Saturday, June 22, 2013

Advice for Upcoming College Freshmen

High school is SO different from college. When you make the transition from being a high school senior, to being a college freshman.. there is so much that you have to learn, and completely on your own. Now that i'm an upcoming senior in college, here are a few things I wish someone would've told me before I began.

1. Learn to Manage Your Time
People will try to drill this into your brain a billion times and you still won't do it. You MUST, MUST, MUST decide what is important and what isn't. Partying isn't important. Let me repeat that: PARTYING ISN'T IMPORTANT. Buy a planner. Color code your classes in a different pen color. I get this weird invigorating feeling when I complete something and I get to highlight through it in my planner. I'm kind of an OCD dweeb when it comes to my planner. Like I actually use white-out in it. Another super nerdy thing that I do: Every night before I go to bed, I write out a schedule for the next day. Like "8:00-Wake Up. 9:00-Leave For Class. 10:30-Pathophysiology class 12:00-1:00 Lunch Break.." etc. That way, every day when I wake up, I know how much free time i'm going to have that day (or how much I won't), and I won't forget to do something. You don't have to be this nerdy and picky with your schedule, but it helps SO much. Don't put things off until the last minute. If you have a paper due, start on it over a week ahead of time. Do a paragraph per night and that way, you can rest the night before it's due, and it won't sound like complete crap. If you have a test coming up, don't just cram the night before. You have to study periodically in order for the information to transfer from your short term memory to your long term memory. If you're trying to take a test with information stored in your short term memory, excuse my language, but you're going to be screwed. I know because i've been there. I'm a major crammer. Time management is so important because it shapes your entire college experience. 

2. Remember Your Reason For Being There
Ahem. I'm going to step on my soap box for a moment. 
You aren't in college to have fun.
You aren't in college to see if you can join the best sorority/fraternity on campus.
You aren't in college to find a husband.
You aren't in college to see how many beers you can funnel in one minute. 
You aren't in college to win homecoming queen. 
You aren't in college to attend all of the hottest parties. 

You're in college to build your career. 
You're in college to shape your future.
You're in college so that you can help support a family one day.
You're in college because someone, somewhere has made that sacrifice for you.
You're in college to learn, to improve, to better yourself.

So many people forget the true reason why they're in college. That's when they start going out too much, missing class (or going completely hungover and half asleep), and failing. Please, please, PLEASE remember why you're there. It's okay to have fun. Just prioritize. 

3. Get Along With Your Roommate(s)
Oh my word. I'm speaking on this from experience. First of all, do not, and I mean DO NOT choose to room with your middle school/high school best friend. You will ruin your friendship. You may not think so, but it happens way too often. Room with someone that's a mutual friend, someone you barely know, or do roommate matching. If you don't get along with your roommate(s), you're going to be miserable. You'll fight over the thermostat, you'll fight when each other has company over, you'll fight over dish duty, you'll fight over one of you eating the other one's food, you'll fight over who's making too much noise while the other is sleeping, you'll fight over your pets, you'll fight over almost anything. Living with someone isn't easy. I know first-hand. Just be careful. Set ground rules from the beginning about having friends over, cleaning, etc.

4. Get Involved.
No, I don't mean frequent your local college bar so much that the bartender remembers your favorite drink. Get involved in clubs. Volunteer. Go to your local animal shelter and ask if they need any volunteers or help with adoption days. Join clubs that interest you. Play on an intramural team. Make friends. Make at least one friend in every one of your classes so that you have someone to call when you miss class or need help.. trust me, this is SO beneficial. Just make sure it's mutual and that you offer to help that person as well. Improve your resume. Volunteer hours and involvement in clubs/extracurricular activities are so important. 

5. Fight The Freshman 15
I didn't gain the freshman 15. I gained the sophomore 7 when I went off to Tuscaloosa for a year. The worst part about this is, most of you won't even realize you're gaining weight. I surely didn't. I also didn't have a scale. It was hard for me to stay healthy when our Jimmy Johns in Tuscaloosa delivered 24/7. I was calling in a number 4 with no tomatoes at about 2am most nights. A little tip for you is: Eat a healthy breakfast and don't eat after 9pm. Avoid white bread and fast food. Park farther away from your classes and walk. Or if you live close to your classes, walk the whole way. If it's a nice day, go for a run around campus. You have free membership at your campus recreation center..take advantage of that. Carve out an hour of your schedule everyday to workout. I PROMISE you won't regret it.

6. Find Cheap College Text Books
Amazon and Ebay are life savers. End of story. 

7. Manage Your Stress Positively
I was the worst at this. If I got one bad grade, I would beat myself up over it for weeks. I would literally cry. If you fail a test, study harder for the next one. If you don't do well on a test, email the professor to set up an appointment so that you can review your test. That way, you know what you missed and you're able to learn and interact with your teachers. They'll LOVE that you're putting in an effort to improve. Nothing worth having comes easy. A's make you feel SO awesome, but if you want A's, you've got to work hard for them. Let me repeat that... Nothing worth having comes easy. Make your parents proud. Don't beat yourself up over a mistake. Go for a run. Take a relaxing bath. Go buy yourself a new outfit. If you stress, it's only going to make things worse. Stay positive :)

8. Get To Know Your Professors
I know, this sounds stupid.. but it's so beneficial. On the first day of class, if it's a huge class of people in a lecture hall, go up and introduce yourself afterwards. It's important for your teacher to know who you are. If you have questions, email them. Talk to them. If you see them outside of class, go up and speak. Also, ATTEND CLASS. At the end of the semester when you're on the border of being one letter grade up.. they aren't going to want to offer you extra credit if they don't even know your name or they never saw you in class. Be a suck up. You'll appreciate it at the end of the semester when you need a little boost. My anatomy teacher bumped me up an entire point and a half at the end of the semester when I needed it simply because I was in class every day and asked questions. 

9. Choose The Right Major
If you're anything like me, you'll change your mind a thousand times on "what you want to be when you grow up." I went from Nursing, to Pre-Med, to Criminal Justice, and now i'm back into Nursing and i've just started Nursing School this semester. Choosing your major is actually quite simple. Do what you love. If you love science and the human body, go into the medical field. If you're artsy or a great writer, and creative, do something that relates more to that area. If you're interested in the legal system and politics, go into that route. Here is the most important tip relating to your major: DO NOT CHOOSE A MAJOR BASED ON YOUR FUTURE SALARY. Yes, your income is important. But if you choose to pursue a career in the medical field because of your future paychecks, then I don't want you taking care of MY family. Major in something you're PASSIONATE about. Nursing interests me. I have two nieces who were in the NICU for a long time before being able to go home and a grandfather who passed away in the hospital with pancreatic cancer. The nurses reached out to my family, cared for my family members like they were their own, and were so passionate in their job field. I want to be that way. I want to make a difference. I want to be the person to hug the family members when their mother or father or child doesn't make it. It's my passion. Find yours. If you're doing something you truly love, you won't feel like you're truly "working" a single day of your life.

10. Don't Ever Forget Who You Are
This is the single most important thing on my entire list. Don't lose yourself when you get into college. If you join greek life, don't lose your originality. And if someone won't accept your originality, you shouldn't compromise who you are in order to satisfy them. Do what you love, be who you are, and be proud of it. Don't ever let anyone dull the shine that God gave you. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Hate The Sin, Love The Sinner

The stares. The look of disbelief and disgust blatantly showing on your faces. The whispers. The judgement. The exile. You've done it all. You've looked at a person, simply looked at them, maybe even gotten to know them, and thought "wow, they really have some issues." Or maybe someone in your life messed up. Someone you thought was the perfect image of Christ, finally showed you that they, too, sin. What did you do after that? You pushed them away. Far out of your overly righteous sight.

I think the problem with some of us Christians today is that we're too focused on fleeting away from anyone who sins differently from us. If they do something other than the "quiet" sins we're used to such as lying and gossiping, we distance ourselves. What some of us don't understand is that our role as followers of Christ isn't to separate ourselves from those who are lost, but to save the lost. If you're afraid these so called "lost" people are going to rub off on you or influence your salvation if you get too close, then it's YOU, my friend, that needs to work on their relationship with God.

Question: Are you a friend of sinners? Do you spend time with people who don't know Christ? Do you reach out to those whose lifestyles may be offensive to you? Those whose reputation among the "saved" like us, is an embarrassment and even a scandal? Do you love sinners, care for sinners, reach out to sinners?

If you answered no to any of those questions, you're doing it wrong.

It isn't our job to judge what is right and wrong, what is acceptable and unacceptable, just and unjust. This is going to burst a few people's bubbles, but we weren't put on this earth to condemn people to hell who aren't like us. We need to stop walking around thinking we're too holy to be seen or affiliated with those whose lives are a constant shipwreck. We need to realize that we, too, are in desperate need of God's mercy.

If you know the bible at all, you know that Jesus was a friend to the sinners. He reached out to three groups of people in particular: 1) the unlikely, 2) the undesirable, and 3) the spiritually unhealthy. Look at a few stories in the bible, get to know the characters, and ask yourself two questions: With whom do I most identify? Am I loving and serving sinners like Jesus? To reach the lost, you have to actually BE with the lost. Bigotry of whatever sort is always sad, ugly, and pathetic. It is further evidence of our sinful and depraved hearts that desperately need the grace of God in our own lives. Don't ever look at yourself and believe that you're too righteous to ever fall short. It's so easy. Back sliding isn't always a slow process, either. A little here and a little there, and the next thing you know, you're so far from God you look around and wonder how you got there. You are always being tested. God constantly watches your response to problems, success, conflict, illness, disappointment, and people. Love leaves a legacy. How you treated other people, not your wealth or your accomplishments, is the most enduring impact you can leave on earth.  Do you want to be remembered as someone who turned their nose up at other sinners? Someone who judged the homosexuals, the prostitutes, the alcoholics, the adulterers, the thieves, the drug abusers, and the murderers.. instead of reaching out to them? When is the last time you invited a lost individual to attend church with you? Are you too ashamed to be seen with them? Are you too afraid they'll taint your "white as snow", "sin free" life style? Get a grip. No one is too bad to be saved. And you, certainly, are not so good that you don't need saving. We need to realize that we are all sick sinners that need the grace of God. 

"For God so loved the world that he gave..." He GAVE. Love means giving up-- yielding your preferences, comfort, goals, security, money, energy, and time.. for the benefit of someone else. In the bible, Paul tells us "Brothers and sisters, if someone in your group does something wrong, you who are spiritual should go to that person and gently help make him right again." Reread that sentence. Did he tell us to distance ourselves? Did he tell us to avoid sinners? No. Dig deep down into their hearts and pull them back to Jesus Christ. It's sad that in God's flock, the greatest wounds come from other sheep, not wolves.

None of us are immune to temptation. Given the right situation, you and I both are capable of ANY sin. God knows this, so he has assigned us as individuals the responsibility of keeping each other on track. "Mind your own business" isn't a christian phrase. The bible tells us to "encourage one another daily, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." We are called and commanded to be involved in each others lives. Did it specify what kind of people or what kind of sins? No. If you know someone who has wavered spiritually, what are you waiting for? It is your responsibility to go after them and bring them back into fellowship. James tells us "if you know people who have wandered off from God's truth, don't write them off. Go after them. Get them back." Think about these things the next time you see someone whose life is a little off course. It's better to admit you're a sinner, than to make people believe you're without fault. The empty can be filled, but if you're so self-intoxicated.. you have no room for God. 

I'm a friend of sinners. I'm a daughter and a sister of sinners. I'm a lover of sinners. I seek sinners. I make an effort to save sinners. Why? Because I am one. And so are you. I'm not a saint. I'm a sinner that keeps on trying to be more like Jesus, and let his love shine through me. 

"I want to leave a legacy.
How will they remember me? 
Did I choose to love? 

Did I point to You enough to make a mark on things? 
I want to leave an offering.
A child of mercy and grace who
blessed your name unapologetically 
And leave that kind of legacy."