High School Musical

Driving down Reynolds and pulling into the parking lot of Bryant High School on my second-to-last day of school filled me with many emotions. Some I recognize; some are fuzzy. But one that was clear was thankfulness. Actually I felt an overwhelming joy as I thought back on these past four years–past 12 years–I’ve spent in school at Bryant. Yes, there is some fear for the future, but as I reflect on the past there is evidence to thousands of memories with friends I love, many nights at the table eating with my family after school, and an overall theme of God’s goodness and grace.

I don’t think this is the only way to do high school…other people did things differently and had a great experience. But for me, these five things are what stand out the most looking back on what made my high school career great… and I thought I’d revive the blog to share. Yes, it wasn’t perfect. Yes, I made mistakes. Yes, I have some regrets. But I believe that it was as good as high school could get. And I have learned that in order for this experience to be possible, God has to be at the first and front of it all.

Find Your People

These are my people. They are loud. They are lively. They are funny. They are encouraging. They are 30-minute-long discussions over pointless things. They are loud arguments over Battle of the Sexes. They are the people to invite to a game night. They are slumber party material (the girls, that is). They are the best company for a meal. My friends are many things. Many things that I love. Many things that have shaped me into who I am today. The people you surround yourself with do have an impact on you. So choose wisely.

Find Your Person(s)

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I have always had a sweet friendship with my friend Lauren and through yearbook was blessed with another sweet friendship with my friend Helen. Ironically, we are all co-editors of the yearbook. It was this time working constantly together and being under stressful deadlines that our friendship grew into something deeper. Because we had a common trust in one another, we started sharing struggles, praises, and stresses. Our friendship formed into what we call a “Committee”. Whenever I came across a difficult situation or tough decision, I went to Lauren and Helen to help advise me and direct me, and they were my “Committee”. They give me a calm voice in the midst of loud chaos. They display patience, they speak wisdom, and they go to the Lord on behalf of me. They know me well, and they know how to encourage me well. They not only point me, but push me, towards the Lord.

There will be many voices in your high school career…and all throughout your life. It is important to pick out the truest voices to encourage and help guide you. It was crucial for me to find a friend that would keep me accountable and a friend that I can trust…luckily I found two. They aren’t the only people who have influenced and encouraged me, but they are deep friendships that were pivotal to me trying to live in a way worthy of the Gospel.

Talk to Your Parents

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I picked up on this peace of advice not soon enough. They say your parents have wisdom, but I seriously doubted this until I experienced it for myself. In fact, my Committee member, Helen, taught me this lesson. There were many things I went to Lauren and Helen seeking advice for, but there were also many things that Lauren and Helen did not have the expertise in. You’d be surprised the guidance your parents will provide when you seek their help.

Take a Bath

Like for real. Get you a hot steaming bath running and just soak. High school is a time where you may find yourself in constant motion…and with constant homework. So it’s important to check on your physical being every once in a while. I like to take a bath, paint my nails, or go for a run. I also like to spend time with people who refresh my spirit (not all of them pictured above 🙂 ).

Get Involved

As much as you can…but not too much. Freshman year, I joined the cross country team. No, I wasn’t fast, but it was a fun place where I could exercise and meet fun people. I also tried out for the yearbook staff and along the way have gained many skills, many friendships, many memories, and many opportunities.

Go to pep rallies and sports events and dress up for spirit week. Have fun!! Get to know your teachers and the people around you.

Being involved in my church had a huge impact on my life. I was able to serve, grow, and be around people and older women that would encourage and help me in my pursuit of Christ.

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

This verse sits on my car dash, and it has come to be one of my favorites. The Lord has blessed me during these past four years with a great friend group, accountability partners, amazing parents, and a school and church that care about students.

I was convinced that high school would be like High School Musical. At some points it had that We’re All In This Together feeling, but if I’m being honest, many times it was far different. In fact, I even found myself on the couch crying with my parents one night disappointed because my senior year wasn’t going like it was for the East High Wildcats in High School Musical 3 at the end of the movie. It’s tough. Pre Cal/Trig is hard. People can be mean. It’s hard to wake up in the morning. Bad things happen.

I’m not downplaying the hard parts of high school. But I am saying that high school in tune with God is so rewarding. You can experience His goodness. You can experience His peace. You can experience His faithfulness. You can walk off your campus confidently because you’ve experienced Him…and that will stay with you longer than Pre Cal/Trig will.

(Take that Dr. Sadlar.)

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Life Update 

For those of y’all who have forgotten me…my name is Gracen 🙂 I don’t blame you it’s been a WHILE. These past few months have been packed tight. But packed with so much good. Shortly after my last post, I went to a Twenty One Pilot concert, ran a half marathon, and went to St. Louis with my family. I also turned 17!!! My family and my friends loved me so well on my birthday, and it was one of the best by far. During and right after my birthday, I ran for Class Reporter Historian and my friends continued to love and encourage me and left me leaving that week with so much joy. Also since last time we’ve talked, we finished the yearbook!!!! And. It. Looks. Good.

These past few months have been great, but it has taken me a while to realize that. Confusion, disappointment, mistakes, missed ways led me to the foot of the cross. But instead, I ran away.

God doesn’t want someone who doesn’t have all A’s or a 30 or above on their ACT to spend time with Him. He can’t afford someone who can’t win their class election to be in His Presence. He doesn’t want to be near the frayed edges of my mistakes. Or that my work wasn’t good enough to help win us Editor of the Year.

These lies and the fact that I didn’t have it all together left me feeling unwanted, unloved, unmanaged, undone. But instead of giving it all to the one person who not only could handle it, but who wanted it, I kept it inside. It built up these walls, and I strayed from the Lord because I told myself He didn’t want to be with me.

The truth that comes with Easter and the story of Peter slowly ripped these walls around my heart down. The Lord desires to fix my mistakes. He desires to display grace and mercy so there’s no need for me to hide from Him. And by sending His son to die for me, His love for me is inevitable. There is nothing I can do to put Jesus back in the grave, and there is nothing I can do to separate myself from the love of God. Those numbers don’t matter, and neither do those titles because the Lord still pursues me.

Disappointment seems to be a theme of these past few weeks, coming up short at the class election and at a yearbook convention. But my prayer for Reporter Historian and what we prayed before they announced Editor of the Year was that it would be given to someone who needed it. Someone who needed the encouragement and deserved it.

The main reason I wanted to run for Reporter Historian was because they got to pray at graduation. How cool would it be to get to send off your classmates with a word to the Lord. But the Lord has taken that disappointment and turned it into so much more. With the leadership of my friend Ashlyn, once every month our friends go up to the school, split up, and pray with teachers before their day starts. And it has been so fun getting to serve our school through prayer in that way.

And about Editor of the Year…not getting that award helped me recognize friendship and the journey we’ve been on. Lauren, Helen, and Ashley have poured so much time and energy into this book. But along the way we have made so many memories, and grown so much as designers, in our friendship, and in our relationship with the Lord. And I know that the desire of each of these girls’ hearts is to glorify the Lord in all things yearbook.

I am thankful that the Lord desires to be with me despite my mistakes and what I can obtain. I am thankful that he pursues me, and when I keep pushing Him away he continues to pursue me. I am thankful that he turns disappointment into something much greater. I am thankful to be His.

Obedience is Hard

“Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord. Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart.” Psalm 119:1-2

Woah before we go any further check out that cool logo up top! I know right?? Pretty snazzy…thank you, Illustrator.

Not gonna lie, reading through Pslams 119 this week I was pretty freaked out. Psalm 119 is the longest psalms as well as the longest chapter in the Bible. The psalmist goes on and on  (and on and on) about obeying the Lord’s commands and longing for even more commands so that he could keep them.

Maybe it’s because I am a sinful person, but my first thought reading these verses was that there was something wrong with the person writing this. There is no way he delights this much in obeying rules and the way of the Lord to write this passionate and extensive about it. And I’m only on verse 48…out of 176.

If we’re being real, obeying and following the way of the Lord has been a struggle for me recently. There has been multiple incidents in the past month where I have chosen to deliberately disobey my parents in serious ways. And I didn’t understand why or what was going on. I just found it normal for me to ignore their rules and disrespect their standards.

Ephesians 4 describes this way of living as the “old self” which is a life “corrupted through deceitful desires.” Just because someone has a relationship with Christ does not mean they are completely rid of the “old self”…because I find myself there all the time. A few verses down in Ephesians 4, Paul introduces the “new self” which is a life “created in the likeness of God.”

This “likeness of God” is where we begin to desire obedience and more of it. Although we strive to reflect this “new self”, we are surrounded in a world full of “old self.” This makes it so easy to for me to ignore the rules and intentionally disobey my parents. This makes it so easy for me to turn away from from the way the Lord has placed before me.

From before sunrise to beyond sunset, the word of God dominated the psalmist’s life. His time with the truth and the living God sparked his desire to serve the Lord, and those around him, through obedience. What a life to live and a prayer to pray. That I would be so drenched in the word that I could write 176 verses on obeying the Lord’s statutes and longing for more because the commands I have now are not enough.

Man, I am far away from that but what’s stopping me from getting there.