The New Rules of Community

The funny thing about new experiences is that you’ve never had them before.

Our experiences build up and we start to think, “I know what I am doing.” But then one day, poof, you encounter something totally different and new.

Recently for me, this newest experience is community after college.

I thought if I had learned anything in college, it was how to do community. You just roll up to the event being hosted so that you can make friends with people with similar interests, say “we should get coffee sometime”, and then boom: one million best friends.

Turns out that isn’t how the world works. First of all, people are older than you and younger than you. They have jobs that are nothing like yours. They have different backgrounds and beliefs. They can have a lot in common with you but they can also be literally grandparents. And suddenly, all of these people are a part of your community.

And you have no idea what to do with that.

Can I trust you with my hurts? Can I be of any help to you in your struggles? Do I have anything to contribute to your life? Will I be rejected after I have invested in you or will I be rejected if I don’t invest in your life?

The clear, concise rules of community were stripped away and instead you are left with a host of what if’s and how to’s. And that can be really scary. When I found myself in that place, half of my heart said, “just give up, you can make it if you stick to the surface. Keep your cards close and play what you have to.”

But that isn’t what God had intended for us. Over and over I heard, “Loneliness is a gift that calls us back into community” or “Press into these relationships and seek opportunities for vulnerability.”

I had preached words like these before to people. I have written blogs about vulnerability and belonging. So why has it been so hard for me to be intentional and be myself? Why was it so different this time?

I think ultimately, I couldn’t place myself and when I couldn’t place myself, I thought the community didn’t have the room for me. I was isolating myself before I had the chance to be isolated. I wasn’t willing to give it time to organically grow either. I was desperate for those deep, three year friendships three weeks in. In case you were wondering, that is impossible.

Luckily, God didn’t let me fall into a trap of my own self-doubt and insecurity. Starting at work, I grew into the community with my co-workers. Sure they valued me as a part of the team, but they loved me too. That is rare. That is a big deal. And I love them too. Deeply. Just like I had with my roommates and committee members. I got to do life forty hours a week with people I love. It is something I won’t take for granted.

Then I had a foundation I could build from. And it gets a little easier once you know you can make it out there. So now I have to keep risking awkward silences and small talk to get to the bigger, deeper connection.

The way I see it, we are all human beings. Whether we admit it or not, we are all afraid of the same rejection and disappointment. But we have the opportunity to step out and do as Christ commanded us, love God and love our neighbor. When we live in accordance to God’s will – and God wants us to love and live in community – He will help us get through the unknown and connect our hearts. You can endure the “get to know you” because it’s the only way to become fully known.

So brothers and sisters, as we keep on living in this crazy world, let’s trust God in the process. Pressing in when things get hard, and giving thanks when things are easy.

A Love Given Freely

I spent a lot of my time hustling for love. I could write a book full of ways that I have tried to earn love. It would be a very bad book, though. You would read it and cringe. Here is a small sample of ways I have attempted to earn love, but read these at your own risk. I will not be held responsible for any vomiting or nightmares.

  • I sang “You Belong With Me” to a boy who already had a girlfriend. One that I was friends with.
  • I took ballroom dancing lessons in case a boy asked me to dance in Middle School.
  • I took tennis lessons for a boy that wasn’t allowed to hug me.
  • I started drinking coffee black to impress boys in college. (So brave!)

I have done hundreds of awkward, weird things to earn love. I still know a lot of people who are trying to earn love like me. A lot of you are incredible. You are usually beautiful, funny, and completely worthy of love.

I thought that maybe my problem was that I needed to get married so that I could always have someone to love me. Or maybe I needed a boyfriend so that people would know how likable I was. Or maybe I needed more friends so that people could pay more attention to me. I sometimes thought maybe, I just wasn’t worthy of love.

 

But there was always a flaw in these theories: Jesus. 

I had heard one thousand times that Jesus loved me deeply. That He was willing to die for me. That He chose me before anyone I knew was born.

But for some reason, that love never felt the way I wanted love to feel.

Did you catch that? If you did I am impressed, because it took me 21 years. That love never felt the way I wanted love to feel because love – true love, from the creator of love Himself – is not a feeling. 

It is a choice that spurs us to make similar choices. It all comes from one place. There was one model we should follow: God’s love for us. It wasn’t a love we had to ask for. It was a love given freely.

The key to being loved isn’t saying please, it’s saying thank you.

It’s recognizing that when we pour love into others, it is because God has filled our cups. It’s knowing that love isn’t ours to keep. It’s not a feeling we find. It’s a choice that chases us down for thousands of years until we are brought back home.

Now when I “feel loved”, I feel gratitude, joy, patient, kind – all of the things I was told that love could be. I don’t want to keep love for myself, I want to share it with those who don’t have enough. This is because when we know God’s love, we are able to become that same love. We are able to step into choosing Him and His people over ourselves. Love wasn’t cheap, but it is given freely.

 

What are you doing with your life?

So I graduated from college. You know what that means… I get asked 278,342 times a day what I am doing with my life.

Every time I get asked that I want to turn to sand and blow away in the wind. Or shake the person and ask them what they are doing with their life. I want to say several different things like, “having this conversation with you” or “if I told you I would have to kill you.”

But the reality is that right now, I work in retail. At first, I was really ashamed. It isn’t fair to be ashamed of my job, great people – thousands of people, have jobs exactly like mine. When the question inevitably pops up in conversation, I would feel like I was letting the interviewer down, even if they were a complete stranger. I felt like everyone expected me to do something really great right away. After all, not everyone graduates from college at 20. Surely, if anyone was going to start off as a CEO right away it would be me.

Friends, family, that right there is some nasty, toxic pride. In a way, I think God very intentionally placed me where I am right now because if I am being honest, I have let people judge me by my performance since day one. It worked for a long time, too. You could ask me about what was going on or how I was and I could provide a three minute explanation of how busy I was with so many great things.

I was doing great things, but too often, for the wrong reason.

I thought the only way that I could serve God was if I did everything, perfectly. Jesus would have gotten the internship with the non-profit that saves babies right? He would have immediately been promoted to Director? He would still sleep eight hours and get coffee with his friends and followed the Whole 30?

First of all, no.

True, Jesus did amazing things, but his life wasn’t so extraordinary that the kings felt inferior compared to his resumé. (He was also the perfect son of God and I am the daughter of a navy nuke guy.) Jesus served God by the way he lived. 

He took time for people, he prayed, he taught, he celebrated others, he made time for family and disciples. He did not compare himself, brag about miracles, turn loving others into a start-up with a cool logo, forget about his Father.

Jesus and his disciples model a life that reminds us that fisherman or tax collector, the most important thing about your life is how you are living it. That is something I missed in my busy-all-star-greatness. I am not saying that I was an all-together garbage person the past three years, but there was an undue anxiety to prove myself as a worthy servant of Christ.

Jarod Noel said at the Focus conference when we humble ourselves in our communities, we are able to focus on God’s will being done instead of whether or not God is using us. Humility doesn’t keep score. Along that same line, Tim Keller said in Every Good Endeavor, understanding work as being the hands and feet of Jesus “elevates the purpose of work from making a living to loving our neighbor and at the same time releases us from the crushing burden of working primarily to prove ourselves.”

Do I need to say that again? Understanding work as being the hands and feet of Jesus releases us from the crushing burden of working primarily to prove ourselves. 

When we frame work that way, it becomes clear that every detail of our ordinary lives adds up, and should ultimately paint a much bigger picture. Work proves that Jesus loves our neighbor, not that we can do great things. We then have the opportunity to make room in our lives for the pieces that the world may not value as much as our Creator does. Learning these lessons in my post-grad season may not have done much for my resumé, but has helped heal me and brought me a new peace I am excited to take into the next season.

I have hope that God does have a bigger plan for my life than the answers I can give you right now. I hope that He will make me a teacher and wife and aunt and mother and bridesmaid and secretary and so many other things. But through it all, it is so important that I remember the most important title I can ever adorn is “loved daughter of the Heavenly Father.” The works I carry out due to my faith in God are the most important and most valuable.

Type Two: Importance and Belonging

Hi, my name is Halle Camilleri and according to the enneagram I have a type 2 personality.

I took this test after hearing a lot about it from my friends. When I read my results I got wrecked (If you don’t know what “wrecked” means, think of having a significant emotional awakening). The first thing I read said:

  • Basic Fear: Of being unwanted, unworthy of being loved
  • Basic Desire: To feel loved

What. Have you been reading my prayer journal? It was the bottom line I had been searching for in counseling, books, prayer, you name it. To feel loved. The fear of not being worthy. My big learning experience in college was learning to love others for the purpose of loving others. Not to be loved in return. Not to be recognized as a loving person. Just to love.

Well it turns out this is an entire personality type and as I went further into my research, many of my friends and family struggle with exactly the same thing. Type two people think the most valuable way to use their time is by helping others and making them feel loved. However, it can be really difficult to accept the same love and aid from others. It is easy to be graceful to others, but hard to show yourself grace.

Type twos can be very healthy, loving, giving people. They feel validated by being needed and purposeful in a role of service. They are the “mom” of the friend group. However, the shadow side of type twos is the secret pride, self-deception, and over-involvement in the lives of others.

Bingo.

The exact flaw I had spent my entire life grappling with. The thing about my mom, my brother, my friends, that we all try so desperately to either keep hidden or justify. But there was the answer. We want to be loved, we make ourselves needed, and we can either act in humility with no strings attached or we can grow to resent those we serve when they don’t love us back in a way that helps us cope with our fear of being un-needed.

I needed a minute.

Being human is not one of my favorite attributes of myself but if there is anything I have learned over the past few years, it is that when we acknowledge our struggles and work to be vulnerable to overcome them, we can live transparently in our community. My personality requires that I question my motives. I have to watch my thought process in order to track with my emotional well-being and keep my pride in check.

Pride is dangerous. It is 100% true that everyone needs to be loved and feel like they matter. But there is a difference between belonging and feeling important. Belonging is having a place where you are loved and cared for. Being important is seeking recognition and accomplishment in order to gain a reputation for your “selflessness”. Belonging brings healing, being important causes pain and insecurity.

Love is selfless. There are no strings attached. Type two people can love people so well but we have to be aware and intentional of the tendency to replace belonging with pride. Giving isn’t about receiving. Love isn’t about being recognized.

Sleeping at Last recently released a single about the type two personality. The words have given me so much peace and better understanding about how my own heart works. I highly recommend that you take the test for yourself and do some research. Learning how you relate and validate yourself helps us to build healthy habits. I don’t have all the answers, and I promise I never will, but I can keep investigating and working to help us better understand one another.

Love and life are precious God-given gifts. I want to be able to share mine with all of you the best ways I can.

Forget the Formula

When I was a young preteen I used to go to the McCracken County Public Library basically all the time. I was home-schooled so hanging at the library was the cool thing to do. I had read practically every single book in our small young adult fiction section. I was starting to think that I had read every single book ever written when one day out of sheer boredom I wandered into the young adult non-fiction section.

That was the day I discovered a whole new world. A world where instead of reading about cool guys and middle school romance, I could un-lock my own successful love life. I snuck over to the section to read American Girl book after American Girl book. I had finally found it. The wealth of knowledge and science and formulas that would help me understand how to have everything I had ever wanted.

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A lot of my present frustrations stem from my constant search for guaranteed formulas. Although, it feels silly now to put so much faith in those purple and pink books about how to tell if someone likes you, things haven’t really changed all that much for a lot of us. We still ask, what do I have to be/do/say/have before I can find love and connection?

I ask engaged couples how it feels to be in such a secure place of knowing that you are loved. I ask them how they knew and how they ended up in a place where they were “Ready To Commit”. I hear a lot of the same things. They stopped looking. They stopped waiting. They reached a place of completion and then boom, God gave them the love of their life.

This made me really scared. I had gone through a lot of periods of waiting. Sometimes I grew tired of waiting and impulsively liked some boys I knew were bad news. I have looked back on some seasons and thought, you know what, that makes sense. And it’s not like I don’t like a lot of the parts of being single. I can serve, live for God, and grow in him with absolutely no true outside commitments.

But there is a part of me that knows that this is not how things are supposed to be for me forever. I can be content, patient, and even whole in Christ. But I am not created for a life without love and connection.

I have fought with this a lot over the past few years. When it became clear that I was not getting married right out of college I was honestly thankful. There are a lot more pros than cons to starting my post-grad experience without a ring on my finger. But that doesn’t diminish the fear that I have.

Every time I tried to plug myself into the formulas I had seen, I knew things weren’t going to work that way for me. The avenues other people took to find love were not going to lead me to the right place. I did not know what to hope for or work towards.

I cannot and will not deny that I want to be married. I want to be married to a person who loves Christ more than anything, that serves with their whole life, and that shows me everyday how to love like Christ. That isn’t wrong. That is biblical. That feeling isn’t going away.

Not denying that longing is my version of the formula. That is still following God’s will. Not letting it consume me, but also not drowning it out to the point where I have a creeping anxiety that my desire is preventing me from connecting with God. Casting your anxieties, sharing your joy and your pain with the Lord does not mean that you suppress yourself and become an inactive protagonist in your own story.

Our lives, our stories, are a shared conversation between ourselves and God. We are giving ourselves to him and he is living in us. I can give my heart to heaven, but if I don’t invest love and care back into others in the world, then heaven never gets back to earth.

So if you are like me, let me remind you that God’s plan for our lives and love is much better than a formula. Just because it worked for your mom or your roommate doesn’t mean your story will be the same. Free yourself from the pressure to stop searching for connection. Come to God with every part of your heart. He knows you, and He won’t let you down.

You Are Not You

I sat in the waiting room with a clip board and a pen. I checked box after box.

Strongly describes me. Does not describe me at all.

I was pouring out my heart and soul on an intake form and it felt… weird.

That kind of vulnerability in such a medical way was the first step on a long journey to discovering how mental and emotional health play a role in my life. I didn’t feel like someone who was supposed to be in therapy. I wasn’t crazy and I wasn’t going through any kind of trauma. I was just a 19 -year-old girl with a little too much on her plate and a lot of questions about her future.

Choosing to start therapy was more of a utilization of a tool than a necessary step to help prevent my imminent destruction.

And honestly, it was great. I learned a lot about myself and how I handle emotional situations. I learned about shame and blame and all that jazz. I stepped away from the process confident that I could handle the problems I had going on without the weekly meetings with my counselor.

But around the end of the school year I started to feel different. My fears and insecurities felt so big and I felt so powerless. Suddenly I wasn’t myself. Sure, I was joking around and smiling at strangers. But every action felt empty. I didn’t want to see the people I loved and I didn’t believe that they loved me. I felt like I couldn’t take the next step in my career or just function like a normal human being. I was tired. I was sad. I was not me.

As I would later discover, I have clinical depression.

It wasn’t this dramatized, glamorous thing where I just laid in bed and cried. It was me, trying to function, and feeling it wasn’t worth it. It was all those little voices saying “you’re not good enough” but instead of it being a small whisper, it became a coach with a bullhorn, ever present and working over time.

It got bad. I thought it was what the rest of my life would be like. But somehow, by the grace of God, I had the wisdom to say something and go to a doctor.

It was not an instant fix. There is no magic pill to take to make your life perfect. Sometimes it takes chemical regulation and a change in diet and conversations of vulnerability and wisdom from your mother and the liberation of saying “I am never going to be perfect and that is okay.”

But that journey is the difference between life and death and that is not an exaggeration. I am writing this not because I want to let you all know that I beat depression! My life is perfect now! Because that is not true and I am still very much in the midst of my story and it took me months before I got the courage to sit down and write this blog. I am writing this because I didn’t know that I was not alone. I didn’t know there were ways to live with depression. That there would be good days again when the darkness could be hushed and I could celebrate being alive.

I am writing this because when you are not you anymore you need to get help.

Because not only is your life worth fighting for, it is infinitely valuable. I wouldn’t wish this journey we are on for anyone, but I will say that fighting has given me so much insight into who I am and how God created me.

Even when you are wired for struggle, your life will not be absent of the blessings that God has promised to you. You can still have a future and a plan to prosper. But please. Don’t just sit idly by. Get the help that you need to feel like yourself again.

Just because you can’t put emotional and mental health in a cast and try to reset it doesn’t mean it doesn’t need a doctor. Just because you feel low doesn’t mean that you are weak or worthless. The most dangerous lie that you can believe is that things can’t change.

So be patient and take the first step on the journey. If it is a crippling weight or just a little too much on your plate, therapy, chemical regulation, and vulnerability are tools God has given us to make sure we are able to live our lives with joy and stability.

So please friends, if you are not you, fight to get your life back.

Share Your Joy, Share Your Pain

I struggled this week with the same ole weaknesses and fears. The same doubts of my worthiness. But through it all I have refused to avert my own joy.

I don’t think I ever expected to be sitting where I am right now. Not physically, I mean, I am in my bed which makes sense because it is 1:30 A.M. But emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. I never knew that my heart could be both so heavy and so light.

It’s one of those weeks where you look back and think “Am I even the same person I was seven days ago?” The answer is honestly no for me. Usually these weeks of exponential growth come after I receive a big ole yes from a job, a club, a class. That isn’t actually the case this week.

In fact, this week I have gotten a few no’s.

I sat across the table in a coffeeshop and wrestled with vulnerability and God’s timing.

I picked up a test with a grade I was not excited to see.

I sat in the car after a long day of deciding the leadership for the organization I love so much. Realizing that this would be a team I would not be a part of. That I had just replaced myself with one of these incredible leaders.

I struggled this week with the same ole weaknesses and fears. The same doubts of my worthiness.

But through it all I have refused to avert my own joy. Averting joy is an idea I learned from Brene Brown, an author who has specialized her research in shame. The idea is that whenever we approach a situation where we have to risk failure or rejection we cannot downplay our emotions, but instead we revel in the joy the opportunity presents. She writes in The Gifts of Imperfection,

“It’s only been in the past few years that I’ve learned that playing down the exciting stuff doesn’t take away the pain when it doesn’t happen. It also creates a lot of isolation. Once you’ve diminished the importance of something your friends are not likely to call and say, “I am sorry that didn’t work out. I know you were excited about it.”

With each step I am taking entering into this next phase of work, internships, stepping down from leadership, new relationships, and eventually the impending doom of whatever lies beyond graduation day, it is so important not to downplay these next phases of life. It is crucial that we invite our community into the joy and the pain that these various rejections and acceptances can bring. That isn’t easy. In fact, it is often terrifying to be honest with people about hopefulness.

This weekend I have experienced so much joy by playing a role in the engagement of two of my best friends. Sharing in their love with our community has been so inspiring. Even as I have faced rejection this week I have not walked alone. Just as they invited us into their joy, I have invited them into my struggle. The same goes for those selected for cabinet and those who weren’t. I can be so incredibly excited for those ready to take on this commitment but I can also empathize with those not selected as I get ready to watch these people form a new community that I won’t get to fully be a part of. When we have empathy for each other out of humility we have the same victories and short-comings.

But the joy I feel is not discounted by my doubt. God is not limited by my shallow vision. The community will not let me feel the highs and the lows alone. I am standing in a place I could have never chosen for myself and for that I am truly grateful.

This week I will turn 20 years old. I will get on a plane and fly to Ireland. I will welcome a new cabinet. I will love people well. I will make time to seek God’s will. I will feel every emotion and every fear and I will not allow them paralyze me.

Risk sharing your heart with your community. Risk walking with them. Risk doing life together. See the difference it makes when you share in this journey with humility.

A Guide to Your First Adult Summer

It sort of sneaks up on you, but someday you will find yourself unlocking the door to your apartment.

That’s right, your apartment.

One day I walked into my apartment after work and went to my room. This very first time, I took a minute in the threshold of my room and thought to myself, is this really happening? Am I really paying my own rent and living in this place? I knew for weeks this moment was coming but it still managed to sneak up on me. There is just something so unexpected about the first day you really feel like an adult. It is a pretty simple day, nothing extraordinary, but at the end you’ve worked and provided for yourself. Don’t get me wrong – I’m still not completely independent (Love you Mom and Dad) – but I am taking care of business this summer.

And I’ve absolutely loved it. It’s hard work, but it’s so worth while. I believe in what I’m doing. I feel fulfilled. It’s a dream come true.

So I thought I’d share this experience, some things you need to know about what it’s been like spending this summer in conference rooms and making cold calls. The summer you learn to stop thinking: I’m just a kid. 

Adult Diet

If you think “man cannot survive on apples and coffee alone” YOU ARE WRONG*!! My number one concern the first half of this summer was that I would be hungry or tired at work but this diet has proven to be excellent. I keep apples scattered through out my office, car, purse – I am basically the Easter Bunny of apples. The only exception to this diet is that every Monday I get a $5 burrito because

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*Disclaimer: Don’t worry, I actually eat like a normal person but I do have apples and coffee for breakfast everyday and it is great. I probably wouldn’t survive if that was all I ate.

Adult Exercise

I have found the secret to finding that summer bod you’ve always dreamed of! Follow these simple steps and you too can be an adult office goddess like myself.

Step One: Spend as much time at your desk as you possibly can. Only move if you feel like your soul will leave your body should you spend one more moment at your desk.

Step Two: Take the stairs. ESPECIALLY if there is a threat of having to be in the elevator at the same time as another human being. It does not matter if it is your best friend or a complete stranger. There is something about workplace elevators. Small talk and silence are equally uncomfortable in that tiny box of social anxiety.

Step Three: Are you familiar with a dollie cart? Well let me tell you, that baby is going to be your new best friend. Try pulling that beauty all over campus with as much stuff as you can possibly squeeze on that bad boy in one trip. My top two dollie experiences were taking two corn hole boards across campus and when I used it to get 3,117 pieces of candy up to our office.

Step Four: Wear clothes that are appropriate for the workplace, but not appropriate for the 104 degree heat index. Don’t try to tell me not to wear corduroy pants in July because I won’t listen. The sweating will help you lose any water weight you might have. Also a piece of your sanity.

Step Five: At this point you should be pretty toned and fit, but just in case you aren’t, try keeping your supplies in a storage that is anywhere but your office. It could be another building, in a trailer, maybe another zip code. Bonus points if you have to climb stairs to get there. You’re going to be so fit.

Adult Free Time

When I come home from a long day of work, I really just want to clean. There is something so nice about being able to get in the kitchen and fix a problem so quickly without having to think about it. It’s like, oh, this dish is dirty. Well, now it’s not! Bam. Done. I never thought that I would long to clean a bathtub but here I am.

But cleaning is not all I do. I also watch movies because sometimes I will have two entire hours with nothing I have to work on. Or I will write. Or pray. Or paint. I am learning to play the Ukulele. I have nice candles that I burn while I plan for SLC. It’s incredibly relaxing to not have somewhere to be all the time. I spend all day doing something and then that is it. I get to go home.

But the sweetest of all of these is when I have company. I love hosting people in my home so much. I love making pancakes for breakfast. I love being able to catch up at night with friends over a cup of tea. People being here is still my favorite treat. It’s honestly a little nice being alone, but I still miss my friends and family terribly.

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Adult Job

I honestly never thought I would enjoy working. Think about it, it’s work. But this summer has proven me wrong. I managed to find two jobs – well honestly they found me – that I really love. I have learned so much about the community, my school, the future, what it all is really like. Some times things feel a little slow or ridiculous (like when you have to call the city of Chattanooga about bamboo) but I am loving every second of this field and the people I work with.

If you ever get the chance, work on campus during the summer. It is so cool to be a part of the community when it is just you and staff. We all joke around and get to know each other with out the pressure of thousands of students. Plus, the parking is A+.

And if you ever get the chance, apply to be a VISTA in the AmeriCorps Program. It has completely changed my life and my aspirations. I love being able to help people in a way where I essentially try to work myself out of a job. Connecting with volunteers and clients is the coolest network of people. You will look back and see the difference you can make in such a short amount of time. I can’t wait to take my boss’s job someday (you heard me Mike, you better get ready to take this thing nationally because I am going to direct the Ocoee Region).

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So get ready guys, it will be here before you know it. It will be glorious. You will love it. Congratulations son, you’re a man now.

 

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.