Don’t Miss The Gift

I’m learning to live by two rules.

And in their fundamentalism, I believe that they hold the key to solving most, if not all, of my problems and sins and heart-breaks. And perhaps yours, too.

You see, God and I have this thing going lately, and up front I really hated the arrangement. I despise when I find myself alone in the middle of the day, finishing up lunch and wandering campus to find motivation to do anything that will occupy my time in an intelligent manner. Often I just wander, weighing the pros and cons of where to go and what to do, and I’ll make it across half the campus and realize that I didn’t look up from my shoes and thoughts the entire time.

You know when you’re driving home from work or from work to you’re favorite coffee shop, and when you get there you realize that you don’t remember a single moment of the entire drive? That you must have used your turn signal and stopped at red lights and turned on your windshield wipers, but you truly cannot recall a single one of those instances? Because, to you, it didn’t matter how you got there or what happened along the way, as long as eventually you arrived where you were planning to go.

That’s me, most every day for the past two years, as I have walked through life. All I find myself thinking about is where I’m going, and all is lost about where I am. I’m sure there were newborn babies in mother’s arms at the table next to mine, and bees eating pollen out of flowers and perfect, crisp breezes blowing fiery red leaves across my path, but did I ever stop to allow life to be all it is to me?

No. Not nearly enough, at least. Which is ironic, since surely, whenever I get to wherever I’m going, I will only be thinking about what is to come.

And where does that put life? Forever in my rearview mirror.

Missed.

Unappreciated.

Never enough.

I’ve blamed this behavior on a list of things. What can justify such a blatant lack of gratitude for the greatest gift given to man? My favorite excuse is my past. Is just too hard, too dark, too dirty. How can I move on? I’ve measured this world, and I’ve decided. It’s not good. How can it be? 

How can what has hurt me so bad be “good”? I don’t feel grateful.

And so I’m not.

And that leaves me the kind of person that can’t find the goodness of the world when it’s staring me right in the face. Because it is, always, staring me right in the face. But I miss it, far too much, for I’m too busy complaining to God about all of the terrible things that have happened to me.

 

But it’s in these moments, when I wander campus alone, that the LORD leads me to quiet corners and empty classrooms. And it’s there, in the midst of my screaming discontentment, He speaks. I’ve learned to recognize these moments as growing pains, the ache of Christianity in which God makes me holy, as He is holy. And sometimes, it hurts. Bad.

And today, I need some Heavenly-Ibuprofen.

But it’s in these moments that the LORD has taught me these two rules, showed me that my mind runs far too fast for the simplicity of His grace in my life. That the reason I find myself so anxious and overwhelmed so much of the time is because I’m taking on far too many burdens I was never meant to carry.

For God’s handbook, written to me, I am realizing can be paraphrases in 11 words.

  1. This life is the greatest gift.
  2. Life like you believe it.

You see, my stumbling block has been that I thought it was my job to measure whether or not this world was good, whether or not my life was good. And when I tried to make this daunting decision, I was always overwhelmed by all of the incredibly difficult blows this world makes. And day after day, I would come to the decision that it wasn’t. It wasn’t good.

And my heart would break and I would walk down perfectly good streets and find every single crack in the asphalt.

But God whispers to me. Take that burden off of yourself. It’s not your decision whether or not this world is good. It is good. I have declared it so. 

Do you believe that? 

I am not God, and the brunt of my anxiety stems from when I try to play Him. My problems are not in the difficulties of this life, but from the fiery, rampant discontentment growing in my heart. The rotting moss of my fearful heart grows from a life lived without gratitude for the gift of life that has been given to me.

How dare I walk through life with such an entitled mind? Like this world is mine to define, like my life is mine to control? How dare I walk through my days wishing I was anywhere else, doing anything else, when Jesus came to this Earth and died to give me this life? This very moment, this breathing in and out?

This life is not my own, for I was bought with a price.

Therefore I must glorify God with my body.

For when I don’t, I am telling God that it is not good. When I don’t, I am relying on my own fallen mind to determine the state of the world and my life.

When I don’t I am looking straight at my Savior dying on the cross and telling Him not to bother. I won’t appreciate the gift anyway.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, but I have come that you may have life, and have it abundantly.

John 10:10

This gift. Abundant life.

Bought with a price.

And this life is found not in pages of a planner and dreams of days to come. But it is found now, in this moment, as I wander the streets of campus on a Thursday afternoon.

And it is a gift.

Thank you, Lord. May I live like it.

Life On An Anti-Depressant: The Lies We Cannot Believe

Negative thoughts and beliefs are just that: thoughts and beliefs. They are not facts, and they do not need to be true.

Tricia Lott Williford

As humans, we do this thing. When someone tells us something about ourselves, we tend to believe them. We take their opinions upon ourselves and stamp labels on our chests.

We’re undesirable. Stupid. Ignorant. Unstable. Incapable. Unworthy. Sick. Lost. Why? Because somebody, at some point, in some way…

said we were.

Those thoughts have power. Power like I never could have imagined. Power you may understand way too well.

For me, those lies have come in the form of doctor’s prescriptions and sticky paper-plastered beds.

I never knew the power a doctor with a bottle of pills could have until I sat on the rumpled up paper of a doctor room bed and was handed a little orange bottle. Reading the label: Escitalopram. Lexipro. Antidepressants.

And in that moment, I wasn’t just Maddie, someone who has been sad lately. I was Maddie: doomed.

Maddie: unstable.

Maddie: incapable.

Maddie: sick. Forever sick.

Was I any of these things? No. Did I feel like I was? Yes, I really did.

It was like the depression I had been feeling was not only an imbalance of chemicals in my body, but it was an impenetrable diagnosis, one that consumed all of me and made me feel ashamed and humiliated.

And let me make one thing clear: depression is nothing to be ashamed of, nor is it a sin. It is a real thing – me of all people should know that. But it is also not an identity – never make it your identity.

You are not depressed. You may have dealt with what we call “depression”, but it is not who you are.

Because mental health does that to us, doesn’t it? It makes us hide. It uses shame in uncanny ways to make us think that we’re less than who God made us to be. It is the fertile soil for lies to grow into sprawling trees in our minds.

And we hold it in our secret places. We give it all the power to scrape us hollow from the inside out.

And so came the crushing blow as I did nothing to stop those lies from sinking deep into my pores, not knowing the earth-shaking power they had. It had nothing to do with what was happening in my body – I’m sure the pills actually helped – but it had everything to do with the way I began viewing myself. From that moment, those lies planted seeds deep into my mind and heart. I didn’t know how desperately I needed to uproot them.

I didn’t know what to do with them at all.

As I drove away from that doctor’s office, I let another’s opinion of me consume me. And when I say consume, I mean drop me to the ground, curl me into a ball, shatter all that I believed about my self consume me. Should I have felt unbearable shame at the thought of being on antidepressants? No. Did I? Oh dear, yes. I felt stamped, categorized, labeled, doomed.

Unstable. For the first time in my life, truly unstable.

I have learned a lot about negative thinking in the past 20 months of my life. It’s powerful. And when I say negative thinking, I am not referring to the sit-cross-legged-on-the-floor, think of birds and trees and clear your mind from all “negative thinking”.

No, I mean the kind of negative thinking that steers you on the track of ignoring or denying every Truth that has been spoken of you. I mean negative thinking that alters the way you live, implants lies deep into your mind, makes you believe you are far, far less than the capable, beautiful, upheld Child of God that you are.

Because you are, my friend, capable, beautiful, and upheld by the hand of the Lord. You are.

It’s a fact.

No questions asked.

No jury necessary.

I lived in fear for a long time. I thought I had to. I thought that as long as I took my daily “I’m-Weak-And-Doomed pill” (which I still do, by the way), that fear was a simple side effect. Because… doesn’t that mean I’m that girl now… the one who is depressed. “Oh, be careful with Maddie! She struggles with depression.”

So what? I’m not perfect. You’re not perfect. Isn’t it time we accepted that fact?

Why should we be ashamed of being the “sick” that Jesus came to save?

It took me a long time to realize that I was the only one who had decided that my life had dissolved into a million pieces. Shame kept me locked up inside my own head for too long, but once I finally spoke, finally uttered those “horrific” lies I had come to believe, I realized that I was the only one that believed I was anything but brave.

“Why are you giving so much power to that doctor, Maddie?” My mom. “Take it back. It’s not his to have. You know who you are, now start living like it.”

You know who you are, now start living like it.

Start living like it. 

There comes moments in our lives that we have to choose who we’re going to believe. The first thing my dad said to me last year when I was at my worst: “I think it’s an identity problem.”

Identity problem? Come on dad, it’s a depression problem. It’s an anxiety problem. I can’t help the way I am. I’m sick. I’m trapped. I’m the victim. 

And God just shakes His head.

“Why do you live like you are less, daughter?”

Why do you live like you are less?

 

Life on an anti-depressant is just that: Life. You are not your medication. You are not your diagnosis. Those things are beautiful parts of your story, for the Lord redeems and uses all to build up our character and increase our hope.

But they are not our identities. They never will be.

Take the power back.

 

 

God Amidst The Chaos: A Memoir To Thin Places

When we find a thin place, anytime, anywhere, we should live differently in the face of it, because if we don’t, we miss some of the best moments that life with God has to offer us.

Shauna Niequist

I’ve learned how easy it is to hate any moment of darkness, any difficult season in our lives.

When we are walking through the fire, there is an image in the front of our minds of the moment we walk out of the “furnace”, isn’t there? The time when it ends. When we escape the tortious moments we’ve lived. We all have them, I’m sure.

Don’t we?

We imagine ourselves out of the hospital, clear-headed, at peace. We’re skinny and healed, our bones in place, our mind at rest.

Nine months ago, I was home from school, battling what the doctors like to call depression. I like to call it sin nature. Or the effects of a fallen world on my earthly mind. Either way, I was sick. I will never forget those days, no matter how desperately I wish I could sometimes. I will never forget the night I first got home, how I laid sideways on the couch, head on my mother’s knee.

She stroked my hair. Something played on the TV. Dishes clacked in the kitchen. But I was somewhere else, fighting a battle in my brain that I never imagined I ever would.

No one ever told me how distant reason can be in a fighting mind. Or how your eyes can be every bit open but it’s as if they have forgotten how to register light. I tried to wave my hand in front, but the fidgeting of my fingers was lost amongst the midst of my pain.

That’s the way I describe those days. Painful. And terrifying.

I couldn’t hold the tears in that first night home. I had left my friends at school, my notebooks, my sense of purpose, and a waning stream of my dignity.

They streamed past my face.

“I can’t do it, mom.” I whispered. The floodgates of my raging emotions finally let loose as I let myself feel the slow fall of the past months.

She looked at me.

“I don’t know how to do it.”

 

It. This. Life.

Fighting a battle that is beyond myself. I have always been confident and purposeful, long strides and head high. But that night, for the first time in my life, it was more than me. It was swallowing me. It: the doctor’s diagnosis, my present circumstances, the sadness, the singleness, the disappointments, and every small moment of my story that had lead up to that night.

It is a terrible and frightening lesson to learn, the one that we are human. We are fragile. We are weak. And there are days, many days, where we run to the end of our own chain.

 

I learned this week about thin places.

It’s an old Irish tradition. Thin places are the spaces on earth, or the moments in time, where the sacred meets the secular, the holy kisses the ordinary. They’re places where God is close by. Where you can see Him, more than you could before. That something lined up, and two moments met, and something special crashed together in order to allow you to have even the smallest glimpse of the Most Holy.

That month I was home last year? That was a thin place.

I see it now. At the time, all I wanted was out. I hated the diagnosis, hated being called depressed, hated the pain and confusion and darkness. I hated being viewed as less than whole. I hated leaving the doctor’s office with a small orange bottle in my hand.

But every morning, out of the burning desperation in my heart to find light out of anything, I would rake the Bible, demolishing pages at the hand of highlighters and ballpoint pens and tears. My decaf coffee would cool as I could do nothing but cry out to my God. I learned how to cry that month. And there are a million other stories I could tell about that time, a million lessons learned, but today I want to speak of only one.

My thin place.

I found God in those days. The tan sectional in the living room of our Pennsylvania house transformed from my prison to my homecoming. I could be nothing there but myself. I wasn’t a student. I wasn’t a peer. I wasn’t a resident’s assistant or intern. I was hardly a friend, as I had left them in Ohio.

But I was God’s. And He was mine, in that thin place.

It was the most painful time of my life, that standing in the Holiest of Holies. Being nothing but Forgiven, not a fragment more than Grace.

 

I still find my thin places from time to time.

I couldn’t make it through class today. Sometimes, in the midst of moving forward, out of that season of last year, I am catapulted back to the girl on the couch. Sometimes it is the emotions of others or the minor chords of a song, or the conversation that the professor chooses to dwell on during class.

Sometimes I’m brought back. And I have to move. I have to do something.

And today that meant standing up, out of my squeaky desk chair, and taking a walk. I needed Jesus. I can tell because I get that same feeling I had as I curled up next to my mom.

The ache of sadness, the heaviness of life.

And today it found me crouched down near a wall, phone in hand, Bible app opened, reading aloud amidst the cavernous staircase of the academic building.

2 Corinthians 12:9 – “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Voice echoing off of the cinder block walls, tears coming to the front of my eyes. The unstoppable, undeniable Truth of my precious Savior began to do its work, transforming every part of me and comforting the restless, childish soul that I own.

And I realized. A thin place. There, in my least favorite building on campus. Breathing the same air that desperation blew out only minutes ago.

But that is exactly where God loves to find us, isn’t it? When we’re finally quiet enough to hear Him? Finally blind enough to see Him? It makes me rethink. What is good? And what will be made good, building up into one of the greatest blessings we could ever ask for?

A glimpse of the Most Holy, the Prince of Peace, my Savior and friend. Jesus.

 

 

Can God Use Me If I’m Not “Feeling It”?

Joy.

Joy. The one word I feel has been lacking from my spirit these past couple of weeks.

Do you ever have those days, or weeks, or months, where you can’t seem to find the joy in your life? As if someone stole it right from under your nose and hid it? And then, before you know it,  life begins to exist through tinted glasses and fast-forwarded days and you live and sleep and live and sleep and… You wake up and do it again.

That’s been me.

What is joy? The Bible never describes it as an emotion, as we too often do. (Even notice how I conveniently used the word “feel” at the beginning of this post…) Nor is it a situation or an environment.

So what is it?

The Bible says to “consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2), and to also “eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do”. (Ecclesiastes 9:7) Peter says that  “though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy“. (1 Peter 1:8)

Therefore joy is present in the good and the bad. It is abundant in our trust and belief that Jesus is Who He says that He is.

It’s… unwavering.

So why have I felt this way? Why, if I have always believed that joy is constant in the life of somebody following Jesus… why has it appeared so distant?

 

I was given an incredible gift today.

You see, it’s my birthday. I’m 21 today… 21 years of exchanging oxygen and stories with the other souls in my life.

Birthdays are funny. Your birthday is the day that is always supposed to go right. Presents are supposed to be given (and returned…?), cake is supposed to be eaten, friends are supposed to be hugged, Mountain Dew is supposed to be drunk (drank? drinken? sp?).

And yet, often they can be the most disappointing day of the year. (Am I right?) That most-wonderful-boy-in-the-entire-world-who-is-your-future-husband-but-doesn’t-know-it-yet fails to wish you a happy day, you’re away from your family (college…), and you don’t quiiiite get the gift you were betting on.

Well, today I was given the most incredible gift, one that left me in tears in a dorm stairwell at midnight.

You see, these wonderful people in my life, my friends, gave me the gift of words. I received a book full of letters- letters from the people that mean the most. I was given the gift today, in the wee hours of my birthday, to read through my tears the encouragement that I didn’t realize I was so desperate for.

But the most incredible gift of all was one from Jesus, from the One who pursues me and chooses me and sweeps me off of my feet every time I fall. You see, He knows- even when no one else does- my heart. The depths of my heart. He knows when my cells scream to explode from happiness, and He knows when my soul shrivels and cries alone, “God… why am I here? Why am on this campus? What good can I accomplish? I can’t even conquer these sins of pride and idolatry… how can you even use me?”

He sees me through even that.

And today He saw me. How do I know?

Because do you know what word I read over and over and over in those letters?

Joy.

Repeatedly, over and over again, I read myself on the page being described as a vessel of joy in the lives of those around me- lives that needed it. I sat there amazed and awed and completely overwhelmed by the intense beauty of the moment. Me- the sponge who feels squeezed-clean of it- was in some way, somehow, a fountain of joy to the people around me.

 

Why do I tell you this?

Believe me, it’s not to brag about all of the “great things everyone’s saying about Maddie”. It’s not to extinguish your last excuse of not “knowing it’s my birthday”. (PS I like cards and dark chocolate ;))

I tell you this to bring up a very specific and intrinsically beautiful point.

Jesus doesn’t need me to feel joyful in order to bring joy into the world.

Let me say that again: Jesus doesn’t need me to feel joyful in order to bring joy into the world.

9 times out of 10 I allow my emotions to dictate truth in my life, and it needs to stop. You see, emotions do nothing to the promises of God. Joy is a gift given- a filling in which we are merely willing vessels.

It is not something I try to do, not some trait I attempt to accomplish.

 

Tonight, sitting in a deserted stairwell, I was reminded that being used by Jesus to change lives is not something that do. As I held my oily, end-of-the-day face in my hands and sobbed tears of complete joy, I was held in the comfort that I don’t need to be or do because everything has already been done. And because Jesus is. 

He is joy, not me. I am merely the birthday girl that gets to unwrap it.

I Have The Gift Of Singleness

This week has been absolutely nuts, friends.

In more ways than one, I have been an emotional wreck. From napping every day, to snoozing my alarm for an hour, to eating nothing but homemade cafeteria pizza (yes, it’s a real thing), let’s just say I haven’t exactly been on “top of my game”. So much so, that I didn’t even post this week on Sunday, as usual.

I just… I didn’t know what to say.

Sometimes, I feel as if I have nothing good to say at all.

But today… today I realized what I want to say to you all. You are my friends, you wonderful people who read what I write week after week. I feel so much comfort in knowing I can share my life with you all, and I am so encouraged when I hear from you, about how your life mirrors mine in some way. And through this journey together, I feel as if it’s most beneficial to us all if I’m just honest with you guys. And so, in the midst of my “hot mess-ery”, I want to share with you my heart.

This is to all the single girls out there. (Or guys.)

Today I grabbed lunch with a dear friend of mine. We eat together every Monday at noon, and I have found through our Mondays that it is so rewarding to walk through life with someone on such a regular basis. While we’re talking, (and I’m, of course, eating pizza), we get on the topic of dating and update each other briefly on our personal dating lives. (Because, let’s be real, it’s a dang good juicy topic.)

My portion lasted maybe 27 seconds, if that. (Translation: it’s nonexistent.) And so I asked her about hers. As if on cue, a smile lit up her face and she proceeded to pour out her previous week and the incredible experiences she had. Within the last 7 days, an incredible guy sought her out and treated her well and made it clear that he wants the relationship between them to go somewhere. He’s tall, mature, witty… you fill in the blank. Oh, and he loves Jesus. Like a lot.

In other words, as I downed my pizza, I sat there and listened to everything I’ve “ever wanted” happen to somebody else. Somebody I love dearly and want only the best for.

And yet.. as you can imagine, that was hard. Really hard.

I’m going to be 21 in a month, never dated, never experienced what it’s like to be cherished in a way that is only present in a romantic relationship. In my natural, fallen state, it is so easy for me to feel bitter towards those who are handed the life that I so desperately want- even my closest friends.

And so, as we finished our lunch, I headed back to my room and tearfully began to pray.

And what I felt God whisper to me was not what I was expecting.

As I curled into my bed, closed my eyes, and allowed quiet tears to trickle past my nose, wise words spoken by my friend came back to me:

“Maddie, there is so much blessing in being single. I wish I could tell every girl that, including myself.”

Blessing. Alright, real original, God. Singleness is a blessing. I’ve heard that before. But He wouldn’t let it go. As I lay there, cuddling my teddy bear, I rolled over and begged God for a different answer. But none came. God didn’t remind me to pray for my future husband, and He didn’t say Just wait… you don’t know what waits around the corner!” 

Instead, He emphasized over and over in my heart that I have been handed a gift. For the first time, He began to open my eyes to the endless possibilities of being a single girl on a college campus. And, even more so, He began to challenge me to accept the fact that I may not meet my future husband during my college years. (Of course, I can’t be the one to tell you how my life is going to go. But it was important for me to give that possibility over to God.)

And so, after much wrestling and whining, and through many tears, I allowed God to begin a work on my heart that I had been holding back from Him since I stepped foot at college.

How often do I value my single years as a gift? If I’m completely honest with myself, I have viewed singleness as a waiting room for over 2 years now. A valley. Somewhere I have to be for a time, but not somewhere anybody wants to stay for very long.

And yet, God tells me to rejoice daily. To find joy in any and every circumstance. To cherish my days here on Earth, because they are few. And so I began to pray, but not for circumstance or opportunities or even contentment.

I began to pray for happiness.

Happiness in being single. An oxymoron according to my past vocabulary, and yet the only truly good way to live these days in front of me, in recognizing the gift I have been given.

Because I am loved by the one true God. Loved, pursued, and promised. And therefore I am not in want, not today or in any day to come.

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.

Proverbs 31:25

 

 

A Letter To My Freshman Self

Dear Freshman Self,

 

I’ve been thinking about you a lot these days. Every time I walk past a group of freshman girls laughing and discovering this new place, I cannot help but see you. I remember so clearly what it was like to be you. Fresh out of high school, this whole college thing is both terrifying and intriguing- like standing on the edge of a bridge with a bungee cord tied around your legs. You know that you will be ok, and the cord will catch you. You know you will bounce back and be better for it.

But making the plunge, well… it’s scary.

And yet you did it.

You did it and you’re making friends and you’re starting to call this campus home.

And oh, there is so much I wish I could tell you.

I’m a junior now. I’ve lived 2 years in this town, 2 years on this campus. I have made friends and lost friends, made some good decisions and a lot of poor ones. I’ve regretted a few things. I’ve laughed more than ever before and cried enough to last a lifetime.

And I just… I really wish that I could write to you. I wish I could tell you all that I know now. I wish I could give you the advice that I so desperately needed as I began my college years. 

I wish I could convince you that your girlfriends are going to be some of the most precious gifts of your college life.

I wish I could warn you that you are going to struggle with idolatry… warn you that you are going to fall into the sin of putting boys before your Jesus. That it is going to take years of prayer for you to give God your future- night after night of tears about desiring a relationship and a marriage. You are so naive right now, friend, as you assume this whole “college dating” thing will be easy.

It is so, so hard.

You are going to be single much longer than you are planning, and it is going to be impossibly hard to have patience. Now, as you are living your first weeks in college, you feel as if you’re swimming in a “sea of boys”. You are about to become oh so distracted, and I really wish that I could save you from all of it.

Because we are ordered to put all idols at the foot of the cross. And you… well you are going to hold onto your idols for far too long, and I wish in all my power that you wouldn’t.

I wish that you would decide right now that Jesus is enough for you.

I wish that you would trust Him starting today. You don’t know this now, but you are about to go through some unbearably hard times in the years to come. God is going to ask more of you than you can even imagine, and you are going to struggle trusting Him. Listen to me… He is worth trusting. There are going to be days that it’s all you can do to get out of bed, days that the darkness seems like it is going to overwhelm you.

In those times, take heart! Jesus promises us that in this world we will have trouble, but that He has overcome the world.

Never, ever forget that. Cling to that promise every day.

I wish that forgiveness would be your first response, and that you would take God at His word. I wish that you would seek Heavenly things and not things of this Earth. I wish that starting today you would walk this campus with a heart of love and a mission from Heaven.

But… well, I know that you won’t.

Sure, you’ll have your moments, and you do love Jesus. But you have so much to learn.

The reality is, you will spend too many days without talking to your Savior, and you will hold grudges too long. You will obsess too much over that boy and too little about being a good friend. You will doubt God and will allow anxiety to be your guide. You will cry out selfish prayers and hold this Earth closer than gold.

You will do all of these things, and you will learn, and someday you will be me… writing a letter to yourself after it is all said and done.

And the more you’ll think about it, the more you’ll realize that maybe that’s the way it is supposed to be. You will make so many mistakes, but they will all shape you into who God wants you to be.

Every dark night will be your chance to see Jesus as your only light. Every grudge will only magnify the incredible forgiveness offered by your Savior. Every tear shed will only bring you closer to the God that counts them as they fall. Every day of singleness will be a new day for you to learn firsthand that Jesus is all that you need. These next 2 years for you will be hard and you will be broken too many times to count, but they are all for good.

So, Freshman Self, at the end of the day I won’t talk to you about boys or classes or roommates. I won’t give you advice on which professors to take or what girls to befriend. Those are all beautiful mysteries for you to live and learn.

Really, I only have one thing to say to you: Live your life with Heaven in mind, and never ever forget the sacrifice that Jesus made for you.

Because, really, it all comes back to Jesus. It all comes back to what He did for you on that cross. There will be times that you are tempted to forget that.

Don’t.

I’ll see you in 2 years.

Maddie