Wow, this semester has been a whirlwind! I still can’t believe I’m over halfway done with my undergrad, and that it’s almost the end of 2014! (It’s going to take me a few months to remember to date things 2015.) So much has happened this semester, and I’m exhausted. But more than the classes, debate tournaments, weekend trips, and midnight runs to Cookout, I’m going to remember this semester as one where God worked pretty miraculously in my life.
Here are a few things my God has been teaching me.
1. He’s been teaching me, over and over again, how sovereign He is. Sometimes, it’s actually easier to find peace and security in knowing that He has control over all things when it comes to the big stuff. I have an easier time not stressing about what career I’ll have, what grad degree I’ll get, or where my life will be in ten years, then I do recognizing the control He has over all the little things. This semester, He was challenging me to take comfort in knowing that He has sovereignty over each test I take, each debate I win or lose, and each and every one of my days.
2. He is in relentless pursuit of my heart. Praise the Lord this one is so true. In the midst of hard days, when I thought that I had messed up beyond repair, He was teaching me that His pursuit of my heart is relentless because He is not content to let me have a half-hearted faith. When I slip into the very human trap of believing I can do it all my own and I stop relying solely on His grace and sovereignty to guide me, He is not content to leave me there. Like the very best parent, my Father sometimes lets me experience pain that is good for me and will bring me closer to Him. He knows when winning a debate is only going to leave me full of pride and leaning on my own success instead of His grace. He knows when I start to think I can do it all on my own and need to crash and burn a little bit so that my faith in Him can grow. I love that my God is not content to have half of my heart, He is in relentless pursuit of the whole thing.
3. He is all I need. This is one that I can know in my head and have a much harder time living like it’s true. After a particularly bruising criticism of one of my debates, a friend (with great intentions) said to me, “Remember when you won that tournament? Remember when that one judge said you were amazing! Remember those things when someone says something mean.” She was coming from a loving place, but she was missing the point. When I let those instances of human praise be what confirms my worth, I only give the insults more power to tear me down. It’s only when I realize how meaningless the praise or the criticism is in the light of all my Savior has done for me that I can be truly free from the pain of a harsh word.
4. He is faithful. Usually when Christians talk about God’s “blessings” or his “faithfulness,” they’re talking about the A on their midterm, the raise they got at work, or things God has given them that make their lives more convenient. When we say God is faithful because of these earthly pleasures, what does that say to the person that failed their midterm or got laid off at work? Like His relentless pursuit of my heart, He is faithful in the truly good things. When I pray for a good grade or to win a debate, He may not give me that gift in order to more greatly bless me. After a day full of earthly losses, I can honestly say, “Thank you, Lord, for the losses and the failures and the disappointments. Thank you that you bless me with these promptings to live my life more reliant on your Grace.”
5. There is nothing more I can do. Everyone wants to do something important. Sometimes I worry that I’ll never do the world-changing stuff that I think I need to do. I dream big dreams and then worry that they’re too big. Not only is He big enough to do all things, but He has already done the greatest world-changing thing to ever happen. There’s peace in knowing that He has won, succeeded, accomplished, and done it all. It is finished. There is freedom in knowing that all that’s left to do is follow His lead and rest in His grace.
I hope this semester was as rich in the Lord’s mercies and teachings for y’all as it was for me. I thank Him often for a school that fosters these lessons and has put people in my life to journey this life with me.
As for me, I’m about to drive home for Christmas and enjoy a short break before the debate season starts back up again in early January.
Have a Merry Christmas and a New Year full of thanksgiving for the blessings He has graciously given in 2014!
Merry Christmas from my little sister Kendra and I!
Last week, the Liberty debate team got the incredible opportunity to host a team of debaters from Rwanda!
It was an incredible opportunity to get to know a group of people with such different backgrounds from us and use an activity we are all passionate about to do it.
The students from Rwanda got a tour of the campus during the day, and then that afternoon, two of them debated two Liberty debaters – myself and my dear friend Meagan.
Meagan, me, and Rwandan debaters Bryan and Kassy.
We debated the resolution “The United States should intervene militarily in situations of genocide and dire human rights abuses.” The debaters from Rwanda affirmed the resolution and Megan and I negated it. The debate centered around what method of intervention was the most effective and moral in response to genocides – military or non-military.
After the debate, we took questions from the audience that ranged from the U.S. legal obligations in such tragedies to the response the victims of genocide were calling for.
Then, the Rwandan team presented our team with a gift – a basket debater Kassy described as representing the work our coaches had put into us and the harvest of that labor in us as debaters.
Liberty University debate team Director of Debate Michael Hall accepting the gift of the Idebate Rwandan team.
At dinner that night, the debaters from Rwanda had so many interesting comments about their time in the states. Kassy commented that she had heard that Americans did not vote in their elections. When we explained that far less people voted in the midterm elections than in the presidential elections, the debaters were shocked that Americans took their right to vote so lightly. In one of the most profound moments of the day, two of the debaters, Kassy and Bryan, mentioned that when we criticized our country in the debate, they had to remind themselves that they didn’t need to fear the police coming in response. Kassy said that when she heard people make fun of our president in a flippant and superficial way, she was shocked that Americans would use our freedom of speech in such a way. Her comment stuck with me – “It seems like you’re taking your freedom for granted.”
What a blessing that we can criticize our government in debate without fear of our opinions being silenced by force. But what a responsibility that blessing is – to use our words wisely and take advantage of the freedoms we have.
This weekend, the Liberty University debate team hosted a tournament here on campus!
I’ve written before about how much this team means to me – we’re a (sometimes dysfunctional) family and I’ve fallen in love with this activity.
This weekend was a great reminder of why I love this team – we may love competing (and winning), but our purpose in debating is so much more than that.
I love that I go to a school and debate for a team that puts our Lord Jesus above all things. I find it so easy to slip into the mindset that success is all that matters and that losing debates can be the end of the world. I love that I have a support system of people around me that are all striving towards the same thing – keeping Jesus the center.
Novice debaters Ana and Amanda having a great time debating at the home tournament!
Varsity debaters Alan and Lindsey preparing for a debate.
New debaters Hannah and Katie are learning so much!
Liberty debaters having fun in between debates!
And to make the weekend even better, it was Halloween and we got to wear our costumes to the tournament!
Meagan and Vida serving pizza to debaters on Halloween!
Amanda and Ana dressed as Frozen characters Ana and Elsa!
Varsity debater Mary as the Cheshire cat!
My debate partner, Nora, and I went as "Froot Loop Dinguses" - a silly phrase our coach uses to describe our usual antics!
I love that I can be a part of this team that is striving to honor God with our successes and our failures and keep Him the focus of our work. I can only hope and pray that I can continue this work in a way that glorifies Him.
I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but I am getting stressed. The papers, test, and projects are piling up and I’m starting to sleep a little less than I would prefer.
When you’re on hour three…or four or five or six of writing your term paper, studying for your midterm, or working on your group project, the lure of the vending machine is strong. But one of the easiest ways to make yourself feel worse and do worse on your assignments is to combine a lack of sleep with overly processed food.
So, in the spirit of making our study habits healthier, my roommate Claire and I decided to try out a few healthy study snacks! And since part of the attraction of pre-packaged snacks is the low cost, we decided to keep our entire project under $10. Here’s what happened!
We started by heading to the store to buy a few supplies. The only thing not included in our under $10 challenge was a jar of peanut butter we already had back at the dorm.
-2 Gala apples
-A pack of tortillas
-A block of cheddar cheese
-A bag of granola
We made it under $10!
With our ingredients in hand, we set out to make three recipes!
1. Peanut Butter Banana Bites
One of my favorite things is peanut butter and bananas, and this recipe takes this combination and makes it easy and portable!
You’ll need: peanut butter, tortillas, a banana
Start by spreading peanut butter on a tortilla.
Then peel and place your banana in the center of the tortilla.
Roll up and banana and tortilla together.
Slice the roll into bite-sized pieces.
And you're done!
The results: This was delicious! Claire said: “It’s a good combination of sweet and a little bit of salty from the peanut butter, and the tortilla kept it from being too messy.”
2. Cucumber Sandwiches
This recipe can be made so many different ways, depending on the ingredients you have on hand, and is just as portable as the first one!
You’ll need: cucumbers and whatever sandwich ingredients you want!
Start by peeling and slicing the cucumber.
Choose your sandwich filler. We went simple and sliced up some cheddar cheese, but you can use different cheeses, spreads, meats, or other veggies.
Now just make the sandwiches!
The results: Good. We both decided having more sandwich filling options would be better, and that mixing different flavors would make them more exiting. Claire said: “Definitely good, but not my favorite of the recipes we made.”
3. Peanut Butter Apples Sandwiches
In the spirit of simple and portable snacks, these sandwiches can be easily packed up and taken to the library for a long study session!
You'll need: apples, peanut butter, your favorite type of granola
First, core and slice your apples.
Then, spread peanut butter on the slices. (We got a little messy, but they were delicious anyway!)
Next, sprinkle some granola on one of the slices.
Finally, top the granola with the second slice and enjoy!
The results: These were amazing. We found that using a more crumbled granola would make the sandwiches easier to eat, but that the one we choose (which had chocolate in it!) was particularly delicious. Claire said: “The mix of peanut butter and granola inside the apple was so good! I knew the peanut butter would go well with the apple, but the granola made it even better.”
Bonus idea: Popcorn!
We always have microwave popcorn around the dorm, and there are some easy and fun ways you can spice up your typical bowl of popcorn.
- Add a pinch of salt and chili powder and mix in about a tablespoon of lime zest for a slightly spicy popcorn.
-Mix trail mix in with your popcorn for a fun mix of sweet and salty
-Add a little finely grated cheese to your bowl
-Before pouring the popcorn out of the bag, add in two tablespoons of melted butter, a few teaspoons of sugar and a little cinnamon
I hope these recipes and ideas inspire you to try out a few of them and incorporate some healthier habits into your study routine!
As the semester nears the halfway-point, I’m starting to realize how much has already happened this semester and how much I’ve learned. Already this semester I’ve: had fun and successful debate tournaments with my new partner, started upper-level classes in my major (History), and grown so much in my relationship with the Lord. Here are some of the best things I’ve learned already this semester:
1. God is sovereign.
This is a big one. It’s one of those things that you can intellectually agree with, and yet struggle to live as if you truly believe it. I’ve been faced with so many situations this semester that seem frustrating or difficult or hopeless until I remember that He is sovereign. He gives us good things. And sometimes what I think is good for me is actually going to be destructive. Praise the Lord that He knows what is good for me even when I do not!
2. You can’t do it all.
I always think I can handle making everyone happy at the same time, tackling every project in one night, and managing to keep everything together 100% of the time. Newsflash: I can’t. I fail miserably at making everyone happy all the time, studying for two midterms after 10:00 pm is a bad idea, and sometimes I just have to admit I’m struggling. There is something incredibly freeing about admitting that you cannot do it on your own. Praise the Lord that He has succeeded and won and conquered the world so that I don’t have to have that weight on my shoulders.
3. Prioritize people.
I have a tendency to be extremely goal-oriented, sometimes at the expense of the people in my life. I can be incredibly focused on a single task and get frustrated at anyone that distracts me. The hardest thing sometimes is giving up an hour of cramming for an exam to get a coffee with a friend or give advice to a team member. But God has blessed me this semester with so many beautiful examples of times that sacrificing my time was exactly what He was asking me to do so that He could use me in wonderful ways. Praise the Lord that He blesses me with people in my life that draw me closer to Him.
4. Time with Him matters.
It’s amazing how true this is. Sometimes I’ll be about to go to bed at night and wonder to myself why my whole day seemed off. Then it hits me – I’ve barely talked to God today. There are days I have to take an unexpected detour to a quiet spot on campus and spend more time with Him to get me through the day. Being in constant communication with the God that made the universe doesn’t just blow my mind, it is the lifeline I need to keep moving forward. Praise the Lord that He has blessed us with this unbelievable connection to Him.
I hope y’all will also take a little time this week to think about the blessings the Lord has given you and the lessons He has taught you.