Transitions: Reflecting on First Semester

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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

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Why Growing Up is a Good Thing

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I turn seventeen on Friday.

In theory, sixteen and eighteen are both milestone birthdays, and seventeen is just kind of…hanging out in between somewhere. But to be honest, turning seventeen feels like much more of a big deal than turning sixteen did. It seems so much more grown up. It’s your last year of childhood.

In the world’s eyes, growing up is almost a tragedy. Childhood is seen as the best time of life, the simplest time, that will never return again. Now you have to enter the scary world of “adulting” and deal with the fact that the best years of your life are hypothetically over.

But is this the right way to think?

As I was thinking about this more and more, I realized something. Nowhere in the Bible is childhood idolized the way it is in our culture. There is not an ounce of nostalgia or sentimentalism towards childhood in God’s Word.

In fact, the opposite is true. Maturity and adulthood are lauded as good things, great things, things to strive for and look forward to.

Take a look at these passages:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…

-Ephesians 4:11-15

When I was a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

-1 Corinthians 13:11

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.

-1 Corinthians 14:23

Clearly, Paul does not consider childhood the best time of life. In fact, to him, “childhood” is synonymous for “immaturity”, which is something that all Christians should strive to overcome.

And this was really encouraging to me – childhood is not supposed to be the only good time of our lives. It’s not supposed to be a bad thing to grow up. It is, in fact, supposed to be a very good thing.

This does not mean that we cannot look back on our childhood with nostalgia. It is a wonderful time, certainly! And if you had a wonderful childhood that makes you not want to grow up, be thankful for that gift that God gave you. But you don’t have to feel like the best time of life is over once childhood ends.

Childhood is a training grounds for life. It’s a time for us to learn from the godly adults in our lives as well as learning from the various experiences we have. It’s our chance to make mistakes without the pressure.

But childhood is not the end goal. Here is the end goal:

Epaphras, who is of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. 

-Colossians 4:12

In all of these verses, we see that the Bible views growing up as a good thing, not a bad thing; something to look forward to, not something to dread; something to pray for, not something to struggle against.

Once we begin to reach these last years of childhood, we will have mixed feelings, certainly. Looking back, we ought to be grateful to God for the many blessings he gave us while we were still children. But we don’t need to get bogged down in what-ifs and should-haves. You don’t need to feel guilty if you think you didn’t live your childhood to the fullest, use your teen years well, or appreciate what you had while you had it. What God gave you, and what you experienced, was what you were supposed to experience, and it was enough. It was enough to prepare you for the adult that you are going to be, exactly what you needed as training for the rest of your life.

And as you turn your gaze forward into the future, be excited! Trust in God’s wonderful plans for your life, and realize that there will be just as many wonderful gifts in this life stage as in the past one. Look forward to the depths of faith and maturity that will grow and take root as you get older, the deeper and more meaningful relationships, the chance to do even bigger things for God in the world. The end of childhood is not the end of “the good years”. If you are with God, your whole life is good, and it is under His control.

He is with you in the present and the future, just as He was in the past; now take hold of His hand and move forward in faith and confidence.

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity…

-Hebrews 6:1

love, grace

After the Rain: Lessons from a Stormy Day

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That afternoon, the motivation wouldn’t come. Homework piled up, not to mention my own list of goals and plans. The guilt set in. The tears came. Dragging myself to dance class was the last thing I wanted to do, but at the last possible second, balled-up tissue in hand, I threw my hair up and gathered my stuff and made myself walk out the door.

It was raining.

My first reaction was disgust. Now, on top of everything else, I had to drive in pouring rain. The weather confirmed my gloomy mood.

But as I got into the car and turned the keys in the ignition, I was reminded of something God had taught me a few days ago, something I could learn from the rain, something I had been so excited to share.

Rain is a wonderful metaphor for the suffering in our lives. No one likes it while it’s around. We see it as depressing, frustrating. But without the rain nothing would grow. We would have no grass, flowers, trees, greenery. The world would be dry and dead. God always knows exactly when to send rain, exactly when the ground needs watering so that things can grow as He wills.

Rain brings growth. 

Suffering is like that. It’s unpleasant, scary, sad. But with suffering comes incredible growth. The sadness of one season is preparation, so that in the coming sunny season we can bloom and grow in glorious shades of green.

And as I drove down the street in the dark, windshield wipers on full blast, I thought about the metaphor and tears began to stream down my face again. But this time it was from fullness, not emptiness. The rain, rather than being one more problem, was a symbol for what God was doing in my heart that night, and I will never forget the feeling once I knew that. As it poured down, it mirrored my tears. And I knew that my heart was being watered, my faith was being deepened, and that the next day would bring the flowers.

“There is no fear in letting tears come. Sadness is a gift to avoid the nothingness of numbness, and all hard places need water. Grief is a gift, and after a rain of tears, there is always more of you than before. Rain always brings growth.”

-from The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp, chapter 11 (“Breaking Into Being Real”)

love, grace