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The Christian Girl's Guide to Surviving Your First Year of College - Part 2
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By Erika Boudreau


In Part I of Erika's story in last month's edition of Christian Life in London, she shares the struggles with loneliness and her faith as she begins her university experience a long way from home in London.

PART 2



As September slips into October and you begin to start hearing about midterms and term papers, thanksgiving comes before you know it. Many of you will be returning home for this weekend and if you are able to I encourage you to do so. Enjoy spending time with family and laughing with them, because when you return to school there is only more hard work that awaits you. Or, some of you may be like me and will be remaining at school for the thanksgiving long weekend, something that can be very fun, but also very lonely. While I was fortunate enough to have my older sister at the same university and a group of friends I already felt comfortable with, that did not completely replace the fact that I knew that on the Sunday of the thanksgiving weekend my entire family would gather to celebrate and, for the first time in eighteen years, I was not going to be there with them. Knowing that made me feel so alone and lost and sad, like my entire family was moving on and growing up, and all I wanted to do was stop time so I could return home. Although I spent a wonderful day at my sister's house, helping her prepare our own thanksgiving dinner, I couldn’t shake those feelings of loneliness, homesickness, and sadness.

When I returned to my residence later that Sunday the feelings of loneliness and homesickness and sadness still with me, I walked past the open door of a neighbor of mine. This neighbor was a third year student, a lacrosse player, and reminded me of someone back home, someone I had met the summer before I left who had had a greater impression on me than I realized at the time. Still eager to not be alone to think about the family I was missing back home, I stopped to talk to this neighbor. I seated myself on the desk in his room and the two of us talked and the hours ticked away. As the night progressed his desk became increasingly uncomfortable and I found myself seated on his bed. I did not walk into his room that night with any intention of what would follow, but alone and sad and vulnerable, with every defense and border I possessed down, I fell. I fell to the words and touch of someone I barely knew, all I knew was that in that moment I wanted closeness, I didn’t want to feel alone and so every word he spoke, I believed, and my resolves fell completely and I found myself kissing him. Kissing him so that all those feelings of loneliness and sadness would disappear, as if kissing him was the only way that I could prove that I was desirable, that I was worth something, that someone out there wanted me, that if I did this I could finally believe myself to be beautiful. But as everything unfolded, two voices echoed through my head. One that said "get up, walk out. It's okay" and the other that said: "No, stay. You wanted this." I listened to that second voice and stayed there in his room until quarter to five that morning when returned to my own room, climbed into bed and fell asleep.

When I awoke the next morning after only about four hours of sleep I got up and washed my face, brushed my teeth, and tried to fight the giant knot that seemed to have formed in my stomach while I slept. But I couldn't fight it, I felt like I was going to throw up, but that was not the only thing I felt. I felt cheap, I felt used, I felt ashamed, I felt disgusted with myself, and although I had spent the entire day before trying to fight it I once again felt alone, forgotten, and lost. The entire thanksgiving Monday was, for the most part, dedicated to me trying to figure out what had happened the night before. In all honesty, I had no idea how I felt about this guy, but I did know that it had felt good to have someone there, to feel like someone had taken notice of me. So I spent my free time trying to figure out how I felt. But as I tried to figure it out, I also got to watch as this guy began to pursue another girl. I saw them together all the time, he was always in her room or she was in his, I could hear them laughing and talking. He ignored me, avoided me, and I felt worthless. Maybe I didn't know how I felt about him but the pain of being tossed aside is a pain I wish on no one. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know if I should talk to him, yell at him, or retreat back and pretend that watching the two of them together didn’t bother me. What I did know was that I no longer wanted to feel worthless, and cheap, and unwanted, and unloved. I was drowning in an ocean of pain and anger and misery, so I cried out to God. And he answered me.

It was a late night, several weeks after thanksgiving and I could hear the laughter of two people coming from his room. I wanted to shut out the world and never leave my room again until all the feelings of pain and worthlessness had passed, when my phone buzzed. Having a horrible time remembering the little things I should do every day I had set a reminder on my phone to go off every day at ten thirty telling me to check my school email. This little buzz on my phone was normally something I ignored, particularly when I was feeling as awful as I did in that moment. But on that night, at that moment, I didn't ignore that buzz my phone made. Instead, I sat down at my desk and checked my school email. As I scrolled through emails about student services and library hours, one email stood out at the top of my list. It was from my English professor: the results of I project I had handed in were ready. I opened the file and read the comments of my professor. Writing and spelling has never been something that has been easy for me, in fact it has been something I have struggled with my entire life often doubting that I would ever achieve those perfect marks everyone around me seemed to achieve with such ease. Yet in the comments from my professor he told me "you have a gift for good writing".

In that moment, when I was so close to hitting rock bottom, God’s arms reached down into the ocean of my anger, pain, misery, and hurt, and pulled me up, and reminded me that I can ask for no greater love than His. At a time when I felt used and cheap and unwanted, God showed his love, and that with Him by my side, I have the great ability to do and be anything, His love guided me to peace and comfort that night. He showed me that I have the ability to be so much more than I think I do. While this one moment did not make me completely free from pain, it did make me realize without a doubt that I needed to let go, that holding onto someone is often just holding onto the pain as well. Don't let the anger you feel about this consume you, if you do you will never truly be free. Trust that God's unfailing love is strong enough to bring you peace and comfort; with him you never face anything alone. He knows it hurts He is there beside you, but he is stronger than you. Cast your fears and anxieties on Him, He is strong enough to bare them. You are not defined by that one action alone but rather by all other things you have done. Learn from it, accept it, cast your worries from it onto God, call on Him for help and He will answer. God hears all your cries, He is always with you even when you feel alone. He hears the things you feel you can tell no one else, He knows your pain, and helps you bare it. "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." Psalm 103:12.

These were not the only challenges I faced during my first year. There were countless other storms and heartaches, tears and cries for help. But every single one of them was answered, and answered in such a way that I could feel the presence of the Lord. It is easy to forget that God is with you, especially when the storms are big. But as the sun is always shining above those heavy rain clouds, God is always shining into your life, and He has amazing plans for you. So, as when you are gripped by fear and sadness, and when your life is turned upside down by a storm you do not understand, take a minute, breath, think, trust, know, and pray, because they are all part of God's plan.