Retreat from Worry

This post is long overdue because this semester has been crazy. I like to promote rest and mindfulness, but wasn’t so good at practicing it this semester. There were a few key moments where I experienced some of that, so I would love to share.

Fall can be absurdly crazy for a college student. Classes start back, there are new organizations to get involved in, commitments seem to double every year and not to mention Greek life which takes on Homecoming and new members and a ton of events. It’s usually fun, but it can be crazy.

I was lucky enough to get to attend two different retreats where I got to take my mind off the speeding bullet that was fall semester and take stock of what was going on. The first being a retreat with my sorority the first weekend of classes.

That seems really early to be so stressed, but in reality it was great timing. Two weeks of formal recruitment are about as tiring and emotionally draining as an experience gets. Plus the first week of classes is a whirlwind of information and trying to figure things out. We took the weekend to go to a camp on the lake and just be together.

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Now if you’ve read any of my previous blogs you know I love camp, love the lake and love people. My only job at this retreat was to spend time with old friends and meet new members while spending time in the sun and around bonfires. I learned that after a few weeks of pretending I had it all together and carrying out duties of the executive board and senior year, it was okay to let go and let someone else be in charge.

Sometimes it is so hard to realize that you’re not always in control. I admit I can be a control freak. When things get out of hand is when I get stressed and anxious. What I had to learn this semester, and what this retreat began to teach me, is that sometimes letting others be in control is the best way to practice self-care.

Growing up is a lot of trying to have it all together and knowing what’s next. Senior year especially. It’s hard to admit that I don’t have it all together and I have no idea what’s next.

Spending time with some other seniors at the second retreat is what made me realize that I am so not alone in that. It sounds like a lot of other seniors have these big jobs lined up and have the perfect lives, but in reality we are all glorious ruins.

Side note: Glorious ruins is a term I learned at a women’s conference this semester. It’s kind of like being a hot mess, but with divine purpose and beautiful design.

Sometimes I feel so small and have a hard time remembering there is a bigger plan than my own and I must have patience. Talking about that with some other lost but beautiful souls reassured me that I am not as small and alone as I have been feeling this year.

Life transitions are scary. Getting asked about what’s next all the time and not knowing the answer is scary. This semester and the two perfect breaks I had reminded me that I have no reason to be scared when I have the perfect people in my life to love and a plan that is far greater than my own to discover.

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

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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Beautiful Twists and Turns

I have been back from camp for a few weeks now. I spent about a month there serving some amazing kiddos and serving my God. I have so many things I could write about that I learned in my time there, but right now I want to talk about how sometimes the incredible things in life come when your plans don’t work the way you want.

I’m going to tell you about how I cleaned toilets for a few weeks and loved it.

I never planned to end up at the camp I did for a large portion of my summer. I had wanted an internship that I didn’t end up getting. It wasn’t even the first camp I applied to. I knew I wanted to serve kids and serve God in some capacity, and I have a heart for camp. I ended up choosing Kanakuk over others. However, I had my heart set on being a counselor. The position I was offered was that of a kitchie. Still, I would get to work with kids and it worked with my summer schedule better based off the terms I was offered.

So, what’s a kitchie? All I knew going into it was that they are girls that serve in the dining hall but are still assigned a cabin of campers to hang out with. No one told me what kind of crazy work it would end up being. Kitchie means early mornings prepping breakfast before the rest of camp is awake. It means prepping the dining hall for every meal, serving two meals at each meal time for 600 people, and cleaning up every meal and the entire dining hall. We were lucky to get a couple of hours off in the afternoon, and what time we were done at night depended how messy dinner dishes were. The kitchies are like a finely tuned army of cleaning girls. We didn’t cook, but oh did we clean. I learned really quickly to get over the gross things, work to keep a positive attitude, and rejoice in the little victories like a new shipment of peanut butter.

The kitchies are all college aged girls who live together and work together. That’s a lot of time together. Girls form cliques and have arguments. It’s expected when you spend so much time so close together. My first week or so at camp, I was not enjoying it. I am an introvert and wasn’t putting myself out there to build good relationships. My expectations for camp were not being met.

A few weeks in the job of mutt maid was handed out to four select kitchies. This job was given to girls with high integrity, good maturity, excellent work ethic, and a positive attitude. Sounds cool, right? I earned this title. What did it mean? It meant every other day I got to clean all the public toilets on camp. Camp toilets are disgusting.

I was disheartened at this point. I felt like I wasn’t much use at camp. I felt like I could be used in better ways. I wanted to spend more time with kids. I wanted to go home.

That’s when God blew my mind.

I was too caught up in my plans to see what God was doing in me. He had placed me as a kitchie at Kanakuk for a reason.

I fell in love with my cabin of 13 year olds (the youngest at camp) that I got to have discussion and prayer with every night. They loved to come find me at meals and talk to me during the day. I was blessed to be able to tuck them in and pray with them every night.

I got to be an influence on other kitchies who were experiencing tough times in their lives. The campers aren’t the only ones who come to camp needing some love and to find rest in God.

I also went to camp broken. I made some really good friends who helped me to heal and to work through big decisions in my life. They are friends I know I can rely on for a lifetime to point me towards Christ. We went on many adventures together that I will never forget.

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God humbled me. I struggle daily with pride. I believe I can do it on my own. I can’t. Giving me a kitchie and mutt maid position helped me to realize that work needs to be done to serve God and someone has to do the not so fun jobs too. Plus, it’s easy to find ways to have fun no matter what you’re doing at camp.

My favorite saying: Not all work is glorious, but all work glorifies God.

Camp also gave me space to heal and grow. It gave me goals to come home with and directions I need to move. It gave me clarity and peace. And it gave me a support system that really knows my heart, because you’re most honest and transparent at camp.

This is just the beginning of positive things that came out of my time at Kanakuk. I ended up loving my experience. Sure, work was physically and mentally challenging most days. I love a good challenge. God placed it there for me to embrace. Sometimes it takes some space to clear your mind and see what God is doing in your life and how you are being used to touch others.

Life isn’t going to go the way you want it to. Good. You learn and grow more when it goes God’s way. Be patient and thank Him for the twists and turns.

Proverbs 27:1, James 4:13-16

April Organization

I am going to share my April bullet journal layout and how I adapted it based on what I learned from March. My first month of using the bullet journal system was awesome. I felt like I had it all together. My list of things to do was way more productive and fewer items slipped my mind.

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I kept the monthly intro page with goals. I always will, but I’m still not sure how I feel about the monthly goals part being on it. Maybe I’ll start to put memories here next month.

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I also left the calendar and habit tracker because they definitely worked for me. Obviously, I still don’t have time to do a lot of things I would like to. I mean, look at that April calendar.

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I also left the gratitude section mostly unchanged. It’s still very grounding to look back on the days and know that something good does come of every one of them, even if sometimes it doesn’t seem like it.

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Here is where I started switching the layout up a lot based off what I learned in March. I condensed the Waiting On section. There is no reason I should be ordering a whole page of packages, and I fail to keep track of emails and calls because I make so many. I added a Big Verses section. This allows me to kind of keep track of what was important during the month and helps me look back and re-center myself in the Word. I left the memories section, though I need to get better at using it. That’s a goal this month.

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I combined the Wins and Learning sections and took away the weekly reflection part of them. I didn’t need all that space and didn’t use it well for March. It might come back once I get better at using it. I also added the #RockYourHandwriting challenge in to keep track of. I am bad about doing it, but hey, baby steps.

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I also decided to add in the use of fun embellishments. I got these in the dollar section at Target, but they’re perfect. They allow me to keep notes that I don’t want to randomly scribble on pages.

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Here’s where some honestly comes in. I am not perfect at using my bullet journal. April began while I was on Spring Break, which is why I opted not to put my updated bullet journal layout on the blog. However, after I came back I learned a very important organization lesson. I had messed with the layout, but got distracted on break and didn’t necessarily need it. When I got back, I was not prepared for the week I had thrown at me.

As you can see above, I skipped a few days. Or a lot of days. I was so overwhelmed with the week that most nights I just came home really late and went to bed. Add in the fact that I had a terrible stomach virus on top of deadline week, a test, a research paper, and Greek Week and you get a disaster of a person. However, not keeping track of my tasks just made it a million times worse. (I also make mistakes, which drives me nuts. Notice the washi tape.)

I got through the week and sat and reorganized my life, almost literally. I learned that I don’t function well with no type of organization keeping me together. My past week was significantly better. I had everything organized and listed in my journal. Everyone has crazy weeks, you just have to learn how to anchor yourself. For me, it turns out I am already bullet journal dependent. Sure, I keep track of things other ways, but this made me feel unorganized. Feeling that way just added a mental mess to the physical mess that was my first week back from break.

That’s a lesson learned and some new goals set. Organization is key to a healthy state of mind.