Every Day

Being with and talking to people is one of my favorite things to do. I am in my element and at my happiest when I get to engage others. Not only that, but talking with people is one of the ways I process my thoughts and feelings. It is not unusual for me to walk away from a conversation with a better understanding of my own mind. Often God works through my conversations by speaking encouragement or conviction through people.

In the last 3.5 months I’ve had many of those energizing, perspective-shifting conversations. I am genuinely amazed at the number of people God chose to invest into my life and how much their investment made an impact on me.

A friend encouraged me to change how I approached life by focusing on the strength of the Holy Spirit and to remember that every day is an opportunity to become more like Christ.

Two of my mentors challenged me to accept my identity in Christ, and to trust that He is using me as long as I choose to trust him.

A cousin forced me to confront fears and worries that were causing me to doubt God’s ability to use me.

A couple encouraged me to have an open heart about going wherever it might be that God calls me, be it here in San Diego, or somewhere else in the world.

My coach reminded me to pursue my vision of encouraging and inspiring others to dig deep into their personal relationships with God.

Multiple couples advised me to continually and purposefully invest time into being in the Word of God, hiding it away in my heart.

After each of those conversations I tried for hours (literally) to write about it, to share what it was that God had done in my heart through those people. Every writing session ended with me frustrated and hitting “delete” a billion times. I didn’t get it.

Well, now I do.

Two weeks ago my parents and a friend convinced me to apply for a two month Marketing Content internship with my school. I was excited to give it a shot, but honestly, I did not expect anything to come from it, but I had an interview. Then I had a second interview. Tuesday afternoon, they offered me the position. I’ll be temporarily moving to Texas in a little over one week.

3.5 months ago I would not have been emotionally or spiritually ready to move out of state to write and study full time. Today I am ready, because God used the people in my life to reveal things about both Him and me that I needed to see, to understand, to act upon.

This opportunity showed me that while those seemingly random conversations with random friends and family did not have an obvious pattern, they did build on one another and served an even greater purpose of preparing me for the next step. The reason I couldn’t write about each of those individual conversations was because the story wasn’t ready to be told yet.

The really cool thing is that I only just realized this in the last two days. Imagine how this will all piece together when I get back to San Diego in November, or in two years from now when I have walked farther and grown more!?

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded. Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 

1 Peter 1:13-16

He has given us an adventure that we get to live…every day.

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.

Not About Me

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Within 5 minutes of waking up this morning I was crying under the weight of my stress load. Not a good beginning to a Monday, right? Trying to get my mind into working gear I straightened up my room a bit and made myself a cup of tea before settling down to spend some time with God in prayer. I almost didn’t do it. I looked at my history book and back at my Bible and back to my history book, no, God needed to come first. So, with a not so fantastic attitude I began reading and then praying. As I continued into my time I found that I could not focus, speeches, history tests and basketball crowded out my thoughts of talking with God. Frustrated I bent my forehead down onto my desk and just sat there. I took a deep breath and told God that I needed to let go of every thing in order to wholly focus on him. I listed every thing that was stressing me out and I asked him to just take them, and show me how to handle everything. Then, in the silence, I heard “it is not about you, Emily, it is about Me.” I thought about it for awhile and then I saw that in my stress and worry, I was focused on what I was doing and what I needed to accomplish, not the fact that I am living the life God has called me to and He, in his timing and in his own way will bring about his purpose in and through me. Again, basic, but difficult.

I cannot say that I did not mess up for the rest of the day, I still worried, but the Holy Spirit quickly convicted me…and did not leave me alone until I listened. Do not get me wrong, I am still pretty worn out by all of my work and activities. But now, I have a better perspective on how God wants me to handle all of the things I am trying to juggle.