Letter from Your Future Self

With the start of Spring comes beautiful weather, outdoor activities, and the temptation to hide your books in the back of the closet and not let them see the light of day. Ever. Again.

At this point, you’ve been hard at work since last fall… or the fall before that… or maybe longer. You may be wondering if studying will ever be done… if it’s worth all this hard work…  if you really want to keep going.

Being a few years on the other side of college, though, I can tell you it is worth it.  But there are times when you wonder.  So I hope you don’t mind this note; one that I wish someone would have written to me when I was in the middle of earning my degree.

A Letter From Your Future Self.

Dear younger self,

I know you’re under a pile of work that looks like it will never end.  I know that you worry about assignments and you have nights when you don’t sleep very much. I know that you study either way too much or not at all, depending on the day.  But there are a few things I want to tell you.  Things I’ve learned in the few years since finishing that degree you’re working on. Things to give you inspiration in the tough times and the motivation to finish strong.  So here goes.

Give yourself a break.  Yes, you heard me right.  I know you have a goal for when you want to graduate. That’s great—don’t lose that.  But honestly, delaying that test by three days or a week may be a big deal right now, but you’ll be laughing at yourself in a few years.  After all, you’re still finishing in record time!

Another thing… memories are pretty important too.  Yes, make studying a priority. But don’t forego spending time with people you care about.  That means choosing your priorities. Facebook and other activities may not make the cut.  But if cutting out certain things allows you to make memories that last for years… go for it.

Take advantage of opportunities!  You will never again have a chance to explore and learn and grow like you do now.  When else can you take a random music class or learn a language and have the excuse that you’re doing it for a college degree?  Internships or job shadowing will tell you things about yourself that you could never find out unless you actually did it.  Travel!  You’re in CollegePlus for a reason, right?  Take school with you across the country or around the world!  This is your chance. Don’t just sit at home on your computer. Use the flexibility you have to do something great.

Work hard. Just in case you were confused… giving yourself a break and pursuing incredible opportunities does not mean you sit around and do nothing.  It requires hard work to balance opportunity with studying.  Don’t be afraid to give up the things that are not a priority and then go after the things that are with everything that is in you.

Finally, don’t be discouraged. You are doing something revolutionary. Not everyone understands. But that’s okay.  In a few years, you will be the one with no debt and the freedom to follow your dreams.  You will be the one with amazing life experiences that taught you more about yourself and your passions than you could have even imagined.  You will have awesome travel memories from taking school on the road with you.  You are the one who has to live your life and you want to be able to look back and have no regrets.

So, you want to know what happens in a few years?  Well, first of all, you took my [your] advice. 🙂 You had some pretty incredible experiences and made friends that will last a lifetime.  Even though you spent six extra months on your degree, you wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.  And really, a four year degree in two and a half years?  Still not too shabby.

The job shadowing and internship helped you find your passion—one you hadn’t paid much attention to until then.  That’s a good thing, because now you are pursuing that passion and it promises to be a life-long adventure.  And since you’re not in debt, you have the flexibility and the funds to go anywhere that God calls you to.

It’s been a great adventure and it is only beginning.  Just make sure that whatever you do, you can look back and say no regrets.

Sincerely,
~Your Future Self

Featured Image: Letter, CC

Making the Most of Small Moments

College is hard.

Doing it on your own can be harder still.

Trying to find time to study on your own (without deadlines) after work, before making dinner or doing laundry and without siblings knocking on your door at least 10 times within one hour… ??

Nearly impossible.

This article is inspired after talking to many of you in the last few weeks who are attempting the impossible. First, know that you are doing a great job! Just by attempting this, you are lightyears ahead of so many people.

But often, this journey seems rather thankless. We peel ourselves away from our family, feeling guilty we are even thinking of trying to carve out “alone” time. We sit in our rooms and try to block out the noise we hear outside. The laughter… the drama… whatever it is, we want to be a part of it! Instead, we turn our music up louder and try to focus. Until the 3-year old knocks. After shuffling them out the door and trying to remember where you were, mom pokes her head in to ask about chores. Okay, okay… you run to switch out that load of laundry. Then you try to sit down and study once more–only to realize it’s dinner time and your stomach is demanding to be fed. So you head out the door and hope for some study time before bed.

Can you relate? I know this was often life for me while in college. And while those quiet, focused hours are important for studying, they can be hard to come by. What if your studying became a part of your life, rather than separate from it? What if you took advantage of the small moments and studied whenever you could? What if you involved your family in the process, so they felt included rather than ignored?

Believe it or not, that CAN happen. You will still need to set aside some focused study hours at some point. However, if you can incorporate studying into your daily life, you and your family can feel more connected and less begrudging when it comes time to hole yourself up in your room.

So, are you ready to make that happen in your life? It is really quite simple, actually.

Make the most of the small moments.

Instead of segregating your “school life” from your “real life,” take advantage of the many little moments throughout the day. These are the moments when you are really doing much of anything or could easily multi-task to tuck away just a few more facts for that next subject

Consider some of the following ways you could make studying a part of everyday life:

  • Read a chapter in your REA guide over your lunch break at work.
  • Download lectures to your smartphone and listen during your commute.
  • Sit beside a sibling who is also doing school as you make flashcards.
  • Turn on Trailmarker videos while making dinner or folding laundry.
  • Ask your sibling to quiz you from the glossary while driving them to activities.
  • Use your smartphone to answer some questions in Trailmarker while standing in line at the store.
  • Listen to audios while vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, or exercising.
  • Schedule a movie night with the family… pop some popcorn, make a dessert, then watch a documentary on your latest subject before sticking in the new Redbox.
  • Trade flashcards with a brother or sister… you answer a question, they answer a question, you answer a question…
  • Keep a book handy at all times–you never know when you might have a few spare minutes!

These are just a few ways to start incorporating study into every aspect of your life. Don’t forget to schedule the intense study sessions as well. But also take a chance on the small moments for a few weeks and see how far you can go!

What are some other “small moments” you have turned into an opportunity to study? Let me know on our next coaching call!

 

Featured Image, Time Piece, CC

Gray or Glory

Originally written and posted to Facebook, January 23, 2014.

I have something to say to many of you I am privileged to call friend. I hope many will read it and be convicted (as I was while writing). But I am primarily thinking of each of you young adults I know through GenJ or CollegePlus. Please consider this my personal note to you. I share it because this world is messy and sometimes confusing and I want you to know that you CAN know what God calls righteousness and that it is okay for you to walk that path, even if all around you seem to be abandoning it.

It seems that much of the world–including our conservative or Christian circles–are sending muddied messages of what it means to live rightly. Of what it looks like to distinguish between right and wrong. If you have ever looked up to a leader you expected to do right and somehow ended up confused or misguided in the end… this message is for you.

First, you should know that Godly Christians who genuinely want to follow Jesus sometimes disagree on things. This is okay. There is incredible freedom in the ability to hold your convictions, yet value those of another. There is great respect to be had when you realize that you can use your freedom in Christ to act a certain way without judging those who are just as free to guard themselves from what may become a temptation.

There is so much room for those who love Jesus to find common ground while holding fast our separate beliefs… beliefs which, as a pastor of mine once said, are still “within the realm of orthodoxy.” (Which basically means that in certain areas, we can disagree while acknowledging that the other person is not a heretic). 😉

Yet there are many things that simply should not be up for negotiation within the Christian walk. God sets the standard, my friends. We are not free to change it, redraw the lines, or somehow set new rules simply because “everyone is doing it” or “they don’t play fair, so why should I?”

Walking like Jesus is not about how long we can play with fire without getting burned.

Walking like Jesus is not about seeing how far down the path of destruction we can tread before we can’t see the way back.

Rather, walking like Jesus means forsaking all that resembles sin or any hint of wrongdoing.

Walking like Jesus means pursuing holiness… “Pressing on toward the call of the prize in Christ Jesus.”

Walking like Jesus means throwing off EVERYthing that holds us back and the sin that clings oh-so-closely while we fix our eyes on the One who started and perfects our faith.

As we attempt to walk like Jesus, however, we know we do so while also walking in a fallen world. A world that is far from perfect and often muddles black and white into a dingy, disgusting gray.

Friends, we are not called to a life of gray.

Yet what do we do when people we respect and love and seem to be genuinely seeking Christ get stuck in the gray for awhile?

First, we have grace. Because we have all been there and probably all will again. And truthfully, I would rather we dig into the gritty parts of life and wrestle like Jacob did with the angel and not come out until we KNOW what it looks like to walk out of the gray and into the glory.

But friends, just because there is grace in the gray doesn’t mean that is what we desire and strive for. It doesn’t mean we excuse the gray as being “not that bad.” It doesn’t mean we join in making messy, grayish mud pies that the world seems to think are worthy of blue ribbons because their vision is so clouded.

We must always be reaching for glory. We will not attain it on this earth, I know. But while we now “see through a glass-dimly,” SOMEDAY we will see Him face to face.

And when we do that, my friends, we must all give account. You must speak for YOUR convictions and YOUR thoughts and YOUR actions just as I must speak for mine.

So when we are confused… muddled… uncertain of the right path because truth is so easily twisted and mixed up with a bit of the lies…

The question we must ask is this:  what does it look like to be in right standing before God? Right this moment, with God Himself living within you and a million saints bearing witness and all the angels of heaven cheering you on?

What does it mean to live rightly in each decision you are asked to make?

Not “how far can I go?”

Not “I’m not as bad as them.”

Not muddling in the gray, pretending it’s glory.

Striving for one thing only–Christ.

And Christ alone.

C.S. Lewis says this… ‎”Your life is a continuum where wholeness is on one end and destruction is on the other. Each decision you make is moving you one direction–towards wholeness and peace with God, or away from Him.”

Which direction will you walk today?

Reflections on Uganda

Originally written and posted on GenJ’s Liberty Call on January 9th, 2014.

I sat in a small, dark mud hut as a soft stream of light cast shadows through the tattered curtain that covered the doorway—the only opening allowing light and air into the home. Squeezed between my sister and another girl on our team, we sat quietly on a small bench, one of four pieces of furniture in the room. The other pieces consisted simply of a chair, a tiny end table, and a cabinet barely higher than my waist. That was all, in a room smaller than my bathroom back home. Vicky, the incredible Ugandan woman who had led us over muddy mountain paths to this home, sat in the chair while our hosts, an aging Jiajia (grandmother) and her 12 year old grandson, knelt on the dirt floor in front of us.

Vicky, who mentors 83 Ugandan children and visits each one at least once a week, was checking in on this family for the fifth time in as many days. We sat silently while she chatted in Luganda, paging through the young boy’s homework while she talked.

After awhile, she turned to us to translate the conversation. She spoke softly and kindly. “This boy… he is like all boys his age. He would rather be playing than helping his grandmother bring in water or wash the dishes or do his schoolwork. She works so hard; but she is old and tired… I come every day to make sure he is doing his work, because sometimes–grandmothers can love us too much.”

Her words brought tears to my eyes, because I do indeed know “boys his age” and grandmothers who “love us too much.”

Read the rest of the article here.

Dwelling Place of God

Originally posted on Facebook, Christmas Day 2013

Christmas, I always thought, was the time of year when things become “better.” A time when people choose grace over personal preference. When the troubles of life hold off for a few days or weeks. When everyone seems a bit nicer, the world a bit brighter, and joy a bit nearer.

Yet in recent years, I have struggled when my expectations did not meet reality. Christmas can be–and often is–just as difficult as any other time of the year. Perhaps more so, as some face first Christmases without dear ones, others struggle through extra time in difficult family situations, or we are struck afresh by the disparity between our great wealth and another’s great need. This year, I heard many say “It just doesn’t feel like Christmas.” And I agree.

But in trying to capture a “feeling” of Christmas, I realized that perhaps I was missing the point.

After all, Christ entered a world lost and broken. He came in the midst of great sorrow and oppression. His people were longing; waiting; anticipating what was to come but not yet arrived. The words of my favorite Advent carol capture the heart of a waiting people; “O come, O come, Immanuel; and ransom captive Israel.”

And then? He came.

The glory of that Christmas was not a facade of a perfect world, but the Hope of a Kingdom brought down to earth.

The glory of Christmas is not ignoring the brokenness, but the promise of redemption in spite of it.

The glory of Christmas is that God Most High became man to walk with us in our humanness.

And yet it is so easy to look around and expect to see our version of the Kingdom. We expect this season to be one of joy, peace, and love. Sometimes, we are blessed with that. But the truth is that the world is still fallen. Broken. Waiting for restoration.

The promise of Christmas is not of perfection, but of Immanuel. God WITH us, walking through the brokenness. And the hope of a Kingdom yet to come.

And so, I want to wish all of you a Merry Christmas. Not a perfect one. Not a facade of peace and grace. But a celebration of great promise and anticipation in knowing that even in brokenness and pain, our hope is in Christ.

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from the eyes and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:3-4)