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How to Make Your Road Trip a Success

You’re out of your parents’ place and hungry to see the world for the first time on your own, but limited to the budget of a college student. No problem! Follow a few of these tips to help make the most of your exploring.

My sister and I recently hopped in our 2011 “mom car”, headed west to see the ocean for our Thanksgiving break. San Diego was our destination, but that’s about all we knew. With a “we’ll wing it” mindset, our only agenda was to lay in the sand and have some acai. Here are a few things we would suggest to ace your next road trip…

  1. Make a playlist

The radio gets old after about two hours when you’ve heard “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran about 5 times already. Make a playlist with a variety of genres, throwbacks, and those songs you can’t help but belt out beforehand. Download it; this way you won’t have to waste that precious data. Having a solid playlist that will last you a few hours is essential and will make those long stretches of highway fly by. Also, add a motivational podcast or sermon in the queue.

  1. Have good company

In life in general, it is so important to surround yourself with people that bring out the best in you and that you are sure to have a fun time with. Luckily, my sister is one of my best friends. While there were times I wish I had an eject button under her car seat (too far?), we had extended time to just talk about each other’s lives and we shared memories together that will last a lifetime.

  1. Google free things to do

Google and Yelp are your two best friends on a vacation. Spending hours at the beach and going hiking were two of the highlights of our trip and both didn’t cost a dime. Check for free museums or visit landmarks. Or go window shopping in a popular area (if you have better self-control than me).

  1. Split meals

So, what happens when you see a super cute waterfront restaurant on Instagram, but your minimum wage income will not be happy about those entrée prices? You don’t have to say no to those spots. Share a dish and stop for ice cream on the way back to your hotel if you’re not fully satisfied. It’s a win-win situation.

  1. Ask for suggestions

Most people will love to show off the place they live. Fortunately, we had a few friends from the area who were kind enough to keep us company and willing to show us around. If you aren’t able to meet up with friends, ask people while you’re out what their favorite restaurants are or message someone you know on Instagram for their “must do” list.

  1. Avoid paying for parking

This may mean parking a little further away from your location and walking or check if it’s cheaper to take an Uber from your hotel out to dinner.

  1. Take lots of pictures

I’m a firm believer that you only regret the pictures that you didn’t take. Photos are a way to make your trip seem to last a little longer.

What are the essentials for your road trip adventures? Don’t let money (or too much homework) keep you from seeing more of this great world.

How to Find True Happiness

Are you happy?

Why are our thoughts so consumed with what’s next : : If only I had the newer I phone… a little more money… had that guy as my boyfriend… then I would be happy.

If you know me at all, you’re probably laughing about this topic choice. This is something I really struggle with. I am always wanting to be dressed in the name brand clothes and be armed with the most trendy material items. I’m always thinking about what’s next; what don’t I have now and how can I get it.

But I’m usually just left with a smaller bank account and an envious heart the second someone walks by with a better version.

Our culture is consumed with this. Advertising and marketing thrives off of this flesh-driven, human condition of always wanting more. Society revolves around these lies; if you just had that one thing you will be content.

But coveting never brings satisfaction.

I️t destroys the soul to make money or these worldly desires your god. Greed can stir cravings that manifest into other ugly pursuits.

C.S. Lewis speaks to this issue of contentment. His point is along the lines of there being two different kinds of unhappy people in the world : : one type gets everything they want and still aren’t satisfied and those that give up trying are bitter that other people seem to have everything.

A lot of celebrities are a prime example of this. Wealth and recognition by society do not correlate or equate to happiness.

What happens when your happiness is dependent on that boyfriend you worked so hard to get and he breaks up with you? Or when that new iPhone breaks and you can’t replace it? Our happiness cannot depend on the fleeting circumstances and things of this world.

1 Timothy 6:7 says, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world (ESV). You cannot attach a U-haul behind your coffin.

Now, buying that new shirt is not a bad thing and does not mean you don’t love God enough, but finding contentment with the blessings right in front of you provides perspective.

Let my life say :: If I️ never make that band… God, You are all I️ need. If I️ never get my dream car… God, you are still enough. Remind me of eternal matters. Let soul investment wreck me in the greatest of ways and help me to have a thankful heart.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, take time to reflect on your life. Just if you are able to read this post, you have been given so much.

God is the essence of life and life to the full. He brings true satisfaction. When I stop searching for the temporary pleasures of this world or trying to fill a hole with life-sucking momentary happiness, I find joy in the only thing that is going to matter at the end of time.

Does the Early Bird Really Get the Worm?

To the average college student, being awake before the 7 a.m. hour is an ungodly time and starting the day before the sun is up sounds like a request from the devil himself. By the end of this post, my hope to is to convince you of a lifestyle that embraces the advantages of the morning. I believe you’ll be more successful and that the payoff of this discipline will reach far.

Imagine your alarm going off and not having those feeling of dread. Think about the anxiety of rushing out the door to be a thing of the past. Maybe there is a pot of fresh coffee on and positive thoughts brewing about a new day (not to mention being a step ahead of your peers who are still in bed).

Research shows that young morning people are generally happier and have better grades among other positive scientific evidence.

I read about one study from the University of Toronto.

[They] surveyed more than 700 adults on their sleeping habits, mood, health, and other questions, they found that morning people (who naturally get up around 7 or earlier) had up to a 25 percent increase in feelings of happiness, cheerfulness, and alertness.”

The same article expanded on a study done by Daniel J. Taylor, PhD, associate professor of psychology at the University of North Texas.

“[Researchers] performed a study of more than 800 students found that early risers had a GPA that was a full point higher than that of their night owl peers (3.5 vs. 2.5).”

Statistics for this better life can be motivating in themselves; but once you get in the habit, I’m cautioning that you may actually start to enjoy it and these benefits will just be a plus.

The early bird really does get the worm; there is an extra hour in the day, you’ve just been sleeping through it. It’s hard to have sympathy for people who complain about not having enough hours in the day when their day didn’t start until midmorning. Higher productivity is a natural result of being awake. Here’s how I use my extra time…

My Morning Routine

6:40 am : : Alarm goes off | Check news & social media apps | Make bed (huge advocate for always taking the 2 minutes to do this) | Drink lots of water

7:00 am : : Hit the gym | Listen to a sermon or leadership/business podcast

8:00 am : : Shower | Do hair, makeup & dress for the day

8:45 am : : Do Bible devotional & journal | Eat breakfast (typically a banana and bowl of Kashi cereal) | Make a coffee to-go

9:30 am : : Head to class

It’s All About Preparation

Preparing for the morning is key. I lay out my workout clothes and what I’m going to wear that day the night before. This way I don’t waste time picking out an outfit (& limit disturbing my roommate). I pack my lunch for work and a snack before bed too (additional plus preventing me from picking up that candy bar or bag of chips the next day).

I Challenge Y O U

Try waking up an hour or two earlier for just one week. This may go without saying, but you’ll need to get to bed earlier for this to truly work effectively. Your roommate may think you’re crazy (ask mine), but having a full night’s rest is essential for the productive morning that you’re looking for.

On the other hand, never let this routine take away from your college experience. Never say ‘no’ to important fellowship with friends and don’t feel guilty about Saturday mornings you get to sleep in. Use it as a general guideline for your days not as an absolute.

Are you a morning person? Comment below what you hope to get out of being an early riser for a week.

8 Ways to Step Up Your Instagram Stories

Creativity knows no bounds when it comes to Instagram stories. Try 1 (or all 8) of these ideas to up your social media game. You’ll be so proud to show-off your story, you’ll wish they could stay up longer than 24 hours.

1. Utilize typography

If you have a simple picture, use enlarged words to spice up your story. Fill up the screen with a phrase that accentuates the photo by it bringing further meaning.

2. Add stickers

Too many stickers can be overwhelming, but find that tasteful amount by adding relevant and interesting information like the location, time, or temperature that help to support your message. Don’t forget to scroll down for fun, seasonal stickers or birthday designs to add a whimsical flair to your photos.

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3. Get creative with symbols

Try using the symbols like the underscore to create lines (_____) or the slash (/////) which can add a unique, artistic addition. Another thing I like to do is enlarge symbols like the ‘and’ sign (&) to separate two idea.

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4. Incorporate both type & handwriting

This contrast can be used to make certain words pop.

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5. Experiment with different colors 

When choosing a color for your font type, hold down and see the rainbow of colors to pick from. Maybe try matching a less prominent color in the photo to highlight that specific item. The choices are really endless here.

6. Try a boomerang or disco

The boomerang feature is built into the story options, but disco is a separate app that’s worth getting. Use a boomerang to just bring slight movements to a normally still object or boomerang can speed up a moving action. These can be funny and that’s good; don’t take social media too seriously! Disco is more dramatic and slows things down. Both of these choices can help bring life to your story.

7. Take advantage of saving to your camera roll

One of the greatest features about Instagram stories is the ability to upload stories from your camera roll (this way you can post that disco!). Another idea is to do one step in editing a photo, save it, edit that saved photo, and repeat this process. When you’re done, post all of the saved photos in a row. I often use this technique to exaggerate additional information and since the viewer will have to click more times, there is more engagement with the story.

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8. Use filter consistency to your personal brand advantage

If you gravitate towards certain colors and tend to stick with a specific filter, you will develop a “look”. Soon people won’t have to look at a name to know who’s story they are watching and this can be an huge plus if you’re looking for develop a personal brand.

Instagram is a way to showcase your artistry. While snapchat has become a place to dump all the funny, less formal instances throughout your day, Instagram remains a place to be thoughtful and strategic in the way you use your platform.

How to Get the Job

Coming from a 20 year old still in college, you may easily discredit a post about employment. I believe these suggestions below are universal regardless of age. Invest in them now and I have a hard time believing they won’t pay off in the future. Maybe take it with a grain of salt, but I don’t think these things will hinder your future career. Also a reminder to not let anyone look down on you because you are young… ok, happy reading! 

The Importance of Connections

Making connections is crucial especially if you desire to land a job in a highly relationship field. Like the cliché phrase “it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know” implies, the secret to getting the job may really just be about the connections you’ve sought after.

If you have to submit a resume when applying for a job, you’ve already lost.

Of course employers are going to eventually ask for it, but if no one at the company even knows your name before submitting a resume, you are at a clear disadvantage. Odds are that there is someone else applying for that job that either knows someone on the team or has a person advocating on their behalf. Sure, it’s not an automatic denial of a job, but someone being able to attest to your character rather than a list of accomplishments on a piece of paper is a win. As an employer, wouldn’t it make sense for them to trust the opinion of someone they respect versus’ an impersonal resume? If you take the time on the front end (even far before you plan on applying for internships or job) to make connections and build relationships, you’re going to be far more successful. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself in hindsight for that extra mile you went.

Set up Coffee Meetings

It takes work; it doesn’t just happen. I cannot tell you how many coffee meetings I’ve set up. I have talked to people from HR managers to news reporters and social media influencers to gain a first hand account from a professional living the day to day in that industry.

When setting up a coffee meeting, a first impression is everything. In your proofread, professional email, make sure you acknowledge how busy they are when setting up a time to meet. If they say no, thank them anyways; but make sure you work around their schedule and what is most convenient for them. Many times I have driven over an hour in heavy traffic just for a half hour coffee meeting because it was the closest place to their work. The professional one is doing the favor for you, so be flexible.

“Meeting Musts”

So they replied ‘yes’ to your email and you have a meeting on your calendar. Now what?

Get over the fact they might be awkward. Especially as a college student, the thought of asking a successful adult stranger to sit a foot across from you just to talk may be uncomfortable. Try to think about how many times they have probably done this; they may be flattered they get to help you in the same way someone did for them. If you come prepared with a knowledge of their background and company, and have an idea of questions, you’ll be good.

Be 10-15 minutes early. Offer to get them coffee and make the conversation all about them. People like to talk about themselves and be genuinely interested in them. Look into reading How to Win Friends and Influence People (but maybe read this one at home… you may get weird looks reading this alone in a coffee shop… not like I would know or anything…). Ask them about the rewarding aspects of their job and about the hard parts. At the end, it would be wise to ask advice as someone interested in pursuing their type of career; write this down. Lastly, make sure to thank them again for creating time to visit with you.

After your meeting, send a follow up email with a few key things you learned and will take away from your time. Use the paper notes you took to refresh your memory while you compose this email. This puts a nice bow on top of your time together.

Be Patient

All this being said, I know what it’s like to not even know where to start. When I moved to Phoenix, I applied for 30+ jobs not knowing a single working person here. At a point when I was beyond frustrated and on the brink of settling for working at Subway, God opened a door and I couldn’t have asked for a better job. No matter how much of a go-getter you are, sometimes you just have to be patient and wait for opportunities when you’ve done all you can on your end.

Seeking out relationships in your desired field will get you closer to that dream job. Be proactive now, but balance the tension of your desire to be a motivated self-starter and patient that the Lord will provide something greater than your expectations. After meeting with someone you may realize that industry is maybe not for you or they can advise other opportunities with the connections they have. This is ambition that most of your peers aren’t even thinking about yet. Start making connections today and you’ll be first to landing that job.

 

 

I Used to Believe I Wasn’t Creative

I used to believe I wasn’t creative. I worked with a bunch of artists: musicians; videographers; painters, but in these creative meetings I felt like I offered nothing. I felt as though I had no insightful or inspired content to contribute to these brilliant minds.

A New Way to think about Creativity

I remember having an honest conversation with a mentor & fellow worship leader that I admired. I explained that I felt like I was faking it in the creative world. I wanted to think I understood the artistry, but I couldn’t imagine ever making something original and actually calling myself a creative. (Well, when I ripped my first pair of black jeans, I thought I might have made it.) She explained to me the creativity behind my current position. I was planning church services at the time and she shared that organization is a visionary effort and that it takes a unique, creative thinking process to construct order. This thought was revolutionary in my perceptions of creativity.

Untitled Thoughts on the Creative Process also challenged my preceding thoughts on creativity. Blaine Hogan, the author, asks in spirit of self-reflection, “Am I willing to work as hard on making the idea a reality as I am on developing the passion-filled, sexy-as-all-get-out vision?” (16). Maybe you’re not the one birthing the innovative concept, but you can work to bring it into reality. That makes you just as (or more) valuable in that creative process.

When we know we are born with leanings in creativity far beyond just an ability to draw or devise beautiful riffs, our teams can have a new freedom to use their unique talents where they thrive in the creative process.

Making Art

Two things I’ve learned when actually making art is to prayhave confidence. God’s very nature is one characterized by creativity. He formed the vast skies and sea, yet gave order to intricate things like cell processes. Ask the maker of all things to give you divine, inspired ideas. Find joy in the specific way he wired you to create.

On a similar note, confidence in who God created you to be is another way to be successful in the creative world. I was in a song writing session a few nights ago. There was an unspoken sense of trust with my team, so I felt confident to bring ideas to the table. Yes, a majority of them were just plain, bad suggestions. On the other hand, if I had not spoken or mustered confidence to be exposed, good ideas would have been less likely to emerge. It took a lot of futile thoughts in order to land and run with the chords patterns and lyrics that worked. In the creative world, you’re going to have to ditch your pride and for the greater masterpiece.

So, how do you express your creativity? Maybe you’re like me. You reflect God’s creativity in the way he fit things to work together, creating order. Hey, every creative team needs that ‘Type A’ personality to reign in those flying ideas, right? I am wrestling in the process of becoming more confident to share the fresh words, songs, and other ideas God has placed on my heart. I strongly believe we all have the ability to design and cultivate. It’s about imitating the creative characteristic of God and gaining confidence to share your art. You have something to share with the world. Start displaying it.

Dear Worship Leader,

Worship is simply attributing worth to someone or something. As Christians, we worship God individually and collectively. In my 7 years of leading worship, I have wrestled and grown in my learning about creating these spaces for God to move in the moments when we gather. Specifically in worship through music, the following are a few thoughts (of many) in my church experience and formal worship arts education.

Churches can express worship differently: I’m reading a book right now called Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative. Robert Webber writes, “We need liturgical churches; we need contemporary churches. Both have a place in God’s church.” There is not a “right” style for worship when the content is centered on the gospel.

But in the context of modern worship, we must not forget the generations of Christians before us; liturgy and hymns are not irrelevant. This remembrance may manifest through an antiphonal reading (fancy name for call-and response) or revamping a rich hymn. I have recently been intrigued by antiphonal readings. I am awakened to something so profound about a church body collectively praying a united verbiage. These readings originated in a time that congregations needed to be invited and reminded that they are just as much included in the faith as the clergy.

On another note (pun absolutely intended) language needs to be inviting. There’s a balance a worship leader need to maintain of not ignoring the deep history but remembering to take moments to teach a congregation and invite seekers into the shared, spiritual heritage.

Minor doctrinal matters may vary, but we gather on a Sunday morning to worship a God so much more unifying than dividing. When we remember what God has done and anticipate what he will do, our churches can then move forward to express a thanksgiving in contextually relevant way.

Theology in music is important: Leaving church on a Sunday morning, people typically don’t repeat the pastor’s main point over and over again in their heads. The music sung is what can resonate in their hearts throughout that next week, the words gently impacting their spirit. Music is a powerful thing. As a worship leader, selecting a worship set that echoes the truths of the preaching is essential. How a church service is planned must be intentional. It should reflect the gospel more than the culture.

We need to know Scripture. We need to set aside time to scrutinize the songs we choose and analyze the theological stance they pursue. Worship leaders, be prepared to answer questions about the songs we choose to explain doctrine and lead our congregations into a greater understanding of Jesus Christ. What a dichotomy of privilege and responsibility.

Just like God did with creation, we get to make order out of chaos in our service planning. As a Type A creative (hey, we all need one on the team), our creativity gets to be reeled into service order and set lists. In our song choice, notice how many of our songs today seem to be “what can God do for me” as opposed to “what can I learn about God”. There is a place for both, but when we approach worship as a time to attribute all worth and honor to God, worrying about how we “feel” seems like less of a priority.

Emotion-driven worship isn’t a necessity: Something I have struggled through is understanding emotion in worship. In my own personal walk and in leading congregations, I have asked myself: “Did God really move if people aren’t raising their hands or brought to tears?” Or I’ve thought: “What am I doing wrong if I don’t ‘feel’ the presence of God in this worship set?”

In my Psalms, Hymn and Spiritual Songs course, my professor lifted such a burden when we were having a discussion similar to this. Matthew 22:23 says, “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”. My professor explained that the original language of this text translates to loving God with you heart, mind and all of your “vary”, meaning that whether someone is more emotionally inclined or intellect-driven does not make one person’s worship experience “better” than another’s. God wired us all uniquely and how we connect with God deepest is different. An emotional response is not a the only way we can love God in worship; some days I just sing the words over me, confident it’s the truth even though I may not ‘feel’ it that day. Emotions are fleeting; the truth of Christ is unwavering.

Yes, I have have crazy spiritual moments. Moments where I feel so consumed by the presence of God I am just absolutely engrossed in the most heavenly feeling.  Sometimes though, I think we get caught up in trying to recreate that experience. We start to worship the moment we had as opposed to letting God have the current season or moment we are in. And trust me, you can stir emotion in a group of people without God in the picture, so don’t let that be the sole basis of determining the movement of God. I thank God for those moments of feeling his overwhelming presences, but I am confident God works more than just through emotion.

Although, as worship leaders, we are to give God everything we’ve got in these moments. We have the power to craft God-inspired moments. This honor can take a hopeless soul to a place of hopeful joy within one song. One of my mentors @shureerivera says that being a worship leader means being prepared to give all, so that others are encouraged to give their all to God. Whether that means tears and song, quiet meditation or shouts of joy, give it all in your worship.

Take care of yourself spiritually: Worship leaders, we’re the ones in ministry, so aren’t we supposed to have it together? Yes, it sure feels like it. But when we are doing Kingdom-related work, the devil is going to attack it from every angle.

You will have doubts. You will wonder what you got yourself into. You will hate your alarm clock some Sunday mornings.

As you pour so much of who you are into worship leader, make sure you frequently pause and remember its’ purpose. Remember the brevity of this life compared to the span of eternity. Remember that creating spaces where people can freely worship not only impacts today, but it invites souls to experience what Heaven will look like someday. He is so worthy of all the praise. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

 

Go & Make Disciples

Whether we are aware of it or not, God is constantly at work. But, sometimes He call us to unplug and be temporarily liberated from everyday distractions. To be blunt, the world does not revolve around us, privileged Americans, although we often act like it does.

Short term mission trips in high school were powerful experiences that radically shaped my faith and opened my eyes to a world far bigger than my midwest suburb. The summer before my junior year I went to the south side of Chicago and the year after, I was a part of a mime ministry in Guatemala. God pushed me outside of my comfort zone to show me that he is moving in all places. Traveling outside of my bubble gave me perspective and a great love for His people, people of all skin colors and economic backgrounds.

Now, going on a mission trip is also probably one of the least glamorous experiences. I remember in Guatemala, my homestay was infested with these giant cockroaches. No, seriously… like the bugs the size of a baseball crawling uncontrollably next to the makeshift toilet I was using. Attire consists of your I-showered-four-days-ago hair and sweaty t-shirts. On top of that beauty, I was proven wrong that you can experience diarrhea and vomiting simultaneously (ok TMI, Aly).

So, come on. Why would anyone voluntarily do something like this?

You will experience God on a mission trip. Stripped of everything comfortable and free from daily pressures, you are fully dependent on God. You start to see the world in a new light. You feel the presence of God in the most honest and raw way. You get to love on people, but your soul is fed too. After all, the Bible says to go and make disciples of all nations.

This summer, I felt called to go on another short term mission trip. I am nervous, but stoked to be going to the Dominican Republic on a vocational mission trip through the Honors College at Grand Canyon University from May 14 to May 26 of this year. The trip cost is $2000 and I know God is going to provide.

I want to ask you to join me in what God is going to do in the Dominican Republic on this trip. The most important thing is to cover this trip in prayer, but if you feel led to donate financially, a link is attached & your giving is tax deductible. Thank you so much in advance for supporting me. I am beyond thankful for the people God has placed in my life. I love you all.

Team Member ID – GCUHonorsDRJ18-03
Personal Donation Link – https://www.stint.com/donate.php?id=pGCUHonorsDRJ18-03~55346

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Graphic by the lovely @beeberries_