Retreat

It’s about that time of year that many college organizations start going on group retreats. These can be some of the best relationship building activities. Quality time not engaged with normal daily activities is the best way to work on connections.

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Veritas Fall Retreat 2015

My favorite thing about retreats is the fact that they often are in places where cell service and internet are out of reach. It forces you to unplug and remember what it’s like to just be you. I think society forces a lot of things on us. Technology encroaches on our lives to the point we feel like we can’t be away from our messages and email for more than an hour. I’ve even seen Snapchat streaks consume people’s lives. Society needs to practice being unplugged.

I think we need to spend more time away from technology. More time just appreciating life and the people in it. This can mean rearranging schedules and priorities, but I think our personal time should be priority. Quick messages are great, but can quickly consume.

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MASC Winter Energizer 2013

I am writing this post as I prepare to go on retreat in the morning. I get to go to my favorite camp with all of my sorority sisters, and I can’t wait to unplug. There’s no cell service, so it’s a forced unplug. I think spending time with these girls without our phones will be really rewarding.

Retreats are a way to rejuvenate yourself at a midpoint in the semester or the year. We lose stamina, and we have to build that back up. Taking a weekend break is often the best way to do that. It scares me to death to set all my school work and extracurriculars aside, but I’m also crazy excited. I am stressed, busy, and beaten down. This semester has been better than last in a lot of ways, but also worse in many. It kind of sounds like running away from your problems, but sometimes putting them on pause and reassessing is really the best way.

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Ignite Retreat 2014

So you can’t go on a retreat? That’s okay. Find another way to unplug. Take time for yourself and to spend time with the people around you. You may discover things about people that you never knew, and you may love them so much more for that.

Technology seems like an integral part of life, but it isn’t. People are.

 

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Point Of View

Camp offers the time and space to stop and change your point of view. Your perspective. Removing yourself from everyday life and taking a break lets you stop and evaluate. We all get so caught up in the crazy schedules we create that we often forget to just stop and shift our point of view on a regular basis outside of this kind of setting.

My great-grandmother passed away this past spring. She would be 99 years old soon. I often wonder what it would be like to have her perspective. Being retired and just enjoying family, it probably allows for a lot of retrospective learning. My grandma lived such a long and joyful life, I imagine she looked back and had few regrets. She was surrounded by children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who loved her dearly. Her big Irish family took care of her and always checked in. Unfortunately, my grandma’s mind was not what it used to be when she was near the end of her life, so I could never ask her about this. But wow, would 99 years of life be something great to look back on.

The thing is, we can’t all wait until the end of our lives to look back and learn. We have to remember that life isn’t about the craziness. Life is about people and moments. It’s about taking time to appreciate those things. Too often we forget this. Our society is one of busy bodies that need to constantly be doing something. We stuff our time outside of school/work with sports, clubs, concerts, gatherings and so much more. This past week I barely had time to breathe between all the appointments and study hours I had to fit in. That’s not okay.

I like to make it a goal of mine to take some time to stop and reflect. To stop and learn. And sometimes that is so very hard. We often don’t give ourselves enough time to sit in our own thoughts, uninterrupted. This is the space in which we learn the most about ourselves and life. This is where we grow.

We are all so focused on the next step, high school to college to a career to a family to retirement that I don’t think we know what to do when we make it through them all. We need to stop hurrying through life and enjoy the small time we have. God gave us people here to love and experiences to shape us, so we need to allow the love and growth.

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I am an introspective person. It’s part of being an introvert. I need that time for myself, but I am often so consumed by my busy schedule that it becomes what I think about in my quiet moments.

Here is my challenge (to myself and others): Take 10 minutes each day. Sit alone and in the silence. Think about the happy memories of the day. Think about the hard moments and what you can learn from them. Think about the people you are grateful for and what they’re doing in your life.

I think if more people took time to do this we would have a less stressed and more joyful world. We are often told to get our priorities straight, usually insinuating work or school. I think personal reflection and the people in our lives should be our priorities. So, get your priorities straight. Love yourself and others the way we were intended to do.

Mindfulness for the Season

September 12th was Mindfulness Day. How exciting that there’s a day for one of my favorite topics! I’ve mentioned before how important I’ve found this topic because of time spend working on it at camps. I haven’t talked about my healthy habits for this semester much yet. I want to let you know how I’m adjusting my mindfulness practices for a new school year and season of life.

I was beyond stressed last semester. I could barely function, so healthy habits were important to find time for in my life. I am far less stressed and busy this year (so far). It’s been easy to push healthy mental habits to the side because of that. Honestly, I use my free time to watch a lot of Private Practice. This definitely doesn’t help me stay organized and stay refreshed mentally and spiritually.

I have some things in the works that I’m working on making habits and not just sporadic behaviors. First, I’m getting back to my bullet journal. I quite using it during the summer because I was at camp and just didn’t have a lot to keep track of. Getting back to the daily planning and reflection has been hard since then. I’ve made my design a bit more simplistic and also gave my calendar more space in order to better chart my many activities.

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September in my journal before the onslaught of events being listed.

I am also working on setting times to dedicate to friends. Coffee dates, lunches, movie nights, etc. I am working on intentionally building relationships in order to make me better  and also be a better friend. People are important in life, so I want to make sure that shows in how I spend my time.

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Kayaking at Finger Lakes State Park.

Cleaning time is a new one. This sounds icky, and I’m not a big fan of cleaning. But, clean living space means clean head space. A cluttered room can often leave your mind cluttered. I am working really hard to keep my room organized and my desk empty of junk. I also do general cleaning more often. Organizing my room daily is making my space more enjoyable to be in and easier to do homework in.

This year I have room to have my cello with me at school. For me, making music has always been far more of a stress relief than listening to music. I think music is so important in life. I’m making more effort to use free time to release my emotions through my music. Even if you aren’t a musician, set aside time to find new music to listen to or time to go see some live music. Music is just plain good for the soul.

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Hillsong United’s Empires Tour in July.

One I’ve been really terrible about implementing is photography. I think it’s great to capture moments and memories with friends, yet my camera has sat dormant for a couple of weeks. I also really love editing photos, but that’s the journalism major side of me finding that relaxing. I need to collect more beautiful photos for my walls. Creating a room full of good memories can give you the right mindset to regularly go out and make new memories.

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Table Rock Lake from a July trip.

Mindfulness is defined by Google as, “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” Or, “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.” I like to view it as being in tune with your feelings and habits and focusing in on them to achieve a happier lifestyle. I don’t practice mindfulness meditation, which is a real thing, but rather try to be mindful of my thoughts and actions.

When you focus on positive living, you lead a more positive life. It helps you feel better, helps people around you feel better, and allows you to achieve more. The better you feel, the better you perform. Little habits can make for big differences.

So celebrate mindfulness with the rest of the world and make some positive changes in your life!

Firm Foundations

They don’t tell you this when you’re little, but a lot of the purpose of camp is to help you build firm foundations for your life. The goal is to give you the tools to grow into a stellar person, and to have some people who will help you get there.

You can’t build any structure without a foundation. That’s common sense. The same goes for building yourself as a person. There must be solid ground that will last a long time in order for you to grow. This usually means good morals, goals for life, strong character, and many other tools.

Most of what adults do while you’re growing up is secretly shaping you into a better person, secretly preparing you to be an adult. It’s a hidden instinct humans have. We want to make each other better humans without even realizing it sometimes.

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Camps, retreats, clubs, and so many other activities are just more obvious ways to try to make other people into better humans. To give them firm foundations.

Something people don’t teach you is that along the way, you build other people into that foundation. It’s not always purposeful, but sometimes it is. Your family is usually purposefully in that foundation. Often a best friend or a few make the foundation as well. The question is, can you really allow yourself to build people into your foundation?

During my time at camp this summer, I had a friend talk to me about building people into foundations. She made me think about relationships in a way I never have, and probably should have before. She told me you can’t build people into your foundation. People aren’t as dependable.

Now in the context of Christianity, Christ should be the firm foundation. This is what she was reminding me of. Was Christ really my foundation? A tough question for anyone to answer.

But, I don’t think it’s totally true that people shouldn’t be built in our foundations. I have been reflecting on this for several months now. We have been given other people to do life with, so why shouldn’t we depend on them every now and then? People can push you to build better foundations.

There’s one thing that’s right though. It’s something I’ve learned the hard way. You have to be careful who you allow to be built into your foundation.

Family is always a good answer to who is right or wrong to build yourself up on. Family loves you relentlessly and won’t leave you. Family will push you to be a better person and help strengthen your foundation.

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Friends are harder to think about. Even best friends don’t stay best friends a lot of the time. Friends come and go as seasons of life change. This can be hard when looking for people to support you through life. But I think it’s important to have friends in your foundation. However, going along with the building metaphor, it’s important to decide how much weight you allow them to support. You have to judge which friends are in your life for a season, and which are there to walk the whole way.

We all make mistakes. We all put too much weight on certain people sometimes. We all get let down. We all let people down. Here’s the best thing though: we get to rebuild. It may be hard. Our foundations may have some cracks or holes for a while, but that can be fixed. Other people are there just waiting to help you fill it back in.

That’s where I’m at right now. Seasons of life are changing, and I’m growing up. There are several people who I have realized have worked their way out of my foundation. And that’s a hard realization. But it’s also incredible to see who has stuck around to hold me up. I am so very grateful for my family and the others who have stuck around.

In life, other people are going to give you the tools to build a stronger foundation for yourself. And it’s okay to build them in every once in a while too. Other people are placed in your life for a reason, so let them make you a better person, and help them out some too.

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Keeping Connections

When you’re put in situations like attending camp, it’s easy to make friends fast. Everyone comes ready to meet new people and find people to cling to for the short time you’re there. The relationships grow deep fast. The atmosphere is built for these quality friendships to happen.

The real trick to this is maintaining these friendships once you leave the camp atmosphere. Years of camp has taught me a lot about how to intentionally foster friendships, because once you let go they’re usually gone.

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A lot of times these relationships end up being with people who live nowhere near you. Long distance relationships stink. Friendships included. You meet spectacular people who you have a lot in common with. But, unless you take time to make an effort to maintain it, the distance drives that connection apart.

More often than not, my camp friendships turned into Facebook likes and comments rather than meaningful conversations over the phone or Skype. However, there are a few that I’ve kept close to my heart rather than on my social media.

The key, I’ve found, is remembering that it’s a two-way effort. You have to remember that it takes both people reaching out to initiate conversation. Take time out of the day to send a quick hello over text, set up a time to talk over the phone, or write a meaningful letter.

Keep up to date on what’s going on in their lives. Know what their triumphs and trials are, and walk with them through that. Sometimes distance makes it easier to be a good support because you’re removed and have a good perspective. It’s helpful when asked for advice.

Not knowing everyone in their life can also be a good way to get to know your friend better. Ask them about the people they’ve mentioned or the ones in their photos. The way they talk about the people in their lives says a lot about them.

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Find a time to hang out. This can be the hard one. Invite them to visit, or make the effort to go visit them. Get to know they place they call home. It’s important to take turns when you do this. Share the travel expenses. But make a point to do so to get some quality time in face to face.

I’ve seen successes and failures with this. Though, as many times as I have failed to maintain a truly solid friendship, I have been beyond blessed with the ones I have kept.

Sometimes your camp friends from across the state end up at the same school as you, and become your sorority sister and one of the best friends you’ll ever have.

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