Eight Things I Want to Do Before I Graduate

Person Holding A Green Plant

1. Write a letter to my senior year self. Open it when I graduate.

I love the idea of recording some of the thoughts and emotions from this first year of college, and then being able to compare them to where I am at the end. I have already felt so much growth happening and I feel like I’ll be in a totally different place when I graduate. Making a mental note that I should probably do this soon.

2. Share the gospel with someone.

Using words, specifically. Obviously after blogging for so long I’m very comfortable with sharing the gospel through writing, and I long ago embraced the idea of letting my life be a witness. But I spent high school using those things as excuses for not doing the thing that really scared me: talking to someone about the gospel, using literal words in a face-to-face conversation. Before college is over I want to conquer this fear.

3. Go on a date.

This, for me, counts as personal growth, which might seem weird. But for so long, guys terrified me, as did the idea of having a relationship. I’ve already grown so much in that area and have some great guy friends, but this is another step that I want to take before the end of college to help me continue growing. (This is something I can definitely write a whole post about if anyone’s interested!)

4. Visit my friends on the West Coast.

I’ve never been to the West Coast — and having college friends from Washington and California gives me the perfect excuse to go!

5. Go back to New York City.

Only one of my favorite places in the entire world…I’ve been three times, but two were day-trips, and I’ve never been able to plan my own itinerary. There’s so much there I want to see and do!

6. Travel internationally. (again)

My trip to Europe over the summer was one of the best experiences of my life. There are so many places I want to see, and so I want to make sure I travel out of the country at least one more time before the end of college.

7. Watch High School Musical.

I just…feel like I should have by now…

8. Participate in a musical at my school.

Another thing that terrifies me…but next time they do a musical with lots of dancing, I want to participate. I’ve never been able to do much theatre and I’ve always wanted to. Now is the time!

You probably noticed a theme on this list: many of these are things that scare me to death. But something that I learned throughout high school was that often, the things that scare me are the experiences that end up being the most valuable, memorable, and worthwhile. I don’t want to let fear get in the way of my college experience, and this list is one way of helping me conquer some of those things that hold me back.

Your turn! What are some things on your bucket list? What scares you, and how can you conquer those fears? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

P.S. Advice to My Freshman Self: Get Involved

Advent Reflections: Jesus the Forever King

forever king 1

Sometimes, this world can get really discouraging. Especially when it comes to politics. 

It seems like, much of the time, the people who are in control either don’t know what they are doing or don’t care. Things continue to go downhill. Our leaders spend more time arguing with each other than actually taking action on anything that matters.

It might feel like this is a new development, like if we could just go back to a better time, a simpler time, the government would be better. But the truth is, there have been issues with human governments since the very beginning. Even the ancient Israelites, God’s chosen nation, couldn’t get it right. String after string of bad kings, kings who forgot God, who disregarded his laws, who oppressed his people and led them in wrongdoing.

But this didn’t mean that God wasn’t with his people. See, back in the time of King David, Israel’s second king, he had made a promise.

“When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. ”

-2 Samuel 7:12-13

forever king 2At first glance, we might think this promise was referring to David’s son, Solomon. And in some ways, it is. Solomon had a flourishing kingdom, presiding over one of the most prosperous times in Israel’s history. He built a temple for God. But that’s where we run into a problem: Solomon’s throne didn’t last forever. It’s quite obvious, as we continue reading the Old Testament, that things deteriorated, and that eventually Israel would be captured and destroyed by foreign nations.

But what about God’s promise?

At the heart of it, this promise is reaching much farther into the future than it seems at first glance. This is, ultimately, the promise that we celebrate at Christmas: the promise of the Messiah, of Jesus come to earth. He came to earth and established his kingdom, and now is building a church of believers from all around the world, one that will last for eternity.

This is the promise that we inherit as Christians. Jesus is the Forever King. He was reigning at the side of God the Father in the beginning (John 1). He will reign in the eternity to come, when his kingdom is fully established and his people are fully gathered.

And he is reigning right now, in this moment, over everything that seems to be going wrong in this world. 

Because human rulers will always disappoint us. God may pour his Spirit out on one for a time, may bless us with wise government for a time, but thanks to the Fall the human spirit will so often be corrupted by power. If we place our hope in human governments, we are placing it in something that will always fail us. We are seeking security in the wrong place, when it has already been offered to us by Christ.

Because he reigns! He is ruling over the world now, and his rule will only get better as we enter into an eternity of his kingdom. This is the story of Christmas: Jesus was born to establish a kingdom. He lived to establish a kingdom. He died to establish a kingdom.

“And he shall reign forever and forever.”

love, grace

P.S. 4 Ways to Avoid Holiday Letdown

 

Transitions: Reflecting on First Semester

transitions first semester edited.jpg

Read the other posts in the Transitions series:

Learning to Trust God Through College Applications

Thoughts After Graduating

Moving In and Settling Down

Making Friends in College

How I Stay Organized

On Tuesday, I completed my first semester of college.

That’s weird for me to say. I still haven’t quite comprehended that I’ve moved into this season, especially because adults always talk about college as if it was the best time of their life.

And now that I’m there, I’m starting to understand why people talk about it like that. Because overall? My first semester was awesome. When I look back on the experience that I’ve been given and look forward to the experience that is to come, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. I’ve been blessed in so many ways. The friendships that I’ve made, the opportunities my program offers, the community at my school, the late-night conversations about the things that really matter in life, the late-night conversations where we laugh so hard we can’t breathe, the assignments that feel like they have a purpose rather than being busywork, the roommate who is one of my best friends…

That’s not to say there weren’t challenges. I am so blessed to be studying English and dance, two things that I love, yet I still went through a stretch of time where it was very hard to stay motivated and get out of bed in the morning. Because of that, I’ve started to worry about the future: will I ever find something that makes me excited to get out of bed? Or will I spend my whole life looking forward to the next season as the time when I will finally find fulfillment? When my thoughts go down this path, and I start to second-guess all of my career plans, I’m learning to trust that God has a path planned for me, and that He will sustain me through the inevitable times when the daily grind weighs heavy.

Homesickness is certainly real, too, and there were times throughout the semester where I was overwhelmed by how much I wanted to see my family and my dog and go to my church. Honestly, church was one of the hardest things. For the first few weeks it was fun to visit new churches, but after a while it got really stressful to have to decide on a church and find a ride there every week. I knew it was time to decide and settle in when, one Saturday night, I reached a point where I would rather have stayed home than visited another new place. Thankfully, one church easily stood out as a place that could become home, and I’ve been going there with a few of my friends ever since. Even though it’s not the same as my home church, it’s been a wonderful home away from home. It’s the only church we visited that I felt really welcomed us (that’s harder to find than you would think, which is sad). The teaching is Biblical and solid, and even though I differ slightly with them on a few issues, the community matters far more to me.

Overall, I love my school. I’m blessed to go to a Christian school that is very strong in the arts, and both of those things have proved to be exactly what I need. First of all, being constantly surrounded by faith and worship has been vital for my spiritual growth. I didn’t realize how much I was missing by being at a public high school, and while I wouldn’t trade that experience, my faith was ready for this next step. Yes, maybe we’re in a bubble. But I’ve been outside of the bubble already, and being in a bubble is turning out to be a wonderful, healthy reprieve before I likely enter the public school system again as a teacher after college.

Being surrounded by the arts, too, is amazing. There are constant performances and events to go to, and being able to see art done in excellence and used for the glory of God is incredible (it’s something I’m pretty passionate about, as most of you probably know).

And truly, even if I did get a little tired of the daily grind by the end of the semester, I can already feel myself making so much progress. I’m glad that I have both English and dance: English comes much more easily to me, and dance forces me to push myself. I can already see my skills improving, and more importantly, my mindset has changed in some significant ways. There is a constant focus on reflection, goal setting, and self-awareness in my program, and I feel slow but sure growth happening in every area of my life.

I think that’s what most defines college: growth. It’s a time for you to figure out who you really are, on your own, without your family ties. A time to grasp your faith for yourself and let that inform your daily choices. A time to change and improve and become the person you will be for the rest of your life. And the best part? Most of this happens so naturally, and I’m so excited to see who I’ve become at the end of these four years.

That’s a wrap on first semester, and on this series, although I’m sure I’ll be posting more about college in the future! Let me know if that’s something you would like to see, and if so, what specifically I should write about. And if you’re in college, or applying to college, or graduated from college, share your experience in the comments! I’d love to hear.

love, grace

Transitions: Making Friends in College

Silhouette of Four People Against Sun Background

One of the things I was most looking forward to about college was the chance to start over socially. I’m at a small college far away from home, and so I didn’t know a single person going in, except my roommate, and we had only met in person once. I had heard that the social situation in college is much different than high school, and it definitely was, especially for the first few weeks.

My biggest advice for the beginning of college is to go to as many activities and events as possible. At the beginning, there will likely be a lot of things going on to help freshmen get settled in, so take advantage of that. Even though I’m the type of person who tends to want to stay at home, I pushed myself to go to those kinds of things right away. I found that if I put myself out there and did things, it was very easy to meet people. With everyone trying to find friends, there’s an environment of openness and inclusion that is very cool.

Something else I didn’t expect is how close you can become with people after a very short period of time. My roommate and I felt like best friends after only a few days. And in five weeks I’ve already had some incredibly deep and vulnerable conversations with people. Late nights, especially, are breeding grounds for good conversation with random people in the lobby of your dorm.

And it’s true that there will be some people who you click with more than others. Find those people who you really enjoy talking to and being around, and then spend as much time with them as possible right away, before your classes get really busy. If you can establish a few promising friendships immediately, they will maintain themselves as schedules get crazy, and you will have those people to fall back on if things go wrong or you need support. Then you can expand your social life from there as the semester goes on.

And it is important to continue expanding your friend group! I found those few close friends right away, and a group of us formed who have been spending a lot of time together. It’s easy for me to stick with the same people; it’s comfortable and validating to have a “group”. But I’m working to make sure I don’t get too set in my clique. I want to meet a wide variety of people, and I want our group to be welcoming of others. So I’m starting to make an effort to sit with different people at meals and talk with people I don’t know as well, while still balancing time with the friendships I’ve already developed.

As we settle into the semester, the biggest struggle for me is how much I want to feel included and liked. I have to constantly remind myself that it isn’t my goal to be liked by others, but to bless others. I shouldn’t be trying to make sure I feel welcomed and included, but trying to make others feel welcomed and included, showing everyone love as fellow image-bearers of God.

Ultimately, friendships are a beautiful gift from God. Creating new relationships takes patience and trust, but if I walk in faith, seeking to follow His design for how I interact with fellow humans, those relationships will develop with time. I’ve been so blessed already and I can’t wait to continue to grow in my relationships with all of the new people in my life.

How have you made friends in a new situation? 

love, grace

Confession Reflections: The One Key to the Christian Life

Close-up Photography of Bible

Recently I’ve begun studying the Westminster Confession of Faith during my personal devotions. I’ve grown up in the PCA church, and decided that it was time for me to really understand my denomination’s core beliefs and make sure that I agree with them.  And as I read through, I want to share my thoughts and reflections on various topics with you! 

Today: from Chapter 1, Of the Holy Scripture, section 1. 

This section of the Confession talks about the two ways that God reveals Himself: in the created world, and in His Word.

I love the idea that creation reveals God. His power and creativity are obvious the moment you step outside and see the trees, the sky, and everything He has made.

I’ve especially loved learning about space in my astronomy class this past school year, and I don’t understand how anyone can possibly think that such vast beauty happened by chance. How could the Earth have ended up in exactly the right spot for life to form, the right distance away from the Sun, by chance? How is everything so perfectly suspended in nothingness, moving like clockwork, by chance?

Here’s my favorite: did you know that Jupiter is positioned in exactly the right place to make it Earth’s bodyguard, that it catches asteroids and other debris long before they can hit the Earth and destroy humanity? How can something like that be arranged by chance?

This is why there is no excuse for not believing in God. Every mountain and tree and star proclaims His existence, practically screams it, and no one can say they “didn’t know”.

But of course, creation is not enough, and that is why God gave us His Word. The splendor and wonder and beauty of the natural world is meant to draw us to Scripture, to lead us into reading the Bible, trying to discover everything we can about the God who made us.

And as we read, we learn everything else we need to know: who God is, who we are, how the world works, how to find salvation, and how to live our lives.

The Bible is absolutely critical to the Christian life; reading a devotional every morning isn’t going to cut it. We must get into God’s Word regularly. Only by reading it will we know the truth. Only by reading it will we be able to decide for ourselves what we believe. Only by reading it will we be able to resist temptation, live by the Spirit, and glorify God with our lives. If we really call ourselves Christians, we have to read it, study it, and love it.

Reading the Bible isn’t a legalistic rule, a “have-to” that makes you a good Christian. It’s a privilege, a “get-to”. The God of the universe has given us His Words! Yes, it may take diligence at first to create the habit. But the more you read, the more the Holy Spirit will fill you and cause you to enjoy Scripture, to crave it and thirst for it.

So start now. Pick up your Bible and start reading. A little every day will go a long way.

love, grace

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

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)