Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Survival of a Freshman

It is official. My freshman year at Old Dominion University is over. By one miracle or another, I survived. I can not quite wrap my brain around the fact that a whole year of college is done.  It is all filed away in notebooks and FaceBook photo albums. The months have sped by. However, I think back to that first day I wandered around campus with my dreads tied up in a rubber band and it seems like the months have been decades.

I prayed at the beginning of the year that I would be worn out by the end of my freshman year. I prayed that I would be so active and purposeful with my time that I could only rely on God's strength. After cleaning for the church, teaching dance lessons, rehearsing and performing on Celtic Fyre at Busch Gardens, driving to norfolk at least four days a week as a full time student, leading Young Life, volunteering at the Virginia Beach Justice Initiative, pursuing membership at Sovereign Grace Church, training for a world championship, as well as giving a few minutes to friends and family every once in a while, I can safely say God answers prayers.

College has been a growing experience. It has been encouraging, wonderful, and fruitful, but equally  stressful, confusing, and painful. I have never felt so loved in my life. I have never hated myself so often. I have joyfully helped carry burdens and I have been forced to desperately lean on a few shoulders myself. I am a mess and I messed things up. It is a hard fact to face for a stereotype of an oldest child with an addiction for having things just so. But as God held up the mirror, he taught me to laugh at my reflection and ask him for help. He always did.

Over the year I have run my car into a deer, a truck hitch, and a pothole the size of Alaska. I had a flat tire, broke my indicator lights, got a parking ticket, was falsely pulled over for speeding, and failed inspection (still working on that one.) I also killed a cat. I cracked my iPhone screen not once, but twice. All of these situations resulted in dramatic stories told with excuses as exuberant as the hand motions. My parents worried. My sisters shook their heads in disbelief at their air head of an older sister. Jessica stood behind me for moral support. And Spencer patiently fixed my junk... again.

I have made friends from France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Morocco, Australia, England, Ireland, Canada, Russia, Africa (I don't recall which country), and Iceland.

I took an art class, which involved toting around a supply bag as big as me (granted, that is not very big) and using copious amounts of sharpee. I decided to be a vegetarian for a year. I cut off all my hair and then accidentally dyed it the color of bananas. I placed 9th at the World Championships of Irish dance. I hit a record low of 2.5 hours of sleep. I became much less picky and far more dependent on my coffee. I pierced my right ear cartilage... and then waited in shame for my mom to save me from Icing with a bank account that actually had money.

There are at least 1000 blog posts worth of stories to tell and lessons to share. I will stop myself from puking them all out right now. I am sitting in Borjos across the street from Ol' Dirty. The rain left behind puddles like footprints. I never wanted to be here. I had very different plans. But I have never been more grateful to be sitting where I am in Norfolk, Virginia. A freshman survivor.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Stuff Breaks

There is a hole in my bumper. A gaping, black, lack of plastic that has found its home in the front of my sexy, '97 sports car. Last monday night, I threw the gear in park and retold the story. I laughed again at my bruised vehicle while Spence and Jess just laughed at me. I whined my excuse through some sorrowful chuckles, "Stuff breaks, guys!" If I had a motto for my freshman fall semester, it would be that. Stuff breaks. While I enjoy my Christmas break, I thought I'd share.

First there was the deer. No, I did not hit a deer. A deer hit me. Just so that there is no confusion. I was driving home from Access (our church's young adult ministry meeting). I have only driven the three miles to and from our church building several hundred-thousand times in my life. I do not recall ever noticing wild life. It was dark. I was driving the speed limit (not always the case) and singing along to Chris Tomlin on KLove (also, not always the case). It had been a fun evening. The night was clear and so was the road...

I was belting out a few more lines of worship, when a large, living mass of fat and fur leaped out of the dark cornfields and crashed into the passenger side of my car with an horrifying crunch. I had seen something that resembled a deer for a split second out of the corner of my eye, but that was all. I swerved into the other lane (which by God's grace was empty). I screamed out of shock, but then continued driving. I heard the shattering of glass and I frantically checked that my windows were still intact. It was pitch black. I was scared. My phone was dead. I had no interest in looking for the deer, whether he was dead or alive. Driving on was the only rational option.  I hear a loud drumming coming from my front tire. Only the left half of the road was lit. My language did not quite match the positive, encouraging radio station that still played. I drove home shaking almost as much as my poor, red car.

After further inspection the following morning, I found myself without a car. Although it was not totaled and everything important still functioned, the tire-fender situation had to be fixed before it was safe to maneuver. The Jesus-deal I got when I purchased the car did not include coverage for deer dents. But Jesus gave me friends, which are even better than insurance policies. By Sunday afternoon, I had more than enough rides to and from ODU for a whole week. That very next Friday, Spencer blessed me by replacing my fender, headlight, and hood. Not only did he provide the manual labor, but purchased perfectly matching parts. (I know. My friends are just better.)

While Spencer fixed my car, I headed out to work at a Young Life camp for the weekend in northern Virginia. While there,  I dropped my iPhone on the bathroom floor and shattered the screen. Of course. This is where Asian friends come in. Although my phone now has various other issues (like dying within a few hours so that I am constantly hunting for outlets), thanks to Knepper, the screen is flawless.

The weekend ended and I finally had my shiny, fixed car back to myself. The second day of my sports car's return, I found myself heading out to a never-before-been-to spot in Norfolk for a 6:15am meeting on not quite four hours of sleep. I was cruising at 45 and looked down to check my directions for my next turn. I looked up to two glaring, red lights closer than I anticipated. I stomped on the break pedal, but it could only do so much. The large truck's hitch created the perfect hole-punch for my bumper. I also managed to dent up by newly replaced hood and crumple my license plate into a lasagna noodle shape.

I've heard there are various stages of grieving. My car-grieving stages involved shock, self-mockery, utter despair as I sobbed on the phone to my mom, and then embarrassment when I had to explain to my friends another car story. With all three of the past events playing through my mind, it was a humbling Tuesday. Just when I think I've got it going, God likes to remind me what a mess I really am. Stuff breaks. My stuff breaks more than average. But, "in him all things hold together."

Friday, October 26, 2012

One Year

Yesterday marked A Cup-of-Joe, The World, and Me blog's one year anniversary. Unfortunately I was too busy running around doing other things to post. What a year, my mom texted me the other day. My thoughts exactly. What a year. It's been the best and hardest year of my small life so far. To most readers, this blog is a file stuffed with random thoughts, songs, and stories that have little to do with each other besides a mention of coffee fairly often. To me, the blog is a kind of bildungsroman. I can read my stories and be taken back to everything that was running through my mind at the time.

A year ago, I wrote how I hoped my blog would be a sort of mirror reflecting my own visage back at me. It worked. (I mean, I'm majoring in journalism. I never would have seen that one.) Thinking in blogposts has forced me to take notice. Notice my coffee, skies, the world as I travel, my own faults, my seeking heart, my romance, His providencean invincible day, a good book, a good song, the toilets. 

There are different kinds of goodbyes. The goodbye on a Saturday night when you know you'll say hello the next morning. The goodbye as someone drives away. The goodbye as you head on a European adventure. A goodbye that could be the last. One year of blogging, and I've decided to say a goodbye. Not for forever, but for now. I don't have quite the luxury of time that I did as a homeschooled senior in high school.

Before goodbye, thank you. I've received so much encouragement from so many people about my blog. Every note, FaceBook message, follower, comment, like, share, tweet, and pin blew me away. I had no idea anyone would care when I started this thing, but I'm glad it was enjoyed.

Special thanks to my family who are always my number one fans. Mom, thanks for always sharing my posts. Dad, for catching my typos and always giving me great encouragement. Tay, Kerri, and Madi, thanks for mocking me... but still reading, laughing, and being the source of great stories and memories to write about. I love you all.

As my last post I'm gong to ask... If you've read my blog even a little, I would absolutely love a comment with one of your favorite posts... FaceBook comments are fine, but a comment, comment on the blog would make my day. Please? As a parting gift? This is the only time I'll beg.

With a thank you and a goodbye, the blog is paused. God has been faithful, he will be again. It's A Cup-of-Joe, the World, and Me.

Monday, October 8, 2012


The weather is finally agreeing with the season. I can wear my sweater and enjoy the warm steam drifting into my face as I take a sip of my late morning coffee. It's fall break. Not even rude nurses, a shot, and blood-work can ruin my day. Not even.

When I was really young, I was a big dread locks fan. Although most people commented with remarks like, "ew," I was always partial to the knotted ropes of hair. As I got older I began half-jokingly telling people I was going to get dreads myself. Half-joking turned into determination after road-tripping through Alaska with my dad in April. We needed gas and a break from driving, so we pulled into the only gas station we would see for hours. We picked out a few snacks and headed to the check-out counter. There was my inspiration. At a gas-station in the middle-of-no-where Alaska, worked a girl with crazy awesome, beaded dreads. With wide-eyes I asked her how long she had them and how she did it. 
"Dad, what would you do if I got dreads?" I asked while opening a bag of trailmix in the rental car.
"That'd be really cool!"
My mind was made up. (I'm not really sure that he realized I would actually get them done.)

My hair has been knotted and waxed for almost two months now. I still forget about them sometimes. I tell people that I am pretty sure God wanted me to get dreads... They are great conversation starters. I've made multiple friends literally because my hair is dreaded.  I'm suspicious that I am famous at ODU. I can't count the number of friendly introductions that have included the other person already recognizing me or having "seen you around campus." I'm the short, white girl with the dreads. That's me. 

The only reason I'm friends with Sam, is because he jumped off his longboard to ask me about my dreads. After finishing a workout, I met Kate and Grace and gave them my number because Kate wanted to get dreads and I still have the supplies. On Friday, I sat at a red-light with my window rolled down while talking to my mom on the phone. I glanced to my left and was slightly frightened to see a big, black man in the passenger seat of a car staring at me through his reflecting sunglasses with a lookof mild wonder. He snapped out of it and reassuringly shouted through the window, "I'm sorry, miss! I ain't tryin' to be all creeper on you, just..are those dreads you got there?" I laughed and replied that they were (interrupting my mom on the other end of the phone). I've gotten tips from ladies in the locker room on the best palm-rolling techniques. I got a tap on the shoulder and a "I f---ing love your hair" while in line at Subway. I've explained how to back-comb and wax to a random English teacher. The grumpy nurse this morning gave a smile and chit-chatted about my hair style after she noticed the back of my head. I've been complimented and teased. I've endured hundreds of the "dreadful" jokes. I've been told to keep up the work. I've been begged, argued with, and pleaded to be done with them. But I'm having too much fun right now. 

Things you may be wondering: I CAN wash my dreads. I just have to use special shampoo. They are a LOT of work to keep up. At this point, they would probably come out with some conditioner and thorough combing. It takes months and even years for dreads to completely lock up.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Morning Instrumental

I woke up at 5:15am to hurriedly skim a few more chapters of my literature assignment that was due, but more importantly to google for chapter-by-chapter summaries. I climbed into a large hoody. I munched down a bowl of honey-nut cheerios just fast enough for the last bite to still have a crunch. I stared at the empty coffee bean jar with intense disappointment... then headed out with time for a 7-11 stop. I slid a green, large cup out from the stack. Brazilian bold. I plugged in my iPhone to my brand  new stereo system in my car. I sipped, drove, and worshipped.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Admiring the Landscape

I remember hiking up Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland three years ago. I remember my calves getting really stiff about half way up the long, rocky incline. I was tired. The freezing wind nipped at my face so that my nose ran and tiny tears leaked out of the corners of my eyes.

We all just wanted to be at the top already. Sometimes the four of us girls would take off at a sprint up a   smoother part of the trail just to make some headway. But even with all of our energy, we were still worn out. We would return to the marching pace. Step after step. Crunch, crunch, crunch. Cautiously staring at the ground and where I placed my feet. I didn't want to trip or twist my ankle.

All I really noticed on the way up was the gravel under my shoes and the distance from the peak. Always looking forward. Estimating how long it would take. Eventually we clambered to the top with sore muscles, heaving lungs, and open eyes soaking in the scenery. The cold wind howled around us. We took our seats on the icy stones. It was beautiful sight.

 My Dad squinted and pointed his finger, "Look! See, we started way down there... and then we went all the way there, and around that...whew! And now we have to climb back down!" We all laughed.

It's good to look back on where you've come. All the rocks you avoided and the gravel patches you stomped on are really part of a landscape. You just can't see it while you're walking. The destination and the ground under your feet is too distracting. The view isn't right.

Recently I've been looking back on where I was one year ago. I was stressed and beginning an intense faith curriculum with God. I was trying to convince my parents that I wasn't even going to apply to ODU... I didn't know what I was going to major in. I had more time on my hands than was good for me. I was thinking about starting to write a blog. I was still cleaning toilets. I realize now, that I worried a lot. Worried about college applications, worried about being lazy, worried that God wasn't going to be clear enough, worried I wouldn't end up where He wanted me, while really worried that I wouldn't end up where I wanted to be.

But now I'm sitting in the Webb at ODU. I've met friends from all over the world and from right here where I've grown up. I've been busier than ever, but so happy. Classes and homework, care-group, meetings at coffee shops, keeping up with dreads, YoungLife, Access, concerts, work, dance, driving, and sometimes sleeping. Up to the first day of classes I never thought I would be excited about college at ODU. But as I walk through the quad and avoid the ODU seal, I have that satisfying feeling that I am exactly where God wants me.

I can look back on last year and smile, because the view is great from here. It's been a journey, but now I'm admiring the landscape.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

So Today I...

 This very well might be the most boring post I've ever written. I think it broke almost every rule I laid down that first day almost a year ago. But that's okay. It's my blog. I'm drinking coffee.  So today I...

My iPhone buzzed and bubbled it's morning ringtone. My eyes flashed open and I performed an acrobatic balancing act while reaching to silence the alarm before Taylor could grunt and rustle in her top bunk. That is her sleepy way of complaining that I have waken her up. I was successful. I stared at the clock glowing "6:16AM." I remembered 9/11. I checked Instagram.

I slipped my laptop into its home in my backpack, threw my various books and bags in the hallway, and threw on jeans and my sister's plaid, flannel shirt. The fact that the weather permits flannel made me smile a little. I rolled my dreads, swooshed my bangs, blackened my eyelashes, and galloped down the stairs with my belongings.

My favorite healthy cereal; fresh, already brewed coffee; and a verse from Hebrews. (That was a fragment, but that was all that needed to be said.) I got to say goodmorning and goodbye to my sisters in pajamas, as well as one of my best friends and my "hippy friend" before meeting the glorious, slightly chilly, morning air on the way to my sexy sports car.

No gas-refill stops. No traffic. A wave and a phone call from my madre. "Some Nights" on the radio. A parking spot.

I multi-tasked in Literature class. I answered questions and gave opinions. Attempted to get ODU football game tickets. Checked on homework for various classes. Emailed about work... okay, I may have liked a few statuses too.

Then I looked at rocks for an hour and a half. But my lab parters and I rocked it... moving on...

I hiked over to the Webb to meet Knepper, Will, Rob, and Theo (or Matt, or Shiffy) at the YoungLife booth for a few hours of chatting, YouTubing, and YL campaigning. And then I wasted some time with Theo sharing worship music and investigating bridges until it was time to learn about Brahmin and the path to enlightenment.

After being enlightened (if that's what you call being more confused), I ran a 5K and then rock-climbed with Will. I showered, ordered a Pumpkin Spice latte from the Bagel Bros, and blogged.

But wait, there's more. Care-group and YoungLife with Reed are still to come.