3 Albums From My Summer that Haven’t Gotten Old Yet

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This past summer was halfway boring and halfway a blast. Both ways, I needed a lot of good music to get me through. Here are 3 albums that did just that.

 

  1. Harry Styles by Harry Styles

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In a departure from boy band pop, Harry Styles kept my summer rocking with his self-titled album. Not to mention I still imagine that the first 50 seconds of “Only Angel” will be what’s playing when I enter the gates of Heaven. Or the whole song if God is into that.

  • Highlights:
    • Only Angel
    • Sweet Creature
    • Kiwi (what a banger)

 

2. Melodrama by Lorde

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This was the album I didn’t expect to like, but literally fell in love with. It had been four years since Lorde’s last album came out, so I had very few expectations because it wasn’t even on my radar. However, this one, ladies and gents, is a gem. It feels brutally honest and sounds extremely cool.

  • Highlights
    • The Louvre (ALL TIME FAV FROM LORDE)
    • Homemade Dynamite
    • Perfect Places

 

3. Divide by Ed Sheeran

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Are some songs overplayed on the radio? Yes. Do they get annoying? Yes. But don’t let that deter you. There are other shining stars on this album that haven’t gotten nearly enough attention– I’m just fine with it that way. I still find myself listening to sweet Ed all the time.

  • Highlights
    • Perfect (come on guys, it’s the wedding song of all wedding songs)
    • Dive
    • Galway Girl

 

HONORABLE MENTION:

  • Connect the Dots by MisterWives (specifically “Coloring Outside the Lines”)
  • Folk Hop N’ Roll by Judah & the Lion (specifically “Suit and Jacket”)
  • Evolve by Imagine Dragons (specifically “Thunder”)

 

 

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Why I’m No Longer Afraid of Prayer

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It’s that time. The food has just been brought out to all of us and I stare down at mine like those chicken tenders have the ability to save my life. There’s an awkward moment of silence. Then those words come out of someone’s mouth. “Would you like to say the blessing?” I want to say no SO badly. I want to push it off on some other soul. I don’t want to be in the spotlight. I don’t want other people focusing on me. No. But I say the blessing begrudgingly, and it comes out about as well as one would expect.

I’m sitting in class. A friend tells me something they’re struggling with. Stress. Health. Their family. The response is almost immediate. The words slip out of my mouth. “I’ll be praying for you.” I go home. I do my work. I talk to my parents. I hang out with my friends. I don’t ever get around to praying for them.

I’m at church. I’m having fun and I’m learning about Jesus. We get into a group setting and I know I’m supposed to pray. I think about what I should say. I wonder if I should practice to myself. I worry about stumbling over my words. I pray for us, but it is not the Holy Spirit speaking through me.

This is what my prayer life used to be. I’m not proud of it at all. I didn’t take prayer seriously. However, since I’ve altered the way that I pray, my life has completely changed. Never underestimate the value of prayer. I did. But now I’m not. And everything is better.

I don’t write this out of judgement or condemnation– no, that’s definitely not it. I don’t write this because I know exactly what I’m doing when it comes to prayer, because I certainly don’t. I’m writing this because it’s something that I have struggled with a lot in the past. And it’s something I’ve been learning a lot about recently.

I think that there are two main reasons that people get uncomfortable when they’re asked to pray in front of other people. These are the reasons my palms used to sweat and my heart used to pound at the prospect of praying with a group.

1) Someone who is uncomfortable praying in a group often is not prayerful in their own personal time. Prayer is meant to be a conversation. It’s our own little connection to the God of the universe. Why wouldn’t we want to utilize this connection all the time? I was always stuck in this mindset that prayer was meant solely for church and for blessing the food. I thought you had to close your eyes. I thought you had to bow your head. I thought you had to speak out loud. I didn’t think I could talk to God on a daily basis. I really didn’t know how.

But the only way you learn how to do something, like anything else, is by doing it. So I made it my mission to talk to God all the time. We talked while I was driving. We talked while I was in the shower. We talked in the middle of class. We talked during my quiet time. I sent up praise when times were good. I spoke about my needs when times were bad and sent up more praise for His unchanging love. When someone told me their problems, I took the time to listen. If I was afraid I’d forget, I wrote it down. I prayed for them. You know, what if we prayed every time we said we were going to? And what if we had faith that what we were praying for was actually something God could make happen? The crazy thing is that He can make even more happen.

My life has seen radical change since making prayer a priority rather than an obligation. You see, I don’t want my prayer to a public display but to be my primary language. I want it to be the first thing that comes to mind on a terrible day and the first thing that comes to mind on the greatest days. I want to speak it over my friends and I want to speak it over complete strangers. I want it to touch the ends of the earth. It’s powerful. The Lord hears it. He heeds it. And He always answers it, even if sometimes it’s not in the way we expect.

You might be thinking that none of that first part applies to you. You pray in your personal life and it’s important to you. Well, maybe you can identify a little more with the second reason I believe people are uncomfortable with praying in front of other people.

2) People tend to get performance anxiety when they’re asked to pray in front of others. I understand. I’ve been there and I still have to check myself on this one. But you see, prayer is not a performance– it’s a cry to the God that has utterly changed our lives, the one that knows our stories from front to back, and the one that relentlessly showers us with grace, despite our screw ups and our mishaps. We shouldn’t pray to impress other people with our “prayer prowess.” We should pray to point people to how glorious our God is.

When people used to ask me to pray, I was always afraid because I didn’t want to the spotlight to be on me. But that was an extremely selfish thought. Why was it selfish? Because in prayer, and in our lives in general, the spotlight should always be on Him. Prayer isn’t about me. It’s not about the people around me. It’s not about what others think about me. The only time I believe that you can get prayer wrong is when you make it about yourself, which is what I did for a long time. When you make it about Jesus, you can never go wrong.

So just pray. Pray continually. Pray boldly. Hallow the Lord. Let your words glorify Him. Let Him answer your prayers. Don’t make it about a performance. Don’t make it about yourself. Center your thoughts around Jesus and you will NEVER go wrong.

The Fight to Be Genuine

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Sometimes I wander around the internet aimlessly and it’s completely unproductive yet somewhat enjoyable. But sometimes I stumble upon things that make me think– things that challenge me. So a few weeks ago I came across this quote and it has continued to pop into my mind countless times since then. It says this:

“I was always taught by my mother that the first thought that goes through your mind is what you have been conditioned to think. What you think next defines who you are.”

One of the things I value most in a person is their authenticity. I’m obsessed with the idea of transparency in a world that can sometimes seem so fake– in a world where I sometimes feel so fake. I want my thoughts and my speech and my actions to always line up. Authenticity is a quality that I want for myself so  badly. It’s the compliment I want to hear from others and it’s what I want people to say about me at my funeral one day, but I feel as if I fall short of this quality all the time because of the first thoughts I have about something or someone.

Confession #1: I am that girl that sometimes thinks “What the heck is she wearing?” or “Why would anyone ever do that?” I am the girl that judges and questions everything in the very first thoughts I have. This has always been something that I have hated about myself. But I have been way too harsh on myself and I realize that now. I don’t think I’m alone in this.

Society, the media, families and friends– they all tell us that we should think certain things in response to specific situations. It’s how we were “conditioned.” We can always condition ourselves to think in a different way, but that takes time and gets more difficult as you get older, like most things. However, that doesn’t mean we should ever stop trying.

Confession #2: After I have a thought that makes me feel like a really crappy person, I always backtrack. I change my thought to “She can wear whatever she wants” and “I can’t judge their situation because I’ve never been there.” It’s why I’m so careful about thinking before I speak. That doesn’t make me a fake person– it makes me a person who doesn’t agree with how she was conditioned to think and wants to make sure she speaks her heart clearly to others.

If we’re all really really honest with ourselves, I think we can all agree that we have first thoughts that aren’t who we really are or who we really want to be. The cool thing is that those thoughts aren’t what define you or how genuine you are. The ones that come after, do. So breathe. You’re first thoughts don’t make you who you are and the grace of God, who loves and cares for you, covers any thought you could ever have.

Authenticity is a quality you have to fight for. You have to fight for control of your second thoughts, because that’s where the real you is found. And then let those thoughts match up with your words and your actions. That’s when we become truly genuine.

Being yourself sometimes means questioning what you have been conditioned to think. It means humbling yourself and realizing your first thoughts might not be thoughts you want to identify with. Never stop humbling yourself in this way.

“For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” 

Luke 18:14

Right Now

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As I’m writing this, I happen to be sitting on a bench listening to a bird chirp above me on the most perfect fall day. Tillman Hall is positioned directly across from me, while greenery takes up most of my vision. In the bush behind me there’s a squirrel scuttling around, and I’m not gonna lie, I’m kind of afraid he’s going to attack me with the little red-looking berries he has found. At least if I were a squirrel, that’s what I would do. There aren’t any bugs bothering me and for that I am thankful (really REALLY thankful). It’s peaceful.

This has become a sort of routine for me after my classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, weather permitting. I sit on the same exact bench, even though there are a total of 16 to choose from. It’s in the shade but it allows me to fully take in the beauty of the day. The bench may not be in perfect condition but it’s mine. On this bench, I allow myself to think. I read books. I write my thoughts, like I’m doing right now. I get in God’s word. It’s a time set aside specifically for my mind to breathe, to take in its surroundings, and to add its own thoughts. It’s a time where I don’t think about class or exams or life plans. It’s an environment that’s free of stress.

So many times we let ourselves get caught up in the struggles of life. And there are many. We worry about the grades we make. We worry about our families. We worry about what people think of us. We let life get the best of us. It’s unhealthy and we know that. But we never seem to be able to do anything about it. Things pile on top of other things which pile on top of other things and we’re left feeling broken and overwhelmed.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Here on my bench I’ve figured out how. We’re so future focused that we put our blinders on and don’t truly see what’s going on around us. Things aren’t magically going to get better until we make the choice and put in the effort to remove those blinders.

1. Making the Choice

To be happy, sometimes you have to choose to be happy. We have to learn to decide to be optimistic in those situations where pessimism seems to want to slip into our minds. We must always see things through the lens of the getting to experience something instead of having to. Even when we’re experiencing something bad, getting to experience it means that it’s building our character and giving us more perspective. Choose to see the mercies that God has provided during your day. Choose to see the good in others. Choose to forgive those who have hurt you. Allow yourself to be thankful no matter the circumstance. Making the choice can be difficult, especially when feeling bad for ourselves is so easy. CHOOSE JOY. It makes life so much better.

2. Putting in the Effort

Choosing to remove the blinders and to be happy isn’t something that simply occurs once and is then done with. It’s something you have to do daily or else your troubles will begin to overwhelm you again. Therefore, it requires a little effort. My effort is my time spent on this bench. I stay for about an hour, usually. Getting outside is a big part of it for me. It makes feel more calm to be surrounded by things that men can’t make (that’s probably why I’m so obsessed with trees). Putting time aside for my well-being and the things that I love has been the greatest thing I’ve done since I’ve gotten to college. It’s good for the soul. It allows me to just sit and be here in the “right now.” We don’t spend nearly enough time there. I’m glad I’ve started to.

Living in the “right now” is easier said than done. But by making the choice to be happy and putting in the effort to live that out every day, it becomes manageable. And it allows us to better manage our lives.

So, now it’s time for me to leave my bench and head back to my dorm room, but I’m not exactly sad about it. Why? Because I know that the day after tomorrow this bench will be right where I left it and I’ll have another chance to sit and do exactly what I’m doing right now. I’m excited for it.

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Joy Comes in the Morning

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Here at Clemson, we have been experiencing a time of tragic loss. Several deaths have made the start of school not just a stressful time but also one of sadness. It’s been hard. Really really hard. As a human being, each loss of life, especially with those so young, saddens me due to the loss of such bright futures– ones that were just shining with potential. It saddens me because no parent should ever have to bury their child and that’s exactly what has happened. It saddens me because their friends and loved ones are left here confused and hurting.

As someone from the Wren community, Tucker Hipps was a part of my family long before we got to Clemson. While I really did not know him that well, he did sit in front of me in English class pretty much my entire junior year. And you can learn a good bit about people in English class. So lately, I’ve been reminiscing about him and his personality. I remember how he said “swag” after almost everything he said and it made me laugh. I remember how he sometimes acted more blonde than I did. I remember how kind he was. I remember how he encouraged me about applying to Clemson, a school that he loved very much. He always told me, “If I can get in, you can get in.” Tucker, it’s been made clear that your school loves you too. Both of them. Your Wren family and your Clemson family miss you. They miss your leadership skills, your smile, and your awesome eyelashes. As I read what your close friends, family, your Boys State brothers, and even those who only met you once have written about you, it is obvious that your impact was widespread. I hope that I can make that kind of a difference.

For every person that is hurting due to what happened to Tucker, there are also people hurting over the losses of a few other Clemson students who have passed. I’m heartbroken for their families and friends as well. However, it has been incredible to see the Clemson family rise up so strong and resilient in these times. The support of the student body and the faculty has been priceless to see. As I walk around campus and see the masses of orange, I know that we stand united in the good times and the bad times. I don’t just attend a college but am a part of something much bigger than the tuition I pay, the classes I take, and the dorm I stay in. I am a part of community that can take on anything together.

Through these experiences I have also come to realize just how blessed I really am. I have amazing friends and family. I attend a Top 20 university in greatest place in the world. The community I have from high school is as strong and united as ever. And I am so thankful each morning when I wake up that the Lord has given me another day to appreciate the things that He has given me. So, for those who are mourning the losses of the members of our Clemson family, just know that joy comes in the morning, because we get to wake up and spend another with each other. Praise Jesus for that.

 

Psalm 34:18

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted

and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

COLLEGE

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You know, I’ve been here for three weeks now, but it still hasn’t hit me that I’m actually in college yet. It just feels like camp. Exactly like camp, actually. It’s hot as Hades 99% of the time. We eat food in dining halls that they try to make fancy to cover up the fact that it’s crap. I walk A LOT. You’ll never completely understand how hilly Clemson is until you go to school here.

This blog post is just meant to be a collection of thoughts I’ve had since being here– it’s a way for y’all to keep up with my college life if you choose to do so. Let’s get started:

#1. I fully expect to have legs like Carrie Underwood’s at the end of this year. If I don’t, it will be really disappointing. Clemson’s campus is definitely not the easiest place to walk. And then there’s the fact that I literally have to park my car a mile away from my dorm. If any of you know where R-01 is, aka Kite Hill, you know it’s a hike from the Horseshoe. The walk kills. But I guess it’s good exercise so there’s that.

#2. I have never ever had emotional breakdowns about school. Until now. The very first day of my Spanish class I was given the  assignment to read 5 chapters (180 pages) of my textbook. Nuh-uh. It’s just really different from high school. You go to class to get the general gist of material and to make sure you don’t miss something that will be on the exam. And then you’re expected to learn the rest on your own. Also, teachers don’t tell you when things are due– you’re just kind of supposed to know.

#3. I don’t know where all these professors are who let their classes go early, cancel on occasion, and don’t really have an attendance policy, but I don’t have any of them. We always have class and a couple of my professors only allow 2 unexcused absences. A little harsh? Yes. But I understand the need to be in class and it would honestly stress me out to miss too many days. Still, it’s the hardest thing to wake up at 8 am everyday in college. My schedule does leave afternoons free, though, and that is such a blessing!! The 8ams seem completely worth it at the end of the day. But then the morning comes again. The cycle repeats.

#4. One important lesson I’ve learned is to lock your dorm room door at night even if you’re already comfortable on your uncomfortably high loft bed. Because otherwise, 4 drunk students will mistakenly stumble into your room at 1:20 in the morning and begin trying to lift the passed out girl onto your roommate’s loft even when there’s a clearly open futon. Drunk logic. And you will be so exhausted that you can’t connect the words from your brain to your mouth and just stare at them stupidly while they’re attempting to lift said girl. Then your roommate will wake up and they’ll eventually realize there’s a girl already occupying the bed and that they’re in the wrong place. They’ll proceed to stumble back out clutching onto each other for dear life. Without you screaming, yelling, or ever whispering a word. Ya know, the usual. Lesson freaking learned.

#5. Clemson football. Yeah, it’s not going too hot yet. But it was just the first game. And football. That is all. Not to mention, I get to experience my first time in the student section this Saturday at 12:30 from the lovely upper deck. Pray for me. But really, I AM STOKED OUT OF MY MIND.

Y’all, I might complain. I might freak out about the work load. But I really am loving college. I love the community I have here. I’m loving almost every aspect of Clemson. It’s the most beautiful. I have the greatest roommate. I’m excited to get involved. And it feels like home, which is what is most important. Life is good. More updates to come soon. 

 

Dear High School Students…

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I know as you go into the school year you’ll be whining about cafeteria food, complaining about the summer ending, and dreading the homework assignments to come. You’ll wish you were laying out in the sun beside the pool instead of sitting in a desk surrounded by strong brick walls that are reminiscent of prison bars. As you walk down the halls carrying your 80 pound book bag, you’ll almost be able feel the weight of the school year upon your shoulders.

But I beg that you don’t take it for granted. 

High school can really suck, but it can also be really great. As someone who has spent four years there and successfully graduated, I can identify with what you’re going through and hopefully give you a little bit of advice. 

The number one thing that can make or break your high school career are relationships. Surround yourself with good people– the ones that make you want to be better. The ones that make you laugh until your stomach just can’t handle it anymore. The ones that challenge you. The ones that you’ll actually want to stay friends with after high school. Having good influences? Essential. Don’t let a few bad friends keep you from having the best four years of your life. I promise the best way to make memories is by making ones you’ll actually remember with people you actually enjoy. Don’t be afraid to branch out and meet students older or younger than you. Sometimes your best friends won’t be your age. 

Also, be involved. Don’t question whether you’re good enough or popular enough. Just go for it. Attend all the football games– even away games (PS–those are honestly some of the most fun). Try out for the tennis team. Run for student council. High school is completely what you make of it. I don’t have many regrets from high school, but the ones I do have are mostly from not doing things because I was too scared or worried what people would think of me. Pursue what you’re passionate about. You’ve got this. Be a part of the community.

Thirdly, take your education seriously. Joking around and having fun is great and all, but at the end of the day you’re there to learn, which is a privilege that many never get. So take advantage of it. Learn as much as you can. Take the classes you’re interested in learning about. Go out on a limb and try an AP class or two. Talk to your teachers. Don’t focus on the teachers that clearly hate their job, but pay attention to the ones that genuinely care for you as their student. & Always have your end goal in mind. If you want to go to a prestigious college, you don’t want to get to your senior year  and realize that you’ve been doing everything wrong. Taking your education seriously does not mean you won’t have fun. It just means that when you’re having fun, you won’t have to worry about the class you’re failing or the paper that you haven’t turned in yet. It’s a major relief.

Last but certainly not least, never question the impact that you can have on your school. Instead of viewing your school as a place you have to be, view it as a place that you get the chance to change. You have the power to start clubs, to pursue friendships, to change the dynamic of your team, to share your faith. You can do so much good. Making a difference seems like a big task but every big task is made up of smaller tasks that build upon each other. You can be loud or bold or soft-spoken or friendly or kind or artistic or athletic. Never doubt yourself. You and your specific personality and talents can be used for something so much greater. 

I wish you the greatest time high school– whether you’re a freshman with four years to go or whether you’re starting your senior year. This is one of the times in your life where you’ll start to discover a lot more about yourself. Your time in high school certainly doesn’t define you, but it does build the foundation for your future afterwards. Make it a good, strong foundation. You won’t regret it. I don’t.

Sincerely,

A friend who wants the best for you.