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

Encouragement for the Discouraged Mother

My mother knew that in order to raise children who would choose to walk with Christ on a daily basis, she needed more than rules. She needed to be a living example of a woman after God’s heart.
Your children observe your lifestyle.
After all, it is a direct reflection of your heart. A lifestyle is seven days a week- not just the seventh day. Making the choice each day to submit to Christ can be difficult when we are overwhelmed by our circumstances, people (yes, even your lovely children), or anything else we cannot control.
Sometimes I feel like asking, “God are you really listening?” As my heart burns with a desire to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God and to be a solid Christian example for the little ones in my life, it seems insulting to let the thought cross my mind that I might need to jump back into the driver’s seat of my life and let Jesus take a break for a few miles.
           
I was reminded a few weeks ago of John’s doubts while in prison. In Matthew 11:3, John asked if Jesus was really, “The One who is to come?” Note, John had already baptized Jesus even though he felt he was “unworthy to touch His sandals.” John knew who Christ was. He baptized Him in the name of His Father. Lastly, in v. 2, John had heard what Christ was doing while he was sitting in prison.
Jesus never rebuked John for asking questions.
For wondering.
For maybe even fearing a little.
And Jesus will not rebuke us in the moments of life when we just can’t seem to grasp what He is doing and we do not know what we should do either.
           
When my heart is burdened and I can’t seem to release what I know He can hold, instead of bashing myself, I know I should remember how Jesus worked in John’s life. John found himself in prison for preaching the Gospel of Jesus, fulfilling the prophecy that he would be the forerunner of Christ. He did not stay caught up in his doubt-He continued to love like the author of love. He found faith in our awesome God to be all he needed, and he lived a life of devoted ministry to Christ.
“Truly I tell you, among these born of women no one greater than John the Baptist has appeared..” (Matt. 11:11). 
God strengthened John to fulfill his calling in this life and He will strengthen you, too, as you fight the good fight to raise champions for Christ.
           
Your success as a mother is not dependent on your ability to bake the best cookies, to keep a spotless house, or to be liked by your child at all times. Your success as a mother will hinge on a consistent walk with Christ. Following Jesus will not exempt you from parenting woes, discouragement, or children gone wild, but following Him does mean you are equipped with the armor of God and perfect guidance and direction for each day as you raise your mighty warriors of God.
I encourage you to submit yourself to Him and be faithful to make decisions each day that place Christ at the center of your home. The fruit of God-fearing will grow and bloom in the lives of your children as they watch you trust in The Lord with all your heart, leaning not on your own understanding.

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.

Morning Routine: Praying Over Your Planner

Part of my morning routine includes praying over my plans for the day. I have found myself filling the pages of my planner with snippets from my meeting with God from 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 He who put me here.

As you walk through your morning, you should introduce your plans to your Savior. It makes all the difference in the world. My attitude towards what I must complete that day shifts. Ask God to make it clear to you what is most deserving of your time today. You may not get everything accomplished. That is ok. You may need to say no to both people and things. That is ok. Saying yes to serving God means saying no to things that are not necessary in my day or lacking to build me up in Him.

My day is more than lesson planning, writing demonstrations, or meetings. I have aligned my heart with Christ and seek to honor Him in each block of time. This is only effective when in a close walk with the Prince of Peace. I recommend a daily morning one on one conference with Him and be sure to take notes that will remind you of His plan and purpose for your life.

#intentionalbyimperfplanned

restored redeemed renewed

If you don’t feel like these 3 words describe you today- you aren’t the only one.

I woke up late this morning, rushed to find ski bibs, grabbed Dad’s Ohio State hoodie and my Seahawks toboggan, and ran out the door. I managed to make it to the Coffer Farm in a short 20 minute span of waking up. No breakfast. No makeup. Hair barely fixed. I was definitely not feeling renewed.

It’s my own fault. I stayed up WAY too late reading. It was an awesome book but the last few chapters could have waited. This averages happening to me at least three times a week. I know I need to have more self-discipline but I struggle.

I know some of you must be able to relate. My mornings are so much more productive when I am abiding by a steady, consistent routine. This year, I am committed to start transforming my mornings and I’m excited to share my journey with you. I hope you are inspired to develop a morning routine (if you don’t already have one) and allow a chat with Jesus to be prioritized in that precious time each day. Only through Him can we be restored, redeemed, and renewed.

#intentionalbyimperfplanned

{photo by @jordanfulk_photography}

Tear Your Heart

Many times, I catch myself changing only my outward appearance and leaving my heart behind.

My google calendar has been organized for weeks. By clicking on a single link, I have access to my schedule each day, down to the minute. Impressive, right? I love my plans so much that when other things bump into my color coded routine, I often respond negatively.

This week, I had one of those moments.

I rationalized with myself that God must love organization. I am doing Him a favor by trying to educate everyone else with my system.

Then, God put Joel 2:13 on my path. Through Joel’s words, we not only see a call to repentance but the character of God.

When we do not “tear our hearts” from our sin we cannot fully receive the faithful love of God in our lives. Even though I was masking my intentions by my faithful routine and good works, my heart’s selfish desires kept me from true repentance and obedience.

Instead of being eager to see God in the new opportunity he had given me, I was trying to put Him in certain blocks of my schedule. The outward appearance looked great- I am doing this and this for God. I serve here. I organize this. I’m planning this. I had “torn my clothes” for the world to see but forgot my heart.

What is in your life that is keeping you from going beyond the outer appearance to solve some serious heart issues by true repentance? What has become more important to you than experiencing God’s gracious and compassionate spirit?

The Meredith Freshman 15

This post is not about how to not gain 15lbs eating at BDH; although, I could write about that. I would like to offer 15 truths to the girl anxiously awaiting her freshman year at MC. May you find the same joy in your experiences as I did.

1. If you are natured anything like me, you will miss home. It’s ok. Most people do whether they say it or not. If you are in school close to home, never feel bad about going home. I am convinced that I am the biggest Daddy’s girl on the face of the earth. The longest time I had ever spent apart from my Dad before leaving for school was a week. The whole summer before moving in, I dreaded the blessed day. Every night I was home that summer, I sat right beside my Dad until I was almost asleep. The weeks leading up to move in, if anyone even mentioned the term, I was in tears. The thought of not having my sweet Daddy to wake me up every morning overwhelmed me. I decided to stay at Meredith for two weeks before coming home. I wanted time to adjust to my new schedule and scenery. I had a busy week and a half. It was nothing short of wonderful and I was loving life. I adjusted to everything just as I was told I would. I moved in on a Saturday and 10 days later, on the following Tuesday, I woke up and thought: “Why am I doing this to myself?” I live 45 minutes away. If I want to see my Daddy, why am I forcing myself to be here? So that ended that. I drove home after class that day, surprised my father and I will always remember the look on his face when he saw me. Pure joy. It had been a long 10 days for both of us.. After seeing him a few hours, I got in the car and headed back to Meredith. I felt secure in knowing I had the best of both worlds. I was then officially okay with not being at home. Since then, I have never felt homesick and I have never let anything stop me from going home if I want to.

2. GET INVOLVED. I went to Meredith with the mindset that I was going to do everything and I did. I had THE BEST time. Not only is this a great way to meet people but it is a good way to discover new interests. By the end of my freshman year I was a teaching fellow, class rep for 1891, secretary of my class, vice president of the college republicans, member of young educators, cru and 50 other groups I don’t have time to name, and participated in all freshman traditions. I recently committed to being on orientation crew for 2017 as well as student assisting a class at MC for incoming freshman this semester. Add into the mix having a best friend who plays football at NC State- busy year but so good. Enjoy all that makes up this unique time.

3. Do not let anyone control your happiness. I see so many girls lose their identity chasing something. Sometimes it’s a boy, a certain image, or likes on instagram. You will never get your college years back. Remember that.

4. Take care of yourself. This should have been the first thing on the list because it is so important. Eat well 80% of the time and find a time to exercise on week days. It can be such a stress reliever and needed alone time. You deserve it.

5. Learn how to budget school and social time. Too much of either and not enough of the other is not good for you. Don’t get so caught up in all of the work that you have no life. You will become miserable.

6. Utilize your professors’ office hours!! At Meredith, the professors are so eager to help you if you seek them out.

7. Pick a designated time each day to get away to study. I found that it was easy for me to get distracted in my room.

8. Buy a planner. Use it. When you receive your syllabuses, write down every single due date. Write in every single club meeting. You will get overwhelmed and overworked and think you will remember something but trust me, you won’t.

9. Don’t procrastinate. Just don’t. If you can help it.

10. Get as much sleep as you can. Never feel bad about taking a nap if you need one.

11. Take lots of pictures- you’ll want them. The year will fly by and it’s always fun to look back and appreciate all that you experienced.

12. When you walk through campus, smile. Say hello to people you pass. Say thank you to all the sweet faces that do so much for us. We are lucky to have such a wonderful, supportive Meredith family.

13. There’s always a sister willing to come along side you to encourage, love, and push you to be a better person. Look for these angels. Befriend them. Love them. Appreciate their presence in your life and their dedication to Meredith.

14. Utilize the learning center. Utilize the library and all its amenities. Utilize the fitness center. Walk the Meredith mile. Sit by the pond. Study in the amphitheater. Walk to Ben and Jerry’s. Walk to the fountain and throw a penny in every once in a while. Savor the moments that capture Meredith so well.

15. Be engaged every single day. Be intentional about your goals. Try to remain on a schedule but don’t be afraid to mix in a few spontaneous things too. Value the sisterhood of Meredith College and make it your personal goal to have the best experience possible at our wonderland.