God > Grades

Never have I ever written as much as I did this past semester for university. I’m not sure if it’s a 3rd year thing or just that I was lucky enough to have professors who loved written assessments but holy cow, my fingers hurt just thinking about all the typing I did! Counting only pieces that were 8+ pages, I wrote 9 academic papers this semester. Huh, when I see that number it actually doesn’t seem like that many but let me tell you, it felt like a million.

The last week of classes was, in particular,  rather brutal. In the span of 9 days, I had 3 final exams, an Arabic oral presentation and 4 papers due. I barely slept and I should have been stressed out of my mind. Shocking everyone, myself included, I was incredibly calm and focused. In comparison to last fall, in which I spent most of the exam period alternating between crying from stress and talking about how stressed I was to anyone who would listen, this semester I felt like I had everything under control, despite the overwhelming amount of work I had. I think the sheer volume of what I had to do actually helped because I felt like just finishing it would be an accompaniment, regardless of the grade that I achieved.

However, the most incredible thing I realized this finals season is just how much my perspective on grades and exam stress has changed since first year. As crazy as it might sound to those of you who don’t share my faith, I had this incredible sense of peace during exams (and really all semester) that God had this. That didn’t necessarily mean I was going to get As in all my classes but this was the first time in school that I genuinely, deep down in my soul, knew that my grades do not define me. That my best was enough, whether that meant I lost my scholarship or if it meant I got straight As, I knew I would be silly to think that something as little as getting a C+ in Arabic or failing a Statistics exam could possibly derail God’s plan for my life.

God is the Creator of the universe. He designed the tallest mountains and the deepest depths of the sea. He crafted the world’s most precise intricacies and set in motion the laws of nature. He imagined every language before any human tongue spoke it and ordered the world with incredible attention to detail. And most amazingly, I too am part of His grand, elaborate, creative and perfect design. Wow! Because of that, I am inherently enough. I was created enough.

I’ve known this in my head for years. But last year there was a time when I had to confront myself and ask “am I trusting God with school because I trust Him or because it keeps working out fine in the end? If I actually failed a class  or an assignment would I still trust Him with it and say that He is good?”. I was about to find out. I had a take home final due in my International Relations Class (which had been killing me all semester) and I had spent about 17 of the last 24 hours writing the final. I was doing OK in the class, but not great and definitely not as well as I wished I was. Finally handing in that paper felt so freeing; it was finally over, after much stress and striving.

Then I got home. A friend was going to come over before church and I was scrambling to clean my persistently messy room when I picked up a piece of paper and saw that it was one of the pages of my assignment. It had slipped off the printer and because the cover page had been there, I had just stapled the assignment and handed in, with about 500 words missing. Cue instant nausea and hysteria. God bless my poor friend Jon who showed up to my door to me sobbing and running around my room in a panic, trying to call my professor’s office, which was now closed. I tried to calm down and then Jon and I prayed for favour with my professor and TA and I emailed them both the electronic version of my paper, explaining what had happened.

As we headed to church, I was trying so hard to let it go and trust that God would make it all work together for good but I just couldn’t. I was furious with myself for not being more careful. I was mad that this class was, yet again, stressing me out. And to be perfectly honest, I was mad at God. Here I am, in university, trying to honour the opportunity I had been given to get an education, trying to do what I felt God had called me to be doing in this season of life and He, in all His power, couldn’t make sure I handed my paper in right?! Sounds silly I know but I’m sure we’ve all been there with anger that makes absurd accusations regardless of their truth. Thankfully Jesus is used to taking the ugliest parts of my human nature and drawing me closer to himself with patience, love and grace. 

We got to church just as I received an email from my professor telling me that she would not be including the missing page and that my assignment would be marked as it had been handed in. Of course, I start sobbing again and go hide alone at the back of the church. I spent the entire service in angry, crying prayer. Y’all probably think I am so dramatic and honestly, I knew I was being dramatic too. I kept telling myself it was just a paper, that it was just one class, that it wasn’t life or death but I was so distraught.

That’s when God really started getting deep into the heart of it all. Why did this academic setback send me spiralling so hard? Why did I feel like such a failure?

Even though I could say that my identity is found in who God says I am, was it really true? That afternoon, God softened my heart, drew me close in his presence and reminded me who I am. I am not an incomplete IR paper. I am not my transcript.  I am a daughter of the Highest King. I am chosen, set free and redeemed. There are plans for my life that will go beyond my wildest dreams if I am willing to give the reins over to the Lord. I had to level with God and admit that I had been idolizing academic success, for a long time. I had placed what my uOzone grade report said above what God himself said about me.

It was a hard lesson and it didn’t end that day. Last December as I headed home for Christmas I was utterly exhausted. I had had the worst four months of my entire life. Academically, personally, professionally. It had all been difficult. I was tired. So tired. My best friend and I sat in a parking lot one day and just yelled and laughed at how absurdly terrible our fall semesters had been. But then we talked about how good God is through those hard seasons.

I walked into my second semester and 2017 feeling more grounded in God’s word than ever before. I had learned what is means to hide myself in Him and His promises. I’ll be writing about 2017 year soon but for now, let me just tell you that it was been one full of grace, full of hard lessons and more anger at God and more running towards him all the same. It has been a year of growth and change and dreaming and hope. So much hope. We are so lucky to get to life this life, complete with all it’s joy and challenge.

So, who can stop the Lord Almighty? Not me and certainly not my grades. I am enough. I am worthy of the plans he has for my life because He created me, Jesus redeemed my life and I choose to value that above all else. That doesn’t mean I don’t try my very best at school – on the contrary, I believe my education is one of the biggest blessing I have been given and I want to steward it well. What it means is that I am free to do my best and have that be enough. I am free to hand things in and sleep in peace knowing that my world will not fall apart, regardless of what grade I get back. It means walking out of exams and not feeling like I’m going to melt in a puddle of tears. It means going home at the end of semester and not feeling like I just climbed into a lifeboat. Because I wasn’t drowning in the first place.

Trust God, friends. Rest in the knowledge that your best is enough. You are enough.

Until next time, Sam

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Rising Sun

“Our great Redeemer, glorious Saviour, Your name is higher than the rising sun. Light of the morning you shine forever, Your name is high than the rising sun….Hallelujah, King above all, simply to speak Your name is praise. Hallelujah, now and always, forever we lift Your name in praise. Hallelujah, our God, you reign.” – Rising Sun, All Sons and Daughters

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Oh the joy that comes from knowing the Lord. This weekend was one in which I was just so overwhelmed by how much our God loves and what a joy it is to be in His presence.

Good Friday, a day designed with sadness in mind, a day when innocent blood was shed so many years ago. Oh Jesus, I’m sorry, and I really am grateful. Thank you. And yet, because my God is love, even the darkest of days are filled with laughter and joy. I observed the day at church in the morning, and I have to say, a choir completely made up of senior citizens is enough to make anyone’s heart happy. In the afternoon, I baked bread that was eaten faster than it could cool. My night, I spent in worship. I showed up to a room called the Bible House around 7, hardly knowing anyone and spent the next 4 plus hours worshiping my God, a good Father who loves deeply, widely, and fully.

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Silent Saturday. A regular day. Nothing special about it, except a growing anticipation of the celebration to come and the quiet peace that comes from already knowing that He has and will overcome. I try to be pensive and consider seriously the sacrifice that Jesus made but this year, sadness is not a part of that. This year, I am filled with a steady stream of joy, bubbling just below the surface of my smile.

Today. Today, my Easter morning started at 6:30am with a beautiful sunrise. This was more than just a “pretty” sunrise. It was breathtaking. Vibrant and strong reds and oranges flooded the sky, peeking between buildings and reflecting on the canal as I made my way to Parliament Hill. How fitting that Resurrection Day was ushered in by a glorious sunrise. I remember thinking how much I love this city, how lucky I am to live in the capital. As the day dawned, I worshiped and prayed with friends and strangers alike on Parliament Hill. How blessed I am to live in a country where I am free to love Jesus.

After the sunrise service, I made my way to a breakfast hosted by my schools Christian fellowship. It’s almost sad how excited I was to sit on a real couch. After, I went out for second breakfast (because who doesn’t eat copious amounts of eggs on Easter??) with my friends, who have truly become family. I don’t know if they noticed but I was so overwhelmed with love for these people this morning. Coming to university I never dared to hope I would find friends as great as these and for neither the first time nor the last time today, I was shocked by how blessed I am.

12895380_1056086091115530_531127622_n.jpgThis afternoon, after a quick nap, (hey, the 6am wakeup call was rough ok?) I put on a brightly coloured dress, curled my hair and headed out in the sunshine to a church that I think I may be starting to call “mine”.  Dani and I were so surprised by how warm and sunny it was. The air smelt like springtime… and not going to lie, we may have embarrassed ourselves by singing out loud as we walked to the bus stop. But hey, what are you going to do when the sun is shining and Jesus is risen?!

Church was so, so, so good. Like, it always is but today it was just so full of life. Oh how I love Easter. The worship was genuine, filled with off beat claps, and all different voices intertwining. The message was hopeful and made me excited for the future. We prayed with a group of students from another university and chatted with people after service. We sat under the big window and felt the sun on our faces.
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As I was sitting there, I literally felt this indescribable, inexplicable joy rise up inside of me and I wanted to run out into the sun and dance and sing and shout because I am SO BLESSED. Blessed to be alive, to be saved, to love and be loved. A wave of peace came over me and I was reminded of God’s incredible goodness, not just today on Easter but always, everyday, now and forever.

And for the first time in a long time, I felt words rushing to my mind, my tongue, my fingers. I’m ready to write again. When there is so much beauty in the world what can I do except try to get it all out on paper? Pray for me that I find…no, make the time to pursue this passion and gift that I’ve been given.

So Happy Easter everyone. Today was a day the Lord had made, beautiful and victorious. I spent it rejoicing and being glad. Did you? #choosejoy

The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me victory – Psalm 118:14

-Until next time, Sam 12910930_1056086274448845_1140488705_n

 

 

Grateful

Sometimes at night I like to think about all the things I am grateful for. The list often quickly becomes longer than I had expected.

I think it’s normally really easy to get caught up in the bad in life or the struggles we face. We focus more on what we don’t have than on the things we do and more on the things we want than on the needs that have already been fulfilled without our even having to ask. Stopping for just a few minutes to record the little things in life that make me happy and grateful is one of the easiest ways to keep myself looking at the positive and to remind myself how truly blessed I am.  Here are the things that I am grateful for tonight.

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– Laughter. The kind that makes your eyes water and your belly hurt, the kind you can’t stop or control. Best when accompanied by good friends.

– A warm bed, a home. To me, it seems normal and expected. Reminding myself that it is a privilege and not a given is important.

Warm spring rain. All rain is good, but this kind is special. It smells like new beginnings.

Tea. Need I say more?

-A God who loves me despite all my faults. I am the farthest person from perfect that I know but I am blessed enough to serve a God that looks past that and loves me unconditionally either way.

Access to healthcare. The dentist terrifies me but having untreated cavities sounds worse. Medicine may taste bad but I am so beyond lucky to have it when I need it.

-Peace. Both in my heart and in my country

-Poetry. Beauty expressed in words is my favourite

– Community. I am part of a church family that supports me, a school with more spirit than we know what to do with and I have world class friends and family members. What more could I want?

– Dreams. I mean this in two senses. One, who doesn’t like a fantastical sleep full of adventure and intrigue? It’s like a movie in your head! Also, dreams and vision for my future. It’s fun having things to look forward to and to aim for.

– Quiet time alone. Yes, I am an extrovert. Yes, I like to be alone in the silence sometimes!

– Thought provoking conversation. Let’s talk about life and have debates about complicated topics. I’ll learn and maybe, I’ll teach you too.

– Singing. In the shower or in the car, I will belt it out whether it sounds good or not. God gives us so many opportunities to choose joy everyday and music just makes my soul sing…so obviously I have to actually sing.

-Colours. How can you look at a tiny flower in bloom or the blue of the sky and not feel lucky to be alive and in such a vibrant and colourful world?

Honestly, this list could go on and on and on. There are so many things in my life that I feel so blessed to have. Are some of these trivial? Yep. But I’m choosing to try and find joy in even the smallest aspects of my life. Once you start looking, you may find you’ll never stop finding blessings in disguise.

No idea if this was of any interest to anyone other than myself but, c’est la vie right?

-Until next time, Sam

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