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Two Weeks

A reflection on growth from a Summer Honors alum.

If there is one thing that hasn’t changed since 2013, it’s my love for the song Two Weeks by Grizzly Bear. Ironically, since 2013 my life has changed two weeks at a time.

In 2014 I went to Summer Honors for two weeks for the first time. In 2015 I went again. Two weeks at a time I met my best friends, my future sponsors, my future campus leaders. To say that Summer Honors had an impact on my life is truly an understatement. I know this must be getting old, me talking about SH all the time, and if you are getting annoyed then I have good news for you:

I did not go to Summer Honors this year.

For two weeks it was simple. Work. Dinner. Bed. My schedule was incredibly ordinary. I didn’t go to a Braves game or hear Mike Hayes preach about resisting apathy. No devos or break through moments.

But at the end of the two weeks I went to the last chapel for Summer Honors after getting off work early Thursday night. When Jill stood at the podium at the front of the chapel she told the students,

“I hope you have had your life changed by one degree of trajectory.” 

One degree of trajectory? I looked back at the past two weeks and thought about what had happened without Summer Honors.

The work earlier mentioned, two incredible, fulfilling jobs. One with the office of Alumni Relations where we organized an entire picnic for hundreds of people. I had so much fun over the past two weeks buying hundreds of drinks and thousands of pieces of candy. Another with the ANDOR Project where I serve as a full time volunteer building sustainable programming for children facing poverty.

Dinner over the past two weeks was never boring or typical. I ate with my family in celebration of my brother’s birthday, my best friends, at a boy scout roundtable, and with my housemates.

Bedtime was interrupted twice by visits from Ashley, Nik, and Christian. Friends I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for Summer Honors.

The past two weeks have been incredibly fulfilling. I worked really hard, saw a lot of my favorite people, and learned a lot about what I want to do in the future. I think it is safe to say that this summer my life has had more than just one degree of change. I think this summer has taught me a lot about the possibilities that exists outside of the changes brought on by my initial two-week-one-eighty.

The key thing about every two weeks is that we let our goals get bigger. We open our eyes and our hearts to see what possibilities lie ahead. We examine ourselves and see where we need to grow. We build relationships that make the next two weeks even better.

It might just be two weeks at a time, but those individual degrees of change help us to set a trajectory for success. And not just self-seeking success, but relational, developmental, sustainable success.

I am proud of my little two weeks that went by so fast. I think for the rest of the summer I will just take things two weeks at a time. Keeping in mind the present and enjoying that. But never forgetting the trajectory that I am setting for myself.

Choose to Love

Lessons learned from Grama (and God) about Taylor Swift.

In 7th grade I was obsessed with the song “Hey Stephen” by Taylor Swift. One day, I was bopping along at my Grama’s house singing the song, as 12-year-old Halle did. The chorus was all about how you can’t help it if you fall in love with a boy and you can’t help yourself.

My Grama looked over at me as I sang and she said, “Halle, you can always help yourself. Love is a choice.”

I’ll never forget it.

Of course, at the time I didn’t understand or even come close to appreciating her words of wisdom. I was 12. All I knew were crushes and feeling helpless. Love was a feeling, not an action or a choice. I knew so little about unconditional love. I certainly knew nothing about romantic love and how that could ever be a choice. I didn’t even know how the love that Christ asked me to show to others was a choice.

But that is a lesson I have learned over the years, especially this year. That love is a choice you have to wake up every morning and make.

You have to choose to love your parents who challenge you to do more with your life than you ever thought you could. You have to choose to love your roommate even when they are having a bad day. You have to choose to love your best friend even if you’re both too busy to catch up. You have to choose to love your professor even when they keep canceling on you. You have to choose to love your acquaintance even if things between you have been weird lately. You have to choose to love that boy even when he lets you down.

But you can just as easily choose not to love. Or what kind of love you give that person. You can choose to love more or less. You can choose to love them unconditionally or to let love go when you’re hurting. But love is your choice.

Now here is the tricky part, because God calls us to love our enemies. That love is a choice. But God never called our enemy to love us back. When we choose to love others we cannot expect them to return the favor. Even if it’s our friend and not our enemy. We have to pour out our hearts without expectation of reciprocity.

You can’t love with the expectation of that same love being poured back into you. When you make that choice, you do it because God first loved you. That is how we should love. When it comes to love, we flinch first. We start out with an accepting love and go from there, not expecting anything in return.

So, you were right Grama. Love is a choice. For me, for them. I decide every morning how I am going to treat others and the attitude I’m going to have. And the feelings can fade when you understand what it truly means to love someone else. And I can always help myself.

No Regrets

The comprehensive guide to being a Freshman.
A follow up to “Be That Freshman”.

With just five weeks left of freshman year I’m looking back at some of the best times of my entire life. Next year, people might think I’m an adult or something crazy like that because I will be a senior, on cabinet, a peer leader, and I’ll have those other crazy adult titles. I think about where I was a year ago and all of the crazy amazing things I’ve done since then and I get so excited for the people who are stepping into this part of their life. Lately I’ve been making a list of all of the things I’ve done this year that I truly loved. Things I didn’t see coming and almost didn’t try.

I want everyone to look back at there freshman year and think no regrets

So start by

Taking too many pictures

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Everyone will be doing it. If you don’t, you’ll regret it for sure. Looking through a camera roll full of pictures of friends on mountain tops and videos of friends getting hit in the face with pancakes; that will bring you more joy than you could’ve ever hoped for. I felt dumb taking pictures because I always just want to be present in the moment but sometimes it’s ok to snap a quick little memory to hold on to. Especially if you’re as sentimental as I am.

Getting (too) involved

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Everyone warned me when I came to Lee how easy it was to get overwhelmed with commitment. I did everything in my power to listen to those people by only joining one club.

Well sort of, I mean I joined one social club and one academic. And then I started writing for our school paper. And then I joined two committees. And then I took a few extra little volunteer opportunities.

And then I was overcommitted.

You have to be careful with getting involved your first year if you don’t know how to college. Make sure you can keep up with your homework and learn to say no every once in a while before you jump into a life of meetings and agendas. But by all means, GET INVOLVED. 

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You’ll meet the best people in the whole world when you get involved with the things you’re passionate about. You’ll learn valuable life skills. You’ll love college. You never know where that will take you. Learn to say yes. Learn to say no. Learn how to work hard because you want to.

Studying. A lot. 

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You’re paying to go to school. Don’t miss out on opportunities to really learn something by blowing off homework and procrastinating. Skipping classes is a waste of time and money. Take advantage of the resources available to you. Making good grades and coming out of a semester understanding the material feels so good. The pain is way worth the gain.

Dorm life is worth the pain. 

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Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, it can get gross. Yes, it can be loud. Yes, there are a lot of rules. But, at the end of the day you’ll be glad you live a few feet from your friends, food, and first class. Not to mention, you can have some really great times. Granted, I spent most of my time in the dorm sleeping, but if you come to campus not knowing a soul, dorms are a great place to make friends. Dorm wars is crazy hype. Where you live matters your first year. It won’t make or break your experience, but it will impact how you transition into college.

Embrace the PCSU.

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 The building we all love. The home we know so well. Freshmen live here on Lee’s campus. It’s a way of life. It’s the best way to see everyone you know in five minutes. You could stay here for hours and get everything or nothing done. Some folks who live further from the building or choose other dining options may not see the inside of the campus living room as much as I do but you can’t argue, the PCSU is an iconic part of the Lee freshman experience.

Don’t let the good friends go. 

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It can be really easy to lose friends your freshman year. You get busy. You just don’t see each other. Make sure you hold tight to the people who matter. Be intentional. Force time together when you have to. Hold each other accountable. You’ll meet some really amazing people your freshman year. It’s easy to only talk to the people you run into. But, if you want to keep growing, keep in touch with the people who make you stronger. Friends are so important your freshman year.

Explore.

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You’re in this city on your own. It’s time to find out what the world around you has to offer. See the sites. Eat the food. Don’t wait until your senior year to discover the best overlooks or the best coffee place. Set out for adventure on the weekend or a Thursday night. This is the beginning of adulthood. Don’t let routine stop you from exploring creation.

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And Pelican’s. Explore Pelican’s.

Have a good attitude. 

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It will rain. Every day. For weeks. You’ll have four exams. You’ll accidentally take a really hard elective. You’ll miss your mom. You’ll accidentally eat 20 chicken nuggets in one day (yes, that can be a bad thing). Through it all, be positive. Remember everything is happening for a reason. Keep your head up and persevere. Laugh through the pain and rely on your community. Literally praise God when you make it through the week.

Have fun for free. 

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Card games became my life when I couldn’t afford to go out to eat or see a movie. It’s a fun way to get to know people, and you can do it anywhere. Your thing might be different, but for my friends and I, board and card games were the perfect activity for any free time we had together.

Accept your caffeine addiction now. 

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I remember the first time I had coffee before my 9 a.m. I remember what we talked about in the class. I remember how how I was actually awake.

Just give in. Drink coffee. It will make morning classes and afternoon meetings so much more pleasant. Just don’t let it drain your savings.

Never forget it. 

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You only get one freshman year. Hang on to the memories and cherish them for the years to come. Remember what made you grow and the lessons you learned. Remember laughing. Remember crying. Have a blast. These days are gone before you know it.

I Don’t Have A Plan

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

That question used to be so easy to answer.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

That question used to be so easy to answer.

Before life became unpredictable, I always knew where I wanted to be in five years. High school. College. Working. Married. The specifics can change, but there is an outline your life seems to follow for the first 20 years.

I came to college thinking I had a plan. But as I look deep into the eyes of my senior year of college I suddenly realize

I have no idea where I am going. 

The thing is I care so deeply about the things I’m doing right now, and I don’t know what to do when I’m no longer doing them. What can I do with a heart for students when I’ll be 20 with a PR degree? Can God still use me to work with college aged students when I’m still college-aged myself? What about PR? How do I implement my degree in the next phase of my life? Will I find a job that aligns with my strengths and training? And what about my friends? What happens to these precious relationships when I won’t be there 24/7 to grab lunch or study?

The next five years are a complete mystery to me. And that is the scariest and most exciting place to be.

I finally don’t have a plan. That means that I get to totally rely on God to open the doors He wants me to open. My life is now a constant prayer where I am seeking Him and His will for my life.

This means it’s time to listen. It’s time for me to close my eyes and practice what I’ve been preaching.

It’s time to trust Him.

For the deadlines, the applications, the opportunities. Knowing that He is in it all and I am simply a vessel. And what a blessing that is! To know that God is in control instead of me, the person who once whole heartedly believed she was destined to be a Disney channel star!

He has done a great job of getting me here. This semester has been a testimony of how great things can be when I let God do the planning. Things always go better when I ask God  instead of tell God. Now all I can do is still my little planning heart and come to peace with the phrase,

I don’t know, but God has a plan. 

Car Radio

I ponder of something great
My lungs will fill and then deflate
They fill with fire, exhale desire
I know it’s dire my time today

I have these thoughts, so often I ought
To replace that slot with what I once bought
‘Cause somebody stole my car radio

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We are busy. Every hour of every day is scheduled. I personally have filled my calendar so well that I could tell you I’m too busy to sleep, yet alone think.

When I have time to just sit, I don’t. I fill it with writing. I fill it with music. I find someone. Play cards. I’m never alone. I’m never just quiet.

To just sit in silence and think is a waste of precious time. You’re only in college for so long after all. I only have two years to minister, serve, and lead.

Some days the only quiet time I have is when I’m getting ready for bed at 2 AM. I’ll go all day and only think about where I have to be next. I love how busy I am. I get to do everything I love and I feel useful.

But what if I didn’t have an event every Friday? What if my meetings were canceled and my classes were re-scheduled? What if I had to spend an entire day or an entire week in silence?

There would be no busyness to hide behind. I would have to sit still and think about something outside of these busy moments and outside of my plan.

I’d have to think. It would be just me and my thoughts. The why-do-I-do-what-I-do thoughts. The why-am-I-here thoughts. The where-am-I-going thoughts.  

There’s faith and there’s sleep
We need to pick one please because
Faith is to be awake
And to be awake is for us to think
And for us to think is to be alive
And I will try with every rhyme
To come across like I am dying
To let you know you need to try to think

I’d need to think, and those thoughts would turn into prayers. My routine would warm in to a ministry. My studies would remember they’re passions. The silence of the day would wake me up. It’d be raw and awkward but at the end I’d be truly living.

Guys, you need to take a break. You need to slow down and breathe. You need to take the time to think and pray and remember why you’re doing what you’re doing.

If we let service turn into busyness we’re missing the point. Don’t get me wrong, God will still use your acts of service, but they won’t shape your heart the way it will when you’re meditating and working hand-in-hand with God.

Listen to Car Radio here.

 

Committing to Comm

Committing to communication was really hard for me. I had to lay down my own plans and trust God’s calling. When I let him have control, he showed me where my talents and gifts could truly be used.

If I haven’t mentioned this before I am a bit of a planner. Like, I started going to college fairs when I was in middle school bit of a planner. My plan was to become an engineer, graduate early, and get on with my life. But when I felt called to go to Lee, a school without an engineering program, I had to scrap my plans and start all over. I didn’t know what I was good at, what I would enjoy, or what I was called to do. But for some reason public relations just felt right.

Little did I know that this was God’s plan all along. My strengths and talents have always aligned with the field of communication.

If you are looking at colleges right now and that big ole choice is right around the corner I feel for you. I remember what it was like. Knowing but not knowing. Having to really trust God in such a huge way. Visiting campus and seeing all of the new faces and buildings and just thinking I love this. 

But the thought that overshadows every step of college planning is I have no idea what I am doing. 

I always wanted something practical but business never felt right. In fact, I knew I kind of hated business. Digital media sounded really fun but I knew I didn’t have the passion or talent to be truly successful. Math was off the table (enough said). I felt like I could do anything but I was never passionate about anything. Reading the description of public relations, I envisioned myself being able to help the community and still keep food on the table. And that was it. I was passionate about community and making a difference and I knew I could support myself. I bit the bullet and declared public relations as my major on my application.

It wasn’t like I knew my whole life. I never wanted to write press releases as a little girl. I decided the summer before my senior year to pursue something I knew almost nothing about. I had to simply trust that God was leading me in that direction. Little did I know what a great fit public relations really is.

Public relations requires strategy, communication, and connectedness. Which are literally my top three strengths according to the Gallup StrengthsFinder test. Let’s just take a second to think about how cool that is. God literally designed me for the field of public relations and I would’ve never known if I hadn’t obeyed him and given Lee a chance.

I would have been successful as an engineer, don’t get me wrong. But the successes and joys I am experiencing as I live out the plans God laid out for me are so much deeper.

Committing to communication was really hard for me. I had to lay down my own plans and trust God’s calling. When I let him have control, he showed me where my talents and gifts could truly be used. Even though I didn’t have all the answers, God still lead me with his comfort and assurance.

So if you’re standing on a college campus this spring thinking I have no idea what I am doing, you’re not alone. God’s timing and his plans are perfect. When you trust in him he will reveal a future that is even more glorious than you could’ve ever planned yourself.

Follow the Leader

By following God and learning more about what God thinks is just for our lives we are able to discover his day to day will.

You know what I like to do? Pray for God’s will.

I pray for God’s will all the time about, well, almost everything. When I am registering for classes, contemplating relationships or even just taking a test. For a while I was starting to think I was a pretty good Christian, after all, I was getting pretty good at saying “Lord, your will, not mine.”

Don’t get me wrong, praying for God’s will is great. I think that praying for God’s will has made a great impact in my life and that I’m where I am today (which is a pretty dang sweet place) because God has opened the doors for me to get here. When I’m praying for God’s will, I mean it.

But for a long time I’ve treated God’s will as a destination, something I was searching for.

The more I learn about God and the way he has called us to live, the more I understand that God’s will is more than that.

It’s something we listen for. It’s something we learn. It’s the way we live our day to day life.

God’s will is more than who we are going to marry or what city we live in. God’s will is choosing to serve on a Thursday afternoon. The “plan for us to prosper” isn’t just a happy ending, it’s a reputation that we develop as we work to be more like Christ.

In Philippians 1:9-11 it says

 “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”

By following God and learning more about what He thinks is just for our lives, we are able to discover his day to day will. By following the One who created the will, we are able to make the choices that lead us to the right cross roads. Through acts of love, justice and mercy we are able to live lives that bring glory to God.

We can’t just ask for the destination, we have to follow the Leader and the directions He gives us.

So as this semester heats up and we are moving towards another time of transition, decision making and crossroads, I pray that we’ll seek God’s instructions. Not only for the big picture, but also for routine. Then we are able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless.

So that our lives are filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ. So that our lives bring glory and praise to God.

Why SLC?

At a time in my life when I have every reason to be totally selfish, SLC challenges me to do something different.

Picture this. You are a prospective student on campus for the first time. You are swarmed with information about classes, programs, majors, and residential halls. You walk through the center of campus and through what seems like hundreds of students representing different clubs. A little afraid and a little excited you look at all the options in front of you.

Someone comes up to you and starts to just talk. They ask you where you are from and how you are doing. They want to help you and answer any questions you have. They talk to you and help you feel a little less overwhelmed. The friendly face and patience in the madness helps you feel at home on the chaotic campus.

This was what my first SLC experience was like. They asked me my interests and suggested I keep them in mind for when I got to campus in 2015. The people I encountered during my first few trips to Lee where often students from SLC and they were the people who made Lee feel like home from the very start.

Being at college, it can be really really hard to not be selfish, like, all the time. You spend everyday learning and asking questions about yourself. Everyone wants to know what you want to do with your life. You spend all this time growing and focusing on you. You don’t have your family with you. Your whole life revolves around you.

For me, SLC pulls me out of the orbit of my own selfishness.

I care about the people in our organization and in this community. It taught me to be less judgmental of others and to put them before myself. I have learned that whether someone is in a greek club or homeless they deserve to be loved and to be shown mercy. I am learning humility and servant leadership. I am learning that literally taking the trash out and speaking at a conference should be done by the same people. Being a leader doesn’t make you too good for the little things, in fact, it makes you responsible for them.

It’s the people as much as the work. I could go on and on about how blessed I am to have the incredible wonderful friends I have made in SLC. I could go on and on about events that I have been to and helped organize. The thing that I love most of all though is the thing I cared about the least when I first joined.

Tonight was Tap Night for all of the greek clubs on campus. SLC helped set up a little mixer for all of the greek clubs so that they could tap their new brothers and sisters and eat together. It was a pretty low key event for us. Other than passing out sandwiches and picking up trash we were just supposed to mingle around and talk to members of the greek clubs. Through out the night we got to watch as they excitedly welcomed new members. The whole thing was both terrifying and energetic.

Eventually everyone left and we all started to clean up. I grabbed a vacuum and started cleaning the floor, something I never pictured myself doing on a Thursday night at college. As I vacuumed I realized that I hadn’t thought about myself all night. After days of obsessing over my own plans and schedules I had finally gone a few hours just admiring the joy and encouragement in the community around me. I admired the sacrifices people were making. All of my energy was directed towards the people I was serving and serving with. And even though all I did was vacuum and talk to people, I realized that it was changing my heart.

So that is why I do SLC. Because at a time in my life where I have permission from culture to make everything about me, SLC reminds me that I am a part of something bigger. That God wants something better for me. That time and time again, joy comes from the grit and hard work that comes from true community.

Because SLC is a family and it is shaping me to become the leader that God has called me to be.

Expectations are the Thief of Joy

Expect more from your expectations.

Here it is. The first day. You wake up excited to get started on your new adventure. You look extra nice. You take the time to do your hair. It is going to be different this time.

But when you get there, something goes wrong. He doesn’t open your door. The boss treats you like you just graduated from first grade. Your hall smells like ramen in the worst possible way. All of the sudden things aren’t as great as you expected and your excitement turns into dread.

When we set up expectations of how something is going to go, we set ourselves up for disappointment. By fantasizing about an ideal world where everything goes our way we allow our hopes to become the reality. Reality, however, can never be perfect. Just like I wrote in my last post, excellence is possible, but perfection is unachievable.

I don’t know about you, but I have a wild imagination and I love planning. That makes avoiding expectations almost impossible. I love new beginnings because of all the possibilities and new outcomes. How could I not think about how great things could be? I have to come up with some kind of replacement for expectations.

You can give up expectations when you give over your planning to God. This is one of those solutions that is simple, but not necessarily easy. We know that God has the best plan for our lives and that when we give him control he will always do what is best for us. That doesn’t mean that it won’t take a daily surrender to Him.

In Jeremiah 29 it says,”‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back from captivity.” 

We know that God has plans for our lives. That is the expectation that we should carry in our hearts. We should expect that God is in control and that by trusting in him, we are living the life he is calling us to. When there are bumps along the way we can call on God and he will show himself to us. By replacing our own expectations with the expectation that God is working in our lives we can find hope in any circumstance.

Don’t Quit Your Night Job

Don’t give up on your passion just because it isn’t your 9-5.

Here is some practical advice for you: there is a difference between a career and a hobby. It’s not just something your Dad says. It is all too true for those of us entering the workforce. For example, I love to sing. I usually forget the words to the song I am singing. I am amateur and best with harmonies. All around, singing is something that I can do but by no means should I head over to career and calling to change my major to music.

I am great at a lot of things. Many of those things would make great careers. Many of my interests could earn me money. Even my major is a great field to go into. However, no matter how talented I am, how hard I work, and how many times I apply, I can never expect my day job to line up with my perfect, ideal interests and skills.

More than likely, when I graduate from college, I am not going to be living up to my full potential as the Campaign Manager for Beyonce. That doesn’t mean that when I get hired as the brochure maker for a frozen yogurt company that it won’t be part of God’s plan for my life or an essential part of my career.

The jobs we take before our dream job help to make us the best at what we do. The experience you gain from an entry level position is valuable. Just like in relationships and other facets of your life, you have to build in order to be strong enough to handle the next step. God provides opportunities for us to be strengthened. Taking on this perspective allows us to have a positive attitude, even if we aren’t doing what we love.

So how do we get to do what we love? By turning it into our night job. After all, if you do what you love it isn’t really work. Pursue your dreams with patience and practice. Take opportunities to grow and practice your skills. Understand that it takes a lot of time and hard work to turn a profit or to be discovered. Don’t sell out on the thing you love. Keep it special and do it right so that you can have total ownership of your talents.

Starting out is harder than we ever realized. It is essential to have stability in order to keep the lights on and pay off our debt. However, don’t let stability hold you back from using your free time to get where you really want to be. By staying positive and creating opportunities to pursue what you love, you can follow your dreams independently.