Last week at this time, I was with 140 girls at Wrightsville Beach, coming off the high of my Tar Heels making it through another round of the NCAA Tournament. Tonight, I’m sitting in my dorm room on the computer and it stings a little bit to even talk about the tournament- and even more so, to acknowledge that Harrison Barnes, John Henson, and (I’m still coping with this one) Kendall Marshall are leaving for the NBA draft. BUT that’s okay, because I’m not here to talk about basketball- and the only reason I gave you that sad comparison was so I could transition to the wonderful time I had at Women’s Beach Retreat 2012! It was such a great weekend, so let’s get started.
I am so grateful for the girls that I have met through Cornerstone. It’s no secret that Carolina is predominantly girls (I’m pretty sure the ratio is 60/40… I’ve heard some say 70/30), and it has been such a blessing to see how so many different personalities can come together and create great friendships.
What’s even cooler is that I wasn’t even planning on going on Women’s Beach Retreat this year- just a week before, I had told my discipleship leader that even though I wanted to go, it was too expensive and I didn’t know if I could get off of work and so on… but for some reason, when registration came around I just felt compelled to sign up and go on the retreat. It’s amazing how God works, because it was exactly what I needed.
Last weekend provided an opportunity for me to step outside of Chapel Hill and think about everything that had been eating me up inside while I was on campus. In all honestly, I didn’t even realize that I was struggling with certain parts of my life until I began to reflect on them while at the beach. When I came back to campus on Sunday, I felt like I had gotten answers to questions that I didn’t even know I had. I would love to go into more depth about this, but in an effort to not make this post obnoxiously long, I’ll just provide a few key takeaways:
1. Fellowship with girls is important. This sounds so simple, but I actually think that a lot of girls (I realize that “girls” make us sound like we’re super young, but “women” just makes me feel too old) overlook the importance of establishing solid friendships with each other. I’m definitely one of those people- while I do have girlfriends that I’m close to, I don’t invest in them like I should. I think I’ve always tried to avoid the over-dramatized “OMG you are like my BFF” friendship, and in doing so I’ve abandoned the core principle of aiming to build strong friendships with other girls. But in reality, that makes no sense because a lot of us are going through the same things! And we need to be there for each other, especially when we’re all women in Christ and, hopefully, we all want to hold each other accountable when it comes to living Christ-centered lives. I got the opportunity to sit down and talk with my housemates for next year about this, and we all agreed that we need to invest in each other more and really seek out solid friendships with each other as individuals. At the end of that conversation, I felt so blessed not only to have learned this lesson, but to talk to my housemates about it and discuss how we could make this a part of our everyday lives.
2. My identity is in Christ and nothing else. While this is something that I have recited to myself time and time again, I have really struggled with truly believing that this is the case. At one point during the retreat, we had “breakout sessions” where we broke up into groups that we chose based on subjects we wanted to learn/talk more about. In one of the sessions I attended, we talked about the pressures of being a girl at Carolina- one girl mentioned that she felt this pressure to have everything going for her – beauty, intelligence, and personality – because that’s what she saw in every other girl at Carolina. I can definitely relate. Sometimes I catch myself thinking about the fact that I’ll never be as pretty as this girl or as smart as this girl, or that this girl has such a beaming personality and mine doesn’t even come close. But in reality, God made me exactly the way I am for a very specific purpose- and who am I to tell Him that he was wrong for doing so? It makes no sense. Moreover, I think one of the easiest areas for us to place our identity is in academics, because it hinges on a simple number or a letter grade. As we discussed this, one of our leaders pointed out that we were all capable of making straight A’s- if we went to the library every night and studied like crazy, we could definitely make perfect grades… but is that what God put us here to do? Of course it’s important to honor Him in all that we do, but we can’t find our identity in such insignificant areas of life. He made each one of us for a reason, and we have to embrace that beautiful truth!
3. It’s okay to be vulnerable. So, anyone who knows me knows that I hate crying. And even though I value the importance of talking about feelings, I don’t actually “like” expressing them that much. So obviously, I really don’t like being vulnerable. I guess a lot of times I either view it as a weakness or something to be reserved for important times only- but in reality, it’s okay to open up to other people. It’s okay to be broken and to admit it. The seniors at Women’s Beach Retreat did a great job of opening up to a room full of girls and admitting that they’re not perfect and they struggle with the same things we do, which I thought was extremely admirable. Because they set that example, it made it a lot easier for me to let my guard down last weekend and talk to some of my friends (you know, because fellowship with girls is important- see how this all works together?!) about areas of my life in which I was really struggling. Reflecting on that, I actually think that being vulnerable shows more strength than putting a guard up, which has completely changed my perspective.
And last but not least:
4. Even when it’s March, wear sunscreen on the beach. The weather was absolutely perfect last weekend- so much so that I fell asleep while laying on the beach- without sunscreen. Even though my mom told me to put it on, I didn’t because I am stubborn and didn’t think I would need it. Turns out, I did. That night, literally everyone was like, “Aww Jordan! You got so much sun on your face today!” AKA- “Wow, you got really sunburnt and I feel so bad for you.” Yup- learn from my mistakes. Wear sunscreen and always listen to your mom.
Like I said earlier, I’m so grateful for everything that I learned on this retreat. At one point we got the opportunity to have some reflection time and I began to write about everything that had happened to me this year, the good and the bad. The first words on the page of my journal: “I feel like I’m reading the words of a broken person.” I started to think back on how I came into my sophomore year with such high expectations, and even though there have been some absolutely unforgettable times that I’ve shared with people this year, there have also been times where I felt like I couldn’t do anything to get out of my slump. I struggled with being motivated academically. I became consumed with the situation with my granddad so much so that it just began to take away my joy. I attempted to place my identity in certain friend groups, organizations, jobs, etc. only to find that none of those fulfilled or sustained me. But the most amazing part about it all is that while all of these things were changing and, in a sense, breaking me down, God remained. He stayed with me in every moment of weakness and doubt and I guess I’ve just come to realize that no matter what crazy changes may come about in your life, God will always remain faithful. He is the only thing that is consistent in a world that will never stop changing.
God shouldn’t have had to take me all the way to the beach to get me to look to Him and see how faithful He is, but He did. He did it because He loves me, and for that all I know to say is I will praise Him all of my days.
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” -Hebrews 10:23-24
Have a great week! And, as always, if you want to talk about anything I’ve shared today, please contact me!