I made a promise to myself that what happened last year when I returned from Honduras would not happen again this year. On one front, I was successful in that I have not had diarrhea for the past 2 weeks. On another front, not so much. I swore that when I came back I would have formulated an amazing combination of words and sentences to convey to you all how great, amazing, wonderful and life altering the trip was. I was convinced I would somehow be able to find the words that last year hid from me for months, the words I am not sure I ever quite found. Somehow though, I am back and as speechless as ever. When someone asks me to tell them about my trip I stumble over my words and struggle to say anything other than, “it was great.” or “I’m not ready to be back”. When they ask why I mumble an incoherent string of words and end with, “I don’t know, I just love it.” Which is a sorry excuse for an answer. That is an answer I would give for a trip to Hershey Park or a movie. Not a mission trip to a third world country in which I came face to face with the poverty and beauty and wonders that most Americans (including myself until last year) do not ever acknowledge or even know exist.
I know this sounds a bit pretentious and that is not at all my intention. Quite the opposite- actually, I feel as though my words cannot do justice to what I felt, saw, smelled, tasted and heard. It is just that after returning home I feel almost ready to burst at the seams with too much. Too much of everything but specifically too many words. In Honduras, I communicated so much with my students by simply making faces, using hand motions and learning a few key phrases. It worked. I somehow portrayed my sarcasm and sass without even speaking so much as a full sentence in their language. I feel as though I cannot communicate in words that which was never spoken to begin with.
The lack of words reminds me of a moment I had with a little girl in the school yard. I was in our classroom tidying up supplies during recess when I noticed a small figure lingering by the doorway. I turned to find a small girl, probably 1st grade, watching me closely. She carefully observed as I pulled out my camera, as though she were memorizing my every move. She was shy and hesitant, you could feel the uncertainty in the way she moved- slow and unsteady. I knelt down to her eye level and held out my hand. She looked at my hand, looked in my eyes and then back at my hand. After a moment of hesitation she reached out and I pulled her closer to me. I then held my camera in front of her and using only motions showed her how it worked. After about 5 minutes she was sitting on my lap taking selfies with a camera the size of her head. Her demeanor had changed, her comfort had changed and her trust for me had changed. There were no words communicated but yet a loud, clear message was delivered. I cannot find the words to describe my time there because the message I received was never spoken, it was felt.
So, I am sorry. This is a sorry excuse for a re-entry post. This does not even begin to do justice to the trip. Maybe someday the words will find me or I will find the words. Do no be alarmed if I come back in a month with words, lots of never ending words because historically, finding words has never been a problem for me. For right now though, there are no words. I can leave you with this: Above all, I spent a week in Honduras and God was there. He has been there and is still there. Like any country, there is crime and poverty and desperation. But there is also God. There are God-loving, Christ-centered people. There are people trying to make a difference and change their land for the better. There are people who have more grace, humility and sacrificial love in their left hand than I have in my entire body. Some of the strongest, most influential people I have even known I met in the 16 total days I have spent in Honduras in the last two years. I can tell you that I did not know you could fall in love with an entire country, but I did. I can tell you that I was so deeply changed that I have begun applying to orphanages and other mission opportunities in Honduras for post graduation. It feels strange that long after any evidence of the trip is gone, I still feel stained, marked and changed by the experience. I can tell you that the dirt washed off my feet but the stains remained in a place deeper than my skin. I can tell you that I feel different, I am different and I wish to never be the same again. I do not know what else to say except, I was there, God was there and it was amazing. I’m sorry, there are no other words.
One (of the many) things I was clueless about prior to college: Research papers. APA Citations; Literature Reviews; Peer Reviewed Articles; In-text citations. All of the things that haunt my dreams during the semester. I will tell you right now as a disclaimer: I am by NO means a research paper expert. Reading research in fields of interest may be growing on me but it is not yet a hobby of mine, nor will it ever be. After a few semesters of nonstop Literature Reviews and research papers, I developed a bit of a system that helped me not want to murder my professors.
- Start Early. As soon as possible after I get a research paper or assignment I will begin to brainstorm and gather research. Maybe this is my ADHD- but the sooner I start and the more work I have in the beginning, the less likely I am to be scrambling the night before it’s due (although I am almost ALWAYS scrambling the night before it’s due)
- Give yourself a timeline. I will be honest, I am AWFUL at keeping self-imposed deadlines. When the fake dead line creeps around on my planner, the procrastinator in me laughs at the organizer in me. When it comes research papers though, I stick to these deadlines as though they were the law. If there is an article amount, I break it up into small chunks and vow to have those articles read, cited in the reference sheet and color coded (more on that next).
- Develop a system. For me, I color code. I make a key of what I need to look for in my research articles and color code as I read. That way, as I am referencing back it is easy to find what I am looking for in a given article faster instead of re-skimming the entire article. I also have a large note card for each article and write on the front the key points in the article I find pertinent to my paper.
- Start with an outline. I know, I know this gives flashbacks to middle school English class. I HATED outlines. I used to find joy in being a rebel by writing a paper without an outline. I use my outline to conceptualize how each article will fit into the paper and the general flow of the article. It will help you to develop the theme of your article prior to writing so you do not spend time writing paragraphs and reading articles you end up not needing later.
- Start with your thesis statement. It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure this one out. Having a clear statement of what your paper will be about really helps you write your paper, go figure. Frame your introduction around your thesis (basically fluffy language that helps your meet your page count)
- Have a timeline for this too. After my research and outline is done I set a new timeline. I normally vow to write a page a day. Sometimes it’s less, occasionally it’s more depending on whether I get inspired. I pull out an article I determined was useful and bang out a page based on this information.
- Edit as you go. After each page I go over the whole paper and do some light editing. I look for grammatical errors, run-on sentences and other minor details. I try to keep the restructuring of paragraphs and bigger edits for the end, as I tend to change these pretty frequently.
- Major edit. Once the paper is written, conclusion and all, do one major edit. Read it aloud many times. Most grammatical errors should be taken care of at this point. The point of this edit is to check the flow and structure of the paper. Does the order of the paragraphs make sense? Do you address all of the points in your thesis? Are all of the points addressed in your paper talked about in your thesis? Is the page length met?
- Edit your formatting. I try to keep up with this as much as possible throughout the paper, especially in-text citations, but I wait until the end to make sure the entire paper fits the requirements. I believe for most people this will be APA but I know some majors that use MLA and Chicago style. I do a sweep through and make sure the title page, headers, headings, and in-text citations meet the expectations.
- Have a friend or tutor look over your paper. If your college has a writing center like mine, that would be a great resource to utilize. I always have a roommate, tutor or my mom read over my paper to make sure I didn’t miss anything.
- Turn it in and breath a sigh of relief.
What are your methods and tips for keeping sane while writing research papers?
Recently a friend of mine was reading me her rather impressive bucket list. I have mulled around with the idea before and even jotted down a few ideas. I definitely have goals and dreams. Most of them ambiguous but some well defined. Some serious, some professional, some spiritual and some silly or playful. Regardless they are all things I want to complete, achieve or make habit of during my time here on earth. My lifetime bucket list is still a work in progress. I honestly have not even found the time to sit down and get all the ideas out of my head. HOWEVER, I was able to formulate a Summer Bucket List. I do far better with short term goals anyhow. Without further ado, here is my Summer 2015 Bucket List.
Summer 2015 Bucket List
- Read 3 books for leisure
- Read 15 minutes a day
- Save $1,500 for the fall semester
- Have all of my textbooks rented (and here) before the semester starts
- Read the entire strategies book (textbook we have to read over the summer)
- Read strategies text for 15 min a day
- Run 100 miles this summer (41/100 done)
- Keep ‘new’ car clean all summer
- Finish all strategies homework (15 articles, annotated bibliography)
- Begin tithing regularly
- Do devotions 15 minutes a day
- Declutter material belongings (get rid of excess clothes, papers, etc.)
- Blog once a week
- Declutter computer files and back up computer
- Go on a road trip
- Journal 4 times a week
- Go camping
- Go to an amusement park
- Have a picnic
- Go on a new hike
- Go white water rafting
The list is still a work in progress but this is what I have to start with now. I am certain the list will be added too and updated as necessary.
Giving gifts stresses me out. I want it to be personal and creative. I want it to be useful and practical. I want it to be pretty. But I am poor so ultimately I would like it to be affordable. This is a hard combination to land on and frankly I do not often succeed. There have been a few knock out gifts that I could not help but share the idea. Honestly, I get most of my basic ideas from pinterest and modify it. My all time favorite present was one we blogged about over on my best friend and I’s blog and it was “19 reasons I’m glad you were born” for my best friends 19th birthday. This next present is another idea I am proud of. To be fair, I stole it from pinterest but I honestly cannot find the original post or else I would give credit. However, this is my modified version of a “Freshman Year Survival Kit” This one is the first of 3 or 4 I will be giving this year. I have quite a few high school graduates in my life this year and I wanted to do something special.
Each ‘kit’ is going to be different, as most of this one was created on the fly. This is what I did for my first one!
Shopping was the best part. I went to Target and Five Below mostly. For some of the other kits I went to walmart and for this one I went to Foot Locker too. For the ‘Survival Kit’ I wanted to include some fun things as well as things the graduate actually needed. My favorite part is that it is put in something more college students will need. In this case I used a storage container. You could also use a shower caddy, a plastic storage container, a dorm room trash can, a decorative basket, etc.
I did not end up using everything pictured below in this particular kit. For this one I got some of the graduates favorite candy, some running things (we’re training for a half marathon), some school supplies and some fun extras.
Next I split the kit in to categories for humor, organization and presentation. I used rubber bands and paper clips to give it that ‘back to school look’ (also because they were quick). This first bundle is The things that always disappear- lip glass and hair ties.
I thought of these categories on the spot as I was looking over what I had purchased. I was also thinking through how I would present these in the letter I gave her. Lip gloss and Hair Ties seems to be essentials that girls are always asking a friend for because theirs are missing.
Next up is the necessities- chocolate, chocolate and chocolate. This needs no explanation.
This next one was just a common thing we say to each other wanna go for a run? With some of the items we had said we wanted to get for our training- running socks and an arm band for music.
Last and kind of least is The boring stuff.. a.k.a. school supplies-Post its, glue, high lighters, index cards and pens.
It took me a solid 20 minutes to display this the way I wanted it and I was even late to the party. It was worth it.
I also printed out the little sign and typed up a note explaining each bundle, added in some insides jokes, ended with a serious sentence or two and BAM- Freshman Year Survival Kit.
Some other things I wanted to add:
- Small blanket
- A journal
- A planner
- Make-up bag
- Shower flip flops
- Gift cards
- Flash Drive
- Spiral bound sketchbook
- Color pencils (I use the erasable kind)
- Index card
- Anything else that suits your fancy!
I went with colored pencils because I did not have to patience to wait until I could get out to get bible highlighters that wouldn’t bleed. I also use some colored pens and pencil if I want to write in the margins. I prefer to write in a journal unless I feel it’s very significant because my handwriting stinks.
I do not claim that this method is my original idea, that it will work for everyone or that is is the best way. However, it is the best way for me! These last few weeks that I have done it have been the most consistent devotion/quiet times I have ever had.
Here are some of the resources I used after starting this method to help develop my key:
I’m sure an update will come soon at I continue this!
How do you do devotions? What are your favorite methods?
It’s that time of the year again.that time. That point where dropping out and becoming a stripper suddenly isn’t the worst idea in the world. The best math you have ever done is right now, calculating the lowest possible grade you can get and still meet your personal minimum grade requirement. You actively avoid your calendar and eye contact with your professors so they do not sense the brewing mental breakdown. I know you’re dreading the studying and writing and researching that will consume these next few weeks. Well, before you strap in and get to work there are 6 things you absolutely have to do before you start.
Then rewrite the to do list. And then do it in a pretty color. Maybe you should color code it by class. Or by least favorite assignment to most favorite? Or hardest to easiest? Or maybe in alphabetical order? Taking a foreign language? Try writing it in that language. Maybe you should make copies just in case. And copy the important tasks onto post its and post them around. Oh while you’re doing post its, you should write motivational things on the post its and put those around too. Oh while you’re making a to do list for schoolwork you should make a list for nonacademic tasks that need done like laundry and groceries. You know what, just go ahead and do your laundry, you shouldn’t procrastinate that too long or your dorm will smell. Also, just go ahead to the grocery store. You need proper nutrients before you can study. Okay, now make sure your list is finalized and you didn’t miss anything. Whew. That was a lot of work, you deserve a break. Watch a show on netflix. or 15. You deserve it.
I mean, since you went grocery shopping already you might as well make a snack. You cannot study on an empty stomach, that would be the worst. But you do not want just any snack. Nothing processed or microwaved. Guess that means you need to cook. If you’re going to cook you might as well go all out. Look on Pinterest for the perfect recipe. Go ahead and pin a bunch. If you start planning your wedding, that’s fine. You’re probably going to meet the man of your dreams before graduation anyway- so why do you need to study? Okay, once you find the perfect recipe and realize you don’t have any of the ingredients or the culinary ability to master it, grab yourself a poptart and give up.
Girl, you absolutely cannot study for psychology if your sock drawer is not in proper order. How can you expect to work under those conditions?! Organize your sock drawer, fold your underwear. It’s also almost spring so make sure all of your winter clothes are out of your closet and folded away. Is your bookshelf in alphabetical order? Then you must attend to that too. Go organize your spice cabinet. Don’t have spices? Go get some! Then you can make the recipe you didn’t have the ingredients for in number 2!
What they didn’t tell me is a new series I am kicking off as a result of realizing how clueless I was about this college/adulthood/real life gig I was recently thrown into. It started unintentionally with my post What they didn’t tell me about attending a Christian College.. This post was inspired by conversations with students who would soon be attending a college similar to my own. It was from these same conversations that the inspiration for this series was sparked. There are so many lesson I learned the hard way, so many things I stressed about and a whole lost of questions I had with no one to direct them too. Out of that, What they didn’t tell me was born!
What they didn’t tell me #2: What they didn’t tell me about picking a major
Who I have been and who I am now. I have always wrestled with how my mistakes fit into the person I am today. They are not who I am today but I cannot deny that they have molded my character and decisions. In my lowest moments I find myself identifying with the most unforgivable parts of myself. Deciding that because I have done bad, I am bad. In these moments, I beg God to fill me with the truth that reminds me I am redeemed because I am his. I find comfort in the Word that tells me there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus.
How beautiful is that? You cannot undo what has already been done but you are free from it. You cannot rewrite the past, nor should you want to. Grace does not erase the past, it erases the shame. You can no longer be condemned and you can no longer condemn yourself. Recently, I lost sight of this beautiful fact and allowed myself to identify with the past and condemn what has already been forgiven. In a simple exchange with a friend I found a powerful reminder.
“I suck at relationships.” I stated clearly and concisely with as much fact as the grass is green. 2+2=4 and Emily sucks at relationships. Those are the facts of life. I went on, “I suck at relationships. I am just bad at commitment and the work that goes into relationships. It has always been this way.” My friend did not for one minute allow me to send out the invitations to that pity party. Instead she dropped truth in the form of a text message:
The kick ass thing about God and grace and Jesus is nothing holds any power in my life anymore besides the fact that I am His.That’s the thing about identity, when yours is in him nothing else really matters. When we’re talking about eternity, who you were on the 17th of April in 2015 is irrelevant. Events of your past only define your today if you allow them to. Only what you accept as your truth becomes your truth. The past only becomes part of your identity when you allow it to seep into your heart and take up home in your thoughts.
His freedom is your freedom. His Grace is your Grace. His redemption is yours. His truth is your truth. Regardless. Choosing to accept his freedom, Grace, redemption and truth allows you to walk in his light without shame or guilt. I have the ability to decide where my identity is and I pick Him. I pick the redeeming, renewing gift that was won on the cross. I pick to be forgiven and shame free. I pick to be new, everyday. Not because I deserve it but because he freely gives it to me. The most fantastic thing about Grace is that it’s free and it’s yours too.
I’ve been in a rut. Not a blogging rut, a life rut. Between school work and work work, I am being sucked dry of any fun. For the last 4 weeks it has felt like I have been consistently just about to drown and it is everything in me not to just sink. Now before you go and call for help, I am not by any means saying I am depressed or really even anything besides dramatic. I am just chronically stretched too thin and it has gotten the best of me. It always does this time of year. Thankfully, the end is in sight. Unthankfully, there is a lot of crap that has to be done before I can drag myself across the finish line.
Due to this unexpected life rut, I have taken and unplanned blogging hiatus for the last 3 and a half weeks. I have actively avoided my blog and anything blog related and tried to pretend I wasn’t losing the following I had worked hard to maintain. I did not fulfill promises I had made regarding blog post requests. I did not answer e-mails from followers and people requesting guest posts. It took everything in me to post a few instagram posts but I could not so much as even start a new post or even edit the ones I had already written. I was fresh out of inspiration. I am not sure that my inspiration is back but I have mustered up the energy to write this so that counts for something, right?!
I think I just needed some time with the people I love and a moment to not be behind on things. This week I came back from the weekend feeling better, less drained and less “oh my God I’m drowning.” I also have not yet had the overwhelming desire to drop out of school, so that’s a plus. However, I did have 3 chocolate chip cookies for breakfast and stared at my computer screen for 45 minutes before I so much as opened a word document. Baby steps, people, baby steps.
There is a lesson in here somewhere though. A lesson to not stretch yourself too thin, perhaps? Or maybe a lesson to take a break when you need it. Yeah, let’s go with that. When you get in a life rut, or a blogging rut or a school rut. Any rut, really. They all suck. Take some time and do not apologize for it. Breath some air and drink some water. Put yourself to bed early. Hug people you love and take selfies with cute babies. Eat burritos. Step away from the crazy and do not for one second feel bad about it.Take care of yourself even if it sometimes means being a little selfish.
So here’s to hoping I am back and ready to go. I have blog post ideas and a schedule I am ready to implement. I am hoping to find some time here soon to get ahead on blogging, so I do not fall behind when I hit a rut again!
What have I missed this month?!