College, Faith, Lifestyle

Chronically Optimistic

Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve always been pretty good at being- or at least acting optimistic and cheery.  Before I truly found God, however, this optimism was often a façade; I acted optimistic in order to feel better about my life and hide my true feelings from the world. Once I made my relationship with God a priority, I have truly felt hopeful and optimistic, regardless of what life throws at me. Now that I’ve shared a little background info, let’s move on to the nitty-gritty. How does optimism and hope impact my life?

If you’ve been around a while, you may know that I have a chronic illness known as Dysautonomia, with a subset of the illness called POTS- or Postular Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. Basically what this means is that my heart rate escalates quite high just from slight changes in posture- especially the switch from sitting to standing. Because this is a syndrome, it comes with a very long list of symptoms that I’m not going to list here due to the fact that A) I’m not an expert in the topic, just a patient, and B) the point of this post is not to solely inform you about one of many invisible illnesses. No, this is much deeper than that.

You see, there are many things that occur to me chronically- I live with pain, chronic fatigue & exhaustion, temperature intolerance and extreme discomfort everyday- but my chronic symptoms far surpass just the physiological ones. I have battled with depression and anxiety, I often still do. I, like many of you, have been known to be very insecure and have low self-esteem. It happens to all of us, but our feelings about ourselves don’t define who we are.

Sure, my life doesn’t look like a lot of people I know, but imagine how boring life would be if it did! To be completely honest, the past two weeks have been extremely rough for me, and I got stuck in a dark, low place I hadn’t been in for a while. I was still optimistic and was clinging on to the little hopefulness I still felt to get me through. One of the most instrumental things pulling me through this slump was a small, emotion-filled worship and prayer service on my campus last week. My spirit was unsettled and fighting off the lies of Satan and his cronies, but the presence of the Holy Spirit overtook the darkness and freed my soul from the gripping evil presence that was trying to destroy it. Many tears were shed, but I began to feel calm again. At peace, rather than in pieces.

Now, this is not to say that I still didn’t struggle this past week, but that I survived the struggle. College is hard. Having a chronic illness is hard. Life is hard. But difficulty is not impossibility. I cant explain to y’all how close I was to giving up and tossing my dreams and future plans aside- but I couldn’t. You see, the thing is, I never give up. Its like an impossible thing for me to do- believe me, I’ve tried. Deep in my soul, no matter how tough life gets, I still have the tendency to remain hopeful and optimistic. It’s in my DNA. God gave me an optimistic spirit and I believe that is why I am where I am today. No matter what obstacles come my way, I am able to search for alternate routes to get where I need to be. The optimism deep inside me overcomes all the negativity- and this optimism came from God. The further I separate myself from Him, the more negativity and self loathing fills my brain.

Dysautonomia & POTS make everyday a battle- and some days are worse than others. As much as it has affected my life negatively, this illness has also been one of my greatest blessings. By having dysautonomia, I have found a passion for research, reaching out to others with the various forms of autonomic dysfunction, chronic illness and autoimmune diseases, and being an advocate for increasing public knowledge of invisible illnesses. I believe I will get better, and that in the future we will learn more about it and find more effective treatments, quicker diagnostic timelines and eventually a cure!

Now, 6 years ago, I would’ve thought that was an impossible pipe-dream, felt extreme self-pity and accepted my fate as someone who was going to be sick forever. This illness has helped me grow and turn my test into a testimony. Any time something goes wrong in my life or others’, I now encourage them to be hopeful and insist that things will get better. Some people may think I’m naïve for being so hopeful, but God has given me all the hope I need. I may not get better during my time on this Earth, but when I join my Father in heaven, all pain, sorrow and struggle will end- and I think that’s wonderful to look forward to.

Yes, I have a chronic, not-yet-curable health condition. Yes, I have had to make a lot of lifestyle changes and give up things I love in order to cope with it, but the only direction I have to go is up. You could say I’m chronically ill, but I say I’m chronically optimistic. 🙂

Til next time,

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College, Faith, Lifestyle

From Now On…

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably obsessed with all things The Greatest Showman. I could talk for hours about how much I love everything about this movie- from the music, the choreography, the casting, the costuming, everything.

Despite that wee fan-girl moment you just witnessed, this blog post is not a movie review. It is, however, inspired by the movie.

If you’ve seen the film or listened to the soundtrack, you know that it’s almost possible to pick a favorite song as they are all so beautiful lyrically, but one that’s really inspired me lately is the powerful ballad at the climax of the movie- “From Now On.” From Now On is the the song PT Barnum (Hugh Jackman) sings with the circus cast after an unfortunate event, when he realizes he hadn’t been acting like himself due to chasing the fame and glamor of the world. He decides that he is no longer going to focus on the things that don’t matter, but instead shift his attention to the things that do.

What does this mean to me? Well, let’s take a look at some of the chorus’ lyrics really quick:

And from now on, these eyes will not be blinded by the lights.

From now on, what’s waited till tomorrow starts tonight.

It starts tonight.”

As a Christian college student in 2018, these lyrics pierced into me.

“…these eyes will not be blinded by the lights..” In this age of social media and television, it’s so easy to become distracted by, even obsessed with popularity. By how many followers we have on our social networks, by how many people we know, by the idea of having people know your name, or having some type of fame. We often end up, in a sense, “blinded by the lights.”

As a Christian, I recognize that this is something to be wary of- we are warned against this kind of idolatry of worldly things, or the desire to be of the world. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.” The apostle Paul wrote this because it was relevant to the people culture in Rome thousands of years ago, but it’s still very relevant today.

If we are so focused on fulfilling the glamorous, glittery expectations of the world in order to “fit in” or be seen as “like-able,” we are not paying attention to God’s beautiful and perfect will, his plan for our lives. By doing this, we’re sending ourselves down a road of destruction. We lose the very depths of who we are by not utilizing our spiritual gifts and opportunities- just like PT Barnum lost who he was in the film. In The Greatest Showman, we see Barnum get caught up in fame, esteem and wealth- so much so that he neglects his circus family and brushes off his wife and children in order to pursue more wealth and fame.

As viewers, we may think “Seriously, P.T.? You have so much greatness happening right in front of you- why would you run off?” But we know deep inside that we do the same thing all the time. We don’t appreciate what we have in the pursuit of something we perceive as better, even if it ends up hurting us or leaving us dissatisfied. If we turn our focus back on to what we have, from now on, back to God and his plan for us, we will be more satisfied. That satisfaction may not come during our time on Earth, but it surely will once we’re in Heaven with our creator, living in eternal satisfaction.

Another struggle we face is procrastination. We wait to do things, and I’m not just talking about homework! When faced with the opportunity to pray out loud, share our testimonies or tell someone about God, we often think “eh, I’ll do it next time/week/month/year.” This response becomes repetitive & we continue on this trail of putting things off that could’ve planted seeds. We keep neglecting our garden that’s right in front of us. God knows when we recognize an opportunity he’s called us to & neglect to take advantage of it. I can name numerous times I had the opportunity to share the gospel or show God’s love to people where I didn’t, and I feel upset about it.

Those days of waiting are over, my friends. I challenge y’all to join me in prayer and challenging yourself to use the opportunities before you. Seize the moment, share the love & work together with other believers to spread the word of God to everyone who hasn’t felt it. Stop procrastinating life, stop procrastinating sharing the Gospel & stop procrastinating everything because the time is now. As the Greatest Showman said, “what’s waited for tomorrow starts tonight!”

God Bless,

College, Faith, Lifestyle

19 things I’m thankful for

Psalm 95:1-2 NIV:

“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.”

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I’ve been on this Earth for 19 years now, so I’ve learned quite a bit and have found myself to realize what is important, and how much I truly have. I will keep learning and growing and developing appreciation for things, but that is a topic for another time.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, which is one of my favorite holidays that happens to have just happened, I thought I would share with you all a few things I am thankful that year. 19 specifically, just because I have 19 years of experience and learning what to be appreciative of.

Without further ado, here are 19 things I am thankful for this year :

1. Life. I am thankful to have been able to be on this earth the past 19 years, many people don’t get the chance to live this long, or much at all. I’m thankful to be alive & have experiences that make me feel less like I’m idly existing and more like I’m truly living.

2. Family. I’m beyond blessed to have a family that loves me. We’re all a little weird and crazy, but we have each other through the good times and bad. I’m thankful to have people in my corner to do life, because it’d be so much harder if I were alone. This goes for biological family and otherwise.

3. Freedom. I’m beyond grateful to have grown up in the United States. I know this may seem cliché, but it’s true. I have gotten to live with an abundance of freedoms in a land of opportunity. This is possible in other countries as well, but there are far more countries who don’t have the freedoms and safety I have. I’m thankful to be a citizen of one of the greatest countries that provides me with unlimited opportunities to achieve my dreams.

4. My church. I’m so thankful for a family of people that offer genuine fellowship and accountability. To my home church and to my college life group- thank you. So blessed and appreciative for the love and support you people give me. Everyone needs this kind of community & I’m extremely blessed to have it- because again, some people don’t have the freedom to gather or praise God like we do here in the U.S., and some haven’t found the right church family for them. I’m grateful I have.

5. Education. As a woman, the fact that I have the opportunity to pursue an education in whatever field I desire to is something the be immensely thankful for. There was a time even here in the states this wasn’t a foreseeable or realistic task, but now that it’s a reality, I’m so blessed to have the chance to study, stress & have a sleepless night or too. The end result will be well worth it.

6. Our troops. I cannot express my gratitude to those who risk everything to defend our country and protect our freedoms. They are making the ultimate sacrifice and doing/seeing things most of us could never imagine or willingly take part in. If it wasn’t for them, who knows what kinds of things we’d be dealing with. To our service members- active, reserve, veteran or passed on- thank you. So much. You are heroes.

7. Healthcare. Though the economic side of this topic often leads to debate, which I am not going into on this post, I truly believe that I’m blessed to have the healthcare I’ve received here in Texas. As someone with a chronic illness who has spent a fair amount of time in the US healthcare system, I can say I’m extremely thankful for all of the doctors, nurses, PA’s, medical assistants, physical therapists etc who have helped me. Our medical technology and training has and continues to improve and I feel extremely blessed to live in an era where medical research and treatment is at a new height- and more about our bodies chemical and anatomical composition is understood. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to live with certain conditions- or potentially die from them- if I were experiencing them 50+ years ago. It’s astounding honestly.

8. Service. I’m so thankful to be able to help other people, and to serve God’s kingdom freely. I am thankful to have gotten to go on mission trips and participate in service projects that were often uncomfortable for me but were used for the betterment of myself & others. I’m grateful for those who have pushed me and funded me to get there- and to have been allowed to participate in said things. Some service opportunities are difficult to come by without connections or certain strings & specific stipulations, but I’m thankful to have had as many as I have.

9. My friends. I’m not going to sit here and name all of you, because I don’t think that is necessary. You know who you are. Whether we are super close, not as close as we once were, hang out daily/weekly, see each other a couple times a year, etc., I’m thankful for you. I’m thankful you’re part of my life and have been here for me, experienced life with me, laughed with me, cried with me, danced in the rain with me. I’m thankful that y’all are who you are and have shared parts of your life with me.

10. UMHB. I cannot say how thankful I am for the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor for providing me with such a Godly environment to grow and learn in. This university has challenged and pushed me spiritually and academically & has been one of my life’s biggest blessings. From the Christian fellowship to the small class sizes, the awesome professors that actually care about my life, education and future, the people who I don’t know well that pray for me and offer me comfort- to the coursework that applies my faith and creativity while challenging my intellect.. I couldn’t ask for more from an academic institution. This place is so much more than a school, it’s home.

11. Theatre. I grew up doing community theatre, as well as school theatre. Though I’m not extraordinarily gifted in the theatrical arts, theatre has helped me grow in many ways and I am so thankful God brought it into my life. Theatre helped improve my confidence, my speech, my memory and more while stretching me to be creative- and being fun all at the same time. It also brought me together with people just as quirky as me- from all walks of life, and gave me a comfortable environment to let loose without fear of being judged as weird, so much so that I’m able to be myself anywhere I go now, though I was once extremely shy.

12. Having a home. This one is simple. I’ve moved a few times, and we’ve had financial struggles throughout the year, but I’m blessed to have always had a roof over my head & food in my belly. Many people in the world could only dream of this luxury and we often take it for granted. As I’ve grown and seen poverty in the world around me and seen the extreme circumstances many have had to live through, I’ve come to realize just how good I have it and made it a point to always remember that what I have is a luxury and not a given with life- it’s something I must always remain appreciative of- especially as I didn’t contribute to the finances because I was a child, and will have to work to provide for myself in the next few years.

13. Science. Like healthcare, science has come a long way throughout the years. It’s one of the most interesting subjects to me- and it helps me to further realize the complexity and greatness of our creator. I believe God gave us science to learn and understand more about his creation, and I think it helps to prove God’s existence, because it’s so complex yet perfectly thought out- a greater power HAD to have constructed this. I’m so thankful for this field I’m able to study and how it helps us help others, understand more about ourselves and our planet- and about how powerful and all-knowing our amazing God is.

14. Dancing. Like theatre, God brought me to dance when I needed it most. It taught me many life lessons & has provided me with many memories- some good & some bad. Dance pushed and challenged me mentally and physically, but helped me develop my work ethic and desire to keep pushing through adversity in order to achieve what I’m capable of. It taught me the value of discipline and hard work.

15. Teachers. The people who don’t get enough recognition, nor enough pay. I’ve been blessed with many AMAZING teachers throughout my life, and they’ve all left a mark on me. Again, not gonna name each one individually, but I have many former teachers on Facebook- and if they’re on my Facebook, I consider them to be a great teacher. So I’m writing this to those who have impacted me greatly: you are awesome & you are a light. Your passion to educate young minds and pour your heart into you work inspires me & I thank God for you. I’ve dealt with teachers who seemed detached, uninterested and bored who made school pretty i enjoyable at times, but you guys who love what you do made me feel motivated to do my best and keep chasing after my goals- and you helped me with all of my struggles for countless hours after school and didn’t stop until you knew I understood. You were there for me when I felt unconfident or blue & you brightened my day. Never forget that what you do is worth it & many students are extremely grateful for you- even though we don’t tell you enough.

16. My roommate. I’m thankful that you’re always down to jam out to Hamilton, bake junk food or have an existential crisis with me. And also that you’ll procrastinate with me by stress cleaning or watching cheesy movies, tagging me in memes and for reminding me that I’m not stupid. Thanks for understanding the struggle by having the same major/minor as me so we can both stress about the same classes. Thanks for knowing the things I don’t know and for being a hard worker who motivates me to get stuff done. Thanks for teaching me what it’s like to live with one other person and share the responsibilities of chores like a team. And for being there for my rants, mental breakdowns & POTS flare ups (oh and taking my moms calls to drive me to the doctor when I won’t go). Also thank you for not being a crazy roommate like those I hear about in horror stories that cause unnecessary drama and stuff. I am blessed to have a roommate that I can call a friend, even though you’re not as quiet as I thought you were at camp… (which is good because I’m not quiet either!) Hahaha but really, you rock.

17. My hometown. I know I make jokes about it and was happy to leave- but that’s just because I needed to branch out and grow and find myself. I’m proud of where I grew up because I met great people, learned a lot and created a plethora of memories. La Porte will always be home and I’m not gonna lie, I miss the comfort and ease of it at times- especially because I don’t return often and being in a new place is overwhelming at times, no matter how big or small it is. I’m thankful to have experienced my childhood and teenage years in the place my parents and siblings did, where my family name is known by many in the district- where my name and family ties left me no choice but to behave in school. And of course- the opportunity to take college classes for FREE that I was able to transfer- not many districts provide that luxury and I’m grateful (it also gave me many of the teachers I mentioned earlier and that’s awesome!!). Now that I gone, I can really appreciate what all this place offered and I think my life would be way different had I grown up anywhere else.

18. England. Yeah, y’all have probably heard me talk about this place a lot in the last year… but seriously. I’m so grateful to have experienced this place and taken in its history and culture. I’m so thankful for the bonds I made- both my my mission team and with the people I met across the pond. Travel and immersing yourself in a new place is eye opening and challenging, but it’s one of the greatest things you can do, in my opinion. I’m so grateful I was able to embark on the trip and have this opportunity. I’m thankful for what it revealed to me and how God is using the experience in my life and in his for me. I’m thankful for my family across the pond, my hosts that took me in graciously and treated me like they’d known me forever. I’m grateful for the newfound awareness I have for spiritual warfare. I’m all around thankful for this country that my family originated from, and for the connection I felt with it. Wow oh wow.

19. My blogging community. Y’all, I’m so thankful for my fellow bloggers who encourage me and push me to develop better, deeper content. I’m grateful to have found people who share the desire and passion to spread God’s love and goodness through this kind of platform, those who love writing and channeling their creativity to reach others. I can’t say how many times I’ve thought about giving up on this whole blogging thing out of discouragement or lack of time, because your kind words, comments & discussions help me keep going & taught me to make time and plan out content. This goes for fellow bloggers as well as my readers. I’m so so grateful and thankful for all of you who take the time to read what I put on my corner of the internet & interact with me! I hope you get something out of my work, whether it be serious or silly, as I post a little of both.

Thanks from the bottom of my heart for reading this and joining me on my journey. Be on the look out for lots of new posts soon, after I survive finals! Hope everyone had a wonderful thanksgiving and I wish you safe travels!!

God bless you,

College, Faith, Lifestyle, World Issues & Current Events

Living Sober

“Why do you wear that bracelet?” “What does it mean to you?” “Are you Sober?”

I know what you’re probably thinking after reading the title of this post, but it’s not what you think. This post is talking about sobriety, but I’m not referring to alcohol sobriety, per se.

I will say, my inspiration for this post, however, did stem from experiences I’ve had watching loved ones face & overcome addictions. This has become a large part of my testimony, and I always wear a purple “live sober” bracelet as a constant reminder of the hardships, strength & trust in God it took to get through that situation. I never take this bracelet off, and it is constantly there reminding me to remember what is important in life. It’s a great conversation started that often leads to me being able to share my testimony (boom, God works is many ways my friends!) with new people & cultivate fellowship. It reminds me to walk through life soberly.

I’ll also tell you that posting this was incredibly difficult. I’ve been working on this post for 3 months and constantly editing it, trying to get it right because this is an important topic to me. It’s still imperfect and redundant, but I found getting too wrapped up in the intricacies of this post pretty much contradicted the point I was trying to get across, so I decided it was time to stop stalling.

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After listening to many sermons, attending revival at my university and diving into the word, I got to thinking. God put it on my heart to dig deeper into this topic and write a post to share about it & here goes:

Sobriety is typically associated with not being under the influence of drugs and alcohol, but to me it’s so much more than that. Sobriety is living clearly, without worldly distractions clouding the sky. Living without getting tangled up in distractions and addictions of any kind.

As a college student in this society, I know first hand that life is full of things that distract us from truly living & from our focus on God. From social events to social media, from GPA to finances, from embracing the freedoms of singleness to chasing the possibility of relationships- we all get caught up in things that are so minute in the grand scheme of things. If all we do is focus all of our attention to any of these things, among many others, we aren’t really living. Our judgement becomes clouded and we often miss out on the little things that truly matter.

You see, we tend to get so caught up in how many followers we have on social media, how aesthetically appealing our instagram feeds look, how good our GPA is, how pretty we look, how much money we have, etc. that we obsess over them. We let these things consume our minds, even if we do not mean to. These are not necessarily bad things, but we shouldn’t put any of them in front of our relationship with God. I know I am guilty of this, and if you’re reading this, you probably are to, in some way or another. Maybe you struggle with obsessing over social status, maybe school comes before everything, maybe you are caught up in the clutches of drug and alcohol misuse.

I know, I know, what does “sobriety” have to do with this? Daily distractions are waaaaay different than drunkenness and drug use, aren’t they?

The quick answer is no- they’re not. Anything that we obsess over so much that it hurts or threatens our ability to socially interact, connect or direct our focus is an intoxicant. It distorts reality- just like social media, for example. People usually portray themselves differently on apps like Instagram, Facebook & twitter than in real life- or only show the best parts of their lives. Those sites are great, but they don’t paint the whole picture. We don’t know the full story unless we make real interactions and act intentionally and genuinely. Be vulnerable, be real. Don’t hide behind a screen, a GPA, a relationship, etc. Just like alcoholics don’t want to be identified or known solely as alcoholics, we should not allow ourselves to be defined by things of this world. Be in it and not of it, but don’t simply be in it. Live fully in it.

Wherever you stand, I have a challenge for you. Get your priorities in order. School, finances and relationships are important, but they mean nothing if you idolize them. They mean nothing if you’re not using them to glorify the creator. Don’t let them blind you. Don’t worship worldly things, and don’t let the world tell you that they are more important than God, or your well-being, or living. If you’re doing something or addicted to something, no matter what it is, that is harmful or stops you from living a meaningful and purposeful life, stop it. Sober up. Stop doing the things that hurt yourself and others.

To be fully aware and in tune with life, to truly live, we must remember what we were created for. We must remember WHO created us. Don’t let the distractions affect your focus on the Lord. Be sober in mind, body and spirit.

I’m not suggesting that you should throw all of these things out the window; I am just suggesting taking a step back.

Put things in perspective, and reprioritize God. If we put God first, everything else will fall into place. We just have to be genuine & yes- intentional. Don’t allow yourself to drown your focus in unimportant, material or media based things. They block your focus from God & also from your daily relationships. If we get distracted from God but daily, worldly things, how often do these things distract us from discipleship? From the great commission?

We need focus and clarity in order to truly live- and God is the source who clears the fog.

I know this is beginning to sound redundant, but bear with me, please. Let us all try not to be so intoxicated by the things of this world that we forget who created it, and why we are here. It’s difficult to go make disciples if we are too wrapped up in the superficial, temporary things of this world. Life here is important, but it’s short. Eternity is at stake, so don’t forget about your purpose & don’t count other people out either. As a church, we are in this together, and we need to reach out to as many as possible.

Thanks for reading this, but now is the time. Lock your phone, close your computer. Go out and disciple. Make fellowship, interact with people and build relationships. Spend some time with God, be purposeful.

Live Sober, my friends. And live fully.

Xoxo,

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College, Faith, Lifestyle

Why I Chose to Attend a Private University

“Where do you go to school?” “The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.” “Ohhhh, Baylor, wow!” “Uh, no, not Baylor.” “Sic ’em bears!” “Well actually…”

This is a conversation I have pretty much anytime I meet new people or go home. No one has heard of my little school (that I love). Those that have heard of it know that it’s a very small, private Christian university. They immediately question why I would choose an unheard of private institution in a small town over a huge state school. They also accuse me of being stupid or financially irresponsible for paying private school tuition (though it’s not really their problem), and they also wonder why I’d go somewhere where we are required to attend chapel services & are surrounded by churchy functions. So, in this post, I will answer all of these very things!

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Why did I choose the small, relatively unknown University of Mary Hardin-Baylor over schools such as Texas A&M, University of Houston, Stephen F. Austin, etc? Well, it’s not because I couldn’t get I didn’t apply for them- I did, but they weren’t for me. I got in to quite a few state schools, but I applied to more private schools than state because as I toured, I realized that’s kinda what I was looking for. Don’t get me wrong, for a while I had my heart set on A&M because my brother went there and loved it and I enjoyed the traditions, but all it took was one week of nursing camp at UMHB to fall in love with it and put a new dream school at the top of my list. I’m telling you, from the moment I stepped on to this beautiful campus, God said “yes.” It immediately felt like home and like the perfect place for me. Knowing how pricey private school tuition is, I did apply to many schools just in case this one didn’t work out (but I’m SO glad it did). I found UMHB my junior year of high school and had priority early acceptance- I was accepted within 48 hours of applying before my senior year began, so I pretty much knew that that’s where I wanted to be. I fell in love with the campus, the program, the Christian atmosphere and the fellowship and kind people I met, as well as the small little community we have as a campus. Being here at this university has helped me grow in my spiritual walk in ways I could never imagine, and in ways I don’t think I could’ve at any other school. I truly felt God leading me here, and my parents felt the same way, so we knew we’d find a way to make it work (and I’m so so thankful). This school has so many opportunities to grow spiritually and academically & I am still satisfied with my decision to come here and take in all it has to offer. The academics are challenging, but the faculty and professors want you to succeed and are willing to help you and invest in you if you make an effort, plus small classes mean your professor probably actually knows who you are- which is a good thing in my opinion.

Being a person who thrives with more individualized attention in coursework, UMHB was a perfect fit- because I don’t feel like a little fish in a huge pond as I would in a larger public institution. There are so many activities and organizations to get involved in and meet people, which is also amazing. While the small school and community is something I really love, the biggest point drawing me here is the Christian atmosphere. No, not everyone here are super devout christians, as people have different reasons for school selection, but many of the professors and staff are & the school has many Christian traditions and honor codes, and opportunities for Christian fellowship and developing your faith. For me, this is important. As a young Christian whose faith has been newly restored (that’s a part of my testimony), it was very important for me to be surrounded by Christian community to keep me accountable and motivated, so I wouldn’t veer off from my faith or make excuses that opportunities aren’t available to me, and I worried that I wouldn’t continue growing in my faith in the ways that I have since coming to this school.

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Through attending my lovely private, Christian school, I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to the U.K. And serve God’s kingdom with some of my peers and I’m so blessed to have been able to experience that. I would not have had this opportunity had I not followed God’s plan to attend this school. I know what you’re thinking.. that must’ve been expensive! Well, it was, but God always provides when things are according to his plan. I felt called to go on the trip early during my first semester, and continuously prayed about it. I was more and more convinced, so I began fundraising, as I definitely was not in the financial condition to just dish out that money, it wouldn’t happen. Fundraising was tough, but like I said, God provides. My trip was fully paid for via fundraiser (thank you to all who donated/participated, y’all rock) and was the trip of a lifetime. I learned so much about the world, the U.K., myself & Christianity in general. I will hold those memories forever & have found further callings for my return to the beautiful country to continue my services, in God’s timing of course.

To further explain, I truly believe college is an investment. The classes AND the experience AND where you go play a part in shaping who you’re going to be, especially if you do enter college immediately following high school. I’ve taken classes at junior colleges and they’re great- it’s a good way to knock out some credits and save money, and for some people it’s the best option to attend full time while starting their college education, but it wasn’t the plan for me. If I had stayed home and gone to my junior college, sure, I’d have saved money, but I wouldn’t have become so involved, learned how to be more of a “people person,” been surrounded by the Christian community that I am at UMHB, and wouldn’t have learned to be as independent as I have been (though I still have work to do.) so yes, it’s a fantastic option for so many, but I believe I wouldn’t be as happy or successful in my first year had I not taken the leap to move away.

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I truly believe God intended for me to be at Mary Hardin-Baylor. I can feel it all the time. It’s pretty unexplainable, but it’s a feeling like no other and it feels so right. It always feel right to be in the middle of God’s will. I’ve tried to ignore his plan for my life and go my own way so many times, but he always takes the reigns and pulls me in the direction he wants me to go, so I had to stop fighting it. I still struggle with this, but since coming to this school, I’ve found great spiritual mentors, accountability partners and wonderful friends who remind me of God’s awesomeness when I somehow seem to forget- and that further tells me how badly I needed to be at this school. I’m growing so much in my faith while preparing for the crazy world of adulthood, and I feel like I truly could not reach MY full potential if I ignored God’s call. I also made so many lifelong friends & had to push myself to be social and make such friends- as I did not know a single person attending this university and had grown up in the bubble of people I’d know my whole life- so I grew up a lot in the social aspect!

Yes, the school is expensive & believe me, I tried SO hard to like other schools more, but I’ll tell you what- when something is God’s will, God has a way of making it happen. You must have faith & do your very best to help yourself and fight for things to work- but God WILL guide you. Everything is according to his will. I’m not telling everyone they should go out and attend a private university or a big university at all, but I do suggest really thinking about your future as you plan to go to college- especially out of high school. Think of finances, education, what you hope to get out of the college experience, about what you want to study & where God is calling you. I applied to 4 private, baptist universities, so it’s safe to say I felt God calling me towards a private school system. And like I said, God makes his plan happen in his timing. If you feel called to make a similar school choice and have no idea how you’ll make it happen- I’ve been there. Pray and work hard. Apply for every scholarship you can & ask God where he’s leading. He helped me make this school a possibility, and took care of financing my mission trip when my family was having financial difficulties. One of the most important things I’ve learned at this school is that GOD COMES THROUGH!

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Well friends, I could go on but this post is starting to get longer than most of the essays I’ve had to write in the past year, but feel free to ask me any questions about my school, applying for scholarships or the college application process! I’d love to chat. 🙂 And always remember Jeremiah 29:11-

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you & not to harm you, plans to give you hope for a future.”

Xoxo, IMG_0851

College, Lifestyle

What Dance Has Taught Me About Life

If you’re reading this and you’re a dancer, you probably understand this quite well & can relate to it in some way or another. If you’re not a dancer, you may be confused. You may not understand the power of dance, BUT you may have been involved with another sport that has affected you similarly and can, in that way, relate to my words. I’ve played a few sports, but dance is what stuck and what I fell in love with. Although I used to think it was just a fun activity that gave me something to do, I’ve come to realize that the art of dance has really shaped me as a person and taught me many life lessons.

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I will start by saying dance is definitely not for everyone- just like any sport. You get to a certain age or moment when you just know if it is something you’re passionate enough to invest time in. If you’re not all in for what it entails, you’d probably be miserable- I’ve seen many classmates disperse out of dance as they came to realize something they’re more passionate about, which is great because I’m a firm believer in doing what makes you happy. Now, after that little tangent, I’ll return my focus to the manners at hand. If you stayed in dance for a significant amount of time, I think you’ll relate to at least a few of these points.

Because of dance:

-I have learned discipline

Dance is definitely not easy, nor is it all fun and games. Discipline is learned in many ways through this sport. Firstly, you have to show up to class in a punctual manner, have proper practicewear (correct colored tights, leotards) and have your hair secured back uniformly. These are simple rules to follow, but they teach you discipline nonetheless because you may get disciplined if you look out of order. This also goes with classroom etiquette. Dancers must be disciplined enough to know when it is and isn’t appropriate to speak or slouch. Dancers must be disciplined to take the initiative to practice skills, techniques and choreography that they struggle with when their instructor gives them time to do so, instead of just standing around talking.  The discipline you learn while dancing can be carried into your academic and professional life- for example, I have learned to be consistent with checking syllabi & putting aside time outside of class to work on the subjects I struggle with.

– Perseverance.

Through dance, I’ve gone through various injuries, rough days and dealt with mean people. But what I’ve learned from my instructors and classmates, as well as personal experience is, if you want something, you won’t let anything stop you. When I struggled with an acrobatic skill, a turn combo or a difficult piece of choreography, I was faced with two choices: give up or persevere. When deciding on the latter, I learned a lot about myself and what I am capable of doing. For those that don’t know, I started dance much later in life than most studio dancers, so I was quite behind the other girls my age when it came to technique- and I still am. My first year, I had such a rough time and felt so ridiculous doing the basics instead of the “cool stuff,” that I often wanted to quit dancing altogether. My mom & teachers encouraged me to just keep at it and push through, at least for the rest of the year. I did & actually developed quite a passion for dancing, which in turn motivated me to work harder. Within the next couple of years, I took private lessons and more advanced technique classes and slowly began to work my way up to a competition team & eventually the advanced class. As I got to do more intricate and expressive choreography, I really fell in love with the art of dance. Had I given up back in my first year, this would not be something I’d ever experienced. And yes, along the way there were mean girls who said and did some quite awful things to me to put me down, it only encouraged me to work harder and prove them wrong. I can apply this same motivation and perseverance I learned through dancing now that I’m in college as I fight through difficult classes despite what naysayers have to say about what I am capable of.

Passion.

When I discovered just how much I love dancing, dancing was all I wanted to do- it was my passion. I still love it and though I’m not pursuing it as a career, I am able to apply the way I loved and worked for it to my studies now. I learned how to be passionate about something and put my all into something. I truly believe God intended for me to dance & led me to that sport for a reason, as I had been dancing around and making up moved to music before I ever received formal training. In the same way, I’ve always had a nurturing, care-taking side that’s made me want to help when someone is hurt (I can’t tell you how many of my dad’s minor wounds I’ve patched up, or how many sandwiches I’ve made when he was resting after surgery) and through sending me to nursing camp at UMHB (a great once in a lifetime opportunity for me), I discovered that I was being called to nursing. I excitedly completed my CNA class with top marks and enrolled at UMHB because the program here is awesome- but science classes are very hard and I often feel discouraged & have people tell me I’m not smart enough. Things may be said, but they are just words and I’m motivated to prove them wrong because I’ve learned to fight for what I’m passionate about- and I want to be a nurse more than anything so I WILL make it happen!

Confidence.

All of the days spent rehearsing technique & showmanship, all of the days spent actually performing.. Those days have taught me a thing or two. Be it for a recital, competition, musical or audition, confidence is necessary for stage presence and a successful performance. This is also true in our day-to-day lives. Confidence in who we are and what we do is so beneficial to us in the world we live in. It can be difficult to be confident, but God helps us if we ask. For whatever reason, I’ve always been quite comfortable on stage- being with my theatre and dance background- but out in the real social climate, it has been especially difficult for me to put myself out there. I still struggle with this, but nowhere near as badly as I once did- thanks to dance. Because of dance, I had to learn how to communicate with choreographers & peers, sell myself at auditions, and venture out of my comfort zone with new styles. I grew much more comfortable with being out of my comfort zone, therefore learning how to hold myself as a much more confident individual, but I’m still working on it!

Taking Criticism.

Obviously dancing, as with any sport, comes with many criticisms. Most of the time it’s constructive- like from teachers and judges, but not always. Because of my experience with dance, I’ve developed much thicker skin & learned not to take everything to heart. This was acquired through many years and many years, not overnight. You may be familiar with the over dramatic television program “Dance Moms” and instructor Abby Lee Miller’s ever famous motto “save your tears for your pillow,” and that’s honestly what I had to learn how to do at first. If my feelings were hurt by a criticism, I did t want to let it show in public & would bundle them in until I got home- but eventually I could shake it off like it doesn’t bother me, because most of the time, it doesn’t! In fact, I learned that criticism (in the constructive sense of the word) is something I actually desire, as it is necessary for my growth and improvement. If a teacher is taking the time to yell at or critique you, that means they are watching you and want you to do better, mostly for the sake of the team, but also for your own dignity. They don’t want you to look stupid in front of an audience. From dancing, I became more hurt or upset when I would stop receiving critiques- especially if I was still struggling to nail a step- because that meant my teacher had tired out their criticisms as I wasn’t seeming to apply them, so it felt like they didn’t care if I messed up anymore, it was my problem. Once I learned this, I craved constructive comments. I desired to always keep improving. I even wrote a letter to my high school drill team director asking her to be hard in me when I was struggling with a skill, because I knew I could get it if I knew how to fix it & was faced with pressure. This experience helps in life when it comes to my difficult college classes, life decisions, etc. Some times criticism comes in the form of “tough love,” but it’s there to help you, not harm you. This is applicable especially in the sense of accountability partners. If you have someone holding you accountable for your actions and assisting you in your walk with Christ- you expect them to be truthful and honest, and not overlook your stumbles, right? Well, that reminds me personally of my experience with dance critiques! If they care, they will let you know what you’re doing wrong for the sake of bettering you. If they turn a blind eye or keep quiet, they don’t truly care.

Time Management Skills.

In my prime competitive dance days, I was spending between 12-20 hours doing something dance related a week- whether it be in technique classes, rehearsals, private lessons, acrobatic & tumbling lessons, demonstrating/assisting in classes & going through dances at home or any free space I had. Along with that, I was taking advanced academic courses, attending church regularly, participating in UIL Choir & Theatre, as well as portraying a lead in a school play. In high school, my competitive dancing continued along with “Chato Training” classes to prepare for drill team, then I made my drill mid-year as a freshman & participated in my school musical- juggling all of these things at once- and occasionally throwing in physical therapy appointments from my various injuries. This may or may not seem like a lot to you, depending on your activity level, but I LOVE being involved and got used to it. That being said, dancing was my number one hobby & I had to learn to find balance. I stopped competing after my freshman year of high school as I joined the drill team instead, but I still remained involved in Thespians, National Honor Society & the school musical all the while. Learning to balance these things amongst my AP & Dual Credit classes has helped prepare me so much for college as I participate in my college dance team, challenging classes, attend meetings and experience various extracurriculars. They always warn against getting TOO involved in college, and I know my limit, but I do believe all the hours spent in the dance studio that taught me how to work in time crunches and make time for other things has really helped me in my first year at a University.

Ability to work as a team player.

Dance isn’t about just you. You personally have to put in a ton of effort to improve and dance well, but dancing alone and dancing as a team are entirely different things. From my years on a studio competition team, I can tell you first hand that I dealt with drama and I kind words- we were all girls, that happens sometimes. But despite differences we may have had, we all loved each other and respected each other as teammates- and ultimately wanted to perform well as a team. I learned how to put personal differences or histories aside and trust the people on my team, and also to pull my own weight. There is truly no “I” in team, but there is an “am-” as in, I AM responsible for doing my best. All the hours we put in to bond, to look together, to pull off cool stunts have taught me how to work with a team. It’s honestly hard to explain or teach with words how to work as a member of a team, and to me, I think it’s something so valuable it needs to be experienced. Being thrown into that environment at a young age has helped me with group projects, living with a roommate and even just generally being civil with people. I’m sure I would have learned this stuff anyway, but I could’ve had a much crueler awakening as I enter adulthood had it not been for my experience on dance teams.

The Value of Hard Work.

As I said before, the start of my dance career was quite rocky- because I started so late and I was quite behind technically. By employing the discipline, perseverance and confidence skills I learned from dancing, I became more diligent in working hard to get to where I want to be. Im still not there but I’m always striving to get better! Seeing how fast I learned and improved, thanks to God, my wonderful teachers and my supportive family, I have come to understand how powerful and rewarding hard work is. When you start at nothing and have people constantly laughing at your inability to do a kick ball change gracefully, and gain the confidence to compete in title pageants you know you won’t win just for the experience and critiques you’ll receive, you realize how far you can come with effort. In my first year of dance, I sucked so bad that I was embarrassed to be seen even by my teachers. Now, I’m comfortable with my abilities & still have some insecurities about skills I struggle with, but I’m not afraid to admit that I struggle and am proud of how far I’ve come. I fought very hard in my first few years because I had a lot of catching up to do and wanted to compete SO badly. I had many falls and failures, but they taught me a lot. This subcategory kinda falls in the aforementioned discipline section, but I gave it it’s own part because it is that important. Through dance, I learned that if you really want something, you have to take the bull by the horns and go get it. You don’t just give up. If you fall, you get up and try again. This process taught me so much about myself and my ability to (also mentioned before, I know) persevere through whatever life throws at me- like my next adventure, applying to nursing school! Had I given up back in my first year of dance, as I had in other sports I wasn’t nearly as passionate about, I may have been stuck in a cycle of giving up when the waters are rough instead of resetting my sails and starting again. I learned that hard work isn’t just about the destination, but the journey.

There are many more life lessons I’ve learned from dancing, so many in fact that I could probably write a book, so I’ll stop here with the ones I thing were most valuable to me. With that, I’ll leave y’all with some possibly embarrassing photos from my years of dance as a reward for you reading this novel of a post..

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“Let them praise his name with dancing..” -Psalm 149:3

Thanks for reading!

Xoxo, Cassie

College, Lifestyle

Blessed to be Stressed

   I am blessed to be stressed. This may be an odd sounding statement, but it’s very true. 

  As a college student, I know that I’m guilty of complaining about how stressed I am. Dealing with classes, organizations, homework, practice, working out and life can be quite hectic, but not impossible. 

    In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought this post would be appropriate to share this week. As a college student in America, the following are a few thoughts I’ve been having recently. 

I am blessed to be stressed. 

I am blessed to be able to be stressed. 

I am blessed to live in America.

I am blessed to have food on my plate and a roof over my head.
I am blessed to be stressing over finals and classes. 

I am blessed to be getting an education. 

I am blessed to be able to go to college. 

I am blessed to have a family that supports me in getting an education.

    College is stressful, everyone knows this. But so is life. In all honestly we take for granted how blessed we are to be able to experience the stresses of college. So many people are unable to afford or access higher education, even in our own country. In other countries, many are not allowed to attend or have no opportunities to attend college- and I know many of them would do anything to be able to. As a student attending an amazing university in the United States, I often have to remind myself of this during my days of doubt. The stress of class is only going to help better me in the future by helping me start my career. The stress of student loans is a good thing because not everyone is able to receive loans or student aid. Though loans are a stressful subject, the ability to take out loans and get an education is a blessing- you just have to look at it that way. The fact that I have loans I’ll have to pay off in the future only encourages me to work hard and make the most of those loans by doing as well as I possibly can in all of my classes- which in turn is helping me make the most of learning and receiving an education. If I do well & receive my degree and a job in my anticipated field, I can start making money to pay off the loans. If I give up now, all that money goes to waste & I still have to pay it back- which leads to a more negative form of stress. 

    I guess my point is that it’s important to constantly remember how much you have to be thankful for and to maintain a positive outlook on the future in order to succeed. Next time you find yourself pulling your hair out while cramming for that exam, or writing that last minute essay, calm yourself down by remembering why you’re here & recognizing that you’re blessed to be in this position- because there are so many people who’d love to be in your shoes. No matter how hard life gets, remember that you’re blessed to have life. Give that stress and anxiety to God and keep moving forward. 

“Cast all your anxieties upon the Lord because he cares for you..” – 1 Peter 5:7


God bless y’all.

      XOXO, Cassie