It’s ok to say it.

Hey friends! Yikes, it’s been a hot minute. Life gets busy and 24 hours isn’t really that long, so I’ve learned.

If you know me, you can attest to the fact that I am probably the most indecisive person on the face of planet earth. Like if I go to a restaurant that only has two things on the menu I will probably still have to tell the waiter that I need a couple more minutes to decide. So, after four months of not writing anything, I looked at my running list of blog ideas (that’s mighty long, I might add) and I couldn’t decide what to write. Then I thought about what’s been going on in my life these past four months, and the unexpected rollercoaster it’s been. Therefore, I’m calling out uncertainty. To my dear readers–especially if you’re a late high school/early college student–I want you to know something.

As a sophomore in college–approaching the halfway mark of my collegiate career and the near end of gen eds (BLESS)–I often feel the pressure to have my ish together. My senior year of high school, I was dead set on going to Florida State University to study dietetics, graduate in 4 years, hopefully get a combined dietetic internship+master’s degree from FSU, and become a registered dietitian. I was so pumped because I thought I had it figured out. I thought I had a passion for health and nutrition. I really thought so.

Turns out, my passion was more of an unhealthy obsession. I battled with a binge eating disorder (I was never diagnosed with a legit eating disorder, but I certainly had disordered eating) and I put an unhealthy amount of time and research into food. It was a comfort, but a stressor. When I would stress, I’d turn to food. See how it’s a vicious cycle? It got to a point where the only healthy things in my mind were hyper-organic, chicken and green vegetables. Everything else would destroy my gut. That’s what I thought.

It took failing chemistry and having to drop the class for me to finally wake up and realize that I wasn’t meant to study dietetics. Well nuts, plan foiled. So in a frenzy, I switched my major to Editing, Writing, and Media, knowing I liked to write. Then came the often dreaded question: “So what do you plan to do with that?” Good question. Your guess is as good as mine.

I finished my freshman year totally clueless as to what to do. I thought about taking a gap year or transferring schools. I just didn’t know what the heck my purpose was.

A few weeks later, I began a summer internship in student ministry. How did I end up there? Honestly I give Jesus the credit 100%. In high school, I always thought to work in student ministry, you had to be super outgoing and funny and have energy like nobody’s business. So basically everything that I am not, I thought. Good, one less career option on my radar, one less thing to choose from. Evidently, God had other plans (a WAY better one, I might add). It’s actually pretty funny to me to look back on how it all fell into place. I’m just so glad that it happened, let me tell you.

Things I learned from an internship I never thought I would ever do:

  1. The body of Christ (the Church) HAS to be diverse or it cannot function properly. 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 is titled, “One Body, Many Parts.” The Church is likened to a body, and people to the parts. A body is not made up solely of eyes. If it were, could it move. No. Could it think? No. Therefore, it would be dysfunctional. But the body is not made up of one part, but of many! (vs. 14). “If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body” (vs. 15). I found great encouragement and confidence in that. Verse 18 says, “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” In a world that gives you a list of requirements and standards, it can be so hard to believe that YOU WERE MASTERFULLY CREATED EXACTLY THE WAY YOU ARE. Your personality, likes and dislikes, even your life experiences and struggles were hand-picked for you and you alone.
  2. Sin serves a purpose. It was no accident! I’m in the process of reading Extravagant Grace by Barbara Duguid. (It’s $8.14 on Amazon, I’ve linked it for ya!) The female interns and an amazing leader would meet and unpack this book together on Thursday nights, and it honestly blows my mind. In what I’ve read so far, she talks about how God uses sin for His glory, and how God ORDAINED the specific sin that each person struggles with. Satan literally can’t freaking win. Dang, what a good God we serve.
  3. People need people. We were never meant to do life alone. Like point one, we need people who think differently, who see things from a different perspective. We all were created with totally unique thought processes; therefore, we all need each other. The most life-changing things I’ve learned about myself–good and bad–were pointed out to me by OTHER PEOPLE. You can’t grow without people speaking into your life, affirming your strengths and calling you out and walking with you through your weaknesses.
  4. Do the things you thought you never could. Turns out, I love student ministry. Absolutely love it. This transition coming back to college has been pretty tough because I loved my summer more than I ever thought I would. Doing life with middle and high school students and growing in grace together is such a treasure. The cool part is, now I feel like I have a direction to go in. I feel like my eyes have been opened to a whole new opportunity. Stay tuned…
  5. Love is the answer. 1 John 4:8 tells us that God is love. 1 Corinthians 12:31 deems love “the most excellent way.” Chapter 13 tells of all the great things we can accomplish in this life, all the things we can surrender, all the faith we possess are meaningless without love at the heart of the matter. Love is patient, kind, is not envious, does not boast, is not proud or rude or self-seeking, is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in truth. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres, and love never fails (1 Cor. 13:4-8). Check this out; go ahead and substitute ‘God’ everywhere that ‘Love’ is in this verse. God is love! Loving others is a reflection and an outpouring of the love God has for us. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him” (John 3:16-17). Jesus, in His love for us, took our condemnation upon Himself so that we could be free. We have been freed from the condemnation that God had every right to give us, but He loved us too much to leave it at that. How great the Father’s love for us, am I right??

Shoot, man, this list could go on. But here’s what I want you to hear.

You are free to say, “I don’t know.” There is no shame in saying, “I am lost, I am confused, I am upset, I am in pain.” IT’S OK TO NOT BE OK. 

The standard is not perfection or having it all together. We’re all human and we make mistakes and take 10 years to make decisions and say stupid things and hurt people and struggle with depression and anxiety and fall flat on our faces sometimes.

But by the gospel, the standard is grace. God is at work in whatever season of life you’re in right now. You don’t have to have it all figured out, because He’s had every second planned since the beginning of time.

And it’s a beautiful masterpiece to watch unfold.

 

Can I tell you something?

Hi friends. It’s been a while again. Lemme catch you up on the whirlwind that is my life.

So I finished my freshman year of college! WOO. It was an absolute blast and I appreciate every moment of it. I had some pretty high highs and some pretty low lows, but I am so thankful that life is a rollercoaster and not a trolley. Without low lows, the highs wouldn’t be so amazing and thrilling. Change can’t happen without pain. It’s like working out–in order to build those muscles, you’re going to have some pretty sore days. But once that soreness fades, you can feel and see the change in your appearance and it feels AMAZING. Isn’t the heart like that, too? Those trials in life are like an insane workout that’ll leave you sore for a while, but the soreness won’t last forever. Once it fades, you’ll feel a change and you’ll feel stronger and it will feel EVEN MORE AMAZING. That happened to me in ways I never thought possible these past 9 months of college. Remember my last (kinda vague) post about vulnerability? Well, that bandaid was ripped off more than once and IT FELT AMAZING. To ugly cry in front of people as I pour out the pain and struggles of life and how God has so mightily worked on my heart this year was the most refreshing thing I’ve ever done. To have a community of friends who hug you and cry with you and who praise the One who gives our hearts a dang good workout is such a gift.

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Probably my favorite memory of freshman year happened in the week before finals. Early on in the school year, my campus ministry does this thing called “Freshman Connection” where all the freshman in all the different bible studies come hang and get to know each other and worship together. At the end of the year, we freshman decided to get together on Landis Green the Friday night before finals to talk about the ways that God had worked in our lives over the course of freshman year. Like, dang. It was INCREDIBLE. We talked about struggles we came into college with and how God used those to strengthen our hearts and draw us to Him. There were a lotta tears, a lotta vulnerability, and I’ve never experienced such a beautiful picture of community as we prayed over each other and our summers and the incoming freshman class. God is so, so, so, so good, y’all.

So let’s bring it back to the ups and downs topic. I wanna tell you a story. Bear with me, I may jump around but hopefully it’ll all tie together in the end. Welcome to my brain.

So coming into college, I had what seemed like an unfixable health issue with my gut that was triggered by huge amounts of stress in my life that compounded over a few years. I was depressed as heck. Like didn’t want to get out of bed. I sobbed randomly throughout the day. I actually remember saying through a blur of tears, “I feel like there’s no point in getting up. I feel like I’m in a hole that I can’t get out of. I’m losing hope.” I’m just gonna say it straight up. The stress of life had literally worn holes in my intestines–like actual holes–so all that toxic crap (again, literal) that’s supposed to exit the body was stuck in there (aka I was hecka constipated you’re welcome), with nasty toxic waste escaping into my bloodstream.

I actually wrote a research paper on the gut-brain connection in the first semester of freshman year because I knew there had to be something related. Turns out, 90% of serotonin production happens in your gastrointestinal tract and is transmitted to the brain through the vagus nerve. The Latin meaning of vagus is “wandering;” the vagus nerve connects the brain to all of your visceral organs (i.e. your GUT). Ever wonder why certain foods make you feel a certain way? Well, that’s why. You have good and bad bacteria in your gut. When the bad overpowers the good, serotonin production is inhibited. I had a hecka lot of bad bacteria in my gut with all that toxic crap in my gut (this had been going on for 3 years, mind you, and that junk wasn’t movin to fast…).

Needless to say, I was a little afraid to go to college. What was my biggest fear? That I wasn’t gonna be able to go to the bathroom. No joke, you can laugh (like for real, laughing is good for you). I’m not even kidding you, for 3 years not a day went by that I didn’t worry about not being able to go. I was afraid I was gonna sink back into that hopeless depression that I went through over the summer.

Let me tell you something. I genuinely have no other explanation for this other than God. All the anxiety and stress of family life and school and health issues that I thought I could never shake was almost immediately washed over by this ginormous wave of peace that is absolutely nothing of this world. Certainly not of my character at all–if you could tour my brain you’d be like, “dang girl how do you even find anything in here?” I’m all freaking over the place. Peace is not something I can just make myself feel. And here this peace was–completely not what I was expecting. And can I tell you something? I was going to the bathroom (no shame anymore, y’all. I say it like it is). My gut was healing after these long years. Depression? Lifted. I felt lighter than I had in years (I mean emotionally, but I mean I guess I could say physically too–sorry for the TMI). But for real, I was walking through life with pep in my step. Life had this new enthusiasm.

A couple weeks ago, I was reading through John in one of my favorite coffee shops in Tallahassee (shout out to Black Dog cafe you rock) and I came across this verse:

John 5:2-9–Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie–the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me get into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

The invalid thought the best that could happen to him was to at least get into the pool to help ease his pain–he was willing to settle for that. He probably never in his life thought that he’d be completely healed. He probably thought that was impossible. But Jesus does the impossible. Jesus simply says, “get up, pick up this mat, and walk.” And he walks.

This past year, I never in my life thought that so much growth and healing would happen in my life. Quite frankly, I didn’t think it was possible. I thought I was too far from healing. But Jesus is unrelenting in His pursuit of my heart. That Peace I felt was for a reason–that was Jesus telling me the Truth that healed and is healing me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Get up, pick up your mat, and walk. Watch Him do something that’ll blow your mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some Senior Year Tips

imageAll you high school seniors, this one’s for you. Or if you’re just feeling nostalgic, this one could also be for you. Either way works for me. I wish I could’ve gotten this up earlier since you’re almost a month into school already…better late than never? We’ll go with that.

Senior year. It’s both incredibly exciting and slightly insane. There’s so much to look forward to! There’s also a whole lot that has to get done in a 180(ish) day timeframe. It can be a little daunting! But no worries, it’ll all come together and it will be AWESOME. Being the first one out of the nest in my family meant that I didn’t really have a path to follow from older siblings, so it was most definitely a learning process for me. I did pick up a few nuggets of (hopefully) gold that can help save your precious time and money. As I’m sitting here writing this, my roommate Virginia and I are brainstorming even more!

Here we go:

  1. Make a list of all the schools in your state that offer your major. I say “in your state” because generally, in-state tuition is A LOT more affordable than out of state. Early on in my senior year, I had all these dreams of going to school in Chicago, or Michigan, or basically anywhere BUT Florida. When I looked at the price tag, though, Florida quickly became my new best friend. (And honestly, I’m so glad I did stay in-state!)
  2. Narrow that list down to about 3-5. If there are some schools that you just aren’t feeling, don’t waste the money on the application. At thirty bucks a pop PLUS the cost to send SAT/ACT scores, it’s not worth it.
  3. Senioritis is only as real as you make it. Trust me on this one. You’re only going to cause more stress by telling yourself you’re plagued with it. Honestly guys, I used it as an excuse to be lazy. Laziness makes you procrastinate, procrastination makes you stress, and stress makes you just wanna curl up into a ball and wish you could trade lives with your cat. It’s a vicious cycle.
  4. Use a planner/Google Calendar. This goes for anyone, really, but I say this to seniors especially because THERE ARE SO MANY DEADLINES. Not only do you have to keep track of homework and tests for your classes, you also have to stay on top of college application deadlines, ACT/SAT dates, scholarship deadlines, etc. Side note, I just discovered the magic of Google Calendar, and I WISH I had known about it senior year. I tend to be a hardcore struggler when it comes to time management, and Google Calendar has helped me finally learn that a lot can get done in a 24 hour timeframe if you just plan it right.
  5. Schedule senior pictures EARLY. If you choose to have casual model-y type senior pictures done, I would highly recommend getting those done between October-February. I waited to get mine done in April. Let me just say to you that April is by far the craziest month of the school year, especially for seniors. I had something going on every single weekend, so I kinda had to just squeeze my picture session in wherever I could fit it. That time ended up being the day after Grad Bash (a senior-only night at Universal, lasting until 2am), and I had gotten approximately 5.5 hours of sleep the night before. So, if you want to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for your pictures, schedule them while you still have plenty of time. Also, since I waited so long to get my pictures, I ended up sending out my graduation announcements on the actual day of graduation. Oops.
  6. Keep a folder on your computer of all your college/scholarship application essays. Most application essay prompts tend to be along the same lines, so you’ll probably be able to recycle your essays multiple times. I basically used the same essay for all of my college applications, and I’d just tweak it here and there to fully answer the prompt.
  7. Make your application essay YOU. College admissions officers know your GPA, test scores, and classes you’ve taken, club involvement etc. You don’t need to include a list of everything you’ve accomplished–that’s what the application’s for. The essay is your voice in the admissions process, so be yourself! Most of the prompts will be something like “Tell us your story/about yourself/why you think _____ University is right for you,” etc. Personally, I’d say focus in on a specific area of your high school career in which you felt the most growth. I chose to write about the first time I acted on stage, and how that experience helped me to overcome my shyness and helped me become the person I am today (well, the person I was my senior year, technically). Make sure whatever you choose to write about is something you’re passionate about. (Rule of thumb: if you cry/laugh/feel emotional while writing, chances are it’s something that you care about.)
  8. Don’t let the price tag of a school scare you off. I applied to a couple of private schools thinking I’d never be able to afford them, but financial aid officers are very willing to work with you! Private schools give a lot of scholarship money, so it doesn’t hurt to apply if it’s one you’re interested in.
  9. Don’t feel pressured to go to a big university right away. There is absolutely nothing wrong with going to a community college first! I felt like I would be missing out on the college experience by going to a community college, but I’m noticing community colleges nearby large universities are able to be involved in all the clubs and organizations that the big school offers. Plus, it’s a smart move financially. I’m beginning to realize that now…
  10. Take advantage of all your school has to offer. Go to homecoming, date or not. Attend all the games and cheer at the top of your lungs for your team. Be involved your senior year; though you won’t have as many classes that require you to be on campus, I’d encourage you to resist the urge to go home and watch Netflix. Do an elective not because you need the credit, but to develop relationships with teachers and simply to learn something new. Make your senior year a memorable one.
  11. Push yourself. I’d also encourage you to not take the bare minimum when it comes to classes your senior year. Colleges want to see that you haven’t checked out and that you’re still working hard. Don’t tell yourself that you can’t. You will survive your AP classes, and THEY REALLY WILL HELP YOU ONCE YOU GET TO COLLEGE. I am by no means a math person, but I took AP Calculus and I’m still here, so…
  12. Spend time with friends and family, and get to know your hometown. In a matter of months, you’ll be surrounded by a whole new group of people, and you won’t have the luxury of sitting down to dinner with your parents and siblings, adventuring with friends, or even just seeing each and every one of them everyday. This is the last year that you’ll be living at home permanently, and I’m sure a lot of you are itching for independence (homegirl can relate), but soak up every minute you have with your parents and siblings. I promise you, you will miss them.
  13. Finally, cherish each moment, because time goes by so fast. I’m sure a million people have already told you this, but senior year FLIES. Seriously, it’s like you blink and then it’s over. It’ll be busy and wild and chaotic, but it’s going to be one of those years that you’ll look back on and think to yourself, “wow, that year was freaking fantastic.” So make the most of each minute!

 

If you made it this far, go you. I didn’t realize how long this was until I glanced at the word count, which is basically equivalent to a small research paper. 

To all you seniors, I hope you’re having an incredible year so far, and that it just keeps getting better! Work hard, be involved, and love every minute. You got this, Class of 2017.

Love always,

Shannon