Thursday, November 13, 2014

Anticipation Turned Fear

For the past year, I have repeatedly said that I cannot wait to leave high school.  And that's true - I am eagerly awaiting college.  It has been on my mind for a while now, and it's something I've looked forward to with nothing but eager anticipation.

Until now.

Because, yesterday, I realized that I was actually terrified about it.

Let me explain.  For the past several months, my life has been college applications.  I've been so worried about writing essays and getting letters of recommendations, that my focus has been placed on getting into college, and getting money for college.

Not about what I'm actually going to do when I'm at college.

This doesn't have to do with academics.  I'm fairly confident in my choice of a Chemistry/Pre-Med major.  Who knows, it could change, but for now, I'm content.  No, this centers around picking which college, and then what I'm going to do there.

I've always been able to make fairly wise decisions.  That's not the problem.  The real problem is that I dread making those decisions.  I get so worked up and stressed out about them, because they are big things that will affect the rest of my life.  Kind of terrifying, when you think about it that way.  (Also, I'm kind of a worrier.  It's not a good thing, and it's something I've tried to get out of.  I'm better than I used to be.  But I still worry.)

Now that applications are done, the focus is now off getting into college.  I've done all that I can do.  Now, it comes down to my choice.  And this is something that worries me lately.  Yes, I am continuing to have faith that God will make it all work out - but also, part of it comes down to my personal choice in the matter.

The other part of my worry comes from the fact that, well, I'm leaving.  I will be leaving Fort Mill, where I have lived all my life, and entering a new city.  I will be leaving my family, and although I've always been independent, it's a little scary.

These fears haven't hit me before now, because I've been focusing on the excitement of the matter.  But now, as the excitement dies down while I wait for a little while, I am also afraid.

But back to Isaiah: "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (41:10)

I may not have it all figured out yet.  But He certainly has a wonderful plan in store for me.  Whatever happens, I will continue to take faith in that.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Have Faith and Wait

I submitted the rest of my college applications last night, leading to a grand total of nine different schools.  Yes, it's a lot, but I wanted to make sure I covered all my bases.  I'm pretty sure I did.

Duke.  Vanderbilt.  Furman.  University of Richmond.  Wake Forest.  Wofford.  Clemson.  Virginia Tech.  Liberty.  Two Ivy League schools, four private (sub-ivys), two state schools, and one Christian college.  It's a ton, but I'm glad all of my applications are in.

Crazy thing is, I'm pretty sure that I could be happy at most of these places.  I have some idea where I want to go, but there's still so much up in the air.  I won't get admissions letters for another four months.  I won't find out whether or not I received scholarships or financial aid until the spring.  And, of course, that's a major consideration.

Thus, I have several months of waiting until I can make any decisions.  For me, that's very difficult.

Those who know me well know that I have never been a particularly patient person.  When needed, I can wait, sure.  But for big things like college, which are always on my mind?  It's incredibly hard for me to wait.  And I have to, for several months.

This isn't the only thing I've been called to wait on lately.  Several other examples come to mind.  Some are harder to wait for than others, but they are all things I will gladly wait for.

Honestly, I believe that God grows us the most through periods of waiting.  Because, most of the time, when we have to wait, we don't know what we're doing.  We have no plans, because we have to wait to make them.  We have little knowledge of what's going to happen.  So, we must wait on God, and rely on Him to get us through the future.

Waiting forces us to have faith.  To trust Him.  And I consider it to be a privilege, that he's making me wait.  Because obviously, there's something he's trying to teach me in the process.  Again.  I don't know what that is yet.  But I look forward to finding out everything that he has in store for me.

"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:33-34 (these also happen to be two of my favorite verses)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Wanting More

Those who know me well know that I am very excited to leave for college next fall.  Sometimes, my constant craving of college life can get a bit obsessive.  I'm not content where I am now.  It's a daily struggle.

A lot of it stems from loneliness.  I have such a small social life this year.  My good friends are busy, or I'm busy with classes.  My boyfriend is four hours away.  It's a tough year, and I absolutely until I get to meet new people at college.

This weekend, though, I think it's come from jealousy.  One of my current top choices for college, Liberty University in Virginia, does this program called "College For A Weekend" where high school students can come and spend a weekend on campus and go to classes and school events and such.  It's actually this weekend, and originally, I was planning on going.  Then several things came up, and besides, I didn't even have a ride up there.  So I was unable to attend this weekend, and honestly, it's been getting to me.

This was also paired with the fact that I spent nearly six hours yesterday working on college application essays, which was exhausting.  I'm ready for all of this senior year stuff to be over.  I'm ready to leave, to start over, to have some new experiences.  I hear my boyfriend talk about the wonderful experiences he's having up at Liberty, and I get terribly jealous, instead of being content where I am right now.  That's wrong of me, and it's something I've been battling for a long time.

However, yesterday I was reminded of the parable in the Bible, where three servants were entrusted with small portions of their master's fortune, to test them, to see what they would do with it.  The ones who were faithful even with just the small amounts were rewarded, and given more responsibilities

This doesn't just apply to money.  This applies to everyday life.  Are we being faithful in the little things that God has entrusted us with?  If not, why would He give us bigger things?

For me personally, my senior year feels like one of those "little things".  I don't have as much responsibility as I'd like.  I don't have as many opportunities as I'd like.  I don't have as many people in my life as I would like.  My world feels terribly small, and I desire more.  However, if I am not faithful in what I have been given now, how would I be faithful with more?

If I am not bothering to spend time with the few people around me now, what makes me think that I will take the time to make friends at college?  If I am letting opportunities pass by me now, what makes me think that I will take advantage of the new opportunities available at to me at college?

College is not going to fix my life.  Simple as that.  It's not.  It will be a time of great growth for me, but that doesn't mean that growth has to wait to begin until I get there.  It begins now.  In the little things, so that when I am given those bigger things, I will be prepared.  Growth begins today.

And part of that also means that I need to live in today.  I need to enjoy each and every day God has given me, rather than have the mindset of "nine more months and I'll get to go away to college."  No.  I need to enjoy today.

I am making a commitment, today, to being faithful in the little things.  And I cannot wait to see what bigger things God has in store for me.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

His Strength

Isaiah is becoming a new favorite, namely, chapters 40-42.  Every time I read them, God shows me something new through those powerful sections.  Today was no different.

I realized this morning, when I reread those chapters, that I didn't completely comprehend who God was, despite saying that I know Him for so long. To clarify - I've been a Christian for most of my life.  I've gone to church my whole life.  I've always been close to Christianity - lately, however, it's becoming more of a personal thing, which is great.  It's what it's supposed to be.

It's also difficult, though.  Part of making faith your own is discovering who God is to you.  And this morning, I realized that I truly do not know.

Of course, it's impossible to have any real comprehension of who God is.  He is too great and powerful for human comprehension.  But I've lost sight of who he is to me.  I say He's powerful and great, but do I really mean that?

Sometimes actions speak louder than words, and when I spend my time worrying about homework or college or conflict with others, am I really trusting Him?  Is that really showing that I believe that He is bigger and stronger than all that?

Truth be told, worrying is just a sign that I'm not trusting God enough.  I make excuses for it a lot: "I'm trying to worry, it's just how I am!" or "My life is crazy and stressful, I can't help being worried!"  That's also wrong.  What I have is a lack of trust.  And how can that trust be found?

I honestly think that by seeking God, by trying to discover who He is, and how great His strength is, I will be able to more willingly place my trust in Him.  If I truly believe that He is all-powerful, why would I not trust Him?  If He is greater than my problems and greater than my fears, why should I worry?

I'm going to close today with some wonderful verses from Isaiah, that drive this point home.  I'm also dedicating this next week or so to memorizing them, because these are words that I need to have in my heart.

"Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  Has it not been told you from the beginning?  Have you not understood since the earth was founded?  He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, its people are like grasshoppers.  He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.  He brings princes to naught, and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.  No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwinds sweeps them away like chaff.  "To whom will you compare me?  Or who is my equal?" says the Holy One.  Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these?  He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing."

Isaiah 40:21-26

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Running - My Story of Discouragement, Perseverance, and Long-Awaited Success

I have run for nearly four years.

I've been a runner for one.

The difference between "just running" and "being a runner" is huge, actually.  And the main thing that separates the two is motivation.

I think last fall, my junior year, was when I began to take running a bit more seriously.  I was training for a half marathon with my mom, but I did a walk/run program.  Of course, it's hard enough to do a half marathon anyway, but I definitely didn't push myself to my full potential.  I wasn't bad, but I lacked some of the motivation that I've so recently discovered.

This fall, I signed up to run on a homeschool cross country team.  And it was the best choice I have ever made.

I've never considered myself to be athletic.  Like, at all.  I've played sports before, but I was never the greatest.  I wasn't usually a starter on my rec soccer team, but I wasn't horrible. I've run (ish) before, but I was never the greatest.  I averaged about 32-minute 5Ks before this season.

It's easy for me to say "well, at least I did something!  A lot of teenagers don't."  And, although that's true, it's also kind of a cop-out.  I realized that this summer, and I wanted to change that.

So I signed up for cross country, not really sure what I was getting myself into.  I could barely run two miles without stopping at my first practice (and I had run two-three days a week before work all summer to prepare).  I was discouraged.  Everyone on the team was better than me, it seemed.  I couldn't breathe when I tried to run faster.  I had so many moments of wanting to give up.

A month into the season, we ran our first race.  I finished at 29:59, and in all honesty, I was just thrilled to break 30 minutes - even though I had to stop and walk a few times.  It was a good race, and I was happy with how my season had begun.

Then came the discouragement.  And oh, how hard it came.

Practices went well enough.  I could complete the workouts without many problems - running, on average 3 miles, without stopping to walk.  One friend of mine often ran with me, and she pushed me.  It was going great.  I thought that I would be good to go on my next 5K.

I was wrong.  I faded out after 2 miles, and ended up on the ground throwing up.  I walked and ran the last mile, and ended up with a time of about 31:00.  I was highly discouraged.  I thought that I must be a failure, since I added time.

So I trained harder, and I thought I was ready for my next race.  See, my goal all along was to break 27 minutes.  My fastest 5K ever was on the road last spring.  I did walk/run it, but I did it in about 28 minutes.  So, my goal all season was to beat 27.  I was determined that this race would be it.  I was determined to push.

But the discouragement struck again.  I had to walk most of the race due to breathing problems, and finished in close to 32 minutes.  Added time again.  Felt like a failure again.  After that race, I actually debated quitting, right then and there.  It was so discouraging, and all I wanted to do after the race was cry.  I had fallen, and I did not want to get back up.

I did, however.  And that week, I actually went to the doctor and found out that I probably had exercised-induced asthma.  I got an inhaler, and began using it before every one of my runs.  It helped some, but I still had breathing problems.  I had to learn to control my breathing, which made it a lot more difficult.  But it was nice to finally have an explanation for my troubles.

I ran faster at my next race - about 27:30.  I couldn't beat 27, however.  I broke down close to mile 3, and ended up on the ground again, trying not to be sick.  Trying to breathe.  But I made it to the finish. (I consider that to be my greatest finish - my boyfriend drove four hours down from college to surprise me at the finish.  I hadn't seen him in six weeks, and it was an incredible surprise.  But that's another story, for another time.)

So okay.  I was finally taking off time.  Next race I could be sub-27, right?

Nope. Try 29.  I was discouraged, again.  I was crying at the finish, again.  And I wanted to give up, again.  At the end of that race, I was debating telling my coach that I wasn't going to race ever again, because it only ended in frustration.  But instead, I wiped away the tears and walked down to the finish to cheer my team on.  I ran the last .1 alongside every member of our team and cheered them on.  And although it was such an upsetting race, I consider it to be one of the best nights of my life.  I found joy in being an encourager.  (Again, that's a wonderful story, but for another time.)

I wanted to quit many times over the next few weeks.  Practices were hard.  My breathing was awful.  My knee started to hurt.  But I hung on, and trained hard.

And that's when things changed for the better.  Because at my next race, I ran my 5K in 25:56, and I did not walk a single step.  The course was very easy, yes, but I broke 26.  And I could not have been more thrilled.

Success didn't end there.  Today was my state meet.  That course was hard.  Very hard.  And the conditions certainly weren't ideal.  It was cold, and cold air is hard to breathe.  But I pushed.  Even though I ended up in tears for half of the second mile.  It was a hard, hard race.  I came under a lot of emotional, physical, and spiritual attack during that race.  But I pushed.  And I fought.  Because I no longer give up.


That was my last time of the season. 25:13.  I cannot express how happy I am.  More so, I am thankful to God for giving me such wonderful success.  I fought for it.  Not one step was easy.  I persevered, despite all those struggles, and I was rewarded.  I wanted to quit, day after day, but something kept me going.  And now I understand.

I don't love running solely because of the physical challenge.  It is an emotional battle for me.  It is me fighting a battle against myself, against my mind.

And I have finally won.