We can all agree this summer is going too fast. I’m trying to fully appreciate the long, warm days and all the time I don’t have to spend on homework. It’s been a beautiful season, and for the most part life has felt simple and joyful.
When I look at my relationship with God over the past month, it also feels simple and joyful. Rather than teaching me new, tough lessons, I feel that he’s been reminding me of foundational truths about himself. The main thing I’ve been learning is my dependence on the gospel: how all-sufficient Christ is for all areas of my life. This theme keeps showing up. No matter how high or low I am, God reminds me that I need all of him all the time. Here are a few examples from what I’ve been up to lately:
I’m still working at the Y, and it’s still testing and growing my patience (working with kids will do that to ya). The best parts of the job are when we bring the kids swimming or on field trips, and the moments when I teach them something new or laugh like crazy with them. The worst parts of the job are when all 40 of them are cooped up in the school all day because of rain. Or when we use an attention getter (where a leader yells “YM!” and the kids are supposed to say “CA!” then pay attention) four times and they’re all still talking and goofing off with each other.
I’ve felt my need for God’s purposes and his love during many workdays. He has helped me see how each child is made in his image, no matter how much they get on my nerves. He’s been reminding me that there is a true, good purpose for this job: to show these kids radical love and to take care of them. He’s also been showing me that the gospel should dramatically affect how I act at work and how I treat my coworkers. One morning I finished praying and suddenly realized how crazy it is that I can talk to Jesus every single day. Then I thought, ‘if I get to start my day with prayer, there should be a difference in how I work and speak and act. Am I different?’
I need Jesus for my workdays.
Another thing I’ve done recently is studying for and taking the GRE. This is a huge standardized test for admission into my graduate program, and the scores matter quite a bit. I admittedly procrastinated studying for it, which is out of character for me. Then, the week before test day, I stressed out and studied hard and cried a lot. I do not recommend my method.
During that week of doubts and stresses, I felt close to God in a different way. My relationship with him felt very simple: I needed him obviously and unashamedly, and he met me each morning with the hope of the gospel. I questioned my abilities and future plans, and he reminded me that it would be okay no matter what: he had a plan. The test scores would not define me.
I ended up doing well on the test (which is super fancy and gives you scores right away), and I know it’s a huge blessing. It feels wonderful to not have to do a retake, and I’m relieved. But the moment I saw my scores, something shifted in my thinking. I felt a little more sufficient, like I had proved myself. Pride crept in. The raw, desperate need for Jesus I had felt just earlier that morning seemed to fade: and I hate it! The truth is that I need Jesus, even in the area of academic plans and achievement.
I need Jesus for my future plans.
I could keep writing about scenarios where I’ve felt my need for Jesus and have seen his beauty. But this post has already gotten quite long, and I’m impressed if you’re still scrolling through it :) I just want this to be an encouragement for you: the truth of the gospel is sufficient for all situations and emotions. We always, always need Jesus, and the good news is, he is always there.
It’s his grace to us that he reminds us of himself. Whether it’s something hard like a rough day at work, a stressful decision, or confusing emotions, or something positive like a gorgeous sunset or good news, he is constantly drawing us to himself. Can you see evidences of it?
My family’s front porch is my definition of summer. Fitted with well-used patio furniture, it’s the perfect place to enjoy the view of a lush yard, rolling fields, and beautiful hills in the distance. There is much life there: the giant lilac bush, the small but steadily growing oak tree, and the ocean of pasture grass. There is much movement, too: the fresh breeze, our golden retrievers walking about, and the rustle of birds in the trees.
It’s a scene of abundance.
A week ago, I sat on that porch and read Colossians 1:9-14. Here, Paul is writing an encouraging letter to a group of believers:
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:9-14
Paul is praying that these people would have abundant spiritual lives: overflowing with growth. Think about someone who lives like this. They’re receptive to God’s will, so they do good works, know God closely, are blessed with his strength, and live in thankfulness. They remember what Jesus has done for them and live in direct response to that! The thought reminds me of the lush view from my porch. It’s undeniably alive, bursting with newness.
This kind of life is possible for you and me. I hope you read the verses over again and let God speak to you through them, because I’m sure something will stick out to you. Opening ourselves to the Lord’s direction in our hearts and leading in our lives is the first step in personal growth.
I’ve read these verses every day for the past week, and it’s powerful. I find myself being encouraged and convicted in different ways each time. I’ve especially been struck by the phrase about God giving us patience and endurance through his power. I certainly need that during a typical work day, and the reminder that it doesn’t come from myself!
I hope these verses encourage you to seek the Lord and seek growth. A soul that is bursting with life will be noticeable to your coworkers, friends, and classmates. Christ has rescued us and brought us into the kingdom of light. Are we living evidence of it?
I started a new job with the YMCA three weeks ago, working for their summer program. When I first accepted the job, I thought “this will be an easy-going, simple thing to do with my summer. Working with kids! I’ve totally got this.” I was really quite proud.
However, I didn’t consider the reality of caring for, keeping track of, and entertaining a crowd of grade schoolers for hours. It is no small task, and the struggle of it has taught me a lot.
I spent the first two weeks of the job doing training and working some. Since school was still in session, we only provided after-school care for the kids. This consisted of free play, outside play, a daily lesson, and snack time. It was a whirlwind as I tried to learn 40+ new names, internalize all the rules and procedures, and command the attention of so many energetic little humans at once. You get it, it was a lot: just like any new job is.
And I didn’t handle it so well.
After my second day, I felt overwhelmed with how not easy it was. I was constantly having to ask questions, guessing names wrong, and feeling like I was failing. Honestly, I felt like more of a burden to my coworkers than a help. My friends reminded me that new jobs are always hard, but still I wanted to give up. I was quite anxious during those first weeks, obsessing over future days and worrying about every detail. Overall, it was just not pretty.
This past week, our summer program officially started. This means we care for the kids all day: from 6:30 am-6 pm. Wowza. We try to keep them busy, content, and behaved, which requires loads of creativity and patience. I’ve spent the time in various ways: coloring with the kids, running around all sweaty in the gym, providing endless icepacks for small injuries, serving lunch and snacks, and teaching games. I hate yelling at kids, but there’s honestly been a lot of that, too.
The days go by fast, and now I’m so glad I didn’t quit. It took a while for me to get to that point, but it’s true. I would have missed out on a lot of joy if I’d avoided the awkwardness and hardship of the first few weeks. Even though I have so much more to learn, and many hard days ahead, I’m glad I stuck with it.
Here are a few things God has taught me lately:
1. Don’t give up on a hard thing, especially in the beginning. For the past three summers, I have seriously considered quitting my summer job. I’m not lying. Beginnings and transitions are just plain hard. But, for all three jobs, I’m incredibly glad I kept with it!
2. Humility. Of course. I approached this job thinking it would be easy for me and that I’d be a blessing to my team. However, being the newbie has reminded me that I don’t know everything. Here’s a quote from my journal: “I usually just try at something, and it goes well for me. But this is going to be maybe harder than I realized.” It’s been a reminder that I always have room to learn and grow.
3. I can ask God for patience and love for the kids. At the heart of this job, I want to love and care for the kids. I want them to become more confident and smarter and see Jesus’ love through me. But obviously that beautiful mission isn’t constantly in my mind. Often, I’m angry and fed up with the kids being disrespectful, or I’m just wrapped up in my own frustration with the day. But praying for patience and love is a reminder that 1) there’s a greater purpose at stake, and 2) I am not alone in my struggle.
4. My skills are from God, and I can use them for his glory. I was reading in Exodus 35 recently, where God explained the layout of the temple and then gave a few people the extraordinary skills to complete the work. It reminded me that all the skills, knowledge, and energy I have are from Him, not myself. It points my thankfulness and mission towards the Lord. I receive everything from him, so that I can work towards his glory. What a beautiful thing to remember in the heat of a trying work day!
I’m looking forward to a summer full of more fun and tricky moments with the kids, relying on God’s strength, and learning more lessons through it all. I hope your summer has been going well, and that we can all look for the Lord’s purposes and love every day.
Brian moved to Moorhead last Monday! You probably already know that, because I’ve been obnoxiously excited about it for months now. The week of moving him into his place was super fun, but also hectic. I didn’t realize how much work it is to move someone across the country! Through the entire process, I’ve been amazed at how generous our friends and family are. Lesson learned: generous people rock.
Brian’s parents rented a U-Haul for us, drove the 11 hours with him, lugged boxes and furniture to his third-floor apartment, stayed here for a week to help out, and payed for a few giant Walmart runs. We got all the free furniture we needed from my friends and family. My grandpa even let us use his pickup for the week, and when it broke down, my lovely roommate let us borrow her car for the day!
We seriously couldn’t have done it alone.
Experiencing all this generosity has been humbling. This last semester, I’ve felt self-sufficient: taking five classes that weren’t too demanding, working a job I’m comfortable with, and enjoying an easy, happy routine in life and friendships. I was confident in my everyday life and didn’t feel that I really needed anyone’s help. That’s why last week was like a wake-up call to me: we need other people! We need each other’s generosity and friendship and advice. My self-sufficiency is just a silly illusion.
It also reminds me of something I heard a few years back: “God answers our prayers through the work of his people.” We prayed for a smooth transition, and God answered those prayers through the wonderful people who helped us out. The whole week didn’t go according to plan, but it worked out in the end because of our friends and family. God doesn’t always answer prayers by orchestrating events to our liking: he often answers them through the work of his people!
All that to say, I want to be a more generous person: generous with my time, resources, and even friendship. Reflecting on times when others have helped you out can spur you on to live more generously too! This is easy to say, but obviously harder to practice. We must go one step at a time: saying yes to a request for help, filling a need you see, giving more than you planned to give. . . it all adds up quickly.
Thank you again to everyone who helped Brian and I last week. Finally living near each other is such a blessing!
I used to be the picture of insecurity. I was consumed with my appearance and others’ opinions. When giving a speech in English class my heart would pound and my voice would waver so much I could barely talk. If someone sitting behind me laughed, I knew it had to be about me. I even went through a few months when I would involuntarily blush a nasty beet-red color in the middle of class for no apparent reason, then rush to the bathroom to let it subside. My mind was a place of self-doubt and over-analyzing everything.
Now, I’m happy to say I’ve mastered my insecurities and I love myself in all situations!
Just kidding. Obviously.
But by God’s grace, I have gained some confidence. It hurts to look back on where I was. I want to tell my 16-year-old self that it gets better.
I don’t know where you’re at on the ‘confidence meter.’ You may have struggles and reasons for worry that far surpass my experiences. I asked my Facebook and Instagram friends what they struggle with when it comes to confidence, and all your answers were so honest. It’s humbled me to see just a sample of the things you work through. So, no, I’m not the expert. But I do think we can all use a little encouragement in this area. Here are six ideas for building confidence that have proven helpful in my life:
1. Challenge your thoughts. Confidence is largely a game of the mind, because each small thought comprises our self-image. We cannot permit every whim and concern to make a home in our heads! If we do, we’ll be tossed about in a load of uncertainty. Instead, we have the power to challenge unhealthy thoughts with logic and truth.
2. Speak kindly about others. How we talk about other people influences how we think about ourselves. I’ve experienced this. When I make fun of people and nitpick their weaknesses or quirks, I become more critical about myself, too. Gossip and mean words create a culture of harshness. Luckily, the opposite is also true! When I compliment others and say good things behind their backs, I’m more likely to see the good in myself as well.
3. Do something scary. When I think about the hard things I’ve done, I can see how they’ve grown my confidence: moving to college, helping a research team, doing YouthWorks, etc. Each step, big or small, has shown me that I’m capable of more than I thought I was. It’s helped me look to the future with more bravery and a belief that God is always with me. Every time you dismiss fear and do something hard, your confidence grows.
4. Accept the core of your personality. This applies to introverts, extroverts, and everyone in between. I’ve found that you cannot change this. I fought against my introversion for many years, seeing my quietness and gentleness as something to overcome. I thought I needed to change before I could feel free and happy. The problem wasn’t my personality, though. It was my unhealthy mind. I’ve since learned to embrace my core, while not letting it cage me in. (Here is a related blog post!) Learn to accept and build on your personality, and you won’t be endlessly fighting against it!
5. Believe what God says about you. You will never healthfully overcome insecurity without believing what the Creator says about you. God’s opinion matters most, because he intimately knows every part of you: the beautiful, the sinful, and the painful. He paid the greatest sacrifice to know and be with you. The Bible is full of examples of God’s love for us, and how carefully and beautifully he made us. Our confidence comes not from outward appearances, but from the amazing spiritual realities we see in the Bible. Another key thing is that we do not journey through life alone. When there is a hard decision, painful season, or confusing time, God is always there to help and guide us.
6. Give yourself time and grace. This whole thing is a long road. There will be days where you feel like you’ve ‘made it,’ only to be followed by days when you want to curl into a ball. I know it because it’s been true in my life! But take a deep breath. It’s okay that you have struggles, and it is so, so important that you give yourself time and grace to grow.
So, friend, I hope these tips have helped you in some way. I am overjoyed and humbled that you take the time to read these posts!
Hello! I'm Anna, a college student living in the Midwest. I'm a strong believer in uncontrollable laughter, powerful words, and a morning cup of coffee. I pray these posts will encourage you to live a full life with and for God: unhindered. Follow me on social media for post updates!