Thursday, August 21, 2014

GISHWHES-aka a week of chaos

In the beginning of August, my friends and I participated in an online scavenger hunt.  It was called GISHWHES which stands for the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen.  I signed up to do GISHWHES because it sounded like a lot of fun.

Basically, the hunt is a week of chaos.  You are put into teams of 15, my 5 other friends that joined with me were combined with 9 people from California and our two team names were combined.  Then the hunt starts when the item list is posted on the website.  The items ranged from semi-normal things to weird things you could never picture yourself doing.  

During the week I covered my little cousin in popcorn, was covered in melted ice cream, wore a boa and crazy glasses while picking up trash at a park, was dressed as a unicorn so that i could fart rainbows, put together a 100 piece puzzle with gloves on, I made Jared Padaleki's face out of clay and paper-mache, convinced a published sci-fi author to write us a short story, and helped a kitten to get adopted.  
here is Jared's face made of clay and paper-mache
This is our trickle-down-ice-cream-enomics.  We were COVERED in ice cream!!!

But wait there's more!  One of our male California teammates made a bikini out of candy and he wore it.  Another was dressed as a storm trooper and had a "spa day."  We also treated another team to cupcakes and dressed as a werewolf baseball player, riding a horse, while holding up a sign that read "we are all Orlando." We staged a mini-newspaper boat regatta in a public fountain. We got an Elopus (Elephant-Octopus [it was our GISHWHES mascot this year]) recreated in the foam of a cafĂ©'s hot drink.  We got batman to play bingo in a crowded recreation center. We sucked blood from a doughnut. And So many other things.  And we didn't even come close to completing the whole list.

As I've said multiple times on this blog, I am shy.  Extremely shy!  I'm not big on breaking out of my shell.  During GISHWHES it was either break out of my shell or let our team down.  It wasn't easy, but with the help of my friends I was able to do it.  GISHWHES did not only help me that week, but it gave me a little more confidence in my everyday life.  

Somehow, during this week of chaos which had no religiousness to it whatsoever, God found a way to give me strength.  You don't have to go to a religious conference or on a mission trip for God to strengthen you.  Maybe He wants you to step out of your comfort zone and that is how you will gain strength.  Always be open for little messages!

God Bless!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Prayer: A Phone Call to God

So, I'd like to tell you about something funny I did.  But first I have to explain a couple things.  I watch a show called Supernatural.  There is an actor on the show named Misha Collins; maybe you've heard of him or about him, maybe not.  Well, he’s a little outside the box (and by a little, I mean a lot.)  Seriously, just google “meanwhile, Misha.  Here two pictures that might explain a couple things:

He actually tweeted his phone number!  Well, as you can imagine, all his fans went crazy sending him texts and calling.  Just for laughs (and curious as to what his voicemail was) my friend decided to call the number and she listened to his voicemail and told me to call the number so I could hear his voicemail.  Now, one thing about me, I am really shy.  Even talking to people (or the idea of possibly talking to someone on the phone) freaks me out.  So I didn't want to do it at first because I was afraid he’d answer.  haha crazy, right?  Well, eventually she convinced me to call the next morning.  My reasoning was that calling at 8am here is around 6am where he is, so I figured he wouldn't answer.

So that morning, I calmed myself down enough to dial the number and a computer voice says “state your name at the tone and we will try and connect you.”  At that very second I freaked out and hit end call…  haha yes, I hung up at the possibility of talking to Misha Collins…  Well, my friend convinced me to call back (and not hang up) and I got to hear his voicemail which did not ask me my name.  The funny thing is that the second time I called, I wanted him to answer.  I know I'm weird.


Now, I do have a reason for talking about this on a religious blog.  

I feel like we are sometimes like that with God.  We dial in (pray), figuring we’ll just go to voicemail (that He doesn't hear our prayer), and when we hear (or feel) a response we freak out and hang up (tune Him out.)  Prayer can be many things to different people.  Sometimes we don’t feel anything when we pray, kind of like going straight to voicemail.  Sometimes we hear, or feel, God responding to our prayer, like the few people Misha actually answered.  Some of us who pray because we feel we have to, or we aren't completely open to the idea of God, freak out when we feel His presence, like how I freaked out at the thought of Misha answering my call.  I can go on and on about different reactions and feelings in prayer, but the point here is that it is ok.  Unlike my example of calling Misha, God doesn’t have a voicemail.  God hears our prayers, He even knows our deepest desires that we can't even put into words.

I want to encourage you to pray knowing that God is waiting to answer your call.  Sometimes He is that friend who is quiet and listens while we talk about our problems.  Sometimes He is quiet while we learn from a mistake; God doesn't knock us on our rear and shout “I told you so!”  He waits and lets us decide our path.  There are rare occasions where God speaks to us, when He speaks make sure you pay attention.  But most of the time He leaves us subtle hints.  Like I’ve said before, God doesn't send us a billboard that says exactly what He wants us to do.  No, He tosses toothpicks at us and after a while we are able to step back and say “Oh, that’s what He was doing!”

Try to keep that in mind next time you are frustrated with praying.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  Amen

God Bless! :)  Thank you for reading!

Friday, July 18, 2014

God's Strength and Wisdom

Last month my youth group went on a mission trip.  Normally we go somewhere out of state like the Carolinas, Texas, Michigan, etc.  This year we stayed in our own state AND our own backyard.  We went to mass Sunday morning and our priest gave us a blessing then we drove 15 minutes to the grade school that we would call home for the week.  It was great!  We were “away” from home, yet still in our hometown!

This year was physically more demanding than my past mission trips.  Most sites only have one crew of 6 people working on their project.  This year I was on a double crew with 12 people and the last two days they sent in a third crew yet, even with 19 people working on our house (including our resident), we were not able to finish in time.  But I will come back to that.

Here is the before picture.  And note that this is only a small portion of the house, it is much bigger than it looks.
First let me explain what we were doing.  This house was huge!  It had wood siding which had been painted, but it was not meant to be painted and they didn't use the correct type of the wood had rotted and all the paint was chipping off.  Our job was to scrape the paint off, caulk what needed caulked (which was all the edging and a bunch of holes in the wood), prime the whole house and garage, and put two layers of paint on the house and garage.  We spent all of days 1 & 2 scraping and Taylor and our resident, Greg, caulked.  Day 3: I continued to scrape while the others caulked and primed.

Day 3:  We had somehow missed a whole section of the house that needed scraping and I picked the short straw.  By the end of day 1 we were all tired of scraping, by the end of day 2 we all hated scraping, on day 3 when I ended up with a scraper in my hand again I passionately hated scraping.  And it didn't help that I was the only one still scraping.  I was sore, sunburnt, grouchy, and complaining to myself.  At one point I climbed off my little step stool to take a little break and I literally thought “God, I can't do this anymore.  I'm too tired and sore.  I don't have the strength.”  But I knew I still had to do it because no one else was going I got back on my step stool thinking “Lord, give me the strength” and He did.  The minute I got back on my step it was as if I had been regenerated.  I wasn't sore or as tired as I had been and I was able to finish the strip that I had been working on.  It was incredible and I know that it was only by the grace of God.  I asked Him to give me strength and He did!

Day 4: I finished scraping then we all primed and caulked and some started on the paint.  Day 5: we finished priming and caulking, we painted one full layer of paint on the house and scraped, primed, and tried to paint the garage...but mother nature decided to wash the paint off the garage…

Here is one portion of the house getting the finishing touches
Here is the front after it was finished
...and here is the garage after it rained...
 It was disappointing to watch the rain wash our fresh paint off the garage. We had gone as fast as we could, prayed as hard as we could, tried our best to finish the garage too, but in the end it rained and washed the paint away…  At first I was upset, of course I wanted to finish, but then again, I'm sure God had his reasoning.  They had already figured that we wouldn't finish (which, for the record, we got farther than expected) and there was a team ready to go in to finish for us.  Maybe our house wasn't finished because God was going to use someone who was going in afterward.  It’s sad we didn't finish, but I hope that God was able to move in someone’s heart because of it.

Always look at the bright side, even when it doesn't seem like there is a bright side to something.

God bless!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

From Recruit to Sailor

My summer started off running and hasn't stopped yet!  At the very beginning of June my parents, my brother's girlfriend Kayla, and I all went up to Great Lakes, Illinois to see my brother, Patrick, graduate from boot camp.  After not being able to see him for two months, you can imagine that we were all pretty excited!  We drove 6 hours the day before and got up bright and early the day of his graduation.  The ceremony was very cool, but also very long.  If I remember correctly, there were about 5 divisions graduating and about 88 people in each division.  So there were a bunch of sailors, all wearing the same thing, who all looked the same!  Needless to say, it was very difficult to try and find one sailor among 440ish other sailors. Here is a picture to attempt to show you just how many sailors there were:

And that's not even all of them!!!

After graduation was over, we only got to see Patrick for a short while because there was still paperwork that needed to be filled out before he could spend time with us.  So we twiddled our thumbs and spent a whole bunch of money on t-shirts, bumper stickers, sweatshirts, mugs, etc that said things like "Navy Mom," "Navy Dad," "Navy Girlfriend," "Navy Sister," "Proud Family of a Sailor," "United States Navy," and so on.  And then when we finally got to see Patrick again that day we got to take pictures, get milk shakes, and talk.  His flight plans had been changed, so we also got to see him the next day.  

We were able to spend a lot more time with him than we had expected, but he ended up staying at Great Lakes after we left because of medical stuff.  They did a blood test which showed he had low iron levels, so Patrick had to take iron pills and vitamin C for a month before he was allowed to fly out to South Carolina.  Well, when they tested his blood again they told him he was healthy enough to fly!  He is now safely in South Carolina and once orientation is over he will begin A school and then he will start nuclear school!

It's been a very long journey, but Patrick is now well on his way!  Praise the Lord for being his strength and his guide and thank you to everyone who has been praying for him!

God bless and thank you for reading!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

God: The Master Painter

I apologize for the huge gap between posts. There is never a dull moment in my crazy life!

I’d like to talk about how awesome our God is. Seriously. Do you ever just stop what you’re doing and stand there, amazed by God? I did! My family and I went on a vacation in the beginning of May and I literally had one of those moments. Our vacation was in Canaan Valley, West Virginia. It was incredible. Most people have probably never hear of Canaan Valley, I hadn’t! It’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere. But, in a way, that made our vacation that much better!

One of the catch phrases that I like to say is that God is the master painter. I love to paint, so it’s a great metaphor for me. While I was on vacation, that phrase too on a whole new meaning to me. It was just so incredibly beautiful that words cannot even begin to describe it. I was speechless at the thought that God had “painted” the beautiful mountains, trees, bushes, sky, waterfall, animals, and so much more. It was one of those “Aha” moments that I will never forget. Since I can’t quite describe just how beautiful it was, let me show you. Even though in person is even better than the pictures!

This picture was taken while we were on a train ride on the Durbin Rocket
Black Water Falls
This is a picture from Lindy Point overlooking the Blackwater Canyon and it was 3,047 feet up!
And of course I took a selfie with Blackwater Falls!
Here is the sunset picture I took from the resort
Here is a picture from inside Seneca Caverns

I could just keep going and going with all the incredible and beautiful pictures, but this post is not meant to be "show and tell."  There is a point to this post.  We take beauty for granted and sometimes we even forget about the beauty in our world.  It's important to step back from our everyday lives and see what beauty God has put before us.  

While we were on vacation I was completely cut off from internet and cell phone service.  No joke.  We were that far out in the middle of nowhere that my phone didn't have a signal and there wasn't any wifi.  Haha at first it was weird not texting my friends and checking my facebook every hour, but as the week went on, I didn't really care.  It was kind of nice not being attached to my phone and I was able to just be there and in that moment.  I didn't have any outside "interference" to pull me out of the state of wonder that I had found myself in.  It was really cool.  

It's been a long time since I was able to just look around me and just think "Wow, God!"  I loved that feeling and it made me want to reach for that at home too.  You don't need to go on vacation to see God's beauty surrounding you.  He's always there, whether we see him or not.  Sometimes we just need to open our eyes a little wider.  That is my challenge to you, when life's got you down or you are struggling to see God's beauty, just open your eyes and your mind to the possibilities.  God can work wonders in your life if you just give him a chance.

God Bless all of you!
Thank you for reading!

Friday, April 11, 2014

My Brother is off to the Navy!

Yesterday I said goodbye to someone I've known my whole life.  It wasn't a permanent goodbye; I'll see him again in 2 months, but it still feels like a long time that he won't be here.  Some people may find it really odd how much his leaving has impacted me.  We weren't exactly best friends most of the time.  Patrick and I could fight about pretty much everything.  Occasionally we could play nice together, but we never had that whole "loving brother and sister" relationship.  We usually did our own thing and "occasionally," well, maybe more than occasionally, try to get each other in trouble.

Even last year we were still arguing and complete opposites of each other.  We couldn't agree on anything!  He thought church was dumb; I loved going to church.  I didn't like the school we were at; he absolutely loved it there.  He'd pick on me for being short; I'd pick on him for his big feet.  We had a lot of silly little arguments and we'd both make snide comments that didn't really mean.  It seemed like all we could do was tear each other down.  We also had big fights to the point that I wanted him to leave home.

Throughout his senior year, he spent a lot of his time trying to get all his paperwork and stuff sorted out so that he could join the navy after graduation.  But, there were things he had to do before he could enlist and it took forever!  For those not familiar with the way the military works, everything has to be absolutely perfect and if one thing is not "perfect" then it takes months and months to "correct it."  That was the case with my brother.  He went up to Columbus to get his military physical and all that stuff and there was a spot on his back.  So they sent him home and said he had to get rid of the spot before he could enlist.  Seems reasonable, right?  Not exactly, the military likes paperwork and there wasn't any official paperwork for what the doctor did to get rid of the spot.  So that caused issues that took forever to get sorted out.  Also, when he was up in Columbus somehow his birth certificate was misplaced and he couldn't do anything until either he found his original birth certificate or sent for a new one from Virginia.  So as you can probably guess, Patrick was extremely stressed out during this time.  The more frustrated he got the more we argued and the worse our relationship became.

Eventually everything was sorted out and he was told what month he would be shipping out for boot camp.  It was summer, so April felt like forever away.  At first we kind of just went on like we had been.  But, as Patrick's ship date got closer and closer we became closer and closer.  About 2 months ago we became pretty good friends as well as good siblings to each other.  That's probably when it started hitting home for me.  This kid that I grew up with, who had always been there (even when he was the last person I wanted to see) was going to leave and he wouldn't be coming back to stay.  I really couldn't imagine home without him.

This is the last picture we took before he left for boot camp.
This could probably explain why he picked on me for being short! haha

Now that I look back on our relationship over the years, I see how silly our arguments really were.  I don't understand why we argued, we just did.  There's a million "what if's."  What if we had been closer?  What if we had been nicer to each other?  The list goes on and on, but it doesn't change anything.  I do wish that Patrick and I could have had a better relationship, but I am glad that we were able to bond before he left.  There was a point in my life where I would be more likely to say "who? No, I don't know that kid.  We're not related."  But now I am proud to say "Look! That's my big brother!"

I understand that saying of "you don't know what you have until it's gone."  I had an awesome big brother and I didn't realize it.  (He also had a pretty awesome little sister!)  Now he's gone and I miss him more than I ever thought I would.  Guess the important thing is that he is doing what he's wanted to do since we were little.  He's always wanted to join the Navy like my dad and now he's done it!

Please keep my brother in your prayers!  He's going to need it!

Also, please keep my family and Patrick's girlfriend in your prayers!  We all miss him and it is going to be a long two months.

God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can and wisdom to know the difference.  Amen.

God Bless!  Thank you!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Struggling with your lenten promise?

So, we're about halfway through lent, now and it's about that time that either the lenten promise starts to get easier and become routine or you realize that you're not doing so great on you lenten promise.  I'll have to say I'm both.  I chose to give up nutella for lent (I could literally live off of that stuff!) haha It seems like a funny thing to give up but I knew it would be hard for me personally.  I also chose to DO something.  Lent is not just about giving something up.  You can also do something.  Last year every morning I woke up and first thing I did was kiss the floor and say a prayer for humility (kind of the same idea as Jesus washing the feet of the disciples.)  This year I felt like I wanted to do that again, but it's been hard for me.  I have a hard time remembering to do it!  So, as soon as I remember I just drop to the ground.

It seems silly to me personally that I'm having such a hard time this year!  Lent was a very special time for me last year and I grew in my devotion to God.  Guess I should have kept kissing the floor even after lent, though!  I'm am sad to say that I have been lazy.  When we are in consolation it is so easy to say "yes, Lord! I will thank You for everything!"  But when we are in desolation and we don't feel Him it is so much more difficult.  It that state of consolation we see God in the beauty of everything.  He is in the person holding the door for us or He is the rain that waters the plants; He is in the sunshine that brightens our day or we see him in a teacher or peer.  Consolation helps us to be inspired by our surroundings and we are able to look outward.  In desolation it is much more difficult to see things that way.  Even though God is still there, we look negatively inward and we feel like giving up.  We know deep down that God is with us, but He is not flashing in front of our nose like a billboard sign.  We may feel drained and lonely.

So what do we do when it is so hard to pray and we really don't feel like getting out of bed to kiss the floor?  Be honest.  Tell God that you're struggling.  It doesn't have to be in the form of a novena or some formal prayer.  Just talk to him.  When you find yourself struggling, reach for His hand and ask for his guidance.  You may feel like you're talking to yourself, but I can promise you the He is listening.  Also, seek guidance in those around you.  Talk things out with a friend or just spend time with them instead of being alone.  Spending a bunch of time alone is when most people are at their worst.  It is easy to think about the past and say "well I should have done ____" or "why didn't he/she do ___" or even "Why, God, didn't you help me?"  It is so easy to place blame or focus on regret.  It is important to not dwell on those things.  They happened, but they are in the past: time to move on.

Yet, we're all human, we make mistakes.  I forget to pray sometimes, but I can't let that stop me.  Admit it and say "oops" and then fix it.  I can't tell you how many times I've said "oops!  Forgot to kiss the floor!  Guess now is better than never."  God understands.  Don't beat yourself up over it.  Whatever you are struggling with, give it to God.

God's got you covered!

God bless!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Me!? A Role-Model!?

I apologize for not posting in a while.  Everything has been crazy between school, coaching, and a couple clubs I'm in.

I'd like to talk about being an assistant coach.  I'm still in highschool, so I don't have a child and I'm not old enough to be a head coach.  I love volleyball and I would spend 24/7 playing and practicing drills if I could.  So I asked if I could help out at the catholic grade school I went to.  So, since November, I have been assistant coaching the 3rd grade and 4th grade teams.  It's amazing!  I love being able to help them learn the sport (the 3rd graders are just now starting to learn the skills.  It's their first year.  And for the fourth graders, they started playing games against other teams and are improving on their previous skills.)

It really is an incredible experience to be able to be someone these kids can look up to and who can relate with them in a different way than an adult can.  The one little girl on the 3rd grade team likes to wave at me whenever she sees me at church and she is glued to my side at practice.  Another girl on the 4th grade team likes for me to help her on her serve rather than her mom (who is one of the other coaches.)  It's fun being someone they can talk to.  It makes me feel like I'm making a difference.  

I'm sure every one of us has heard the whole "I'm not your friend. I'm your [coach, mom, dad, teacher, etc.]."  Well, where I'm standing, I can almost do both.  With the 3rd graders I am their friend more than I am their coach.  If they don't understand something, or they aren't doing something correctly, I am able to show them and it doesn't embarrass them as much as if their parent or a coach called them out.  It is a unique position and I love it!  With the fourth grade I typically have to be a little more stern because they're at the age of "I know better than you," but they tend to listen to me because I'm closer to their level.  I'm only 6-8 years older than them, depending on the kid.  Our one coach is more than 7 times their age and the other two coaches are parents of kids.  So we each have a different perspective.  I am in a position to be able to help them in a different way than the two coaches that are parent who are able to help coach in a different way than the other coach who is able to help them in yet another way.

When I signed up to be a coach, I didn't realize how much I would be a role-model to these girls on and off the court.  On the court I have authority, yet I can be a friend to them.  But I'm still a role-model.  They look to me for advice and I show them the correct way to do something.  For example, one key thing in volleyball is to stay low and keep your knees bent.  I've lost count of how many times I say "down" or "bend your knees" or "down and ready, girls" in just one practice.  But if I'm telling them to get down and STAY down then when I scrimmage against them or when I demonstrate for them, then I have to be down too, even when it's not necessary, because it gets the point across and I am being an example.  Do as I say, not as I do? NO!  Do as I say and as I do.  THAT is how they will learn.

I also didn't realize how much of a role-model I would be off the court.  Most of the girls I had never met before I started coaching.  Well, now it's like I see them everywhere I go!  I see a lot of them in church and they'll wave at me or give me that look like "whoa! you're hair isn't permanently in a braid!?"  haha  So they see me dressed up, but still being modest.  I've also seen them at the store or at their school (I occasionally go in and say hi to my past teachers or help out in the library).  It's fun seeing them and seeing their faces light up with that "hey! I know you!" look on their faces.  

I guess where I'm going with this blog post is that anyone can be a role-model.  I'm still in high school and I can be a role model.  The two women that I'm coaching with are parents and they're role-models.  The man that I'm also coaching with is much much older than them and he is a role-model to them.  EVERYONE is a role-model.  You don't have to be a coach, parent,  teacher, etc. to be a role-model.  Look at Jesus, he was born in a barn, in a manger that they put the animals' food in, he was the son of a wood carver.  Yet look at what a role-model he was.  Yes, I realize Jesus was God, but He was also human.  Fully God and fully human.  I'm sure he got nervous too, standing in front of all those people eagerly listening to him.  But I'm not saying that you should go stand up in front of your whole church and give your whole life story.  No.  I'm just saying to be a good example to those around you and be someone they can look up to.

Thank you for reading!
God Bless!