Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Stress, Finals, and God's Faithfulness

It was the Monday of Finals Week last quarter, and I had just about had enough. I sat in the empty break-room at work, trying to keep my sobs from bursting out, worrying and stressing out about how I was going to get everything done. It wasn’t like I had been dawdling – an emergency baby-sitting opportunity had cropped up on Friday night, and I had worked the entire weekend as well. Combined with the stress of studying for finals, I had already not been in the best of moods that morning. But when my supervisor informed me that I had to take mandatory training the next day – the day of my hardest final – I panicked. Knowing how important the training was and the need to comply with company/state policies and regulations, I forced a smile and told my boss I would be there. But I could barely hold back the tears as I left the office, making a bee-line for the empty break-room.

Because of my lack of sleep, the stress over work and finals, and the general sense of panic, this new addition to my workload seemed overwhelming – something that simply could not be done. Taking a few shaky breaths, I suddenly remembered what a friend had told me just a few days before.

Are you going to Worship Night tonight?” I texted my friend.

As nursing majors, she and I had ended up taking many of the same courses together. This quarter was no different – we shared both an English class and a human biology class, both of which were quite a bit more work than we had anticipated.

"I’m not sure… I’m trying to figure out if I should stay home to study for finals next week. Are you going?" She texted back.

I stared down at the table in front of me, mulling the same question over in my mind. Already my time was trickling away, due to an unexpected babysitting request and more shifts than usual at work. I would barely have time to finish studying and reviewing all of the concepts before the science final, much less studying enough to feel confident on each subject. But on the other hand, I knew I needed to consciously fix my focus on Jesus and depend on His strength to get through the next week. With Colossians 1:17 in mind, I decided to go ahead and go to the worship night. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” – Colossians 1:17. I figured that as long as I had to take these finals, I should do it with thankfulness, giving God the glory, no matter the outcome.

At the church, we spent at least an hour singing and worshipping God. As we sang, I felt the burden of worry lift off of my shoulders, and I was reminded yet again of how the peace of God surrounds us when we pull our eyes away from our own trials and turn them to bask in the awe of His glory.

After singing, we split up into groups of two or three to spend time praying with and for one another. We spent awhile praising God through prayer, reflecting on His faithfulness, and pleading for His strength during the coming week. When we finally stood up to join the rest of the group to conclude the evening, a friend pulled me gently aside.

“Johanna, I want to let you know that God is telling you not to fear. Don’t be afraid, and put your trust in Him. He is faithful."

Although touched, and thankful for the message, I was not entirely sure what it was referring to. I did worry sometimes about various things, but there was nothing especially pressing, aside from finals. After fellowshipping with the rest of the group for a few more minutes, I headed back home, pondering over what God was trying to tell me. As I prepared for bed, I put the incident out of my mind, choosing instead to focus on formulating a game-plan for the rest of the weekend.

As I sat in the empty break-room, tears streaming down my face, God suddenly brought to mind that conversation with my friend. “…God is telling you not to fear. Don’t be afraid, and put your trust in Him. He is faithful.” Stunned, I realized that God had put those words into the mouth of my friend, knowing that I would need that reminder and encouragement just few days later.

Humbled, I took a few deep breaths and prayed for strength to get through the next few days (as well as peace throughout anything else that might come my way). Almost instantly, I felt peace come over me and felt the assurance that even though I was in the middle of what seemed to be an overwhelming set of problems, I knew that God was in control. Whatever happened, whatever the outcome, He would be glorified in and through this situation.

Looking back, I see how trivial this problem was. Yes, finals are important. And yes, it was a stressful situation. But my emotions, focused on myself and my own problems, blew the situation way out of proportion. At the time, it seemed like it would be the end of the world if I didn’t ace that final. But what are a few less points on a GPA in the greater scheme of things? I could have missed out on an opportunity to see just how amazing our God is, and how great His faithfulness and provision truly are. In addition, God brought home to me the fact that He really does know our needs, even before we realize them for ourselves. Our God is amazing - He can use the toughest situations to reveal more of Himself to us in ways we never could have thought possible!

“…your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matthew 6:8

Sunday, December 29, 2013

September - December 2013

Now that the whirl of college finals and general business has somewhat subsided (December is not necessarily the most peaceful and calm time of year), I have emerged from the long period of not posting.  My goal is to try to post about once a week, even when school starts up again in January.

A quick recap of the last five months:

  • Libby is now 10!  All of us children are now between the ages 10 and 20.
  • I've begun working as a care manager at a local assisted living center, and have been now been working for there for three months
  •  God helped me make it through my first Anatomy and Physiology course.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and found it absolutely fascinating!
  • I began and ended a 365 photo-a-day project.  I think that college, combined with working, did not lend it self well to helping accomplish that particular project. :(
  • God has provided me with so much encouragement via His Word, my friends, and family, as I've struggled with the stress and business of having a part-time job and being a part-time student.  I will definitely continue to lean Him for strength, as I will probably be taking classes full-time at the college next quarter.
  • I applied to a full-ride scholarship, managing to make it to the second phase of the competition. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to the third and final competition phase, but knowing I made it as far as I did gave me some encouragement. 
I am extremely thankful for this job as a care manager, not necessarily because of the financial aspect of it (though I do appreciate that very much!), but because of the many things I have learned so far.  And it's only been three months!
God has used this job to help me grow confident in and of the abilities He has given me.  Throughout all of the difficult situations I've encountered at work over the last several months, (as well as in school and other various activities), I've learned in a very tangible way that I have no control over anything, and that God perfectly orchestrates everything according to His perfect plan. 

There have been times that I've been totally overwhelmed by the amount of work and schoolwork and unexpected responsibilities that have come up.  In fact, during finals week, I nearly had a panic attack because of how unprepared and stressed out I had become because of this overwhelming workload.  But God never gives us more than we can handle.  He is always there to give us strength and encouragement, often through the kind words and actions of others.  Just the week before, a friend had offered me some very specific godly encouragement that really helped me get through the stress of that overwhelming week.  That experience taught me that God truly knows what we need, even before we need it, and even before we think of asking for him for help.

Through this job, I've also learned to experience joy in serving others, even in performing the most menial of tasks.  Although my work is not always easy, it's a constant reminder to take God's command to heart: "So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God".  - 1 Corinthians 10:31

It's been a long four months, but I'm so thankful that God is continuing to teach me, and guide me in the direction he has planned out.  May you all have a wonderful end to this year, and may the next year be one full of God's blessings as He draws you nearer to Himself.  To God be the Glory!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cabin Vacation - Part 2

Photo Credit: Rosie Dunn

A Few Memories:
- Sasquatch!
- "French Jokes"
- Swimming across the river
- Singing Jack Pearson songs
- A scary prank awaiting me in my tent one night (Thanks a lot, Rosie and Arthur!)
- Being nearly scared to death by Arthur on the way down from Puff Rock.
- Exploring and wandering around with James
- Sleeping out on the bluff under a star-scattered sky
- Driving into town with Grandpa and Papa to finish my sociology project.  Electricity!
- The privilege of using Rosie's camera
- Selfies and funny faces
- Spending Friday morning sitting around singing and listening to James make up songs
- Seeing the Milky-Way for the first time
- Warming up cold batteries
- Gasping in unison with delight whenever a shooting-star came into view
- Waking to the crisp morning air and the beautiful sunrise
- Our echoes ricocheting off the surrounding mountains as we shouted "Hosanna!"

Rosie's camera, which she kindly let me use quite a bit.  If you'd like to see more cabin pictures,
go to her blog at  My Life Through a Lens

Waiting in the back of Grandpa's truck



Another creature caught by the critter-hunters






 Sunset on the way to Puff Mountain
 Mt. Daniels at dusk


 Shouting in unison...
Reaction after hearing their echoes 


 Waiting for his echo

Not as good an echo as he'd hoped.  "That was so-so..." 

 Sunrise after spending the night on the bluff.

Someone's cold!