Monthly Archives: January 2013

Save the Green!

Money, money, money.

If you are in college, you are dealing with money.  Financial aid, paying for tuition, buying meals, entertainment with friends, the list seems to go on and on.  Sometimes the problem could be having too much money, but more than likely the problem is not having enough!

This week I found out my computer’s hard drive crashed…for the second time in two years.  So unfortunately I have to shell out another $200 to replace that bad boy.  While I have been good about saving money like a miser, I have been trying to buy a car for the past month, so this may be a minor setback.  This whole adventure has started me thinking about simple ways to save money.

If you are anything like me, you like your fair share of fast food, movies, and random adventures.  It is so hard sometimes to live your college life to the fullest when you are low on funds! While there are people who fly by the seat of their pants until they are left with $1 in their bank account, I would advise you to stay far away from that budgeting tactic.  There is almost no food you can really buy for$1, even at McDonald’s.  So, if you are wondering how to best deal with money, here is the blog post for you.

First and foremost, it is important to budget.  Include all the little things you might forget, like putting money on your laundry card or paying for shampoo.  They add up quickly! Oh, especially if you are a girl, and you have to pay for makeup.  Don’t even get me started on how expensive that stuff is.  Know how much you make and make sure that you spend LESS than what you earn.  You do not need to spend your whole paycheck just because you have one.

As a little side note, I would like to mention that it is important to tithe on your earnings.  This is something that is really difficult for me, because I like to hoard every dollar.  But the truth is, the money is not yours to begin with.  Something that I have come to learn this past year is that tithing not only shows that God has priority in your life, but it also is a thank you to God for providing for you.  So make sure you include this in your budget…not as an afterthought, but as a priority!

Secondly, you can share textbooks with your friends.  Many times a professor will require a book but they do not make you read every word in the book.  If the book is not necessary for homework every night, consider borrowing from a friend who has it once in a while.  If they are generous, they may let you borrow it for free, but even sharing it for half-price is better than having to pay for all of it.

Finding small little gigs on the side can also bump up your income.  I personally have done mystery shopping in my spare time, which can get you up to $40 for one hour or so of work.  Not bad at all! It is fun and has good rewards.  You might also consider babysitting, dog walking or housesitting, as well as any number of other things you can do for a few extra dollars.

Above all, be smart and spend wisely! You’re only in college for four years, but now is the time to make wise financial decisions.

Still in Question

The start of the semester can present many challenges and questions, along with very few answers. Why am I here, what classes will I take, will I make new friends, which shoes will I wear? These are some of the many questions that may be running through your mind right about now.

 

Beginning college or continuing college can be complicated, yet fulfilling. This is the time that we should be spreading our wings and expressing ourselves. This is the time to show our parents that their money is actually supporting a good cause.

Life stresses us out only when we let it.

 

Life here at CBU is rewarding. Not only do you get the best education money can buy, you also get the best faculty, facilities, friends, and experiences life has to offer. CBU has many programs set up that assist with everyday life. From tutoring to chapels, Christian Challenges to homecoming festivities, CBU has it all covered. There are friendly counselors that help you with choosing classes for your degree plan. There are many events held during the semester that build camaraderie and life-long friendships. The majority of the events held here are free.

 

Most importantly, CBU provides a safe and healthy Christian environment.

Christianity is always the theme on campus. In my time at CBU, I’ve learned that the staff/community will never give up on you. You might not know what pair of jeans goes great with that shirt, but at least you know where to find a helping hand. We are taught that no problem is too great and that everyone here matters. With that being said; live your purpose and enjoy life here at CBU!

Right On Time

Chapel is required of every student at CBU who is taking more than seven credit hours a semester. Although some students see it as just checking the box, I’ve found that it is very essential to everyday life at CBU. Back in November I was contemplating dropping school and going back into the military. Things weren’t going well for me, and I was concerned about being able to pay rent and other expenses. I was having trouble finding a job, some of my credits didn’t transfer, and life seemed unpleasant to me. I attended a chapel service on 11/30/12 in which Dr. Micah Parker was the guest speaker. Dr. Parker’s message was on Matthew 8:28-24. He also told his interpretation of the man in the pit parable.

In the parable, there was a man walking along one day who fell into a deep pit. As the man was falling, he grabbed a branch to break his fall. The pit was dark, and the man couldn’t see anything. After holding on for some time, the man called out to God to save him. God replied, “Let go”. The man said, “No, I will die if I let go.” God answered again, “Let go!” The man replied once more, “No I will die if I let go.” God assured the man that he would not die if he let go, but the man refused. The man continued to hold on to the branch and was eventually found dead, with the ground being only seven feet from the branch.

That was story was exactly what I needed to hear at the time. I had been unsure the whole semester. I doubted myself, my decision to leave the army, and my pursuit of my education. Everything that I had worked for was in question and I needed reassurance. I was literally a step away from dropping out of school and enlisting in the army.

We are taught that God may not come when you want him, but he will always be on time. In this instance, God was just in the nick of time. I know that I was led to this school for a reason and that I can’t leave until I have accomplished what I came here to do. No matter how rough things get in our live we have to, “let go and let God.” I am blessed to have been able to have received that message that day. Chapel is more than a box that needs checking. It is more than just a slot on our schedule. It is a special message that is intended for someone who needs assurance, confirmation, encouragement, or hope. “Let go and let God!”

Liberty

731 people.
Over 50 countries.
Each, a story.

The balcony of the San Diego Civic Center was entirely occupied: stragglers in the aisles, strollers creating barricades between the upper and lower halves of the balcony, mingled with the snippets of dozens of languages that floated through the air. Families of different ethnicities had items strewn over entire rows of seats to view the ceremony honoring those becoming U.S. citizens. I had never been in a room with more culture than that—strong, united culture here in support of loved ones. I realized that watching these new Americans attain the citizenship they had worked so hard for would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. How often did you clearly see a person’s life change in a matter of a few hours? Seldom.

In the roll call of represented countries, an entire Iraqi family, a dozen in number, enthusiastically jumped out of their seats and waved to us in the balcony, the joyful smiles on each of their faces bringing tears to several around me.
New beginnings together.

“Laos?” One shy, small woman half-stood up from her chair and embarrassingly waved a tiny hand to represent her country.
On my own in a strange place.

A British woman and her adult twin son and daughter proudly stood for the United Kingdom, grinning and waving to their Belgian husband and father, Belgian aunt, and the American friends who spent an uncountable amount of nights praying earnestly for God to protect them from having to leave their home in America.
A 20-year battle – conquered.

One Mexican woman marched up to the microphone and described her enthusiasm for choosing to become an American, with her family cheering the entire time she spoke.
Finally.

A bent and stout man with a flushed face and white hair clutched his new United States’ Citizen Certificate as he approached his equally small and bent wife in the foyer, and amongst the applause of the enraptured families, I alone witnessed the tears sparkling on their cheeks and the quiet embrace they shared.
Our sacrifices were not in vain.

The District Office official watched as the Afghani man tried the signature of his new name, handed him the certificate with the official stamp and said, “Congratulations, Eric.”
A fresh start.

I will never understand the sacrifices these incredible people endured and the homes and lives they had to leave behind to become a United States’ citizen, but I know it’s people with this courage that continue to redefine America as the home of the brave.

We Are Accounted For

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV)

“Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient is the day for its own trouble.” – Matthew 6:34 (ESV)

I have come to highly value the opportunity I have had to spend at California Baptist University so far. I have further developed my knowledge and passion for literature, have befriended people that can be best described as saints, and have gone on so many adventures around Southern California that I would not have had the opportunity to do otherwise. I believe that my time here has provided me with a well-rounded education, not just in academics but in life skills as well. I have established such a wonderful life in Riverside, and I am so thankful that God gave me this opportunity.

That being said, I have spent a lot of time this week looking toward the future. Not in a crystal ball kind of way, (that’s creepy), but in a pondering way. As my life goes on, I am constantly reminded of how quickly things change and how often God brings us through areas we do not expect to find ourselves in. Whether it is a financial difficulty, a family crisis, or any other turn of events, we have no way of seeing certain events come are way. As I have consistently realized this year, life moves quickly and without our permission. I am convinced, however, that this is a deeply wonderful thing.

Most of these thoughts were brought on this week by, as ever, a conversation with dear friends. During a certain “low” of the week, two of my closest friends and I gathered together to talk and pray about what was on our minds. As we shared our rawest emotions and deeply rooted fears, we began to focus on one central idea that we were able to use to bring us back to our senses.

Life is uncertain, but God is certain. He will take us to exactly where He wants us, and all we need to follow Him is the air in our lungs and the blood in our veins.

My friends and I are nearly halfway through our undergraduate work, and that is an achievement we could never have fully grasped two years ago. An education is a huge blessing and should not be belittled. It allows us to use our minds to serve the Lord in our field of interest, and that is a sincere form of worship. Together, we have been able to fully appreciate all we have learned from our classes and from each other. As life propels us further into the new and unknown, I find that so many things are uncertain. I also recognize that God has plans for us, and we will follow Him to wherever He wants us to go.

As I move through life in all of its silliness, chaos, and beauty, I learn that while life is uncertain and unpredictable, God is unchanging. He is steady, loving, and as David the psalmist would say, a fortress. As long as we are in His company, He will protect us and make sure that we are accounted for.

I include the verses at the beginning of this post to emphasize the truth of their statements. Anxieties over the uncertainties of life are fleeting, and we should dismiss them quickly as such. The promises we receive through the Lord are lasting, and I know that the only thing that matters in life is His honor and love. I will leave you with one last phrase that brings me back to full contentment and joy in who my God is and what He does.

“In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” – Psalm 56:10-11 (ESV)

 

Getting Healthy

This past week I decided to check out the new Recreation Center at CBU.  I did not make any New Year’s resolution this year. Let’s be honest. It is hard to keep those resolutions, but if I had made one, it would be to get fit and in shape this semester.

I bought cute workout clothes to help motivate me to work out, because who wants to look gross when they work out? Not me! The girly girl in me does not want to look sweaty and grungy even if I actually am sweaty and grungy.

I was very impressed when I got inside the Rec Center. Three majestic stories of shiny machines, big screen TVs, and all the equipment have an incredible wow factor. I am pretty sure I will not be venturing into the basketball courts or to the rock wall any time soon, but they definitely looked like a blast for everyone else who is athletically minded. However, I am stoked to play racquetball in the new racquetball courts. I AM a bit wary, after hearing some stories about people (not at CBU) getting teeth knocked out playing racquetball, so you can bet that when I play I will be more decked out in protective gear than a 8 year-old with an overprotective mother.

From the number of people at the Rec Center, it seems like every CBU student has the same ambition to get fit as I do. I just know I am going to be surrounded by buff students everywhere carrying massive textbooks with their mere pinkies. I am rather impressed by the massive number of students I have seen all gung-ho for getting in shape. Next we will be seeing CBU in magazines as one of the “Top Ten Most Fit Universities in the Nation”.

When it comes to working out, I am the biggest wimp in the world. I have to run on the treadmill because if I am going to run, I have to be distracted by a television or watching other people run in order to be motivated. If I ran outside, it would mean, heaven forbid, me realizing how far I have run and then being satisfied with that distance being “good enough”.

While writing this, it occurred to me that sometimes in our walk with the Lord, we get distracted by other things in life and compare ourselves to others and settle for mediocre, thinking I am a “good enough” Christian. This mindset, a lot like the mindset I have when I run, causes many people to stop striving towards a better relationship with God. Francis Chan says that our relationship with God is like an downwards escalator.  If we stop running up the stairs, we are being dragged down.  If you “settle” and just stand still, you will be dragged down. You must constantly be pursuing and engaging a relationship with Christ.

Those are my thoughts for the week. I hope that you all have a healthy week, physically and spiritually!

Ring by Spring?

Love is in the air.

It’s not even spring yet and there are more diamonds floating around campus than the cave in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.  Any CBU student can probably tell you that they know at least five people who have gotten engaged or married within the past two months.  The running joke “Ring by Spring” seems more like a guarantee than a mere likelihood.

Sometimes it is a common question in the midst of Christian college love crazes for single students to wonder, “What am I doing wrong? How could someone let all this awesomeness go to waste?  Does my Prince Charming just have a slow old horse?”

Coming from someone who has been both single and in a relationship (at separate times, of course!), I can tell you I have been there.  Sometimes it seems like the dating scene is so confusing and men and women do not operate on the same level of communication.  Guys are hypnotized by exciting video games and girls are surrounded by hordes of other female friends.  Guys and girls are friends but moving to the next level is ambiguous and miscommunicated.  I understand.

It seems like the whole “dating” and “courtship” scene confusion is a nationwide phenomenon these days.  I read a New York Times article called “The End of Courtship?”  It discusses how there has been a perspective shift in dating terminology, and how mindsets of both men and females have altered in recent history.

In order to formulate a meaningful romantic relationship in a college atmosphere, it is helpful to understand where people are coming from.  The majority of CBU students, I would say, come from a Christian background or have some knowledge of the general workings of Christian environments.  There is lots of confusing terminology floating around the Christian world.  Some people may know dating as “courting” or if you’re old school, “going steady”, but it is hard to know what that means in everyone else’s minds.

According to the article, dating has come to mean in, some situations, a non-exclusive hang out.  A “date” may mean a one-on-one coffee date at Starbucks, or it could mean a movie night with you and him and his friends.  It could mean that you are seeing only him or her, or it could mean that he or she is dating other people they are interested in as well.  I have not completely come up with a working definition of “courting,” so if you ever find yourself in that situation with a person you are interested in, you may want a DTR (Define The Relationship) so you can be on the same page.  In fact, whatever state you are in a “relationship” with someone, whether friends or more than friends, it is best to communicate directly what intentions both parties have.

My advice for all singles in college is:

  1. Develop friendships and enjoy the people that surround you.
  2. If someone interests you, spend time with them in a group and see them in different environments.  You may notice something that you really like about them, or something that is a dealbreaker.
  3. If you are a girl, let the man make the moves.  A good quote from “He’s Just Not That Into You” is “If a man is interested in you, he will do everything he can to make it happen.”   If you are the man, make the move!  If she doesn’t like you, then you know to move on.  If she does like you, then now the fun can begin! Plus, men who have the courage to be direct about their feelings and intentions really impress women.
  4. And for all those singles out there, keep in mind that you do not need another person to make you happy! Waiting for the person that you want to spend the rest of your life with can bring about the best results.

So folks, enjoy this season of life, whichever season you are in.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Believe it or not, I’m not talking about Christmas.

My friends, the beginning of each semester in college is a truly wonderful time. I know I sound a bit like Hermione Granger when I say this, but I really do get excited about diving into new classes. The start of each new class means it is time to become increasingly excited about a new schedule and new materials to learn. The environment is fresh, the students are lively, the professors are excited, and the assignments are few. When the workload is less, this leaves room for a bit more silliness.

Okay, let’s be real.

Because life is unpredictable, silliness in moderation is necessary. Life can be exhausting, exciting, inconsistent, and invigorating all at once. It seems to go by so fast, yet proves to be as short as an individual day is long. Silliness and fun allows us to take ourselves less seriously, focus on those we care about and clear our minds so that we can focus more effectively on what lies ahead.

As the first week of the semester drew to a close, I began to notice how wonderful the people in my classes are. Some are close friends, while others are acquaintances that I am looking forward to spending more time with. With each new group, initial awkwardness can be hard to beat as everyone attempts to get to know each other both inside and outside the classroom. After some thinking, a group of us were able to create a new tradition that I think will become a surefire way to ease tensions during our study sessions. This tradition is something I like to call a Creative Sock Party.

Here are the Sock Party rules:

  • You must look ridiculous
  • You mustn’t care that you look ridiculous
  • You must make someone laugh
  • The tackier the better

After a day full of class, work, and various other obligations, a large group of us met at a friend’s apartment to laugh, show off our socks, and watch movies. The time spent together was terribly refreshing and allowed us all to let down our guard, be amiable, and get to know each other better.

As this is the season of New Year’s Resolutions, I have made an effort to try to observe and enjoy life as much as I analyze it. After an engaging class discussion or a challenging assignment, I found that a bit of silly is just what I need to balance myself out again. I have noticed that the best times to create new traditions and build upon new relationships are the first weeks of each semester when time permits us to relax a bit more and dive into our learning experience surrounded by old and new friends.

It’s so beneficial to let your hair down every so often. Put yourself out there, look silly, laugh freely, and be open to new relationships. We are all in a similar place in life, and experience is often better when shared. College is a time for learning, from both professors and other students. When you get the chance, embrace the silly as well as the serious. You’ll be amazed at the memories you make.

Boast in Our Weaknesses

Nothing is more humbling than being asked to do something in the name of the Lord that you don’t feel confident or comfortable in. You know, that wham! stomach-hits-the-floor sort of overwhelming feeling that lets you know it’s the right thing to do because: 1) the opportunity has risen from a Plan apart from your own; 2) comes out of the place you absolutely least expected it to; and 3) this request requires service from you that could quite possibly (and most likely) come from the most vulnerable or weakest area of your soul.

Last year, two of my professors in the music building at CBU asked for a last minute favor for them and a small group of singers: the assigned pianist hadn’t returned to school for the year, and this small group of seven singers, called Promise, had an empty piano bench that desperately needed to be occupied – as in like, four-days-until-the-first-concert kind of need. The doubts and fear that permeated my mind were staggering. These types of small groups are some of the biggest ministries the School of Music puts out into the community and is also a major portion of exposing the school for people to see; they do their best to choose participants to represent the school in the most positive light, with high expectations for each person based on their abilities.

Me? This group, made up of some of the finest singers at our school – professional singers, composers, graduates and performers – and they need me? I have only ever accompanied someone maybe twice in my whole life, let alone an entire hour-long concert with seven singers depending on me…

 I’m a singer. I’m not educated enough in piano. I’ve only had five years of lessons – these other PIANO MAJORS have been playing piano for twice or three times my measly five.

 I can’t just pick up a piece of music like they need me to and play it well enough to present to a congregation.

 No. Absolutely not.

 But the tugging at my heartstrings refused to let the decline come out of my mouth. I had to do it. With a concert in four days and a congregation expecting Promise to be intact at their church, prepared to lead the service in worship and a year’s worth of services in various cities after that, I didn’t have a choice. They needed me.  

Needless to say, the hours spent in a piano practice room the following four days were more numerous than the entirety of my practice career up to that point. Never had I felt more vulnerable and literally, shaken to my very core. My security blanket of inexperience and lack of knowledge had vanished and I was left utterly exposed for all to see.

At first glance, I was slightly intimidated by my group because of the amount of talent and true gifts of music they possessed, but looking back at the situation many months later, I can’t imagine myself being placed with a more appropriate, insightful, and encouraging group of musicians. In the hours of the first rehearsal, I struggled immensely with just getting over the nervousness inside of me. The singers each supported me with words, patience in my uncertainty, and roused the confidence in me that I couldn’t manage to find on my own. The first couple of rehearsals were painful, with a myriad of questions like, “What key am I in?”, blatantly wrong chords and notes played, and several occasions where I stopped playing entirely while the group continued to sing. Baptism by fire? Yep, I was living it and wasn’t enjoying the pressure of excellence I put on myself of and my own heart’s lack of understanding towards my abilities. Many days, I left in tears of self-discouragement.

In light of heartache, I knew the work I was doing belonged to the Lord. It was by His hand that the professors trusted my talent enough to ask me to serve in the small group, and it was His power that I sought for in the Word to strengthen me for the task He had led me to. The entire year’s struggles continually squashed any hindering pride within me: “A man’s pride brings him low…” and it did just that –dragging me by a leash through a refining fire in an inexperienced territory, which ultimately buckled my knees at the foot of the cross. As I’ve heard many people describe, the way God humbles a man to submit to His will so that He can use them to bring Himself glory is the time where the man learns the most. On the journey through the muck and mire of inward and outward struggle is where God teaches the disciplines required to be a follower of His Son.

Through all the moments of uncertainty, joy rooted to my heart as I reminded myself that God was giving me the opportunity to serve him, even in my naivety and self-doubt.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Continually, on those Sunday mornings, a member of the congregation would approach me and tell me of the tears they shed because of the service’s impact on their hearts, and thinking about my own shed tears of heartache, I would recall,
“… and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

6 Saturdays and a Sunday

In my first piano lesson of the new semester (2013 already?!), my teacher said, “Over the break, I never knew which day it was – it was like six Saturdays and a Sunday for three weeks.”

I don’t know about you, but my Saturdays consist of sleep, movie marathons, food, an occasional assignment, and more sleep. On the off chance that my roommate or boyfriend wants to get out of our apartments, we will go to the cinema or Newport Beach. The 6th day of the week (or 5th depending on which came first, the chicken or the egg aka Sunday or Monday) is my day – I get to choose to spend it however I may please. So, naturally, I took advantage of my “six Saturdays and a Sunday” over my Christmas break. Since I have the pleasure of living with my best friend and her mother, it was like that slumber party that you look forward to for weeks ahead of time, with the invitation practically jumping off the fridge each time you walk by it. We read books upon books, watched our typical “Kylie and Abigail” movies (Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, Batman, etc… yes, I said Batman), consumed more coffee and hot chocolate than water, and lounged around in our pajamas all day. On top of all the relaxing, our hometown (dear old Modesto) was chilly, rainy, and foggy (Winter in December?? Who would’ve thought…), meaning the pitter-patter of raindrops on the roof brought the blaze of a fire, thus producing more hours snuggled under a blanket. The days lazily slipped by as easy as they came, ending the week in a refreshing morning at our home churches on Sundays. My break was as lazy as it sounds. Funny enough though, at the end of it, I didn’t feel as rested as I would’ve imagined myself to feel.

Mama always said that if I didn’t get up and do something, I would increasingly feel more and more tired. I suppose that’s because mankind was created to work – to have something to keep us accountable for our actions and energy – and to glorify God in doing it. Proverbs is saturated with verses regarding working and warnings against idleness. Solomon’s wise words repeat several times that if you take part in laziness and slack in responsibilities, the sluggard will go hungry as the diligent wants for nothing.

As Spring 2013 begins, I’m going to encourage myself daily that putting my nose to the grindstone and working my absolute hardest is not going to go to waste because I know God has blessed me with the ability to work efficiently, so I will do so to glorify Him. The majority of the time, each hour will be accounted for and hardly a minute will slip past me, but even so, our God is the Lord of the Harvest, and I will offer up my skills to Him to contribute to a plentiful crop.

King Solomon also states in Ecclesiastes 3, that there is nothing new under the sun, and I know that, if the Lord wills it, another week of “six Saturdays and a Sunday” will happen upon me again. But for these next three and a half months, let the season be exalting the Lord’s name in diligence and a steady hand at the plough!

 

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