Something Big: Part II

My previous post discussed some crazy timing in getting me to a camp I didn’t plan to attend. Well, after about 24 hours rest it was time to serve at the camp I had planned for. I received a room of 7th grade girls who I had never met. I was excited because I love middle school campers but nervous because I wanted to be an excellent leader for them.

Before campers arrived I was thrown another curveball.

One of my girls had some medical issues. Staff decided to place another leader in my room incase we ever had a situation where it would be easier with two adults.

I was hesitant because I had just come from having a small group to lead independently to having to figure out how to share leadership with an adult. I am a person who is rooted in my plans and hate change, so I was far more hesitant so I should have been.

The night before campers came I was with my new co-leader and we ended up having a really cool conversation. Both of us had been given opportunities to serve where we didn’t originally intend to. Our plans were turned upside down for better ones and we were put in perfect positions to meet needs that the camps had. I realized that we were in the same situation just trying to figure things out.

The girls in our cabin ended up being the most charismatic, sassy, lovable and caring girls we could ask for. They demonstrated what good friends look like and really leaned on each other during the week.

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The girls taught me a lot about being intentional with care and having honest conversations. They made me better at asking tough questions and pushing them out of their comfort zones. And they showed exponential growth through that.

Another cool component of serving at this camp was the amount of young adult and high school leaders that took on the challenge of camp counselor. There were younger students who I got to talk through how to handle challenges of camp. There were also many college kids who go to my school that I got to build deeper relationships with and can now continue those throughout the year.

 

I have a lot of admiration for the students I served with and their fearlessness that they approached the week with. The kids loved the young leaders so much and connected extremely well. The college students were also incredible at pouring into the high school students all the way through to the end of a tiring week. I am grateful for friends like those.

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My sister also amazed me during the week and I was so glad that I got to watch her be a leader to another group of 7th grade girls. She had some tough tasks, but handled them like the adult she is becoming. My sister amazes me with how grown up and wise she has become, and the week only made me more impressed.

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Something major I learned from my time at both camps was how to be flexible in order to serve others. I never planned on being in the situations I was, but they were perfect. I wouldn’t have been able to make the connections I did or experience the growth without my own plan being thrown away.

My heart was softened to plans greater than my own. I was placed perfectly to do work that needed to be done, and for that I am grateful beyond words.

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Something Big: Part I

A month ago I was in the middle of loving on some kiddos at church camp. No technology, no busy schedule and no distractions in general. Just eager kids, a lake with a million activities and a plan to demonstrate love to campers. Looking back, I am so lucky with how my time at camp worked out and how much I learned through camp and through my kiddos. Camp isn’t just for campers, and boy, do I miss it already.

Going into this summer I was really beaten down. I didn’t get any of the internships applied for. In fact, more than once I was beat out by someone I knew. I felt a little bit worthless for a while. Then I realized that no internship meant I had the availability to volunteer at my church’s camp and reconnect with girls I had been a counselor for a few times.

I signed up eagerly to attend the high school camp and hopefully get paired with the girls I had when they were 6th and 7th graders. I later heard there was a need for middle school leaders. I was amazed with the opportunities that were available and jumped on that one too. I felt I had found my purpose for the summer in loving on these kids.

Then the blow hit again. There were too many leaders signed up for the high school camp, so college volunteers were reasonably the first to go. I was crushed. I have been mentoring some of these girls for years. And I was eager to see my sister and her class take charge as seniors that I had invested in. I was again confused of my purpose, but still ready to serve the middle school girls.

I had finally come to peace with where I was at, though I was dissatisfied. Then I got a text. It was the middle of high school camp and a counselor had fallen ill. They needed someone to come assume her role for the rest of the week.

I was shocked. But I was excited. So I packed rapidly and headed down to my favorite place.

I showed up and was immediately overwhelmed. It was free time, so no one was around and I was at a loss for what to do. Luckily the adult counselors are amazing and helped me find my room and find my girls. My sister running at me screaming with excitement helped too.

I walked into a bit of a shock. Girls were dealing with things as high schoolers that I never had to. It was halfway through the week, so they were already forming friendships and experiencing growth. I tried to catch up and find ways to connect with them and help them organize all their thoughts.

I was there three days, but I felt like it was right where I should have been. It wasn’t my timing, but it was perfect.

The best part? My girls who signed up for camp in hopes of getting me as a counselor had priceless reactions when I showed up and I got to pour into them as well as my girls. I got the best of both worlds and I got to fill a need. I had a purpose that week.

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Blessed time with my sister was also important to the week. I got to be there for her and her friends who I have watched grow up. I got to watch her speak in front of camp and be a leader for her final year as a camper. She made me so proud that it moved me to tears.

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I also was surrounded with some incredible adults. Being the only college girl leader, I found adults who I had formed bonds with in previous years who I could count on for the week and some younger adults that took me in as part of their pack for the week. I was really grateful for all of the women who helped me catch my breath and gave me encouragement.

I had a weekend at the lake to try to find a little rest with some other leaders before the next round of campers came. The weekend was a blessing as I got to relax and further some relationships with some high schoolers that were staying over as student leaders, including my sister. I felt old for the weekend, but it was fun and even involved spa face masks.

 

For the half of camp that I was there (though it didn’t feel that short), I learned a lot about how to be flexible. I learned that my timing isn’t always perfect and that everything is put in place for a reason. I learned to love people where they are, even if I didn’t have a grip on the situation. You don’t need details to provide love and encouragement to anyone, you just have to do it. I gained some amazing role models and gained a new group of kiddos to watch grow into incredible young ladies. I was content, and I felt like I had a purpose for the first time in a long time.

The night before I got asked to come to camp early, I was trying to explain to someone why I was frustrated with how I was feeling. I told them that I felt crazy stuck, but at the same time I felt that something really big was about to happen.

Camp was that something big, and as usual, it didn’t disappoint.

 

Getting Out: Road Trip Through Arkansas

Sometimes life gets overwhelming. Everyone needs a break every now and then. Doing the same thing day to day is monotonous and isn’t good mentally or spiritually. I like to think that’s why spring break was created. It’s like a universal acknowledgement that life gets hard and everyone needs to take a break, to get out.

I was fortunate enough to hit the road during my college spring break this year. I grabbed some good friends, my camera and my hammock and took off to Arkansas. No, it’s not a beach or mountains. But hey, it was a pretty dang good trip.

We used Pinterest to plan our road trip. If that’s not the epitome of college girl I don’t know what is. However, it ended up being perfect. We mapped out our route and where we would stop for nights. We picked hiking spots, museums, restaurants and other quirky stops that we didn’t want to miss. Then, we set out.

Day One:

Our first day was pretty crowded. We prioritized stopping at Lambert’s for lunch because that’s a Missouri classic. We then crossed over the border and started working our way southwest. We wound our way to Eureka Springs to hit two of our quirkier stops. This would be Christ of the Ozarks and Thorncrown Chapel. These were scenic and fun, and were the perfect stops to ease into our road trip. We then moved on to Bentonville to go to the Crystal Bridges museum. The museum was stunning (and free). We spent a good amount of time here taking in some beautiful art then headed on our way to Fayetteville. We left our agenda open here and wound up eating at this fantastic grilled cheese restaurant (Hammontree’s Grilled Cheese) and wandering our way around the college town before turning in for the night.

Day Two:

We got up early and headed for the destination I think we were all most excited for. Hawksbill Crag is a photo opportunity if there ever was one. We wound up some dirt roads and well beyond cell service, packed our lunch and headed out on a hike. The crag was breathtaking. It looked a lot more dangerous than it actually was. We spread out on the rock to enjoy a peaceful picnic lunch. I will probably never eat a meal with a better view. We took our many fun photos and headed back up the trail. We then headed to Mount Magazine State Park to hike to the highest point in Arkansas. This was bear country and we hoped to see a furry friend, but no such luck. There were some impressive scenic overlooks we took time to check out before making the super short hike up to Signal Hill. We opted for a shorter hike due to sunset coming. The highest point was marked and even on a stone map of Arkansas. We hit the road again to make it to our main destination, Hot Springs.

Day Three:

Why Hot Springs, Arkansas? Something about the smallest national park and the fact that you could take baths for fun made us want to check out the quirky little town. It ended up being a great choice. We started off our first day by taking a traditional bath at the Buckstaff Bathhouse. Boy, was that an experience. The water felt great though the whole routine was bizarre. It’s just something you have to try though when you go to a town built around taking baths in the natural springs. We spent some time shopping that day as well. The town is so cute! There is a cupcake shop called Fat Bottomed Girls that is amazing and I would highly recommend. We also headed up to the Mountain Tower. This was an amazing view of the town and surrounding mountains. It was crazy windy so that made it even more fun. We turned in a little early due to severe weather, but this was good since we were pretty wiped from all the driving and hiking.

Day Four:

We headed for one of our weirder stops first thing in the morning. This was an alligator farm just outside of town. There were so many gators in this place it was nuts. A man handed us little gators to hold. I’m glad I can say I did that, though not sure I would do it again. We played with some goats and passed our morning with the animals. We also stopped at this rock shop that was interesting and made for some simple souvenirs. We spent the rest of the day heading into the Ouchita National Forrest. We decided to hike a trail at Lake Ouchita. This lake was way cooler than we thought and the views were great. That trail was probably the hardest one we hiked though. We finished up the evening back in town at the famous Ohio Club where Al Capone and Babe Ruth used to party. The food was great and the live jazz was even better.

Day Five:

We headed out in the morning to start the journey back. First stop was Little Rock. We wanted to get some purple milkshakes for lunch at the Purple Cow. We ended up stopping at Little Rock Central High School and the national monument site. This is where integration was forced and a lot of history was made. It was a cool spontaneous stop. We went on to Blanchard Springs Cavern and took a tour through the coolest cave I’ve ever seen. We also checked out the spring itself and Mirror Lake, which was beautiful at sunset time. We ended the night in a hot tub in Branson.

The next day we spent some time at Silver Dollar City and then headed home.

This road trip wasn’t spectacular or expensive. It was cheap, it was dirty and it was simple. What mattered was getting out of school, out of routine and out of our heads. A week in wide opens spaces and with good company was the perfect break.

I like to think that when you are out in the “wilderness” you are closest to God. The trip wasn’t spiritual, but it was good for the spirit.

Everyone needs to step back, get out and heal the mind and the soul. Take a break, take a trip and make some memories.

2017 Bullet Journal Setup

I am so late at getting this up on the blog due to travel, illness, and the start of another semester. However, I am really excited about my spread for this year and am pumped to share it with you!

First off, I did a big no-no in the bullet journal world. I did not start in a new journal. I had not filled mine up since I only use it during school and didn’t start it at the beginning of last year. It seemed awful to waste so much space, so I just continued on. I do highly recommend a fresh start though.

Here are some of the items I use in my bullet journal:

  • Tombow dual brush pens (featured image)
  • Micron 05 pens
  • Faber-Castell assorted artist pen set
  • Stabilo fine pens
  • Prismacolor Premier dual brush pen
  • Washi tape
  • Water colors
  • Fun sticky notes

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My first page of the year is a plain old calendar. This is for quick reference and makes a good cover page for the year.

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My second section is the calendex, just like most of the bullet journal pros. This allows me to know ahead of time what each month looks like and keep track of the major events I have in them so I don’t double book. I make sure each month has ample space because  I tend to get very busy very fast.

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I tried something new for my next page. I did a 2016 year in review. This is kind of to see what my biggest battles were and what I learned from them. I had a rough year, but it wasn’t a bad year. And what I learned has the ability to make this year even better.

I took the review and used it to help guide my goals for 2017. I created three categories (personal, spiritual and relational) and created a few goals within them. I also have some room where I can add to this as the year goes on.

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Next, my Level 10 Life spread returns. This idea comes from Boho Berry (one of my favorite bullet journal Instagram accounts). It allows you to assess ten different areas in your life and create goals for how to improve them. The cool thing is that I have mine from last year and could really look at them and think about the progress (or not) that I have made. I ditched the circle design (circles are hard) and went for a bar graph instead. I then color coded and set goals on the next page. The goals turned out way smaller than I planned because I messed up, but it made a cute rainbow effect.

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My next spread is a new one. I found the guideposts for wholehearted living on Pinterest, and decided to turn it into a bullet journal tool of positivity. It is a healthy reminder that the world is going to try to drag you down, but we have the ability to choose positive alternatives.

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For the past several year I have chosen a word of the year. This started with a high school FCA lesson but has stuck. The goal of the word for me is to see where I need to grow in my life and focus on one word to help me conquer the year. My word is faith-based, but a lot of other people use it for other areas of their lives. My spread has my word in big brush-lettered writing and then a list of verses to tackle this year that will help me keep my focus and hopefully grow a little. I have had wonderful success with this practice in the past and am excited to have in my journal this year.

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The final item I included is my 2017 bucket list. The year is just more fun with a bucket list. I actually crossed several items off of my 2016 list, so hopefully that will happen again.

The one spread I did not carry over is my books to read spread. Since I am using the same journal, I felt it was unnecessary to create an identical spread  twice. I also haven’t read nearly all the books on the list I had.

This year’s layout involved HOURS on Pinterest, bullet journal blogs and some of those bloggers’ Instagrams. I highly recommend using these tools to create your own spread. Each person tends to do similar things but with their own spin on it. It’s nice to have examples, but it often sparks ideas for my own designs or spreads.

Hopefully 2017 is organized and wonderful with my bullet journal by my side.

Ready, Set… Grow!

As you all probably know by now, I am the biggest fan of reflections there is. I write about it all the time and you’ll often find me staring off into space living it out. The New Year is a time that a lot of people decide to reflect. It’s a time of goal setting, new ideas, and self-improvement. However, the New Year is also notorious for people failing at everything they decide to tackle.

I don’t like to think of changing in the New Year. Rather, I like to think of growing. It is super important to set goals for growth in the upcoming year, but it is just as (maybe even more) important to see where you grew the previous year. You can’t set goals without realizing what you’re capable of achieving.

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A lot of times we don’t realize where we are experiencing growth. When you’re in the moment, it’s hard to see where you’re being shaped and renewed. That’s why it is important to look backward. Behind you is where you learn.

The key to doing this is not getting wrapped up in the past. I have struggled a lot with that this year. My 2016 wasn’t fabulous. I battled a lot of physical and mental health problems, I lost some people in my life who I loved a lot, and I felt like I was failing myself. I struggled with image, both physically and in what I was achieving (or not). This is the tip of the iceberg, but sums up a lot.

I have been so focused on how hard my year had been and how broken I was that I didn’t realize all the time I was also being fixed and being made better than before.

I learned how to manage stress and look for the joy in every day, I realized who God placed in my life to get me through and to appreciate the people who would no longer walk with me, and I saw that failures were opening doors for bigger successes. I am learning to love myself and working on not comparing myself to others. Through all the junk, I ended the year with my first college 4.0 semester, an officer position in my sorority, and some really incredible relationships.

And I ended it happy.

None of this would have happened if I wasn’t growing while experiencing the pain.

It has been a lot of steady reflection that has opened my eyes to this. My goals for the New Year are now clear. They’re not to change anything, but to continue the growth that has been placed in my life.

Find the beauty in the chaos.

Know where my strength comes from.

Choose to be joyful.

Build firm foundations.

Do things I love.

Be intentional.

Breathe.

These are a few of the highlights. Simple reminders I will whisper to myself when days get dark and roads get hard. They encompass how I want to continue growing relationally, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.

So, love the pain. Love how far 2016 dragged you down. Because you didn’t realize that whole time you were being prepared for something so much greater. Find that something in the New Year.


“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Wrapping Up

This photo is an accurate description of how I feel about the semester being over so suddenly.

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It all came so fast. I’m scrambling to keep up with finals, holiday shopping, saying goodbye to friends, and packing. All of the things that symbolize the end of the year. Through all of this I have to remember to take time to stop and appreciate everything that happened this semester and the people in my life. Some end of the year reflection (my favorite thing).

I look back on this semester and am grateful for what a turnaround it was from the previous one. I went from struggling with anxiety and stress to being happy and healthy and loving life. I have so may great people to thank for that. My classes went well, my sorority things have been excellent, and I have grown a lot.

I appreciate the people I’ve grown closer to over this past semester. I can’t believe I didn’t have them in my life before. They’ve provided me with a support system like no other and have made this semester so enjoyable.

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I’m also grateful for the people who have been there for me since day one of this college adventure. We’ve been through so much and I can’t believe we are over halfway done.

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It’s the people in life who make it great. I am lucky to have some incredible ones in my life. They help me make it through school and everything else. I am sad to be leaving my college people behind for a month, but love my people at home and can’t wait to spend some quality time with them.

This semester has just taught me to be extra thankful for the people who make me and my goal is to let them all know that as I reflect on the roles they have played in my life.

End of the Year Organization

I have been absolutely awful about maintaining my bullet journal. I watch all these awesome Instagram videos of people doing theirs and I get envious. I just don’t have the time to do it. However, as college finals are basically upon me, I need some stress relief and organization in my life. I made sure to take the time to make my December spread so that I can make it through the endless list of things I have to do over the course of the next week.

Now I sometimes struggle to find motivation to make plans for months like December where I am only at school for a bit. College is my main motivation for keeping the daily spread up. I did not do summer spreads because I was either at camp or nannying, so it seemed kind of pointless. I want to get better at using my spreads to keep my daily tasks organized, whether they’re college related or not.

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So this is my opening of the December spread. I decided to do a fun winter theme because this is the month that seems to officially start winter. And, as you can see, it has already snowed here! (I apologize for the lighting, my room has terrible light and there is no natural light coming through the window today.)

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This has remained my favorite calendar spread for the entire month. It’s cute and leaves room for plenty of things to fill up the days. I only add the biggest things to keep it manageable.

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I have my classic habit tracker which is pretty empty right now because I am in full finals mode. I added a simple note section because there are several things coming up that I will need to note for coming days/months as the year wraps up.

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I brought back the gratitude spread, which I have been really bad about keeping up with in the past months. December is definitely a month to count my blessing in as I wrap up the year and start some serious reflections.

I then have the Waiting On, BIG Verses, Wins, and Learning sections behind this, but they’re not fun and colorful. Spicing those up might be my task for next year, and the habit tracker too.img_1471

And then I go on with my daily spreads. As you can see I’m pretty much working on papers and then studying for finals I have this coming week (and you can see my mistake on Friday where I started to write Wednesday).

So here’s to combatting my procrastination with unchecked lists. Hopefully I’ll keep up on this so that I can stay sane through finals and not forget to stop and reflect.

A Perfect Plan

It is the season of thankfulness and Thanksgiving is just a few days away. I think a lot of times we don’t grasp the full meaning of giving thanks. We always say we are thankful for our family, our friends, and the food on the table. Those are excellent things to be thankful for. But I think there is so much more that we forget to be grateful for.

Sure, the people and things in our lives are awesome. We should definitely be thankful for those. But we should also be thankful for the things that come from those. Such as the experiences we are afforded because of the things in our lives. Everything God has given us intertwines to give us the really rad lives we live.

For example: My mom and dad have made me who I am and have worked to give me opportunities that I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t their child. The things they give me lead to experiences that mold me and introduce me to people who make life special. Those people give me other experiences and people. My parents are more than my parents, they’re my gateway to the world. I don’t know how you even begin to thank someone for that.

It is an awesome series of perfectly lined up circumstances that brings us to where we are today. It’s these circumstances that I think we often forget we should be grateful for, both the good and the bad.

Maybe you’re not happy with where you are right now. Maybe life has got you down. But there have been a lot of awesome ups to go with the downs, and we have to remember that. If anything, an awesome series of perfectly lined up circumstances are allowing you to be breathing right now. That’s pretty incredible.

I like to reflect on the series of events that get me to certain points in my life. It’s interesting to look back and see where the decisions you and others made got you to where you are. A lot of times I can see this when I go back and read my journal entries. That’s a good place to see where things that went wrong in my opinion ended up leading me to some even better things. You know, one door closes and another opens or whatever the saying is. Too often we miss how closed doors lead us to better places.

So this holiday season I encourage others to think about the people and the things in life you’re thankful for, but also the circumstances surrounding those that have made you who you are. And then take that beyond just the season. We are some lucky people to have a temporary home here on earth with some incredible experiences in store.

In the end, the plan for our lives is perfect, and we have to be grateful for that.

*Header photo courtesy of Carlie Ross

Handle With Care

One huge thing I have learned from camp  it is that people are oh so very broken. Everyone puts on a happy face to go through their day. We live in a social media world where people only put out their very best, and everyone feels miserable because they think everyone else has got it way better than them. Our society believes it’s not okay to not be okay.

But friends, every single one of us is very very broken.

I’ve seen a lot of really hard things at camp. I’ve watched my friends admit that they’re walking through terrible trials and temptations. I’ve had young girls tell me that they’ve never felt loved, even by their families. I’ve watched guys struggle with pornography and girls with terrible lust. I’ve seen families struggling when they look like the perfect picture of love on the outside.

My heart has been broken for what breaks The Lord’s.

Yet I continue to pray that He breaks it daily.

It is so very important to remember that we are intricate and fragile creations. We aren’t created to be perfect.

We as a society need to stop expecting people to hide their brokenness. It’s okay to battle mental illness, to come from a broken home, to feel lonely, to wrestle desire and pride. It’s okay to struggle. This life isn’t easy.

It’s okay to admit you’re broken.

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Want to know why? Because there are people who want to love you and help you heal. If we don’t admit we are broken and hurting and weak, then the people who matter in our lives can’t come alongside us and walk through that with us.

As  a camp counselor, I got to come alongside so many broken young women. Both campers and other counselors. And I also got to spend time with people who would come alongside me.

I wish everyday life viewed brokenness the way that camp does. Camp is a place where the downtrodden come to find rest. The point is to facilitate that rest and that healing and send stronger campers back home. But why can’t we do this for our friends and family every day?

We need to start asking people if they’re okay. And really meaning it and taking the time to listen. And if we get asked if we are okay, we need to be transparent and say how we really feel. We have to battle the hurt with unending love.

This year has been extremely trying. And I have been hurting bad. I tried to stuff it down for a long time, but it got too far. My mental and physical health was at stake. Admiting I was broken and lost and that I didn’t know what to do allowed some very wise people to speak truth into my life. This hard year has made me stronger.

Our world is a broken world, but we can’t begin healing it until we are transparent about that. And when that happens, we can only heal it with love.

Psalm 34:18

Read and Reflect

I think everyone knows by now that I am a huge advocate of reflection in order to grow. I love journaling and quiet time to work through my thoughts and seek self-improvement. However, I think there are more ways than these to work on reflection and better oneself.

Books.

That’s right. Reading.

I struggle big time finding time for leisure reading these days. My free time is consumed with college events and homework. And I hate that. When I do get free time, I often squander it on my phone or watching TV because I feel I need a break. I take for granted the type of break reading a good book can bring.

There’s something refreshing about leaving your own thoughts and entering those of someone else. It’s also a space where you can learn a lot. Seeing how someone else approaches their thoughts can boost your reflection.

I have a few books that I’ve been working on (when I have time). They’re mostly Christian literature. This genre of literature often blatantly prompts the reader to reflect, so I love them.

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Echoes of Eden by Jerram Barrs

This book is about getting in touch with art as a Christian and appreciating the world around you. The main message is that we can not boast in our art, but exemplify Christ through them. Barrs looks at popular works of art like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Shakespeare works, and C.S. Lewis and Jane Austen novels.

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Prayer by Timothy Keller

This selection goes in-depth at what prayer looks like and how to revolutionize your prayer life. This piece definitely pushes you into your thoughts as you are pushed to think about how you communicate with God. Keller teaches how to approach things like loss, love, and sadness in your prayer life.

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Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

This book is a classic. It can either teach you about the basic thoughts of Christianity, or reaffirm your Christian foundations. Lewis makes readers rethink their moral foundations and what values have made them who they are. It’s also just a brilliant reminder of the perfect pieces that make up the Christian faith.

Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller

In this book, Keller helps readers explore where their priorities lie and what they value most in life. It’s a rude awakening to where we place our money, time, and thoughts. This is the ultimate guide to reflecting on life.