Marathon Monday (Laura)

A year ago at this time, I had one goal that was occupying a lot of my time and energy—qualifying for the Boston Marathon. In 2012 I ran my first marathon with a desire to qualify but not really having any idea if it was possible.  I surprised myself by the strength that came out as I focused on simply finishing 26.2 miles of running. I decided to sign-up for year number two and focus not only on finishing, but also on qualifying for the Boston Marathon 2014.
I began my training in January 2013 for the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 5, 2013. On April 15th the finish line of the Boston Marathon was bombed—3 killed and 260 injured. It was startling and a really interesting time to be part of a large running club. Mostly though, it made that desire in me even stronger.
Now, as you may have guessed since I am writing this today instead of running, I did not qualify. It was disappointing but this is what is so sweet—God taught me SO much about knowing Him in the midst of my training. Isn’t God so incredible? There is nothing in our life that He cannot use to bring Himself glory. 
So in honor of today being “Marathon Monday”, the day of the Boston Marathon, I thought I would share a little of what I learned while training about running with endurance in my faith.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before uslooking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2
If I can summarize what I learned, it is that setting my eyes on a goal means every other aspect of my life needs to align with that goal. So the food I ate, the time I slept, and my schedule all changed to support my training goal once I decided to aim at running a qualifying time.  I sacrificed Friday nights of staying out late with others to be home in bed by 10 so I could wake up for a training run at 5 on Saturday morning. I would rearrange my daily schedule to ensure there was always time to fit in weekday runs. I was more conscious of staying hydrated and eating food that would give me energy rather than whatever was easiest or right in front me. I saved money to spend on good shoes and running clothes that would help me feel light on my feet as I ran. I joined a running club where people to encourage me and push me beyond what I thought I was able to do surrounded me. There was not a single day that went past between January and May where I was not thinking about race day. The purpose of a lot of things I did in a day was to support my goal. And once I learned about the Boston Marathon bombing, my desire grew even stronger. It was a natural response to the tragedy. 
Sounds like I was pretty wrapped up in running, right? So how did God meet me in it?
Well, I did not realize when I started training how much little things would change in my life as a result of the desire to qualify grew. As I saw these things begin to change, I became challenged by if I was allowing the same to happen in my life because of my desire to know God more. As a believer, my ultimate goal is to bring glory to God. So how strong is that desire in me? Are my eyes truly set on that as my ultimate goal? Do I see every aspect of my life changing and aligning to support that goal? Do I sacrifice things and rearrange my schedule to create time and space for Him? Is my desire to glorify God constantly growing and becoming stronger in response to seeing the brokenness around me? Am I taking steps to surround myself with people to encourage and support me in knowing God?
Are you actively “running the race with endurance” to know God and make Him known?
There are so many other things I can think of that I learned while training but I want to end with one last thing.  I did not qualify. That was disappointing to put so much energy and effort into training and not see the prize. Yet, at the end of the race, I still stood with joy. Why? Because I know my hope is not in qualifying for a race. My hope and joy are rooted in Christ alone and He never disappoints. Our journey in knowing Him may not always be as clear as a marathon race route, but unlike the marathon, the prize is a guarantee. Those who place their faith in Jesus can experience Him daily and will one day get to rejoice in His presence for eternity with no more suffering. I don’t know about you, but that prize will always be worth changing any aspect of life.

A Saturday (Senior) Story- Jasmine, ODU

I have been a Christian my whole life, but it was not until my freshman year at ODU that I started to see a change in myself because of God. I was learning so much about Him and myself. Through my experiences, I have learned a few different things that can hopefully be a help to you as you complete your college years:

1. Surround yourself with people who live for God. I’m not saying to ONLY hang out with Christians, but getting involved with a local church or a campus ministry is so great. Having community with other believers builds you up. This gives you and others the chance to pray for each other and learn about God through each other. 
2. Trust Him no matter what the situation is. Whether it be a tough class that you are not understanding, or you have a heart break with pain that seems like it might last forever. Always trust that the Lord’s plan is a good one and is better than your plan, even when you feel like crap. 
Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
3. Take chances. Don’t be scared to try something new. Go travel while you are young and have the chance in college. Get up on stage and sing a song no matter how nervous you are. Still do your homework and study, but make some time for hanging with friends, having fun, and doing things you may not get to do again. I took a chance going on a Summer Project missions trip to San Diego this past summer. It was such a great experience to travel to the West Coast and meet others from across the U.S who wanted to learn more about Jesus and tell others about Him. It was something I did not think I’d ever do, but stepping out of your comfort zone in this way can be a blessing to you and to others. 
4. Read the Bible and spend time with God. It seems like something so simple but it really does make a difference. What you learn in the Bible are things you can apply to your lives. Being in college is very busy. School, working, and social life can take over. But just a few minutes of each day praying to the Lord and reading some scripture will be so effective in your life.
 I pray that this last verse is an encouragement to you through college and life as it is to me:
Joshua 1:9 (NIV)
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Lessons Learned Since Graduating College, Part Two (Meg)

Lessons Learned Since Graduating College, Part Two
also known as That Moment You Start Windex-ing Cockroaches.
{This was originally posted on my friend’s blog who gathered thoughts from many different people in this stage of life. Feel free to check it out!}
Life can be haphazard. Not a perfect cookie cutter moment at every turn.  You think it’s going to be all one way and it turns out to be totally different.
For example: cockroaches.
When you start hunting for your first place “on your own,” you have dreams and “must haves.” But you start browsing online and you get this sinking feeling that some of your “needs” really just are luxuries.  You realize that while you might have a paycheck in your hand that is more money to your name than you have ever seen at one time, you also have to make that baby stretch. Far.  And housing, well, it’s expensive.
So you move into an apartment complex that isn’t the nicest, but where you feel mostly safe.  You make do with what you have, and you add your homey touches so that it feels cozy.  You deal with maintenance people when your air conditioning freaks out at you and you pay your bills on time.  Because after all, you just learned what a credit score is, and it’s crazy important that you get this one right.
And everything is bright and sunshiney and going well so far. Until one day you see him.  Running across your kitchen window sill.  Yep, a cockroach.
You panic.
After freaking out, and stalking a few days, the entire family has moved in and multiplied and before you know it you are staying awake until all hours of the night removing every item you have in your kitchen (and spraying those dang cockroaches with Windex) in hopes that a) you might get around to washing them all because that’s nasty, and b) the pest control people will be in there bright and early to really exterminate them. Because – repeat after me – ain’t nobody got no time for that.
How do you get rid of cockroaches? Who knows. At least they’re the small ones, and they don’t crunch when you kill them.  But still, that’s just not something I learned in my college classes. I took a mere three science classes during college. No cockroach knowledge for me. No thank you.
So you make things up.  You laugh and you stack every last pot on your free end tables you scored from that trash pile out back and you laugh again with your roommates and you realize that life – it’s pretty messy sometimes.
After all, you don’t know everything.  And that’s a good thing.  Which brings me to one of the next things I learned… that my parents were right all along, and that I still have a long way to go.
Lesson Three: I Know Nothing.
I don’t know that I ever thought for sure that I knew everything, but I did. I thought I knew everything. I wouldn’t have said that out loud; I might not have even acknowledged that that was the case.  But once I realized I didn’t know anything… I realized I once must have thought that I did.
Somewhere along the line I had fallen into the self-esteem trap that I am totally awesome and the solution to all of the problems in the world. That’s extreme, and pretty exaggerated, but it’s what roughly was translated from lessons in school.  I had a piece of paper in hand that said I was qualified.  I knew the answers because I had spent years inside a classroom debating theories about the world.
Not all of those things are bad. Necessarily.
But once I moved into the “real world” phase of my life, I learned that I don’t know much of anything actually.  I mean, I do. I am generally competent, have lived for two and a half decades, and have gone through many life experiences. But compared to many, many other people in this world, I have a lot to learn.
I almost hated myself that I finally had realized I didn’t really know much.  But I had that same beautifully shrinking feeling I get when I stand and look into the vast ocean – a small girl looking into a big world.  It was liberating.
I was both humbled and in awe.  Humbled – that there is so much more to go in life, and because I once thought I knew all the answers.  In awe – of what else I have left to see, experience, and learn.  Relatively speaking, I know nothing.  There is a lot of wisdom in the world, and I’ve just scratched the surface.
Lesson Four: Community Matters.
When I realized I knew nothing, I found that others did.  They know a lot.  There is a lot to learn from those around me. I once felt like a big fish in a small pond; I now feel like a fish swimming around other fish who may or may not know their end destination, or if they’re even swimming the right way.  I’m free to be me. I’m free to not know.  That ocean – it’s pretty big.
And man, I have a lot of people to learn from
The thing that kept me sane during my first year out of college was my community.  I’m not talking about the people I happened to live nearby, which was a few thousand.  I’m talking about the kind of community that is intentional.  Authentic.  The community that loves Jesus like no one’s business and is going to be darn sure that I continue to seek Him when things get messy and I don’t know the answers.
It’s so hard to find.  So hard sometimes.  But it’s worth it. My community – they loved me well.  Besides the anchor that I clung close to (which was Jesus, that lesson comes later), if I hadn’t had community around me for those first few months especially, even though they knew nothing about me and I knew nothing about them, I probably would have gone insane.
I had to seek it out.  I had to be willing to be open.  I had to be willing to let others in.  I had to be willing to hear from them and to cry.  They saw me in some of my darkest moments that year. But man, they listened, and they love Jesus, and that made all the difference in the world.
When you come to this place where you realize that cockroaches are real and the ocean is pretty big, you can start to feel a little lost. Things get a little crazy and your general outlook is hazy.  But you have to be willing to find those people.  Find those people who will be your people.
You’ll want someone to vent to.  And you’ll want people who will make you laugh at it all.  Because after all, that’s some of the good in it.  You just have to take them as they come, walk with Jesus, and figure it out along the way.  Just don’t walk it alone.