Guest Post: Maggie Yow

Like many freshmen at UNC Chapel Hill, I struggled to find a place on campus that I could truly feel like myself. Everything seemed so new and foreign to me. I had a new room, new church, new friends, new teachers, new classrooms, and a new town. Sometimes I just felt uprooted and then replanted. As I was finding my way around campus, I decided to explore “Coker Arboretum” while walking back from class. Honestly, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect or if it was even worth my time to go inside.

As I stepped into the arboretum for the first time, I was in awe at how many beautiful flowers, plants, and trees were so intricately placed to create an exquisite garden. Something about being in the arboretum triggered a greater intimacy with God in me. I think this was a combination of the artistry of the flowers, the charm of nature, and the essence of being still on a busy campus. As I spent more and more time in the arboretum, I found that this campus was the place the Lord had planted me for this season in my life.

The significant beauty of the arboretum reminds me of the quote by The Bishop of Geneva, Saint Francis de Sales, “Bloom Where You Are Planted.”  As I found peace in the arboretum, I found peace within my own garden of life. As a Christian, it is important to unpack this concept of blooming where we are planted when we feel uprooted or planted in the wrong place. Finding contentment in our current place can be paralleled to the basics of good gardening.

1. Be Planted Deep

To be “planted” is to be placed somewhere intentionally. When planting flowers, the soil is fertilized, a hole is dug for the seed, then covered up with more soil. If the seed is not deep enough in the soil, it risks being washed away by the rain. Gardeners spend a lot of time strategically picking the perfect place for a garden, preparing optimal soil, and individually placing the seeds where they are supposed to go.

God is like our gardener. He prepares the soil, and then He intentionally plants us there. Whether we feel like we are planted in the right place or not, we are there for a purpose. At Passion 2018, Pastor Levi Lusko said, “Being planted can feel a lot like being buried.” When we are planted deep and feel buried underneath the weight of the soil, we must not forget that God is calling us here for our benefit. It reminds me of Psalm 42:7, “Deep calls to deep,” (NIV). This verse means that “our deep need calls out to the deep kindness of God’s love” (TPT).  We need Him to provide the fertile soil, and out of His kindness, He has buried us deep to protect us and optimize our growth.

“rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” Colossians 2:7 (NIV)

2. You Must Be Watered

Once seeds are planted, it takes water to help them grow. Flowers bloom into vibrant colors when the moisture is soaked up, thus a lack of hydration hinders their bloom. As believers, we must also be watered in order to bloom. Metaphorically, this water symbolizes suffering, but it also symbolizes a catalyst for growth in Him.

As I was scrolling through Pinterest one day, I saw the quote “I asked God to help me grow, and it started raining.” This reminded me of the story of Job in the Bible. Job withstood so much suffering that this rain came in the form of a hurricane. As bad thing after bad thing kept happening to Job, I’m sure he felt as though he was drowning in the flood of suffering. However, through the storms, Job came to a place of submission to God’s Holy Will. He not only lived through the rain storm, but he bloomed through it. God sends rain not to drown us, but to nourish us.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” John 16:33 (NIV) 

3. Get Plenty of Sunshine

My favorite days in the arboretum are the ones where the sun is shining bright and all the flowers seem to be facing up towards the sun, as they soak in every last drop until it sets. As Christians, God commands us to do the same. No matter where He has planted us, we must always be in the posture to receive Him. The gift of the Son is life giving.

When I think of the sunshine, I think of walking in the light. We all know that every day and every circumstance isn’t bright and sunny, but we always have the Son, Jesus, to guide us. In order to bloom where we are planted, we must find Jesus in every place. For me, the arboretum was the place that fostered that intimate gaze while planted in college. As Christians, keeping our eyes on Him can bring spiritual peace and control our attitudes. When we dwell in Him, we dwell in the light we need to grow. 

 “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 (ESV)

4. Enjoy the Beauty of the Bloom

When I was in high school, I was a dancer. After each performance, I would leave with an armload of flowers from my family and friends, somewhat of a cultural norm in the dance world. I remember thinking one year, “why do all these people spend money on flowers when all they do is die in a week?” I wasn’t unappreciative, I just truly questioned the concept. I tell you this to emphasize the fact that what I was missing was the simple, yet extravagant beauty of the bloom.

Bloom” is an action word, something we must do. To bloom is to produce something beautiful. As believers, we are never in the wrong place to serve God and bloom into something beautiful. Seasons will come and go, and while rain and lack of sunshine are inevitable, each seed is planted with the intentionality to bloom. One of the greatest tragedies is to waste an opportunity and miss the beauty in the bloom. No one delights in the beauty of the bloom more than The Gardener himself, so honor the Lord and grow in the place He has planted you. Your beautiful bloom is the proof that He is sovereign in every stage of life, providing everything you need. 

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)

Towards the end of the school year, there is a lot of uprooting and replanting going on. Whether that be moving from a dorm room to your home, your campus to an internship, far away from your friends, studying abroad, or maybe graduating and moving to a new chapter of life, God could be planting you in a new place. If you’re experiencing a season of rain or a lack of sunshine, don’t doubt the design of His garden. We are called to “bloom where we are planted” as a part of His Garden, not our own. 

Maggie Yow // @maggie_yow

“Being Present”

my new mantra is “being present.” ☀️🙏🏼

A little less than a year ago, I became really convicted about my cell phone and social media habits. I would go as far to say that I was somewhat addicted to this rectangular device. I checked it constantly. I rushed to social media every five minutes. I went about 7 months with no social media. It was wonderful. I chose to go back on for ministry purposes but I made strict guidelines for myself such as who I would interact with, what times I would check it, how much time I would spend holding it in my hand, etc.
My latest conviction is checking the phone in general. I have discovered that 90% of the messages I receive do not require an immediate response. Therefore, my phone no longer receives texting notifications. I am not tempted to check it when it lights up. I am not distracted from being totally present wherever I am and with whomever I’m with. My new reality has been truly blessed by God.
I’m no longer a slave to my phone. I am learning that someone else’s emergency is not necessarily my emergency and that life goes on. I have written so much about being intentional- it was time I took it to another level in my own life. My phone alerts me when I receive a call or when certain people contact me, but that’s it. Everything else can wait. It can wait for you, too. Don’t be a slave to this rectangular box. Be present with those you are around in this moment.
I challenge you to consider how much of your time has been or is currently being robbed by a screen and take a few simple steps to experience this life God has given you and the people He has blessed you with.

Guard Your Plans

Part of my morning routine includes praying over my plans for the day. Lately, I have found myself filling the pages of my planner with snippets from my meeting with God earlier that morning.

A few words. A few minutes of my time. A major impact on my day.

I am reminded what is most important: Serving Him who put me here.

It is so easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of life. It is equally easy to become immersed in things of this world rather than to stay focused on why we’re in the world to begin with. I sometimes find myself signed up for too many things, leading too many groups, or committed to too many personal obligations.

But why?

Because no one else signed up and the schedule was due. Because no one else felt comfortable leading and someone had to take charge. Because I hadn’t seen that friend in a while and felt like I should reconnect.

There is nothing wrong with signing up to serve on a committee, leading an organization, or taking personal time—until it becomes a distraction to our relationship with Christ. These distractions can continue to snowball, pushing God further and further away until we are no longer giving Him our first fruits but the leftovers.

I have chosen to align my heart with Christ, and I seek to honor Him in each block of my time. Therefore, I must be discerning.

In Proverbs 4:23, we are urged to “guard our hearts.” If my heart’s desire is to seek God’s will in my life and respond accordingly, I should begin with daily choices that reflect Him as top priority. When I am overwhelmed or exhausted by the things filling my schedule, I am not preparing myself to be a useful tool in the hands of an awesome God.

Saying yes to serving God means saying no to people, things, or activities that fail to build us up in Him. Where, how, and with whom we spend our time is a direct reflection of the posture of our worship and the state of our hearts.

I have realized that my day is more than lesson planning, meetings, organizing girls’ ministry, or writing. My value is not based on my performance as a teacher, Bible study leader, friend, or daughter.

As you glance over your schedule, introduce your plans to your Savior. Ask God to make it clear to you what is most deserving of your time. Be sure to take notes during your daily one-on-one conference with Him so that you can assess and reflect.

You may not get everything accomplished. That is ok.

You may need to say no to someone. That is ok.

When we get in the habit of prayerful planning, we will begin to notice that our attitude towards day-to-day activities shifts to desire a spirit of submission to the Father. While walking closely with the Prince of Peace, He will remind us of His plan and purpose for our lives.

The Throes of College Response Letters

I have several friends who are currently in the nail-biting process of waiting to receive acceptance or rejection letters from universities across the state. I remember the feeling all too well. I was so excited when I opened the big, burgundy envelope containing my acceptance to Meredith College not too long ago.

If you are currently in the throes of the college response letter stage or know someone who is, I encourage you to read and share these truths.

Your worth is not based on a college acceptance or rejection letter.

In the moment, it may seem like that news is what will make or break you. It won’t. Your value is so much greater than anything typed in a letter. You are a masterpiece of God who was created to serve HIM. Yes, if you are a believer, even college is supposed to be a time of service for God’s Kingdom. God will make sure you are where you can serve Him well if you seek His will.

The whole “God has a plan” thing isn’t cliche- it’s true.

As stated in the well-known 29th chapter of Jeremiah, God does indeed have a plan for your life. Yes, He has crafted a series of divine appointments for YOU. This is a great time to not only know or believe that verse but to put it into action in your life. {Insert my favorite quote: Think Biblically- act accordingly.}

Give space. Give lots of space.

One thing I found annoying during this stage of my life (who am I kidding- my biggest pet peeve) is nosiness. This can be an overwhelming process for some people and it does not help when you constantly bombard them with questions. When they are ready for you to know the details of their decision-making process, what schools they have or have not been accepted to, ect., they will share that with you.

It is OUR JOB as family and friends to remind them that we are praying for them during this time and we are excited about their new adventure. Offer to help in whatever way you can and leave the ball in their court. This isn’t your decision. They do not need to be slammed by your personal preferences.

Is His voice the loudest reality in your life today?

I always dreamed of being a writer.

I wondered how it would feel to finally sit down and start writing a manuscript. I still imagine the day I will see my book on the same shelf as authors I have adored through the years.

God has blessed this crazy writing journey of mine. I never thought I would be in my current situation at this point in my life. I’m a college student working on a manuscript and a blog.

Months ago I would have called you crazy if you thought I would be focusing on writing. It was NOT my priority. (Honestly, neither was my relationship with Christ.)

If He puts a desire in your heart, don’t shy away because you think it’s impossible for someone your age or in your particular circumstances. Don’t worry about what your friends will think. Don’t fear the unknown. Let HIS voice be the loudest reality. He will provide. He will quiet your concerns with His love and peace.

He will give you the ability and resources to carry out His plan for your life if you seek Him first.

#yikes

#istartedamanuscript

What desire has He placed in your heart??

How do you spend the first few moments of your day?

Maybe you rush to social media to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

Maybe you exchange small talk with a friend.

Maybe you speed to the local coffee shop.

Maybe you have no desire to do anything other than hit “snooze.” (Me too 😞)

In these first few minutes of the day we often become distracted by messages from the world.

How much more confidently could we walk through the challenges of our day if we began by meeting with Him?

{Anticipating God’s divine presence in the mundane moments of my day begins by opening my heart to Him before opening my mouth to others.}

Taste and See {GUEST POST: HANNAH JONES}

By: Hannah Jones.

Before I even stepped foot on campus my freshman year, I was praying hard for my future suitemates. I remember pleading with God to grant me life-giving friendships. I hoped my “Big Sis” would guide me with godly wisdom. However, I knew that I might not get all of those things. I was aware that my attitude and intentionality in those first few weeks was pivotal.

The moment I decided I wanted to grow closer with the Lord in college became one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I was committed to taking ownership of my faith. For the first time, it wasn’t my parents taking me to church. It wasn’t my mom encouraging me to have a quiet time with the Lord each day. It was up to me. That first weekend on campus, I went to church by myself, and looking back, I am certain that set the stage for my whole freshman year.

Gradually, the Lord revealed to me that He had in fact granted me all the things I prayed for before coming to college. My suitemate became one of my greatest encouragers. We worshipped together daily; singing when classes got hard and homework grew tedious. We left each other notes and verses of encouragement and God used those words of affirmation to feed my soul. My Big Sis, who was in the junior class at Meredith College, encouraged me to check out a campus ministry that first week. In fact, I joined the Bible study that she co-led. She continues to intentionally pour into my spirit and she is honestly the big sister I never had.

The girls in this study became my closest friends. This is my community; my people. I had never experienced Christian community and godly friendships like this until I came to college. These women are the ones that stand by me on my hardest days, share in my joy, and never let me doubt my purpose.

When I think back to those first weeks as a college freshman, I remember feeling uncomfortable. It wasn’t the easiest thing for me to meet new people, share my testimony, and just be vulnerable. However, I am positive that God needed me to feel uncomfortable to mold me and to make me trust Him like I never had to before. I think the important thing for me to remember was that this was a new and sometimes uncomfortable season that wasn’t about me at all. His glory and His perfect plan was playing out through all my insecurity, my brokenness, my fear, and my sin. He wanted me right where I was all along, even in my failure. My time in college, full of ups and downs, was never His “plan b”. It took God molding and stretching me over a period of time to come to that realization. Once I realized this, so many doors began to open in ministry, my major, and in relationships.

Reading this, it might start to sound like I was getting my life together before I came to college, but I can tell you that is far from the truth. Honestly, I was trying so hard to act like I had it all together that I began to even fool myself. I tried to live a Christ-centered life with me at the center. And oddly enough, I still was so shocked when my life seemed to be spiraling out of control. I realized that when I said I was giving God full access to my life, it wasn’t long before I began wrestling the controls away from Him again and again.

If I can leave you with one thing, it’s what I’ve realized most about following the Lord in college: It’s truly all about your heart. Following Jesus requires intentionality. Everyday. Even when I oversleep and I am running across campus to class. Even when I’ve fooled myself into thinking that life is great and I don’t need to give God access to every area. Even when I experience heartbreak or I get in a car accident. He is still sovereign. He is still faithful. He is still so loving. He wants to offer me so much grace, even when I can’t seem to give it to myself.

And- He wants to offer it to you, too. So, taste and see His goodness, because once that happens, college will never feel sweeter.

With love,

Dear Daughter by Design

 

Psalm 34:8

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.

Hannah Jones is a current sophomore at Meredith College, majoring in Dance Education. Her passions are for her family, faith, and the performing arts. This past summer, the Lord laid it on her heart to share all that He was teaching her through her experiences in college. Hannah took a leap of faith into the world of blogging. Dear Daughter by Design was created as a place to share her heart and personal experiences as a Christian girl in college. She wants to encourage other women in their God-given purpose and remind them that they truly are daughters by His design.

To read more of her story, follow her writings at www.deardaughterbydesignblog.wordpress.com