Tag Archive | UCF

Guest Post: Demons

Sometimes my 18-year-old son, Nathan, surprises me. He balks at traditional education and procrastinates writing for his classes. Then he shows me poetic masterpieces that absolutely blow my mind. The first one that captured me was composed several years ago for a class project. It was about Yellowstone National Park. It’s still one of the best things I’ve read. I’m keeping it forever. Maybe someday I’ll share it here.

He handed me the following yesterday and gave me permission to share it with you. Enjoy.

shadowy figure

Midnight comes and midnight goes

He tries to go to sleep but his eyes won’t close

His mind is in turmoil as he tosses and he turns,

He longs for some release but the nightmare returns

No peace can he find in the comfort of his bed

For no comfort can drown out the war zone in his head

He tries to cry out but his mouth won’t open

Desperately he searches for something to put his hope in

He’s drowning in the tears that are streaming from his open eyes

Screaming as his demons escape and start to terrorize

He knows that alone he is too weak to defeat this

Too weak to beat the demons with nothing but his clenched fists

So with pulsating veins and eyes turned upwards

He tries to find the strength to formulate enough words

To call upon the only one who is strong enough to save him

The one whose power is enough to cause the mountains of fear to cave in

And in the suffocating darkness he gasps and he wheezes

His dry throat only able to choke out one word: Jesus!

Now it’s the demons who scream and run away to hide

And he’s filled with such warmth and peace inside

Cause the one who conquered death is there to guard his rest

And the weight of all his fear is no longer on his chest

Now midnight comes and midnight goes

But his mind is finally at peace… and his tired eyes close.

Version 2

Nathan Reeves is a senior at Colonial High School in Orlando, Fla., where he is a student in the Cambridge Program. In the fall he will be attending the University of Central Florida, Burnett Honors College. 

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Freshman Lessons

ucfOn the brink of his first day of sophomore year, I asked my eldest what he would tell someone just entering college. Here’s what he said: Get a longboard and study harder than you did in high school.

That was it.

I would have wanted something like:

  • Always listen to your parents because they know way more than you give them credit for.
  • If you don’t know time management yet, learn it quickly because you’re going to need it.
  • Get enough sleep!

Th0se are some things that I would have said, anyway. But that’s not what I got. And that’s fine. I’ll give you, then, just a few things I would tell a person just entering college.IMG_0531

  • This is your time to do things yourself. You need to make the phone calls or send the emails to professors or financial aid offices or academic advisors. Trust that there are people around you who know a lot more than you do about college and your major, and their job is to help you. Don’t let opportunities to pick their brains pass you by. You have to take the initiative. Mom and Dad aren’t (or shouldn’t) be doing it for you.
  • College costs a lot of money, so even if you’re on a full-ride scholarship, you need to make it your priority. Believe it or not, you’re not in college to just make friends and have a good time. You’re actually there to learn things that might help you in a future career. The “study more than you did in high school” advice that my son wanted to give is good. Don’t blow off classes. Get a good assignment reminder app and USE IT. Zeroes will suck the life out of your grade. Don’t miss turning things in.
  • Just because you pick a major early on doesn’t mean you have to keep it. If you get into your studies and determine that you actually find the subject boring or just not what you thought it would be, it’s not too late to change. Maybe the last semester of your senior year is too late to change. Or maybe even your junior year is pushing it pretty far, but freshman and sophomore years are good times to really try and determine what you want to do. Don’t live someone else’s expectations for you. Figure out what it is YOU really want to do.

IMG_5024Do I wish my son had done some things differently? Yes. He thought he could breeze through and, as a result, he lost his scholarship. And he can’t get it back. But he’s not out drinking, doing drugs, sleeping with his girlfriend. He has a good job and a vehicle he’s responsible for. He’s respectful and doesn’t get into trouble. He learned his lesson: study harder than you did in high school. I expect that this semester will go a lot better than his previous ones.

As for the longboard: be careful of uneven pavement.

When Dreams Die

cloud-tearsAs parents, we are told to never push our dreams on our children. If we didn’t make the swim team, we are not supposed to force our kids to swim. If we always wanted to be a rock star, we are urged not to hand a guitar to our kids and order them to play. I get that. We didn’t do that. No matter how much I love baseball, I didn’t make my boys continue to play when they didn’t want to.

But no one told us what to do when our kids’ dreams change.

For 4 years our eldest lived and breathed JROTC. He rocked the uniform; he earned the promotions; he participated in the competitions; he won the awards. We emotionally invested ourselves in the dream he expressed of flying in the Air Force. We spent countless hours coaching him through his application to the Air Force Academy. We made sure that we were checking in along the way, ensuring this is what he wanted to do. When the Academy didn’t pan out, we wholeheartedly threw our support behind his entrance into UCF’s Air Force ROTC program. We bought the Air Force T-shirts and put the bumper sticker on our car. His dream became ours.

Then, one day a few weeks ago, he told us he didn’t want to do that anymore.

Wait. What?

He had decided he wanted to drop out of his college ROTC program and change his major. Now, for a freshman just halfway through his first semester, changing his mind on a major is not a big thing. But what happened to the dream?

I felt like I had whiplash. What was I supposed to do now? I had the bumper sticker, for crying out loud!

OK, step back. Take a deep breath. Here are 3 things to do when their dream changes and your dream dies.

1. Assure them that you will support them whatever they decide. Of course, my younger son then informed us that he was moving out tomorrow and heading to “Hungaria” and joining the circus. Seriously, though, Justin needs to know that it’s OK to explore options, as long as he’s doing it for the right reasons. Is he changing for fear that he won’t succeed at what he wanted to do?

2. Give yourself room to grieve the dream, and let them in on the process. I shared with both my sons how I was feeling about this change, and that, in the process, I would be asking questions more for my own sake than for his. (That’s the conversation where the circus came up. Thanks for keeping things light, Son.)

3. Ask them how you can help. With a change of major, even in freshman year, came the need for a conversation with a new advisor in the new college of study. All this had to happen fairly quickly so he could register for his next semester. My question to him was, “What would you like me to do for you?” He asked me to research a couple of things for him relating to what he was considering pursuing next. I can do that. And I can pray. Pray for him and for us as we try to refocus.

I really don’t care what he does. I honestly don’t. He can be a garbage collector (though that might not be the best use of a college education), as long as he is listening to the Lord and doing what He wants him to do.

Getting a bumper sticker off the car is another issue.

image from sourceseekers.com

The Freshman Edition

ucfOur first act as the parents of a college student was to attend orientation with our son. Here are a few things that I took away from our 2-day adventure at the University of Central Florida.

1. They separated the parents and the students for a reason. My son needed to receive all the information for himself. If he had questions, he needed to know where to go to find the answers. He’s a smart guy; he can figure things out.

2. Our role is changing from parenting to coaching. I’m fairly certain this is going to be the hardest part for me. How do you take something you’ve done for 18 years, and just stop doing it? Granted, I’ve tried to back off a lot this last year, but the hard, cold fact is, I like to be in control. Letting him navigate his own way is essential. We’re always here if he wants to ask us anything, but I need to let him come to me. There are benefits to him living at home, of course, but the downside is that he’ll still be around for me to know what’s going on. I will have to learn extraordinary self control to not fall into my old habits.

3. We still have a lot to learn, both about ourselves and about our son. How will I react if he doesn’t receive the waiver he orientationneeds from the Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board that will allow him to continue his ROTC and hopefully Air Force officer career? What will I do if he fails an exam or even, heaven forbid, a class? How do I keep the lines of communication without being smothering? What subjects are off limits for me to approach?

Overall, I’m more excited for this next year than anything. I’m excited for the experiences my son will have, for the people he will meet, for the connections he will make. I’m glad he’s going to be close by so that I don’t have to miss him. It’s a new and exciting stage that I’m sure won’t be without its challenges, but I know will be significant in his life.

Stay tuned to That Senior Year for more of what I glean from this freshman year.

What advice do you have for us as new college parents? I’d love to hear from you.