Proven True

The other night my family sat down to spend some time in Scripture and pray. It was my brother Eddie’s turn to lead our time together, and he took us to Daniel chapter 2.

We all know the drill—the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, has a bad dream, his counselors cannot interpret it, so he calls in the prophet Daniel who is gives the interpretation of the dream by God’s revelation.

Instead of reading Daniel chapter 2, Eddie summarized it and then pointed out that almost the exact same thing happens in Daniel Chapter 4. King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream, calls in his counselors and wise men to tell him what it means (they can’t…again) so he asks for Daniel who then interprets the dream for the King.

What Eddie wisely observed in these chapters is not how Daniel handled the situations, but rather how King Nebuchadnezzar didn’t. 

In both circumstances Nebuchadnezzar chose to go to his counselors and “wise” men to tell him the meaning of his dream. He sought answers from those who were incapable of providing him with truth. He went to the world, and the world failed him. Twice. Then Nebuchadnezzar went to Daniel, a prophet of God, who was capable of providing truth. And Daniel had the answers…twice. 

Nebuchadnezzar did not learn his lesson, and neither did his son Belshazzar who does the exact same thing in Daniel chapter 5. The reality is that those of us who are Believers—who know the Gospel of Jesus and have seen and heard the testimony of His ministry—haven’t truly learned our lesson either. As my brother asked on Tuesday evening, “How often do we go to the world for answers to our life questions rather than going straight to God’s Word?”

The world, just as Nebuchadnezzar’s counselors were, is completely incapable of giving us the answers we need in order to live life well. Yet even as those who testify to the living, breathing Truth of Jesus Christ are often tempted to find answers outside of Him.

Our lives are dedicated to Jesus, so our life-questions must be directed to Him and Him alone.

“Every word of God proves true;he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” ~ Prov. 30:5

Comfort ≠ Quality

I am currently sitting on my bedroom floor (which is in desperate need of a vacuum) leaning against my sister’s bed in a rather uncomfortable position. I usually end up here, with my back against a metal bed frame, after I have failed to write anything even remotely close to intelligent while sitting comfortably. 

This is the place of last resort—where I sit after I have tried to write on every topic I can possibly think of. So, I have no option but to work in such a way that is physically tiresome, force myself to write something “good” and not move until I have finished. The odd thing is that this is the place that I have written some of my best blog posts (yeah, no, this is definitely not one of them)! 

The moral of the story: comfort does not equal quality. 

You should really read Donald Miller’s post. He inspired me to be uncomfortable when I write. 😉 

All Good Things

I hate endings but I like beginnings. Do you see the dilemma that I have with New Year’s celebrations?

Writing the date 2014 instead of 2013 somehow feels like a betrayal to everything that I experienced in the last 12 months. In some ways I just want to hold on to those 365 days—both the beautiful memories and tears—because during those days I grew. I don’t want to leave 2013 behind. Evidently I have no choice in the matter: it is January 1, 2014.

Somehow, in my odd little mind, I have tricked myself into thinking that looking towards the future and beginning something new means denying and trampling upon the past—it doesn’t—it means building upon it. It is possible for me to reflect on 2013, remember, and still live onwards.

So, moving forward…

Image 1My dear friend gave me a glass jar and a note for Christmas. I have dubbed this gift my “All Good Things” jar.  As you can read in her note, every day of 2014 I am going to write one good thing that happened to me and drop it into the jar. On December 31st I will open up the jar and read all 365 of the little good things that happened to me.

Eventually 2014 will end too, though, and then I will have to begin a 2015 jar. Never take your life, and all that it holds, for granted. Focus on the blessings in your life, find the good, and know that He loves you.

Joy in Pain

Pain doesn’t take a break during the holidays. In fact, for a lot of people, the holidays are some of the most painful and difficult times of the year. It doesn’t seem right that in the midst of Christmas, a time when we celebrate the original coming of our Savior, people are hurting. The circumstances and the celebration don’t seem to match up, or do they?

During Christmas time we focus a lot on the joyous and awe-inducing parts of Jesus’ birth—the pregnant virgin, the star with a mind of its own, singing angels, believing shepherds, and the traveling wise men. In every Christmas carol there are lines about the peace and joy that Christ’s birth brought to Earth.

But we also need to take the time to think about what that manger/stable scene was really like—smelly, dirty, uncomfortable, and cold. Not to mention the fact that the only midwife/doctor available was a young, newly married carpenter. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus’ situation was hardly ideal. It involved a lot of stress, pain and discomfort.

Maybe I am just strange or a tad morbid, but Jesus’ rough start in life is actually a source of comfort and relief to me. Life, even in the midst of the joy and wonder at the Savior’s birth, wasn’t easy. Jesus identifies with us in our weakness. He walked through pain and experienced hardship. He knows and understands our circumstances.

The birth of Jesus Christ—the life that He brought into this world—gives us cause to have joy in the midst of our pain.

“Allow the truth of God’s Word to meet you in your sorrow. Remind yourself of the joy found in an absolute perfect and everlasting life in Christ.”  – Pastor Brad Greiner

 

English Major

The question I was asked most during my senior year of high school was, “what college are you going to?” I got good at answering that question (along with the why and how), right around the time I went and graduated.

Well, now people are curious about what my major is. I’ve got the answer to this one down—English. HAHA! *fist pump* But then they hit me with the follow up, “what are you planing on doing with that?” 

Aaaaaaaaaah!!! I don’t know!!! Leave me alone!!!!

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An English major has stereotypically become the description for the kid who says “I don’t know what I English-majorwant to do with my life, but I like to read and write (and I hate math), so what the heck! I’ll major in English!” For some English Majors this is not true at all, but in the spirit of full disclosure I will be honest and say that this is partially true for me.

When it came time for me to declare a major, I was completely distraught. Torn between Biblical Studies, Journalism, and English, I sat down with my dad just crying about what to do. In fact, I was so confused that I thought about ditching all four of those ideas and going with a BS in Business because it would be practical.

My dad, knowing me very well, promptly discounted that idea and gave me the best advice I could possibly ask for: “Pick the major that has the most number of classes that you will enjoy.” My stressed shoulders came down from my ears. It was so freeing. He gave me the permission that I wouldn’t give myself—to learn what I wanted to learn.

A few days later I walked into my dad’s office, gleefully smacked a degree fact sheet on his desk and declared myself an English major. He started laughing hysterically. I asked “What?!” Between laughs he said, “Oh, it’s just that that is the worst major you could choose for getting a job right now.” Before I could start crying again, he stood up and gave me a big hug, “But it’s what I want you to do. I don’t want you to be stuck doing something you hate. This is good.” 

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English-Major-2My dream job is to eventually be a wife and a homeschooling mother who writes on the side. The first two parts of that career (wife and mother) are not things that I can really plan for; however, I can make plans for writing…hence the English major.  

While God is the only one who knows what my vocation will be, I have hopes to expand this blog, write books, freelance, as well as teach and tutor in writing. It is around these hopes that I am choosing my classes, my reading, and my mentorships.

Currently, I am beginning the process of writing my first children’s book. This story, inspired by real life events and relationships, has been in the back of my mind for the last 6 years and I believe that now is the time to start working on it. My ultimate goal is to have this book ready for publication by the end of 2014. So all I have to do is write the book, get an artist to illustrate the book, and a publisher to publish the book. Easy, right?

While this project might not seem typical of an English student, it is something that I am passionate about. More importantly, the story that I am writing is fulfilling a greater vision that I have of encouraging and inspiring others to draw closer to the Lord.

I guess we’ll see what happens!

 “I’m just going to write because I cannot help it.” ~ Charlotte Brontë

Afraid to Fail

Last week my professor challenged me to write both a vision statement (where I want to go) and a mission statement (how I am going to get there) for the next 2 years of college. The foundation for these two statements was the list of strengths, motivations, and spiritual gifts that I have been finding in myself over the last few weeks of the course.

Where no plan is laid, where the disposal of time is surrendered merely to the chance of incidence, chaos will soon reign. – Victor Hugo

Creating those two statements was not too difficult for me. I know some things I want to do, so the planning and dreaming is fun! For some reason, though, my next assignment has me terrified. This week I am supposed to write two goals— one long-term and one short-term—based on that mission statement. I have to actually back up my plan with action. 

I have never thought of myself as being afraid of failure. How could I? I have failed so many times I thought that I might be immune to the fear of it. But here I am—fearful that my dreams and ideas won’t work the way I want them to.

These dreams of mine are not secret or radical. In fact, a few of you have probably even heard me talking about them. But that’s all it was: talk.  Behind the scenes, for almost the entirety of 2013, my best friend was trying to get me to actually go start something [*hint* write something].

I always had an excuse—an obstacle that I created for myself to postpone action. I knew that starting something would require me to put time, energy, and creative effort into something that might flop.

Yeah, no more excuses.

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 Want some more background? I suggest reading my last post, College Decisions, here.

And yes, my post on being an English major is coming within the week.

College Decisions

I was homeschooled from my first day of Kindergarten at age 5 to my high school graduation at age 17.5. That is thirteen years of getting really good at answering the,“so where do you go to school,” question—I know how unconventional answers about education can throw the conversation.

collegeboundI was under the impression that no conversation about education could be more awkward than telling people that I was homeschooled. Then, in my senior year of high school, I chose to take dual credit classes and begin testing out of some courses to get ahead with college; all the while intending to transfer those credits to a school and finish my bachelor’s degree online. I was so wrong. Answering questions about distance learning and online school is much more awkward than homeschooling questions. Much.

This post/article (or whatever you’d like to call it) is for the purpose of informing anyone who would like to know some of the reasons why I chose to seek my Bachelor’s degree through a long distance/online program.

1. Financial Stewardship 

imagesBorrowing money that you can’t pay back is generally not a good idea. You would think that would be fairly obvious. I mean, it’s kind of common sense, right?

Well, according to the College Board, the average public four-year in-state college is charging (for the 2013-14 school year) on average about $8,646 a year for tuition plus $9,171 for room and board for a total of $17,817.

$71,268 for 4 years + food and transportation

The average public four-year out-of-state college is charging about $21,533 a year for tuition and $9,171 for room and board for a total of $30,704 a year.

$122,816 for 4 years + food and transportation

The average private nonprofit four-year university is charging about $30,094 a year for tuition and $10,823 for room and board for a total of $40,917 a year.

$163,668 for 4 years + food and transportation

Those are only averages. Plus, once you tack on those food, transportation and textbook expenses….the cost goes up by a few thousand.

Anyone who knows my family even remotely well understands that my parents are not wealthy. They never have been and I doubt that they ever will be. I mean, my dad’s hope is to go into full time ministry someday; pastors are not exactly known for having money. Long story short, my parents could not afford to send me to a 4-year university unless they went into a serious amount of debt to do so. There was absolutely no way that I was going to ask them to do that for me.

Well, I wasn’t interested in tying myself down with a bunch of debt either, and I didn’t want to go to the community college, so I started looking at other options.

That’s when I found CollegePlus! CollegePlus is a Christians business that services college students who choose to go the distance learning/online education route. For the last year my parents and I have paid a CollegePlus “coach” (basically an academic advisor/mentor) to help guide me through the process of getting my college education by helping me form a degree plan, signing me up for classes, giving me assignments, communicating with the online school I want to transfer to (Thomas Edison State College) etc.

By choosing CollegePlus I will complete my bachelor’s degree within a period of about 3 years for less than $17,000 dollars. That sum includes a coaching fee, tuition, and books. I will be getting my BS for less than the 1-year tuition kids are paying at a public university. And yes, it is a legit degree (more on that later).

$17,000 is doable. Thanks to a flexible schedule, I am able to work part time in order to help cover my school, living expenses and transportation costs, as well as help around the house so as not to be a burden to my parents.

 2. Making Good Use of the Time:

 “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”  Ephesians 5:15-17

God has called me to be a good steward with the time I have on this Earth. I want to be as effective as I can possibly be for furthering His kingdom, and I don’t want to waste any time. Part of the reason I chose to go through CollegePlus is that I will graduate 2 years earlier than if I had gone the traditional four-year route.640px-Antique_mechanical_clock

I graduated from high school 4 months ago and am now about to complete my Sophomore year in college. It’s not that I am any special kind of brilliant; I am simply taking the advantage of an education that allows me to condense my studying into a shorter period of time. As a result, I am accelerating my entrance into the world beyond college.

In addition, I did not want to put my life on hold while I earned my bachelor’s degree. Because of the flexibility that an online education offers, I am able to work part time, stay involved in ministry at church, (hopefully) coach basketball, write, read, and have a social life. I have the ability to simply run with whatever God-given opportunity comes my way without putting my education on hold.

Now, all of those things said I’d like to highlight a few portions of that verse in Ephesians, Paul says to “walk not as unwise but as wise” and “to understand what the will of the Lord is.” I prayed a lot about my college decisions. I am confident in my understanding of what the Lord has called me to do—this is it. I am not in any way saying that everyone should do it this way. Not at all. In fact, based on certain career pursuits, interests and personalities I would actually discourage people from going the CollegePlus route. So please do not take my statements out of context.

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mythsBefore I wrap up this [very long] post, I’d like to debunk a few unspoken misconceptions that some might have about my college education.

1. That my parents made me do it—Hardly! I heard about CollegePlus through a friend of mine and started to ask questions, do my research and go to seminars. It took some time for my parents to get on board with the idea. But the more that they looked into the program, the more they loved it.

2. This is simply an extension of homeschooling

You have no idea how much this one bugs me. How I am doing school (living arrangements, classes etc.) is no different than the kids who live at home and go to the local university.

3. I am getting a paper mill degree.

I challenge you to watch this video about a young man who earned his bachelor’s degree in law at the age of 17 (through CollegePlus), received a scholarship for a prominent law school and took the bar exam at age 21 and is now a practicing attorney.

You could also watch this video explaining a bit more of how CollegePlus works and why it has jump-started students for success. Sometimes testimonies are a little more powerful than statistics.

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So there you go! That is the short (ish) version of why I chose to earn my bachelor’s degree through the CollegePlus program. I am enjoying school, I am looking forward to my future classes, I am grateful for the spiritual mentor I have found in my CollegePlus coach and I am excited to see where the Lord is going to take me with my education.

 Feel free to ask me any questions! Oh! And I will be doing a follow up post on why I chose English as my major and how I am planning on using it.