Tips for College Graduates

Hey guys! I recently graduated from college, and it is a very difficult transition. You go from having to work constantly, struggling to meet deadlines, finish projects and preparing presentations, to having a seemingly endless amount of free time. While in class, everyone would complain about how tough it was. I always wished it was just a little less stressful, a little more bearable. But I did not want my schedule completely wiped out, filled with tons of time. Some days I feel stressed, lonely, bored. Some days, I have a lot of fun. One of my Facebook friends who just graduated with me posts motivational stuff for everyone. She talks about how some days are good and some are hard, but that it is important to take it one day at a time.

            I’ve only been out of school a few weeks, but there are a few valuable things I have learned so far:

  1. Prioritize your time. Even if you don’t have a lot to do, make a list of all the things you plan to do that day, and then do them. Even if it is simply running a few errands, cleaning house, working on a resume. Before I did this, I did not know how much time to allot to each project, and I ended up focusing on the wrong things. I have since made a list of all my activities, prioritizing them from most important to least.
  2. Give yourself time to relax. I am an extremely goal oriented person, so my first objective when I got out of school was to get a job. I already have a job at Chick-fil-a, but I wanted a grown up job, where I could really start saving for my future. But I quickly found out that I was working just as hard out of school as I was when I was in school, and winded up exhausted. Even when you are eager to please your parents, realize that you have worked so hard and accomplished so much. Reward yourself by giving yourself a little break.
  3. While in college, it was good to have a part-time job. I’ve been working at Chick-fil-a for over 4 years, since I was in high school. I still work there as a college graduate. When my life suddenly emptied up, having a job that I was familiar with helped to keep me from being depressed. I got to see familiar faces and maintain some sort of a routine.
  4. When you start looking for a job, be diligent, patient, confident, and don’t be overcome with worry! Find friends who are doing the same thing, and talk with them about their progress. Don’t give up if you have a few bad days. Find people who will motivate you. It may take awhile, but that is ok! Anything worth having is worth working hard to find.

 

Here are some valuable resources that I have found; feel free to check them out!

Tips for college grads: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tag/first-job-out-of-college/

Thank You, Lord…

Thank you, Lord…

-That through my trusting in you, you have given me the strength to achieve my dreams and live my life more honestly, openly, and fully, than I ever could before.

-That in you, you have given me the freedom to be myself, in a way I never could before. You have given me the courage to open up and love myself and people more.

-For making impossibly hard times possible. Sometimes, you really do make life more complicated but it’s always worthwhile. You make situations that seem to have no right answer more easy to deal with, you make a way out of no way.

-For being the friend that was always there in ways no one else could be. When I feel alienated and alone, I know you are always near and love me very much.

-For simply loving me. Your gracious acts of love have lifted me up and pushed me to act, loving others the way you have loved me.

-For Jesus Christ. For blessing me. For your mercy when I’ve made mistakes. For never giving up on me. For forgiving my worst mistakes because I have learned to forgive others. For fighting for me. For fighting with me. For the Bible. For my family. For my friends. For Anderson University. For my job. For my good grades. For my talents. For a funny Hermeneutics class thanks to Eric Coonce and Dr. Neal. For a interesting music theory class thanks to Elizabeth Graham. For a not-totally-boring Western Civ class thanks to Kim Starnes. For music like Korn and Flyleaf and Breaking Benjamin. For being just plain amazing.

I get frustrated with you but you are still my everything. This is a race and I will come out on the other side victorious, ripping through the tape line at heaven’s entrance.

Thank you for any and absolutely everything.
I love you.

Learning to Have Quiet Time

I am always trying to put God first in my life- first in my relationships, my finances, my dreams, my priorities, any and everything. But I didn’t realize that I was missing something so simple as putting him first in my day.

I’ve always heard my Christian friends talking about how they have quiet time with the Lord every morning for maybe 5 to 10 minutes. They talk to God and listen to see what his plan is for them for that day, they get encouraged or maybe even convicted.

I just recently started having quiet time with God a couple of weeks ago after I read O2 by Richard Dahlstrom. In the book, he reminded me that things such as silence and just listening for the voice of the Lord are hard disciplines to master, as we can get easily distracted with other thoughts about what we need to do. But he reminded me that it is so important to specifically make time for God during the day to listen to him and hear what he has to say.

Dahlstrom really inspired me because he said that even though sometimes he won’t hear anything from the Lord, other times he hears things that have a really big impact on his life. He said that impact wouldn’t be there if he hadn’t had the quiet time.

So I get up for school in the morning and get ready, and my mom drives me to school. I’m typically there between 7:25-7:30, and that’s when I have my quiet time. It can be from 5 to 15 or 20 minutes. I try to find a very quiet and empty place so I won’t be distracted by people or noise. I haven’t been doing this long and he hasn’t said anything to me yet but I feel inspired and a little more prepared for the day when I do. I’ll pray for my own needs and for the needs of others and do a lot of listening and waiting in between. I talk to him openly and honestly about everything I feel, I don’t hide anything from him. I ask for encouragement and for guidance throughout the day. I ask him if there is anything he wants me to do or to focus on or to remember.

It can be very difficult because I am so used to going to school and just starting to do whatever I feel like doing. It’s very difficult to put me second but I am doing it anyway. God should be first in everything, he will take care of us when we do put him first. So I am working hard, and learning to be very, very patient.

I know it will all be worthwhile.

Embracing Humility pt 2

-Always remember that there is a HUGE gap between being the best and being my best. Between being the most excellent and reaching my potential and defining my own level of excellence. I know it’s hard because I’m prone to low self-esteem and to feeling second best. Or third. Or fourth. But God gave me each and every talent that I have today. He did not accidently give me too much or too little. He knew exactly what he was doing and made me uniquely, to live out a very specific purpose he has for my life. I don’t have to be the best singer, and I know that’s hard to hear when I’m so easy to criticize myself. But I just have to be my own pursonal best, doing what I can do, and then letting go and letting God take care of the rest. I don’t have to be the smartest, most talented, most charming, most anything. I just have to love God with everything in me and realize he made me with certain strengths and weaknesses, and I need to embrace them. Improve where I can, but let go of what I cannot control.

-Don’t fret so much that I don’t have a boyfriend. Don’t fret that I’ve made a promise to God that I won’t have sex until marriage. It is something difficult to achieve but I find strength on the day to day basis dealing with this, when I have faith in Christ. I know it hurts really bad to be alone. But don’t be angry at God and understand that he sees the painful things you go through, he sees when the depression sets in and when I feel dead to myself and to the world, he sees each and every tear that I cry. He sees how I ask for his help time and time again and don’t see the immediate effects and how I get so frustrated and start to break down. Christ said that he has overcome the world. That means he has overcome every bad feeling, every thought, every fear, every ache, every pain. That doesn’t mean we will cease to feel these things but it really does mean that we can trust that he has the strength to help us overcome our constant, irritating probllems. He has not given up on me. He never will.

-Stop worrying that some people don’t see the love in me, that some don’t see how much I have truly invested in Christ Jesus. Just realize that he does; he sees every time I struggle for him, every time I fight for him, every time I give to him, every time I am living for him, every time I’m dying for him or breaking for him. The world doesn’t have to see, because he does, and he certainly will not let such love go unacknowledged.

“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Don’t look at how handsome Eliab is or how tall he is, because I have not chosen him. God does not see the same way people see. People look at the outside of a person, but the Lord looks at the heart.'” 1 Samuel 16:7

It’s certainly difficult to embrace humility in some of the more painful areas of our lives, and these are a handful of mine. But you can see through my experiences that good starts to come out of it by doing so. Trust, just trust. Do the very best that you can, and once you have done that, realize that that is all you can do. Then just let go and let God.

Embracing Humility pt 1

In my walk with God, I’m trying to let go of having to be noticed, having to be the most popular, having to be the most successful by the standards of the world.

I need to let go and…

-Stop worrying about not being popular for being me. It doesn’t matter if people know the name ‘Jennifer Clayton’ or not. While I am trying to be an influence in the world, sometimes I just need to relax and realize that Jesus is the only name people need to have left ringing in their heads and their hearts. I am to influence people to love him, not me. I am a messenger but I am certainly not the message.

-Stop worrying about that guy who hurt me really bad. He probably doesn’t realize how bad he hurt me, and I may never be able to really confront him about it, and that’s okay. He did shatter my heart and leave me as half of a person at the time, but I’ve learned to embrace the humility, compassion, and forgiveness that Jesus has. It’s not okay that he hurt me, but it’s okay to let go. God has taught me through this experience to trust in him more instead of trusting in myself. He is allowing me to see the beautiful side of forgiveness. It doesn’t mean that you’ve been defeated, but rather, that you have set yourself free. It doesn’t mean that the guy wins, but that I do. Because until someone lets go of a grudge and bitterness, they can’t ever be free; and the pain will not let go of them until they let go of it. I learned this the hard way but it’s okay. Forgive as Jesus forgives, and he will forgive me. When I see the guy with his partner, I feel how free it feels to truly not care and to not be upset, and I’m reminded that forgiving like Jesus got rid of the pain.

-Don’t get caught up in trying to be the most beautiful; don’t be obsessed with vanity. God sees that I have a beautiful heart and spirit, and that shines infinitely brighter than any physical beauty. A beautiful girl may turn heads, but a beautiful soul will turn hearts and change the world. The love that pours out of me will encourage people, bless people, heal people, change people, because it is God’s love that pours out of me. Sometimes I feel so ugly when I look in the mirror and it’s easy to emotionally abuse myself. But I desperately pray that God will remind me of my true beauty inside, and let me know that that means so much more to him than anything else.

-Stop worrying about money. I have always been big on saving, and I always tithe my first 10% with a grateful and happy heart. But sometimes I’m afraid I will get so caught up in trying to hold on to money that when God wants to use it to advance his kingdom, I will get stressed out about it and not know what to do. Embrace humility Jennifer, and trust that God will take care of my finances so long as I continue to put him first, and with a joyous heart. Just trust him to take care of whatever financial situation I find myself caught in, and he will be there to catch me when I fall. It’s his money in the first place, and he knows how to invest it a lot better than I do. I don’t want to get caught up in investing money in temporary, material things. I want to get caught up investing money into souls, seeing people reach Christ.

I am embracing humility.

Like a Sparkling Slither of Sunlight

I wake up every day, feeling like a sense of dread in my stomach, wondering if God is going to be with me that day or not. Truly, the Bible says that God is always with us and that he does not leave us, but it certainly doesn’t always feel that way. Ever since I have accepted Christ into my life, I have:

-Been sure to love him with everything in me. The Bible says to love God with all your heart and all your strength and all your soul
-Been sure to dedicate everything important in my life to him (music, school, work/money, relationships), make him my very first priority
-Been sure to love others with the same love he has given me. I attempt to express my love through my actions

The point is I feel like I am giving God my all, everyday. I get mad at him in the day, I pout and I whine and complain to him, and then I try to brush it off so I can face a brand new day with a fresh start. And then the cycle continues again. Wake up eager, go to bed frustrated. I’ve always wanted to be a Christian who was real. Not one to make up a bunch of mumbo jumbo crap just because. I want to genuinely love God and express that love through real actions, through changing the way I live, and ultimately helping to change people for the better by showing them how to love God more. I want to be honest, I want to explain, I want things to make sense. But sometimes it’s just difficult. Sometimes I want to give up, and some days I feel like I do give up a little.

But then, out of nowhere, like a sparkling slither of sunlight peaking over the horizon after the coldest, harshest, and darkest winter night, comes a glimmer of hope. It’s starts seemingly faint and barely there, but grows bigger and brighter gradually throughout the day, until it fills up the whole sky with its magnificent beauty.

This reminds me of what God can be like sometimes. I walk around confused and scared and pissed off because a lot of times, things don’t seem to go right. I get so angry I could scream. But in the bleakness and coldness in my heart, I feel this gentle love start to envelop me. Love slowly begins to melt the pain in all of my frostbitten wounds.

God is like that sometimes.

Sometimes, we pray, and we get the things we want; sometimes, he gives us rest and peace, and then other times, he will push us completely to our limits, and then some more, and then just a little more. But I am slowly learning to walk around with this Christ mentality of peace. It’s the mindset of having peace, even in a life filled with chaos, and we can only obtain it by truly trusting God and giving him our problems in this life. He gives us the strength to carry on when everything is falling apart, as it so often is in my own little world.

“My friends, do not be surprised at the terrible trouble which now comes to test you. Do not think that something strange is happening to you. But be happy that you are sharing in Christ’s sufferings so that you will be happy and full of joy when Christ comes again in glory.” 1 Peter 4:12-13

So God will push you, God will test you, and we don’t fail if we fall down, even if we fall down again and again. God knows we will fall and break because we are sinful by nature. However, we only truly fail when we become indifferent and stay down, refusing to get back up. I believe that God is not nearly as upset when we don’t succeed as he is if we don’t try in the first place. I mess up on the daily basis. But everyday, I guarantee that I will get back up and try again.

I am going to kick Satan in the face because I will not let myself be defeated for too long. I have invested too much into Christ to give up so easily, and more importantly, he has invested much too much in me.

God’s Calling for Our Lives

Sometimes, I feel afraid to live out my dreams. Everyone in this world that you run into, has an effect on you, whether you realize it or not. The people I am surrounded by make me feel so small, like I don’t even matter. I’ve always felt sincerely inadequate at some time in my life.

Loving God gives me purpose in life, but it doesn’t eliminate my feeling of alienation and inadequacy. I am trying to learn to be careful. This world can be very heartless and it will be quick to try to shut you up when you start talking about dreams.

People, left and right, will make you feel like your dreams and life are stupid because of what you want to do. I feel terrified everyday because I want to be on stage, playing music, worshipping God. Like a rockstar but I don’t have to be famous at all. I simply want to be on stage, worshipping God through the music I write.

People will tell me I can’t make money from that, or tell me I need a real job, but that’s what I want to do. Then later in life, when I’m a lot older, I feel called to preach. I am sure when I start really pursuing that, people will make me feel like my dreams are stupid at some point.

It also depends on who you surround yourself with. If you have loving, supportive friends, they will tell you to go on with your dreams. But there always seems to be some ‘realist’ who claims these dreams are unrealistic and unattainable.

I have sat in classrooms year after year trying to wrap my head around my dreams. I no doubt feel God nudging me in this direction, which is always important in deciding your goals in life.

But I feel so terrified sometimes that I try to imagine myself doing anything else: teaching in a school, working at a desk job, being a waitress, a nurse, fireman, vet, chef, anything else. But year after year, I turn back to music. Nothing else feels right besides singing and worshipping God right now. When I write music, I feel my happiest. There isn’t anything more satisfying than finishing a song and singing to Jesus.

Other people may act like writing music is so difficult, but it has always come so naturally to me. I hear rhythms and melodies in my head, I hear guitars playing, and I write them down. Poetic verses flow out effortlessly, and then I pick up my guitar and start creating music.

It’s healing for my soul, it’s freedom from this box called my life. I just want to scream how happy it makes me. Music and God, God and music. I write songs left and write, post them on YouTube, desperately try to find somewhere to play or a band to play with.

I say all of that to say this. In life, God will definitely call us to do certain things. They are not always what we expect. One time, when my mom was younger, she heard God told her that she was supposed to work with children, and she was like, “Ugh, I hate children!” I hope she doesn’t still feel the same way, seeing how I am… her child. I am guessing she was pretty young at the time, like me. But sometimes, God calls us to do things that we are naturally gifted at, like music, for me.

The point is, in this crazy mixed-up life, he will call us to do things that we love and things that we don’t really care for. But he has a reason for wanting us to do those things. Most of the time, we don’t understand why he wants what he want for us, at least not at the time. Over time, if we trust him and do what he asks us to do, it will be revealed to us. He will teach you things you never knew before, show you how to look at life from a different from perspective.

I have a friend named Meg who was working on pursuing architecture in school. But she felt God was wanting her to do something in English, instead. She told me that at first it was really odd, but the more she looked into it, the more she realized it made sense and how English was for her. If she just ignored his voice, she could have missed out on something fabulous. It’s interesting how people will resist God over and over and when they finally decide to listen to him, he *gasp* actually knew what he was talking about! Imagine that.😀

I find it shocking that after my mom rejected her calling so many years ago, even today, she will sometimes talk about the idea of children’s books. She always wants me to pursue that because of my artistic skills, but she may have actually been writing those books her self if she would have listened.

The point is, when we listen to God, it feels like a huge risk, but it is the greatest investment you can ever make. I am learning in my walk with Christ that trust is so vital. He will take us to new levels and give us new and better understanding. He will help us live our lives to the fullest if we would only trust and obey him. We’ve got to stop making doing what we want the number one priority, and start making what he wants us to do number one.

He can make us happier than we can make ourselves. He created us, and understands us through and through; our every mechanism, our every heart beat, our every thought and our every feeling. He understands why we do everything that we do, better than we do. So why not trust him? We may only see one path on this map of our life, but he sees all the paths. And guess what? I can assure you that he knows how to get to every destination along the way.

At the end of the day, we cannot be bullied out of his plans for us by what the world says. They will say we are wrong, we are inadequate, and make us feel like failures if we let them. If we hold tight to Jesus and continue to have faith, we will see the beautiful reality of all his plans for us. The world wants to try to take that away from you. We cannot let our own arrogance or the arrogance of others get the best of us.

God is waiting for you to trust him.

New Song- “I Keep Dreaming”

On my knees
I sing a song
The words are right
But the feeling’s wrong
Another day
I’ve lost myself
But you reach in me
And break my shell

All these feelings
Echo of the wall
But you hear my screaming
Underneath it all
Your love grabs me
And knocks me down
You don’t speak now
But your presence is loud

Your heat burns
Through the feelings
It pierces me
And I start healing
Surrounding me
The warmth, it grows
Your perfect truth
Makes me explode

All these feelings
Echo of the wall
But you hear my screaming
Underneath it all
Your love grabs me
And knocks me down
You don’t speak now
But your presence is loud

This life is more than tying
Ugly truths together
With pretty lies
Stand with friends
In fears that we disguise
Wrap me in light
Expose the hurt inside
In all the darkness
Tell me what you find
Love divine moves across my mind
Makes me feel alive

Finally alive!
Finally alive!

Turn out the lights
And close my eyes
In the dark of night

On the edge of life
With drifting mind
And say goodnight

These are nightmares I keep dreaming
But you won’t let me keep sleeping
These are nightmares I keep dreaming
But you won’t let me keep sleeping

copyright Jennifer Clayton

Download- here
Youtube- here

Opening Up

I have a tendency to bottle things up inside. I am a partially introverted person, and if something is bothering me, I rarely let it show. I just thought this would be a post to really let out how frustrated I feel.

I love God with all my heart, and I always have since I have welcomed him into my life. But this life gets so unbearably difficult. Me and my friends go through so much. I deal with extreme depression sometimes, where it feels like everyone hates me, especially God.

Sometimes, I feel like he pushes me too hard, and he seems so scary sometimes. I feel like I don’t have control over my life and that I don’t know how to connect with him. I think these feelings just stem from my depression.

He really hurts me sometimes… or, I guess I shouldn’t say he hurts me, but that he lets me go on feeling hurt. When my heart is broken, I will pour out how I feel to him and he doesn’t stop the hurt. Sometimes, he does, but it takes a lot of patience.

I just find it hard to understand why he pushes me to the edge and forces me to be so patient all the time. I feel like I have to wait for him to move in everything. Letting him have that control isn’t a bad thing. But it’s hard being patient when you are in a lot of pain. Sometimes, I think about hurting myself, but I am sure that is part of my depression.

Anyway, the point of this post is because I wanted to stop feeling like I was hiding. I deal with problems, just like everyone else. It’s a very humbling feeling. Life can be fun, but it can be really difficult, too. The important
part about having faith in God is seeing beyond all the pain, beyond all the hurt, and understanding that no matter how bad it gets, He will give you strength to overcome the madness in the end.

It’s so easy to have faith when your world is perfect. It’s harder when your grandma passes away that you love so much; it’s harder when you deal with depression and suicide crosses your mind from time to time.

It’s hard when you watch your friends struggle and can’t seem to understand why they struggle. It’s hard when nothing in your world goes right, to still have faith in Christ. But it is necessary.

Think about it!

Jesus was perfect, He saved us all. But his life was certainly no walk in the park. People mocked him, beat him, spit on him, yelled at him, cursed him, they hurt the ones he loved. He only loved them with all his heart, and still, they plotted to kill him, and eventually succeeded.

With all of his horrible misfortunes, he could have looked at his life and screamed at the Father for putting him through it. He could have turned his back on us and ignored us because we are such a horrible people. But he didn’t. Think about the outcome of life, what it would be like, if he hadn’t suffered for us. He still had faith despite his misfortune.

People get the idea of faith wrong. Faith is not the absence of fear, but instead, it is choosing to trust in the midst of that fear. It’s realizing that life gets tough, but you don’t give up on God because of it, seeing how he did not give up on us.

Just because Jesus suffered didn’t mean that God didn’t have great plans for him. He was a most faithful servant and now he rules the world, the universe. God noticed when he tolerated all that pain for his sake, and he made him ruler over everything.

I know I feel broken down and left behind sometimes, but God notices when I suffer for him. He notices when I put on a brave face, despite my fears and stresses and problems, and still continue to love him.I get depressed, my life is a mess half of the time. I feel alienated and alone often. Some days, I wake up in so much pain I can’t even get out of bed. But I still find strength despite the madness, because I will be faithful to Jesus as he has been faithful to me.

Faith is not easy. That is why many people turn away from it. Trusting God in the midst of our problems is not easy, but still, it is necessary. I keep pushing on through my pain and discomfort because I have faith that God will see me through it in the end.

Don’t. give. up!

A Prayer

We should be careful to make sure that our prayers to God are not just words to fill empty space. I read A Prayer by Gary Block. It talked about how people sometimes pray to God, just using repetitive prayer to ask God for things.

Usually, these prayers are part of tradition. Like for example, at my house, we have a dinner prayer that typically goes “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food…” and you should already know the rest.

Sometimes the meanings get lost in all the repetition. We say the prayers because we feel like we should say them or just because we always say them before we eat. But we should say prayers for more than just that.

Why do you pray?

I pray to express my love for the Lord. To thank Him for blessing me with food, food that many others are not fortunate to have. I thank Him for my family and the relationships I have with my friends. I pray to express my joy of having His strength in my life.

When I pray, I take care to make sure that I am not just saying empty words. I pray as if I am His friend, and I am speaking to His heart, like a friend would speak to another friend.

Some people would argue that prayer doesn’t work. But I would say otherwise. I think the more we put our heart into it, the more we have faith that God will take care of us when we pray, the more intently He listens to our prayers.

Think about it! If we respect Him and love Him enough to pray sincerely, it makes sense that He would return that love back to us. Why would He listen to a prayer from an insincere heart? Why should He listen to an apathetic voice? Voices that seem distant in their love and attitude?

If I had a friend and they were insincere and fake, I would not waste my time on them. But if they really cared about me and took time to really talk to me, I would return the favor.

When I go to bed at night, I try to make sure my prayers are not mundane mantras that I say over and over again to no avail. I want to let God know what’s on my mind, on my heart. I ask Him for what I need and try to remain humble and ask for what others need, too.

That’s another important part of prayer: humility. Realizing that the needs of others sometimes should be put above our own needs. Instead of praying for more money or clothes, I might pray that my friend stops feeling sick or that my sister stops fighting with dad, or that someone in poverty might receive some grace from God and have their physical and emotional needs met.

It can be a battle, I know. But we must fight against meaningless prayers and be sure we are sincere with our words. Because I can assure you, God will return that sincerity. He may answer your prayers in big ways, or small ways that are barely noticeable, but that still make a difference. He could answer it soon after you ask, or months or even years after you ask. He could answer it in a way that you don’t expect Him to answer it, which is typically how He answers my prayers. However, one thing always remains the same: He is always willing to listen to a loving and caring heart.

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