Love Better

Yesterday, I went to the grocery store. These bi-monthly trips normally consist of me looking at the grocery list I’ve made on my phone, speed-walking from aisle to aisle, usually missing something and having to backtrack, aggressively checking items off my list, then going to the self-checkout so that I can quickly get on to more important parts of my day. But yesterday was different. I parked, got out of my car, and as I walked toward the HEB doors, rather than looking at the list on my phone, I looked around. Walking out of HEB were two young black women. A bit further away, a black man was walking into the store. For a short moment, I just watched. I watched the women laugh, maybe about a joke one of them told. I watched the man walk into the store, maybe getting food for his family or picking up a quick necessity. I entered the store and proceeded with my grocery list, but I noticed I wasn’t walking with quite as much urgency as usual. I was distracted this time. I couldn’t stop looking at the diversity surrounding me, at all the beautiful colors. And as I watched, I felt three very distinct emotions: love, awe, and shame.

I felt love. An overwhelming, deep sense of love. Everything in me wanted to stop these strangers and tell them just how much I love them. I wanted to tell the black woman and her little baby girl that they are loved. I wanted to tell the Muslim man in the canned goods aisle that he is loved. And I wanted them to know that I, a random white twenty-something in a grocery store, physically ache because of how much I love them.

I felt awe. As I looked at these people, these masterpieces, my constant thought was, Wow. You are so beautiful. The Lord spent time to delicately design each and every one of them, just like he did for me. And I could not wrap my head around how amazing that is, or how thankful I am that each of these people were created just the way they are. I continued looking for my lunch meat and potato chips, pretending to mind my own business, when in reality I was looking at these people in complete and utter awe of their beauty.

And I felt shame. When I passed by those two black women in the parking lot, I felt immediate unspoken tension. I have no way of knowing if the feeling was mutual, but I wouldn’t blame them for feeling uneasy. I was (and am) ashamed of myself and of our world. It was difficult to even look them in the eye. With the recent brutal attacks on the black community, both physical and verbal, at the forefront of everybody’s minds, I passed these people with shocking awareness of my white skin. And I hated it. I hated feeling this divide between us. I hated knowing that these strangers might think I am one of the white people spewing hate towards them. And I absolutely hated that my love for them was not voiced because of the shame I felt.

I got home last night, I sat on my bed, and I cried.

I cried for Alton Sterling. I cried for Philando Castile. I cried for the Dallas Police. I cried for all of their families and friends. I cried for the hundreds killed by ISIS in just the past few days. I cried for the black community. I cried for the ignorance. I cried for the hatred. I cried for our country. I cried for our world.

Why is the world like this? Why is there so much hate? Why is there racism? Why, after all the progress Martin Luther King, Jr. made, the progress our country has made, are we still so stuck? Lord Jesus, help me understand. And help me change it.

I cannot imagine the heartbreak our Lord is experiencing, looking down on his Chosen and seeing their hatred toward each other. This is not what God intended for His people. This is not how human life should be.

I am angry. I am confused. I am baffled. I am tired. I am broken. But I am determined to remain hopeful. There has got to be more to this life than hate. Love DOES win. It always has, and it always will. But we cannot sit back and hope that someone else will love enough to make up for our lack thereof. We need to take responsibility. We need to love RIGHT NOW.

My dear black brothers and sisters – I am so sorry. I am sorry for not speaking out sooner. I am sorry for not being passionate enough about this issue until now. I am sorry for loving with condition. I am sorry for my silence. I cannot even begin to comprehend the pain you all are feeling. But my heart still breaks with yours. And please know that I am with you. I am white, and I am with you. I am a fellow human being, and I am with you.

Friends, we must love better. We must recognize that lives have been lost. We must insist that violence is not the answer. We must support our words of encouragement with our actions. We must begin to see the beauty in every human being. We must speak up and speak out against hate. We MUST love better.

To anybody reading this – black, white, brown, yellow, purple, rainbow, whomever… I love you. Please don’t forget it.

I love you. I love you. I love you.

7 Tips For Soon-To-Be College Grads

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In less than a month I am graduating college. What the heck?! I have no idea where the time has gone. But throughout the past few months as I’ve been preparing myself for graduation, I’ve learned a few things that I thought I would share. I am no pro, by any means. But here are seven ways that I plan to improve my quality of life after I graduate. And if you are like me and have no clue where life is about to take you after graduation, I hope these little tips can help you, too!

1. Remember, you aren’t marrying your first job out of college.
Admittedly, this one has taken awhile for me to wrap my head around. When I first got to college, I thought that in the last four years I was essentially going to figure out the rest of my life. We all know that’s not true in the least. If anything, I’m more confused about “what I want to be when I grow up” now than before. So after graduation, snag a job that has some of the qualities you know you want in any position. Whether it be a fun work environment, a team mentality, a go-getter team of leaders, etc., make sure your employer values those things. And see if the company’s values align with your own. If the job isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in the end, that’s okay. It will most likely take time and experience in many different positions to figure out what we truly feel called to do long term.

2. Create a personal budget.
If you haven’t done this yet, it is a must. There are many budgeting apps and software out there for free that make it easy to see where your money goes. You can see where you need to cut back spending in order to reach savings goals. Budgeting also teaches a huge lesson in discipline. You have to stick to the budget you give yourself monthly for each category, and when that money is gone, no more spending. Learning to stay on top of your budget right out of the gate can save a lot of financial turmoil in the future.

3. Exercise once in awhile.
I’m not talking about training for a marathon (although you could if you really wanted to), but just getting out and being active two or three times a week. Find a sport you really love, play Just Dance on your Wii (my personal favorite), or go on a run. Staying active literally makes you happier because it releases endorphins. Stressful day at work? Go on a twenty-minute jog. Upset about something? Dance your little heart out. Exercising makes you feel better emotionally and physically, especially when you are working 40+ hours a week.

4. Keep a list of daily gratitudes.
Life isn’t fun sometimes, I know. And we are only human. We are allowed to be upset and sad and annoyed sometimes. But even in those moments, it is so important to find things to be thankful for. Start a journal, a note in your phone, write on sticky notes, whatever works for you. Write down at least one thing per day that you are thankful for. Start there and see where it takes you. Life suddenly feels so much happier when you are grateful for it.

5. Stay in touch with your college friends.
College has been a time in our lives where many of us have found a second family in the friends we have made. These are the people that we hope will be in our lives for a long time because they have made such an impact on our last four years. But this will take effort. Give your friends a call once in awhile just to see how they’ve been. Keep the people most important to you close, regardless of distance or difficulty. It’ll be worth it.

6. Make time for you.
This one is huge, and it is vastly underrated. Setting aside time for you is important, and contrary to popular belief, it’s actually not selfish at all. To do your job well, to maintain relationships, and to function as a human being, you need to reenergize often. If you aren’t loving yourself, it is going to be difficult to love other aspects of your life well. Realize that you are worthy and in desperate need of you time, especially when jobs and responsibilities start to become central to our post-grad lives.

7. Realize that you are going to struggle a bit, and that it’s okay.
We are about to get thrown out into the big bad adult world headfirst. None of us have any way of knowing what the future holds. All we can do is try our best and see what happens. We are going to make mistakes, I’m sure of it. But these shortcomings will strengthen us and keep us striving to be better. If you’re anything like me, post-grad life is daunting and slightly terrifying. Failure is inevitable and the unknown is scary. But I take comfort in knowing that no matter what happens, I will grow from experiencing the struggles. And so will you. I’m confident that we’ll figure out this whole “adulting” thing eventually.

Sirens & Lights

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Each time I hear the high-pitched, piercing sound of a siren, my heart sinks. I feel my stomach get tight and I can’t manage a smile for at least a few minutes. I can’t get over the pain and anxiety and fear and sadness that people involved in whatever incident must be feeling. And all I know to do in those moments is pray.

This happened tonight. On my way home from dropping off a package at UPS, I got stuck in stand-still traffic. There were cars backed up for at least a mile. Selfishly, I became antsy and eager to get home so I could get started on homework. But very quickly I remembered that there was a very important reason that we were stopped on the busy main road of 620 in north Austin – there was a wreck. And it was bad. As I inched closer to the flashing blue and red lights, I became aware that the road was completely blocked off, causing all cars to detour through a gas station parking lot and around a back way to get back onto the main road. And I knew that oftentimes when an entire road is blocked off, it means there was a fatality. Or at least something close. I tried not to be a rubbernecker, but curiosity got the best of me when it was almost my turn to exit toward the gas station. I looked to my left, and saw what was left of the collision. Mainly, I saw people trying to gather their things and their thoughts as one car was being towed away and another was still stuck in the middle of the lane. I saw a guy, probably about my age, get his backpack out of that car and begin to make his way toward the side of the road. Meanwhile, two ladies were standing close to each other in the grass, exchanging words and pointed fingers at the scene before them. Among them all were questions and concerns and anxious souls. And just like that, I turned into the parking lot, followed the long line of cars to the back road, and was going the speed limit on my way home before I knew it. All the while, I couldn’t stop thinking about the people. The people involved in the crash, the paramedics, the policemen… All of them were doing their best to work together to get through whatever tragedy had just occurred. I just wanted to give them all hugs and somehow let them know that I didn’t ignorantly drive by, but that I felt for them and was praying for them.

I don’t know how or when, but at some point in my life, that became my immediate reaction to hearing a siren or seeing the red and blue flashes – to pray. Whether I’m in my car stuck in traffic or comfy in my bed and hear the noise through my window, I stop and say a prayer. Even in the lowest lows of my life, the driest spiritual seasons, I always prayed in those moments of silent concern for these strangers. I like to think that it’s because of my human instinct to empathize with people. That, or maybe God pulls a little harder on my heartstrings and urges me to feel for my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

After my brother passed away, empathy is definitely something I’ve become better at. Seeing those people in the middle of the road tonight, lost and confused, not knowing what to do next… It absolutely breaks my heart, because I’ve been there. Not exactly – every experience is different and all people handle things differently, but in a sense I knew how they were feeling. Panic and pain and a tight grasp to what little hope they had left. Granted, I don’t know what happened tonight. Maybe everyone involved is okay. And if so, praise God! But there’s a chance that it’s not. And this is why I pray. Every. Time.

Trust me, this is NOT me trying to toot my own horn. My prayer life is honestly something that is a consistent struggle for me. In the day-to-day, I get caught up in the crazy and forget to thank God for the good and ask for help in the bad. But for whatever reason, those lights and that sound trigger something in me. All I want to do is help. But I know that I can’t. At least, not physically. But prayerfully, I sure can.

Oftentimes, people say that in these situations, “all you can do is pray.” But that’s just the thing. Prayer isn’t the bare minimum. It isn’t the least you can do. Prayer is everything. It is crucial. It is necessary. And if my little voice can be one of those prayers that helps a situation where there is pain and sorrow and worry, that could make all the difference.

Can you imagine what would happen if every time we drove by a crash, saw a firetruck zooming down the street, or heard an ambulance fast approaching, we all said a quick prayer? God hears those quiet words. All of them. Concern for our fellow humans is so important, and when God sees us caring for our brothers and sisters, I like to think He feels proud to have created us.

So let those sirens and lights be a catalyst for prayer and a reminder that we are fragile beings put on this earth together for a reason: To support and to love and to pray for each other, simply because we are human.

Trust Issues

Hey friends, it’s been awhile. It’s no joke –  I’m writing again! Ideally this will be the first of 12 blog posts (minimum) this year in an attempt to do something at least once a month that makes me happy. I’m very thankful for friends who push me to be better by encouraging me to do more of what I love. Without further ado, here’s my first of many musings in 2016.

So here I sit at on a Saturday afternoon, posted up in the kitchen with my third cup of coffee and listening to Panic! At The Disco’s new album (yes, they still make music and it’s still really good). Today, and essentially every day for the past few weeks, I have been feeling many emotions regarding my current life situation. Excited, because I am so close to being done with classes and homework for awhile. Anxious, because I am really bad with change and sometimes don’t know how to handle it with grace. Hesitant, because I am so nervous I might make a bad decision with what job I choose after graduation. Melancholy, because each day that passes is one day closer to saying goodbye to so many wonderful friends I’ve made over the past four years. And terrified, because there are so many unknowns right now. And I’m really, really bad with the unknown.

As many of you know, I am quite Type A. I have an extremely organized planning system, with daily, weekly, and monthly planning pages and checklists. Not to mention the extra necessities for just in case: party planning checklists, weekly cleaning schedules and meal plans, and even a daily gratitude log. Yeah, I know. It may be a bit much. But that’s me for ya. I plan EVERYTHING. I like knowing what’s going to happen in the future. The reality is though that I can’t plan the future – not to the extent that I would like. I can write down my class schedule and what I need to get at the grocery store, but I can’t plan out where I’ll be in ten years, five years, or even one year. It’s hard for me. Really hard. Why, do you ask? Well that’s the question, isn’t it? But I think I know the answer:

I’ve got some major trust issues.

First of all, I don’t trust my own abilities. I lack some self-confidence. I love who I am, don’t get me wrong. God created me for something great. He made me the way I am for a reason, and He somehow loves my anxious, indecisive, complicated self. But I still worry that I won’t be talented enough for a job that I may want. Or that I won’t be prepared enough to get married one day. Or that I’m generally just not good enough at being who I am made to be. It’s a weird paradox, really. I usually feel confident in who I am and what I can do. I tell myself I’m good enough, that I am still growing and learning, and that it’s okay to not have all the answers. I know these things. But if I truly believe these things, why am I constantly worried about my future? Why am I always afraid of the outcomes? It’s because knowing and believing are two different things. know I’m capable of doing great things, but I don’t think I believe it. And therein lies the issue. But that’s not even the biggest part of it.

The biggest source of my anxiety, the biggest reason for my lack of confidence, is that I don’t trust God. At least not enough. It’s kind of crazy, actually. I know God will provide. I know God’s plan is bigger and better than any I can make myself (like honestly, how could a broken human like me know better than God?). But I don’t think I believe those things. I still worry so much about my future that it sometimes makes me sick, that it sometimes makes me cry so much I can’t breathe, that it sometimes stops me from fully living my life. If I truly believed that God’s plan is better than mine, this excessive worry wouldn’t exist. I wouldn’t live in fear of the future. I wouldn’t be so afraid to do the things I love. I would ultimately have more confidence and more peace. This is truly my biggest weakness – that I can’t let go of control long enough to realize that the control was never mine in the first place. I’m so, so bad at it. I can’t wrap my head around the fact that Someone bigger and better is in charge. I can’t let go. And honestly, I don’t know what else to say right now, other than that my prayer life needs to be so much better and I need to trust God so much more.

Writing has a funny way of making me feel things I didn’t realize I was feeling. After writing this, I’m kind of sad. Sad because I realize how far I’ve fallen from putting my trust in God. I’m also a little disheartened, because I realize how much work I have to do to get to a place – for the first time in my whole life – where I am not anxious about my future. I’ve got a lot of growing to do.

But I guess this is the beauty of life. That we don’t know what’s coming. That we don’t have all the answers. That there ARE unknowns. And that there is a God bigger than all of it.

Lord, teach me how to trust again.

Limbo

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Y’all, life is crazy. It’s busy, exciting, lonely, terrifying, and wonderful. But right now it mainly just feels crazy. Senior year of college is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Granted, that’s coming from an anxiety-induced, people-pleasing overachiever. “Senior year you can take a smaller course load,” they said. “You’ll have more time to do fun things,” they said. But me? Nah. I’ll stick with my busy schedule and work on staying overcommitted instead.

The big question: Why do I continually do this to myself?

The short answer: I don’t know how to truly relax.

The long answer: My entire college career so far has been so insanely jam-packed that when I am given an hour here or there for “me” time, I struggle to allow it for myself. Truth is, senior year has been slightly less busy than previous years. But my stress level hasn’t gone down. This realization has been difficult, because it has made me see that there are other things making me anxious. I can no longer just blame it on my “busy schedule” (although that is a legitimate excuse sometimes). I am so used to always having something pressing to do that when I don’t, I can’t function.

I’ll give you an example. Today, I had an hour and a half break between my two classes. In that time, I ate the lunch I packed for myself, sat in silence for a few minutes trying to figure out what I should try to get done, then ended up on Facebook for 20 minutes. I finished up my break by going to grab a venti vanilla latte from Starbucks. To a normal human, it would seem nothing is wrong with this use of time. But to me, I got to my next class feeling like I wasted a whole hour and a half doing things that are meaningless. I could have been reading for a class. I could have been studying for my test on Thursday. I could have been writing a paper. But what did I do? I spent time eating, caffeinating, and Facebooking. How dare I?! How dare I spend time unwinding and giving my mind a brake?

This is honestly the way I look at my life. Once in awhile I have moments of high self-esteem and I let myself relax. I took a bath a few weeks ago and it was wonderful. I spent time reading a book (for fun) the other day and it was great. Unfortunately though, I usually don’t give myself the time to do this. I find ways to keep myself busy doing things that are “useful”. I work two jobs, take 15 hours of classes, am VP of Comm Club, and on top of that try to balance a social life. I most definitely keep myself busy.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with being motivated and committed. God has blessed me with these characteristics and I most definitely make use of them. But something I need to work on is self-love. I’m not saying I don’t love myself. I do. I know that I am made in God’s beautiful image, and that makes me beautiful inside and out. I am (mostly) confident in my abilities and skills. Where I lack is in treating myself as well as I treat other people. I love people, let me tell you. I love my roommates and the fact that we can laugh, share stories, and bond while decorating our apartment for holidays (our home is super spooky right now). I love my friends and how I can talk to them about everything and be every version of myself with them. I love my boyfriend and spending quality time together, supporting each other, and just being us. I love my family and the fact that I know I ALWAYS have a home away from my current home in Austin. All of these relationships mean the world to me. The only downside to loving these people so deeply is that I don’t leave room to love myself. Putting others before myself is a great thing. But forgetting that I matter too is all too common for me.

So here is my dilemma. I am beginning to accept the truth that I am worth having “me” time. But now that I have this time, I don’t know what to do. I know I need it to better my mental, emotional and spiritual health, but I feel guilty when I take time for myself. I always feel like there is something more productive or meaningful I could be doing. “There is always something to get done,” I tell myself. While this is probably true, there is not always something that needs to get done right now. I live by my planner and to-do lists. I’m not sure what I would do without them. But when there are those short breaks in my schedule, I owe it to myself to do something for me. I just don’t know how to do that yet. Instead of unwinding, I end up worrying.

During my break today, I was able to put a finger on how I was feeling. I felt like I was floating in a state of limbo. I felt useless, like I was just waiting for something more pressing to come along so that I didn’t have to figure out how to have time to myself. I started thinking too much. Thinking about small things like when I will find time to eat dinner tonight. Or bigger things, like managing my money better or what the heck I’m going to do with my life after graduation in May. I become incredibly anxious about things that are mostly out of my control. My mind drifts to these places when I have a moment of down time. This is why I always feel the need to keep myself busy. Everyday tasks keep my mind from drifting to a state of worry and anxiety. I don’t know how to be me without worry. And it’s taking a toll. I can’t relax the right way because I end up feeling inefficient.

The solution: Honestly, I don’t know. I’m still figuring that out. But with the love of Jesus and the people closest to me, I know I’ll begin to truly love myself, too.

My 2015 List of “Yes”

There are versions of ourselves that we’ve always wished we could be; things we wish we could feel or do more effortlessly.

I think about these versions of myself often, wishing I could figure out a way to combine them to create my ideal self. Don’t get me wrong – I love who I am. And I am grateful for the life I’ve been given. But I want to keep growing, keep moving, keep improving myself to be the absolute best “me” I can be.

So, this is my version of a New Year’s Resolution. I have made a list of goals for myself for 2015 in hopes that they will help me begin to explore the imaginary versions of myself that I’ve always wanted to be. These are my “yeses” – the things that I plan to make priorities in my life this year. By saying yes to more of these things, I can start to more easily say no to things that worry me, burden me, or just plain wear me out. And Lord knows I’m not the best at saying “no”. With the help of this list, Jesus, and the support from people who love me, I hope to make 2015 the best year yet.

My 2015 List of “Yes”

1. Get back to Jesus. I’ve been gradually straying from Him, and it’s high time for me to work my way back – starting with daily prayer.
2. Read a minimum of ten books (for fun). To feed my inner bibliophile and attempt to make a dent in my massive (yet wonderful) reading list.
3. Create something once a week. Write, paint, draw… Do something for myself that lets me unwind, destress, and express my artistic side.
4. Write a song. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, so why not do it this year?
5. Pay off my credit card. Yes, I’m only 21 and I have a monthly credit card bill. I blame plane tickets, Christmas gifts, and my private school tuition.
6. Explore Austin. I live in one of the most interesting, eclectic, and beautiful cities in America, and I’ve barely seen all it has to offer. Here’s to new discoveries.
7. Try at least 20 new recipes. So that I can build my repertoire, but also so that I can spice up my usual menu of Hamburger Helper and Pop-tarts.
8. Travel abroad. I’ve only ever been to one country outside the U.S., and I desperately want to see more.
9. Road trip to a state I’ve never been to before. There’s so much to see, right here in our own backyard. Once again, an attempt to fuel my wanderlust.
10. Make more time for the people in my life. I learned the hard way last year that overcommitting to school, work, extracurriculars, etc. is a nasty habit. This year, I’m going to try to put relationships at the top of my priority list.

Although it may be challenging for me, I am ready to tackle this list, keep adding to it, and enjoy becoming the “me” I’ve always wanted to be. It’s time for me to start taking steps to live in the moment and appreciate the little things in life. Because after all, the little things really do become life’s greatest blessings.

Within Grasp

It was a 75-degree, summer Saturday morning, and we sat talking outside a café over lattes and egg sandwiches. We excitedly talked about new beginnings, nostalgically reminisced on life events of the past few years, and also laughed a lot. Occasional two-hour-long conversations like these with my best friend are some of my most treasured blessings in life. There is no one else in the world I can sit down with for hours and never run out of something to talk about. As we sat there sipping our coffee and talking about the upcoming school year, Macy (who is a wonderful writer – you can check out her blog here) said something that both scared me and excited me:

“You know, it’s crazy. There are so many things we dreamed about happening as kids, and now they are actually within grasp.”

This stuck with me, and I can’t stop thinking about it – because she’s right. When we were young, we had all these crazy ideas of how our lives were going to be in ten years. Like I, for instance, at one point thought I was going to be a cook with my own TV show. And then I thought I would be a professional dancer. I also said I was going to go to college with my childhood BFF from Minnesota, and that I would never even think about getting married until I was at least 30. And now, here I am. Living in Austin, TX and halfway through college, studying to work in a non-profit, and in love with a boy at the age of 20. Didn’t expect all of that to happen did you, lil’ Jazzy?

Basically what I’m saying is this: when in the world did this whole “growing up” thing happen? Well whether I like it or not, it’s happening. Which is both crazy exciting and extremely terrifying. I wanted to share with you a few of these “grown up” things that are happening in my life, and how they are contributing to the realization that I am actually becoming an adult (what?):

I’m getting my first apartment. AND I AM SO EXCITED. Next week I’ll be hauling all of my unnecessary but oh-so-treasured possessions from Dallas to Austin. I’ll be living with two of my friends I’ve made at Concordia and I cannot wait to become even closer with them. Something I am most excited for: decorating our new place. I’ve realized that one of the things that brings out my girly-girl side the most is interior design. The idea of transforming an ordinary floor plan into a warm and unique home to create an atmosphere of your own is just so cool to me. I literally made a spread sheet to plan out who is bringing what to the apartment and how we are going to decorate (no judgement please, I like to be organized). My prayer is that my roommates can be patient with me for the first few weeks as I will probably be overly motivated to decorate and organize everything. Another aspect of apartment living I’m excited for: cooking my own meals. I started making my own cookbook this summer, hoping that it will get me to actually cook real meals once I’m in the apartment (I’m trying to steer clear of microwave hot dogs and Ramen). There’s something about cooking my own meals that sounds really appealing. I guess we’ll see if I still feel that way in a few months. However, along with all of these exciting new things happening will come money management like I’ve never experienced it before. This will be one of the biggest challenges of the new apartment lifestyle. It’ll be great for me to learn this new responsibility, I’m just hoping I can learn how to resist BOGO half-off deals when I really just need one new pair of jeans.

I’m thinking about marriage. Nobody panic – I’m not even engaged. But I am dating quite a lovely boy, and given the fact that we both graduate in two years, I have definitely been thinking about marriage here and there. I’ll try not to get too mushy gushy on all of you, but it sure is fantastic to be loved by someone like him. Freshman year I swore to myself I wouldn’t date a boy my first year of college. But no matter how much I tried to convince myself otherwise, I was crushin’ hard on this boy. And then BAM what do you know, in December I became his girlfriend, and we’re still together a year and a half later. Words can’t describe how blessed I am by him. To have him by my side through the worst months of my life but also through some of the best has meant the world. So yeah, I do think about marriage. It’s funny though how different it is from when you’re 12 years old, dreaming about wearing your Cinderalla gown and finding Prince Charming. Love isn’t all rainbows and butterflies – it’s also all of the crap that comes along with life, but it’s having someone there to hold you up through it. I’m at the point in my life where I am constantly thinking about my future and who will be in it. This inevitably means I am thinking about getting married and how that will affect where I live, the job I get, etc. It’s all very exciting, but to be honest, it freaks me out a little bit that I am actually thinking about this stuff. So much for waiting until I’m 30, huh? It is unbelievable to me that all of my childhood as a little girl, I’ve thought about what it would be like to get married. And now here I sit, writing about the possibility of that happening in a few years. Of course I say all of this knowing that things can change. I know God is truly in control, and if he doesn’t want me to get married until I’m 40 then so be it. Only time will tell. In the meantime I’ll continue to add to my wedding Pinterest board and live vicariously through the fairy-tale weddings of friends and family.

I’m turning 21 in two months. Seriously, how in the world is that possible? I remember being eight years old and asking my dad for a sip of his beer, and then immediately spitting it out. I must say my opinion on the taste still hasn’t changed much. But the sheer principle of the thing, that I’ll have the option to have a beer or a glass of wine with dinner if I want to, seems pretty cool to me. In this day and age it seems I’m part of a small minority of underage drinkers, AKA I’m not one (unless you count a few sips of my parents’ drinks here and there). I’m perfectly happy with that choice I made in high school, to stick to my guns and stay away from the party scene. I think now I’m better for it. I’m not hating on those who are different from me – it’s your life, live it how you want to! All I’m saying is I’m proud of myself for staying true to who I am and what I believe throughout the years. So needless to say, I’m pretty excited to turn 21. And it’s not even so that I can go crazy with it and get roaring drunk, it’ll just be nice to have the freedom to have a drink if I feel like it. It’s also something that’s been so taboo to me for years – pushing against pressures of society to drink when I don’t want to. It’ll feel good to have that weight off my shoulders. I can’t wait to have wine and movie nights with friends, or play a game of cards with the roommates while sipping on a cold beer – to do things I haven’t been able to do for the past 20 years. It all just sounds so grown-up. You grow up watching your parents do these things, thinking your 21st birthday is a lifetime away. And now here I am, two months away from it. Crazy stuff.

I really could go on and on about how I feel I’m slowly entering adulthood. For instance, like how now I enjoy shopping for soap in Bath & Body Works, and wandering around Barnes & Noble for hours at a time adding to my reading list. What happened to the toddler who liked going with Mommy to Toys R’ Us? Or the middle-schooler who hung out with her friends at the Shops on the weekends? Or what about the high-schooler whose biggest worry was finding the perfect prom dress? It all happened so fast. And now I’m a junior in college, thinking about paying rent and internship possibilities and marriage. It’s all kind of hitting me at once how fast life goes by, and how I’m actually an adult now. It’s terrifying, fascinating, invigorating, confusing… (insert adjective here). All of these things we dream about when we’re kids, they actually start happening. And sure, they aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. But wow, it’s awesome. Dreams are becoming reality and the future I thought about as a kid is starting to fall into place. I’m mature enough by now to know things don’t stay “in place” for long, but that’s what makes life exciting. With all that’s to come, and all that’s finally within grasp, I’m still trying to focus on the little things – the things in life that make it worth living. Things like coffee dates with friends, date nights with my boy, or game nights with family. These are the moments we live for, whether we’re “just kids” or “finally adults”. These are the things that make life beautiful.

 

Dead Trees

My daddio is so smart. 🙂

Changing Ministry

We moved into our house about 9 years ago. It was built in 1980. We had two beautiful Silver Maple trees in the front yard. Last year they died. It was sort of a slow death, but they both began dying at about the same time. It was a bummer to watch because they provided some nice shade in the yard. We finally had to take them down. I later learned that many builders will plant Silver Maple trees because they grow relatively fast. Nobody wants to have little trees in their yard, at least not in this neighborhood lined with huge, beautiful shade trees. So I was talking to my brother (who has a forestry degree) about what would be the best tree to plant. [more]

oak_trees

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Ethical Decision-Making

I recently wrote a research paper on this subject, discussing differences between faith-based organizations and secular organizations in regards to their decision-making processes. I first looked at a book called Making Ethical Decisions by Michael Josephson suggesting a “Seven-Step Path” organizations should follow to make sure their decisions are made ethically. The steps are as follows:

1. Stop and Think

2. Clarify Goals

3. Determine Facts

4. Develop Options

5. Consider Consequences

6. Choose

7. Monitor and Modify

What I focused on in my research paper was comparing this decision-making process to those of both a faith-based organization and of a secular organization. The faith-based organization I studied was an Islamic Center focused on giving Muslims a place to come together to worship and find community through fellowship. The secular organization I studied was a manufacturing company focused on decreasing pollution and creating a better environment in an area of Kolkata, India. Ultimately what I found when comparing these two was that there was one main difference: the Islamic Center was more thorough in their thought process for making decisions, using their values to enforce options, while the manufacturing company used a formula with a less emotional process. 

The question that remains after doing my research is this: Does an organization’s spiritual emphasis, or lack thereof, affect how ethical their decision-making processes are? In this case, comparing these two specific organizations to the Seven-Step Path mentioned above, it seems as though the faith-based organization would do a better job at making ethical decisions than the secular organization because of the effort put in using their views and morals as their focus. The manufacturing company used mainly a formula to determine which decision to make rather than thinking through it emotionally. However, these examples are not enough proof to make a generalization about all faith-based and secular organizations. It is a hard topic to research because all organizations are so different in how they make decisions.

So this is the conclusion I have come to: any type of organization can make an ethical decision, whether faith-based or not, depending on how ethical their company values and morals are that they follow. If a faith-based organization decides to create an Islamic Center (as we have seen above) and their main reason for that is to reach out to their Muslim community because it is what they feel God wants them to do, that decision is ethical. While on the other hand, if a manufacturing company makes a decision to use extra funds to build a more environment-friendly piece of machinery because they want to elongate the lives of those living in the polluted environment, that is also an ethical decision. This is a tough topic to tackle, because people have different views of what is ethical and what is not. But overall, I think any type of organization is capable of making ethical decisions, especially if they follow the Seven-Step Path suggested by Josephson. Ethics are important in decision-making and need to be incorporated into any organization’s values, faith-based and secular alike. 

Goal: Transformational Leadership

In my Organizational Communication class we have been talking about different aspects of organizations and how they function in relation to different roles and positions. One question we have been challenged to think about as a class is this: “What is the purpose of leadership?” Is it the ability to control others? To interpret issues well? To set goals for a group? 

These are hard questions to wrestle with. This is partially because people have very different leadership styles from one another. But this is also because being a leader means more than having one specific characteristic or fitting some sort of leadership criteria. In most cases, especially within an organization, a leader needs to have a balance of both task- and human-oriented thought processes and characteristics. This could include a number of specific traits, but overall a leader needs to be able to get tasks done while still having concern for the people he/she is leading. According to my professor and multiple other scholars, this ultimate leader is called a transformational leader. They are very integrated, with the abilities to focus on the company’s goals while thinking of their colleagues as fellow human beings. The transformational leader sees the big picture, is able to inspire those around them to be better at what they do and be better people in all aspects of life. If a leader is not able to be transformational, they are not able to work to their full potential and do the most good for those in the organization as well as those outside of it.

I want to be one of these transformational leaders. I’m not talking about just when I get out of college and join a bigger organization as a career, but right now. I am part of multiple groups on campus whether it is through extracurricular activities or the people I hang out with. I have much to learn, I know this, but I’m glad I now have a glimpse of what a successful leader looks like. I now feel like I have something to work towards. Since I hope to be working with a not-for-profit in the future, a transformational leader is exactly what I should be working to become. I want to inspire people, persuade people to help, but still get tasks done and goals accomplished within the organization. I want to use the talents and gifts God has given me to become the best leader I can be, in every aspect of my life.