just be nominally involved. Be someone who shows up for everything, volunteers for everything, signs up for everything.

I’m not saying that you should overload yourself; you need balance, time to study and sleep and hang out with your family. But as a freshman, balance wasn’t the advice I needed. I have no problem keeping time for my own pursuits. The advice I needed was this: don’t let fear of a full schedule keep you from trying things that look interesting. You can always take a step back if you get overwhelmed.

Do the things that you’re good at. Do the things that interest you. Don’t let fear hold you back. That is how you will make friends, learn your strengths, and start to use your talents for God’s glory.

What do you think? How involved are you at your school or in your community? Which do you struggle with more: balancing your schedule or fear of getting involved? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Read more:

Three Habits to Cultivate Now (+giveaway winner!)

Transitions: Learning to Trust God Through College Applications

7 Things I Learned at Public High School (Guest Post at Apple Trees and Pumpkin Seeds)

Transitions: Learning to Trust God Through College Applications

transitions college apps

Over the past year or so, I’ve been going through one of the most notorious experiences of the high school years: college applications.

Those two words strike terror into the souls of teenagers everywhere. But today, I’m here to say that I have survived the process. I know where I am going to college, and I have seen God work through the entire process in an incredible way.

You may remember that I wrote a post about being deferred from Princeton back in December. I talked about how much I wanted to go there, but how God was telling me that I needed to learn to trust him first.

Here’s the rest of the story:

After that deferral came, I started looking at other options. There was this other school I had been considering, a very small Christian school in the heart of the South, that had a great dance program. In January, I headed down to that school with my dad, to visit and audition.

And I loved it.

Then things began to fall into place. I was offered a large academic scholarship. I met a super sweet girl at the audition who was willing to be roommates. I received an acceptance letter from the dance department, which was probably one of the most exciting days of my life. Not only that, but the dance department offered me a scholarship too.

Suddenly the prospect of being rejected from Princeton didn’t seem so bad. So when the rejection came, I didn’t even care anymore. I had found my dream school on that tiny Southern campus, and they had accepted me. Ultimately, it was a decision I barely even had to think about.

Looking back, I can see God’s timing so clearly.

In December, my desire to go to Princeton was so strong that a rejection would have been devastating. The deferral, while not what I wanted, kept my hope and my spirits up. Before I would be okay with a rejection from my supposed dream school, I needed to fall in love with another school, see that there was a better option, and feel God’s guidance leading me there.

One of my friends said it best. I was telling her about the weekend I spent at Princeton, the amazing time I had talking to really smart people about really interesting things. At the time, I thought that meant I wanted to go to college there. But she said, “You know, maybe it was just meant to be a weekend.”

It was an amazing weekend. I will always cherish those memories. But it was only that, a weekend, and I’m okay with that. Going to college there? That wasn’t the best path for me, and I’m beyond excited to be going where I’m going. It’s not prestigious or well-known. But that’s okay, because it’s the right school for me.

So for those of you who are just beginning this process: it’s going to be okay.

It’s not really as hard as everyone makes it sound, and God will see you through.

I’ll repeat what I said in my Princeton post: His plans, they are always better than anything we could ever imagine. I’ve seen that come so completely true in my own life, and I pray that you will see it happen in yours as well. Whether it’s college, a job, a relationship, or anything else that comes with growing up, He’s got it. Just trust.

He saw me through. I’m almost a college student now, and that’s the most exciting thing ever.

love, grace

Have you gone through this process yet? What plans do you have for after high school? How have you seen God work His purposes in your life? Share in the comments! 

Read more:

Why Growing Up is a Good Thing

When You Don’t Know Your Purpose (and the Future Seems a Scary Thing)

God Is In Control (Even When the World Goes Mad)

We Need Higher-Quality Christian Art.

quality art

Today’s Christian media needs some help. Granted, there are some good Christian artists out there. But for the most part, Christian music is shallow and repetitive. Christian books are cliched, and Christian movies are cheesy.

Christian art should not have this reputation. We have so much to share, so much truth and beauty to express in the things we create – so why do Christians continue to recycle cliches and chords and characters to give people a fuzzy feel-good moment rather than a teary-eyed sense of God’s majesty?

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” -Colossians 3:23-24

God demands our best, our diligence, in whatever we have been called to. And this extends to the arts, certainly. If we feel called to a life of creativity, we must then seek to do our best, to learn our craft, to produce things that honor God by showing His excellence. In order to do that, our art has to be objectively good.

A Christian message is not enough. If something is badly written or badly made, it doesn’t matter how many Christian messages it has crammed into it; those messages will not make it automatically good. And the art will not have the impact that it could have.

Our art could be an incredible witness to the world. But if we want it to show the excellencies of God, it has to first be excellent. So, Christian, learn how to do your craft well. Practice often. Don’t be a perfectionist; that’s not what this is about. But put effort into your creativity, knowing that we will never make an impact with books and movies and music that are forgettable and poorly-made.

 

If you are an artist, how do you seek to improve your craft in order to better serve God? Who are some of your favorite artists who create both high-quality and Christian media? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Why the Arts Are a Valid Career Path for Christians

arts career

“It’s impossible to make money doing that.” 

“How on earth are you going to support yourself?”

“Maybe you should find a real job.”

Those are all reactions that many young people get when they express their dreams to be a writer, or an actor, or a dancer, or any other kind of artist And sadly, this happens in both secular and Christian circles.

But this is such a problematic way of thinking. If God gives us talents, He wants us to use them for His glory. Shouldn’t the church be encouraging that? God gave that girl a passion for singing, and He doesn’t want to see it wasted. He gave that guy the ability to paint beautifully, and there are so many ways that talent can be used. Telling someone to let go of their God-given passion and ability (whether that’s the arts or something else) in order to get a job that will earn them more money is not Biblical or healthy.

Because the Christian life is not about money. The Christian life is about bringing glory to God with whatever we choose to do. For the Christian, choosing a job should be about several things: What am I good at? What do I enjoy doing? What will make the most impact for the kingdom? What will allow me to continue pursuing God first and foremost in my life?

It should not, ever, be solely based on how much money we will make.

Here’s the thing, too: the arts are not nearly as unrealistic a career path as everyone makes it sound. With the Internet, it’s easier than ever to create a platform, gain a following, and reach people with the things you create. You might not ever be a celebrity, but so many people are finding small success through YouTube or blogging or self-publishing. You don’t have to reach millions of people; you just have to faithfully use your gift and trust that God will cause it to have an impact somewhere.

This is not to say that everyone should go quit their jobs. This is not a call to be irresponsible. We should make wise life choices that allow us to live responsibly and support ourselves, but we can trust God to take care of us, and we can trust that He has a plan for our lives. By having that trust, we can step out in faith and use our gifts if that is what we feel He is calling us to.

For the artist, that could look like getting a part-time job to ensure a little bit of income, and then devoting the rest of your time to creating. It could mean intensively saving money for a year or two, making a solid budget, and only then quitting your job and dedicating yourself to the arts full-time. Whatever you choose to do, do it prayerfully, seeking God’s will. It might be hard. It will take perserverance and faith. But why do we always look for the job that will make us the most money with the least work? If something is hard, that means it will be worthwhile in the end. If something is disappointing for a while, the success will be all the sweeter.

And ultimately, the world’s vision of success is fundamentally flawed. We can’t let it blind us to what God cares about. If your writing causes one person to come to faith, that is success. If your song heals one person’s heart after a terrible tragedy, that is success. Those are the successes that bring glory to God. And those are the successes that the world needs more of.

Seeking to spend your life using your gifts for God’s glory is not stupid. It’s not reckless. It is, in fact, what we are designed to do.

Even if your gifts aren’t considered a “real job”.

 

Have you ever had people say things like this to you about your passions? How do you plan to use your gifts to glorify God, both now and in the future? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Read more:

Why Christians Should Care About the Arts

So I Got Deferred from Princeton This Week.

When You Don’t Know Your Purpose (and the Future Seems a Scary Thing)

Why Christians Should Care About the Arts

 

arts

Photo by David Hofmann on Unsplash

I love the arts.

I write fiction, and I am a voracious reader. I’ve been dancing since I was six. I sing in choir and play the piano.

And recently, as I’ve started to make plans for my future, I’ve been thinking a lot about my purpose. Since the arts are such a big part of my life, I’ve been thinking a lot about their purpose, too, and about how I might be called to use them.

And I’ve come to the conclusion that the arts are a vital, important part of the Christian life, and of our witness to the world.

Made in God’s image, we create because He is creative. Without Him, art would not exist. Beauty would not exist. From the Fall, He left us remnants of beauty, slivers of what heaven will be like, reminders that He is good, and beautiful, and lovely, even when it feels like the world is a mess. And so for the Christian, everything we create is a little reflection of the beauty of the God we worship.

This is why I believe the arts are so important. I think that in artistic expression, we see God’s glory in a different way. There are parts of God’s nature that can’t be put into words – and the arts help us to portray that feeling of awe and love that can’t be expressed any other way. Well-made art is glorifying to God because it shows His beauty, helping us to connect with Him more deeply and fully.

Thanks to God’s common grace, this even extends to art made by unbelievers. Since there would be no beauty without God, anything that is beautiful points back to Him, intentionally or not. And if even secular art brings this kind of glory to God, what happens when Christians purposefully harness the power of creativity as a witness to the world? What happens when we cultivate our talents and then channel them into making real, high-quality art that honors our God?

Amazing things happen.

So I think it’s a mistake for Christians to be afraid of the arts, to refuse to let their kids read fiction, to think all dancing is sinful…or even to think that artistic pursuits are less important, less valid, not a real career or a meaningful contribution to the world.

We believe in a beautiful God. And our art, whether music or writing or dance or anything else, brings Him glory in a special way, and broadcasts His beauty to the world.

 

This post probably doesn’t even do justice to the amount of thoughts I’ve been having on this subject lately – expect to see more exploration of it in coming months. So let’s start a conversation in the comments! I could talk about this all day. How do you glorify God through art? What do you think about secular vs. Christian art and media? Where do you see God’s beauty in your daily life? 

love, grace

Read more:

Why I Don’t Limit Myself to “Christian” Entertainment

Music Spotlight: The Gray Havens

Favorites Roundup: December/January ’17-’18

winterfavs edited

First of all, The Rebelution went through a recent leadership transition. Read Jaquelle’s goodbye and Christopher’s hello to catch up.

I got some really great ideas from this video!

 This fantastic podcast episode on modesty was really helpful and encouraging to me.

If you’re looking for some exquisite Christian humor, watch this…

why-i-stopped-doing-my-best.jpg I could relate to this so much!

This is incredible:

Two great reads from Ann Voskamp:

This is What Finding Some Real Peace REALLY Means 

The Most Important Skill That Your 2018 Really Needs

Image result for the greatest showman

(If you haven’t seen this movie, you’re missing out.)

And finally, this most beautiful song:

 

What are some of your favorite things from this winter? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

So I Got Deferred from Princeton This Week.

I don’t talk about my personal life on here all that much, but today I want to share something that happened this past week and the big lessons that I’m learning from it.

I’m in the middle of the college application process, and most of you probably don’t know that my dream school is Princeton. This is a dream that developed relatively recently as I researched and visited, and let me tell you – I want to go there so badly. 

So in October, I polished up my application and hit submit. I was told I would find out in mid-December.

Well, the decision came out this week. I was deferred.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with college-speak, that means they aren’t deciding yet, that since I applied with the early round, they’re waiting to decide with the next round in the spring. Basically, I still have no idea what’s going to happen, and I have to wait three more months to find out.

Was I disappointed? Yes, of course. Obviously I had hoped that I would get in and my future would be settled.

But that afternoon, I heard God saying to me – You don’t trust me yet. So I’m going to make you wait a little longer. 

And that brought such a strong sense of peace.

God is giving me another, longer waiting season so that I will learn to lean on Him, to let go of things I can’t control, to trust in His plan. He is making me wait, so that I can learn that it’s all going to be okay, so that I can let go of my own plans for my future, open my fists and give it all to Him, and say, with total honesty – Lord, I trust your will over my own.

He started to teach me this, in a small way, at Nutcracker last weekend (and the timing of this is amazing). I had some fast costume changes, and a few times during the shows I didn’t make it and had to enter late for a dance. The first time this happened, I was so stressed out, but as the weekend went on I felt something shift – and I had peace.

During the final show, I was late once and almost late a second time. And I was okay with it. I knew that in the scheme of things it didn’t matter, that I couldn’t control it. I was at peace, going with the flow and trusting God’s purposes.

I’m normally a huge perfectionist, so this was a major shift in perspective. It could only have been God. And I think He was preparing me, teaching me to trust on a small scale so that when it came to the big stuff, I would be ready.

And so, on Wednesday, when I opened my decision and read “The admissions committee has deferred a decision on your application until the spring”, I could be okay with it.

Waiting is hard. But it is in waiting that we have to cast ourselves onto God the most. It is in waiting that we must rely on Him, because we have nothing else to lean on. It is in waiting that the Christian life becomes most different from the worldly life, in waiting that our faith is tested, in waiting that our faith becomes solid and unshakeable.

I don’t trust God enough yet – I know that. And I know God is calling me to this waiting season for a purpose, to teach me to trust, to strengthen my faith. So in the next few months, I’m going to have to learn. I’m going to have to learn to live my life the best I can, not worrying about what will happen in April. I’m going to have to learn to give my stresses and my worries to my God constantly.

And most of all, I’m going to have to learn to hold my plans for my future with open hands. Because the plans He has for me? They are good.

Better than anything I could ever dream of.

Whether they include Princeton or not.

love, grace

Favorites: Fall 2017

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Fall is my favorite season. It’s so beautiful outside, I love the crisp, but not freezing, weather, and I get to wear scarves and sweaters and boots (finally). Here are a few other favorites from this fall season (September through November):

The Nashville Statement (Desiring God): Every Christian should read this manifesto of Biblical sexuality in an age when all of these points are up for discussion and debate.

Found this video challenging and thought-provoking:

 

Image result for a mango-shaped space A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass – this book made me cry my eyes out late at night. Be warned. Recommended for ages 10+.

And then if you need cheering up, a few favorite Blimey Cow/Jordan Taylor videos:

 

four tips for breaking the strong female character trope - a guest post by Christine Smith [header image]100% agree with this article – must read if you are a fiction writer!

Image result for elantris Elantris by Brandon Sanderson – for an example of how to do the aforementioned “strong female character” correctly (and just about everything else in fiction) – my Goodreads review – recommended for ages 14+

Loving This World As It Really Is (Well Said) – an absolutely beautiful discussion of how we as Christians see the world

Formulaic for a Reason: The Existential Appeal of Hallmark Movies (The Gospel Coalition) – loved this take!

And speaking of romance, this happened to one of my favorite YouTubers this fall:

 

Finally, I don’t really like this actual song very much, but this cover of it features a whole bunch of different genres and is so creative and amazing!

 

What are some of your favorite things from this fall? Do you agree with any of mine? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Quotable Quotes Volume 1 (Thanksgiving Edition)

quotable quotes 1 thanksgiving edited

I hope all of my American readers had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Here are some of my favorite quotes about gratitude to encourage you to keep counting your blessings all year long.

“So then as long as thanks was possible, then joy was always possible. The holy grail of joy was not in some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience. The joy wonder could be here, in the messy, piercing ache of now.”

-Ann Voskamp

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

-G.K. Chesterton

“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

-Charles Dickens

“In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.”

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it.”

-A.W. Tozer

“A spirit of thankfulness is one of the most distinctive marks of a Christian whose heart is attuned to the Lord.”

-Billy Graham

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”

-A.A. Milne

 

Which of these quotes is your favorite? Do you have other favorite quotes about gratitude? How do you cultivate a thankful heart all year? Share in the comments! 

love, grace