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

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.

Heart Behind the “Author’s Chair”

May all the children that grace this stool know they are loved by me and by one mightier than I could ever dream of being.
With each passing day, may they increase in wisdom, discernment, and understanding.
I hope they are bold and courageous in the pursuits that set their souls on fire.
May they learn that respect goes a long way and a little humility doesn’t hurt.
To my future students: Never give up on yourself, your goals, or your dreams.. you were made by God, for God.
May you find peace and joy in my classroom.
I hope you feel loved, accepted, and valued by me. I can’t wait to meet you. I’m excited to memorize your face and name. I look forward to reading books with you and editing your papers. I want to accommodate your learning style and personality.
I can’t wait to cheer you on outside of my classroom. My favorite part of being your teacher will be getting involved in your life.
I will be tough, but I will see that you grow not only as a student but as a person.
I will require the use of manners as soon as you walk through my door.
I will teach you how to use a planner, hold a door, and we will say “thank you.”
I will probably raise my voice sometimes. I may even get frustrated with you as I’m sure you will get frustrated with me.
I hope you understand that I will always have your best interest at heart. With every essay, reading assignment, and vocabulary quiz, my desire is to prepare you to be successful beyond the walls of my classroom.
I have all ideas, you will impact my life more than I could ever dream of impacting yours.
You are so loved and prayed for already.

⁃ Miss. Yow

College Move In Tips

Several have requested me to write on this topic. This post is dedicated to you- may you find peace, joy, and organization in the emotional rollercoaster of the college move-in process.
Warning: This is not sugarcoated.

1. I will not lie. Move in day is stressful. Accept that but use this knowledge to plan and plan well. A family friend once told me, “Proper planning prevents poor performance.” She was right. Every. Time.

2. Take along someone who can serve as a distraction from the fact that Mom and Dad will leave and you won’t be going back with them. I had 3 great distractions with me. My brother and two friends were good to help get the job done without the emotional rollercoaster getting out of control.

3. Organization is a must. Show up with everything labeled and grouped by where it is going in the room. This sounds like a given, but for some it is not..

4. Do not pack things in garbage bags unless it is hanging clothes. You cannot see what it is until you open it and it just makes a mess.

5. If you are taking plastic storage drawers to keep in your closet, go ahead and put whatever is going in there inside and bungee cord or zip tie it off so all you have to do is place the drawers in their spot. This is a much better option than wasting 20 minutes putting clothes in the drawers when you get there.

6. For most colleges, there are dimensions posted online for drawers, closets, etc. If you plan to fold clothes to put in these spaces, research the dimensions of the drawers and fold clothes to fit in the space before move in. This saves so much time by not having to re- fold when you arrive. Not to mention the wrinkles.

7. If you are hanging pictures, monograms, etc. research the dimensions of the walls. Draw a true to scale model of the room on graph paper and plan where you are going to hang things. This not only saves time but sanity when you have 20 things needing to be hung.

8. Take cleaning supplies. If you are anything like me, you will want to clean the room thoroughly before unpacking.

9. If space allows, take a hand truck. Very useful. Some colleges have these on move in day for you. We took our own.

10. Take plenty of drop cords. You never know where outlets will be.

11. Scout storage bins are not only completely functional but beautiful to put at the end of your bed.

12. Move in day is more emotional for some than others. For me, it was a nightmare. The whole summer before moving in, I dreaded the blessed day. I had no desire to buy anything for my dorm. I gave my mother full authority over everything. I told her I did not want to make any decisions or answer any questions regarding the dorm. Those of you that know me know that is HUGE for me. 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. I was ok (not sobbing to the point of being sick) on move in day until my Dad said, “Well I guess it’s time to go.” I immediately fell apart. Then my Dad fell apart. Then my mom. They did the best thing they could have: THEY LEFT and DID NOT LET ME GO WITH THEM. They did not stay and hang out. We did not go to eat, etc. I would have been 10x worse the longer they stayed. For everyone it is different. Think about the way your child handles these things before you make a decision as to how long to hang out after the job of unpacking and putting away is done.

13. Leave a box still needing to be unpacked just in case you need a distraction to keep you busy when mom and dad leave.

14. If you have never used a planner before, now is a good time to invest in one and learn to use it.

15. Remember to take basic school supplies. Sometimes that is the easiest thing to forget during the move in process.

16. Put together a first aid kit including ice packs, medication for cold, cough, headache, ect.

17. It doesn’t hurt to pack extra ink cartridges and printer paper. Take a backup phone charger as well.

18. Dress comfortably. Making a fashion statement on move in day is not crucial.

Just a few things to make your day easier. Hope this was helpful. Happy moving!