More Advice That No One Gives College Freshmen

First of all, I need everyone to read this entire blog in your most dramatic diva voice. It will be much more realistic and fun. Words in all caps—give them all the emphasis. The sassier the better. Cause duh.

Before I get into the good stuff, I need to say this. In my first blog I wanted to bring attention to real life. I wanted to be transparent, which, for me at the time, meant writing about things that didn’t meet my expectations. I didn’t want to pretend like the best four years of my life started the day I moved in. This is real life.

I mean this with respect and love and all those things, but you lovely people do not hide pity very well. And it is unnecessary to cast all or any of that pity on me. Yes, I decided to put it out there for the world to read about. But I am not the only one who moved into a shoebox hours away from home. It may not look like it on social media, but every college freshman struggles. It is a hard and awkward transition into the real world and there is not an instruction manual. I WISH.

Here it is. I love college. I plan on being a Vol for three more years. YES, freshman year was the pits at times. But I made friends who are more like family, and I did fun things, and I started to figure out who I want to be in the world. THAT is what I’ll remember about freshman year.

Sometimes I get a little negative because I want to shed light on the things of life that no one likes to talk about. But I’m learning that I can claim the good things in life without feeling fake. I’m going to mostly talk about the pits in this post, but that’s because the pits make us. YES I said the pits make us. We are who we are because of the PITS. How cliché.

I’m going to be honest. I would not do this year again. Freshman year was not a breeze, y’all. I had to learn to survive LIFE without my mom. I had to figure out what I was going to eat for dinner EVERY night. Family dinners. Food on the table without any of my thoughts put into it. These are the most missed things of my normal childhood life.

I learned hard things this year. Life lessons that could have easily been spread out more evenly throughout the REST of my life. No. All in one year. It’s fine. I didn’t die. I got real low, but I am alive and well and the hardest part is over. I hope.

Part 2 is going to be different than part 1. These are things that I’ve learned in the past 8 months as a college freshman. But I think these things are relevant in every season of life. My prayer is that you can hear the Lord through these words whether you are 18 or 95. Okay. Here we go.

Let’s start with a confession. It feels like the natural thing to do here.

I found myself in the pits because I was treating Jesus like my job. I went to all the bible studies and made myself hang out with people who drained the life out of me. I was just trying to find my people, but in the process I stopped relying on God to bring them and started searching for them myself. I just wanted to get started with the fun things like trips to the cornbread festival and picnics in the park.

Those things came in God’s timing and the three friends who never drained me became my people. But before God so faithfully made that happen, I took my life into my own hands and I failed miserably. I was not getting the things done. And I was not inviting Jesus to do the things for me. So He knocked me onto my butt and told me to just chill for a sec because He’s working it for my good. Obviously.

I can get into the deets another time. But basically I stopped loving myself. My life didn’t look how I wanted it to. I didn’t look how I wanted to on the inside or the outside. I’m going to be honest, I let Satan win until I decided that he just couldn’t anymore. I invited Jesus to the pit. But He was already there. And He had been fighting for me the whole time.

People in this world will tell you that you don’t need Jesus. You can get yourself out of the pit. You can make yourself happy. You control your life.

I’m sorry. It’s just not true. You can try to get yourself out of it but you will only find yourself deeper in the funk. You need Jesus. College would be a waste of time without Him. And there is just no way around it.

You need Him like you need oxygen. But let me tell you the business. Jesus is not lame. He is not the friend who sucks life from every room. No. He brings the life. He takes regular things and makes them soul-satisfying things. He shows up to the party and you don’t even realize He is there putting heavenly things into your heart and making it full.

So that’s number two: this life can only be abundantly full if you are inviting Jesus to all the things.

Trust me on this. He can come to your picnics and be there when you exercise and He is even content to lay next to you on the no makeup PJ days.

Loving Jesus is not a chore. Inviting Him into all your life things does not mean you are becoming responsible for Him. You don’t have to start preaching at social events and saying lengthy prayers before every meal. Telling Jesus that He is welcome is not a burden.

This is how Jesus wants you to see it: He brings life and life to the full. He is peace and joy and hope. His presence changes the atmosphere. He can make ordinary things feel like a piece of heaven.

Time with Jesus is not limited to a quiet time or bible study. These things are good. But they do not define the life Jesus has for you.

And it’s a good thing because I am not a consistent gal. Thank God that my eternity and quality of life do not depend on consecutive dates in my prayer journal. Get this in your head. Jesus wants to live life with you. That’s it. He just wants to be there when you do the things He has set before you to do.

Three. This is important so listen up. Choose the things that make you full.

You know what I’m talking about. Stop surrounding yourself with those people who make you feel like you have to be someone you’re not. Live your life with the people who see you and love you as you are.

This is all I’m saying. When you find the people and things that Jesus has put into your life, you will know it. Don’t waste your time pursuing friendships if they are not working naturally and bringing you good things. If Jesus wants it to be, it will be. College/life will work better if you just let Him do His thing.

And all you have to do is go where He’s doing His thing. Here ya go. I feel closer to Jesus when I’m in Knoxville. It is where I’m supposed to be, and I know that because His presence is stronger even in the little things. I love going home. I love my family. But this chapter of my life will be the most fulfilling in Knoxville. Not Medina.

Run to the things that fulfill you. That is how you will know you’re on the right track. And don’t worry. No one has it all figured out. We’re all just living life, seeking things that make our hearts whole. Only Jesus can do that. So live life where His presence is strong. Everything is working out for your good. Relax.

So there. Don’t make Jesus your job. Invite Him to live life with you and your pals. And choose the things that fill you with God things like peace and joy.

I don’t have this thing figured out. Clearly. And I’m still getting over the pit I was just in. It was a doozy, okay? I need some time to recover from that one.

Life is hard. College is hard. The pits of life suck. But when you come out on the other side you will see why they had to happen. Believe me. The view from the top is so much prettier when you can remember that time you couldn’t even imagine making it out of the valley alive.


Why Churchy Deeds Will Never be Enough

I should be doing homework. But the Lord interrupts this calculus to bring a word about boasting. Thank you, Jesus. I’m so not mad at the interruption. I must obey and throw theorems to the wind!

Ya know that list you keep in the back of your mind? You have one. I promise. It’s the list that you remind yourself of when you see someone do something you wish you had thought of first. Or when you start to feel down about yourself. Or when you do something wrong but your pride doesn’t let you admit to yourself that it’s wrong.

Example: Good grades, trophies, certificates, weight loss, lots of likes on Facebook. These are the things that make us feel good for like a minute. They boost our pride. They tell us that we’re just as good as the girl who gets three times as many likes as us on Instagram. They tell us that we’re not so bad after all. We like to boast about these things. On social media. In our conversations. We think we’re sly when we bring up that test we made a 100 on or the fact that we haven’t gained the freshmen fifteen. Or anything else that we remind ourselves and others of to boost our ego. Why are these things so important to us? Why do we hold on to that one time we got student of the week in high school? What good does it do? It’s time to face the facts.

Guess who these things come from. I’ll give you a hint. He steals, kills and destroys. He’s gross. I hate him. And he hates us. But he loves to lie to us. And the little twerp is the one reminding us of the list. “Oh but Landry. You could be so much worse. Give yourself some glory. Think about your list! You’re great!”

Most of the time I fall for it. I think about my list, and it makes me feel okay that I gossiped because at least I’m not failing college (not yet). But that’s all my list can do. It only has the power to make me feel okay. But what my soul really needs is some satisfaction. And none of the things on my list satisfy. And boasting about my list to other people? That equals an empty soul. Every. Time.

Depressing, right?

Wait there’s more. I can make another list. Here we go. Mission trips. Working VBS. Reading your bible. Witnessing to the girl at the gas station.

Whoa. But those are good things. These are our churchy deeds that make us feel like good Southern Christians…right? Jesus orders these things…doesn’t He?

Yeah. These are biblical and good and can be so fulfilling. IF they are for His glory. He deserves it. Jesus does not order these things because WE deserve glory. Don’t flatter yourself. You didn’t make it through VBS without patience from the Good Lord.

I’m talking about the stuff we REALLY like to boast about. Mission trip pics and posts about what God told you in your quiet time. I’m guilty. You might be too. I’m not saying we shouldn’t post it. But there is a fine line and we can so easily poison God’s work in us by being too focused on adding to our “churchy deeds” list. Are you boasting about yourself? Or are you boasting about the Lord? Here it is. Straight outta Corinthians.

“If you want to boast, boast only about the LORD.” -1 Corinthians 1:31

Okay, Paul. You make it seem so easy. And it’s not. This is the truth. We can’t do this “boast only about the Lord” thing on our own. We’re sinful. We’re out for ourselves. I would be willing to bet that even Paul got a little cocky from time to time. We are no different.

Whew. I’m on a roll with the discouragement.

Except I’m not. This is good news. This means you can stop that running list of reasons why you’re worthy. Jesus did not die on the cross for that list. He died for your heart. Your soul. Not your list of accomplishments and churchy deeds. The bible calls your list filthy rags. Gross. Isaiah 64:6 if you don’t believe me.

Ya know that thing you do where you try to convince yourself and God that you’re good enough? I do it too. “Well I went to church. Well I wrote in my prayer journal. Well I don’t go buck wild on the weekends. Well I don’t cheer for Alabama.” (I had to. I’m sorry.) We do it. Because we’re human, and humans don’t just love someone with a short list for no reason. But God does. He loves the scumbag with nothing on his list just as much as He loves you and me. And get this. He loves the no-list scumbag as much as He loves Jesus.

Shut up.

No. Freaking. Way.

Its real life. I promise. So throw that list out the window girlfriend! (Or boyfriend) You are free. You are loved. Can we start boasting in that? What would life look like if we really, surely-to-goodness did? How uplifting would social media be? Our conversations would leave us feeling fulfilled and not insecure. (!! I need that !! College is not rich in fulfilling convos. Let me just tell ya.)

I’m about to sound like a feminist but it’s in the name of the Lord.

Let’s build each other up!!

But here’s how that’s different from feminism. I’m not talking about telling your bestie she’s good enough. I’m talking about telling her she’s not good enough but Jesus is!! And He doesn’t care how long her list is OR how short. (However I like to think that He cares how short her dress is. Modest is hottest, ladies and gents.)

Moral of this story: relax. You’re never going to be good enough and you don’t have to be. Jesus doesn’t care about your list. He took your list to the cross and wrote your name on His heart and that’s it. It is finished. You didn’t do a darn thing to deserve that. And praise God from whom all blessings flow, you don’t have to do a darn thing to earn it. Boom. Back to calculus I go. Boo.

Advice that Everyone Forgets to Give College Freshmen: Four things that I wish someone had told me before I moved to college

I’m a baby college student–three and a half weeks to be exact. And I’m already ready to call bull crap on everyone who told me that college would be the best time of my life. Let me just get real with y’all for a sec. It hasn’t been a blast. I mean, there have been fun times and glimpses of hope, but overall the past few weeks have been mostly tears and sweats and greasy food. Maybe I’m alone in this. Maybe all of you are professionals at moving 5 hours away from home to live in a shoebox with another human AND finding people who don’t want to drink their college years away AND understanding foreign professors enough to know how to have your crap together for the next test. Please let me know how you do it. However, I would be willing to bet that when you think back to the glory days when Taco Bell at midnight was always a good idea, you probably don’t remember the first weeks of trying to keep yourself alive and have clean undies all while trying to keep the dream of med school alive. So I’m writing to whoever wants to know what it’s really like to move to college, whether you haven’t done it yet or you’ve forgotten. And I promise to end on a happy note because I really am finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Number one: Greek life is not the only way to make friends.

Confession time: I went into recruitment with the hopes of a cute bid day post and the promise of more size large t-shirts than I would know what to do with. That didn’t happen. Here’s what did: the Lord. And when the Lord happens He usually makes a statement. This time His statement went a little like this, “Sorority life ain’t for you, little one who thinks she has big Greek plans. I have something even better that will cost you a lot less money.”

This is typically what happens when we make plans and then ask for God’s stamp of approval. We send up our game plan typed in 12 pt. Times New Roman, and He sends it back stamped with big red letters: LOL. And that hurts for a second, but then we realize how blessed we are that He said LOL instead of waiting to see us crash and burn. Sometimes He gives us what we want in order to show us that it isn’t really what we want. But sometimes (most of the time) He does this thing called grace, and He spares us the time and money and energy by simply saying “no,” and that two-letter word hurts for like a millisecond before we realize that whatever it is that God is waiting to reveal at the end of the long, dark tunnel is way better than anything we could think up in our daydreams during Chem class.

For those of you wondering, I dropped out of rush on the last day when the Lord finally got my attention. In the midst of all the self-promoting I forgot to listen for the still, small voice. Oops.

Number two: Prepare to be humbled.

Being humbled is like cleaning the toilet. No one likes to do it, but it’s got to be done. (I know that was cheesy. Bear with me.) Just imagine a world where God lets everyone carry their pride like a badge. Everyone walks around with their noses turned up at the thought of doing dishes and having poop that stinks. If that sounds familiar, please, let me be the one to humble you. Your poop stinks, and so do your feet. I bet your college roommate would agree with me.

College is all fun and games until you realize that you just walked to class and back, and not one person saw your face and recognized it. Talk about being a little fish in a big pond. Small town life is great, but it could definitely learn a lesson in the humble department. How many of you Medina peeps can go to Walmart and not see someone you know? I mean, let’s be real. The whole town knows when you’re selling size 27 pants on Hornet Swap. It’s not exactly a place to be invisible. And although you complain about everyone knowing your business, you secretly love the fact that the whole town knows that your second cousin’s boyfriend’s dog’s Aunt Glen got her tonsils out last week.

Before I came to college, I was somewhere on a scale from feeling invisible to thinking I was the town princess. I now live in a city where the most recognizable human has no eyebrows and like 2 people know my name. Talk about humbling.

Number three: You will feel insecure about literally everything, but don’t you dare forget that you are loved and chosen and pursued every single day.

So there’s this mirror. And something about it makes my thighs look like I could fall through to the ninth floor, so the Holy Spirit told me to abstain from looking in that mirror. And I listened. I listened because the other full length mirror in my room is angled nicely against the wall, and it tells me that I won’t be crashing any ninth floor parties in the near future. I also listened because I believe that awful mirror is from Satan. Seriously. He sits on my shoulder and tells me that the pimple on my face is bigger than Neyland Stadium. And then he tells me that I better start doing fun things and posting about it before everyone at home starts talking about how I must be the biggest loser on Rocky Top.

And just before I start to believe those things, my Savior swoops in and grabs my face and reminds me that He loves me immeasurably more than anything my little brain can think up. He tells me that He has chosen me and placed me right where I’m sitting for HIS glory and for my good. And before I get all preachy here, He tells me that nobody has even noticed the pimple on my face. I’m a girl, and I overthink things, but Jesus tells me not to overthink grace. It’s there for us to reach out and grab, and it’s free. And if there is one piece of college advice that I have heard ad nauseam, it’s to always take advantage of free things. Boom.

Number four: Moving away from home is for the birds.

I’m going to keep this short because tears have become my closest pal lately. Youngins, hear me when I say this. Do not take for granted your fam, filtered water or home-cooked meals. And just know that this could become mushy and teary, but I hate that crap. So moving on.

I feel like at this point you’re probably tired of reading my run-on sentences that begin with conjunctions. If you made it this far, I love you and want you to be my friend. Really though, I’m a lot less cool in person, and everything I’ve written came from God. Even the word “crap.” I want you all to know that although life has been better, I know who is in control. Even when life as a pooper scooper seems better than the life God is trying to pull together for me (or so it seems), I know that there is no where I would rather be than in His plan. I hope that if you’re reading this and you relate because life is in the dumps right now, you are hearing God tell you that He is preparing you for the good stuff. And there’s even better stuff than the “good stuff” we dream of like backpacking through Europe with besties. I’m talking about Heaven. Because this Earth is not our home and THANK YOU JESUS for that.