The final post from my freshman year of life

Sunday morning I woke up to my alarm, sat up, rubbed my eyes until I could see and lazily swung my feet to the side of the bed and slid off in slow motion.  I made my way to the shower, knowing I only had a limited time to be ready to leave my house, make it to Eagan and off to church.  While washing my hair for the third day in a row, something I am used to only doing 2 to 3 times a week (I think it helps keep my hair healthy :)), I found myself wondering how I’d end my freshman year of life.  What could possibly encompass the ride I’ve been on since August of last year?  What is it that I want to say to sum up what I’ve learned?

The truth is, I’m one year out of college.  I’m a newly twenty-three year old.  I’m older than I was and I’d like to think wiser.  I’ve had some really hard times, and some really great ones.  I’ve made some really good friends, and had some slip through the cracks.  I’ve seen some friends win some, and seen them lose some.  All the while, I’ve lived and I’ve learned.

I’ve learned that life isn’t always going to work the way you think it will.  Sometimes, the story you write for yourself in your mind ends far differently than the one you end up living.  You end up some where you never thought you’d be, surrounded by poeple you never knew you’d know.  You wind up regretting mistakes you never meant to make and cherishing moments you never thought you would experience.  Your life becomes a box filled with memories and photographs, cards and notes, and people you carry with you wherever you might go. 

If you’d have asked me in August where I’d be today, at the end of the first year of the rest of my life, I’d have probably told you something pretty exciting.  It may have been something like this: Well, hopefully I’ll either still be living in North Carolina, or have moved to Colorado.  I will have finished my book and be on my way to sharing it with the world.  I will be about twenty pounds lighter and eating healthy meals (HA!)  I will be working a full time job in a career in Public Relations.  I will, blah blah blah blah blah.

Those are most likely the things I would have told you.

Tonight, however, I sit here in a home I never knew I’d have, living a life I could not have imagined. 

I am back in Minnesota, surrounded by a family who means the world to me.  Learning about my brothers as adults, loving my parents as my friends, and seeing the amazing and sometimes frustrating things they all bring to the table.  In a family filled with so much love, I am in awe of the way God helps us through our storms.  While we may not be the perfect family, I am continually full of pride when I think about the family God has placed me in.  No matter what has happened, and what will happen, I know and trust that God’s plan for each of us is perfect.

I am working as a waitress nearby my house and for the first time in a while I find it easy to pay my bills.  Feeling accomplished at the end of the day is something I’d been missing, and it is a feeling I don’t want to fade away.  I am also starting my venture with my new job with the Minnesota Twins.  Working in their premium services department, ushering in priority seating sections, and I cannot wait to get paid to watch baseball and hang out at Target field.  While working hard of course.  I also am excited about my grad school adventure and my growing passion to work with kids with autism.  I love to feel God’s hand guiding me through this transition age between graduation and adulthood.

I have also been incredibly blessed with amazing friends.  There are women in my life right now that I could not live with out, and a few great guy friends that hold a very special place in my heart.  I’d also like to mention that the boyfriend God’s given me has been a daily dose of joy that seems to get better by the day.  The best part about it all is that they’re all over the map, and no matter where they are or where any of them go, my heart just keeps holding them close and I take them with me through my day.

While this year has brought me trials and has tripped me up in more ways than one.  I’ve learned that the only thing that we can do is pray, trust and hope.  Faith is what holds us together when the world seems to be falling apart.  And life is what happens when you get back up and do all you can to make your world the greatest place that it can be.  So, say your prayers.  Be thankful.  Tell your friends how much they mean to you.  Use the gifts you’ve been given.   Be honest.  Believe in yourself.  Do everything you can everyday to be the person you were meant to be, and until you are, keep working at it.  Don’t let another day go by that you don’t embrace the joy that’s out there for you to grasp. 

I can not express how much I appreciate the kind words of encouragement and support I’ve received from all of those who read and follow my writing.  I am humbled by your kindness and grateful for the love.

To finish where I started.. on Sunday morning, I concluding my morning shower with this song streaming through my voice:

When you laugh be sure to laugh out loud
‘Cause it will carry all your cares away
And when you see, see the beauty all around and in yourself
And it’ll help you feel okay
And when you pray, pray for strength
To help you carry on
When the troubles come your way
And when you dream, dream big
(Dream Big- Ryan Shupe)

Do all those things… and hopefully, it will make your sun shine that much brighter.

Blessings and love always,
Your devoted friend and graduate of her freshman year of life.

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I believe~

I believe in God.  I believe that everything happens for a reason, and that everything happens when it’s supposed to.  I believe that our lives are lived too quickly and that we rarely take time to appreciate all our blessings.  I believe that people judge too quickly and jump to early to conclusions.  I believe in being trustworthy and honest.  I believe the power to forgive is the greatest ability we have.  I believe that we are made for a purpose and you should spend your life fulfilling that purpose.  I believe everyone has at least one great big gift that God gave them, for a specific reason, and that they should embrace it.  I believe that those who decide one day to serve our country have a special bone in them that gives them bravery and courage that not everyone can fathom.  I believe that to be dependable can be a persons greatest attribute.  I believe in being on time.  I believe in love and that its out there for everyone.  I believe that friendships take work but are worth all the effort.  I believe that the best relationships are built on common ground.  I believe that family should both make you who you are and be the most important thing you have.  I believe that God doesn’t always give us what we want but will always give us what we need.  I believe that nothing is impossible through faith and that I can do all things through Him who give me strength.  I believe that living a life you can be proud of will be the greatest legacy you leave behind, along with the children you’ve made and raised.  I believe that after this… there’s more.  And that’s what heaven is.

I believe that without solid and consistent faith, a whole lot of hope, and an abundance of love, a person’s life is missing something wonderful.  I hope you know what you believe in and that you stay true to who you are, because if there’s one thing you should definitely believe in, it’s yourself, and I’d say that’s a perfect place to start.

There’s something about springtime that makes everyone smile more.  The sun peeks out from behind the clouds and the teeth seem to do the same behind our lips.  People start to inhabit the sidewalks, frequent the local patios, and enjoy the sunshine on their decks.  The outdoor baseball games at Target field definitely add to the excitedment and buzz around my current city, and I couldn’t be happier to see poeple out and about supporting their hometown heros in their Twins uniforms. 

People plan things.  They do their spring cleaning and plant seeds in their gardens.  They wait for the rain to make the grass green and the flowers more beautiful.  I love spring.  It’s a perfect time of year.

No matter what this spring brings for you or where your summer will take you, I hope you’ll take the time to appreciate the blessings in your life.  If I can urge you to do something, I say you make a list of the things you value, things you depend on, and the things you believe in.  If I’ve learned one thing since last spring, its that these things I believe have helped to make me who I am and who I knew I always wanted to be.  So, figure out what’s important to you and where your faith lies, and I’m sure you’ll end up exactly where you want to be.

Lots of love to those who are graduating this week, getting married this summer, and just making strides in their lives. 

Look forward to my last post of my freshman year of life… As it’s May and the school year is ending, so is my freshman year of real life, and I’m happy to report that things are going better than I’d ever though they would.  Post to follow within the next week. :)

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Joy versus Happiness

I’ve always known that joy is greater than happiness.  While both are good and wonderful, there are a few things about joy that make it impossible for happiness to beat.  In a wrestling match between the two, there’s no question in my mind that happiness would be pinned and lose pretty quickly.

Last Sunday, I returned home from a church retreat and opted out of attending the church service last Sunday night.  I assumed the service was skippable because I had dedicated an entire weekend to the Lord :) ~ It really doesn’t work like that, but I admit I was being lazy and tired and making up excuses.

I heard, throughout the week, that the service was about joy and that it was one I would have loved.  I knew that God had done that on purpose, and had made the service one I’d be really upset to have missed!  Luckily, I was able to watch it online, and tonight before bed I did just that.

Almost every sentence I was taking vigorous notes (I’ve always been a note taker), nodding my head in a agreement and making comments like, “Yes, totally,”  and “Uh, huh, yep,” while staring at the little man speaking to me through my computer screen. 

It was like he was talking just to me, a simple conversation between the two of us about how we felt about joy. 

I am going to share the many things that stuck out to me in this message:

1. Joyous poeple are thankful poeple.  ~ How grateful are you?  What do you have to be thankful for?  Odds are that you have many things in your life to be thankful for.  People who love you.  An education.  A paying job.  A best friend.  A gift or a talent.  A favorite song.  A great view.  Breath.  Life.  A great God.

2. Joy is only possible when persued with God.  ~ Jesus came to bring us joy… if you don’t believe me, it says so in the Bible. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. – John 15:11

3. The greatest way to cultivate joy is to see the little joys in everyday.  ~ I am such a small victories person!  I believe in loving the small things.  Waking up to sunishine.  A nice glass of orange juice.  A drizzle of rain.  A Twins win :)  A smile from a friend.  A hug from my parents.  A Diet Dr. Pepper.  A good tip from an old person (haha).  There are so many things that can bring joy, you just have to start to take note of them.

4. It is easier to find joy when you spend time with joyful poeple. ~  There is something about joyful people that just brings light into life.  They walk into the room and you feel better.  They don’t have to say a word and you know their mood.  The energy from these people is contagious.  On the contrary, joyless poeple can drain the energy in a room.  It is important to find a balance.  Love the joyless but don’t let them bring you down.  Surround yourself with poeple who bring something to your life, not take away from it.

5. Joyful poeple try to always give more than they take.  ~ I know it is cliche, but it’s true.  The more you put in, the more you’ll get out.  Joyful poeple know this and they take advantage of it.  I am such a believer that the more you put into relationships, friendships, work, projects, school, people, you will reep the benefits.  Sometimes it takes time, but rewards will come in different ways :)

6. It is important to find joy in your work. ~ I loved this part of the message because it was all about how God loves His work.  He takes joy in creation, ever since the beginning.  He created everything for the benefit of those He loves, US!  Whom He also created!  But then, He rested.  It is important to find a balance between work and rest.  Someone once told me that you should work in order to live, not live in order to work and I completely agree!  Spend time outside of work doing things that bring you joy.  But, always find joy in your work week, you are incredibly blessed to have a job.

7. Choose to be joyful.  ~  Wake up everyday with the desire to be joyful.  It will change your life completely.

The difference between joy and happiness is the longevity.  Happy is a mood- you are in a happy mood or you’re in a bad mood.  You are happy for today and not happy for tomorrow.  Happiness is conditional depending on circumstance.  It comes and goes as it pleases.  It’s apparent when it’s there and its apparent when it’s not.  To be happy is wonderful but its not consistent.

Joy is a gift.  It’s attainable and maintainable.  It’s a feeling of contentment that’s deep rooted in your soul.  It does not come from an event, a win, a holiday or fun.  According to the message, its a quiet contentment and an inner security.  It is what causes your heart to smile.  It is the affect of knowing that there is an unchanging, incredible God that wants only the best for you in life.  Joy is the ability to stay positive even when the odds are against you.  While the amount of joy you experience may change with circumstance, joy doesn’t leave you unless you leave it.

Joy is greater than happiness.  So if you are happy, I’m happy.  But if you’re joyous, I’m elated, because you deserve to have joy in your life.  Remember to wake up and appreciate the little things, surround yourself with those who enhance your daily life, and choose to be joyful no matter the circumstance.  You’ll be JOYFUL that you did :)

*If you are interested in watching the message on Cultivating Joy, a part of the How the Build a Great Life series at Eagle Brook Church, you can watch the message online at http://eaglebrookchurch.org/media_player.asp?type=large&messageID=59242

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Sometimes- Good things just kinda happen :)

If you haven’t seemed to notice, every day of the last few months of my freshman year of life have all seemed to share a common theme: Sometimes you have to go through the bad to get to the good. 

I have only written a few blog posts since my return to Minnesota, mostly because I have nothing to write about.  Since February 1, my life has been filled with job searching, house searching, applications, interviews, packing and unpacking, paying bills without pay checks and coping with some changes taking place within my family.  Needless to say, I’ve been busy, but not so much in a good way.

I reminded myself as often as possible to make a list of the things I’m thankful for.  One particular day in March, I wrote: Good parents, working parents, food, shelter, clothing, my church, genuine friends, education and hope.  Writing these things down kept my mind at ease that while it may seem that life wasn’t agreeing with me, there was always something there to be thankful for. 

Lately, I’ve been writing down my prayers.  Thanking God for things, asking God for things, and just telling God some things.  That way, I can go back and see what the positive things in my life, how my prayers have been answered, and what incredible ways God is working in my life.

I now feel like I have a theory for what God has been doing since I returned to Minnesota.  He was filling up my bucket of blessings.  Seven days ago, God decided to pour out the bucket of blessings, all at the same time.  And let me tell you, I’m extremely grateful. 

He has blessed me with a clear mind and a stress free outlook, after spending nights up late wondering when I would be able to relax.  He has blessed me with motivation to go on long walks alone or with my mom, helping me to feel good and enjoy this beautiful spring weather.  He has blessed me with a refreshing addition to my life, that has added to my daily joy.  He has blessed me with a father who provides for me a wonderful new home and really great steak on the grill, who also doesn’t mind watching American Idol with me.  He has blessed me with a JOB waitressing at Jakes to give me a structure, schedule, and an income, while also giving me just another life experience.  He also blessed me with a weekend away volunteering with my church as a counselor for seven great 8th grade girls, where I learned just as much from them about living out your faith as I hope they did from me and Pastor Aaron.  If that isn’t enough, he tipped the bucket upside down one more time and tapped it so the last blessing could pour out.

Cabin Canada :)

I was blessed to have discovered what I want to do in my life.  My growing passion this past year in the areas of counseling and working with youth led me to a place where I could realize my gift.  This weekend, I was blessed to spend three wonderful days with many young girls that have shared their lives with me.  One in particular had ADD and Asperger’s Syndrome, while also being allergic to Dairy.  While some may think of her differences as disabilities or disorders, I was struck by her ability to love, and to learn, and the unique beauty of her young heart.  I learned how important it was to be patient and understanding.  I learned to listen carefully and proceed in conversations cautiously.  I learned to work through tough moments with her instead of giving up and passing on.  I discovered that my passion is to work with children with autism.

After researching graduate schools, possible job opportunities, and the pathway to reaching my dream, I found that I have a LOT left to learn about what my potential career entails.  Something else I learned, however, is that I’m more than willing to do whatever I have to do to get there because I’d rather be passionate and poor from student loans than have lots of money and be miserable.

As an added bonus, God blessed me with a great new friend and co-church volunteer who I decided to sit with on the busride home from the retreat.  Her father just happens to run a family clinic dealing with a broad range of areas including the one I’m interested in!  A meeting with him is exactly what I need to get a head start in the race to persuing my passion.

I am incredibly grateful that God chose these last seven days to reveal these gifts to me.  As I mentioned in my last post, sometimes you have to go through the hard times to really appreciate how great the good times are. 

I hope that in your quiet moments, you will remember to make a list of the things you are thankful for, even when there seems to be very few things you can think of.  If you have hope, you’ll always have that to be grateful for.  AND, if you have hope, there is usually more to come.

Just be patient, if it hasn’t yet, your bucket is coming.  Give him some time to fill it up :)

In the mean time, enjoy your life~ you are wonderfully and beautifully made.

*Even youth grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40: 30-31

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There’s just something about sunny days

I’m not sure where you’re sitting as you’re reading this, but if you were in Minnesota at any point throughout today you were lucky.  It was a gorgeous day.  The best part about it was that it didn’t start out beautiful.  The day started out rainy, gray, and gloomy, a combination that foreshadowed the possibility that our friends thunder and lightning may be coming for a visit.

Grabbing our rain coats and heading for the Twins game, Maddie and I prepared ourselves for a day filled with scattered showers and cloudy skies.  The humidity followed us onto the light rail, and the puddles from the previous rain made pools around our feet as we walked. 

As you know, I’ve got a thing for baseball.  I love the smell of the grass, the pace of the game, and the fact that almost everyday of the week I can escape for at least a second into a world where only hits, runs and errors matter.  I grew up going to Twins games, telling my dad that one day I’d sing the national anthem at a major league baseball game.  Through some wild turn of events I found myself working for the Arizona Diamondbacks for the 2008 season, and on June 19, 2008, I sang the national anthem when the Oakland A’s visited the D-backs at Chase Field.  It was an amazing feeling, and a day I will never forget.

Today, however, was another day I will always remember.  It was my first visit to the Target Field, the new and incredibly improved home of the beloved Minnesota Twins.  Maddie and I made our way to our seats, sat down, looked out, and just took it all in.  Luckily, we were still dry, and the clouds seemed to tell us that they would try not to bother us too much as the day went on. 

A few minutes later, as the national anthem performer began to sing, the players and fans alike faced the flag with their hands on their hearts, and the emblam of our country was raised into the air, it was as if God said, “Alright, you’ve dealt well with this mornings icky weather, now you deserve to enjoy a clear day.” (Yes, I think God would say “icky” :))

The sun came out and the coats came off.  The clouds moved across the city and the sun glasses went on.  Would it have been a good idea to bring sun screen?  Yes.  But instead we left the game with pink cheeks and farmers tans, but there was something we did not leave with: a complaint.

There’s just something about sunny days, especially the ones that start out cloudy, that can change the way you look at things.  Going through the musty morning, preparing for the worst, can make you appreciate the beauty of a sunny day just that much more. 

I think that’s why we face hard times, so that we can appreciate the good things that God’s got planned for later on. 

We don’t get the job, or don’t get elected, don’t get interviewed, or don’t get the award.  We get hurt, we fall back, we lose, and we settle.  And sometimes, when it rains, it pours.  But sometimes, if you’re patient, and you work hard and simply try, something happens that helps a dark cloud move along on it’s way.  One after another, the clouds clear.  Each time, one more ray of sunshine is able to reach you, until eventually you leave the game with burnt cheeks and a farmers tan :)

I’m not sure what you’re going through, or what it is you struggle with.  Maybe you’re pretty happy with how your life is going, and if that’s the case, I’m smiling for you :)  I just hope that when those good things start to happen, and the sun starts shining brighter in your life, that you take a second to give thanks and appreciate the gift, because as they say: without the rain, there’d never be a rainbow~

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Home field advantage

My favorite thing about baseball comes down to this: home field advantage.

Why, you ask?  Well, to put it simply, no matter what happens in the top of the inning, the home team always has a chance to refute it in the bottom.  For every run that’s scored against you, you get to step up to the plate with the motivation to score a run and get that run back. 

I feel like God is my homefield advantage.  He tells us that he’ll never give us anything we can’t handle.  In that, I believe he always gives us a chance to step up to the plate, with runs scored against us, and gives us the ability to win.

We all have countless runs scored against us.  We don’t get the job, we don’t win the election, we don’t make the grades, we don’t get the guy.  Those are trivial compared to the grandslams the other team blows out of the park: losing a loved one, losing a friend, getting a diagnosis we hope we never have to hear, or a life changing injury. 

These things can make you feel like you are losing 10-0 with no chance of coming back. 

God, however, gives us a fantasy team full of MVP’s and homerun hitters.  He also makes sure we are playing the Tigers :) (October 2009 anyone?) And to make it all better, He makes certain Joe Mauer always stays on our team.

I am grateful everyday that I have God on my side, and that He continutes to give me home field advantage.

In the last few months, I’ve had some tough innings.  I’ve had some days where I don’t feel like I have the energy to get back out there.  I’ve spent nights up late worrying about how things could possibly work out.  I’ve applied for countless jobs and visited countless homes that my family could rent when we move from my childhood home in a few weeks.  I’ve tried to help my brother make a life for himself and help to promote my dad’s business in hard economic times.  I’ve tried to pay my bills on time while doing what I can to deserve the help my parents have givin me.  I’ve tried to keep in touch with friends while realizing it only gets harder as everyone gets older.

You can’t help the curve balls life throws at you.  Sometimes, you are going to strike out.  Sometimes, the other team scores more runs in one inning that you do in 8.  In the end, though, the hometeam advantage gives you the opportunity to come back.  In my experience, a comeback always makes for a better game than an easy win.  So, no matter what life throws at you, step up to that batters box in the bottom of that inning and crush that struggle over the fence. 

Life won’t always turn out the way you expected, but you’ve always got the chance to turn it around.

*This post is dedicated to Major League Baseball- how I love thee!! Go twins!

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I’m back!

Well, I am only half sorry that it’s been a few weeks since I last posted!

I have been working diligently on my book. (Also spending hours a day looking for a career and helping my dad out at work!)

Back to the book. It is an easy read, quick and light. You may laugh, and cry sometimes, but then you’ll laugh again I hope! My biggest hope is just that you finish it! It would break my heart to know someone couldn’t get through it. I know it will happen, but hopefully I won’t have to know about it.

Two great and patient friends of mine have read Part 1 of my novel. The first 13,000 words. Their reviews were good, and both want to know what happens next! But they are also some of my best friends so I figure they have to like my book :)

Anyway, I’ve learned a few things in the past month:

1. Getting a job is really hard. 10% of American’s are out of work, and I cannot imagine being one of them who has a family to support. Sitting here at twenty-two, I have health insurance from my mother, and no children to feed. The worst thing about my lack of employment is that I’m bored and I have no spending money. I have learned I have a lot to be thankful for.

2. When God gives you extra time, use it to persue your dream. I realized probably too late that God was giving me some extra days at home to write! When else will I have such a small list of responsibilities? I am going to take advantage of the extra time I’ve got to work on my novel, using the time wisely instead of spending it frustrated.

3. I really love to help people write! I love to edit. I love to format resumes for poeple, help them develop a cover letter template, help them discover what their good at and make them sound just as amazing on paper. If you need help with your resume, cover letters, web-site content, thank you notes to clients, slogans, news releases, etc. I would love to be your girl! The only favor I ask of you is that I can use you as a recommendation if I develop content that would be considered a writing sample.

Besides that, I have just been trying to get used to being back in Minnesota. It’s cold here, in case you didn’t know, and everyday I think about how I’m one more day closer to summer! The summer in Minnesota is beautiful, and you should plan your visit accordingly :)

Anyway, I missed you all! Thanks for reading- I promise I’ll write again soon.

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