My friends would probably tell you that one thing I cannot stand is a cliché. I’ve seen so many blogs out there dedicated “to the college student”, “to the girl going to college”, or about the “5 things you learn in college”, so I’ve never wanted to write anything like that. But after 10 months of silence, the Lord has once again shown me His sense of humor because that’s exactly what He has led me to share with the following words. This school year has been the craziest, most unexpected, challenging, growth-filled year of my life. Instead of trying to rehash it all in the format of a summary, I’ve decided to compile everything into the two most important things I’ve learned, and often failed to do. The composition of this blog is written to those soon going to and currently in college, but it is intended to speak to and can apply to anyone in any stage of life.
# 1: Seek God every day. As most of you have probably been born and raised in the Bible Belt, you hear this time and time again. But words that speak truth can never be stressed enough. If I am being completely honest for a minute, there are some (okay, a lot of) days when I do not want to wake up 15 minutes early or set aside 15 minutes before I go to sleep, in between classes, etc. to do a devotion or my quiet time. I am a selfish being. I think I am too busy and too independent to need or spend time with my Savior. Which could not be farther from the truth. You see, there will be days when you find yourself driving onto campus for your 8 a.m. with tears streaming down your face because you feel so completely lost, stressed, anxious, and broken that you do not know where to turn or what to do anymore…and your day hasn’t even started yet. Then there will be days when you get accepted into that prestigious club on campus that you went through multiple, competitive interviews for and you will feel on top of the world. You will need God on both of those days. God is your Creator, your Rock, your Father, your Friend, your Hope, your Peace, your Joy. He knows your inner most thoughts, desires, and needs better than anyone on this earth ever will or could. He will give and He will take away. He will shut doors and then He will open others. But through it all, He will still remain good. Rest in that, trust in that, and never stop giving thanks—even in the valley, even on the mountain. Stay close to Him. If you remain in His Word and His presence, you will find yourself equipped with the tools you need to confidently handle challenging situations and to make tough decisions you may and will face throughout your day. The ones where the enemy wants to see you fail. Pick a couple of Christian songs that resonate with you and listen to those every. single. morning. on your way to work, class, or wherever and let them be the catalyst for a day spent continually walking with the Lord. Some of my favorites right now that have been encouraging for my life lately are: “Who You Say I Am” by Hillsong Worship, “Lord, I Need You” by Matt Maher, “Living Hope” by Bethel Music, and, as always, “Reckless Love” by Cory Asbury. Most importantly, develop your prayer life. I’m preparing for a mission trip to Kenya this summer and a couple of months ago, our team made prayer beads at one of our meetings. The necklace has 28 beads, broken up into 4 sections of 7. I use the first section as words of adoration to God (e.g. “God, you are merciful”), the second section for asking for forgiveness of my sins, the third for prayers for other people, and the fourth for giving thanks. This has been so beneficial for my prayer life because it is something physical that I can see to be reminded to pray and that I can clutch onto when I pray. It has also provided a structure for my prayers so that I’m not repeatedly just asking things of God. Find a guide like this to use for your own prayers if you do not already have one and watch how it strengthens your gratification of God, your adoration for God, and your day-to-day communication with God.
#2: Take care of yourself. This past semester has been hard. Some days I had class from 8-6 and when I was done with class, I usually had a tremendous amount of homework and at least 1 or 2 upcoming tests to study for. To add to that, I am genuinely passionate about what I study and hope to eventually attend graduate school so I want to do well in undergraduate. So, in order to get all my work done while also getting the grades I felt were of adequate performance, I started neglecting my friends and my physical and mental health. I wanted to excel so I became obsessive in doing so. I stopped working out. I fell back into my old disordered eating habits. I wasn’t ever getting enough sleep. I was putting all my time and energy in my school work while the friends that I had come to know as my family away from home turned into what seemed like strangers. Stress is a vicious cycle because our body, emotions, and behaviors are all interconnected and when one of these is disrupted, the others are also negatively affected. At almost 20 years old, I found myself calling my mom frequently, crying, because I was so anxious all the time and didn’t know how to cope. In April, my sorority along with another on campus had Jenni Schaefer, author of “Life Without Ed”, speak to our Greek life about mental health awareness. She said that being mentally ill is not something that can always be defined by the official “Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” but rather it’s a spectrum, and people can find themselves in many places along this spectrum. I have found myself in various places along this spectrum as there have been seasons when I may not have met the criteria to be “clinically depressed” or to have an anxiety “disorder”, but I wasn’t the poster child for mental health either. At some point in your own life, you might find yourself somewhere along this spectrum as well. That is why it is so important to be proactive about taking care of our bodies and our brains so that we can use them to glorify God to their fullest potential, even in our struggles. Take it from me–being irritable, moody, and never fully present doesn’t exactly scream Christian character to those around you. Find a workout or form of physical exercise that is good for you and do it every day. And do this not so you can have the best body during spring break, but because it is so essential for your mind and your mood. Find healthy foods that you enjoy eating and eat them in solid, balanced meals. What we put in our body can either fuel us or destroy us, which brings me to another subject: alcohol. Be mindful that alcohol is a drug and more specifically, it is a depressant. If you are feeling lost or broken in any way, I can promise you that heavily drinking on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night is only going to make those feelings extremely worse and send you farther down that hole. And be aware of the things you speak. The words that we speak-out loud, into existence-have a crazy way of manifesting themselves as truth in our lives. So instead of saying things like “I’m so stressed” or “I can’t do this anymore”, turn those negative expressions into positive ones such as “I am capable of accomplishing this today” (I’m specifically preaching this one to myself). Lastly, show up for your friends and let them be there for you too. They are a gift for you to walk through life with. Author Bob Goff said, “Next to grace, I bet God thinks making us need each other was one of His best ideas.” Some nights, you will need to sit on the floor with your friend for hours, speaking life into her instead of studying for your test in two days. There will be days when you will need this in return so don’t be absent. And truth be told, when I think of the people that have been there for me and that I admire most, I either don’t know or don’t care what their GPA is.
When I decided to start writing blogs, I thought that I would consistently be putting out inspirational pieces that would hopefully speak to someone. Instead, I found myself praying for my next words for months. You see, our spiritual life really is like a cup and when your own cup isn’t constantly being filled up, there’s not much to pour out either. I’ve felt like I’ve had nothing worth saying for others to hear for almost a year now because I’ve often neglected my cup. But I’ve been wrong. This year has shown me that reaching people isn’t about being the perfect girl, with the perfect grades, with the perfect words who seems like her cup is always overflowing. It’s about being vulnerable, authentic, and transparent about the fact that sometimes it’s not. But that doesn’t mean we can neglect taking the right steps to begin filling it back up.