#TheStudentLife

Dear World Changer,

This piece is about a seminar I did at our annual Radiate event with IntenCity. I don’t claim to know it all, nor will I ever claim that, but I pray that my story and journey speaks to your heart…

So, here’s to #TheStudentLife.

 

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How many times did I think I was finished school? How many times did I question along the way? How many moments did I have to step out in complete trust? Well, there’s no real simple answer…

I really wish there was.

Oh do I wish.

But that’s all a part of it… Of this incredible, life altering, character building, and growth-filled journey called: The Student Life.

Before I (well, we) go anywhere from here, sit back and watch this clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xab6HLwDFT4

Have you ever considered the type of student YOU are? The overreacter? The borrower? The overachiever? The genius? The sleepyhead? The eater? I’ve definitely been a number of these over my years of being a student. I’ll never forget my first year at university – oy, I was such a rookie. Unless you’re a morning person, I would not recommend taking the 8:30AM classes when you have to bus ONE WHOLE HOUR to get there. Yes, I was definitely THAT student who did the head bobbing followed by the pen drop causing my own embarrassing wake-up. Thankfully I was only one of hundreds of students – but hey, definitely not my finest moments.

 

So, lesson #1: AVOID MORNING CLASSSES – well, if you’re not a morning person like me 😉

 

My journey after high school was one I never could have planned when I look back on it. Initially, I had planned on being a teacher and so I began this next life chapter at Carleton University. In June 2012, I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts degree and majored in Psychology. The following June (2013), I graduated from Ottawa University with my Bachelor of Education (aka Teacher’s College). It was at this point that I believed my journey through the student life was over – and all my fellow students say HEYYO.

With this finished mindset, I applied for a job with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board to be a supply teacher. To my surprise {which was toooootally God’s divine provision at work} I got an interview followed by employment in November 2013. How crazy. At the age of 22 I was finally a TEACHER and was happily saying S-A-Y-O-N-A-R-A to the student life.

Well, so I thought I was.

It was during this year of supply teaching that God began to shift my heart. There are so many details I could share, but in short, I knew Bible College was my next step – which meant baaack to the student life.

WHY GOD WHY. 😉

So in September 2014 I went to Master’s College and Seminary {S/O’s to my MCS peeps!} and a few years later completed a Bachelor of Religious Education. April 2017 was the end {and hopefully THE final lap} of my student journey.

There is so much more I could have shared about my journey above… it really is only a snapshot… However, you might be thinking:

Did I plan to do all that? à No, definitely not.

What did God teach me through it all? à To stop planning and embrace my seasons.

 

So, my lesson #2 for you: IT IS OK TO NOT HAVE IT ALL FIGURED OUT.

 

With all the schooling I do have under my belt, trends are something that often come up. Any stats fans out there? 😉 Here are four trends that I have noticed about the student life and they are one’s I think you should know too:

  • Different Starting Times
  • It has become increasingly popular that there is no clear cut model for post-secondary education. Some people go to university right after high school, some people take a year off to work and figure out their next steps, some people travel, and some people simply never go to school. There is not a right or wrong in my personal opinion – but rather, you have to think: what is right for you? I knew God was calling me to go to school right away. I also knew that taking a year off would likely mean I would never go back 😉 You have to know YOU. Don’t feel pressured by what your friends say – at the end of the day, your life is YOUR life. God has a specifically tailored calling for you.
  • End Goal Changes
  • You may be wondering what in the world I mean by this one, but bear with me. In today’s society, it is also increasingly popular to have the degree that people go to school not match the job they end up working. Take my story for example, I was determined that I would be a full-time teacher by this point in my life. Real Facts: I’m nowhere near that. I supply teach, so yes I am teaching, but God led me to Bible College and my heart shifted in where God was taking me. Do I regret all those years of school, 100% nooo – not at all. They were all a part of the journey God was taking me on. So don’t be so hard on yourself and think that things will be cookie cutter. Be open to changes, be open to God’s voice. You never know what He has in store for you 2, 5, 10 years from now. It’s kind of exciting isn’t it? Well, I’m excited for you at least! 😀
  • More Than One Degree
  • This one is very similar to number two. If someone had told me back in Teacher’s College that I would be going back to school, I probably would’ve laughed. Like actually, what-a-joke. In my mind, I had reached my “end goal”. The problem: it wasn’t God’s end goal for me. You may end up doing one degree/diploma/certificate or a series along the way. The best part? You don’t have to have it figured out now. Plan what you can and allow God to lead the rest.
  • Job Post-Grad May Differ From Desired Job
  • An interesting trend is this one. Real talk: it’s the best feeling when you walk the stage and get to say “It. Is. Finished”. However, it’s a whole other feeling when what you worked so hard to get doesn’t lead to your dream job right away. You see, you may walk through seasons where God wants you to work that [insert job you don’t want to work] because He is prepping you for the next season. The reality is, God doesn’t place you where He does for no reason. What if He needs you at that specific job for purposes far greater than you would ever be able to understand? What if He’s trying to birth new dreams and a work-ethic in you that never could have been accomplished in another why? What I try to live by: work as if I was directly working for Jesus. Cliché? Maybe. But it’s truth. Would you clean tables the way you do if JESUS was there? Would you complete projects as you do if you were handing them in to HIM first? The small things matter in Kingdom Business. Be open, your current job may be a greater blessing than you realize.

 

So, Lesson #3: REALITY IS, THE PATH IS NOT CLEAR CUT; AND, THAT IS SO VERY OK.

 

A while before I began prepping for this seminar, God had taken me into 1 Samuel. (A book I still find myself captivated by lately.) Specifically, I was reading 1 Samuel 4:18:

“When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man, and he was heavy. He had led Israel forty years.”

What a way to die, eh? Not fighting a battle, not saving someone’s life, but by falling off a chair. In fact, the Bible even states how Eli was old and heavy and that’s the end of it.

Three words came to my mind as I read this passage and they are so applicable to #TheStudentLife:

  • Obedience
  • Without going into details, Eli’s family was not honouring God in their lifestyle. In fact, Eli neglected to fully correct his son’s actions and as a result God no longer was going to honour His lineage. Now yes, this was Old Testament times before Jesus came and died for all sins. However, Eli and his son’s actions are a prime example of the link between obedience and blessing. If you want God to bless your schooling and bless your future, you need to be more concerned about your obedience TO God in the process. Regardless of what the world may think, are you being obedient to where He is calling you? God honours obedience – in fact, we are called to obedience. We aren’t called to know everything.
  • Health
  • I find it so interesting how the Bible points out Eli’s physical features. Usually as church folk, we are continually told the opposite – how God cares more about your heart and your integrity versus physical appearance. Although this statement is so very true, we can definitely learn from Eli here. How are you treating your body? How are you taking care of yourself? And this seeps into your body, mind AND spirit, ladies. God has a calling for each and every one of you, but if you aren’t aware of your health and how you are treating yourself, you ARE ultimately toying with your future. Crazy thought eh? What if your actions today were directly impacting how God could use you tomorrow? As much as He gives grace and mercy, we also need to do our part. So, as you enter the post-secondary stage of your life, be aware of these things. Be aware of what you eat. Be aware of what you think. Be aware of your relationship with God. Health is so very important. Your habits can make or break you.
  • Legacy
  • Despite all Eli had done, Eli’s life ended with the above verse: with him falling off his chair, breaking his neck, and dying. And with that, the reader is reminded that he was old and heavy. Interesting legacy isn’t it? … What words do you want spoken over you when you die? Although we may not know the specifics or the when of our death, we do have the capacity to impact our here and now. For Eli, the priesthood (the leadership) had become corrupted. The character was shaken and no longer God honouring and God fearing. Eli is known as allowing his sons to continue in sin. His family is killed. He had lost the presence of God. What do you want to be known for? Choose to care more about your obedience to God in the process. Today, stress less about your destination because when the time is right, you will know. As a student, your job is to be obedient and faithful in the now.

 

So, Lesson #4 – OBEDIENCE IS LINKED TO BLESSING, HEALTHY LIVING IS KEY, AND WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE KNOWN FOR? LEGACY MAKING STARTS TODAY.

 

Now, you’re probably thinking: Jenn, what about the practical stuff? Well, don’t worry – I gotchu! J What would a #TheStudentLife seminar be without some tips about how to be a student practically? So, here are a few tips from yours truly. The list could really go on (like, forever) but I hope some of them help a girl out.

  • Use a calendar/the syllabus is your friend.
  • This may seem obvious but honestly, this is a life SAVER. If you don’t know what a syllabus is, it is a paper document that your teacher (professor) will give you at the beginning of the semester. It will outline their expectations, how to contact them, what the course is about… and what assignments you will have! Most professors will provide a detailed calendar of the semester and list every assignment you will have to complete throughout the semester. This is gift friends – a true gift. Sit down, get your calendar out, and write out when assignments are due. This may be tedious, but it will save your life when you’re in the middle of the semester, tired, and starting to crave Christmas break.
  • Read your readings.
  • Like legit, because you ACTUALLY learn. Crazy thought eh. 😉 Bonus: some professors will make exam questions that are just based on the textbook readings – so read, read, and read some more. I feel your pain, don’t worry!
  • Go to class.
  • You are paying thooooousands of dollars to be there. Just go.
  • Get involved/take a break.
  • If your campus or class has events on campus, seek out some that may interest you. Maybe join intramural sports, a club, or hang out with new friends. Your brain WILL need a break from studying. Besides, when you look back on your college days you’ll want more than just memories of studying – it’s all about balance!
  • Pick one church, be consistent, get involved.
  • As a Christian, you really need to get plugged in to a local church. You’re not meant to do this walk alone! So: find a church, pick ONE, and commit. Attend each week, get involved in the church. If you are going to make this new city/community your new home, you need to commit. Yes, it may be hard at first, but you will not regret making new friends and becoming a part of another church family.
  • Treat yourself/Find a getaway.
  • If you’re like me, I’m a coffee LOVER. So cafés were my thing (and still are) and my getaway. You need to recognize what fills your tank – hanging with friends, getting away by yourself, walks in nature. Whatever it is, find it and make intention time for it – you CAN treat yourself. When I lived in Peterborough I would sneak away to a local café and spend time doing whatever I had to do that day. It was one of my most favourite times of the week.
  • Dollarama is your friend.
  • This sounds funny, but actually, Dollarama IS your friend. When you’re on a budget and living that student life, be wise with your money. I couldn’t even count the number of times I found myself grabbing baskets, zip locks, containers, etc., from the dollar store and spending waaaaay less than if I had gone to another store. Think before you spend. Your bank account will thank you.
  • Take the free stuff.
  • Buy a pen or buy a coffee? When on a budget, this could be a crisis for you. 😉 Just think: when your last pen dies and yet you need that caffeine fix to get you through the three essays you have to finish … Ladies, universities and colleges will always be offering those free pens, notepads, etc., and so TAKE them. I’m all about the freebies, especially when it means I can still afford my caffeine for the week. 😉
  • Dorm life
  • I didn’t experience dorm life until I went away for Bible College. That being said, there are so many tips that could be said about living on dorms. Here are just a few that come to mind:
    • Bed risers/containers for under your bed – Storage is the something that you’ll likely be lacking when living on campus. Depending on your campus and the beds they have, you may want to consider bed risers! You can find them at Walmart or Canadian Tire (and I’m sure many other places) and they seriously are LIFE SAVERS. By using them, I was able to make enough space for a food container, shoe/clothes container, etc. It added so much extra storage space and made things easily accessible. So if you can, BUY them.
    • Wear sandals in the shower – Well, this one depends on your germ-a-phob level and the style of showers your campus has. Regardless, it’s likely that you’ll be sharing a showering space with 2-10 (or more) people. In my opinion, maybe wear the sandals and save yourself the potential foot fungus. Yes, gross to say, but I’m alllll about them clean feet. 😉
    • Shower caddy – Whoever created this invention is genius. If you’ve never heard of these, you’ll definitely want to consider getting one if you have to travel to your shower/bathroom space. Back when target existed in Canada (WHHHY did it leave), I bought a caddy and it was one of my best purchases for dorm life. It fit my shampoos, face wash, toothbrush, etc. and I was able to just grab it in the morning when going to get ready. The caddy stored everything neatly, was easily portable, and honestly, it was just wonderful. My advice if you have to live on dorms: get one J
    • Mini fridge – Not sure about your eating habits, but I’m a hard core snacker. So in my opinion, one can never go wrong with a fridge stuffed with snacks. Also, this also prevents you from splurging on that late night pizza and instead opting for an apple, yogurt, veggies, hummus, etc., that I know you’d have in your fridge, right? 😉 But in all honesty, keep healthy snacks. Your body will thank you!
    • Christmas lights – Christmas is one of my all-time favourite times of the year. So for me, Christmas lights was a must and not just for Christmas time. J Make your dorm room home-like and add some touches to the walls and your desk. I strung Christmas lights around my room and used them almost every evening. Trust me, studying is much more doable when the ambiance is home-like and the lighting is more appealing.
    • French Press – For coffee. Must I say more? If you’re a coffee lover, you can never go wrong with a french press. You may have noticed a theme for me … coffee comes up a lot. 😉
    • Fan – Regardless of temperature, a fan is a beautiful thing. Not only does it cool down your room when the dorms are so incredible hot, but it also can drown out loud hallways when you’re trying to study or sleep. Personally, I can’t sleep without one (dorm life or not) and would 100% recommend you get one.
    • DON’T bring all your clothes – Girls, my greatest mistake was taking so much of my wardrobe when I first moved to dorms. Trust me, you won’t wear it all and on top of that, you won’t have space for it all. Choose your favourites and only pack what you know you will wear. Plus, if you know you’ll be going home at least once during the semester, you can grab a few extra things while you’re home. Your dorm is the only “you” space on campus, don’t over pack it!

 

So, Lesson #5 – TALK TO PEOPLE AND ASK ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCES WHEN THEY TRANSITIONED INTO POST-SECONDARY LIFE. YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY TIPS. J

 

Well Ladies, this is all I have for now. I hope it’s been useful or insightful, or at the bare minimum something you’re glad you read. I lived the student life for more years than I ever had planned, and honestly I wouldn’t trade any of them. As you enter these next years, allow God to take the reins. Don’t stress. Don’t overthink it. Just rest in His presence and walk in obedience. You’re not meant to know it all. If you ever need an ear to listen, a heart to understand, or a person for advice, I’m here.

So World Changer, here’s to your next chapter – to #TheStudentLife. A life filled with learning, adventure, new friends, and so much more!

 

Lots of love,

Jenn XOXO

Advice on Going Back to School

Dear World Changer,

Tomorrow is your first day back at school so I thought I’d share some advice with y’all that has stuck with me through high school and post secondary. Here’s SEVEN things I want to challenge you with for this school year:

  1. People don’t like you as much as you think they do. Ouch right? Let me explain this one. In high school, all I wanted to do was people please. Many of us want people to like us right? I went through so much anxiety, worry and stress trying to get everyone to like me. I would wear the right things, say the right things, act the right way until one day someone blurted this phrase out. I’m trying to please all these people and I’m thinking it’s working, but over HALF of them won’t ever think about me at night, ask me how I’m doing on a bad day, text me when it’s a rough week, or even ask to hangout outside of school. I’m turning into someone else trying to please people that actually aren’t real friends and to be honest, I didn’t respect ANY of them either! Tip: Be yourself, and true friends will be drawn in. Friends that will text you, that will stand by you, and that will like you no matter what clothes you have on. The rest – aren’t worth it!
  2. Be a leader not a follower. I’m at the stage of life now where I can clearly see where everyone from my high school ended up in life. What blew my mind was that the popular kids/leader of the path/”cool ones”/ones who peer pressured everyone into doing drugs and drinking —- they are all still living at home with their parents unemployed. They don’t know what they want to do in life. Why? Because they spent four INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT years pleasing people and focusing on being the IT person, that they weren’t focusing on who they wanted to be and where they wanted to go. The only goals they had in high school was how many people they could hook up with and how much they could drink before passing out. They were called the leaders of the pack, but they were really just following people’s expectations. Advice: Be a leader not a follower. Don’t follow the crowds but instead lead yourself into someone of character, integrity and wisdom. Someone who works hard. Someone who had values. Someone who has dreams. And people will want to follow THAT!
  3. Hard Work Gets you Places – In school, many just show up. I’m challenging you to SHOW UP WELL. Be all in. Work your tail off! We’re a generation that likes the easiest, fastest way possible. Advice: Don’t take the lazy, easy, fast route. Put the hard work in. Proverbs 12:11 says – “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.” Work your land and you’ll reap the blessings.
  4. Curses could be Blessings – You may be put into a class with no friends, you may have the worst teacher, things may not go your way, you may be put WAY out of your comfort zone. Let me encourage you  – the most scary/hard times could be right in the middle of God’s will. You may have that mean teacher because they need encouragement and God has chosen you to bring it. You may be put into a class with zero friends because then you’ll be willing to see other students who have none and God wants YOU to talk to them. Jesus doesn’t care about your comfort, he cares about your CHARACTER. Character is sometimes built in the scary moments. What we think is a curse – might just be a HUGE blessing.
  5. Drama isn’t worth it – Oh the drama. It’s going to happen. It may not happen the first week back, but it’s coming! Here’s advice from proverbs. Proverbs 15:18 “A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.” Drama turns up the heat. It gets you angry when people spread lies about you. BUT I’m challenging you to be the bigger person. You get hot-tempered, and you make the flames higher. You stay calm and speak with gentleness, you put out the fire. One word….character. Have character in all you do. Be known as the person with integrity and kindness.
  6. Don’t revert back to old habits – For many of you, you went OVPC, you were a part of the Forge, many awesome encounters happened over the summer and I’ve heard SO many testimonies of how you guys have gotten a solid consistent devo life happening! Don’t revert back to old habits now that school is starting. When Moses went up on the mountain top to hear from God, the Israelites got impatient. Now every time Israel got impatient – they did something stupid, then they begged God for forgiveness, God showed up, all was well, and then they would get impatient again and repeat the whole cycle. This particular time was no different. Moses was taking too long for their likings, so Israel built a golden calf and started worshipping that! They revert back to their old habits every. single. time. Let me challenge you – when you start getting impatient with God, or you start getting really busy again, don’t revert back to your old habits of not reading scripture, not showing up to youth, not meeting up with your mentor etc. Busyness is never an excuse for giving God your leftovers. In the busyness of school – praise him. When He’s not showing up fast enough for you – praise Him. When you don’t FEEL like reading your Bible – still do it. WHY? Because your faith shouldn’t be based off your feelings. It’s deeper than that.
  7. You could be the only Jesus your school sees: I’m going to start this one with a Bible story.

Story of the 10 Virgins/Bridesmaids

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

To understand this Scripture, you need to know how weddings worked back then. When a couple got engaged, they didn’t spend the next year picking out napkin designs and flower arrangements. Nooooo, they actually didn’t see each other at all! The groom would take off and the bride wouldn’t know when he was returning #nocellphonelife. So the bride would wake up every morning, bathe, put on her dress and put on perfume as if today was the day she was getting married! Her bridesmaids would do the same! Plus, they had another task. Their job was to keep lanterns lit to light the path to the bride’s house so the groom would know where she was! 5 bridesmaids were wise – they were prepared for his return ANY day. 5 were foolish and instead of working hard and being prepared…they fell asleep! The groom shows up one random day, and only HALF the community was lit because 5 bridesmaids were sleeping instead of getting ready! It sent a mixed message to the community!

Many of us go to church, read the Word, talk about Jesus in our connect groups but when we get to school, we’re quiet. We act a different way. We talk a different way. But we still say we’re Christian if anyone asks. But what kind of message does that send to our schools? They see people going ALL IN for Jesus and starting up Christian groups, and sharing Jesus with everyone, but then they see the other half that says their Christian but acts different.

This sends the same message as those bridesmaids. The community is only getting half lit. Our schools are getting a mixed message about who Jesus is.

Jesus could be coming back ANY day now. If he was coming tonight – would you be happy with how you’ve lived? Have you represented Christ well?

Go all in this year. Don’t get caught up in drama, people pleasing, laziness and peer pressure. Live for Jesus. You could be the only Jesus your classmates see.

I’m praying for ALL of you this week! Can’t wait to hear how God is using you in your schools!

If you guys have any questions, need advice for this year or want to request a certain topic for the next blog post – go to the CONTACT page! Also, keep your eyes open for our “Overcoming” Series! This upcoming weekend we’ll be talking about “Overcoming Low Self-Esteem.”

Pastor Natasha