Let Freedom Ring!

On July 4, 1776, birds chirped joyously as a light breeze made its way through the Philadelphia hill country. The townsfolk watched anxiously as prominent men in shiny black loafers made their way toward the Pennsylvania State House. Among the men walked Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston. Leading the pack was none other than ginger-headed Thomas Jefferson – Congress’ most eloquent writer who led the composition of the Declaration of Independence. The men made their way into the large, opulent building, and the slamming of the doors behind them resounded through the town. Little did these men know that the events that were to take place in that big state house would change the trajectory of American history forever.

The Fourth of July is a popular patriotic holiday which allows U.S. citizens to celebrate the publication of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1776. Beginning the year after the Declaration was adopted, Americans started celebrating Independence Day. Early Fourth of July festivities included concerts, bonfires, parades, and the firing of cannons and muskets. This was usually accompanied by the reading of the Declaration of Independence. Things have changed a little; although we still celebrate by shooting fireworks, attending concerts, and throwing parades, we also organize family reunions, have barbecues and picnics, and go to baseball games.

The freedom found in the love of Christ offers the utmost liberation and freedom. Romans 6:6-7 tells us, “We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin” (NIV). Though America is bountiful in blessings and freedom, it pales in comparison to the deliverance of Jesus. Sin ensnares the lives of all people; however, under grace, liberation from sin does not come from a written declaration, but rather a living crucifixion. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we are no longer slaves to fear and sin, but rather living, liberated children of God.

Written by Lindsey

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How to Make a Poppin’ Personality Quiz

quizThe internet dwellers of today’s society (which includes pretty much every person in the country) can’t resist a good ole’ personality quiz. Yes, even the ones from Buzzfeed. For some of us, it’s especially the Buzzfeed quizzes lurking in the sidebar of our computer or our cellphone which are so irresistible. Others insist that Buzzfeed is a dumping ground of IQ-killing content whilst they sip on their Chem-Ex made coffee from a clay mug crafted in someone’s garage. Neither of these views are necessarily wrong or right, unless, of course, you act as if you don’t like personality quizzes. In that case, you sit on a throne of lies. I’ll admit, I’ve disparaged Buzzfeed in the past, but my eyes have since been opened to its wonderful world of unpaid content creation.

Did you know that literally anyone can publish on Buzzfeed? Yeah, that includes you, you coffee snob. I myself discovered this last summer when I walked into work and said to my coworkers, “If your hair was pasta, what type of pasta do you think it would be?”

  1. Your Weirdest Ideas Can Be Your Best Ideas

After asking that question aloud, my thoughts somehow traipsed to, “Hm, that would be a funny Buzzfeed quiz.” It was that very afternoon when I made the discovery that, with a quick resignation of my email privacy (creating an account) I could make this odd idea come to fruition. It didn’t take long to create, and I had a blast learning how to navigate the user-friendly platform. I created the quiz and delighted in watching my coworkers discover the no-longer-hazy-pasta status of their hair. To this day, that quiz remains my most popular one, and it was featured on the Buzzfeed home page, garnering almost 500,000 views in just one week. I think there are a few reasons for that, and I continue to stick by them when creating content.

  1. Unique Identity Quizzes Really Sell

As mentioned, it’s no secret that everyone likes personality quizzes, because, well, for most people, their favorite subject is themselves! It may or may not be a bad thing, but it’s the truth. At the same time, so many personality quizzes and in-depth tests have been made and taken that at this point, people are hard-pressed to find one that they haven’t taken yet. Two years ago, it was all the rage to find out “What Type of Disney Princess You Are,” but in today’s personality quiz market (a phrase that I never thought would be relevant) it takes something more unique to stand out. Although my idea came out of nowhere, it had the essential element of incorporating a personal feature. There’s honestly a formula to the successful personality quiz, and the first variable is to include a human attribute into the title, whether that’s hair, eye color, pet peeve, etc.

  1. Marry the Trait with Something That Fits

There’s honestly a formula to the successful personality quiz, and the first half of the equation is in my previous point. The next variable is that the other part of the quiz must pertain to a familiar object, obsession, fandom, TV show, or celebrity. For example, some of my other quizzes that trended are titled, “Make the Perfect Krabby Patty and We’ll Reveal Which Spongebob Character You’re Destined To Marry,” as well as, “Tell Us How You Drink Your Coffee and We’ll Reveal Which Profession Is Perfect For You.” With these quizzes, the second variable was met by relating the quizzes to coffee and Spongebob, two widely-known and supremely-beloved things. (I’m destined to marry Sqiudward; who knew?)

And there you have it! The secret formula for inciting Millennial procrastination and distraction from whatever it is they should be doing. Folks will say what they will about our generation, but there are none better than us at making stellar Buzzfeed content. Plus, if you’re looking into a field which involves content creation, it can actually impress some employers that you’re able to come up with creative ideas and garner significant views with it. So go forth, my well-equipped quiz creators, and make something that would be too tantalizing not to take. Also follow my account hee hee.

Written by Karoline

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How to Overcome Writer’s Block

writers block comicYou’ve probably read countless blogs talking about writer’s block. Everybody gets writer’s block from time to time, even good students who never seem to be behind on their work and authors who get paid to write. What makes this blog different from this one, this one, or any other of the thousands available on the World Wide Web? Well, I’m not going to waste time telling you sappy things like, “You’re not alone” and “Just let it pass.” I’m going to give you some hard and fast definitions and advice to both prevent writer’s block and defeat it once and for all.

As I’ve always understood it, there are two kinds of writer’s block. I grew up battling creative writer’s block, where I had no idea what should happen next in the plotline, or I just couldn’t seem to describe a scene right. The task of the creative writer is to come up with something that no one else has ever thought of before or invoke a certain emotional response in the reader.

Academic writing isn’t quite the same. Usually, professors give their students the basics of what ideas should go where in an assignment, but students can’t think of an interesting enough topic, or they get stuck on what else to say about the topic that falls under the boundaries of the assignment.

The good thing about my encounters with writer’s block is that I tend to start working on projects far enough in advance that I can sit on them for a while without inviting disaster. That gives me time to be attentive to the world around me with my writing in mind. I’m pretty much always on the lookout for new things to discuss and new ways to apply concepts to my writing. Every odd, unusual, or funny thing that happens to me goes into a list on my phone (or on my Twitter, if it’s really good); then, when I get stuck on a piece of writing, I can go look at that list (or my own Twitter profile) to see if I can work a little creative magic.

Assuming you don’t have a running list of wacky stories—and your paper is due before you can experience a few—there are plenty of other ways to kick writer’s block. If you’re stuck on what to say next on a college paper, try looking at your material again, but from a different perspective. Are there any questions left to answer? Is there a part of a source you haven’t read yet that might be applicable to your topic? Pretend you are reading it all—the prompt and any research you’re using—for the first time, looking for any and all information you can find. You’ll learn more, and you might discover a new angle from which to approach the paper.

What if you just can’t get wild about your topic? We’ve all been there. My best advice is to try to find an aspect of that topic that interests and motivates you. For example, when I was taking a Communication Theory course, I had to write two pages about a theory I didn’t understand or care for. When I realized I could apply the theory to something I loved—video games—I suddenly had a lot more to say about the theory. Looking at it that way helped me understand the theory better, too!

Another method that works for me is one I haven’t heard anywhere else: pretend you’re explaining your topic to a friend. In a separate Word doc (or whatever you want to use), write down what you would say to someone who is not taking the same class you are. Better yet, talk out loud to a friend or a Writing Center consultant (#shamelessplug) about your topic. Try to answer any questions they can think of. Doing this forces you to think about your topic in a different way and may even bring up some extra points to consider.

Finally, if all else fails, put down the books, close your laptop, and go take a shower. My experience tells me that the best ideas almost always come when you least expect it and when you’re least able to write things down. You’ll have to work to remember it, but it’ll be worth it.

The most important thing about defeating writer’s block is to just write something, anything down. Your professors likely won’t accept “I just couldn’t think of anything” as an excuse; they’ll want to see your mastery of the concepts they’ve taught you. Show them what you know and write something. You can always come back to it later, and it might turn out better than you thought.

You are a human, created in God’s image. You are smarter than writer’s block. Don’t let it defeat you!

Written by Catherine

For more information on writer’s block and other writing topics, check out our Overcoming Writer’s Block handout and the Quick Reference Flyers page of our website!

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The Collegiate Guide to Surviving Wedding Season

I bet you’re reading this blog for one of three reasons:

  1. You got invited to ANOTHER wedding. You’ve been to so many of those that you’ve secretly started to despise them.
  2. You got invited to your first wedding since you were a volun-told ring bearer in first grade, and you’re clueless as to what is about to come.
  3. Your name is Gail Mertz, and you read all my blogs. Hi mom.

As a 10-time wedding guest in the first three years of my college career, I understand how much of a struggle it can be to survive other people’s weddings. And now, as a future bride myself, I can also see the other side of the coin. Some of the ridiculousness of wedding culture is actually beneficial, like a meaningful venue or catering from the restaurant the couple went to on their first date. Other parts, like matching bridesmaid robes and $175 tux rentals, are not.

Here are a few pointers for getting through wedding season as a college student without going bankrupt, ruining your friendships, or turning into a celibate, wedding-hating monk.

Real friends pay friends for their work. Weddings are overpriced, yet expensive is the aesthetic many couples dream of. Most come to realize, though, that they must cut corners somewhere. That somewhere is not you. Weddings are community events, and it’s silly to refuse to help cut the cake or make the reception playlist. However, if you’re an entrepreneurial photographer, a culinary-arts graduate, or a budding professional musician, you aren’t obligated to give out hundreds of dollars worth of services for free. Your level of generosity is your choice, but it is never okay for anyone to just assume that your work—your art—is theirs for the taking. It’s okay to stand up for yourself as a professional.

If you’re in the wedding party, it’s okay not to buy a gift. The only thing that rivals the expense of your own wedding is being in somebody else’s. According to WeddingWire, being a bridesmaid can cost $1200 with an extravagant bride, but even in a basic wedding, a dress or suit rental alone can easily cost over $100. That’s a collegiate fortune. If you’re struggling just to pay for your wedding party obligations don’t feel guilty for skipping on another present. In reality, it would, in fact, be present number two because you are the gift. Ideally, whoever loves you enough to ask you to be in their wedding will understand your financial limitations and simply be grateful to have you by their side.

Communicate well and appropriately. I don’t care how old-fashioned you think RSVP cards are. Don’t text your friend to RSVP; mail the card in like everyone else. You aren’t special, and those tiny squares of cardstock aren’t cheap. But please, DO RSVP for every event you are invited to. Never assume they assume you’ll be there. The couple needs to know who is coming, and they have better things to do than hunt you down. College is time demanding, but so is wedding planning. Honor your friends by honoring their time.

Follow the rules, whatever they may be. In a similar vein, respect what is asked of you. If you aren’t extended a plus one, do not bring one. If the dress code is back tie, don’t show up in khakis. If the couple asks for a no-cellphone service or that people refrain from sharing photos on social media, accept their wishes with grace. Disrespecting someone else’s wedding style, however genuinely ridiculous you think it may be, is distasteful and potentially relationship-altering. Spare yourself and your friendships by doing the kindergarten thing and following all the rules.

A study conducted by The Knot claims that eight of the ten most popular wedding dates of 2018 are still yet to come. So, if you’ve still got a save-the-date magnet on your dorm fridge, fear not. Weddings can be complicated for everyone involved, especially if you’re still in college, but like marriage itself, the path to success is not paved with the absence of mistakes or offence, but rather with the presence of grace and humility. Forgive when you are wronged, be generous with your love, and refuse to let the difficulties that come with the wedding season harm your friendships or dampen your perspective on life’s most wonderful covenant.

Written by Savanna

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The Death of Writing

On average, I spend 4 hours a day working on some sort of writing-related project, most of which are class assignments. That’s 448 hours of writing—or 18.6 full days per semester. So believe me when I tell you that I know about writing burnout. Discussion boards get old. Reflection responses are a monotonous nightmare. Research papers should be banned under the Eighth Amendment. And book reviews? Don’t even get me started.

I’m not trying to convince you that writing is a cleverly disguised form of witchcraft. If you clicked on a blog titled “The Death of Writing” you already have negative feelings about the subject. Writing, to most students, has long been dead: a misunderstood art at its best and a useless waste of time at its worst. I’m not here to annihilate your perception of writing, but to resurrect it.

You probably haven’t gathered this yet, but I love to write. It’s one of the few talents I claim, and I’ve actively pursued the craft since childhood. But, though college has improved my technical writing abilities, it’s been more of a damper than a fan to the flames of my writing passion. Whether you feel the same way or have never appreciated writing, here are some areas where writing can be resurrected and repurposed for something beyond the academic realm.

  1.    Journals—the kind without paragraphs.

Keeping a diary is a classic suggestion for finding a renewed sense of joy in writing, but—newsflash—it’s a lot of work for someone who is already burdened with college. Still, there are ways to journal without feeling like you’ve given yourself another homework assignment. Bullet journals are popular because they combine writing, reflection, and art into one relaxing hobby. Other examples of simple journal activities include recording moments of gratitude, blessings, interesting quotes, or sweet moments with a loved one. Journaling is a tangible way to etch mundane moments into the narrative of your life and remind yourself that written language is one of the best ways to memorialize the content of our lives.

  1.    Sticky notes—the kind without to-do lists.

I firmly believe in the power of a sticky note. Whether it’s a Bible verse hidden in my roommate’s favorite coffee mug or a cheesy pick-up line on my fiancé’s car window, a sticky note laced with a breath of encouragement can radically change someone’s day. Due to an endless amount of formal writing, we are acclimatized to exploit our language as a means to please professors, and we cease to recognize the impact of a single, meaningful word or phrase. Taking a few moments to compose encouraging, funny, or positive notes for friends and strangers alike helps the brain become more aware of the power of language and reconditions writers to believe that words are meant for something greater and more enduring than just required assignments.

  1.    Creative writing—the kind that goes on social media.

You probably don’t want to write a novel, start a blog, or delve into the dark corners of fan fiction, but that doesn’t mean you can’t engage in creative writing. Social media at its foundation is about inspiring, entertaining, and connecting with others; for thousands of years, before people could record cats getting scared by cucumbers, writing was the way this was accomplished. Viewing social media as an outlet for creative writing will revolutionize the way you process information and the way you share it via written language. Pictures of brunch transform into narratives about how shared meals can rebuild lost friendships, and tweets about attending a concert become a platform for your own creative prose. Social media doesn’t have to be a place solely for drama and political debates; it can be a medium to revive the human instinct for creating community and cultivate a love for ideas through simple, creative writing.

Resurrecting writing in these areas won’t lessen the challenge of academic writing or eliminate the mental exhaustion it forces upon its victims. But, for those who chose to believe that writing is only mostly dead, they can be methods for awakening the lost power and passion of written language.

Written by Savanna

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You’re Using Your Planner Wrong

My planner is cuter than yours. I’m not bragging; it’s just a simple fact. At the beginning of the semester, I went on an online shopping quest to find the perfectly useful and ideally-pretty planner that would motivate me to orchestrate all my days in glitter pen from January until May. I use my planner every day, and I would probably forget a lot of things without it. However, as nice as it is to pick up my lovely, flower-clad, spiral-bound daily planner every morning, as with many things in life, the overuse and misuse of its glories produced a debilitating sense of stress and inadequacy in me.

Woah you’re probably thinking, that was a dramatic jump. You aren’t wrong, but hear me out. If you aren’t careful, you could succumb to the same planning-obsessed stress that I did. Now, some people thrive on planning. It brings them more peace than anything to know exactly where they will be and what they will be doing five months from now. For many of us though, wondering about tomorrow or the next week or next month means kindling the faint flames of worry about deadlines we know we need to meet but do not have time for.

If I were to take a look at what’s written in my planner for today, I would find four must-do’s that could be easily crossed off, no problem. Yet if I glance at next week’s schedule or even begin thinking about it, swirls of unnecessary pressure foster, and I become far more preoccupied with tomorrow when I should be concentrating on today. I’m not saying it is bad or wrong to plan ahead; for some people, it’s probably necessary so that they don’t suffer the same stress symptoms I receive from planning. I’m talking to those who, if they dwell on it too much, dread the possibility of tomorrow’s to-do list when they could be channeling that energy into checking off the boxes for today. It goes beyond a “live in the moment” mentality, although we could probably all use a bit more present-mindedness. Rather, it goes back to a simple yet powerful verse we’ve all heard before:

“Therefore, don’t be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself” (Matt. 6: 34, NIV).

Interesting. What if I refused to look at tomorrow’s to-do list and instead concentrated on my one for today? What if, when all my tasks were complete, instead of hurriedly beginning work that could be started tomorrow, I read my Bible, hung out with a friend, or indulged in a long-neglected hobby? For the past week, I’ve been doing exactly that: looking at today’s to-do list only, closing my planner and putting it away once those tasks were done. Simply and truthfully put, my life is changed as a result of this one small tactic. By finally letting “tomorrow worry about itself,” I’m experiencing that “peace which surpasses all understanding,” accomplishing more than I have in a while, and enjoying the little things like staying up with a roommate or writing for fun. It’s amazing what happens when we take Scripture literally, huh?

This isn’t just a plug for you to buy a planner, although you definitely should; it’s an encouragement and confirmation that not only is it unnecessary for you to know what you are doing a day, week, or month from now, but you might be better off without even thinking about the future in those terms! Tomorrow will worry about itself, and if we abide in the vine of Christ, He will “remain in you,” providing every need as He supplies everything for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Also, BloomDailyPlanners. The bomb.com.

Written by Karoline

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Summer Suggestions

As finals are coming to a close, we college students are eagerly turning our minds toward the next three months of freedom! Whether we plan to work, travel, take more classes, or just watch Stranger Things reruns all summer, each of us looks forward to a break from our demanding college lives. No matter how much or little we hope to accomplish, there are several things that every college student needs to make time for this summer.

  1. Relax: Yes, you workaholics, even you need a break. Though some college students have no trouble taking a break, I, and other likeminded individuals, have a lot of trouble in this area. During winter break, I spent the entire month, sans Christmas day and my mother’s birthday, working in one way or another. At my church, at the Writing Center, and even at home, important tasks kept finding their way into my chill time. I never read that book I wanted to finished, never played a game with my family, and never revamped my quiet time or exercise schedule. Thankfully, the sheer exhaustion from finals week forced me to catch up on sleep, and Christmas gatherings forced me to socialize with family. Summer breaks, like winter ones, are intended to give college students a break because we cannot physically and mentally keep studying twelve months of the year. Yes, work that summer job and take that amazing trip to Paris, but take time to rest that overworked brain of yours and do the things you never have time for during the school year.
  2. Get some experience: While resting is important, those of you who are not workaholics need to get into the work or volunteer force and build yourselves up professionally. Find that perfect summer internship, get a part-time job, volunteer at a soup kitchen, or go on a mission or service trip. The people you work or serve with this summer will help you in your future profession. For example, I am working at the Writing Center on my campus, despite the fact that I am a nursing major. Weird, right? But even during my short time here, I have already gained professional experience and skills I will be able to use for the rest of my life. You can rest assured I will be getting as many hours as possible this summer to continue developing my professional skills (interspersed, of course, with a nice, long “me time” with that book gathering dust on my shelf).
  3. Develop good habits: You may have no trouble in this area whatsoever. You may have a perfectly balanced professional, spiritual, physical, and academic lifestyle down already! But for we humans, summer break helps us to rebalance. My problem is spending far too much of my time in the academic arena and practically none in the physical or spiritual. I am going to spend the summer revamping my quiet time, finding a workable exercise schedule, revisiting some old hobbies, and hanging out with friends and family as much as possible. It is easy to tip the balance in one direction and neglect the rest, so take the gift of time to rebalance every area of your life. It’s worth it, I promise.
  4. Prepare for the next semester: Yes, sadly, summer will come to an end. Don’t find yourself caught off guard when August rolls around, and your calendar lets you know that your next semester begins in three days! Take advantage of your extra time in June and July to plan your semester. Invest in a good planner, sign up for classes as soon as possible (some of the best classes close the first day of registration!), talk to your boss about your hours, buy your supplies, find a roommate… the list goes on! Do as much as possible before the first day of classes, so you will be able to dive right into your school work on day one. This way, you will not be required to spend the first week running to the store and settling your affairs.

Though my list may seem rather basic, each thing here constitutes an important part of your summer. Rest, rebalance, and prepare. Your body, soul, mind, and next semester require this of you! This list may not be exhaustive for you, or it may be too exhaustive. Tweak it for your needs, and head into summer ready to conquer!

Written by Michelle

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