The Gift of Solitude God Doesn’t Want Us To Miss

 

house on a hill

“It’s quiet. In this house upon the hill. You won’t mind it. Some things you can’t know till you’re still. In the silence, let your spinning thoughts slow down. In the stillness, things have a way of working out.”

I have always been someone who didn’t love the silence. The first kid to speak up in class to answer a question, even if I didn’t know the answer, simply because I couldn’t stand the silence that followed. My body would start to itch and squirm at the very thought of being subjected to another minute of unbearable silence.

As I got older, it was no different. If I couldn’t fill my time with talks from friends or loudness, I would fill my earbuds with audiobooks, podcasts, and music. I didn’t like to be alone and I sure didn’t like silence.

As I listened to those lyrics above as I was walking around my neighborhood the other night, I was struck by how little my world and life is filled with the silence this song depicts. A silence that we can only experience with God.

My days are filled with slack messages, alarms, podcasts and music, and so many other avenues to avoid being stuck in the silence. Maybe you can relate to this as well.  Maybe you have filled your silence with things other than God. Things like Netflix, Youtube videos, working out, chasing after another dream. Maybe you like me, have trouble sitting alone in the silence of it all.

But this early summer, I have learned how valuable silence and contemplation can be for faith. Though God can speak to us in a variety of ways, nothing is more pure and vulnerable than meeting God in the silence and just being. In 1 Kings, we see Elijah have an encounter with the Lord.

“And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.”- 1 Kings 19: 11-12

In our world today, God is not in the horrific acts of violence, in the natural disasters, in the hate on social media, He is in the whispers. The random moments of silence when our minds and souls are ready to listen to Him. To listen requires slowing down the swirling thoughts caught in our minds, and to stop letting the fears, doubts, and other imperfections plaguing us, take up permanent residence in our heads. Like the lyrics say, in the silence things have a way of working out.

Today I wanted to offer up some encouragement to those out there who are struggling to hear God and His wishes for them or to hear Him for the first time at all. He is waiting for you, in the house on the hill, for you to silently meet Him there. He always has been and He always will be.

Lyrics from Amanda Cook- House on a Hill

To All The Insecure Young Adults

 

townhouse

Today I started researching the possibility of buying a townhouse in the next couple of years. As I started looking over the logistics of a down payment, closing costs, and what the heck taxes are, I realized that my dream of owning a townhouse or any house at that matter was going to be quite a ways off. And not without sacrifice.

I think that for many young adults, with the online diaries of everyone around us filling up our feeds, can start to feel insecure at where we are in life really quickly. It can be easy to feel insecure that you are living at home when all your friends have moved out. It can be easy to feel insecure that you haven’t met Mr. Right yet, while all your friends are on the way to the altar. It can be easy to feel like you aren’t succeeding in your career all because a friend of yours got a promotion before you. It can be easy to feel like you aren’t making a difference for God’s kingdom all because you don’t have thousands of Instagram followers. No matter where you are at today, we can all feel insecure about our progress at some point.

As I grappled with the reality of having to stay at my uncle’s longer and gave up the dream of being able to get an apartment by myself, I realized that part of the reason I was feeling so anxious is that I wasn’t feeling secure. I was looking forward to years in the future of my life and already feeling like I was behind. I started to panic about the fact that I would never have enough to save up for a down payment coupled with the fear that it was terrible I couldn’t afford my own property because my dating life was drier than the Sahara desert and that meant I couldn’t even marry someone rich, so I was most definitely screwed. And as I started to have a mini panic attack in my head and feel the thoughts of the next year fill my chest with dread, I realized something quite important. I wasn’t factoring God into my future.

girl laughing at future

I had let my mind take me on a wild goose chase of what could be or what could happen or I can’t do this on my own and forgot that I never have to do anything on my own. Even though I was feeling so insecure about my future or where God was taking me, I forgot that I was always, always secure in His arms. That if I took the time to slow down and listen, I could hear His voice saying this is the way, walk in it. I am not alone on this journey of adulting and you aren’t either. Don’t let someone else’s ending chapters dictate where you are beginning today. God is with us at the beginning, middle, and end of a transition. And even though I have no idea if I will be able to buy my townhouse while affording the miniature schnauzer that is very much needed to be a part of my life, I know I can count on God to provide for me.

I don’t need to look to the end goal, I need to remember that I just need to do the next step today that is going to get me closer to my goal tomorrow. And often that looks like slowing down and taking time away from my phone to think. It means praying and reminding myself of these verses:

“Hear my cry, O God, and listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth, I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. “- Psalm 61: 1-2

“For God alone, my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress, I shall not be shaken.”- Psalm 62: 1-2

Gently reminding myself that my life isn’t made up of the highlight reels that present themselves on social media, but it is made up of a journey where there are plenty of hills and valleys.

footsteps in the sand

I hope that this article can encourage you today if you find yourself in a similar position to myself. Wondering what and maybe even where your future is calling you, and feeling behind the rest of the adulting world before you even started. Everyone is a beginner once and we are all learning and trying our best to navigate life. But as you are striving to navigate these transitional times, remember that your pal Jesus is there walking beside you and sometimes even literally carrying you through life’s ups and downs.

You are not alone and yes you’re right you can’t do this on your own. But God sent us the Holy Spirit and died for us so that we never would have to experience a life where He wasn’t by our sides. So take a deep breath, turn off your Instagram feed, and lean into God’s word today. He is the one who can help you as life seems unsteady and He will always make your path secure.

4 Ways Worriers Can Trust God to Fight Their Battles

worrying

I have always had a problem being still. I am a very energetic person by nature, often tapping my foot, flipping my pen cap around my fingers, or just jittering with unused energy. If you have been around me for any length of time, I am sure you have witnessed the many times I have tripped over my own two feet or randomly run into a wall, all in the name of not being able to be still.

However, one of my goals for this year has been to learn how to be still in all areas of my life a little bit better. Though it’s easy to joke about my lack of hand-eye coordination or incessant energy, being still for me is more a heart issue than a physical one. In the book of Exodus, when the Israelites are being pursued by the Egyptians and are looking out at the deep waters of the Red Sea, God offers Moses this advice.

“ The Lord will fight for you; you have only to be silent.”

In the non-ESV version, the be silent verse is translated to be still. God is telling Moses that it though looks like everything he just spent the past months and years working on was about to end in a matter of seconds, God is still there and is still fighting.

I have never been faced with an army pursuing me as I look at an ocean as my only way to escape, but I do have many experiences from my life where I felt trapped where I was. And that’s exactly how I am sure the Israelites felt. They felt trapped physically by the ocean but also trapped by their circumstances and their lives. I am sure we can all relate to a time that we felt trapped by our circumstances. The man you are seeing suddenly calls it off. You get laid off from your job. A bad diagnosis shakes the core of your family.  It can be easy to think that our problems are ours alone to deal with and forget that we have a great defender who is standing by our sides, waiting to part the waters.

As a natural worrier, it can be really hard to trust God with the bigger areas of my life. What my career path looks like, making friends, moving to a new area, meeting my future husband. I find myself looking towards the future, grappling with the wideness and depth of the ocean in front of me, certain there is no way I will be able to cross it. I am learning that I often turn inwardly to myself or others to help me navigate these waters. I try to tentatively wade out on my own, thinking that I can swim to the other side, but I only make it a few strokes before I am drowning quite literally in the sea of my tears and fears.

But God doesn’t want me or you to live this way anymore. He wants us to stand back, relax, maybe get a manicure, and come back to see the sea parted for us. He doesn’t want to have to wade out and pull our struggling forms out of the water, though He will. He wants us to trust Him with everything.

And I wish I could tell you that I was great at trusting God with the small every day things. That yes, I can’t let go of the big stuff, but the small decisions, have your way, God.  But then I thought about it for a solid two minutes and realized I don’t even trust Him with the small stuff always.

I depend on myself to make money so I can buy my food so that I can pay my bills. I rely on my uncle to continue housing me and not to kick me out on the street, but not God.

I pray a big game. I mean I really do. I am the queen of praying to God about stuff that I entirely don’t trust Him with. And I know that He can see that I am a phony too. When I pray to Him about my future or about my future spouse, I always pray for Him and the Holy Spirit to lead and guide me, but I don’t look out for them. I pray for my heart or circumstances to change, but then I don’t let them work in me.

At the root of my being, I know that I can trust God. But I don’t always trust Him to provide me with good things. A quote I love by CS Lewis sums up what I am feeling perfectly,

“It is not that we are necessarily doubting that God will do what is best for us, we are wondering how painful the best will be.”

It can be hard to see the good in our world every day. Families are torn apart; car accidents kill loved ones, friendships fall apart, people get laid off. And yes, God never promises that we will have an easy life as His followers, but He does promise to fight for us, we just have to be still.

So, this year, I vow to spend less time trying to solve my own problems, and more time sitting back and letting God work His magic. Because yes, God will intervene in our lives no matter if we trust Him or not, but if we do trust Him, we get to be part of a much more beautiful story than if we tried to do it on our own. We open ourselves up to our utter humility and just desperation for God, and I don’t know about you, but I constantly find myself needing to fill up on that. Maybe you like me, are a chronic worrier, someone who wants to trust God with everything they have, but just isn’t sure where to start. Here are some ideas that I have for the worriers in all of us.

 

Praying, Praying A lot

praying

I often go throughout my day only praying during my designated quiet time. But I want to be someone who realizes their dependence on God every day, every hour, every minute. My prayer is that I pray more and more. Because if you think that Moses stopped praying just because God said He would fight for Him, you’re mistaken. Now, I don’t personally know Moses, but I bet that God sharing that with him caused him to fall to his knees, thank God, and pray even harder.

Be Real About Where You’re At

worry

Don’t let your Christian friends or church community guilt you about not trusting in God. If you have someone in your life who, “can’t relate,” to not trusting God, you may need to step away from them because I think they have to be a sociopath. Everyone worries and forgets to trust God. What helps us is to remind ourselves and others of the times that God has shown up and taken care of our battles for us. Find friends you can be real with about this struggle; I guarantee that you won’t be alone.

Be a Testimony Collector

testimony

I think we often think about our testimony as the story where we either accepted Jesus for the first time or when we had our first big encounter with God. Me, I think of testimonies a little bit differently. I think at their core; testimonies are just stories where God undisputably showed up. It can be a miracle, healing, or when you got an A on a test, you thought you failed. Stories have become part of my love language. Partially because Shauna Niequist, but mostly because stories are what bring people together. They can be communicated in any language and shared around any table. So don’t be afraid to share your stories or to ask others about stories they can share when they trusted God, and He showed up.

Give Grace, But Don’t Give Up

grace

Don’t beat yourself up when you turn to your mom instead of God in prayer. Don’t beat yourself up every time that you start to doubt. But also, don’t give up trying to trust God above anything and anyone else. Though I am nowhere near the finish line for this myself, I know that giving up just because I am falling behind isn’t the solution. So find that balance between not feeling sick to your stomach with guilt, but also not being too lackadaisical. Give yourself grace in the moments you need it, and push on and cry out to God in the moments you want to toss in the towel.

I hope that you can relate to the words I have written today. And that if you are in a season of waiting, that you can take some time to be still before God today. Ask Him what He wants you to do, and set aside time to actually listen. I hope that this year is a year that we all can make some baby steps, strides, or even leaps to trusting God more and more.

Dear Anxiety: How To Rediscover God In Busy Seasons and Especially Anxious Moments

anxiety

I like to think that you can tell the state of someone’s heart by looking at the state of their nails. If you looked at my nails, you might be startled by what you see. My nail beds are often red and bloody from where I have picked and scratched at them. Leftover glue from gel nails that I tried to compulsively pick off but couldn’t, remain on the ridges of my nails like some ice on the sidewalk you just can’t scrape off. And the tops of my nails sticking out in disarray from where I have picked and nibbled at nails that have gotten too long.

I had no idea when that nasty habit started, but I know it must have been at a very young age. Whenever I got stressed or overwhelmed at school, I would start to pick away at the loose skin around my cuticles. I answered a question wrong in math class, pick. Got made fun of by the other nasty 7th grade girls, pick. Had a track or cross country meet I had to run in the next day, pick. Stress, pick. Busyness, pick. Perfectionism, pick. It got so bad that my thumbnails now show the signs of my abuse. Tiny, close, horizontal lines now dart the once smooth nail bed of my thumbs. They are not the attractive sort of ridges that old women sport because of years of working in garden beds or changing children and grandchildren’s diapers.

My hands are of a young woman, with a secret for stress and anxiety, that only appears if you look closely at my thumbs. Which of course all the nail technicians everywhere I go to get my nails done do. They cast furtive glances at one another as they examine my nails and whisper to each other in a language I am not meant to understand. I know that I have nasty nails, I just didn’t realize until recently, how much my nails reflect what is going on in my heart.

Yes, I have been down the dark, deep, never-ending hole of anxiety, but maybe I hadn’t conquered as well as I thought upon looking at my nails. I remember early days of learning and realizing that the obsessions in my head were not something that most of the population heard on a regular basis.

My mother first thought I had anxiety when I was in maybe 9th or 10th grade. I somehow got it in my head that I needed to pee everytime I got up in the night. Come to think of it, it wasn’t really that I was afraid of wetting the bed, I knew I could hold it, but just that I might wake up, maybe sometime in the future and be discomforted in some way that I couldn’t control.

anxiety

And, anxiety, the betrayer of the body, took that fear and twisted it into a compulsion that I didn’t even realize I had trouble ignoring until my mother pointed it out. I remember her voice ringing out tired in the night, if you don’t stop going to the bathroom I am calling a psychiatrist to check you out. That did the trick, though I was afraid of discomfort, I was more afraid of being labeled.

Those were years before words like obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and medication, would be swirling around in the sentences of those closet to me. I thought everyone was that way, maybe that’s why it took me so long to tell others when I started to notice the unmistakable signs of anxiety. But no, I would just wake up, tears streaming down my face, knots of pure evil rumbling around in my belly, and think I was going insane. That if I dared to tell someone how I was feeling, what I was really thinking, they would have me committed. And in a good Christian school like Grove City College, you could be ostracized for having such an illness.

Good Christians prayed that their anxious thoughts would go away, maybe I wasn’t praying hard enough. Maybe like the blind beggar in Matthew, this was to atone for the sins of my parents or grandparents. Christian people didn’t turn to antidepressants; they made their children have secret panic attacks in their rooms and go to see Christian pastors who thought they were also ordained to be counselors. If I had had such parents, I would have been quilting Philippians 4 on a nice pillow cushion while fighting off another panic attack, not throwing my Bible violently against the wall of my dimly lit chapel prayer room annoyed that the medication hadn’t kicked in yet.

It was in that musty, dusty, comforting room adjacent from our main chapel hall that I really found Jesus. My roommates throughout my college career were people who loved to be in the room in the afternoon, right around the time I did my devotions. I always would be ready, sitting on my bed, hands poised in an uplifted position, Bible and various markers ready to go deep into a study, when one of my roommates would arrive breathless from the cold, or class, or just filled with excitement and chattiness and the moment would be lost.

It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I realized if I wanted to have a truly holy, uninterrupted prayer time, I would need to find a different spot: that and the fact that I kept falling asleep and waking with a lurch and feeling terribly guilty during my devotions. So I found that chapel room as my new safe haven.

The room was a little dusty, with rays of sunlight or sometimes rain glinting through. On cold winter days or particularly damp ones, I would have to turn on a light to read and see. The walls were layered with prayer requests from strangers on campus and half-finished Bible verse artistic attempts that petered out on the walls hopefully not like the faith of those who first thought to construct them. There were cushions to sit on the floor, some very dilapidated Bibles with peeling covers, a random smattering of pens on the floor, and a chalkboard outside where you could mark if you wanted people to join you or leave you alone.

anxiety

It was here, in this dusty, hidden corner of my college campus that God began to speak to my heart. Many times I would come to Him stressed, with worries of boys I thought I loved, sorority drama and tests and papers to be prepared. I came to him often in joy with fun news to report and exciting moments throughout the day to share. Sometimes I came to him sad or angry. Like when my anxiety left me crippled for months or when the recent boy I decided would surely be my husband had decided I was wrong.

But the comfort I felt in this room, was such a small taste of the comfort I know we will discover one day at the feet of the cross. I think now that my life has gotten so busy and so full of activities and hours that must be worked, that I have not allowed myself to have time like that for a really long time. My devotions these days tend to look like rushed readings of scriptures before heading out the door to my commute, podcasts to replace listening for His voice, and prayers that are more centered on me than ever before. I think that we all go through seasons like this — seasons where we suddenly find ourselves farther from God. Like we accidentally took a train but realized we got off at the wrong station, not really sure how we got here, but looking anxiously to find our way home.

I believe that God still shows up and meets us in these moments. Because he knows our hearts and all things, and His spirit has a way of discovering that girl who wrote those letters and cried out those prayers many years ago on the dusty floor of her college chapel. God doesn’t ask for us to be perfect in our pursuit of Him, but He does ask us to show up. And I intend to spend this holiday season reconnecting to the God of Harbison chapel. The God of whispered wisdom, a soothing voice, and a whole lot of patience.

Yes, I have changed from that anxious girl I once was. I still pick my cuticles, but I get weekly manicures now. I let someone else take care of my hands, assess them, and make them beautiful. In many ways, I think that God is doing the same thing with my heart during this season. Taking it delicately in His hands, surveying it, smiling, and picking up His tools to get to work again.

Do You “Live On Mission” With Those Who Annoy You?

monday meditation

 

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2: 4

This past Friday night, I found myself at my least favorite place in the whole world, the grocery store. Now, there are many of you out there who truly relish going to the grocery store. You may be one of those people who love to meal prep and cook and smell the scent of your own handiwork rising from your oven. Oh, how I wish I were one of those people. But, I was not in the grocery store on a Friday night because I was making something delightful for dinner, I was there because my brother was visiting and as the hospitable person I am, I was too lazy to buy the lunch meat he would need to eat the night before.

The problem with that is that I have become, over this past year of adulting on my own, a late person. This is not something I enjoy sharing. I was never a late person before, so it was startling to realize throughout months of showing up five minutes late to many occasions that I was turning into one of those terrible late people. And even though I know that being late is incredibly rude, I honestly just try way too hard to cram everything into the last minute.

Let me just send one more text, check one more post, finish one more conversation, etc., etc., and then I’ll leave. You may have been there before as you rush to work while putting on makeup or try to squeeze the last couple of minutes out of a particularly good TV show before meeting up with friends. Because of the busy life, I live, and because I just have not been able to budget my time accurately, I was a little bit late to welcome my brother home as I was standing in line to check out at the grocery store.

Most grocery stores are not my friend, but this grocery store was turning into hell on earth that Friday night. All the self-checkout lines were not working, which frankly should be illegal in this day and age. And to top it off there were only three lines open with some extremely slow-moving high school teenagers who were honest to goodness double bagging every single item before handing them over to the patron. So there I was waiting to be next in line, cursing myself and vowing to never be a late person again, when the lady in front of me decides it’s time for her to lose her mind.

Apparently, the predicament was over a mismarked product. As someone who had the distinct pleasure of working at a grocery store for a summer, I could tell by the way the woman used a clipped tone to ask about how much her laundry detergents had cost that she was a lost coupon away from going to town on this poor cashier. I had been there many times myself as various women and men had yelled at me about brownie prices and two for one deals.  Dear God, I prayed, please make this not turn into world war three.

“Is it really 12.99 for two laundry detergents?” she growled, “The sign says two for $10.” Here we go I thought wearily. This annoying woman was about to continue to ruin my Friday night. The line of what felt like a hundred people behind me stirred uneasily as her tone rose. I looked longingly at the self-checkout cursing myself again for being a late person. She went on for a good five minutes, the managers had to come over, and a lot of fuss was made. By the end, I wasn’t just angry, if I were a cartoon character steam would be starting to slowly come out of my ears as my face turned red.

Because, who did this stinking lady think she was? Why was she ruining everyone’s Friday night with her melodramatics? Couldn’t she think about the others who had to listen to her go on and on for ten minutes, for a second?  Eventually, because she had made such an unbelievable racket, she got her desired price, and it was finally my turn to be checked out by the slowest cashier alive for the lunch meat and four apples I had waited all of eternity it felt like to receive. As I exhaled in annoyance and stepped forward to finally get out of this awful place, I saw something that stopped me in my tracks.

The loud, annoying woman, as I had dubbed her, was pushing her heavy cart and also helping what appeared to be an almost blind woman push her cart out to their car. Though both of them appeared to be dressed well, I realized with a start that both had used food stamps to pay for their purchases. I saw the woman tenderly push her cart and turn around to help what must have been her sister who couldn’t see, steer her cart as well. I felt the pit of my stomach drop.

Because though I had just spent the last ten minutes cursing this woman, I should have been blessing her. I realized that I had reacted to the situation with my typical human impatience, instead of looking to God and seeing this as an opportunity to show love and grace to someone who desperately needed it. I had let my own lateness, and eagerness to get home, make me look down on another human who probably really couldn’t afford the laundry detergent at full price.

And here I was, not even worried about what my food would cost or the weekend ahead where I would be eating out plenty of times with my brother, rolling my eyes at her. Yes, she was loud and a little rude, but was that an excuse to give her my worst behavior? Had I treated her like I was a Christian living on mission for God’s kingdom like I acted at church, or did I treat her like everyone else in the store huffing and puffing and sighing loudly in annoyance?

This made me stop a second and reevaluate how often I bury my head to those around me and quickly judge them. Have I become someone who curses others when I am the one who showed up late, or because I let my pride tell me that they are less than me? I say that I am a Christian and that I want to show others God’s love through my actions, but as soon as someone is difficult, I throw in the towel.

So today, I encourage you and myself to pray for those who annoy us. For the ladies that give you grief at work, or the rude guy you bump into on your way to class, or the lady who raises a fuss at the grocery store.

As Monday is drawing to a close and the rest of the week is creeping forward, I encourage you to spend this week looking for opportunities to be God’s light to others. To maybe take a break from your cell phone, and look up at the people you are passing by on the sidewalk. To be intentional about paying attention and looking for opportunities to let our actions lead others to Christ. I’m ready to not only talk the talk of a Christian but to put forth more effort to walk the walk with those I am surrounded with every day. Can you say the same?

Resources:

1. Everybody Always- Bob Goff

2.  How Sarah treats Haggar- Genesis 21: 8-21

4. Jesus and the Woman at the Well-John 4:4-26

3 Pieces Of Advice For The Scared To Death College Senior

Honestly, sometimes I still have a hard time realizing that I have been out of college for a whole year. Then I’m grocery shopping, getting up much too early, unsuccessfully making jello( real story), and going to work every day, and I remember.  Oh, do I remember.

College is such an amazing time in every young person’s life. It is where you discover who you are, meet friends that last a lifetime, and nap as much as you want.

However, like all good things, college also has to come to an end. Soon enough everyone will walk across the stage and hold a diploma in their hand that signifies everything they have worked and cried for these past four years. And, then, just like that, it’s all over. You pack up the dorm room full of memories, hug your friends tightly goodbye as you scatter across the country, and move back home to wait. Wait for your life to begin or at least get a job.

As much as you may say you are ready and that you loathe college, no one is really ready for the transition that comes after college. One day you’re walking around safe in your college bubble, and then pop! Suddenly you have to cook for yourself, and pay for everything, and get up early.

I hope that in this article I can help to give encouragement and strength to those of you who are about to embark on the messy, hilarious, and incredibly new journey to adulthood. Though the college years are amazing for most, society lies to us when they say that college is the best four years of our lives. They are not the best; they are the start of a much more fulfilling and joyful life. So, if I could go back to this time last year when I was studying hard for my finals and trying to squeeze in every possible second with my best friends, what would I say?

Laugh At Yourself

Adulthood is going to kick you around that first couple of months. You may be starting a job you thought college prepared you for, only to realize that you have retained nothing and have no idea what you are doing. You may move into an apartment for the first time and have to cook for yourself, only to realize that you can only make cereal. You may be moving to a city far from your family and friends, and have to find your own church and a new community.

Times will be tough, confusing, and hilarious. I can’t tell you the number of times that I screwed up cooking, I mean terribly,  and still am, my first year out of college. So learn the difference between the things that should upset you and the things you just need to laugh off.

Be open and willing to learn new things. I have learned more this past year than I did all four years of college combined. Most of that comes from the real experience I am getting at my job, but a lot of it is personal. I have learned how to be a friend outside of college, how to order deli meat at the grocery store, how to go to church by myself, how to be on my own, what I like to do in my spare time, and how to successfully not nap through the day. You will be learning a lot too. So, don’t go into that job thinking you know everything or act that way to your friends. I guarantee after a week of being a real adult you’ll realize just how little you actually know.

For instance, this time last year I had no idea that in two short weeks, the internship I had secured for the summer would be taken away, and several weeks later I would be starting at a company I had never heard of my four years at Grove City. God definitely has a sense of humor, but He also will lead you. When everything else around you is changing, including the scenery, know that the God that you have worshipped and loved for many years never changes.

Action: Keep a journal of that first year after college. This will be a great place to keep your thoughts safe when you need to whine, and to laugh at the misadventures that you are sure to get into. I promise you after your first year out of college you will be able to find yourself chuckling at the entries of you not knowing how to grocery shop or do things that are second nature to you now at your job.

Let Go Of Crazy Expectations

I think that society puts a ton of pressure on college grads, or maybe we just put that pressure on ourselves, to have it all figured out the minute we walk across that stage. But that is completely insane. If anything, you are even more lost and confused after graduation than you were going in. The world is your oyster, and you enter the workforce fresh and having no idea what you are doing. No one is expecting you to get a raise two months after starting that first job, for that first job to be your forever job, or for you to have it all figured out.

Do yourself a favor during this time and take a break from social media. This is especially true if you aren’t quite sure what God has planned for you after graduation. It can be all too easy when you are stuck at home at your parent’s house desperate for anyone to hire you, to compare yourself to those around you. To the people that have those coveted jobs, are getting engaged, are moving to new cities. Everyone looks so pulled together, much more than you are sitting in your childhood bedroom.

But friends, no one posts their tears on social media. No one posts the number of rejection letters they got before landing that job, no one posts when they are crying of loneliness during those first months in a new city, no one vents their frustrations about having to put their own gym into a GPS because they have no idea how to get anywhere in their new strange town.

As a college graduate, I can guarantee that everyone is struggling in some new way. It might not be the same way that you are, but trust me, your peers are just as lost and clueless as you feel.

Action: Pray. Pray on your knees and be honest. Don’t let social media make you question who you are or how much God loves you. Be honest with your friends and family when you are struggling. Vulnerability leads to more vulnerability. Your friends may just be waiting and wanting you to admit you are so freaking lost.  We are all works in progress; we are not completed until we get to heaven. So take the pressure off and realize it’s totally normal to be so lost and so confused. Isn’t that what your 20s are for?

Lean Into Community

One of the hardest parts of leaving college behind for me was the incredible friends that I made. There is a certain bond that is unlike any other that you have with your college friends. You lived with them, learned with them, and experienced life closely together for the past four years. They shaped you into who you are, and you shaped them. It can be hard to set out to find a new community and to keep the old. But here are some tips I have.

Set a schedule

  • Life gets crazy and so busy, make those friendships that you want to keep in your life a priority. Set aside a time each week or month to talk to certain friends. Trust me; if you don’t plan it, it won’t happen. And don’t be worried to initiate talking with friends first. The last time I checked people don’t get upset when you want to continue to invest in them.

Set up visits

  • Yes, phone calls, social media, and Skype are great, but you also need to make time to see these friends. Plan a girls trip, come together for Homecoming, or drive down to see them some weekend. This is especially vital if you are single because when you get married, it is going to be more challenging to visit those dear friends whenever you feel like it.

Community takes work

  • It doesn’t really take any work to make friends in college. Yes, you do have to talk to people and put yourself out there, but from what I remember from my freshman year, pretty much everyone is thirsty for friends. You are surrounded by people that have similar beliefs and are actually your age. You can walk up to someone, introduce yourself, and they are your new best friend. Unfortunately, the real world isn’t quite so easy. The truth is, if you don’t put yourself out there and seek out finding new friends and community, you won’t find it. If you stay in every Saturday night to watch Netflix, you’ll be watching it alone by yourself six months later just the same.

Yes, continue to invest in your college friends, but as Christians, we were created for community. Phone calls from long distance friends every week are great, but we need face to face interaction too. As a very extroverted person, I thought finding community would be so easy. It is NOT! It takes a lot of effort and time. It takes dealing with rejection and awkwardness and showing up to a young adult group again and again when you know no one.

But, after those months of trying your best to find that community, I promise you it will happen. When you put the effort in, pray for Godly friends, and seek them out, you will find them. But don’t expect people just to befriend you automatically.

So here are some tips if you are moving to a new place:

Join a small group

This is an easy way to get close to people and also have a weekly commitment. These are people just like you who are seeking out a community and are willing to put in the effort to find it. Go a couple of times before you throw in the towel, I know that my first judgments of people are usually very wrong.

Connect with other college people

Try to scope out if anyone from your college is moving to or around the area you will be living. Yes, you may not have been close or even known them well in college, but that doesn’t mean they can’t become some of your closet friends post-college.  These are people who can help to fill the college-shaped hole in your heart that throbs so much that first year away.

Go Out

Go to public places. Join a gym, go to a coffee shop, go to church, but don’t sit on your couch, cry, and call your mom. Get out there and make some friends.

Yes, finding community outside of college is a longer and harder process than it is in college, but it is so worth it. God will bring you the friends you need and friends that also need you, but you have to be willing to put in some work.

Action: Make it a goal and priority to invite someone new or someone you met for the first time to hang out with you this week. When I first moved to Lancaster and started meeting people, I made it my goal to try to hang out with two new people each month. Now, I didn’t always meet that goal, but it definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone to meet up with people and make those close relationships happen.

Life after college is a crazy, unexpected, but beautiful journey. I am so excited for you to begin this journey and hope that my advice can help you along the way. Remember that God directs your steps and He will not lead you somewhere He isn’t. Trust that He knows your plan and enjoy the ride.