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.

DSC_0241

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.

Advertisements

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.

img_5223.png

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.

IMG_5248

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.

IMG_5239

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.

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

img_1862

 

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.

img_1863

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.

img_1865

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.

img_1866

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.

img_1867

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.

img_1868

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.

img_1869

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.

fullsizerender

 

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

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.

img_1463

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.

img_1459

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.

img_1460

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.

IMG_1461.JPG

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.

My Happy Place

This past weekend my sorority took a trip down to Lake of the Ozarks for a sisterhood retreat. We got to our house at 5:15 am to take school buses to the retreat center. Everyone was a little tired, but spirits perked up once we saw the lake.

The weekend was full of some group activities, high/low ropes team building, and plenty of free time to build relationships and relax with friends. A lot of girls complained about no cell service and nothing to do (they weren’t nature fans). I, however, LOVED the weekend unplugged and outdoors. I had come off a crazy busy week and needed the break. I got to know a lot of my friends better and make some new friends as well. The lake was beautiful and peaceful. The hikes and walks were refreshing. It’s not often I get to sit on a dock and watch the sunset, enjoy the stars (all of them) around a campfire, and watch the sun rise the next morning. I got to just appreciate what life has given me and the people in it.

The really unique thing was that this is the camp where I have grown up. With my old church, we used to go down about every other year in elementary school for Girls in Action retreats. Then, starting in 8th grade, I have spent a week of every summer there with my current church’s youth group. This camp is the inspiration for a lot of my blog posts and the place where I would say I have done the most growing. Some of my happiest memories come from sunny days at the lodge on the lake with my best friends. Some of my most painful memories come from here too. Moments when I was convicted of where my life was and where it needed to go. I made my best friends here, got to know the three guys I’ve dated here, and watched my little sister do a lot of growing up here. This camp is like my sacred bubble where I learn about myself and how I fit in to the grand scheme of things.

It was really weird to be here with new people and not my church. So many memories flooded back, and it was hard not to want that experience of summer camp. I missed it this year to go to Kanakuk, and being back made me miss the people and the experience dearly. I finally shifted my mindset to realize this was an opportunity to make new memories and learn new things. I can’t be a kid forever, and the meaning of camp is going to evolve for me. It was really sad to have this realization.

However, it was amazing to capitalize on a weekend away and take time to appreciate the people who are in my life nowadays. I am truly blessed by the college chapter of my life. This was a helpful reminder to slow down in the chaos and take time to appreciate what I have and where I’m headed. It was also a time to remember where I came from and how grateful I should be for the journey.

So, below is a photo gallery of the weekend. There is a super cheesy video to accompany it. I hope it relays just how fun the people in my life are and how lucky I am to have them.

 

 

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.

12243423_10204695785464710_6032620072067639193_n.jpg

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.

1017194_4721414923503_187642384_n

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.

1661764_10201200454003608_91843871_n

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.

 

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.

img_2761

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.

IMG_1098.JPG

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.

img_3694

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.

img_3566

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.

img_3536

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!