Saturday, December 31, 2011

A New Year, A New You.

Holy cow...can't even believe that tomorrow is the beginning of a new year! I don't know about you, but I can't wait for 2012!!! There's something about a fresh start that just makes you feel happy inside. It’s almost like buying a brand new pair of shoes or getting a haircut (at least for girl anyways- haircuts for boys are just kind of awkward for the first few days), but it just makes you feel…NEW. Like you’re being given the chance to be a totally different person than you were before.

Looking back on 2011, there were a lot of great things that happened. I turned 21, which was pretty monumental. And for all of you who are still confused on this (again - thanks Thomas Fraser for changing my birthday on Facebook) my actual birthday is in February, not December. But something about being 21 just makes you feel a lot older, like you’re finally a real adult. I can’t believe that in less than 2 months from now I’ll be turning 22! It’s crazy how fast the time flies. 

Another great thing about 2011 was spring break. Sheesh….if you’ve never heard the PCB SB 11’ story, feel free to ask me about it anytime! It’s sure to make you laugh. But long story short, I ended up not staying in Panama City but in Seagrove, FL with 6 girls who I love SO very much and had the week of my life with. It was so so fun!! Log – if you’re reading this right now, all I just have to say “Happy St. Patrisssss Day!”

We survived PCB SB 11' - Happy St. Patrissss Day!

 The best 2011 memories for me though, were made in the months of May and June when I got to take my high school friends to a Young Life camp called Frontier Ranch in Colorado for a week. There are really no words to capture all that happened while we were there. Frontier holds a special place in my heart since it’s where my Young Life leader, Christine, took me when I was a junior in high school – the same age my girls at CAK are now - and I truly found Jesus for the first time. I had so much fun just being with my girls 24/7 at camp and really getting to know their hearts. The Lord worked in deep ways while we were at Frontier, and I know that He is still continuing to work in the lives of my high school friends. I’m really hoping they will all get to go back again this year, plus a few more.

My partner in crime at camp. She's the best! Love you Britt.

Love love love.

2011 was also wonderful because I got to see one of my best friends and roommates, Abby, get married to her best friend, Andy. If I’ve ever seen two people made for each other, it’s them. They fit together and love one another so well, and being a part of their special day was beautiful.

Abby and Andy have been married OVER 1/2 a year now! Whoop whoop.

Speaking of best friends, I’m so thankful I get to live with 4 of mine. I know I’ve said this before, but my roommates stinkin’ rock. Seriously, if you lived with them you’d see exactly what I mean. But lately I’ve just been so thankful for each one of them and have realized what a blessing it is to have such godly, amazing, and absolutely fantastic girls living in the same house as me and pouring into my life daily. God has been so faithful and evident through them and through the friendships he has blessed us with.
Roomies for life.

I’m sure there are lots of other things I’ll remember later that were great about this year and want to add to this list, but these were just a few that popped into my head this very minute.

And since it just happened, Christmas this year is worth mentioning since it was a really sweet time with family. We normally go to South Carolina for the holidays (to an itty bitty town called Blythewood where my mom’s entire side of the family lives and there are tons of relatives and it’s loud, and crazy, and fun) but we stayed in Knoxville this year, which is something I actually really loved doing. And while it was a really small, different type of Christmas (just my mom, dad, Aunt Carol, and me), it was exactly what I needed. This year, I don’t know how it happened, but instead of feeling most thankful on Thanksgiving, it happened to me on Christmas. Christmas day was a roller coaster of emotions for me (just ask Mom – I think I cried about 3 different times),  and I don’t know how to explain what I was feeling, other than I was just so overwhelmed and thankful for everything in my life. The good and the bad. The expected and the unexpected. The what has been and what is yet to come. And just everything in between. This Christmas was the first time I think I truly embraced the fact that Jesus was born for ME, became human for ME, suffered for ME, dealt with all of this sin for ME, and died for ME. How undeserving I am of all that He’s done for me, yet He still chose to do it. How thankful I feel that He still loves me, even though I mess up time and time again. 

These are the ones I'm so thankful for a lot of the time. Love them to pieces.
The past few days of 2011 have been reallllll nice. I’ve enjoyed spending them crafting, shopping, working (while I complain about work sometimes, I really do love it), and hanging out with sweet friends. The next to last night of this year couldn’t have been any better playing rummy, winning $40 from a dare, and playing a game of baby, backpack, bunkbed with only 6 people (Shout out to my b.b.b. crew: Lil’ Neezy, Bang Bang, GB, RobBob, and Texas.) 

And the best part of 2012 beginning is that hopefully this time next week, I will be in my absolute favorite location in the entire world, Windy Gap, with my best friend, Delaney, taking our Young Life leader in high school’s girls to camp. What a privilege that will be. I absolutely CANNOT wait!! Also, I find out about Teach For America in two weeks!! Eeeek!!

So here’s to you 2012!!! I can’t wait to see what God has in store this year.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Under the Mistletoe

Woooooo baby!! Finally.....IT'S CHRISTMAS BREAKKKKKKK!!!! I am SO thankful this semester is OVER. Done. Finito. Finished. Classes were so stinkin hard, but somehow I survived them all and passed them all. PTL!!

And even though we're done with school for a month, that doesn't mean I still don't plan on being real a good way. I have high expectation for this winter break! So far these are some things on my do-do list:

Go to a Chick-Fil-A grand opening * become a photographer (hopefully with the new camera I get for Christmas. Please, Santa, be good to me!) * cut up all my notes/study guides/old tests and hang them from the ceiling in snowflake form * spend time reading a non-related school book by the fire at my parents house * make ornaments for our "Nicole sized" Christmas tree * go on a road trip * hang out with Christine * do lots of crafts from Pintrest * watch as many Christmas movies as possible (about 2 a day was our record last year...let's keep the tradition going this year Chelc) * study for the GRE * hopefully become a teacher (keeping my fingers crossed I'll find out I get to be with sweet little Hawaiian babies this time next year!) * listen to Justin Bieber's Christmas CD A LOT *make coffee every morning * bake sweet treats * spend time with my high school friends * go to Windy Gap...holllla * get my 1st New Years Eve kiss (why not? I can dream big...) * acquire a husky puppy (dreamin' even bigger here) * make a gingerbread house * have weekly overnights with my Young Life team * spend time with my CAK loves * travel somewhere awesome (Like San Diego again) * go snowboarding* watch OTH, The O.C., and FNL * perfect a hot chocolate recipe * build multiple forts throughout the house * play in the snow (I think the phrase "blizzard of 2012" just sounds right) * go caroling and Christmas light looking * have game nights * leave a gift on someone random's front porch * have a bonfire * take naps * wear ridiculous holiday sweaters and wool socks * and find some mistletoe for Red Saile. :)

Just in case you needed a visual for a few of these, here ya go!

This happened last winter break at Red Saile! Notes turned snowflakes = brilliant!

Wish we could take another trip to see Tyler in San Diego this month!

I miss these two more than they know. And can't wait to be reunited with them when they come back to Knoxville over break.

Us Red Saile girls went to Sugar last Christmas (Abby and Laura are missing in this pic). It was super fun snowboarding for the first time! You should ask Laura Leatherwood about it :)

This was wintertime in high school at Young Life club. We had the best Farragut YL leader ever! Actually YL leader period. Love you, Stine.

New Year's 2012.

While this picture doesn't scream Christmas, it's the only one I had of pretty much all the girls. They may not know it, but they have my whole heart. I love them to pieces.

This was Christmas two years ago in Gateway. Clearly, we loved laughing with each other.

These are my best friends. They are legit the most wonderful people I know. I'm thankful for them everyday. (Strid...we miss you bud!)

You're welcome for this jem. You can thank Katie Cafferky.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Well done.

I couldn’t sleep tonight…not until I blogged about this:

As Chelcie and I sat at Panera “attempting” to study for finals yesterday morning, an older man walked in from what looked like off the streets, and standing just a few feet away from the table at which we were located, began speaking to everyone in the room. He said something along these lines: “Excuse me everyone…I know it’s the holiday season and you all are probably pressed for money right now, but I just walked a really long way from the hospital. And the thing is, I have no money. But I need to catch the bus because this morning I walked all the way from Campbell Station. And I’m also really hungry. So if anyone could help me out, I’d be so grateful. Really grateful. Is anyone willing to do that?” 

And then….there was silence. People acted as though they didn’t hear him. As if he wasn’t standing there at all. They just went along doing whatever they had previously been doing. Eating their breakfasts, reading the morning paper, enjoying their warm cups of coffee, talking to the person sitting across the table from them. And maybe some of them didn’t. Hear him, that is. Maybe they were so caught up in their everyday lives that they were oblivious to this man standing right there in front of them...

But I did. I heard him. I didn’t catch every word he said. But I heard enough to know his circumstances. I picked up on every other word to know that this man needed help. Someone’s help. Anyone’s help. And guess what my response was?

Absolutely. Nothing. I became just another person in the room. Just another individual engrossed in my own world. I pretended like I didn’t even hear him and just went back to studying. And looking back on it right now, I’m really ashamed of that fact.

In that moment, I was scared of what others might think of me if I responded to him. I questioned that what I had to offer him might not be good enough. I was skeptical that he would use the money I could give him for something other than food, like drugs or alcohol. I was afraid to step out of my own little box for just a second because I knew it meant I would be put at risk for experiencing uncomfortable

And why is that? That we are so afraid of being put in a place of uncomfortable sometimes. And how is it so easy for us to know what the right thing to do is in a situation, yet still not do it? I knew this man’s circumstances demanded a response from me, but in that moment it was just too…uncomfortable.

Thankfully, there was a boy sitting behind us who wasn’t like everyone else, afraid to face the uncomfortable. He silently got up, went over to the bakery, and bought the man a bagel. He didn’t cause a scene. In fact, I don’t think they even spoke to one another except for the older man saying “Thank you” as he was walked out the door. The boy quietly sat back down and continued studying like nothing had happened. Like he hadn’t just completely changed that man’s circumstances.

A couple of summers ago, Chelc and I read this book. It’s a WONDERFUL book called Under the Overpass, written by Mike Yankoski. You can check Chelcie’s blog here to find out more about it. I can’t stress enough how badly you should read it if you haven’t yet. It will ROCK. YOUR. WORLD. But basically, it’s a book about these two friends, Mike and Sam, who become homeless for several months because they want to see if their beliefs and faith had been shaped around the circumstances they’ve had their entire lives (living in the secure, upper-middle class environment). It’s a book that changed my whole perception on what loving “the least of these” looks like…Or at least I thought it did. Yesterday wasn’t a very good demonstration of that though. I think it’s time to read it again.

I want need to start living out my faith more. In everyday life. I want to get uncomfortable. Because I think we, as Christians, aren’t being called to a place of comfort all the time.  I think a lot of people are confused about that. We, as believers, are called to serve wherever and whenever the Lord tells us to. Whether it’s something we’re ready and comfortable with or not. 

I wish more than anything I could rewind yesterday. I wish I could have lived out my faith the way that boy did. I don't know his name. I wish I had found that out before he left, because I feel like I could have learned a thing or two from him and we would have been friends. I don't know anything about him really. Except that he gave someone who needed it a bagel. But Jesus does. He knows him by name. And I would like to think that yesterday as that boy was leaving Panera, a dollar poorer yet at the same time so much richer because of what he had just done, Jesus whispered in his ear, "Well done, My Beloved. Well done."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Maybe I'll Teach!!!

I am currently sitting at Panera. It’s 5:30 p.m. And I’m pretty sure that if given the opportunity, I could fall asleep sitting up and not wake up until about Sunday. The past few days have been SO exhausting, maybe a little stressful, but SO great!

Here’s a quick re-cap for you:

Monday: Mondays are always great days! While most of the time I’m not prepared when they roll around, I think Mondays are sometimes the days I most look forward to because Mondays mean 3 things: Small Group, Young Life, and time with some of my most favorite people, my Young Life team. This particular Monday I woke up, went to class (PTL I’m done with Kinesiology 480 - it sucked), went to CFA for free chicken sandwiches for lunch (Again, Happy Birthday Todd!! and thanks for the freebie), came back to Red Saile, and finished preparing for the Young Life talk I would be giving that night. Thanks to my awesome roommate Chelcie for helping me organize it/and giving me ho-hum ideas/ and telling me the ending story/ and basically writing it for me. I owe you one!

I gave the cross talk at club. And it wasn’t easy. At all. But that’s what I felt Jesus called me to talk about Monday night. And let’s just say the mood in the room wasn’t light when it was over. But I think that’s okay, because sometimes I feel like we need to be left in hard place to truly soak in what Christ did for us on the cross. Because it was anything but easy. 

After club, my team went to McDonald’s. Yes, that’s right. To the golden arches we drove. Sonic is our normal spot, but since it was practically snowing outside, we decided to venture somewhere that was a little more cozy to hang out. (Sidenote: I was SO excited that Delaney was at club Monday night! She hadn’t been here for a while due to mono. Boo! But Lane - we missed you at McDonald’s, but I’m SO happy you’re starting to feel better and can get out of the house now). So sitting in a big booth all cuddled up together, we drank our hot chocolates and mochas, ate our "holiday pies", laughed a lot, and enjoyed being together. I love my team. SO very much. And they are so good at loving me so well. 

After club, it was a late night because I had to prepare a lesson plan for Teach For America. For those of you who don't know...Teach For America is a 2 year program that sends teachers to inner-city schools in hopes of making an impact on kids lives and helping to correct the problem of this achievement gap we are experiencing in the United States today. Honestly, when I first applied to Teach For America, I wasn't even sure that it was something I would ever consider doing. I had never thought about being a teacher before applying, but the more I learned about their program and once I realized that I would possibly a. be given the opportunity to work with children (I'm talking like toddlers - age 3 or 4) all day and b. be given the opportunity to forever change their lives for the better, I said "Sign me up!" I know it won't be easy, but I'm ready to face the challenge...

So Tuesday : I woke up bright and early, as in 6:30, and planned my lesson plan some more. I wanted to get to campus as early as possible, to get the closest parking spot possible, since I was in high heels. You're welcome to all those people I saw walking to my interview looking absolutely ridiculous. Seriously, I legit need to practice walking in those things... I don't know how people do it. Thankfully, once I got to the interview room, there was minimal walking required.We began the day by introducing ourselves to everyone else and getting to know one another. There were 7 other applicants that interviewed with me, all of which seemed so great. I genuinely enjoyed listening to and participating in their lesson plans, and think Teach For America would be lucky to get all of them as future teachers. During the later half of the day, personal interviews were held. I got to talk a lot about ministry in Young Life, and brag on my girls, which was really cool. 

We shall see if it works out! Either way I will be happy. But if it does, I know it's a total God thing. Because never in a million years would I have thought that this is what I would be considering doing with my future. 

So thanks God, whatever you have planned for me! I know it will be great :)

Here are a few pictures to leave you with :

This is my crazy, fun, wonderful, ice cream covered team. Minus one. Olivia, I dunno where the heck you were?!?

Here we are a little cleaner. Love them with my whole heart and soul.

These are my roomies! I've been SO thankful for them lately. They really are SO great.

These are the two best women in my life, my Grandmom and Mom.

This is my family. We are REALLY weird. But I wouldn't have it any other way!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

And so it begins...

I've always wanted to start a blog. But until now, I guess I never really thought I'd have time for one. Actually, let's be real. I still don't have time for one, and it's pretty ironic that of all the times to start blogging, I would pick the busiest two weeks of the year. The time when everyone is stressed out and cramming for finals, and turning in their last projects, and writing ridiculously long papers, and completing their portfolios. But hey, everyone needs a little distraction during finals in some form or fashion, don't ya think?

Okay, if we're being really real, maybe I've never actually started a blog in fear that no one would read it. And why should they (or I guess I should say why should YOU, since you are reading this right now)? There's nothing extraordinary about me. I'm just a simple girl, trying to figure out life like everyone else.

But... I've decided to do it anyway. Not really for anyone else's pleasure but my own, although I will be happy if people really do want to read it. (That being said, this is your warning: there will be NO filter on this blog. Sorry I'm not sorry!). And because it's a great distraction for me from studying (I hate studying). And because just maybe, I may want to have this someday to reminisce; to look back on in a few years and say "Wow! So much has changed since then."

And that's exactly where I am right now. In a place of change. And I can't say that I love it. Actually to say that I even like it would be a little far fetched. 

Change is hard for me. And scary. And very REAL. Maybe that's because I'm a feeler, maybe to a fault. Mom has always said that I wear my heart on my sleeve. Nonetheless, whether I'm more emotional about change than others, there's been a lot of it going on recently in my life. And I can't say that I've loved it all. But I've come to find that sometimes, even though it's rough in the beginning, it isn't always as bad as we think it's going to be.

The fact that I am a senior in college, getting ready to finish up my next to last semester, gives me a lump in my throat. It literally makes me feel queasy. Partly because it's gone by SO fast, and  partly because I have absolutely NO idea what my plan is after college.

A few months ago, if you had asked me what I was doing after graduation, I could have spit it out like reciting the pledge of allegiance in homeroom during elementary school. I could have told you what graduate school I was going to be attending next fall, I could have told you what people were still going to be a part of my life, and I could have told you who I was going to spend my future with.

But things don't always turn out the way you think they're going to. Sometimes change comes along and catches you at the least expecting of times. Your whole world is flipped upside down. Things happen. People change. Or don't change. Plans don't materialize. Some dreams die. And others are born. Something else comes along. And you're wondering how you got to the place where you currently are because it all happened so fast.

And I've come to find in these past few weeks that that's the beauty of it all. The beauty of God being in control. Of Him having a plan. A plan greater than my own ever was, or ever could be. Thank goodness for that.

I don't have it all figured out. Not at all. I'll be the first to admit that. But what I have figured out is that trusting Jesus is in complete control of my life instead of worrying about what comes next, and letting go of the fear of change because it's not part of MY plan, is the most freeing thing of all.

Lately, I've been clinging to this verse. It's a verse that's gotten me through the roughest of days. But I've been practicing it. Constantly. Wholeheartedly. Every day.

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that My Joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete."
-John 15: 9-11

And I've found, amidst the change, the change that's so scary and hard and real, that to Remain in His Love is ALL I need to get me through.