Thursday, May 16, 2013

College at a Glance {Junior Year}

Junior year was my busiest year. I was heavily involved with FCA, while also balancing school and a relationship, in addition to making new friends. I started out my Junior year by moving into a new house in Chimney Ridge. I had 3 new roommates, Taylor, Courtney and Logan. 

I served on the Communications Team. I managed the new FCA website, took photos at various events, and helped to create graphics and promotional materials. 

FCA Rally in the Valley 

First FCA photos
I made it to all of Clemson's home games, naturally. We had SO many home games this year, I was a bit worn out by the end of the season. 

I carved a pumpkin for the first time since childhood. We kept it pretty original with clemson-esque pumpkins (Braden had to carve a tiger paw) haha.

Braden's sweet grandparents took us on a trip to Tennessee. One day, they took us to Gatlinburg, which was my first visit to the little quaint town. I loved this trip. Any time I hear NEEDTOBREATHE, I automatically go back to this trip because it was our sound track to the ride up there.

Side note: we also made a separate trip up to Chattanooga to see NEEDTOBREATHE in concert!

While in Tennessee, we went ziplining! I'll admit, I wasn't gungho about ziplining when we first got there. It took a lot of courage to jump off of the ledge, especially since I'm not a huge fan of heights. After my first run I loved it! We went zip-lining again in Helen, GA the next year.

In December, I was selected as a member of a missions team to go to Leogane, Haiti. Not only was this my first mission trip abroad, it was my first time on a plane.. ever. I was terrified. Luckily, I had friends on the plane who helped soothe my nerves and I ended up loving flying!

It's hard to sum up my Haiti experience in a few words, luckily I have blogged about the whole experience previously. To say it was an incredible experience wouldn't even begin to give it justice!

When spring break rolled around I was so ready for a break. As I mentioned before, it was such a busy year and the trip to Haiti was emotionally/ physically draining. Tay invited me to go to Florida to visit her family and I jumped at the opportunity. It was the most low-key, relaxing week.

Not to mention, I caught my first fish in the inlet!

Braden's family takes a beach trip every year right at the beginning of summer. This year, we went to Hilton Head, and we just so happened to go on my birthday weekend!

Helloooo 21!

Towards the end of the year, Alex, Emily and I had a summer small group put on our hearts. We didn't know what that was going to look like, but we made a Facebook group and invited around 10-15 girls. Well, our small group doubled in size and at our first bible study we had over 30 girls. God is faithful. This small group was a mix of girls who I knew/ didn't know at all prior, and it was the most refreshing experience. 

I landed and internship at United Way of Oconee County. This was a blessing in disguise. I started as an intern, and ended up getting hired part-time until the end of the following fall semester (Fall 2012). My internship technically ended at UWO's annual meeting in August. To my surprise, I was awarded their first scholarship. Little did they know, the $500 I was awarded was an answered prayer. I am so thankful for the experience I had at UWO, and for the people I met there.

Last but not least, senior year is coming up! If I had to pick my favorite year, my senior year would definitely be it!

Until then...

2 Corinthians 4:16-18  So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,  as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

College at a Glance {Sophomore Year}

I've already prefaced that a whole lot happened my Sophomore year, and I wasn't joking! First things first, I moved into a new town-home with these two crazies, Marissa and Paige. I came into the situation not knowing Marissa very well, but we all ended up being so different that we fit together well. There was constant entertainment in our little two-story abode - Marissa rightfully earned the nickname Shams (short for shambles) haha.

I went through rush, I wouldn't trade that experience for anything. I didn't branch out at all at USC, so I thought I might as well go into the most uncomfortable situation ever - talking to tons of strangers about nothing really. I loved it! I also loved my pi-chi group, we had the best leader, but I feel like everyone is biased. It was a super tiring week, and got to be a bit overwhelming due to that on top of classes starting. I ended up getting a bid from KKG, but decided that a sorority just wasn't me, and that was okay!

Taylor took me to my first FCA. I can't remember exactly how many FCA's there were until they put on "After Dark," which was basically an FCA on steroids. Matt Wertz came to play, which was the main selling point on why I wanted to go. They showed snip its from Passion of the Christ, and I found myself heart broken during the scenes where Jesus was beaten. I didn't understand what was going on internally, but I knew that I wanted a relationship with Jesus - but literally had no idea what that meant. I didn't know it in that moment, but that was the night that I surrendered my life to Christ. This moment literally changed the course of my life, for the better. I am still in awe of how the Lord pursued me even when I had no idea of who He was.

After getting saved, I wanted to get more plugged into FCA and to build my relationship with the Lord. I got invited into a small group with a few girls from my high school, all of which I knew of but didn't really know. We spent a lot of time together during the fall semester. My first FCA event ever was Roller Boogie, and I had a BLAST. This was also the night that I got introduced to over 50 people, at least it felt like that many!

As I said, I spent a lot of time with my small group! We were literally obsessed with each other, more inside jokes than we could possibly count. We made a point to meet up at every event we went to and took a "small group pic," naturally. I went to my first shag ever, the Autumn Shag at the Madren Center. Tay and I mainly danced together, we didn't really know anyone else there. I danced with two other people that I didn't know, who actually ended up being pretty good friends (cough, Tyler Goff). This shag marked the first event of a weekend long of craziness!

Phase two of the epic weekend:  I went to Katie's apartments annual Halloween party! The strangers I met at Roller Boogie slowly started becoming friends at this point, I was actually starting to remember some names!

Of course, I didn't miss a Clemson home game. I had to trade in all of my garnet and black for some purple and orange. It wasn't a tough transition. Plus, we always tailgated with the sweet Wood family and they always made game days so much fun!

I even made it back to USC for a few home games.

I went on my first big hike with a HUGE group of people! At this point, I started to finally feel like I was fitting in at Clemson. Although I didn't have a huge number of friends, the few that I had were so wonderful. Our small group definitely stuck together, but we branched out together. 

 This year was the one and only time I got to see snow in Clemson! Well, a substantial amount anyways. The snow delayed the start of spring classes by two days, which we spent frolicking in the snow and watching every Nicholas Sparks movie created. We all walked to campus, only to catch a ride and come right back to the apartment. The truck that brought us back was driven by a stranger, who turned out to be Elliott, who is now one of my best friends!

An ample amount of time was spent with these two guys and their roommates. The four of us were besties, literally we spent every weekend together just about. We had many Cracker Barrel lunches and spent many nights hanging out watching concerts on TV. 

I got introduced to Starbucks! My very first Starbucks experience was spent with Tay, her mom, our friend Ethan and his mom. We spent a Sunday afternoon in Greenville, walking around Falls Park and taking pictures just because we could. I must say, this was my first attempt at being somewhat trendy.. black nails with Starbucks cup in hand. 

I. had. a. nose. ring. Yes, I had a nose ring! I went and got that little sucker on a whim, I'm still not really sure why. I didn't tell my mom, I just went and did it. Maybe that was my act of being "rebellious," isn't that hilarious. I loved that little thing, though. I only had it for a month, it fell out of my nose in my sleep and the hole closed up immediately. Sad day.

Sadie Hawkins was approaching, and I still wasn't really friends with many guys at Clemson. Jenn, who was in my small group, was friends with a lot of the guys and had introduced me to the ones I knew. I needed a date, but had no idea who to ask. Naturally, I asked Jenn who was still dateless and she gave me a short little list of 2-3 names. I didn't know any of the guys she mentioned, but I remember thinking that Braden Nichols was pretty cute and seemed nice.. so a few nights later at a bonfire, I ended up asking him to go with me to Sadie Hawkins. I was a nervous wreck, I had never (EVER) asked a guy to anything, let alone someone I didn't know at all. Little did I know, this too was a huge turning point in my life, one I wouldn't realize for a while after the dance.

The weekend after Sadie Hawkins, Tay and I got an invite to tag along to see Ben Rector in concert with a group of people. We had no idea who Ben Rector was, but we were up for any adventure at that point. We went with a group of 20 or so people, Braden included, and had one of the best nights ever. After the concert, Ben and Steve Moakler came out and met everyone in the crowd. No big deal.

I went on my first mission trip with FCA to Washington DC. I was in a group of strangers, and loved each of them within a matter of a few hours. Our group was placed in different homeless shelters and we cleaned, organized, etc each day. I had never experienced God so much. Each night of worship opened my heart more and more, and I hit a breaking point where I knew that the chains I was bound in couldn't hold me down anymore. That was one of the most freeing trips I have ever been on, I was so on fire that I had no idea what to do with it! Coming back home was pretty tough, because I had gotten so acclimated to being around so much love and encouragement. 

Random side note - I also got my first Canon camera, a Rebel XS to be exact. Who would've known that I would get so into photography, and now dream to have a photography business!

Braden and I had been on an actual date by this point (one where he actually asked me, haha). While in DC, we got to know each other pretty well and spent a good amount of time chatting in the hotel hallways at night. I really started to like him, and had no idea if he was really interested in me. Well, yet again I asked him to be my date, but this time it was to Tay's sisters wedding. The night before the wedding we had a chat to see where we stood in the relationship, most may call that a DTR. We were both ready to take our next step, so we started dating. Talk about some serious giddiness!

I had played around with my new Canon for a month or two. I got a Facebook message from Ashley Anne, who went to my high school but was a few years older than me. She asked me to take her engagement pictures and I jumped at the opportunity! This photo shoot was fun and nerve wracking all at the same time, I literally had no idea what I was doing, we just went for it. It helped that I had beautiful people to photograph, but I learned that day that I truly LOVED photography. And there you have it, JC Photography was born!

Right before school ended, Braden invited me on his family's annual beach trip. That year they were heading down to Daytona, FL for the week. I said yes with no hesitation, I was so pumped to spend the week with him and to get to know his family - after all, we had only been dating a month a this point. That was one of the best weeks. I went to my first dog race, which was also a blast!

I turned 20. I always try to have a big dinner with my friends, I love being surrounded by the people I love on my birthday. This year, I had two birthday dinners. One with family and friends of the family, and another with my friends from home!

On May 29, two days after my 20th birthday, I was baptized at our home church. We had only been calling Radius our home church for about a month, but I immediately felt that I was supposed to get baptized there. I'll never forget getting the phone call from Pastor Todd. He wanted to genuinely get to know me and to get know my story. I surprised everyone that day, the only people who knew I was getting baptized was Pastor Todd and my mom. My sweet small group leader just happened to be there that morning, which I think was no coincidence. 

 Jesus is so good, He knew exactly what he was doing that year. It's amazing to look back on all that He did in my life, but mainly how he called me His, even when I didn't know him at all. It is so evident that He blesses his children and looks after us. After the year I had, I am living proof of that. 

Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20).