Dear Class of 2016,

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Congratulations! You have reached the end of your high school career and are ready to embark on your next adventure. This can be a very exciting time or it could be a scary time. Maybe it’s a little bit of both.

I was in your shoes not too long ago and I just wanted to share some things that I have learned since crossing that stage to get my diploma.

1)Keep in touch with the friends you have…

Odds are you have a few close friends which is great. It’s important to keep investing in these friendships which might get harder to do if you move far apart. Thankfully, there are so many ways to stay connected and never underestimate the importance of a good phone call once in awhile.

2)But don’t be afraid to make new ones.

If you are moving away, don’t close yourself off and just talk to people back home. There are going to be plenty of people starting who are in the same boat you are in and eager to make new friends.

3) Study what you love.

There are going to be plenty of people that push you to do certain things but at the end of the day if you aren’t studying what you love in order to have a career in something you love then you won’t be happy in the long run.

4) If you think you know what career you want, talk to someone in that field.

See if you can go to work with them and observe what they do from day to day. Don’t just ask what they love about it but ask what is the most challenging. This might encourage you to stay on the track you are own or open your eyes to other options.

5) Don’t get stuck in the past.

After the first initial weeks of college have gone by and the excitement wears off you will find yourself asking a lot of questions. Is this really what I want? Do I want to live this close to home or do I want to move further away?

Homesickness will sink in but use this as an opportunity to do some soul-searching. Sometimes when life gets uncomfortable there are lessons to be learned and you just might find strengths you didn’t even know you had.

6) Enjoy each opportunity that comes your way.

If you aren’t careful, your calendar will quickly fill up with things to do and papers to write. Instead of just trying to get through each day use that as an opportunity to be an encourager when everyone else has something negative to say.

7)Turn your work in on time.

This might sound like a no brainer but believe me it’s an important one. It also develops a good work ethic and even if your professor fails to acknowledge it you can pride yourself on doing a god job and doing what was asked of you.

8) Explore your surroundings.

Whether you are moving to a brand new town or in the same place you have always been it never hurts to have a change of scenery. It breaks up the monotony of your routine and can even give you a new perspective.

9)Travel!

Travel. Travel. Travel as much as you possibly can. The memories you make are priceless!

10) Don’t be so hard on yourself.

We all hit a bump in the road at times and probably more so in college. We will make mistakes and we will struggle but that doesn’t mean that we have to stay there and feel bad for ourselves. Use every wrong choice as a learning experience and an opportunity to do better next time. This is true when it comes to classes as well. You have to work hard in each class and if you are struggling it’s ok to ask for help. It isn’t a sign of weakness. The only sign of weakness is not asking for help at all and trying to do it all by yourself. That only leads to a bruised ego and burn out.

11)Try something you never have before.

I don’t mean this in the stereotypical college way (alcohol and drugs). I mean if something sparks your interest like a cooking class or kickboxing class then go for it. I took a karate class and it was awesome! It’s nice to step out of our comfort zone every once in a while and broaden our horizons.

12) Stay true to who you are.

Yes, college is a time for great discovery but in a world that is constantly trying to make you something you are not it’s nice to see people who are authentic. You will be proud of that fact too.

13) Remember where you came from.

Yes, I’m from the South and roots run deep but I’m so thankful for that. The values that are instilled in you at an early age are a blessing and not a curse, although I know at times it might feel like it.

14) Thank your teachers.

I have a friend who recently wrote a letter to her teachers thanking them for the time they invested in her. I wish I had done something like that! I do remember, taking the time to tell them thank you and the older I get the more thankful I am for them. I also think that becoming a teacher made me realize how much more important it is to do so. No one wants to feel overlooked and although they might not show it, it does hurt if you don’t show your appreciation. And let’s face it, you wouldn’t have made it this far without them.

15)Thank your family.

This should go without saying but just in case you need to reminded this important as well. I know we all come from different home lives and different backgrounds but thank them the best way you can. You’ve only been in their lives for 17-18 years but for most parents, that has been the best years of their whole life and you are their whole world.

16)Don’t rush it!

Last but not least, don’t rush this next chapter of your life away. If you are like me, you probably had a calendar counting down days to graduation. I couldn’t wait to go my dream college and for my life to “begin”. If I could do one thing over, I would go back and tell that high school girl “Your life has already begun. Enjoy each moment but don’t keep looking for the next moment to check off your list. Each day is full of opportunities to grow and learn and be a better version of yourself. Don’t get lost in the crazy fast pace of this world.”

And before you know it, the dreams you have been chasing are right in front of you and life keeps going on.

As Kenny Chesney once said, “Don’t blink! It really does go by faster than you think!”

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A Sparrow’s Song

Does anyone remember the song His Eye is on the Sparrow? It’s been on my mind a lot lately. Especially after seeing this one on a cross. (If you can’t see it it’s it’s perched toward the right end.)

If you need some reminding, here’s the lyrics..

Why should I feel discouraged and why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart be lonely and long for heaven and home?
When Jesus is my portion, a constant Friend is He,
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy;
I sing because I’m free;
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me.

Let not your heart be troubled; these tender words I hear;
And resting on his goodness I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy;
I sing because I’m free;
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me.

Whenever I am tempted; whenever clouds arise;
When songs give place to sighing; when hope within me dies;
I draw the closer to Him; from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy;
I sing because I’m free;
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me…

Well, today one of my students came up to me and asked me to read him some facts about birds. There were different cards on the table and as I read each one he seemed to get more and more interested. Finally, he reached for the card that said sparrow. I immediately thought of the story that Jesus said about us being worth more than many sparrows. I got chills and knew that I was going to be in for a bigger blessing than just teaching my student about a bird. God was going to use that opportunity to teach me something too!

Upon further research (I teach preschool, it doesn’t get too in depth), I found some really interesting facts about sparrows. Apparently there are many types but one of the first ones I found was called the Song Sparrow. Are you getting chills yet?

First of all, song sparrows are very common which means we see them so often that we are unlikely to notice them. However, this doesn’t stop them from sharing their songs. The description I read said they “perch on a low shrub, lean back, and sing a stuttering, clattering song.”

I couldn’t help but think of the Psalm 118:24 which says, “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.” I’ve always thought of this as reminding me to worship every morning but how neat is it that the birds do it just to glorify their Creator too?

Song sparrows also live in open habitats like overgrown fields and backyards. Not exactly places that catch your eye. You would think that being a common bird in non-picturesque places would be enough to discourage them but they still sing their songs. Psalm 50:11  even says, “I know every bird in the mountains and the creatures of the field are mine.”

How often do we feel that we are just people who get lost in the crowd of everyday life all going through the same routines? If we are a child of God, He sees so much more than that. He has created us with certain talents and gifts that only we can offer. These gifts and talents aren’t meant to be a source of pride but a source of gratitude to glorify the Father who gave them to us.

Perhaps He was thinking of all of this when Jesus said these words, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” Matthew 10:29-31.

So the next time you feel discouraged or overlooked, remember that the One who holds the whole world in His hand is holding you too. (And yes, I know I just made a reference to He’s Got The Whole World in His Hands. I couldn’t help it.)