Who better than a recent graduate to help you navigate your life ahead? With encouragement and advice, fifty young women and men share what they learned the hard way so you can better prepare for the same challenges. From "Money Isn't Everything" to "Real Friendships Take Effort," these short, but insightful essays address the real struggles, opportunities, and fears that you might face as you start out on your own. Additionally, five or more practical tips related to each lesson will encourage and equip you on your chosen path.
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About the Author
Janet Holm McHenry is a national speaker and author of nineteen books. Janet has been awarded the Writer of the Year Award at the Mt Hermon Christian Writer's Conference, Soroptimist Club's Teacher of the Year, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association Member of the Year Award. A recently retired high school English teacher and academic advisor, she and her husband have raised four adult children in the Sierra Valley in Northeast California where she has twenty years of experience guiding her school's graduates and their parents toward successful, godly lives.
Read an Excerpt
LIFE LESSON 1
Friendships are worth pursuing.
Annie Maddalena Tipton
I cannot count how many times in my life I missed an opportunity to make a simple gesture of kindness. When a friend was suffering from a loss or feeling down, I would think I should call him/her or send a card. But typically, I would get caught up in the activities of my busy life, and time would pass by, resulting in a missed opportunity. I would justify it by telling myself that it didn't really matter if she or he heard from me — I couldn't make a difference.
Eventually, I lost touch with some of those friends but later realized that there was a void in my life — I really missed them! So I made a conscious decision to change this. I started sending not only birthday cards but also encouragement, get well, sympathy, and thinking-of-you cards. I also picked up the phone and called friends and family.
After a few short weeks, I couldn't believe the difference. Just through small acts of kindness and effort, my relationships with those around me became much more meaningful. Because I took time to reestablish or increase my contact with these people, they realized that I truly valued our friendship. To this day, I jump on the opportunity to let a friend know she or he is in my thoughts and prayers, because to someone feeling disheartened or alone, this could make a real difference.
Annie Tipton has degrees in agricultural business and liberal studies from California State University, Chico. She is an elementary school teacher.
GOD'S LIFE LESSON
Do not forsake your friend. PROVERBS 27:10 5
LIVING THE LESSON
Write thank-you notes for your graduation gifts and add a special note about how that person has helped or encouraged you.
Write thank-you notes to educators and others who have guided you in recent years.
Several times a year, send a handwritten note to someone just to tell that person why he or she is special to you.
Do more than say "Happy birthday!" on Facebook to those closest to you. Send a real card through snail mail.
When you hear that something good has happened in someone's life, send a simple note of congratulations. It will mean a lot.
Send sympathy cards to those going through loss — they will read them over and over as they need strength for the days ahead.
LIFE LESSON 2
Money isn't everything.
Around the time I graduated college, I was working as a meteorologist at a flight tower in San Jose, a job that paid me handsomely but wasn't fulfilling. My coworkers were great, but the desk job wasn't what I had pictured — it was much more reminiscent of the characters in Twister than those from The Office. While I was updating my resume, I stumbled upon a website for the Mount Washington Observatory, a remote summit station that has some of the lowest temperatures and highest wind ever recorded. An unpaid internship was available for a few months — with no certainty of a paid position. After much thought and prayer, I made the leap and transported myself three thousand miles away from my comfort zone in California to New Hampshire.
While life was challenging during that unpaid internship, a full-time meteorologist position soon opened up. Even still, the income would be only half of what I had been earning at the airport. Practically speaking, it seemed to be a huge leap backward for my career, but God made it clear that He would provide for all my needs. Now I am working my dream job — doing research for a private, nonprofit, scientific and educational institution whose mission is to advance understanding of the natural systems that create the earth's weather and climate. It's one of those jobs that makes you want to go to work, that makes you happy inside and out. Even today, while I might be making less than half of what I used to make, I'm doing something that is twice as enjoyable.
Ryan Knapp has a BS in meteorology from California State University, San Jose. He is a meteorologist, researcher, and weather observer.
GOD'S LIFE LESSON
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. PHILIPPIANS 4:19
LIVING THE LESSON
Take one week this summer to job shadow several different occupations that interest you to see what the work is really like.
Focus more on being a giver rather than a taker at your job. You'll find that your work takes on more meaning as you dial in to what others need instead of focusing on your own takeaway.
Even if a job isn't particularly rewarding, do your best; it could lead to a new position that would better suit you.
Study the mission of the company. If you believe in an organization's mission, you will find your work makes a difference, even if your daily tasks aren't so exciting.
Volunteer for a local charity. People who are less fortunate will appreciate your help, and perhaps you will find an important life purpose.
LIFE LESSON 3
Waiting can bring unexpected blessings.
Sarah Cheek Buckner
I have learned many important lessons since graduating high school, but the most important is that the happily-ever-after movie ending doesn't always happen as you think it should. Life does not always turn out as planned, so it's important to remain flexible to God's direction. Wonderful life experiences can happen while you're waiting for the right job or right marriage partner.
When I was in high school, my life plan involved going to college and then finding my happily-ever-after, which was getting married and having a family. Period. My actual path started out in that direction, because I did obtain my college degree, but I waited more than ten years for the happily-ever-after part.
I didn't sit idle for those ten years after college graduation, though. To help process my singleness, I started what became a popular blog that quickly amassed thousands of followers, some of whom became friends who encouraged me. My career changed during this time, too. I began with a rewarding job teaching high school history students. Eventually, I returned to college to do graduate work, and now I counsel high school students with their academic goals.
I know that the ten years I waited to meet my future husband were crucial so that I would get to know him at the right point in his life. While I will probably always be a planner and a scheduler, I have learned to be open to God's timing.
Like me, you might find that God's plans don't completely align with yours. While you wait, I encourage you to find ways to live your life in a positive and productive manner.
Sarah Buckner has a degree in sociology from Appalachian State University and another in education from Texas Christian University, as well as a master's degree in counseling from Lamar University. She works as a high school counselor.
GOD'S LIFE LESSON
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." JEREMIAH 29:11
LIVING THE LESSON
Make a list of the qualities you want in a future spouse.
Pray regularly for God's direction for your life.
If you're in a relationship wait mode, take up a hobby that you've always wanted to pursue, such as ceramics or guitar lessons.
Waiting can produce stress, and that can tax your body. Make healthy diet choices and exercise several times a week.
If you're waiting on a job prospect, stay current in the literature of your field. Read well-researched articles and books, so that a future employer can see your dedication to your career.
LIFE LESSON 4
Love is a choice.
Shelia Provoast Hail
Much of what we learn about love as we grow is contradictory. Some say that love never fails. Others say they fell out of love. What I have learned is that, while love is something I feel, it is also a choice. So, if someone says she has fallen out of love, the truth is simply that she chose not to love anymore.
This lesson became real to me when I met my husband, Matt. From the beginning of our relationship when I was a junior in college, we were apart — he in Nashville and I in Oregon. So many uncertainties and even fear built up within me, and not seeing him made matters more difficult. I soon realized I had to learn to trust and choose to love him. I also had to choose to believe and trust that he loved me.
Now that we are married, I understand the truth of that statement even more. I have learned that love is not just "in the air." Every morning, Matt and I wake up to a new day, and we must choose to love and trust each other. Some days are easier than others to feel love, to trust without concern. But when the feelings aren't there, we can still choose to love, to trust, and to receive love from each other. Truthfully, if we relied solely on feelings, we would have "fallen out of love" long ago. By the grace of God, love has been the best choice we've ever made.
Shelia Hail has a degree in communications from George Fox University, works at a clothing boutique. She writes for an online magazine, manages a home decor website, and runs her and her husband's cinematography business.
GOD'S LIFE LESSON
Love never fails. 1 CORINTHIANS 13:8
LIVING THE LESSON
Notice the love choices that married couples make. Thank them for being good examples to you.
Demonstrate love in a tangible way today — even just a sticky note left in the right place.
Actively listen and engage in conversation with that someone you say you love. Put your cell phone away, look at the other person, and respond in a positive, caring manner without critical or judgmental comments.
Defer to the other person's choice of a restaurant or movie selection.
Notice the good work that someone does and compliment him or her for a job well done.
LIFE LESSON 5
Each person has value. Josh Davis
Einstein was quoted as saying, "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." Not only do all people have intrinsic value, they have specific value. I'm smart. I learn quickly. I have many God-given talents. But there are some things I don't do well.
I learned to appreciate others and their abilities through two coworkers, Steve and Joe. Steve was so critical of almost everyone that some made friends with him to avoid being his target. Joe was a mechanic. Steve was always quick to remind Joe where he stood on the ladder, but Joe took it in stride. He'd always smile and say something like, "You're good at what you do; I'm good at what I do." He never bit back or offered Steve the least bit of sourness.
One day, as we were leaving work, Steve's car wouldn't start. Instead of calling Joe and asking him to take a look at it, he took it apart himself, right there in the parking lot. One hour and a completely disassembled alternator later, Steve finally called Joe, who showed up within minutes. He put the alternator back together, reinstalled it, found and fixed the actual problem, shook Steve's hand, and smiled. "Thanks for asking me to help you, Steve," he said. "I enjoy helping my friends." Though the look on Steve's face was priceless, the thing I remember most was seeing the satisfaction in Joe's eyes — not that he had finally pulled one over on Steve, but rather that he was legitimately able to help one of his friends. From then on, Steve did not make fun of Joe's occupation.
This taught me that everyone has value in this world, so we shouldn't make fools of ourselves trying to put others in "their place."
Josh Davis studied pastoral counseling and youth ministry at Grand Canyon University and currently works as a full-time youth pastor at his church.
GOD'S LIFE LESSON
Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. MARK 10:43–44
LIVING THE LESSON
Make it a point this week to thank three people who physically work hard for their living.
Help your family out at home today by doing something without being asked first.
Take interest in your hair stylist by asking him or her sincere questions about his or her background and work.
If you see a homeless person by a fast-food spot, buy him a burger and have a short conversation with him.
Demonstrate respect for wait staff at restaurants by cleaning up your mess at the table and leaving a decent tip.
LIFE LESSON 6
A lot of a little equals a lot. Amanda Church Osburn
Have you ever gotten on the scale and, having gained five pounds, thought, "I really haven't eaten that much this week. Well, there was that party, but I just had a couple hors d'oeuvres ... well, maybe two little egg rolls, one little cheese pastry, a small handful of chips and salsa (you know, a full serving), and probably only six or seven little weenies. Oh, and that croissant ..." A boom chicka BOOM!
There is some good news to this lesson, though: while a lot of a little negatives may equal a huge disaster, a lot of a little good things makes for a great success. After five years of teaching high school English, I put my career on hold to stay at home with my first child. One income couldn't cover all our expenses and leave us with any cushion, so I sold a product out of my home to supplement our income.
Over four short months, I found myself so successful that I was on my way to earning a new car. At first it didn't seem attainable, but as the eighteen-month program arrived at its last month, it finally became real. Then again, so was the humongous sales goal my team had to make in that final month. As fate would have it, 70 percent of my team fell ill, most of my parties cancelled, and I found myself faced with what seemed an insurmountable mountain to climb.
At about two-thirds of the way through the month and about one-quarter of the way to my goal, I called my mentor in tears. Our conversation not only changed the course of my month, but also influenced how I would face uncountable other circumstances in my life. She said: "Amanda, how do you eat an elephant?" Thinking this was some sort of silly joke, I just sat in silence.
Then she said, "One bite at a time. Have faith and ask God to guide you. Listen to all the seemingly silly little ideas, and follow the stirrings. This can still happen."
And you know what? All the small orders I got on the side, all the short phone calls I made, all the silly little ideas I had all came together to one amazing blessing. A lot of a little surely does equal a lot, which in my case was a shiny new Pontiac G6 hardtop convertible.
If you're facing what seems an insurmountable amount of work, break it down into bite-sized tasks. Do the first thing first, then the next, and so on. Soon you'll be done and have more confidence for the next uphill climb.
Amanda Osburn has a bachelor's degree and teaching credential in English from California State University, Long Beach. She works as a high school English teacher and runs her own photography business.
GOD'S LIFE LESSON
All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. PROVERBS 14:23
LIVING THE LESSON
Do a little something today that will help you on the road to accomplishing a larger task. For example, organize your paperwork into files.
If you are job hunting, complete at least one job application each day this next week.
Set SMART goals for your own personal growth — ones that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound.
When you have a lot to accomplish, write down daily, specific tasks for the next day before going to bed. If they're written down, they won't keep you up at night, and you'll wake up the next day more task driven.
Tell someone you trust what your goals are and how you're going to achieve them. That accountability will keep you more focused.
Excerpted from "50 Life Lessons for Grads"
Copyright © 2017 Janet Holm McHenry.
Excerpted by permission of Worthy Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 Friendships are worth pursuing 3
2 Money isn't everything 7
3 Waiting can bring unexpected blessings 11
4 Love is a choice 15
5 Each person has value 19
6 A lot of a little equals a lot 23
7 Quiet people have a lot to offer the world 27
8 Debt will chain you down 31
9 There is value in understanding your personality 35
10 Respect builds personal bridges 39
11 A life's work should be meaningful 43
12 Success requires perseverance 47
13 Faith is a daily choice 51
14 You can pursue your relationship with God by reading the Bible 55
15 Engaging with others demonstrates your care for them 59
16 You don't have to win every argument 63
17 Tolerance is putting yourself in someone else's shoes 67
18 Confidence is key 71
19 Others' perspectives are valuable for problem solving 75
20 We have much to learn from the elderly 79
21 Real friends speak the truth in love 83
22 Traveling will broaden your outlook 87
23 Life isn't fair 91
24 Be thankful for something every day 95
25 Every day is worth cherishing 99
26 People are more valuable than things 103
27 Asking significant questions can lead to truth 107
28 Change brings opportunities for growth 111
29 You can learn from every person you meet 115
30 Your health is important 119
31 Procrastination only creates more pressure 123
32 Set goals to overcome complacency 127
33 Life's not a competition 131
34 Contentment is more important than happiness 135
35 Integrity means keeping your word 139
36 People-pleasing is hazardous to your identity 143
37 Learning from others is part of education 147
38 Identity is a soul-searching process 151
39 Befriend strangers and newcomers 155
40 The easiest path may not be the best one 159
41 Education is a lifelong process 163
42 You can be a peacemaker 167
43 Doing more than the minimum is rewarding 171
44 Laughter is healthy 175
45 Siblings can be your best friends 179
46 Perfection is overrated 183
47 Giving generously is rewarding 187
48 Interruptions can be opportunities 191
49 Beauty is all around us 195
50 Courage can be summoned 199
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In 50 Life Lessons for Grads, Janet Holm McHenry has compiled (you guessed it!) 50 short reflections from a diverse group of people who themselves are recent graduates. This book combines practical advice and Biblical principles in easy to digest snippets that busy graduates of any age will gain wisdom and insight from. Each life lesson is less than two pages long and closes with a Bible verse and 4-5 bullet point application ideas. This book is practical to the real world while at the same time being spiritually encouraging. As someone who was formerly involved in youth ministry, I wish this book had been around ten years ago! It would make a great gift for a graduate at any level! Disclaimer: I was provided a free copy of this book. All opinions are my own.