Echoes from a Stressed Out College Student

As anyone who’s ever been in college knows, college is stressful. Late nights and early mornings lead to mid-morning exhaustion and afternoon breakdowns. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, college students tend to be pretty run-down. I’ve always prided myself on my ability to get things done efficiently, but college has tested my limits. And that makes it hard to have peace about where I’m at.

Since I go to a Christian college, chapel happens multiple times a week. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, we have opportunities to be spiritually filled for an hour. For that one hour, we slow down and take time to pause the urgent, pressing matters, and focus on something more important: our souls. It’s so easy to get stressed out over every little thing that doesn’t go our way, but sometimes we do have to realize that there are more important things.

Recently I’ve felt convicted because I’ve let my faith dwindle a bit. Projects, papers, and exams loom over my head, and I forget to put everything on hold and turn my eyes toward what will actually fill me. I thought that by coming to a Christian college, the faith part would come naturally. Chapel should be enough, right? And small groups, jam sessions, conversations over breakfast? Shouldn’t that be enough to grow my faith? But it’s been harder than I expected.

Living on campus, everyone’s always swarming around, and it’s hard to get that much-needed alone time – both for my faith, and for my introverted soul. I’ve found myself taking extra long showers just so I can be alone for a few more minutes. And it gets discouraging sometimes, because sometimes I really wish I was a social butterfly, but I’m just not. I’m more of a cactus, probably – a little prickly sometimes, and not requiring much TLC. But I have this well inside of me (much like a cactus) that’s full to the brim of things I could say. And I hardly ever say them.

So, my friend, this little blog post has been a little chaotic, but I want to leave you with this: If you’re a college student, like myself, or perhaps a professor, parent, high school student, or wherever you are in life – slow down. Take a deep breath. And rest. And then get back to everything you have on your plate, because it’s probably a lot. 😉 I know that’s what I’ll be doing for most of today, right after I open up my Bible and take a little break.

 

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When People Feel Like Home

If I’m being honest, I’ve never really felt like I had a place in the world. And I’ve discussed this in several of my previous blogs. But something I neglected to highlight is the fact that I miss people All. The. Time. People from all over the U.S. and abroad have made their way into my heart and will forever stay there. And it hurts because I hardly see many of them. Sometimes I start feeling nostalgic, and I suddenly miss someone so profoundly that I have to stop and pray, asking God to heal my heart when people I love are so far away. And I’ve been learning that that empty space in my heart does not have to be an empty space. Missing people does not always mean loneliness. Just like the apostle Paul wrote about how he had learned to be content in all circumstances, I am learning to be content regardless of who is or is not surrounding me.

So. When no specific place feels like home, I’m never home. But because people feel like home, I am always home when I’m surrounded by those I love. So really, I’m always home, because I’m always surrounded by people I love. And that’s something I’ve been realizing for the first time.

It’s like, for the first time in my life, I can use this realization as a sort of power and not something that causes me to be restless and discontent. I am home and not home all at the same time, and in a strange way that finally gives me the chance to not be defined by my circumstances. Praise God, I’m home.

Contented to Stay

Since I got back from Kenya in late July, I’ve written more words than in any of my 20 or so journals, yet I struggled to come up with a post that would interest all the people “back home.” Before I left, I wrote a blog titled “Contented to Go.” In these contented echoes that God is weaving into my story, I have had different seasons of going and staying. Living abroad has imprinted my heart, and living in the U.S. has caused me to be restless at times. Since coming back from Kenya, I have been called to be discipled where I’m at. I have been called to stay.

At first I began to feel restless, but as I continued to pray and seek, I realized I’m not restless because of where I am geographically right now. I’ve been restless because of where my mind and heart are. I’ve been longing for something deeper than I’m getting, but I don’t know how to find it here, so I have been leaning into God and learning more about Him and more about myself. And there are no words to describe all my thoughts and feelings, but a specific moment in my prayer life sums up what God has been teaching me recently.

About a month ago, I started reading through the book of Isaiah. Backwards. Soon enough, I reached Isaiah 62, and when I read verse 2, my heart was moved. In my first blog post last summer, I mentioned that I had been feeling like a leaf blown in the wind. A restless, breathless, fluttering leaf – with no control over any of my circumstances. And then I read this verse. It says, “The nations will see your vindication, and all kings your glory;
you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow.” And I felt God saying to me, “You are no longer a leaf, blown in the wind, with nowhere to land; you are a bird taking flight, guided by my hand.” Alright, so it didn’t quite rhyme like that when the metaphor first hit my heart. But that is how it has developed. And I am more content than I ever remember being, even though I don’t know exactly what being a bird in flight will look like. 

As I considered all this, I wrote out a prayer for the new year, to go along with the new name God placed on my heart in November. Here it is:

My heart is heavy and my mind is full; Lord, please hear me.

I am here but my heart is there; Lord, please be near me.

In all my strivings, wanderings, and doubts, Lord, please teach me.

As I learn to be content, as I spread my wings –

no longer a leaf blown in the wind, but a bird in flight;

Lord, please guide me.

As I am stretched to the limit,

As my heart breaks because of injustice,

As I reach out in love;

Lord, may I be transformed.

In everything that I do, Lord, bring Your peace through me.

Righteous One, everything You do is good! May I become more like You.

When my mind is tired, when my heart is breaking, when my soul is battered,

Lord, renew me.

I praise You for Your mercies.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

So where do I go from here? I have been called to stay, but I have not been called to sit idly by while others work for God’s Kingdom. I have been called to work, wait, and listen. And how can I stay if I am a bird in flight? Well, I am not flying anywhere yet; I am simply learning to spread my wings. So I will take one step at a time, and trust that God is leading me somewhere.

Contented to Go

I’m leaving for Kenya tomorrow. Part of me is thrilled – I can’t wait to experience the culture, learn, grow, and meet a church family on the other side of the world. But part of me is unsure what I’m feeling. It’s been five years since I’ve flown out of the country. Although I spent 1/3 of my life in southeast Asia, Africa seems so much more foreign. Yet I know God has provided for me to go on this trip, in so many ways – financially, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and even physically. Even with stomach issues and all my tiny insecurities about this trip, I know God will provide.

Most mornings I wake up with an incredibly weak stomach, but this morning I woke up and my stomach felt completely fine. And I take that to be a sign of God’s peace covering this trip. So much has led up to this, and even though I may have stomach issues on the trip, I’m trusting God in all the unknowns.

Thank you to all of you who have supported me and prayed for me. Praise the Lord for His provision thus far. I trust Him to lead me in this foreign land I’m going to. Whatever happens I know God is already there.

For those of you who asked for more details of what we’re doing, we’re leading VBS and helping grow the existing Bible quizzing program in Kenya. The Kenyans are planning our activities, so that’s the extent of my knowledge so far. I will make sure to post about it when I get back. We’ll be back July 26th.

Thank you again for your interest and support of my trip!

Someday, Sometime I Will Soar

Someday, sometime I will soar

and somehow touch the fleeting sky.

But my heart is heavy, and I cannot reach,

so gently I will stand.

Someday, sometime I will know

what the world has gained from me

But my mind overflows, and I cannot grasp purpose,

so softly I will live.

I must be patient

I must be faithful

For this world is too cold to carry me.

I must be kind

I must be strong

For only God knows my heart.

This day, all times, I will live

to bring glory to the One

who placed the sky above my head,

and grasps the purpose in all minds.

Fiercely I will love.

Contemporary Gypsy

For most of my life, I’ve kind of felt like a wanderer. I moved around and haven’t lived anywhere longer than six years. And…I’ve heard that no matter how long someone lives somewhere, they can still feel out of place. And I believe it – but can’t seem to understand why someone would feel out of place somewhere they’ve lived their entire life. It makes me wonder if I will ever feel like I’ve found my place, my little corner of the world. But even though I feel like a wanderer, I’m content to wander and go wherever the wind blows me. I am a leaf, blown by the wind, never staying in one spot for long. And I’m happy. Wherever I am, I make it home.

In two months I will graduate from high school, and I’ll make another big move to college 12 hours away. And I’m ready to find a new home, except that I wish I had longer to forge friendships and spread my light here. I wish I had made more of an effort to reach out, to get involved, but I didn’t and now I’ve lost my chance. This will still be a home for me, but I’m moving forward, so this little town will soon be part of my past. Part of my heart will always be here. And my parents will stay here. Wherever they are, feels like home.

One of my goals is to visit or live in all seven continents minus Antarctica (because obviously – just no. I’ve heard that if you drop a pan of boiling water there, it will freeze before it hits the ground. And I don’t want that to be me!) I’ve been to two continents, and this summer I will visit a third – Africa. I’ve been given the opportunity to go to Kenya with a group of Bible Quizzers I’ve known for several years, and I’m thrilled. I will get to meet new people, spread a little love, and make another corner of the world my temporary home.

This is my first blog post, and I just wanted to share a little bit about myself before I make posts about Kenya. I created this page mostly to share about my trip to Kenya this summer – a before blog, and then several blog posts after I return. And I will likely still be active on this blog in college, so friends and family can follow my journey.  This is my first of many contented echoes. Although I sometimes feel like an echo lost in the wind, I am content. And I’m excited to share my story with whoever will take the time to listen.