Navigating the Choppy Waters of College Decisions

laptop-3087585_1280

Figuring out a college major is not always black and white. In fact, discerning college ambitions and vocational desires is a trial and error process that requires both faith in God and common sense. College is often the beginning of the journey into figuring out what we want to do with our lives. And one of the first major decisions in this journeys is which major to choose.

In his book, Thriving at College, Professor Alex Chediak says, “Not only could there be more than one great major for you, but changing majors in not the end of the world. Better to try something and then have to shift gears if it doesn’t work than to never try something at all.” (Page 199)

In other words, having everything figured out is impossible.  As we venture out and try new things, we discover our God-given personalities and passions, allowing us to purposefully peruse the path He has set before us.

It is not our responsibility to figure out our whole lives by some arbitrary age like 18 or 22. However, it is our responsibility to utilize wisdom and common sense when making immediate decisions that affect our future.

For instance, when I was choosing my college major, my mom was included in the process (after all, she practically knows me better than I know myself). I evaluated both my weakest and strongest areas. I am only mediocre at math and science, but I tend to excel in writing and reading. Thus, even though a career as a computer engineer or marine biologist might be lucrative, I would be miserable due to the math and science foundation required.

I considered a professional writing major, but I am a complete extrovert and want to regularly interact with people in my future career. Therefore, I finally landed on a communications major. I see it as a unique way to combine my love for writing and public speaking with interacting with people. Of course, this is always subject to change, but God cannot guide you unless you are moving forward. God utilizes our passions, desires, talents, and strengths to lead us in the direction He has planned for us.

Now, at this point, I do not fully know what this major will entail. I could start the program, discover that I need to readjust, and turn down a different route. But that is okay. Again, trial and error is not a terrible route when figuring out your future.

Avoid making decisions for your future self, way down the road. Rather, choose to make logical, wise, God-led decisions in the here and now and be flexible to make needed adjustments. God does not stop leading us when we make a mistake or misstep. Rather, He promises to continue His guidance everyday of our lives. As Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart plans his way. But the Lord directs his steps.”

 

Advertisements

Refreshed by God’s Word

ben-white-167553-unsplash.jpg

I have always struggled to read my Bible consistently. At times, I have been able to read a chapter a day, sometimes even for months in a row. But more often, I slip into the abyss of not cracking the cover open for weeks on end.

At the beginning of this year, I had fresh determination. I printed off a Bible reading plan and made dozens of Bible memorization cards. My plan was to read the Bible through in a year and memorize a verse a day.

I think I fell off of the reading schedule after the first two weeks of January and the memorization schedule even sooner. I failed yet again. Almost every night during the hectic spring months, I thought about cracking my Bible open, but was not able to muster the energy to do so. With a heavy heart, I would turn off my light and crawl into bed. Soon, self-condemnation began to cause me to avoid my Bible. I would kick myself down before I had even started.

I like measuring progress by numbers. Thus, if I do not read an entire chapter or several chapters, I feel like a failure.

Finally, I realized that I just needed to feed on God’s word.

One April night, I fell into bed exhausted. It had been a straining day academically and spiritually. Even though my eyelids were heavy, I knew that I desperately needed God’s word. I was dry. Rather than discipline myself to start back where I had left off (weeks ago), I decided to adapt my strategy to my lack of energy.

I lounged against my pillows and flipped to the New Testament. I landed on the last few chapters of Romans. I soaked up the verses I had highlighted, then flipped to the next page. I started at 10:45 and continued this pattern for the next hour.  Occasionally, I would stop to read a whole chapter, but for the most part I just enjoyed reviewing the verses I had highlighted in previous reading sessions. It was informal. It was enjoyable. It was refreshing. And best of all, it did not demand too much concentration from my sleepy brain.

From this experience, I learned that sometimes we need to adjust our Bible reading strategy to our current phase of life.

If you have stalled out on reading your Bible, then do not force yourself to jump right back on your plan. Sometimes we need to give ourselves a chance to just relax in God’s word. Not every Bible session needs to be intense or “highly productive”.

Enjoy God’s Word.

If you have found yourself spiritually dry, but condemnation is keeping you away from your Bible, then your mission should be to find refreshment and enjoyment in the scriptures again. Go to your favorite book of the Bible, track down your favorite verse, and soak it up. Once you gain some momentum, you can return to your original reading plan.

Just remember, even random Bible reading is better than zero Bible reading. If, late at night, reading your appointed three chapters feels too daunting, then just savor a few of your favorite verses.

Sometimes the hardest thing we can do is restart after we feel like we have failed.

Restarting our journey through scripture after a period of spiritual dryness is tough. We just need to dive in, even if that means restarting ourselves in an easier place.

If you were learning to ride a bike, would you rather start climbing up hill or rolling down a flat sidewalk? If you are trying to jumpstart your love for God’s word, would you rather follow your reading plan and trudge back to Leviticus or bask in your favorite Psalm? Nothing against cycling uphill or reading the book of Leviticus, but we need to build our endurance and momentum if we are to make it through the tougher challenges like these.

If you are like me and often find yourself stalling out on your Bible reading plan, not opening your Bible for days, then remember the ultimate goal: get in God’s word daily, somehow. If that means reading a few verses at 10:45 at night, then that is still a victory. If it means scanning a few chapters on your lunch break, that is also a victory. The point is not to zealously follow a schedule-rather the goal is to incorporate God’s word into our lives. Squeeze in time today to bask in some of your favorite verses. Relaxing in God’s word will leave you refreshed, wash away condemnation, and embolden you to read the more challenging parts of the Bible.

What Laundry Teaches Us About Life

laundry-413688_1920

When I was eleven years old, my mom taught me how to do my own laundry. I faced the chore enthusiastically-even transforming a cardboard box into a cute laundry hamper with pink and white paint. However, learning to do my laundry required time and patience. Even with my mom’s careful coaching on sorting colors and operating the washer and dryer, years passed before I fully comprehended the concepts. I ended up with at least one white shirt that is now blush because I washed it with a darker garment. Thankfully, blush is now in style, so I can pretend I did it on purpose.

While laundry may be viewed as drudgery or an inconvenience, I think it is the best chore ever. Here are four reasons we can be grateful that we have to do laundry:

1) Laundry gives us the opportunity to serve those in our households.

Serving those outside our home is often easier than serving the people who are closest to us. For example, going on a mission trip provides us with an adventure. It is exciting because we are meeting new people and experiencing a different culture, so serving and being selfless in this environment is natural. However, we often take those we live with (our families) for granted. One practical way we can love those around us is to perform simple tasks for them. Even folding and putting away a load of a family member’s laundry can be a huge encouragement. Several times, my sisters have sneaked into my room and folded my clothes for me. I have always felt so loved by this sweet gesture.  If you are trying to find ways to serve your family, look no further than their mountains of laundry.

2) Laundry can help us realize how privileged we are.

Sometimes, laundry can seem endless, like a waste of a perfectly good Saturday afternoon. But people in third-world countries would love the opportunity to do laundry like we do.  Not only would they appreciate having high quality clothing, but they would also appreciate the modern appliances we have to make laundry simpler. Washing clothes by hand is exhausting. Twice when our washer was out of order, I decided to wash my laundry by hand. Only when I was in the middle of the project did I realize the difficulty of doing laundry without a washer and dryer. Wet clothes are heavy, and you use a lot more water than your washer would. If you need a reason to be grateful, then you can simply look at your clean pile of high-quality clothing and the two machines that made doing your laundry so easy.

3) Laundry gives children and teenagers a chance to cultivate responsibility.

In order to ensure that we have clean clothes, we are forced to regularly check the status of our laundry hampers. Failing to be responsible with laundry has sharp, instantaneous consequences (like running out of clean clothes). Since laundry is a fairly simple task, it the ideal job to develop responsibility in children and teenagers. And, if the task is not attended to, the youth will quickly learn his or her lesson by the lack of clean clothes. After all, we will not always have our moms around to make sure our clothes are clean.

4) Laundry gives people a chance to escape from their arduous work to a simpler task.

For most people, folding and putting away laundry does not require much active thought. If you need an escape from your schoolwork or paperwork for a few minutes, but do not want to lose productivity, then put in your earbuds  and conquer the  pile of laundry on your bed. You can enjoy a guilt- free break, listening to some of your favorite music or podcasts, while keeping your hands busy. This short laundry break will allow you to return to your main work projects with a renewed sense of focus and energy.

Laundry may seem like a mundane chore, but it is actually a golden opportunity. Laundry gives us the chance to serve our families, count our blessings, cultivate responsibility, and be productive during our free time. Rather than complain about doing laundry, or any chore for that matter, we can be grateful for the opportunity and take the moment to realize just how blessed we are.

 

Why I Am Choosing to Live at Home during College


library-1400312_1920High school graduation is a momentous occasion-a time when young adults sprout their wings and take their best shot at life. Sprouting wings entails a new sense of independence. How should our living arrangements reflect this new stage of life?

Does moving away from home show that we are truly grown up? Or should we spend more time maturing under our parent’s mentoring and protection before we leave the nest? Does turning eighteen automatically trigger full-fledged adulthood, or must we earn that privilege? Is moving away during college the right choice for everyone?

As I prepare to start college full time this fall, I have been forced to ask myself these tough questions. Finding the answers is not always easy, but it is constructive and advantageous to plan ahead. While each student’s situation will be different, here are several of the factors that played into my decision to live at home during college.

The Expense of Living on Campus

As a new adult, we should want to start contributing more than we take. But contributing more than we take does not necessarily entail moving away from home. In fact, staying at home could relieve our family of a significant financial burden.

Living on campus can be outrageously expensive. According to the website My College Guide, “Students at public schools can expect to pay an average of $8,887 and those at private schools will pay an average of $10,089 per year. These prices are for dorms on campus.”

You can help your family financially even without actively earning a salary by cutting college costs as much as possible. You could also avoid extra student loan debt by remaining at home during college.

Denying Adult Responsibility

For some young adults, living on campus is a way to entirely avoid responsibility. This is what USA Today has to say about living in the dorms, “In reality, dorms are more like all-inclusive resorts than houses of horror. Dorms allow students to delay the responsibilities of adulthood for a few more years and fully experience college.”

Wait, “delay the responsibilities of adulthood”?

The article goes on to explain how most dorms have complimentary house cleaning. That way, you can be free from vacuuming and scrubbing your own bathroom for four years of your adult life. Isn’t this a step backwards? Most children are expected to help with housework, but suddenly you transfer to a college campus and those responsibilities disappear? As a college freshman, your chore responsibilities should not dissipate entirely!

The USA Today article also featured, “ultimate entertainment centers” as a reason to live on campus. Recreation is a necessary part of life, but are we talking about eight year olds or eighteen year olds? Do we really need someone to provide entertainment spaces for us? Perhaps college dorms are failing to prepare their students for the real, adult life that faces them after graduation.

The attitude behind our actions must be evaluated.

Whether we chose to stay at home or move out during college, we must take the time to analyze the rationale behind our choices. If we are staying at home because we want our parents to coddle and care for us, then we have the wrong attitude. On the flip side, if we are moving away from home because we are trying to distance ourselves from responsibility, then that’s also a problem.

We should be actively contributing to our families, no matter what age or stage of life we are in. In this stage of life, we should become independent in that we take responsibility for our actions and as young adults contribute more than we take.

Choosing to stay at home does not mean that we lack the toughness to move away from our family. Whether you stay at home or move away for college, I would encourage you to fully consider all the options and weigh the costs and benefits before making a commitment. And most importantly, wherever we find ourselves, we must continually strive to grow into fruitful young adults who glorify God with our decisions and conduct.

Sources:

My College Guide-How Much Does College Really Cost?

USA Today College-10 reasons to live in a dorm for 4 years

 

Thriving at College-The Undergraduate’s Key to Success

Thriving at College book.jpgWritten by Professor Alex Chediak, Thriving at College encourages and instructs the Christian young adult who is going to college or is already an undergraduate student. This book focuses on how to fully embrace your college experience for the glory of God. The entire book hinges on a single belief, “College is a temporary season of academic preparation and growth so that you can serve God more effectively with the rest of your adult life,” (page 26).

Thriving at College consists of ten chapters divided into four main sections. The first section discusses the significance of college and the importance of owning your faith. The second section addresses relationships during college with your family, faculty, friends, and romantic interests. The third section discusses personal development and character building. The fourth section addresses academics and unique college opportunities (such as internships and missions trips). By addressing the main challenges and key parts of a student’s life, Chediak gives the college-bound young adult a valuable resource for not only surviving, but thriving during and after college.

Two Huge Pitfalls Addressed

There are two very unhealthy extremes in college: living to party or obsessing over grades. Chediak takes turns speaking to both the student who may be tempted to slack off, and also the student who is excessively stressed over their academics.

Chediak addresses the slacker in all of use when he explains that play is not supposed to be a diversion, but rather refreshment so we are better prepared for our work. Throughout the book, Chediak encourages the reader to take responsibility for their actions, learn to function without the constant help of parents, and prepare to be an independent adult after college. To quote the book, “You have the God-given faculty of initiative and the responsibility to make things happen.” (page xxxvi)

As someone who constantly worries over grades, some of Chediak’s advice specifically spoke to me. One of my favorite statements was, “When you spend more time worrying about grades than working on your courses, grades have become too important.” (page 179) Chediak comforts and encourages the worrier, but also gently commends the slacker to not waste their college opportunities.

This Book Covers It All

Besides discussing the balance between play and work, Chediak reveals much valuable information about how to work with professors, from the perspective of a professor. He talks about how students should best interact with their professors, how they can actually befriend their professors without appearing to be a teacher’s pet, and some things that really drive professors crazy. He also addresses how to avoid taking classes with bad professors and how to best respond if you end up in a particularly boring class. After reading his sections about interacting with faculty, I feel well prepared to develop relationships with my teachers.

Chediak dives into the nitty gritties of learning to be an adult and life in college. For example, he emphasizes the importance of implementing a sleep pattern and developing healthy eating habits. He also explains how to have a healthy, not obsessive, relationship with technology during college. He discusses how to handle school assignments, tests, and projects without becoming overwhelmed. Strategy is important!

Of course, you cannot write a book about college without addressing dating and romance. If I were to sum up Chediak’s advice about romantic relationships during college, it would be: Do not become so obsessed with one individual that you miss out on other friendships and opportunities at college. He even recommended not becoming romantically involved during freshman year so you have time to adjust to college. Overall, this book offers solid, reasonable advice regarding romantic relationships.

Chediak gracefully covers a lot of material in a fun, easy to understand way. If you have questions about college, the answers are in this book!

Strengths of the Book

Chediak uses his personal experience to give the reader an accurate view of reality in college. For instance, he offers a sample schedule of what a week could look like for a full time college student. This schedule gave me an accurate view of how much time I will have to dedicate to studying in college.

Chediak’s writing style is easy to ready and enjoyable. The book regularly includes stories from Chediak’s experiences as a student and professor, answers to questions from college students, and fascinating factoids about the state of our society in regards to college and young adults. The print is large and the chapters are engaging. The book is 327 pages long. Over all, this is a relaxing, but engaging, book to read.

Chediak’s thoroughness is remarkable. He utilizes ample research, statistics, and stories to back up his points and themes. He is well informed and has personal experience, thus making him a fantastic candidate to discuss college.

Overall, the purpose of this book is to encourage, train, and exhort young Christian adults who are going to college or who are in college. Chediak constantly encourages the reader to fully develop their own personal relationship with God. “College is about finding your place in God’s world-not fitting God into your plans, but finding your place in his-so that you can be a blessing to others.” (page xvii) I would highly recommend this enjoyable, entertaining, enlightening book for high school seniors and college students.

 

A Week Without Wi-Fi – Days 7 & 8

Little Colorado River

Go here to read the introduction to this series.

Day 7 – Chatting with Meredith 9/8/17

Today was a slow, lazy day. We devoured brunch and then drove to the Little Colorado River, where we relaxed for about three hours. I walked Bella, our Doberman, down the middle of the river. She was not happy and kept lunging for the banks. It was pretty entertaining; I was cracking up. Poor doggy!

Later when we returned to camp, I chatted with Meredith, my younger sister, a little bit. I usually have technological distractions when I am with my sisters. I realized how good it felt to just chat distraction-free. I should really do it more often.

Day 8 – Rethinking Technology Use 9/9/17

Tomorrow we are driving home, and I am rethinking my normal technology use. It has been excellent having a week free from internet and Wi-Fi, and I want to apply that lifestyle at home. There are three habits in particular that I want to focus on:

  • I want to be more targeted with my tech use. While camping, I have still had access to downloaded music and sermons. However, when I use technology up here, I only listen to one thing at a time without doing anything else. At home I often web surf, check the same website way too many times in one day, or listen to clean-but not uplifting-music. And I often do all these things simultaneously. At home, I have two and a half hours where the internet on my computer is open to social media. I should cut the nightly two hours to just one hour so my evenings are more productive.

 

  • I want to spend more of my free time reading. If you choose your books carefully, you will always be able to gain insight from reading. I have so many books I want to read, and I need to dedicate more of my free time to accomplishing my reading goals. On this trip, I have read about 237 pages total because I have been focused.

 

  • I want to spend more time with God. Without internet, I almost always spend more time with God. I have read my Bible every day this trip, which does not always happen at home.

All in all, I think it is possible to execute a technology-minimal life with self-discipline and written guidelines. Our minds do not function well when they are constantly bombarded by technological distractions. This camping trip has made me realize the importance of minimizing unnecessary technology usage.  After all, there is a full, amazing, breathtaking life to be lived outside of internet and technology!

Photo credit: birderfrommaricopa.com

 

 

A Week Without Wi-Fi – Days 5 & 6

butterfly-2355361_1920

Go here to read the introduction to this series.

Day 5 – Going back 9/6/17

Today, I have found myself pining after the technology I left at home – particularly all the music I access through Wi-Fi. Reading has seemed rather tedious. Perhaps I am missing my access to mindless, social media entertainment.

My desire to return to technology forces me to ask some difficult questions, primarily: why would I want to go back? I know that my obsession with technology is wrong; we should only be obsessed with Jesus. While reading can be hard, I know it is inherently beneficial. My logic tells me I am in the right place, but my emotions want to take me back to the wonderful world of Wi-Fi. I guess reading rather than using Wi-Fi is kind of like eating vegetables: we resist eating them, even though they are essential to good health. Mindless entertainment sources, such as social media, are like candy: moderation is a must, even though the natural inclination is to binge. So while I want to go back, I know I should practice self-discipline and press on.

Besides, there is so much to enjoy here in the woods. I spotted a butterfly with a stunning orange and yellow mosaic pattern on its wings. We hiked Benny Creek which was gorgeous-as always. These familiar places bring back so many wonderful memories from past camping trips.

Day 6 – Still, peaceful mind 9/7/17

I have heard people say that they are able to think clearly when they are enjoying nature. Sometimes I feel the exact opposite is true for me. I have noticed that my mind is often more chaotic, even fearful, when I am out in the quiet outdoors. Perhaps the external quietness magnifies my internal anxieties. Normally, I live in a somewhat chaotic state, surrounded by constant distractions (most of which are Wi-Fi related). But in the woods, I am distraction free and left to confront my cluttered mind.

This trend seems fairly consistent. As we were hiking Butler trail today, I remembered how the last time we hiked this very same trail, I spent the whole time trying to meditate on scriptures. I tried to do this today as well, but I had many distracting, random thoughts fluttering through my mind. Sometimes my imagination is my own worst enemy. Even though being without Wi-Fi seems to reveal more chaos, I would rather face the problem than simply cover it up with increased distractions and chaos. Peace and quiet are often the best reminders to face the anxiety and fear we harbor inside.