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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!

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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!

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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!).

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I love hearing stories of God’s faithfulness and seeing His fingerprints all over my life. It’s so easy for me to be so caught up in each day that I forget that all along He’s had a plan. I thought I might share with you a recent instance in which God has shown me a glimpse of His faithfulness and control of my life.

First, I must tell you that when I was younger, one of my talents was being able to look up Scripture references quickly. In one church, I even won a contest for it (I say this with a smile!). I attribute it to my own church and how they helped us memorize the order of the books in Scripture and continually drilled us on it.

Recently, I started visiting a widow, Mrs. B. She is legally blind and has diabetes, arthritis, and a painful nerve condition in her hands and arms. But she is incredible! She rarely complains and constantly talks about God. She loves having the Scripture read to her. I have been so blessed getting to know her, as her background is so different from my own.

One visit, she wanted me to read aloud a tract that a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses had given her so she could understand what they believe and how it differs from what she believes. She wanted me to read each Scripture reference they gave, as well. Constantly she complimented me on my ability to quickly look up the verses, and she told me what a blessing that was to her. Now I know that plenty of people can look up passages quickly (and many people are probably faster than I am!), but looking back, I can still see how God prepared me for this through the church in which He placed me and the love He gave me for memorizing.

God’s grace is amazing! I love the little ways in which He shows us that He is in control. He truly does equip us for everything He calls us to do. I could list numerous more ways that I can see how He’s equipped me for serving Mrs. B. But for now, I’ll stop. This encourages me as I prepare (in a little over a month) to step out into an area of life that is new to me- college. I am confident that God has prepared me for everything He calls me to and will continue to do so… for my good and His glory.

“We will not hide them from their
children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his
might,
and the wonders that he has done.”
Psalm 78:4

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of
them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there were none of them.”
Psalm 139:16

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Being a daughter who fears the Lord does not depend upon having Christian (or non-Christian) parents. We are to follow Christ wherever He places us. This looks different for each of us. In this post, I’m going to share a little about His ongoing work in my life in this particular area.

My Story

Although my mom is a Christian, my dad is not. And there are many things that follow from this. For example, though I’m thankful that he is my father, my dad doesn’t have the same sense of morals that he would if he were following the Lord. He makes choices that I don’t agree with, and there are things that are particularly challenging about that. But this isn’t going to be a post about the challenges I face. We all face challenges. Instead, this is about what the Lord is teaching me in His mercy.

Sufficient Grace

First, I’m learning to rely upon the Lord’s grace more each day. I feel as though my dad is always watching me. My dad is a very critical, skeptical, person. There are so many times that I feel like a complete failure- I don’t always glorify God in my relationship with my dad. I grow bitter at different things he is doing, and it makes it hard to love him well. I hate that I cannot perfectly reflect my Savior. This has caused me more and more to stop relying on my own futile efforts and lean upon the grace of God to help me fulfill the roles He has given me. I truly am nothing. God doesn’t need me; instead, He graciously allows me to participate in His plans. I’m learning that He can save my dad with or without me. I’m learning not to dwell on my mistakes, but to repent of them, to ask for His help in turning away, and to move on. It’s hard. I feel as though I am always on display. And I fail entirely at mirroring Christ when I rely upon my own strength and think too highly of myself and my role. I must cling to the Cross, relying upon His Spirit in me. This has caused me also to dig deeper into His Word and be more constant in prayer because I’m not self-sufficient, though I often live as though I think I am. As Paul wrote, “But [the Lord] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12: 9-10). Great is His faithfulness!

Trusting, Hoping, Praying

Second, I’m learning to trust the Lord. He is sovereign over all, including my dad’s life. I’m learning to pray faithfully for my dad’s salvation, as well as for my mom, sister and I to be reflections of Christ to my dad and brother. I worry a lot. But God is teaching me to cast that on Him. He is gracious in giving me faith and trust- forgiving my doubts, helping my unbelief.

God Doesn’t Make Mistakes

Third, I’m learning that God has placed me in my home, and in that is my most important role right now. I am to rejoice in my role as a sister and daughter, cheerfully obeying, continually trusting the Lord.

Hating the Sin, Loving the Sinner

Fourth (and the last thing I’ll mention now), I’m learning to be gentle and patient with my dad, not holding him up to the same standard as I do myself and other followers of Christ. I must rely on God in this area, too, asking Him for wisdom to know how I should react to Dad’s sin. This is a particularly difficult area for me right now, but God is faithful. Most importantly, He is teaching me to keep on loving my dad and serving him, as Christ does for us all.

Other Lessons

The Lord is using my home life to teach me in ways I never thought possible, as He does with all challenges He graciously allows in our lives. Though I still struggle with feelings of worthlessness, bitterness, and worry, God is teaching me to give those feelings up to Him. Through my home, God has also given me renewed understanding for those who haven’t grown up in the church with a godly mother and father. It has further encouraged me to pray for Christians in non-Christian or anti-Christian homes. The Lord gives me strength to keep on serving, as well as grace and forgiveness to come to Him when I fail. I don’t know the end to this story, but I do know it will glorify God. And in that I will rejoice.

In I Corinthians 7, after talking to the Corinthians about marriage and living with an unbelieving spouse, Paul writes,

“Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.” (vs. 17).

God has given each of us different blessings, responsibilities, and roles. Life looks different for each follower of Christ. But we are all to be following Christ in our different lives. And He is faithful to supply us with the grace that we need to serve Him wherever He places us. Praise the Lord for where He has placed you! In part, I wrote this post because I’ve been struggling with discouragement- even envy- lately because of my home situation. God is teaching me to rely upon Him, trust Him, and rejoice in Him as I cheerfully obey Him. Live the life He has called you to- joyfully, hopefully, prayerfully!

Also, I would really appreciate prayer for my dad’s and brother’s salvation, as well as prayer for myself and the rest of my family members. Thank you so much! Thanks for bearing with me through this long and jumbled post!

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Senior Slide

 

 

 

Recently, I read some humorous statements about being a second semester senior.

You know you’re a second semester senior when…

..you actually find yourself doing a math problem to figure out how low of a grade you can get on your finals and still pass a class.

…you can tell someone the recap of every tv show on every channel from any given night of the week.

…you figure as long as you get a decent grade in your classes there’s no sense in doing extra credit or work.

…you think senior privileges of sleeping in means sleeping in…the entire day.

I hear it often from fellow seniors- tired of working and ready to graduate. It’s easy to adopt this slack-off attitude as the end of my highschool years come to a close. However, while day-dreaming my way through my math class it came to me (kidding). In all seriousness, while reading these humorous statements, the Lord impressed upon my heart that this lazy mentality is ungodly and does not bring glory to Him.

While we are students, school is part of our God-assigned work. Although it is a blessed time to learn more about the Lord and His world, it’s not just a preparation time for serving Him. School is one way we serve Him while we are students and under the authority of teachers and parents. As we obey God and work faithfully in what He has called us to do, we realize that we’re not working for a temporal goal, such as a diploma. We’re working to glorify God with every breath, every day, for we never know when it might be our last. We’re working for the eternal.

We cannot stop doing the work God has given us (or do it half-heartedly) simply because we grow weary of it. We cannot justify lazy attitudes. As followers of Christ, we are called to diligently do the things He has called us to do. We’re to work cheerfully and to the best of our abilities, knowing that we are working for Him, not for man. And He will bless that.

In all our work, let’s not think, “How little can I do and still (whatever goal you have- graduate, pass the class, make my boss happy, please my parents, etc)?” Instead, let’s ask, “How can I honor Christ in my work today?” This may mean doing more than the assignment calls for, or maybe just doing the assigned with a cheerful, grateful heart. May these words of the Apostle Paul encourage you in your working for the Lord today:

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him… Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 1:17, 23-24

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30 Days

When Heidi wrote about reading the Bible in 30 days, my first reaction was complete shock. I didn’t know that it was possible to read the Bible in that short a time unless one sat around ALL day and did nothing else. Then, Kristin did it. Now I was trying to think of excuses about why reading the Bible in 30 days could only be considered pointless. But as I began to pray about it, I felt God gently nudging me to try it. I printed out the reading plan, reread this article by Noel Piper, and came up with a focus. (I also ordered an inexpensive paperback Bible since I knew this Bible would be going everywhere with me!) I was going to look for all the places the Bible spoke to me as a woman of God. I also looked for (in the Old Testament) all the times that God specifically mentioned His plan to provide a Savior. I used a green highlighter to mark these (it’s called a Bible Dry Highlighter, and it doesn’t bleed through the pages).

Excitedly, I read through Genesis the first day. The words on the page came alive. However, by the time I got to Numbers, I was having a much harder time staying focused. Some days were wonderfully rich; other days, it was a challenge to get through the reading. Still, by the grace of God, I actually finished in 30 days. And what a blessed (though busy) 30 days they were! I learned so much more about the Bible by looking at it as a whole. I grew in my knowledge of God and was astounded afresh by His faithfulness to His people. It was incredible! In case you’re interested in trying it, here are some of the practical things I discovered:

-Read prayerfully!
-Don’t read it all at once! Have different times to read scattered throughout the day.
-Read five Psalms a day, instead of reading them all at once. They add refreshment, and it also gives you two extra days (and two days of lighter reading) so that you can catch up (I’ll provide links to schedules at the end of this)

-Let at least one of your times be the same each day (for me, it was around 3:30 or 4:00).
-Continue to journal and set aside times for prayer. I failed at this often. I encourage you not to let faithful praying cease during this time. Also, journal the things you are learning. I wish I had done this more!
-Take your Bible everywhere!
-Don’t get discouraged. Reading it in 60 days would also be beneficial if you want an overview of the entire Bible. Also, don’t become prideful. It is ONLY by God’s grace that I was able to do this and learn so much about Him.

-Have people pray for you, but be careful who you choose. I told very few people, and even the ones I told thought I was crazy. They often discouraged me more than they encouraged me. If you want to, feel free to post a comment or email me. I would love to pray for you!
-Don’t think you have to do this to be a good Christian! It doesn’t make you less of a sinner, nor do you earn God’s favor by doing it! And you won’t lose God’s favor by not reading the Bible in 30 days. Prayerfully ask Him if He wants you to try this.

I copied the schedule I found on Kristin’s blog to a document and added my changes. I made a Goggle document out of it. You can find it here. The only difference is the way we split up the Psalms. Use whichever you prefer!

And I am so thankful to Heidi and Kristin for sharing so humbly their experiences of reading the Bible in 30 days. All glory be to God!

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