the west wind’s reassurance

The past several weeks (more like months, if we’re being completely honest), I’ve felt stuck in a spiritual lull. It seemed like I could only give a 60% effort in my walk with the Lord, and only recently did I truly acknowledge this was because of a severe lack of faith on my part.

I’ve spent the majority of the past two years of my life asking God for things.

Asking Him for a boyfriend.

Asking Him for guidance in friendships.

Asking Him for direction for my future.

Asking Him to take things away, like worry, anxiety, fear, doubt, sickness, discomfort, etc.

But the times I’ve spent thanking Him and showering Him with my prayers pale in comparison to all my requests.

In fact, I cannot tell you the last time I truly thought of my relationship with God as something that belonged to me.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I grew up in a Christian home, church, and a Christian school. I never really felt like the odd religious girl in social situations, considering most all of my friends at least called themselves Christians. I never needed to stretch my faith, or even when I did it wasn’t all that far.

It was all too easy to let myself fall into a “rhythm of religion”, fitting right in with my other classmates singing along to “Set A Fire” in chapel.

Even after I graduated and immediately fell in sync with my new classmates at Lee, I felt the same. Numb. 

I accepted Christ into my heart as a bright-eyed seven-year-old. Truthfully, I don’t remember much about the experience. Christ kept knocking and eventually, I answered.

I often go back to that night that my life changed forever, wondering if it really happened at all. I was so young, and I’ve strayed so many times since then that I wonder if I’m really a part of God’s family, or rather a border staying in His house when I please.

I believe the Enemy knows my history with anxiety, so much so that he uses it to draw me farther from God. The devil plants seeds of doubt in my mind, and especially on nights like tonight when I’m emotionally burdened with fears for the future, those seeds sprout swiftly.

Tonight, I was overcome with warring thoughts of both uncertainty and those of peace. I struggled to grasp what was real, and what were lies.

As I was voicing these nervous thoughts to my mother– who is probably the only person apart from Jesus who understands my anxious mind the best– she ran to the kitchen and came back with a book. She awarded this book to me with a bright smile on her face, saying I should read it.

I went back to my room and curled under my covers, still feeling hopelessly alone. I stared at the book for a few seconds before I finally opened it, and after reading the first few lines, tears came streaming down my face.

On the Wings of the West Wind is a children’s book by Joni Eareckson Tada. If you aren’t familiar with Joni’s story, she became a quadriplegic– someone who is paralyzed from the shoulder down– after a diving accident into the Chesapeake Bay when she was eighteen. Today, Joni is the founder of the organization Joni and Friends, which exists specifically for the disabled community in order to make Christ known more prominently. She is also the author of several books and a songwriter. Not to mention, this woman underwent chemo after she was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in 2010, coming out in 2015 cancer-free.

Tell me God isn’t amazing and can’t use anyone. I’ll wait.

Joni’s book, On the Wings of the West Wind, is, yes, a children’s book– but it is so much more than that. I enjoy literature and deep books where you have to search for the meaning– I think it’s fun (dorky, right?). But I can also appreciate the simplicity of a children’s book from time to time because their purposes are simply stated.

In the case of this particular children’s book on this particular night, I stopped in my tracks. This book is about knowing the truth and letting the truth set you free. It centers around a slave named Marcus who works in a field, chains digging into his wrists, for a terrible master. All Marcus wants is freedom.

Every now and then, Marcus would get a whiff of freedom in the form of the west wind. One day, a messenger comes in on the wings of the west wind to deliver a message from the good King.

“Do you wish to be free? 

Then you must leave your chains behind

Know the truth. It will set you free. Come and follow me.”

Marcus is then shown the way to freedom in a kind, loving King from the west. When he arrives in the King’s Presence, the King says to him,

“And don’t forget, you now have eyes to see the truth and ears to hear my word. Never forget that.”

Even still, Marcus is lured back over to the evil master’s side of the fence. Marcus becomes confused and lost in all the whispers, losing sight of the truth in the midst of his fear.

Marcus, overcome with emotion and frozen in despair, begins to obey the evil master’s wishes again. Something Marcus notices, though, is how his old master cannot touch him but with words only.

Realizing his strength comes from the good King, Marcus rises to the occasion and looks his Enemy in the eyes, saying, “You are the one who is a liar, and you have no right to boss me around. I belong to the King, and my place is in his green pastures.” The old master falls away, leaving Marcus along for now.

Marcus is welcomed back with open arms to the King’s pastures. Marcus knows he will be taunted and teased again by his old master, but the King reminds him at the end of the book,

“Believe me when I say that although you can never change back into a slave again, you do have the choice to act like one, to live like one. The chains have no power over you that you do not give them. The power is in what you choose to believe.” 

This book touched me so deeply tonight. My heart needed a heavenly reminder of what Christ did for me eleven years ago. I lost sight of His splendor in the depths of my endless worrying.

For the first time in years, I feel like my faith is truly my own. I want everyone to experience a relationship with God, and I want God to use me to make a difference in this life. If not for the world, then maybe just for one person.

The thing is when God decides to set up camp in our souls and we let Him in, He is not in the business of leaving– ever. I believe we could all agree that He is the only houseguest we don’t mind having around forever. And the best part is, He’s not even a guest.

He’s already moved in, and guess what? He’s our Father. Our true, adopted, Heavenly Father.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

(John 14:6)

 

Advertisements

one day, someday

I’ve spent a lot of time picturing the day I meet my future husband.

We’ll both be shopping in a bookstore and reach for the same book.

He’ll be working as a barista in a coffee shop and write his phone number on my cup, sending me off with a wink and a promise of tomorrow.

I’ll be hurrying across campus at Lee and bump into him. My books will go flying everywhere, and he’ll reach down to help me pick them up. Our eyes will meet just as he’s handing me a book, and that’s how our epic love story will begin.

It’s fun imagining the future. I know it probably won’t happen in a way even remotely close to how I dream up in my head, but I know God’s way will be even more magical than my own.

Even still, I wonder.

I’m not one of those girls who’s been planning her wedding since she could walk. I don’t have a color scheme picked out or a dream wedding venue. I guess it’s always been the groom that is of the utmost importance to my wedding.

If you keep up with my blog, you’ll know I’m not the most experienced when it comes to relationships. I went to a small, private Christian school K-12th grades and the dating scene was scarce. But I did manage to graduate with several lasting friendships and a list of qualities I took notice of from various relationships and circumstances that I wanted to look for in my husband someday.

I believe these qualities are not only subject to my future spouse, but to every individual within every friendship and romantic relationship we make. These characteristics are both biblical and necessary to build relationships that will last. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had my fair share of relationships that haven’t survived over the years. I’m not saying it’s because of a lack of any of these qualities, but there is something to be gained from spending a little time examining our hearts and asking God to show us how we can be more purposeful people.

Vulnerability: 

Let’s just be real for a second: How many of us fall short of honesty every single day?

The answer is everyone. We’re all deceptive sinners.

I find it rather exhausting when I try to keep up appearances and convince everyone around me that I have my life together when I’m actually a mess. And not only is it exhausting, it’s also painfully unfair to the people who love me to shut them out of my mess.

But wait– isn’t it unfair to drag them through the dust alongside me?

This, my friends, is the paradox. 

The way I see it, we can choose to live double lives– one in lonely, littered, and silent exile and one in a room full of people, feeling utterly alone as we scramble to cover up our clutter.

Or, we can choose to live one life, despite our disarray. We don’t have to introduce our messes as problems to people– we can just be honest. No secrets, no lies, and nothing to cover up our brokenness. Only the truth.

“I used to think you had to be special for God to use you, but now I know you simply need to say yes.” (Bob Goff)

We cannot be afraid to be vulnerable with each other. This is how relationships deepen and strengthen– we lean on each other’s shoulders and help each other grow. It’s a continual give-and-take. We only have to be willing to give a little truth.

Patience: 

You hear those stories on TV and read about them in books about people waiting with quiet persistence for their future spouses. I actually read one a few days ago in the book Love Does by Bob Goff (pick up a copy at your nearest bookstore and read one chapter every night– you won’t regret it). Goff writes in chapter 7 on this same kind of persistence when he describes waiting for his wife.

He recounts how he would leave peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches under her windshield every day, sometimes including sweet notes. He pursued her for three years because to him, she was worth the wait.

“That’s what love does– it pursues blindly, unflinchingly, and without end. When you go after something you love, you’ll do anything it takes to get it, even if it costs everything.” (Bob Goff)

My heart melts every time I read Goff’s timeless love story. It makes me almost envious, knowing I probably won’t have a story like that. But that’s okay– I know my love story with my future husband will be perfect in the sense that God ordained every bit of it to fit both our personalities and to glorify the Lord.

You see, in today’s “ring by spring” culture (you can thank Lee University for that one 😉 ) and marriage by 23, everything has a time limit. If we don’t meet those time limits, people assume we’re doomed to be spinsters or bachelors the rest of our lives.

Ladies and gents, it’s a good thing we’re not bound by the standards of the world.

Patience doesn’t mean aimlessly waiting for something that may or may not arrive.

Patience means waiting for God to give you what you need in HIS timing.

Consideration: 

This one’s near and dear to my heart. I find it so incredibly touching when someone pays attention to my interests, namely when it comes to writing. I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and my biggest ambition is to one day publish a book. I’ve always imagined it would be fiction, or maybe a memoir.

I find it incredibly difficult to verbalize this dream to people. I don’t know many other eighteen-year-olds who want to publish a novel. I hesitate telling people about my dream because I guess I worry they won’t understand why I want to write stories for the rest of my life or that they’ll think I’m a huge nerd (FYI: I am a huge nerd, especially when it comes to books). I guess this means I don’t have a ton of competition? It also means I get pretty lonely in my dreams sometimes.

I like writing stories because I like stretching my imagination. It’s fun to live in a world of your own creation, even if it’s just for a little while. If anything, books have taught me that my life is pretty fantastic and I don’t want to live in another world right now.

Yet, I still get stopped cold in my tracks when people ask me what I want to be when I grow up. The harsh reality of it is that rarely ever do people follow through with their dreams. I used to be so determined to be the one that actually did something big with her life, but now I feel my strength being sucked away with every new responsibility that comes my way.

Actually a couple of days ago, I had a conversation with a coworker about dreams. He was asking me about college, and I told him I was planning on minoring in writing. Normally when people ask each other about majors, we each give answers and move on to a different topic. I didn’t anticipate that he would care one bit to ask me why I wanted to minor in writing (I’m used to getting responses from people in the form of polite head-nods and “Oh, that’s cool”).

However, he kept peppering me with questions like “Why writing?” and “What do you want to do in that field?”. Eventually, I admitted to dreaming of writing a novel someday. He asked me what genre, I inwardly panicked because I guess I wasn’t expecting this kind of question and instead of saying “fiction” I said “I don’t know”, and he said simply and with a giant smile, “I think that’s awesome.”

“I believe it’s true that the right people can say words that can change everything. And guess what? We’re the ones who can say them.” (Bob Goff)

The difference between this guy’s simple response and the responses of those who only asked with minimal, passing interest is that his genuine enthusiasm made me feel like my dreams were worth something for the first time in I don’t know how long. 

I believe God sends people our way in small doses to give us renewed energy and zeal for life. I think He knows sometimes we just need a little push to get us going again in the right direction. Sad as it may sound, I believe we’ve lost our sense of consideration in today’s culture. We ask questions like How are you? and What’s your major? merely to pass the time, and we immediately forget the other person’s answers because we didn’t really care what they were in the first place.

I feel so convicted of being passive in my relationships. I don’t check in with my friends authentically like I should. The thing is, we all need somebody to ask us how we’re doing and expect a true, completely honest answer instead of looking for an easy “I’m fine.” A little intentionality goes a long way, and you never really know what your words are going to mean to somebody– even if you don’t think they mean much.

I don’t know what your love story looks like or will look like. But I do know who the Author is. I hope you do too.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12: 1-2

come alive

I’ve started writing like three different blog posts about a plethora of incredible experiences I’ve had during these past two weeks at Lee University’s summer honors program. Because I’m having difficulty compiling all my thoughts into something cohesive and insightful, I’ll just start at the beginning and see where my keyboard takes me.

Okay. So.

I didn’t even know summer honors existed until Lee Day back in April. I knew high schoolers sometimes went to summer college programs, but none of my friends had ever gone to something like this before. I wouldn’t have ever even considered going to Lee’s program for rising high school seniors and rising college freshmen had it not been for my roommate and a group of other new Lee friends that would also be attending this summer.

So I sent in my paperwork, signed my waivers, and received my letter of acceptance about three weeks later.

And thus began the rest of my life.

Being here at Lee for two weeks is like getting a glimpse into what the next four years of my life might hold. Refreshing friendships. Compelling classes. An entirely unfamiliar city. Potential romances. It feels like an impossibility to wrap my brain around the idea that everything I’ve been accustomed to for the past eighteen years of my life is about to be thrown out the window.

I can say with complete certainty that I have no idea what is going to happen next.

And, surprisingly enough, I can also say with complete certainty that I am okay with the unknown.

Divine affirmation came to me yesterday afternoon once I opened up my neglected copy of My Utmost for His Highest. The book had been sitting on my shelf since I moved in about ten days ago, and for whatever reason I decided to pick it up and read yesterday. The verse at the top of the passage I left off at read, “He went out, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8). 

It continues to blow my mind how God will use us in the moments we feel most useless, pulling our attention away from ourselves and toward His guiding hand. I wasn’t sure (I’m still not sure) where He was leading me these two weeks, but I was carrying burdens I desperately needed lifted coming into summer honors.

Conveniently enough, the theme this year at summer honors is called “Come Alive.”

Come alive. It means something different for everyone.

To me, “coming alive” means waking up from a life spent chasing after things the world tells me I need in order to be fully satisfied. Examples of these tempting desires include a boyfriend (still right there at the top of my list), a perfect Instagram profile, a successful blog by the time I turned 18, a distinct style, trendy surface-level friendships…you get the point.

And so I sit here, my flesh still trying to convince me I need all of these shallow things right this minute so I can keep up with everyone else while living a life spent closing up my cracks so my insecurities won’t leak out.

And I felt lonely.

I didn’t expect to glean much from “Come Alive”. Yes, it’s something to consider, but I wondered how much one person could actually change in a span of two weeks. How can I flip my perspective so drastically and so quickly while interacting with 200+ other people who could be in the exact same sinking ship as me?

The answer was right before my eyes: 200+ people in the same sinking ship as me. My wonderful RA group and I connected our broken pieces– because we’re all broken in some way– to create the most magnificent masterpiece. We discussed the ideas of rolling away our stones and becoming stone catchers for others. I discovered that the more myself and others began to let our guards down, the easier it was to catch each other’s stones. By becoming vulnerable with each other about past regrets, past relationships, past scars, and past heartbreaks, I specifically learned two things:

  1. Vulnerability is not weakness. Vulnerability is strength– these precious new friends certainly summoned their strength from Christ in order to reveal their deepest, best-kept hurts.
  2. Our stones, once rolled away, can more easily be left in the past.

Sometimes all it takes is one gentle nudge to give us the courage to share our stories and scars with each other. And once we do, the healing can truly begin.

It’s really easy to feel either singled out or completely isolated in a gigantic group of people, especially at summer honors. Since I arrived at Lee eleven days ago, I’ve almost felt frozen in the midst of the rocking waves of introductions and constant social interaction. My initial instinct is to raise my guard up higher than ever before because of my desperate desire to be accepted by my peers.

HOWEVER. This type of inward isolation simply does not work in our relationships with others. Summer honors at Lee is one of the only seasons in my life so far where I didn’t know a soul from my hometown and I was being forced out of my comfort zone.

In order to survive in college (and in life), you need a community of people who will rally by you, grow spiritually with you, and love you for all your flaws (and vice-versa). For whatever heavenly reason, God grew the most amazing community out of my summer honors RA group and no doubt led me to friends I will keep throughout college.

But even if I hadn’t made any friends at summer honors, I honestly believe I would’ve still felt at home at Lee. There’s always a friendly face just around the corner, even if I don’t know the person’s name.

Here at Lee, people unashamedly chase Jesus with their whole hearts. Here at Lee, spreading the Gospel is a priority, and that mission starts right here on campus to each and every individual.

So if I bug you incessantly about the unbelievability of Lee, this is why.

 

 

dear class of 2018:

I’m a few weeks overdue in saying these words to you all, but I’m so thankful for you twenty-three lifelong pals.

I was not valedictorian of our senior class (duh); not that I expected to be or desired to be.

Really, the only thing I would’ve jumped at the opportunity to partake in was a speech.

How dreadful, right? Both our class valedictorian and salutatorian are close friends of mine, and I know how much they agonized over writing and giving their speeches. (They were both impeccable works of literature that made everyone cry. In a good way).

Language is, in my humble opinion, the most powerful of all tools God placed in our toolbelts. Not many things come naturally for me, but piecing words and phrases together actually does. If you keep up with my blog or know me at all, you know writing is my niche.

So, this post is about the future, and the things I would’ve said to my friends and classmates were I given the opportunity to give a speech at graduation.

(Momentary pause: Future speechwriter, perhaps?)

(Unpause).

Let’s begin.

My friends and peers– though truthfully, I consider you all friends, and I can say this with complete sincerity of heart.

Four years ago, there are many of you I felt isolated from. Not because of your personalities, but because of mine.

Four years ago, I would never dare to start a conversation first with anyone other than my best friends. I was still soaking in the deep waters of social anxiety, isolating myself from being bold and seizing my moments.

It took me four years to realize what stellar people walked among me, and for that, I am so terribly sorry.

A mantra I live by now is carpe diem– “seize the day.” I’ve always appreciated the Latin phrase and how its meaning is relevant in nearly every situation, big or small, every single day. I waited until my senior year to authentically begin seizing my high school days, once I realized how little remained.

I know many of my fellow seniors resonate with the idea of moving on to bigger and better things. I felt restless almost every day of senior year once I decided to attend Lee this fall 2018. But as restless as I felt in precalculus and US government day in and day out, I could not snuff out the little voice in the back of head, warning me that I was going to miss out something incredible if I did not stay focused on the present.

Little did I realize the incredible somethings I was about to miss out on was the class of 2018 themselves.

Not a single soul that genuinely knows Berean Christian School would disagree that the people are what make the school so extraordinary.

The people.

They say your college friends are the friends that you’ll remember and keep in touch with, but I don’t think that’s completely true.

Four years ago, I worried so much about what you all thought of me. I cared so deeply to give the illusion of perfection simply so I wouldn’t stick out (not that any of you were fooled into thinking I actually had my life together).

Four years later, I still care about what you all think of me. Not because I’m trying to blend in, but because I’m trying to stand out. Stand out in love. Stand out in kindness. Stand out in authenticity. I wanted to have a positive impact on you all before we parted.

You twenty-three seniors I will graduate alongside tomorrow: You all stand out in the best ways to me. I’ve traveled across Europe with many of you and the high school hallway with the rest of you. We’ve all seen each others’ scars and broken pieces. We’ve shared laughter at senior roasts, tears in junior year chemistry class (just…RIP), and with some of you even memories all the way back to kindergarten.

I see exceptional qualities in every single one of you (yes, all twenty-three of you). To name a few: joyful hearts, fearless spirits, witty charm, driven devotion, bright minds, leading natures…you all contain goodness that is beyond measure. I feel so tremendously blessed to have stories and memories to share with my children someday about all the people behind the signatures in my senior yearbook.

My friends, please live deliberate lives. Don’t allow others who seem older or wiser to make your decisions for you. Do things that scare you, things that test your faith and light your fires. Take risks. Don’t be afraid to pursue a path that doesn’t immediately lead to money or success if the path is what you are passionate about. I say all these things in the hope that I, too, will be bold in my future.

Listen to God. Life brings so much white noise, but don’t chase distraction. Chase your futures, and chase Him.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,

to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach,

and not, when I came to die,

discover that I had not lived. 

-Henry David Thoreau-

best wishes, much love, and lots and lots of sunny days, class of 2018.

the grandest adventure

Have you ever been rejected by someone?

Is that even a question? We’ve all been there.

It’s really not fair. Most all of us grow up buying into the fairytale romance, the perfect soulmate, and the “God’s timing” campaign.

These aren’t wrong. The first two might be a little idealistic, but the last one definitely holds the most truth.

God’s timing. 

What a concept.

I’ve watched so many people dive headfirst into relationships that have no definition or promise of a future. Of course, there are plenty of relationships that blossom. A handful of my friends have steady boyfriends that survived the test of time.

Then there’s me. All I know about dating is that my series of almost-relationships died before they fully blossomed. These almost-relationships died before the dates, the meeting-of-the-parents, and prom.

It is so easy to be envious of happy people. I find myself wishing I had a guy I could depend on, someone who is absolutely crazy about (first) Jesus and (second) me. It seems like I’ve been waiting an eternity and a half (because we all know that’s how long high school lasts).

Why me, God? Why did you choose me to wait?

It’s all so superficial and ridiculous. Why should I feel pressured to find my soulmate before high school graduation? The world is moving so fast that we all jump at the first chance we get to fall in love, even if our prospects aren’t God-honoring.

Tell me: Why do we care what the world thinks of us? 

I don’t care what you say, if you believe you’re a Christian, then you must acknowledge your calling from God. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” 

We can’t cut out the pieces of the Gospel we don’t agree with. You cannot pick and choose what you’re going to follow from God’s Word. It’s all or nothing, my friends.

I am so, so guilty of this. My word and deed don’t always measure up to God’s standards, and that’s not God’s fault. Most recently, I find myself staring in the mirror and wondering what ghastly flaw I possess that could be the reason I’m single. Rarely ever do I stop to consider the fact that maybe, just maybe, I’m single because God has someone far better for me out there than the jerks I’ve almost-dated.

I am immeasurably thankful God pulled me away from wasting more of my time on fools who couldn’t appreciate me. I can’t explain why, but everybody has different books with distinct chapters hand-written by God Himself. Comparing my chapter to someone else’s is a royal squander of my self-worth.

If you’re currently in a relationship, I would challenge you to evaluate which direction the relationship is going. I know, I know– why would you take advice from someone who hasn’t actually dated anyone? Consider my almosts, and compare them to your completes. Is your relationship blossoming in a God-honoring way, or is it a destructive, deadly distraction? If the relationship is blossoming, I am so happy for you! But don’t be afraid to let that person go if the relationship is wilting. There is a sea of godly people out there, and you won’t be missing out.

If there’s one thing I’ve observed from my friends, it’s how painful breakups can be. Be so careful with your heart, friends. It’s not for sale. Your heart is priceless, so listen as God directs your path to show you someone who understands your worth.

Never, ever settle. Love is the grandest adventure– save it for someone who’s worthy to travel with you.

the lee flame upon my heart

Come be the fire inside of me / Come be the flame upon my heart. 

(“You Won’t Relent” by Jesus Culture).

_____________________________________

I used to worry that by choosing to go to a Christian college, I would be setting up a safety net for my faith.

But oh, how wrong I️ was.

At Lee University, my faith isn’t safe. It is going to consistently be tested and watered and prepared for growth. I️ know this much from spending only two days on campus.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend Lee Day.

For those of who aren’t as familiar with Lee University, Lee Day is a massive two-day event the college throws for alumni, students, and prospective students. On Friday and Saturday, I had the incredible chance to meet my sweet roommate and several other marvelous friends & classmates I’ve been chatting with for the past few months (thanks, Facebook!!). We toured my future dorm (Sharp-Davis for the win!), dodged rain puddles (the weather wasn’t so kind), had my student ID made (my picture is FOR SURE better than my drivers’ license, if anyone cares), and I met up with new classmates at a block party and Passion concert on campus.

In a nutshell, Lee Day is basically one big party, but the Christian kind.

(Which is obviously the best kind of party).

Something you might not know about me is how much of a worrier I am. I am an anxious, caffeine-addicted eighteen-year-old who must constantly turn her fears over to God (who’s with me??). Listening to God’s voice is easy when you know what He’s saying. However, if you’re like me and deconstruct every possible scenario in your head until you have no idea what God is trying to tell you, making decisions can be a great mountain to climb.

Needless to say, six months ago, I had no idea how I was going to interpret where God was directing my steps for college.

Six months ago, I was absolutely certain I‘d be packing up my life and moving eight hours away to Virginia Beach to study for the next four years.

Six months later, I️ stand in absolute awe on the campus of the most beautiful college in the world, located in Cleveland, Tennessee and only an hour and a half away from home.

Now that my indecisive heart decided on a college, one of the questions I get asked all the time is: “What brought you to Lee?”

I never exactly know what to say to that question. There’s just a mess of emotion filling the “Lee” folder in my head, and I don’t know how to express it in actual words.

My Lee story is personal. It’s not conventional, but nobody’s is. No matter what circumstances brought you to Lee, just know that they are extraordinary because God orchestrated every single one of your steps to lead you to Lee. He set the Lee eternal flame upon your heart.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have pictured myself at Lee University. I grew up in church, a Christian home, and a Christian school, and I always thought I’d end up in New York or Nashville or some other big city, away from the things that “forced” me to be a Christian.

Little did I realize all along God was preparing my heart for a small town and a small college with a big, big purpose: To know Him and to make Him known.

I didn’t choose Lee out of fear for my faith or because of people I know at the college.

I chose Lee because when I stepped on campus, I immediately felt at home. I don’t know why, but God called me here, and He used the most unlikely circumstances to get my attention.

And to be honest? I am convinced there is not a more perfect college out there for me.

Only by the grace of God do I️ stand on Lee’s campus today, proudly praising His name and planning for the next four years of my life.

I can’t wait to see how He changes all my plans in my years to come at Lee.

fiercely committing to the moments

Life as I know it is moving with all the force of a bullet train and all the hesitancy of an aged turtle.

Everyone’s been telling me to embrace this time and not to wish my life away but I never realized how hard it was to appreciate the moment when you’d rather be elsewhere.

Yes, I understand life after high school is fraught with responsibilities and college. But is it so wrong to believe it will actually get much, much better after I walk across that stage, high school diploma in hand, on graduation day?

You see, after spending over a decade amidst variations of the same people, same administrators, same campus, I’ve grown rather exhausted from the mundane routine. (No offense to my peers and teachers).

Is it so wrong to hope for bigger and better things beyond the halls of my high school?

Because to be quite honest, if the best memories I ever make in my life were made before I turned eighteen, what’s the point of the whole ten-year plan thing and beyond? You know–college, job, marriage, kids, retirement, inevitable death? Where are those exciting memories?

I’ve been wrestling with this carpe diem-contentment concept as I’ve grown more discontent with my present circumstances over the past few months. I recently decided where I am planning on enrolling fall of 2018 (LEE UNIVERSITY FLAMES WHOOP WHOOP), and with that decision came both an overwhelming sense of joy/relief and this ticking clock.

I began biding my time at school more so than ever before and imagining myself on Lee University’s picturesque campus–making friends, meeting guys, finding my place in the world.

And with all this counting down and anxiously awaiting a new life, I woke up one day and found myself incredibly unhappy.

I’ll finally be happy when I go to Lee. 

I’ll finally be happy when I meet that perfect guy who loves me for me. 

I’ll finally be happy when I find accountability partners to help keep my relationship with God on track. 

I’ll finally be happy when I let go and start letting God take the reigns again. 

The first three statements were all lies I bought in to for months on end.

The last statement is a truth.

Guess which ones resonated in my head?

Yep. The lies. 

The only way to stop the spiraling of the thought-tornado in my head is to start a new storm with new thoughts. Except for this time, instead of lies, I’m choosing truths.

I have so much to be thankful for. 

My life is already fulfilled because I have been born again in Christ. 

I can accomplish meaningful things right here in Knoxville, Tennessee. 

I’ll meet that perfect guy in God’s perfect timing. 

There’s no point in drowning myself in a sea of discontentment when I have so much to be thankful for in the here and now.

Yes, high school and my journey at Berean has been an adventure. How many people can say they’ve remained close friends with a large group of people for over a decade before high school graduation even arrives?

How many people can drop everything and drive to the beach for a weekend in November with thirteen of their best friends?

How many people can authentically say some of their high school teachers have become more like mentors over the past four years?

How many people sit in Bible class every day, learning more about God’s character and how to reach others with His Good News?

I always took for granted what others haven’t had the opportunity to experience before high school graduation, if ever.

And so, as I look forward to the adventures that next year might bring, I am sure to be fully present in the adventures happening all around me, right here, in my senior year of high school.

They say you blink and it’s graduation day. If that’s the case, I guess I’d better keep my eyes open.

Even as people and seasons change around you, God has you here for a reason. And even though you cannot see why just yet, you are planted and grounded where you need to be.

-morgan harperNichols

Fiercely commit to every moment you find beautiful and remember it. 

-victoria erickson