Tag Archives: Wheaton

Top Eight Lessons from the Past Four Years

When I started this crazy college journey, I wrote a post with my top ten lessons from the first two weeks. In it, I share, with the honesty of an eighteen-year-old, some of the things that I hadn’t realized would be so prevalent in my transition away from home and into autonomy. Some of them are particularly nuanced to my specific move into a Christian, higher education space, but some of them are universally applicable when it comes to general transitions. The fact that relationships take time, small talk is necessary, and it’s important to be real with people are things that feel and have felt important beyond my first couple weeks in a freshman dorm.

Some transitions are more daunting than others. Going away to college is a big one, especially as teenagers stand on the precipice of the “emerging adulthood” life stage. It is an incredible experience, in every sense of the word. Incredibly hard. Incredibly rewarding. Incredibly formative. Going away to a Christian college is a sort of experience in and of itself – full of its own trials, quirks, and blessings. You may not wake up to someone’s 3am hangover vomit in the elevator (a frequent experience for my sister at a secular school); it’s more likely that you’ll awkwardly pass an affectionately termed “lobby couple” breaking up or making out as you go back and forth to get your laundry. Or will find yourself most silenced when a guy throws a poor exegesis of 1 Timothy 2:12 in your face and says you probably shouldn’t go into ministry. Or when spirituality gets mixed with hormones and you don’t know how to proceed with a crush when you’re trying to simultaneously “step out in boldness” and “trust God’s timing”  (the sort of things I was thinking about when I wrote posts like 5 Truths I Learn when I have a Crush) – because let’s face it, there’s nothing sexier than when the intelligent guy in class, who also plays on your intramural sports team, happens to walk into the prayer chapel with his guitar. Those are the kinds of strange things you wrestle with when you transition into a Christian college.

I’m graduating from Wheaton college with my undergraduate degree in three weeks. Even though I have another year to finish my masters at the graduate school, I’ve come to acknowledge that Wheaton won’t look or feel the same next year. I’m entering into a period of transition, not just over the next few weeks but into the upcoming year. The past four years in this place have shaped and formed me in more ways that I can express. If someone had asked me to picture my life in 2017, way back in the fall of 2013, it would not have looked like this, by any stretch of the imagination. There are places where the Lord has done above and beyond what I could have anticipated and places where I’m face to face with my own failure, disappointment, or unanswered prayers. That’s the tension of transition. With that, it felt fitting to bookend this time with more lessons that I’ve learned over the past four years in the special, broken, amazing, crazy place that is Wheaton College. . .

IMG_0659

IMG_0699

1. Remember that wherever you are maintains a level of imperfection, full of imperfect people and imperfect circumstances.

I came into school with a level of expectation – most of which I hadn’t realized. Some of it came out of season of boldness in prayer, believing the Lord and expecting certain things of Him. Some of it is just the nature of entering into a new space. We hold dreams, desires, and visions of what a place will be, of who the people we’re in relationship with will be. The hopes are important in driving us to particular things and in giving us a sense of expectation for the Lord’s movement. The problem becomes when we weigh everything against our sense of expectation, when we’re unable to cope when things fail us. Because they inevitably will. There will be rejection, hurt, and things that we thought would or would not happen that did (or didn’t). We need to learn to acknowledge unmet expectation and grieve the loss of our dreams in a way that doesn’t hold those things as offenses against God or others.

2. Don’t forget to give yourself grace; failure isn’t a bad thing because it leads to humility.

With that, it’s also important to remember that you’ll face a level of personal failure. I don’t know that there’s been anything more formative in my pursuit of humility than the ways I’ve failed at Wheaton. There were relationships that I royally screwed up, classes that were a weekly struggle to get through (shoutout to calculus), times where I was wholly dependent on others, opportunities where the door was slammed in my face (which happened as recently as this morning), places that I dropped the ball, hurt others, and altogether missed the mark. In a world where it often feels like I’m balancing spinning plates, I’ve broken my fair share and often had to watch as they crashed to the floor. It’s easy to question your worth, the Lord’s desire to use you, and your general sense of competency. It’s easy to compare and to feel behind. These are the places that either become debilitating moments of paralyzing inadequacy or springboards for humility. Because when we ask the Lord to make us more humble, for “His power to be made perfect in our weakness,” that means we have to step into those places of weakness. Where we can’t do it, where we face rejection, inability, and inadequacy. In these places, we have to choose whether to make it about us or dwell in the grace He lavishes on us and rest in the trustworthiness of His glory.

3. Lean into the discomfort of identity (re)formation.

Not knowing who you are, where you’re going, or what you have to offer is a terrible feeling. When you’re stripped of all confidence and the things that used to make you “you,” it’s easy to feel like all the lights have been turned off. It can feel like you’re groping around in the dark for what once felt secure regarding your sense of identity. In my experience, transition seems to catapult this experience faster than most other things; once minute, you feel confident, comfortable, secure, and rooted, and the next you’ve been put in the middle of something unfamiliar and unstable. Who you are feels different because the setting is different; more than that, who you’ll be at the end of an experience will be different too, if you allow yourself to engage in the often uncomfortable process of growth. It’s important to establish a sense of core identity – who you are at the foundation of your being. The sort of things that are true even when you look back on home videos from your childhood; the pieces of your heart, personality, and strengths that go with you in every situation and relationship. And then with the rest of it? Be okay watching it shift and change in often uncomfortable ways. It’s like when a kid gets braces put on – it’s the gradual and often painful mechanism that is shifting the position of the teeth. We have the constant potential to change and shift, even more so when we put ourselves in new situations and relationships, putting on a new pair of metaphorical braces, and allowing it all to change us.

4. Don’t be afraid to let your worldview, ideologies, and opinions change.

If there’s one thing that’s changed in the past four years it is my views on things. I think that’s how it should be when you are encountering new people, settings, and experiences that should put your previous opinions in disequilibrium. My view on things surrounding sexuality, LGBTQ+, and gender have changed as I became friends with new people, wrestled with people through their questions, and engaged in Biblical exegesis from a different lens. I have different opinions on how we should respond to the refugee crisis and immigration because of my work with a resettlement agency and interactions with Muslims and our local Islamic center. I don’t read the Bible the same way I did four years ago. My thoughts about abortion, alcohol, and “calling” are more nuanced and complex than they were in 2013. I don’t view ministry, economics, or people who live in suburbia the same way. My views on feminism, gender roles, race, cultural appropriation, and the history of the church is different than it was back when I graduated highschool. For as many questions as the past four years have answers, they’ve caused me to ask a million more. There’s a humility involved in acknowledging that you may have it wrong. But that’s the tension we’re called to walk – holding positions with conviction and being able to argue for them with sound reasoning, good Biblical exegesis, and deep roots of wisdom, but also, holding them loosely. That’s not to say that we’re relativists or don’t stand on truth – it means that we know what is absolutely core and we’re able to dialogue with humility, civility and open-mindedness about everything else. There are things that four years ago that I would have stood by as unshakeable truth but I’m so glad there was a level at which I was willing (or, if not willing, able) to engage with an open mind. New perspectives, experiences, and relationships have shaped me and my worldview for the better and into a more holistic (albeit still flawed) picture of the Kingdom of God.

5. Comparison really is the thief of joy (and comparison gets a lot easier when you’re around a bunch of really talented, beautiful, spiritual people who have things that you want).

People gave me advice before I came to Wheaton, cautioning me to be aware of the particular tendencies towards comparison at a Christian institution. Everyone was valedictorian of their graduating class, everyone has a heart for the marginalized, everyone runs marathons on the weekends. Everyone is the best, the smartest, the prettiest, the most athletic, and the most passionate. Everyone is also “the most spiritual.” When your identity formation becomes a measurement against the people around you, you’re wading into dangerous waters. The problem is this often happens subconsciously. Half of the time, you don’t even realize you’re waist deep in the waters of comparison because it’s so subtle – it’s the passing thoughts about someone else’s looks, the quick jab in your mind about their intelligent answer, or the eye roll when you find out so-and-so is in a relationship. Then when you find yourself drowning in questions of what makes you worth loving, special, and valuable, it’s harder to fight for truth because the lies have snuck their way into daily thought patterns. It’s hard to fight for joy when you’re feeling less than everyone else. Not as caring, pretty, intelligent, attentive, deep, or funny. . .which is probably why you don’t have the job, the boyfriend/girlfriend, bank account, relationship with God, or instagram-worthy life. Those are the kind of thoughts that take up heart space and kill confidence, joy, and any sort of real movement forward in what the Lord is doing in your life.

Also, if I’m being honest, a corollary to this would be that overthinking is often a nicer word used to justify comparison. Just saying.

6. Prioritize well.

Sort out what your priorities are before everything starts competing to be one. Writing out priorities at every level of life – overall life priorities, priorities in this season, priority of relationships – can be helpful in offering a continual litmus test for where your time, attention, and heart space is oriented towards. We talk about this all the time in teaching ESL: every course, unit, and individual lesson needs objectives and those objectives need to be measurable. Give yourself a list of goals, intentions, and priorities when you transition into something new. Vague priorities will be helpful in giving you a general sense of where the track is (i.e. saying that you’re prioritizing academics can mean any number of things but is clearly measurable if you’re failing classes). Specific priorities are helpful in giving you tangible markers and tasks that you’re committed to executing. Realistic goal setting. Personally, I’ve found it helpful to establish both. Asking myself what my objectives are, who do I want to be or have accomplished at the end of a season, gives me a better sense of specific things that I can prioritize, engage with, or pursue to achieve those specific ends. What are you doing, why are you doing it, and what are you ultimately oriented towards?

7. Loving well means being listening actively and attentively, asking hard questions, and caring without pretense.

I’ve spent four years in close, intense community. I’ve learned how to confront conflict, bring up minor grievances, and speak honestly about how I’m doing. As someone who used to tend towards passive aggressive confrontation, I’ve learned that loving doesn’t mean shying away from things that feel tense or difficult. Asking hard questions and not being afraid to challenge others, in ways that are humble and appropriate, is a profound way of expressing love. I’ve also learned that there’s nothing better than feeling known, especially when it’s in a context something like sitting around a table laughing uncontrollably. We’re called to care deeply for others and to engage in committed, intimate relationships where others feel known and loved. That doesn’t come from sweeping things under the rug or pretending that life is always rosy. Listening to others in a way that makes them feel heard doesn’t mean that you’re just a person with working ears; attentive listening means creating a space that allows people the time and safety involved in sharing what feels most helpful to them. It means valuing stories as the most precious thing we carry with us – things that are deeply personal and emotional. Knowing whether someone needs space to cry, verbally process, or just watch a movie in silence takes listening, discernment, and a selflessness that prefers someone else’s needs.

8. Caring for people doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t create emotional boundaries.

I used to think that caring for others meant that I needed to be fully emotionally available. That I could carry any and all problems that they would throw at me – feeling the full emotional weight of them in prayer, thought, and interactions. I assumed that having deeply empathetic sensitive meant that I was being called into emotional and empathetic engagement with everyone, at all times. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was emotionally exhausted and oftentimes feeling things at a level that the person themselves might not even be feeling. I assumed this meant that I was loving well, doing real and hard ministry; so much of it was just that I had refused to set up emotional boundaries and rhythms of personal soul care. Carrying things for people is important and heavy and a part of engaging in deep relationships with others, but it doesn’t mean that people should be allowed to put everything on you. There’s a difference between being the person that someone could call at 2am if they need you and being the person that someone is calling at 2am every night. Setting boundaries, in terms of personal time, physical space, and emotional weight, ultimately helps you better care for others and lead them into caring for themselves.

For example, a year ago I had a conversation with a friend where I confessed to her that it was getting hard for me to hear her verbal processing about her dating relationship; there was this sense of anytime something happened, she’d text, call, or tell me. It was becoming a daily thing I was being asked to carry, in the midst of my own emotional prayers about singleness and submission of personal desires for marriage, companionship, and dreams of mutual ministry with a husband. I’d hesitated having the conversation, afraid she’d stop talking to me about her personal life altogether – it wasn’t that I didn’t want to hear about her life or her relationship, it was just the frequency and intensity was becoming too much and too one-sided. She needed to know where I was at. It proved to be one of the most mutually beneficial conversations. Not only did it give her the chance to love me well, it also convicted her in the level at which she was depending on me over the Lord. We’ve been able to carry each other’s emotional burdens better and in mutually healthy ways since then. Establishing emotional boundaries walks a fine line, but it’s worth wrestling with, since it’s impact on relationships pays dividends.

 

At the end of the day, all of life, including transitions, are about being near to the Lord and knowing Him. If I’m not learning how to love Him more, receive His love for me, and love others better, then what am I doing? As I face the impending transition into my future, I’m taking these lessons with me. I’m not who I was four years ago – praise the Lord. There’s been a lot of life lived within the 60187 zip code and I’m overwhelmingly grateful for my faithful, gracious Savior who has moved, loved, and sustained me in this place.

IMG_0660

IMG_0668

IMG_0679
pictures are from my first visit to Wheaton in July of 2013

So It Begins Again

It’s so good to see people in the dining hall. To bump into people between classes. To have familiar voices filling our apartment stairwell. To listen to my friend’s stories. To give big, lingering hugs to people I’ve come to know as family.

The boxes have been unpacked. The textbooks have been purchased. The dekes have been trained. I’m sitting in the library, avoiding a paper that’s due tomorrow, dwelling on the blessing of great conversation at lunch and pending dinner plans with a friend before night class. It’s raining, Audrey Assad is playing on my Pandora, and my heart is incredibly full. Junior year has officially begun.

20768429175_dc7a0667a6_o

20581682099_ab5d871647_o

It’s a strange place to be. Wheaton has officially become my home; the people here are my family. And yet, I feel like I’m watching this season of my life rapidly come to a close. I’m over halfway done with my undergraduate studies. And praise God I’m not who I was freshman year. . .but I also wonder how much closer I actually feel to the woman I desire to be.

At the start of my freshman year I wrote about the top ten lessons I learned in my first two weeks at Wheaton. Most of them had to do with adjusting to people and learning to give myself grace in the midst of surfacing insecurities. Freshman year was a little rough around the edges, y’all. Then, at the start of my sophomore year, I gave an update on the things Jesus was teaching me about how to see people like He does. I wrote about how I was doing, where words like overwhelmed, distracted, and grateful came to mind. Remember the line I wrote at the beginning of sophomore year: “I forget to dwell on truth and then I wonder why I’m going crazy” – yeah, we are still working on that. 

It’s amazing to look back on the frustrating small talk and growth of freshman year or the mental over-processing and deep friendships of sophomore year. And now I feel like I’m standing on the bow of a ship that’s just left the dock into the vast unknown that is Junior year. I see so much excitement and potential for this year. It’s already been some of the most blessed, life-giving weeks of my life. And while it is all so good, Junior year also terrifies me. It scares me because I have a tendency to overthink things and have always felt a little too uncomfortable with the unknown. It scares me because everything feels a little different. Most of the differences are amazing because I see so much growth in them. The year feels different because I feel different. More free. More whole. Closer to Jesus.

And yet, for all the beauty that Jesus has led me into over the past two years and even in the past two weeks, I can’t forget to give myself grace in other places that feel different. Relationships that feel different. Hopes and dreams that feel different. Desires that are different. Decisions that are different, and, let’s be real, so much bigger than they’ve ever been.

This year, I want to say yes to more things than I say no to, even if they put me outside my comfort zone. I want to say and do things in confidence, without overthinking all the possible outcomes. I want to love others without limits, while learning to balance my emotional investment with the need for emotional boundaries. I want my love for Jesus and people to be reflected in my actions; I want to do the things I think about. I want to live a life of whimsy, laughter, and joy from the Lord and I want junior year to be where I really begin to live that out.

I want this to be a year of seeking. Seeking more of Jesus. Seeking out His people. Seeking first His Kingdom. Seeking opportunities to love and serve others. Seeking His will. Seeking what is true, not what I want to be true. And in all of my seeking, to always find Him as my good Father, knowing that being loved by Him is the most important thing about me. And the most important thing about everyone else I get the privilege of loving.

It’s going to be a great year, filled with things I couldn’t even imagine or predict if I tried, and it’s all because He is a great God. His love for us is so incomprehensibly deep. His plans for us are so unimaginably greater and higher than anything we dream. And that’s the reality we step into every time a new year rolls around.

So here’s to Junior year, Wheaton College.

He is Good.

Come set Your rule and reign
In our hearts again
Increase in us we pray
Unveil why we’re made
Come set our hearts ablaze with hope
Like wildfire in our very souls
Holy Spirit come invade us now
We are Your Church
We need Your power
In us
//
We seek Your kingdom first
We hunger and we thirst
Refuse to waste our lives
For You’re our joy and prize
To see the captive hearts released
The hurt; the sick; the poor at peace
We lay down our lives for Heaven’s cause
We are Your church
We pray revive
This Earth
//
Build Your kingdom here
Let the darkness fear
Show Your mighty hand
Heal our streets and land
Set Your church on fire
Win this nation back
Change the atmosphere
Build Your kingdom here
We pray
//
Unleash Your kingdom’s power
Reaching the near and far
No force of hell can stop
Your beauty changing hearts
You made us for much more than this
Awake the kingdom seed in us
Fill us with the strength and love of Christ
We are Your church
We are the hope 
On Earth

//

Rend Collective, Build Your Kingdom Here

As I declared the truth of God through singing and communion with my student body and incoming freshmen last night. . .as friends posted videos of worship that continued on floors after All School . . .as I packed my backpack and set an alarm to workout before my first class. . .as I anticipate all that sophomore year will hold, I’m reminded of the profound and simple truth: He is good.

I’ve had this song stuck in my head all morning. If you don’t know it, I’d encourage you to look it up. It’s the kind of truth attached to a catchy tune that you want stuck in your head all day. I hope it encourages you, that whenever you are, whatever you are feeling, whatever you are doing, He is moving, He is speaking, He loves you, and He is good.

It’s in that truth and in that worship that darkness has no foothold. I heard at my church on Sunday that “worship is warfare.”

Let’s fight by just declaring who He is!

Have a lovely Monday.

The Second Time Around

It’s been a whirlwind two weeks, y’all. Packing, goodbyes, an 11 hour drive, several hours of moving in, more goodbyes, hellos, HoneyRock camp leadership camp, diakonoi training week, more hellos, making new best friends. It’s been a lot different than the first time around; I was so overwhelmed the first time I left for Wheaton. I may be overwhelmed now, but it looks a lot different. And I’m as humbled and grateful and filled with love as I was a year ago. Actually, more so.

I’d love to write about what the Lord’s been teaching me and all I’ve been learning, but I feel like I’m barely forming coherent sentences, much less deep thoughts. But I’ve been so in awe of what He’s doing. Last year, I was blown away by Jesus’ faithfulness in carrying me through difficult circumstances and transitions. Now, I’m sitting in overwhelming gratitude for the ways that He’s poured out such undeserved blessing and grace upon this year. I see how He was moving so powerfully in what was a strange and difficult summer of processing. I see the banner that He’s covered this year with. How He has redeemed my relationships back home and solidified relationships here.

I don’t know that I’ve ever laughed this much in my life. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all Facebook-photo fun. There are some tensions with people. Everyone has their struggles, and baggage, and quirks. But the work of GRACE that Jesus did in my heart this summer has been something of life-preserver as I navigate new waters of deep, intentional community (#wheatonbuzzword). I don’t deserve any of this; I didn’t earn any of this. The only reason I am where I am is 100% of Jesus and His goodness in my life. If He doesn’t empower me with His Spirit, you don’t want to see what comes out. Pride, fear, insecurity, cynicism, judgment – sin. I’m totally dependent on His grace. And I may not be anywhere near where I should be in extending that same love to others, but praise God I’m not where I was at the beginning of the summer!

I’m learning how to see Jesus in other people.

I know that’s cliche – and we usually think back to the time when we saw Christ in the homeless people on the streets and their vibrancy with life and how we complain too much and such. But y’all. It’s the most true thing about everyone. They are created in the image of God. UNIQUELY created in the image of God. And that means I’m not just looking for others lives to preach the Gospel to me (which, it is such a gift when they do – and they do!). I’m looking at them, for their sake, for Jesus’ sake. This is how we encourage people. This is where true ministry comes from – not a place of striving or fixing or working, but of overflowing with Christ’s love. When we see a fraction of the depth of how much He loves us, how much unimaginable grace He has for us, the only response is to see His people that way. Through His eyes. In His image. And then we love them, we minister to them, we encourage them, we pray for them. And that’s community. That’s relationship.

And I’m not doing the hottest job with it. If I’m real honest, I’m so easily distracted. I shut down when I’m exhausted. I worry and let insecurity turn my eyes from the power of the Gospel. I focus on myself and what Jesus is saying to me, about me. I don’t always do the best job abiding in His love, or extending grace to others. I’m not saying this because I’ve somehow got it all figured out. Not in the least. I’m barely squeaking these sentences out. And I’m worried about posting something so random. And I haven’t actually spent time receiving from Jesus today. And it’s only 7:30am and I’m already tired. 

If the point of this for you was just to hear that I’m doing ok and that I’m back on campus – fantastic. Thank you for caring about me! But I pray that the Lord reveals a little more about Himself and what He’s doing in your life and the lives of those around you through this hodgepodge of recent, crazy thoughts and prayers. It’s all about Him. We need community. We need the Holy Spirit. We need laughter and joy. We need grace. We need LOVE – to know we are loved and to give it. And no one will love us and everyone else more than Jesus. So why not sit with Him and learn about love from Love Himself?

Don’t be afraid of the simple Gospel, y’all. I’ve been so humbled by my lack of understanding of these “basic” principles of love and grace that I thought I knew. I grew up watching VeggieTales, after all. But there is so much more.

“You visit the earth and cause it to overflow; you greatly enrich it. The stream of God is full of water. . settle. . .soften. . .bless. . .you have crowned the year with your bounty. . .they shout for joy, yes they sing.” Pieces of Psalm 65:9-13, NASB

I haven’t been doing a lot of heavy-duty Bible reading (though, I started to go through Nehemiah and Matthew yesterday), so Psalms have been a constant companion of mine. They give me words of praise and thanksgiving and prayer when I can’t seem (or am too tired) to find my own! I hope you find encouragement there today.

Have a lovely Wednesday!

IMG_4575 IMG_4591 IMG_4609