This is Not About New Year’s Resolutions

Is anyone else sick of New Year’s resolutions? What I would like to know is why people feel compelled to wait an entire year to make positive changes in their lives. Ecclesiastes 3 says that there is “a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens.” It is so easy to get caught up in day-to-day business and forget what a precious gift time really is. It’s also easy to constantly plan ahead or get stuck in the past, depending on one’s personality, but what if we spent just as much time, energy, and thought processes on today – the here and now – and how we can impact those around us? What would that look like?

What if we viewed the first day of every month the same way we view the first day of the year? This would allow for more specific, tangible, realistic goals while promoting accountability. Suddenly, there aren’t 365 days to forget about the goals of New Year’s Day because the new month’s day, if you will, arrives in roughly 30 days.  A shorter timeline promotes accountability by requiring immediate action. Then, before you know it, it’s time to refocus, plan, evaluate, and celebrate once more!

For example, some of the most common New Year’s resolutions involve diet and exercise. Which seems easier: going on a 365 day diet and exercise program or a 30 day program? How about devoting three weeks to healthy living, taking a fourth week to treat yo self, and then getting back on track for the next three weeks? Not only does that seem much more sustainable, but it involves a more tangible, realistic goal that can be reached and celebrated before being repeated. Avoid discouragement and frustration this year by frequently setting good, short-term goals. And always celebrate with fireworks.

Written by Carilee

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The Most Miraculous Time of the Year

I don’t know about y’all, but I love Christmas – the cold weather, the sweaters, scarves, boots, and most of all, the cheesy Christmas movies, which are so alluring to me. It isn’t called the most wonderful time of the year for nothing. The atmosphere is full of happiness and love. Families come together to celebrate and exchange gifts while roasting chestnuts on a fire. Hot cocoa and apple cider are the choice beverages of the season. But despite all the many glorious things that Christmas brings, perhaps the most important aspect of this season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Sometime around the 25th of December way back when (most experts think He was born in spring) two expecting parents in the Middle East, Joseph and Mary, sought shelter for the evening. They had ventured to Bethlehem, Israel, the place of Joseph’s birth, for the census required by Caesar. Having found none who would take them in, they were forced to rest in a stable. That night, it came time for Mary to have her baby. In the midst of the livestock and hay, a beautiful baby boy was born, and they called him Jesus. This was the baby promised to them by the Angel Gabriel. Little did Jesus or his parents know the amazing things that he would do in his life.[1]

In a cave elsewhere, shepherds were protecting their flocks. An angel of the Lord came and spoke to them declaring that the wondrous birth that had just occurred. They began their trek to marvel and praise God for the little baby. Likewise, three wise men saw the Star of David appear in the sky and came to bring gifts to the newborn. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh were presented to the “king of the Jews.” It was a marvelous sight: Mary and Joseph bent around a manger holding Jesus, livestock stood and slept around them, and shepherds, wise men, and angels praised God.

Most people have heard this story time and time again, but I think we often forget the magnitude of hope that this story brings. I go to a Christian school, I work in a strong Christian atmosphere, I am involved with a Christian sorority, and I serve on Wednesdays with the youth at my church. I am surrounded by Christianity and Jesus on a daily basis. Sometimes, I get a little numb to Christian topics as a whole, so when I hear the Christmas story, it goes in one ear and out the other. But when I really look and dissect the story, it is quite extraordinary. Jesus is the Son of God. He did not have to come to earth in the form of a baby; He could have simply appeared in His true form. Yet He came as a lowly baby to identify with man. If He did not come to earth as an infant, He could not have lived a fully perfect life as a human, and then He could not have died a wrongful death on the cross. This birth was required in order for Jesus to be unlawfully crucified, buried, and raised on the third day to conquer sin and death. In order for us to be reconciled to the Father in Heaven, someone had to die. But this someone had to be blameless, which was only credible through the Son of God.

What a miraculous story it is. When we think about it, it is actually very beautiful. I am comforted by the fact that, through Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection, I can now come boldly to the throne of God and worship at His feet. Let us not forget the weight and necessity of the Christmas story. When we walk past nativity scenes, let’s not allow our eyes to glaze over and simply keep on our way. But let’s ponder the significance that is the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.

[1] See Luke 1: 26-2:20 and Matthew 1:18-2:12

Written by Maddison

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The Nature of Beauty: Short Story Day 2016

Two men stood upon an edge of a cliff, overlooking the land. The first was blinded in a childhood accident; the second was his dear friend, who took care of him every day.

“Can beauty be taken from a man?” The first cheerfully asked to the second.

The second scoffed. “It was taken from you, for you cannot behold the sight before us. Indeed, I know you cannot remember this sight from our childhood. I pray to the Almighty every day that your sight might be returned, that you might know beauty again.”

“Is beauty something one must see, then?” the first asked.

“Obviously. How can you appreciate a work of art without seeing it? Paintings and drawings must all be seen.”

“I can hear a piece of music,” the first hummed. “The chatter of men, the singing in a theatre.”

“Fine, fine. You can find beauty in music, in sound. But you still cannot behold most kinds of beauty.”

“And what of the sculptures found in the king’s gallery? I can feel the edges, the smooth curves, the grooves formed by the chisel. Can I not feel and behold that work of art?”

“I suppose you can behold the beauty of those works of art,” the second admitted.

“And I can eat,” the first grinned. “I love the taste of a pastry in my mouth. That, my friend, is beauty from a chef’s hands. Can I not behold the art of such a masterful chef?”

“I suppose you can find beauty in a chef’s work,” the second frowned.

“I can smell that same pastry as its being made. I can enjoy flowers. The fresh smell of rain, during and after, is nature’s own way of singing in joy that I can partake in.”

“I see you’ve thought this through quite thoroughly.”

“There’s more, my friend. What of the beauty of love?” the first said. “Can I not hear the kindness in her voice, feel the softness of her touch, and laugh at the sharpness of her wit? Can I not feel the thrill, the pulsing of my heart whenever she is near?”

“Fine,” said the second. “But what if all these things were not enough, if all these things were only pain in the end? If you were isolated, starved, your skin burnt ‘til you could not feel, and your ears deafened, you could not know beauty. All that would remain would be pain; therefore, beauty can be taken from a man.”

“What if the pain changes day by day?” The first asked. “If it does, then beauty, to that person, would be the times that pain lessens.”

The second grumpily huffed. “What is your point, my friend?”

The first smiled. “It seems to me that it is in man’s nature to seek beauty in all things.”

“Even in pain?” the second questioned.

“Especially in pain,” the first said, “for we seem to understand that there is a way things should be, and we search for glimpses of those moments.”

The two stood in silence. The second slowly realized that the first was, despite blindness, more able to perceive beauty than he.

“We would not have had this conversation without your blindness,” prompted the second.

The first smiled once again. “Indeed,” he said. “I believe your prayers have been answered, for I can see beauty far more clearly than before I lost my sight. Is that not something beautiful as well, that my blindness should be used to redeem my perception?”

The wind whispered gently over the two.

“This is how the Almighty works,” the second concluded, “in ways that create beauty from pain.”

“You are close to my point,” the first said, a thrill in his voice.

“Which is?”

“The Almighty, who created all things, who created mankind, who allowed us to see, to touch, to taste, to smell, to feel, is the source of all this beauty. And though His creation was corrupted, He still creates from the pain more beauty, which we otherwise would not know. He is truly everywhere, for He is beauty, and it is a miracle that we exist and experience Him.”

Written by Isaac: Many thanks to Brandon Sanderson for the inspiration of this short story—the first half is basically just retelling a conversation in the book Words of Radiance from his series The Stormlight Archive.

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Why Finals Week is Exhilarating

The words “finals” and “exhilaration” seem completely contradictory. Finals week is dreaded by masses of students each semester. In a way, it unites college kids across the lands because it gives us all something to complain about together. What a lovely concept! But really, though, finals week can and should be both a challenging and thrilling experience. Though the word “finals” has become widely infamous, you can have a far less daunting experience by incorporating a few helpful incentives.

  1. As aforementioned, final exams often bring students together. Consider utilizing the communal pain by forming study groups with existing friends or classmates. Sure, all the work might not get done, but laughing about the process with peers who are going through the same experience is guaranteed to lessen stress levels and provide much needed socialization that might otherwise get neglected.
  2. You get to reward yourself, like, all the time. Next time you want to play a video game, eat some ice cream, or go for a drive, plan those activities as rewards to be had when a certain amount of work has been completed. Creating a motivation for accomplishing tasks not only makes you more likely to finish those said tasks, but it also generally makes the treat you get afterwards extra enjoyable.
  3. Once you’ve completed the previous steps, taking the final exams will be a much less daunting experience. If you think about it, it’s sort of like having a competition with yourself. You’ve been in class for months, completing assignments along the way, and now you are facing your final test of knowledge. When considering all the time and money you have invested in your courses, you almost can’t help but to strive to do the best you possibly can. It’s much more fun to view final exams as races against yourself. However, don’t race the clock unless you’re getting crunched for time; slow and steady wins the race. It’s comparable to sloth power-lifting weights if that sloth had been conditioning for four months straight.
  4. Finally, you get to celebrate afterwards. Whether that looks like recovering on the couch for a few days, taking a vacation, or going home to your family, it’s important to bask in the glory of a job well done. As Donna from Parks and Recreation once said, “Treat yo self!”

Though it may not be the most glamorous time of the school year, finals week can offer exhilaration to those who are willing to be open to its gifts. During the process, you can grow as a student, as a thinker, and as a treat-yo-selfer.

Written by Karoline

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