May is the time for graduation. Graduating from high school and college is a huge accomplishment. For you graduating seniors (whether high school or college), you should be so proud of yourself and you should give yourself a pat on the back right now. That’s right, go ahead, take a moment and pat yourself on the back. You did it!
However, after graduation, your life changes. Whether you just graduated from high school, you are preparing yourself for your next journey…college! Whether you just graduated from college, you are preparing yourself for your next journey…life! Graduating from college is a huge milestone but with it comes challenges as you try to figure out your career, your purpose…your life!
Therefore, I want to share with you all some valuable lessons that I learned when I graduated both high school and college.
1. You Have A Purpose
When I graduated from high school, I had a general idea of where I was going to college. But, as time began to crunch, I had to make a decision on what college to attend. When I arrived on campus and my parents helped me to move into my dorm, oh my goodness…was I scared! I knew God was with me, but as an only child, I am very close to my parents. Especially my mom, we are so close like Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. I wasn’t ready to leave them and live 7 hours away. The first two weeks of school was a challenge because I was absolutely homesick. However, I knew I was there for a reason and I chose to look forward for what God had in store. I knew that I have a purpose. Through the ups and downs, I managed to persevere, had amazing professors, met amazing people, and graduated Magna Cum Laude (honors) from college.
After I graduated from college last year, not going to lie….it was hard! I moved back to Texas to live with my parents so I can save my money to pay back my student loans. However, moving back to DFW, I didn’t realize how hard it would be to find a job. I sent out numerous resumes and filled out applications, but nothing was opening up. From August to December, I did not have one interview. I didn’t even receive one “Dear Ashley…Thank you for your interest, unfortunately…” letters. During August through December, it was faith building time in my life. I really had to let go of my plans and say, “God not my will be done, but Your Will be done” and rely on Him. Constantly, I was reminded of Isaiah 55:8, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.” I remained hopeful that God would bring the desires of my heart to pass in His timing. There are still things I am hoping for, but thankfully I found a job in January of 2014. God is slowly yet surely answering my prayers. His timing is perfect!
For you high school graduates and college graduates, don’t get discouraged if your plans fall through. Know that God is working behind the scenes on your behalf. When you feel like life is overwhelming or things are not opening up, remember that you have a purpose. You have hope and a future, Jeremiah 29:11. Don’t get discouraged, but trust that God is perfecting those things that concern you according to Psalm 138:8.
2. Dream Big
When I arrived at college, I had huge dreams. Big dreams actually, that seemed more unrealistic. I was very ambitious when I was in college. I wanted to be a communication consultant, public speaker, a powerful attorney, campaign speech writer, and a United States Senator representing Texas. However, as senior year approached, never would I have thought that I would have been an author. My plans and desires changed. Proverbs 19:21 [NIV] says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” I wanted (and still do) be a public speaker, write more books, and encourage teens who they are in Christ. My heart’s desire is no longer about me, but sharing faith, hope, and love to those dealing with bullying. I know what bullying feels like and thankfully I overcame with God’s help. That is why I wrote “Bullied Yet Victorious: How I Overcame Fear with Faith” which was released nationally on July 23, 2013. My passion is to share with teens that they can overcome bullying; but, more importantly the power of perseverance-to keep going and not give up. One of the greatest lessons I learned is that it doesn’t matter what people say about me; what matters is what God says about me. That is what I want to share with teens. They are overcomers! They are victorious!
These passions, desires, dreams that I have seem so huge…but I serve a big God! What seems impossible to us, is possible for Him. Matthew 19:26 [NKJV] says, “But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”” Don’t give up on dreaming big, but be willing for your dreams to change. You never know, God could change your dreams where they glorify Him rather than yourself. Be open for change, but continue to expect great things to happen in your life. Continue to dream big! If someone has told you can’t do it or you can’t achieve anything…know this, you can! With God, all things are possible. Don’t dream small dreams hoping that maybe God will bring them to pass because they are small…no, dream big! You have a purpose and you are here on this earth for such a time as this. Expect good things to happen in your life.
3. Prepare Yourself
In high school, I had to prepare myself for college. How? I had to study hard, maintain good grades, and study for the SAT and ACT exams. In college, I had to prepare myself for the future. How? By studying hard, learning all I could, internships, building my resume, and learning time management. However, the desires I have…speaking at churches, schools, youth groups, FCA, youth conferences…I need to prepare myself. How? By creating notes, PowerPoints, Prezi, reaching out to ministries/organizations/churches regarding speaking, and building myself up spiritually. More importantly, I am learning to trust God to open doors of opportunity as I continue to knock on doors.
In 2 Timothy 4:2 [NKJV], it says to be “…ready in season and out of season…” In 1 Peter 3:15, it says to be “…ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you…” Prepare yourselves in season and out of season. Don’t despise having time off before you start your next journey, rather embrace it and use that time to prepare yourself. Prepare yourself for the dreams you want to accomplish. Prepare yourself spiritually as well by getting into God’s Word, spending time with Him, praying, and listening…learning to hear His voice.
4. Keep the Faith
Whether you are entering college or leaving college, know that what lies before you are challenges. You will face roadblocks. But, you know what? Keep the faith! No matter what lies ahead, always remember that God is for you not against you. Hebrews 13:5-6 says, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper, I will not fear. What can man do to me?”” When you reach the moment where you want to quit…keep going. Don’t give up, but continue to run the race that is before you. God has an incredible purpose for your life. You don’t have to have everything figured out at this moment, but know that God is directing your steps. Psalm 37:23 [NKJV] says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” Remain encouraged and not discouraged, everything will be alright. When circumstances surround you, always remember that God will bring you through victoriously. Keep the Faith!
For You Graduates, congratulations on your big accomplishment and remember, you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength (Philippians 4:13). Your journey is just beginning and God has amazing things in store for you!