Ever go through a season where you need change? Maybe you rearrange your furniture. Maybe you chop your hair. Maybe you look for a new job. Recently I’ve found myself wanting some habits in my life to change but feeling frustrated when week after week they did not. My husband read a book recently that challenged the routine of life. The author’s point was that no one will change your life for you. You are the only one that can author the changes. I know that is not a radical new concept that the world has never heard before. We’ve all probably heard that 100 times over. However, this time it stuck with me and has brought significant change in the areas that I’ve applied it.
For me, this started with my devotions. This past year, consistent time with the Lord was hard to accomplish when Eliza was a newborn. As she got older, the inconsistency in my quiet times continued. By that point, however, inconsistent quiet times had become the habit, and it was easier to keep stay in that rut than find ways to make changes.
I said more times than I can count that I needed to get back in the Word. I included it in my daily to do list, and although that did help a little bit, putting it on my to do list, didn’t provide a major change. It wasn’t until I finally faced the cold reality that there was no excuse I could offer to justify my lack of devotions. I wasn’t doing my quiet time regularly because I wasn’t making time for it. No amount of “I need to’s” or “I’ll get back in the Word tomorrows” would change that. No one was going to wave a magic wand and give me 25 hours in a day instead of 24.
So, I’m doing the changing. I’m re-arranging priorities. I’m initiating changes in my life instead of waiting for my life to change. I'm learning to focus on progress rather than perfection. I've found that as I make progress in my “small” goals, my “big” goals don’t seem as far off because I'm building new habits that work towards my goals.
So let me ask you the question that I’ve been asking myself recently ….
What’s stopping you from making the change?
I’ve struggled with accepting my personality for years. As so many of you know, I’m not the woman who is known for her gentle spirit and sweet tendencies. I’m the woman known for her sarcasm and willingness to argue a point.
But so many days I’ve wished I was different. Kinder. Gentler. More soft-spoken. Less argumentative.
I remember someone telling me my senior year in high school that it would take a special man to marry me because of my strong-willed nature. They maybe meant it nicer than it sounds, but it certainly didn’t seem like it in the moment… or the years afterwards. If anything, it furthered cemented the thought that had already surfaced in my mind:
Being a strong-willed woman was not something to be proud of.
In college, this self-consciousness about my personality only deepened. I remember cringing every time I heard the word “intimidating” because I knew that was just another reason a guy would have to not date me. My personality and sarcasm didn’t exactly scream “alluring bachelorette,” but try as I did, I could never completely hide my true self. It’s as if the part of me that spoke the truth- even when it didn’t want to be heard - refused to buckle to the pressure of being an “agreeable” single woman. Consequently, as odd as this might sound, I stayed true to myself but not necessarily because I wanted to. More because I tried to change me and just couldn’t.
Now, more than 10 years later, I can finally say that I’m learning to ignore that voice from the past and embrace the way God wired my personality to roar instead of purr.
A huge part of this is watching and learning from other strong-natured women; my primary examples being my mom and sister. I’ve been on the receiving end of my mom’s bold truth-telling personality and have come to be thankful for it. She has helped initiate change in her circles by her unwillingness to waiver on things she believes in. I’ve seen my sister march through periods of dismal news and little resources, yet she stays clinging to Christ more tightly than most can fathom. As I reflect on these two women, I can’t help but believe that if not for their tenacity or their strong-wills, they wouldn’t have overcome the trials they have. God gave them the tools they needed, one of which being their personality, to serve His purpose on the earth.
… So, many years later in my quest for acceptance, I’m realizing there is both a reason and a need for the “intimidating” women as well as the women who are naturally welcoming. God equips us with the personality we need to work through the trials we face. Our temperament is one of the ways He takes care of us.
If I believe that God created me in my mother’s womb and found it delightful to pick out my eye color, hair color, and body type, then I must also believe that he joyfully wired my personality to be as He wanted as well. (Psalm 139).
Stop trying to be loud if you’re quiet; mild if you’re strong; timid if you’re fearless; extraverted if you’re an introvert.
Be the woman God equipped you to be.
There’s a reason for your personality. Fulfill it.
As some of you know, I work for a private university and we like many schools start classes this week. This means there are a lot of parents missing their first, middle, or last child right about now, and in the many years I’ve been working with students, I’ve found there are four lessons for the parents to learn without their college freshman in this upcoming semester.
1. Leave them without calling non-stop.
The temptation to stay extra days to ensure they have absolutely everything they could ever need for the first 150 days of college will be strong, but you must drive the car away from campus. When you leave, it forces your child to get involved in their new community. Say goodbye and let them experience all the highs and lows of being in a new place. Then, once you've left, don’t call every hour checking in on them. That somewhat defeats the purpose of leaving. Don’t fear the absolute worst if they go three hours without answering their phone. Recognize that not only must you leave them, but you also must let them breathe.
2. Let them fight through the lonely.
I know this is like a knife to the heart for most parents. No one wants to see their child upset or hear loneliness in their voice. Your first instinct is to figure out how to fix it for them, which most often entails inviting them home for the weekend (or going back to visit them). Part of growing as an individual is developing strength to push through the difficult seasons- the lonely seasons even. It is completely normal for college students to feel lonely at different points in their first year. Has anyone ever moved to a new place and not felt the twinge of loneliness some weekend? Instead of inviting them home to what’s familiar, encourage and challenge them to meet new people and try new things. Help them see that friendships take time, and they will eventually find their group. Encourage your child to stay at school the first six weekends. I know that might sound like an eternity, but the weekend is where they will relax, enjoy what the campus has to offer, and will start to make friends.
Loneliness will fade, but it can be a powerful teacher while it’s present. It can be the push your child needs to talk to their neighbor, classmate, or suite mate. Push through your own loneliness without your child at home, and encourage them to start making their college campus feel like home.**
[**If your child struggles with depression or anxiety, you might need to be involved a little more.]
3. Let them figure things out.
Your child may not get along with their roommate. They may have a terrifying instructor. They may get a parking ticket. They may flunk a class.
I can promise you there will be something in their first semester that does not follow the plan because it’s life, right?! When does everything always go perfectly? When something unexpected happens, if your first instinct is to call the professor, the residence hall director, or the campus security, sit on it. Let your child set an appointment to talk to their professor. Let your child learn how to speak to their roommate about their disagreement. Let your child talk to someone about their parking ticket. We are not helping our children by fixing every problem for them. Eventually they will need to pay their own bills, deal with their own conflicts, and find solutions for their own problems. I’m not saying you can’t give your child advice and direction for what steps they should consider taking, but I am saying it’s important to let them have the conversations and take the steps to address their problems. College is a great place to learn how to “adult,” but too often college students aren’t encouraged to learn those lessons. Adulting may not always be a fun lesson to learn, but is one that is essential for their success after college.
4. Love them through it.
Your child is navigating a whole world of “new-ness,” and even for the student who is a pro at navigating change, it can be overwhelming. Be the cheerleader. The encourager. The chief “You can do it!” voice in their life. You probably know your child better than anyone, so remind them of their strengths, their gifts, and their value. Even if it doesn’t feel like it, you are still one of the most important voices in their lives, and you can boost their confidence in the face of the unknown.
I know dropping your child off at college is incredibly hard, but it’s also an incredible privilege. You’ve always known your child’s strengths, but now they’re learning how to share their gifts with the world. Your role as parent has not diminished, it’s just changed. Now you get to be walk alongside them more often than leading them and that’s a very special place to be.
About Holly's Blog
Holly loves to write, and you'll find her blog covers all different topics!