Joy. Something that seems to be hard to find in times like this, but God has been laying this thought of joy on my heart over and over again throughout this quarantine. It seems as though everywhere we look our joy starts to diminish because our fear intensifies; places that used to be packed are now vacant, everyone is keeping a distance between themselves, when we go out everyone wears gloves and masks, we can’t even go visit loved ones for the fear of transmitting this virus. All of this fear of the uncertainty is taking what we are still able to do/have for granted, and I think that God wants to use this time to show us the joy that He provides when our lives seem to be put on hold.
At the beginning of the year nobody could have foreseen this year going like this. Speaking from my perspective, I was so excited to get back up to college and see all of my friends again and get geared up for the baseball season. Then the season ended just like that, we had just finished up a midweek game against Toledo on a Wednesday night. I remember hearing after the game that all fans were suspended, then the next morning the NBA was suspended, then we had a meeting about everything going on and found out our season was suspended until March 30th, and two hours later we got called back in and got the news that our season was cancelled. When everyone received the news that our season had been cancelled it was tough, the room was upset, the coaches, the staff, the players, it almost didn’t feel real.
Amidst all of the chaos, confusion, frustration and heartache, as I reflect back on this time while everything is shut down my life has become more simplistic. I am not constantly on the go from class to training to study hall, my days have slowed down and I have gotten to spend more time in the Word which has been such a blessing and that leads me to where I am at now. Getting to spend more time with God, and experience the joy that He continually provides, even in times of uncertainty. Hear me out, everything that happens fits into a pattern for good, even though we may not be able to see the good right now our God is working.
Sickness is not of God, Revelation 21:4 “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Our God is perfect, Psalm 18:30 “Everything God does is perfect”
Our God turns destruction into blessings. That is what I believe He will use this time as, a time to call his children back home. Psalm 22:27 “The whole earth will acknowledge the Lord and return to Him. All the families of nations will bow down before Him.”
Our God is a transforming God, who turns water into wine, who turns grief into wonderful joy, who turns the sinners to believers! C’mon somebody if that doesn’t give you joy then I don’t know what will.
The best way to get through times of uncertainty, is to cling to things that are certain, and what do we have in our lives that are certain besides God? And what do we know for certain about God? We know that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5:22. Knowing this, we know that God is good and we are to hold tightly to what is good, even through the tribulations. Finding joy in times like these are tough, but when we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus we will experience an “abundance of joy” John 16:24, “a joy that no one can you rob of” John 16:22.
During this time of isolation we need to shift our minds from what we don’t have or can’t do anymore and shift our hearts and mind towards thankfulness. When we posture our heart and mind towards a state of thankfulness, it keeps our mind on the positive, a simple way to to finding the light in dark times as such is to focus on the light. To always be grateful, no matter the situation James 1:2-3 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” Continue to praise Him, continue to trust in Him, and experience the joy that our God will deliver in times of such uncertainty.
I pray that to whoever reads this that God will bring an overwhelming blanket of joy over you and your loved ones. That in this time we don’t run from God because of our confusion or frustration, but that it actually draws us closer into Him. He makes his joy available to all who call upon him. It says in Psalm 22:26 “All who seek the Lord will praise Him. Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy.” I pray that many of us experience this joy, and allow it pour out of us.
Chance Huff, a Niceville, Florida native, is a rising Junior at Vanderbilt University where he plays baseball. A huge fan of The Office and all things food, you can find him enjoying time with friends, family (including brother Christian and sister-in-law, Sadie), and encouraging people toward Jesus.
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I’ve been there. It might not even be that you’re actively missing home or that things are going terribly. On the outside, things might seem to be working for you. But on the inside, there’s some little kid screaming, your soul feeling absent from your surroundings, and you’re not sure how to make sense of it all.
For the first time in your life, you live away from the only home you’ve ever known. You’re surrounded by new faces, new beliefs, new schedules, and, what appears to be, a new version of yourself that you’re not fully in-tune with yet. You might spread your wings in a new endeavor and, for the first time, actually fall because your loving, encouraging parents who you should have appreciated more weren’t there to keep you from getting hurt. Everyone around you seems to have met their bridesmaids on day one but you spend Friday nights watching The Office in your dorm, longing for the glorious friends you had been blessed with at home. You try to become as involved as possible, but it still doesn’t feel fully right because this has yet to become your place and these people have yet to become your people. As a result, you find yourself being a timid, watered-down version of your usually vibrant self. You go to church every Sunday and a campus ministry every Wednesday, but it doesn’t even feel like you’re praying to the same God who so faithfully held your heart at home.
Give yourself grace.
Every single thing about your life just changed. What worked at home isn’t necessarily going to work here, whether that be in your prayer life, friendships, communication with family, or taking care of yourself. Give yourself grace in the transition. Feel the season you’re in and, as crazy as it sounds, treasure it because you are going to look back in wonder at what the Lord did in a season that seemed totally stagnant and dry.
“Yet in far-off places they will remember Me.” -Zechariah 10:9
So from someone who took her entire freshman year to figure it out, consider these steps to beat the learning curve:
1. Stop waiting to be invited. Stop showing up to events waiting for someone else to draw you out of your shell. You’re not auditioning. You already have the part. Be exactly who He made you to be and show up as that person, not waiting for someone to call you to step into it.
2. Invite people in. Be the friend you wish you had. You’d be surprised how many people crave authentic friendship when they put on the persona that they already have it. Make people feel invited to be the fullest versions of themselves, not copies of friends you had at home.
3. Plan fun things. Small day trips, game nights, picnics at the local park, walks on a trail, watercolor painting, movie nights, build a fort, watch the sunset, go to every sporting event possible. There are fun and cheap things to do that don’t require sacrificing your morals.
4. Spend time outside. Your dorm room and the library can consume you. Walls were created with human height in mind, but the outdoors were imagined by an infinite Creator. Take a walk or do homework under some trees. Remember how small we are and how big He is.
5. Don’t quit on your prayer routine or reading. First, accept that your routine will have to change and it’s going to take time to figure out the rhythm but do not stop. Do it even when you don’t feel like it. That creates solid faith and the fruitfulness will be seen in due time.
6. Don’t fly under the radar at campus ministries. It’s so tempting to arrive as it’s starting and leave immediately after, running back to your dorm to do homework or call your parents. But stay the extra five, meet some people, exchange numbers, make lunch plans. You can’t expect authentic community and friendship if you don’t allow the chance for conversation. And get involved in freshmen small groups- you’re all in the same boat!!
7. Volunteer. This was such an integral part of my weekly routine at home but I forgot about it my first semester away! Whatever you’re passionate about, don’t throw it to the side because chances are you won’t pick it up again. It’ll fill your heart, keep you focused on what matters, and help avoid the selfishness that inevitably results from a college schedule. Make time for what matters.
8. Call home. Be honest with your parents about how you’re doing and talk to them as regularly as possible. Use this as an opportunity to grow closer to them. Go out and experience, but do not lose touch with the people who know you, made it all happen, and love you with their whole beings. You both need it more than you know.
9. Don’t compromise on the things you said you wouldn’t do. Make a list, write it down if you need to, of things that you will not do- whether it be premarital sex, underage drinking, etc. So many people don’t firmly set standards for themselves and everything quickly becomes permissible. Know beforehand what you will and won’t do, that way it’s not a question when it comes up.
10. Be okay being alone. Don’t get me wrong, say yes to new things and meet lots of new people, but you have to be okay by yourself. College is often the first time you’re really by yourself and it’s an opportunity to do some deep soul-searching, seeing who you are without the identity of your family or hometown. It might crush you at first, but a new, more free creation will come from it.
11. Find an adult mentor on campus. Seriously life-savers and the reason I didn’t transfer. My scholarship program manager and academic advisor were my go-to resources for all academic and emotional questions as I navigated my first year away. They will come in handy more than you think and you provide purpose to their job. So go to office hours more than you academically need to!
12. Keep going to church every Sunday. Make this a non-negotiable, like the opposite of the other list I talked about in #9. Stop comparing it to your church at home- the Holy Spirit is alive and working in them all. It can’t become a home if you don’t attend regularly. We are designed for the Sabbath and for community! Also, try daily services. Going to church everyday (or at least a couple times a week) will change your life.
13. Join a Bible study and dive deep. Dive deep in the word by continuing to study independently and daily. The word of God is alive and active, coming to penetrate your soul and change your very self! Dive deep in friendship. Grab coffee with your leader, carpool with girls in your study, and make other plans with them to grow in friendship. Walk through this transition together and have vulnerable conversations.
14. Hang out with older girls. Seriously the greatest gifts! Freshmen are often so excited for their independence that they subconsciously sacrifice their morals and make decisions they’ll regret. Upperclassmen, however, have often outgrown the wild stage and acknowledge that we all crave deep friendship! They want to love on you because they know how hard freshman year can be.
15. Stop clinging. He has a new song for you. Don’t limit God and think His best has already happened. Friendships, extracurricular involvements, spirituality- the best is yet to come. Walk forward with open hands.
16. Learn as much as you can. You’re paying a lot to be there so build a good resume of things that are meaningful to you and complimentary to your dreams. These don’t have to be the best four years of your life. So mainly being a student is okay. Study hard but focus more on your passions than the GPA.
In letting go, walking by faith into what He has for you, you will find yourself a whole new creation by May. Maybe a little rough around the edges, but definitely a heart beating more with the Lord’s and an identity in Him, apart from the world. You’ll have new wounds but ones that you have carried for far too long will have healed as you see the good things, He has for you.
You might not love college yet and that is so okay. It’s not so much about your relationship with your college, wherever you end up, because at the end of the day it really doesn’t matter where you are. It just matters how much you lean into the Lord and how you embrace the season He has you in, no matter how empty and stagnant it may seem.
“Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” -Galatians 6:8-9
Do not become weary in prayer. Tell Him how your heart REALLY feels, rather than putting on a fake heart of praise. Stay disciplined in faith, not despite the icky feeling in your heart, but through that. God doesn’t expect us to stay in the honeymoon phase with Him forever. You will reap a harvest because He is always growing new fruit.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” -John 10:10
Your daily life right now might be anything but echoes of His abundance. Pray each day though to just see glimpses of the abundant life He has for you, one that won’t be fully received until we’re Home. The more you see His abundance, the more you’ll seek it.
He has good things for you. Being homesick is hard and it is real and it is good. Growing pains should not be resented or avoided because it is through them that we discover who He created us to be, each day becoming more like the person we’ll be when we come fully face to face with Him.
He is with you and He is for you, you only need to be still. You are cared for, you are held, and you are crazy loved. I’m walking alongside you and cheering you on. The best is yet to come.
This is dedicated to Bridget McMillian and Dr. Casey Cockrell-Stuart, who celebrated me at my worst, pushed me to my best, helped me see who I was becoming, and kept me from transferring. I wouldn’t have this new song without y’all.
Note from Team LO: Hi friends! Something that we are so passionate about here at LO is helping college students grow and realize their purpose and the impact that they can have on their campus. That’s why we are SO excited to feature this post from one of our favorite college girls, Meagan Harkins. If you’ve read this post and realize you want a strong community to provide the fuel for you to live out your purpose on campus, today is your lucky day! We are opening up the doors to LO Fam tomorrow BUT if you’ve read this far, HERE is the link to join today (shhhhh). Best part? We’re giving you one MONTH free…Merry Christmas!
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 (ESV)
Choosing a major, choosing a career, committing to a job, those are all big steps. One of the questions that we get asked most often is: How do I choose the right career path?
Throughout the next few months on the blog, we’re going to give our best practical advice and share stories in response to some of your greatest life questions (and if you want to submit a question or topic, drop us a message on Instagram @liveoriginal!)
Question #1 How do I know that I chose the right career path?
We’re about to have that mic drop moment right now. You don’t know if you chose the right career path, but you know when you are using the gifts that God has given you.
And girl, keep reading for the best part.
My career is nothing like I thought it would be. It’s better. It’s been a journey though.
When I was nineteen and a sophomore in college, I wish someone would have told me what my career path would be. It would have made things a lot easier, or at least I like to think so.
People told me that I was smart, capable, and that I would “figure it out.”
I believed them (sometimes), but struggled to trust that I truly would figure it out. As a college student, I went from feeling overwhelmed and frustrated one day to feeling on top of the world the next day. One day I thought I knew what my future career path would be like, and the next, I was crying on my way to class because I didn’t know what I was doing or where I was going.
But what I didn’t realize was that my life purpose is more than my career.
Here’s the thing. I had a job lined up before graduating college. That doesn’t mean it was the dream job, or the best fit, but it was a start.
Starting your career simply requires starting somewhere. I spent four years in college wondering what my career would look like. I spent four+ years after college trying to make a career happen.
Job #1 I thought I had a job with way too little pay.
Job #2 I thought I had landed a job that would humble me.
Job #3 I thought I had landed the “dream job”.
Get this… I landed a marketing position at a beautiful school in Malibu, CA. Beautiful place, sweet people, wrong job. A few weeks in, I remember walking and feeling so disappointed. I wasn’t disappointed in the place, or the people (they were fantastic), it was in my role. The hard truth was, my job that I applied for was not the right one for me…
In that season of being in the “dream” job I remember feeling so confused, sad, and lonely. How could I possibly tell someone that the job and career path that I have pursued for 6 years was no longer the one for me?
And I was in such a hurry to say YES to what I thought was the dream, that I lost my why.
I felt like a fake and I felt guilty because the job was a DREAM for someone. It just wasn’t for me. Do you ever feel that way about where you are at? Or are you fearful that you might feel that one day?
I’m here to tell you: it is okay to admit you didn’t make the best yes.
Looking back at that season of my career, I though that I would just have to “make it work” since I made the choice and I needed to stick it out. I spent every waking day convincing myself that this was exactly where I should be and that it was good for me. While that may sound honorable, it’s not what you make a career out of.
You’re not called to “make it work” for your entire career.
Side note: If you find yourself in a job for a considerable amount of time and you find yourself saying “I’m going to stick it out, I’m going to make it work.” then you might need to start praying about what God has for you there. Talk with your people. Start dreaming.
Your career decisions will not decease the potential impact that God as for your life.
And I remember the day that everything changed after a conversation with my new friend (Sadie Rob!). She was the first person to remind me that the gifts God has equipped me with could be used in my career. She encouraged me to remember that my purpose was so much more than my job.
Our conversation started with one question: what do you love doing?
I briefly shared about my love for design, crafting, and heart for women’s ministry. Of course, I told her that could never be a job that combines the three of those passions (sometimes I feel like God waits for us to say what we really desire, then He’s like “Okay it’s time!” ha)
I remember her smiling at me in that moment. That was the start of my journey to working at Live Original.
What I learned from my friend that day, was that it was okay to be on the journey. It’s ok to have passions and dreams. You have to believe that God will find the place for you to use your gifts.
There were a lot of right and wrong decisions to get to where I am today.
The best career decision didn’t make sense by the world’s standards.
And the only right decision I knew was to follow God by working to use the skills and gifts He’s created me with for his Glory. And now, this job (working for Team LO) has proved to be the best decision. The bes yes. The best career.
Most of us want to know if we are on the right path. Truth is we don’t fully know. We don’t know what God can and will reveal to us throughout our lifetime.
We do know that God can use us right were we are at.
We do know that different seasons with different jobs expand our capacity.
We do know that we serve a greater purpose than even the most fulfilling career.
So if you’re sitting here wondering if you chose the right path, or you’re about to make a choice on to your first career path, just pause. Really. Make a decision to try something new or move forward with right where you are at.
Don’t spent too much time wondering if you’re right. Otherwise you will be sure to miss out on what God has in store for you.
So I’ll share some practical advice for those who are still wondering:
#1 Don’t be afraid to be wrong or make the “wrong choice” of career.
Sometimes those choices bring you close to knowing what your true gifts and passions are and they allow you to redirect your path (that was me!).
#2 Listen to the call.
I know, I maybe you’ve heard that phrase “find your calling” too much. I believe there are key moments in your life or career that God will call you to something new. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a new job though. If you feel the call, take the leap. And find friends and family who will support you in your journey to finding your calling and your career.
#3 There’s no failure.
I remember in my early jobs fearing that people wouldn’t like me or fearing that I would fail to meet expectations and be fired for one mistake. Sure, that might happen. We learn from our failures though. And you know, you just can’t fail in God’s eyes. So live in freedom.
#4 It’s okay to be different
Don’t compare your career, or your job to your neighbors. I remember in college being a weird girl who lacked “direction” because she didn’t want to go into a corporate role like every single one of her friends. It was awkward, and I typically over explained when people asked me why. It’s ok to be different. God has equipped us with different things.
#5 Changing direction doesn’t mean you’re lost.
If you find yourself heading into uncharted territory or somewhere you never thought you’d be, but it’s accompanies by peace, this is a GOOD sign! Friend, congrats, because that right there is a reflection of you letting God lead you and steer your path. This is the beauty of walking with Jesus: being somewhere you’ve never been but knowing that you haven’t lost your way.
#6 Dream bigger career dreams.
Your dreams might not be what God’s dream is for you. Listen humbly to his call and keep believing for big dreams.
To my sisters and friends, I’ll leave you with this encouragement:
Your life already has purpose before you choose the path.
Your life is worth more than the job choices that you make.
Your life can be trusted in God’s hands.
Your journey is your own.
Your story is your own.
I don’t know where you are at, but I know that you are not alone. I don’t have the answers to your questions, but I do know we’re not supposed to have all of the answers. I don’t know if you’re living in fear of failure, but I do know that life with God allows us to live in freedom.
Praying you walk in freedom today, dream big dreams, and believe that your life is greater than your career path!
Court Leatherwood is a dreamer and a creative. She’s a member of Team LO. Fueled by community, creativity and coffee, she spends her days moving the mission of Team LO through social media and graphic design. Court is passionate about encouraging other women in truth and love, and she loves celebrating small and big moments of life with handwritten cards. Court recently married the man of her dreams.
You guys, you’re supposed to feel pumped up and hopeful when you finally get that college diploma. Instead, I see way too many young people overwhelmed with student loan debt and worried about how they’re going to pay it off.
The whole concept of debt reminds me of this Scripture:
“For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, after he has laid the foundation and cannot finish it, all the onlookers will begin to make fun of him, saying, ‘This man started to build and wasn’t able to finish’” (Luke 14:28–30 HCSB).
Listen: I’m not here to make you feel bad if student loans are part of your story. I’ve totally been there. When I was in college, I was more than $25,000 in debt after just three semesters! All I’m saying is, it doesn’t make sense to jump into something before you have the foundation—and the funds—to pay for it.
Student loans might seem like a reasonable way to pay for college. But the truth is, it’s borrowed money. It’s not really yours—and having debt is a surefire way to hold yourself back from pursuing the goals and dreams God has put on your heart. His Word also says that the borrower is slave to the lender (Proverbs 22:7 CSB). As children of God, we don’t need to be slaves to anything. We’re supposed to live in freedom!
Too many young adults (and even their parents) think that taking out loans is just a normal part of going to college. But “normal” is not setting you up for success—and it’s why we have a $1.6 trillion student loan crisis on our hands.1
Still wondering about the effects student loan debt can have on your future? Let’s do some math (I get it––math is boring. But stick with me!).
How Much Do Student Loans Actually Cost You?
The average amount of student loan debt per student at the time of graduation is about $35,000. And the average monthly student loan payment is $393. In that case, you’d be making those payments for years (maybe even decades) after graduation and building up interest the whole time—meaning you’d end up paying way more than the original amount of the loan.
(Side note: Monthly student loan payments usually add up to somewhere between 5–15% of graduates’ income after they start their careers. Just think about graduating from college and landing a job you’re excited about, only to hand over 15% of your hard-earned cash to the lender. Not fun.)
But what if those monthly payments were invested instead? If you invested $393 per month for 30 years (starting at the age of 21) with a 10% annual return, you’d have over $1 million by your early 50s. That doesn’t even count any other savings or investments you might have at that point.
If you did the exact same thing but waited until 67 to retire—which is the age you can retire with full benefits—you’d have about $4,107,517 just from investing that little $393 every month. Crazy, right? That means your student loans are actually costing you millions of dollars.
Investing aside, what else could recent grads do with an extra $393 per month? The list is endless. That’s money toward a wedding venue or a down payment on a house. That’s your foundation for the business you’ve always wanted to start. That’s a gift that could seriously bless someone in need. There are so many better ways to spend that money than a student loan payment.
So you might be thinking: Okay, Anthony, I get it. Student loans are the worst. What’s the alternative?
I’ll be real with you––it won’t be easy. It will take a lot of hard work and sacrifice. But I promise you: No matter what the rest of the world tells you, cash flowing your college degree is possible.
Here Are Three Tips to Help You Go to College Without Student Loans.
- Go to an affordable school.
That might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people are willing to take out thousands of dollars in loans just so they can go to their “dream school.” Y’all, going to your dream school does not dictate the outcome of your future––you get where you need to be because of your character, your work ethic, and a whole lot of prayer. Let me say it louder for the people in the back: The true dream school is the one you can afford to go to without debt.
That could mean going to a trade school, community college, or public, in-state school instead of a private school. (I mean, there’s about a $25,600 difference in a year of tuition and fees at a private college versus a public, in-state college.6)
- Apply for scholarships.
You guys, this is free money that––unlike loans––you don’t have to spend years of your life paying back. You can find the free money by:
- Filling out the FAFSA form (which can also be used to get loans, so read the fine print and don’t sign up for anything unless you’re sure it’s not a loan)
- Asking the financial aid office at your school(s) of choice about the scholarships they have available
- Researching organizations in your field of interest to see if they have scholarship opportunities
- Using an online scholarship search tool (like the Debt-Free Degree Scholarship Search)
- Work, work, work.
I’m a big fan of work-study programs, off-campus jobs, side hustles, babysitting gigs—anything that can help you stack cash for your college degree. I recommend starting to work in high school and keeping a part-time job (no more than 15–20 hours per week) once you start college.
As long as you don’t let it hurt your grades or stop you from getting enough sleep, having a job can actually help you. You’ll build all kinds of skills you’ll need to succeed in the workforce—like managing your time, serving others, and being responsible with the money God’s given to you.
Another thing to remember is that you don’t have to pay for your entire college degree up front. You can work and cash flow it as you go! Once you take debt off the table and make the decision that you’re going to do this debt-free, you will.
Want More Advice on Going to School Debt-Free?
I’m passionate about helping you avoid the same mistakes I made with money––that’s why I wrote Debt-Free Degree. It will give you a step-by-step plan for prepping for college the right way so you can graduate debt-free and be ready for whatever God has in store for you.
Your future: 1. Student loans: 0.
Since 2003, Anthony has helped hundreds of thousands of students make smart decisions with their money, relationships, and education. He’s a national best-selling author and travels the country spreading his encouraging message to help teens and young adults start their lives off right. His latest book, Debt Free Degree, launches October 2019.You can follow Anthony on YouTube and Instagram @AnthonyONeal and online at anthonyoneal.com or facebook.com/aoneal.
The starting line for me as an author certainly wasn’t my incredible grades in school, but it was found in college – specifically with a friend named Sarah.
The day I moved into my college dorm, I squealed inwardly as I noted one gal writing a Bible verse on the mirror that came standard with our dorm rooms. “Oh I see you like the Bible! Me too! I love this verse! Do you want to go to church while you’re here? I hear there’s a big church offering free lunch for college students tomorrow – do you want to go with me?”
The next morning, when thousands of young adults had recently been freed up from the bondage of their parent’s boundaries and borders, and were incredibly likely to sleep in – I was up early. I’d convinced 8 women from my floor to go to church with me, even though my car only fit 5 total, so we smushed in like sardines in the salty southeastern heat and drove to church. It was all happening, my dreams were coming true.
We had a great morning, but a week later the newness had begun to wear off, classes had begun and recruitment had started for sororities – and my little girl gang was dwindling and growing all at once. There were still one or two women on my actual floor that were interested in the same things I was, but I was meeting other friends – on different floors and in different buildings, who’d come to college looking for the same vibrant Christian community I had. Or even if they hadn’t come looking, they were taking steps toward it now.
But I couldn’t move on so quickly – my heart was attached to these gals I’d first met and grown to love, particularly to the one with the scripture written on her mirror, the one who’d gone to church with me once and never come back. The one who seemed to make such a sudden change in her personality when the parties started happening. Let’s call her Sarah.
I’d already sown my wild oats and done a fair share of drinking, drugs, and dating years prior before I met Jesus. So it wasn’t the drinking and the partying that worried me about Sarah. In the close quarters of the dorm, sharing bathroom sinks and seeing each other before meals and at the end of the day, I saw an exhaustion settle over her – a dark cloud that came in thick and only seemed to settle. Her eyes looked weary, she started losing weight rapidly, and all the sparkle and sweetness was leached from her face as the hard reality settled in: she was looking for her identity, purpose, and approval around every corner of this new-to-us campus and it might just do her in.
As we’d brush our teeth in the morning, I’d smell the alcohol still seeping out of her pores and as we’d walk to class – she’d tell me about the boys she’d been with the night before. Sarah would try to make light of their casual post-coital dismissal of her, she’d try to act like this was par for the course, but I worried there was more going on. This seemed like a girl who was getting her heart handed to her on a platter every single morning, drinking at night to escape the pain of rejection and the reality that she wasn’t so sure who she was anymore. Then she’d do it all over again in a cycle that was branded self-discovery but really was just self-destruction. I watched and listened and prayed as I saw my newfound friend changing before my eyes – I had a feeling this wasn’t normal freshman year experimenting, this was a girl on the brink of serious pain.
One Thursday night I was running late for some Christian community event when there was a knock at my door. It was a friend of Sarah’s, a gal I’d never met, and she asked me if I’d come to Sarah’s room. Sarah had taken it too far drinking and needed a babysitter, they said, just in case things got hairy.
For the next few hours, I sat by her bedside debating whether or not I should call the ambulance. Was this alcohol poisoning? Was she still breathing? I could honestly barely tell. She was still, pale, and her only sign of life was a harrowing moan she’d let out every hour or so. iPhones weren’t a thing yet, google wasn’t even a thing yet, so I couldn’t just quickly research the signs without leaving her side. I sat beside her praying – talking to God and asking Him why he’d placed me on this floor. Why had He let me see her writing that Bible verse on the mirror on move-in-day? I was broken for her.
In the morning, when she was awake (and incredibly ill), her friends chided me for my concern and acted like I an idiot for caring so much. Sarah couldn’t meet my gaze, she couldn’t look me in the eye – either because of shame or the sick hungover fog that kept her from really opening them.
The Friday morning after Sarah’s long night of sickness, I made a decision. In all the praying, pondering, and listening to God about why I was on that hall of freshman girls – why I was in this place of nursing drunk girls, why He’d made me to care so much about their souls and identities and purposes, I’d come up with a plan to execute the decision. I was choosing to believe He’d placed me there on purpose – for our collective good and His glory. I was choosing to believe He wanted to love them, and tell them about Jesus, with everything I had. I resolved to show up with my actions – nursing them back to health on drunk nights or making Diet Coke runs when people got low. But I also resolved to use my words.
Friday afternoon I took a sheet of paper and a pen, marched down the hall to each room, knocked on the door and asked the gals to write down their email address. Now, in 2019, authors would call this “list-building”, gathering email addresses so you can send people words into their inbox. But in 2002, you might just call it “annoying girl in the freshman dorm who demands email addresses”. Most of them forked over their college-related handles and I told them they could expect some daily devotionals coming their way.
Had I written a devotional ever at this point? No. Did I have any formal Bible teaching? No way. Did I probably say some absolutely crazy things? You better believe it. But throughout that year, I just wrote little daily Bible messages – glimpses of grace, hope, love, and abundance, and I sent it to the emails of the ladies who lived on the 7th floor of my freshman dorm, whether they liked it or not.
Did anyone ask me or invite me? Only Jesus. What qualification did I have? Ambassador of Christ. Was it met with wild reviews, did it go viral, did one million people know about it? No. Did I ever hear anything the fruit or see proof that it helped a single gal? To be honest, no.
But it was a start, and I was burdened for these gals who seemed to be so harassed and helpless – struggling with the same things I had struggled with myself, or was currently struggling with. And it helped me process my concern, writing gave me a safe place to show them that I cared. It was a start that was all about love, that was premeditated with an obsession to see my sister-friends live the abundant life they were created for.
The starting line isn’t where you think it is. When we picture the beginning steps of obedience – saying yes to Jesus or stepping forward in faith – let’s not picture shiny moments or big accomplishments. The starting lines that begin in our personal triumph are not necessarily great breeding grounds for God’s glory. BUT! When we’re rooted in a desire to serve, help, and love others well – we’ll be set up for mission in a beautiful way.
God is mighty in you, right where you’re at. He loves working through you, loving and serving those who are in your midst. It’s our joy to show up and give what we’ve got and watch Him do what only He can through our obedience.
Jess is the author of You Are the Girl for the Job: Daring to Believe the God Who Calls You (on sale September 24), as well as Dance, Stand, Run and coauthor of Wild and Free and Always Enough,
Never Too Much. She is also the founder of Go + Tell Gals, co-owner of All Good Things Collective print shop, and one of the founders of She Reads Truth. She and her husband lead Bright City Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where they live with their four children. She blogs at jessconnolly.com.
I’ve always wanted to experience the ocean. To feel the sand beneath my feet and to listen as the waves crash on the shoreline. The only memory I have of a moment like this is a picture taken when I was just a little girl, standing in front of a sunset sky with blue tossed waves soaking my feet. This picture, held tight by a blue and green turtle picture frame from Florida held much more than a memory I vaguely remember. It was the very essence of being a little kid, care free, with a childlike faith. A time of being hopeful and willing to chase big dreams and seek new adventures, to truly say no dream is too big for my God. As we get older, this feeling starts to vanish and replace itself with anxious thoughts, fearful minds, and wondering hearts pointed towards the future.
At what age do we start to feel timid to the idea of chasing our dreams? My dream is to be a songwriter and to create worship music that empowers hearts and brings people closer to Christ. My prayer life consists of fervent prayers asking for God to make this happen. I have to truly believe that He hears this prayer and believe that He will make a way. Matthew 7:7 that says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” With this promise, we should hold true to our childlike faith, a faith that believes the Lord will reveal Himself for all that is good.
After I graduated from high school and began planning for the future, my ideal lifestyle wasn’t matching up with reality. Everything I had thought I wanted for myself slowly fell out of my hands. Here’s what I’ve learned the about planning for the future: Don’t hold onto what you think you have to have, because God may have another plan for you. Here’s my story.
The place I wanted to go to college didn’t work out so I found myself in a college I didn’t dream about. But, there were blessings. I attended a two-year college that allowed me to end up debt free for my general education classes. That’s a blessing in itself, but it also led me to some of my best friends with whom I experienced so many things I would have never gotten to experience.
After those two years, I had another plan for my life. It was now time to attend the college of my dreams. I felt God pulling me there, but once again, I tried to make it in my own timing. (Unfortunately, I have a bit of a problem with patience.) I did everything I could to be there. I even had my bags packed by the door. But, the door shut and I was told “possibly next semester.” I was crushed. I had quit my job, told all my friends goodbye, and even said goodbye to my church family. I wasn’t ready to explain why I still remained in the same place. Even to myself. I was angry with both God and my own self-seeking, big-dreaming heart. Then I began to see blessings unfold before me.
That same month, I started attending a new church that opened my heart up to a new way of worship and to a renewed faith. I built new relationships. It even led me back to being a camp counselor for a second summer. Little did I know that summer would impact my life more than I could fathom. God would use me in more ways than one to reach the hearts of His precious, beloved children. I was able to lead worship and create music with other staff and campers. I was able to create friendships that I truly believe will last forever.
All of this led me to now—this very moment. I find myself walking on the sand, looking out into the ocean. While writing this blog, feeling the salty air blow against my face, I have finally made it. I’m surrounded by hearts that fill me with truth and radiate God’s love. It feels as though I can breathe again.
My heart is at peace. I’m no longer afraid of the future. I’m no longer afraid of the hard times, because they are what got me to this very moment. Without knowing the struggles in life, we will never be able to fully appreciate the blessings that follow. Oh, and by the way, in just about a week, that dream school of mine will no longer be a dream, but a part of my present. God is so good.
I say all of this to tell you this. If you are in a waiting season of life where you feel confined to the same identity; if you feel called, but you have no idea where to begin; if you had all these plans mapped out for your own life, but the doors keep shutting—trust in the Lord’s timing. Trust that He has a plan for your life. That His plan is good, because it is. Count your blessings, chase your dreams and believe that no dream is too big for our God.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”
Jeremiah 29:11-13 ESV