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Journaling

A lot happened over this past year.

In reality, that is a sentence that holds true as I look back over each year of my life. This makes it even more crucial for me to keep a journal– a record of God’s faithfulness. In another post about journaling, I quoted Elisabeth Elliot. She called her journal “A Chronicle of a Soul.” She says:

My memory is poor. A journal is a record of His faithfulness (and my own faithfulness too- which teaches me to value His grace and mercy).

Reading the outpourings of my heart to the Lord truly shows me how faithful He is to me. I can see glimpses of His plan for me in all things.

A journal has been a most instrumental part of my devotional life. It is a place where I can dedicate my day to God in writing, where I can record Scripture and prayer requests, where I can thank God for His goodness to me, where I can plunge the depths of my grief.

Past journals are an encouragement to me even today. Seeing my past growth and God’s constant faithfulness encourages my present self to continue studying the Scriptures, praise God and continue in prayer with thanksgiving. My younger self, in black and white on the pages, reminds me that the way to live the Christian life is to trust and obey. Journals have also helped me see those deeply entwined sins that I might have otherwise missed. I write me journals as prayers to the Lord because I am tempted to rant about situations or drown in my pity. Journaling in this way helps me see things in perspective– in light of eternity.

As another week of 2008 begins, I encourage you to start a journal if you do not already do so. And if you already keep a journal, resolve to keep it even more faithfully. Over at The Rebelution, you will find a very encouraging post that explains a purpose of a journal and will further motivate you in your journaling pursuits.

Happy chronicle-keeping!

Tips for College Freshmen #2

8. Maintain a balance when it comes to social events. Learning is the reason you are in college, but learning is not restricted to the classroom! It is important to make time for relationships, for getting to know new people, and for having fun together. Still, there are always more social events than it is possible to attend (and still be able to sleep, eat, study, and maintain homeostasis). Carefully balance your studies with social time. God made us to be relational, but that does not mean Starbucks runs with your roommates every single night or movies every weekend.

9. Don’t buy all your books new! A sophomore encouraged me to shop Half.com. If you aren’t familiar with Half.com, it is a branch of Ebay. However, unlike Ebay, you do not have to auction on books– you just buy them. It’s great because the condition of the book is listed (i.e. how used it is, whether it has markings, what the cover looks like, etc). You will save lots of money by buying used books. However, particularly because of shipping costs, sometimes a place like Amazon.com is actually cheaper. And if you have a wonderful college bookstore (with fair prices), that may be the best way to go. I recommend asking upperclassmen at your college to find out where and how they get their books. And comparison shop for your books.

As far as editions go, in some classes, the teacher will inform you that it does not matter. If you are allowed to purchase an older edition, go for it! Older editions can be purchased used very inexpensively. With most textbooks, newer editions vary only slightly from the preceding one. Still, if a certain edition is required, you are better off spending the extra money to get it. It makes reading assignments, study groups, and using the teacher’s study guides so much easier.

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10. Sleep. This is a hard one to write about because I know how difficult it is to get sleep in college. I stay up late all too many nights only to struggle through 8AM classes the next morning. And yes, there are times when you may need to stay up later to finish a project or study for an upcoming test. There may be times when a fun college event keeps you up late. Still, God gave us sleep because our bodies need it. Unlike the Maker of the Universe, we have limitations and one of these is the fact that we depend upon sleep for energy. Sleep should not become an idol, but at the same time, it is very important. I have found from personal experience that getting enough sleep is one of the ways I can make the best use of my time. Depriving the body of adequate sleep (which, by the way, is eight to ten hours for teenagers) for long amounts of time is not healthy. Recognize your limitations, and try to get enough sleep whenever you can. Take naps during the day, too, if you need them. Don’t live off of caffeine and soda.

Your input: if you have experienced your first semester of college (even if it was fifty years ago) and have advice, personal anecdotes, or if you need to correct me, please feel free to comment below. I’m sure readers would appreciate it, and I know I will appreciate it!

Tips for College Freshmen #1

Here is my first installment of tips for college freshmen. Keep in mind that I attend a small Christian liberal arts college. Thus not all these tips may apply to a big university setting. In addition, most of these tips are based on my personal experience and the experiences of friends. I hope you enjoy them.

1. Make time for your reading. I can’t stress this enough. It helps drill in the information you are learning in class if you follow along in the book. Thus it ends up saving time as you study for exams. Do not listen to the myth that you do not have to do much reading. Many teachers pull material from the text (and not class) for the exam to see if you have been reading. In addition, the reading for most classes helps you better understand the class.

2. Read wisely. At the same time (see #1), if you do find out that one book is not very helpful for a class (i.e. it does not matter whether you stay caught up), decide which of your reading is most important. Don’t stress over missed reading; there are many times when you simply cannot get it all read. Instead, you may often have to decide whether it is better to just start reading where you are, skim, or catch up. And try to stay focused while you read, whether by highlighting, underlining, or even sitting outside.

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3. Attend every class (as much as possible). Yes, you may be able to get someone else’s notes, but there’s nothing like actually being there. Get to your classes a little early, too, if you can. And try to pay attention, whether by doodling, taking notes, or just jotting down the phrases that seem most important. It is amazing how much harder exams (and assignments in general) are for people who skip whenever it seems convenient for them.

4. Don’t stress. College work has been different from highschool work in many ways. For example, in highschool classes, I generally had a little bit of homework due each class, and most of the time, the homework dealt with what we were reading or studying. Therefore, it was harder to fall behind. In college, all the big projects seem to be due on the same day, and there is no one keeping track of whether or not you are keeping up (in most classes) until the BIG papers or exams. It takes adjusting to, but don’t let it scare you. I recommend keeping a small planner with you so you can jot down due dates of big assignments (as well as the day you plan to start working on them). Also, sometimes, you may not be able to devote as much time to a particular assignment as you would like. Still, don’t stress. Focus on learning the material well and not on grades. Your job is to be faithful with the time, energy, intellect, and work that God has given you (more on this later).

5. Don’t go in expecting unrealistic things of yourself. You are human with a mind that suffers under the effects of the Fall. You cannot perfectly remember everything you learn. Instead, be faithful in the calling God has given you as a student, and discipline your mind. Still, this does not mean perfection on every assignment. Aim high, but do keep in mind your limitations, as well as the fact that you are adjusting to new schedules, demands, and a new location and people, as well. Which brings us to…

6. Give it all time. Some people have an extremely easy time adjusting to college life; some people struggle. Give yourself time to adjust. You probably will experience a little frustration and maybe some loneliness and confusion as you learn the ropes of your new role. Stay in God’s Word and in prayer and trust in Him. Also, stay in touch with people from back home, but don’t withdraw from the chance to make new friends.

7. Watch out for the doors! Some are heavy, some aren’t. Some push; some pull; some look misleading. All I’m going to say is: be careful. It can cause embarrassment, not to mention pain, to be have the heavy chapel door close in on you because you did not open it far enough (trust me on this one!).

The Plan

So, “in the near future” turned into two months and six days. I apologize for that. I have decided to keep this blog and hopefully develop a system of regular posting, as the Lord helps me. However, I may not be able to post regularly; college is very time consuming! 🙂 I will post over Christmas break and see how it goes, though.

In the meantime… over the next few days, I’ll be sharing some of the things I have learned and experienced as a college freshman. This afternoon, I plan to post the first installment of a series of tips for new college freshmen. So, I’ll be back soon!

Where am I?

I apologize that it has been months since I have posted. At the end of August, I started college (I know, I can’t believe it either!). I also apologize to those of you who made comments on previous posts that I just moderated. Thank you for your comments and for sharing your thoughts and wisdom.

Right now, I am praying about this blog. It is my hope that I can continue it and learn to balance all my other responsibilities along with “Created to be a Help.” However, we’ll see what God has in store. I hope to reach a decision in the next couple of days about whether to postpone posting for a while or continue. In the meantime, I hope to share a little bit about college so far. I also need to update this blog’s purpose page; I’ve had it written for so long and need to finish editing it.

I hope that you are all having a very blessed autumn.

In Christ,

Ella

Update: I finished the blog’s purpose page. I apologize for its lengthiness. I plan to make it more concise at some point in the near future. I just wanted it to be there so anyone interested may read it.

One Sunday evening as I sat in the pew of a cozy chapel full of worshiping men and women, I found that my own mind was far away. Anxiety, frustration, and discontentment crowded my mind. I flipped absentmindedly to the hymn whose first few notes were being played on the piano, and there I found the fears and doubts and frustrations shattered as the words pierced my dull heart. I realized that I had lost focus, that I had forgotten my purpose, that I was sinfully failing to trust in God. Here are two verses:

“Father, I know that all my life is portioned out for me;
the changes that are sure to come, I do not fear to see:
I ask thee for a present mind, intent on pleasing thee.

“I ask thee for the daily strength, to none that ask denied,
a mind to blend with outward life, while keeping at thy side,
content to fill a little space, if thou be glorified.”

-Anna L. Waring

If, like me, you are tempted to lose perspective, I pray that this hymn will renew your vision, as it did mine.