My name is Amy Michelle Pipkin. In my 19 years I’ve been to 5 countries, gotten an Associate’s degree in Business, and learned the difference between the French verbs “aller” and “revenir”. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a story because I grew up in a Christian home, stayed involved throughout junior high and high school, and to this day my entire life revolves around Jesus and my church family. But I know my story counts to Jesus, so here it is.

High school was easy for me. I expected college to be more challenging, but basically something I didn’t have to worry about. A side project. My first semester wasn’t too bad, though I struggled with math but that’s normal, right? As finals approached, I realized just how little time I put into studying in high school. I made it through okay (College Algebra gave me my first B) and moved on. That spring semester, and the two semesters after that, showed a pattern in my life. Start the semester with good intentions, fail to put any time or effort into my classes, still somehow manage to keep most of my grades A’s, fall apart with stress in the month surrounding finals, disappoint myself with at least one class, vow to do better, and repeat.

When I say fall apart with stress, it was almost literal. My close friends could tell you some stories. I was exhausted all the time, I couldn’t stop myself from crying over the smallest things. Anything slightly critical that someone said to me would stay with me for weeks, repeating itself in my mind. I would wake up the morning with a sore jaw and teeth marks on my tongue from clamping my jaw together in my sleep. Some days I would literally just sit and cry because I couldn’t get my life together. And it happened at the end of every semester.

You’ve heard of procrastination, but I’m an expert at it. I never started anything (despite my best intentions otherwise) until the night before it was due. Sometimes the morning of. Somehow, inexplicably, I started to get better grades when I did procrastinate than when I didn’t. I was keeping my grades up, but at the expense of stress I had never imagined. Over and over again I pushed to the back of my mind my to-do list so I could enjoy what I was doing instead.

My friends tried to help me. They yelled at me, told me to go home to do my homework, whatever they could, but I always had an excuse. “I have plenty of time.” “I started it yesterday, it’s almost done.” “It’s not even that hard, I’ll do it later…” Eventually, I knew I couldn’t keep this up. I didn’t even want to stay like that, but I knew it would take a lot of effort to change my pattern. So I started studying. I spent HOURS a night in Starbucks, just doing homework. This was completely new to me. I honestly didn’t know how to study for a test. Fall of 2013 I changed how I saw school. My grades had started to determine how I saw my intelligence, and even though I knew I had to change that perspective, it was true in the sense of how much effort I was putting in.

That semester was different. I got all As, for the first time in college. But I was still stressed. I still cried, still slept with my jaw clamped, still felt unorganized. I put so much effort into school that I stressed myself out in the opposite way. Long story short, in the next spring semester I ended up with 4 A’s, and a B. Still angry about that one. But, when it came to finals, I wasn’t stressed. The crying never came, and I could sleep peacefully. Honestly, I had no idea what had happened. I couldn’t explain it. I had stopped praying for peace, and it came when I least expected it. I don’t know why God works the way He does, but here’s what I do know: My God can answer prayer, but sometimes He waits until we put forth effort to make something happen. If I really care about something, I’ll give my time and energy to get it. And the best way to do this is with God. Giving human effort without God’s help is just struggling uselessly.

So, if you deal with anything I’ve said, here’s my advice.

  1. Tell someone everything. Don’t hide how far behind or unprepared you are. Be honest with someone who will force you to change. For me, it was my youth pastor.

  2. Give your time. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that you can’t make a change in your life if you keep acting the way you’ve always acted. Spend hours in Starbucks!!

  3. Keep God present in your life. Pray over your stress, and your studies. Start off your study time by reading your Bible. There’s nothing more important than Him. 

I’ve done plenty of cool things in my life, but I’ll always treasure the fact that in the fall of 2013, I got straight A’s because I worked for it. And in the spring of 2014, God gave me peace from my stress because He loves me. There’s more to my story, but je dois aller.

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