Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Screaming Bible Guy

As a Christian, I'm a minority on-campus at my large state university, Texas A&M.  Recently, I've come to realize the importance of being a light for Christ in every aspect of my life.  People look at me and my actions and think, "That's what Christians are like, so that's what Jesus must be like too."  It's so important to be a witness in everything I do.  Of course I'll mess up sometimes... and I do frequently, but it's so important to try.

Occasionally, I'll come across someone who is unraveling the few positive opinions there are left of Christians.

For example:
There is a young man who I typically call "The Screaming Bible Guy."  I've seen him on campus two or three times in the last few days.  He'll find a busy corner or a group of people gathered together, stand right in the middle or a few feet off to the side... and start screaming.


This guy is a Texas A&M student.  He's young, curly-haired, small-built, and he wears a pair of black glasses.  He doesn't pace when he yells, but instead sways passionately and waves his Bible in the air.  When he screams at everyone, his voice is so loud and carries so far that he almost seems violent.  It's a bit frightening, to be honest.

Once I saw The Screaming Bible Guy standing in the middle of a common area, screaming at everyone around him.  People were moving about a hundred feet away at the very closest in order to pass him to go to classes.  This guy looks vicious when he yells.

The other night, I saw a freshman leadership group having a meeting outside.  This meeting happened to contain a stereo and a bit of dancing (there may have been some inappropriate dancing... I'm not sure.  I'm not a part of this group and I didn't stay to watch).  Probably a mere three or four yards away stood The Screaming Bible Guy, doing his best to yell at them over the music.  Everyone ignored him, but I couldn't help but feel very embarrassed because of what the guy was doing.

Does he actually think he's affecting these students other than causing fear, irritation, and anger against the Christian faith in general?

I admire this guy's passion and zeal, but all he's doing is hurting his witness.  No one will listen to him.  The harshness of his words will only shove people away and cause them to never look back.
The first time I saw The Screaming Bible Guy, I felt a great sorrow.  During my literature class, I scrawled out a quick poem.

Your loud words echo in their ears,
But don't you see? They do not hear.
Harshness doesn't bring true faith.
You speak of fire and not of grace.
I see your heart. I see your zeal.
This truth I know you greatly feel.
However loud your words may be,
They'll pull away. They will not see.
His love matters, not the other,
So THAT'S what you should preach, my brother.
Emily Whelchel

Since then, I re-wrote the poem onto another sheet of paper and included my email address.  And the next time I see The Screaming Bible Guy, I will approach him, hand him the folded up sheet of paper that contains his poem, and say, "I wrote this for you."  If he has anything to tell me after that, he will be able to email me.

I don't know if he will change his screaming ways after I give him the poem.  But I feel like I need to share with him the truth of what he is doing.  He will win no hearts for the Lord with his anger and loud words.

I haven't seen him on campus for a couple of days now, but when I do, he'll get a poem (and I'll be sure to let you know what happens).

Monday, September 26, 2011

So much love in one blog post!

Day 6: 5 People Who Mean a Lot to You
Okay, there are so many people I can think of who mean so, so much to me, but I thought I would go ahead and list the five people in my immediate family.  I miss them so much.

1.) Dad
Daddy, I admire you more than words can describe.  When I am in a difficult situation, I often think, "What would my dad want me to do right now?"  Your wisdom and faith are so inspiring.  The fact that you've overcome every adversity in the past few years and you've still been an involved dad amazes me.  These days, fathers are often not around, and yet I've been blessed by someone like you.  You're not only "around," but you're an active and supportive part of my life.  I look up to you so much.  I'm so proud of you for being an elder at our church and a constant missionary at your job.  The way you use every opportunity given to you to reach out and invite people to church and share your faith is so encouraging and inspiring.  I am so thankful that you work hard to support us.  Thank you so much. I love spending time with you and I cannot wait to be able to wrap my arms around you again and just hug you.  I love you, Daddy.

2.) Mom
I don't think anyone has a better mom than me.  Seriously, I talk about you all the time to my friends and the people sitting next to me on the shuttle.  You've given me guidance and support throughout my life, but you've also given me the strength and encouragement to think for myself and depart on my own adventures.  You'll always be my mommy and I'll always be your little girl, but our relationship has grown so much deeper than that alone over the last year.  We're also friends.  You're someone who I'll never be afraid to talk to and ask for advice.  I love spending time with you, whether it's at lunch or the movies or shopping.  I know I can always bare my heart to you and you'll be there with a smile and a hug and the right words to say.  The fact that you've been such a wonderful mother has encouraged me so much.  God has given you such a nurturing heart and you've blessed so many people.  You've blessed me and Amy and Luke and Ali and so many others too.  I love you so much, Mom.

3.) Ali
You have changed my life forever.  There are so many things about our relationship that I can't even put into words.  I don't think I've ever grown as close to a friend as I have with you.  You encourage me with your steadfast faith and positivity.  I'm so blessed to know you.  You are beautiful and strong and you have so many qualities that I admire.  Your forgiveness and your strength and your boldness and... okay, okay, the list could go on and on.  I'd better be careful or you could use this against me someday!  ;)  I love our inside jokes and our multiple mini-social-experiments.  I love staying up alllllll night with you, even though we'll know that the next day we're going to be blaming each other to the parents for making us tired.  :)  I love making videos with you.  I love stalking people on Facebook with you and hearing about your adventures at college.  I love watching corny movies with you and spraying you with a water bottle when you fall asleep (or smacking you... or pushing you over... or... okay, I should stop).  I love YOU, Ali.  I love you!

4.) Amy
I love you so much.  I know we've had our differences throughout our lifetimes, but one thing will never change: you are my sister and I love you.  It doesn't matter how often we spend time together or how many things we agree upon.  We are sisters.  I see beauty in both your heart and in your outer appearance.  You have such a giving and generous spirit.  I admire your boldness and your perseverance.  I can tell already that God has amazing, amazing plans for your life.  He's made you to be strong and brave and very stubborn.  (You might get the stubbornness from me.)  Ultimately, it won't matter how many friends you have or don't have.  It won't matter how you look or how popular you are.  When you look back on your life, the only thing that matters is Christ.  He's given us such a beautiful family.  It's so special to have you as my sister.  I love you.

5.) Luke
Lukie, you never fail to bring a smile to my face.  I admire you a lot, you know, even though you're younger than me.  Your unfaltering faith in God is so pure and wise.  I love your innocence and your sweet, sweet spirit.  I love the way you stand up for what you believe.  It warms my heart when you cover your eyes or leave the room during bad scenes on TV and in movies.  My friends often notice how sweet you are.  I think every single one of my girl friends has come up to me at one point and said, "I want to marry someone like your brother," because they see Christ through your actions.  Keep respecting girls the way you do now.  Keep standing up for the underdogs.  And keep your humility.  I know you're good at a lot of things, but always remember that the Lord should always be the One to get credit for those gifts.  There is so much in store for you, Lukie.  You're so talented and I'm so proud of you.  I love you.

And because I know you read my blog daily and we've hardly been able to talk this last month, I have to send a quick shout-out to you too, Naana.  You're my hero in so many ways.  You have a servant's heart that I admire SO MUCH.  Without you, I would have never even found City Church.  You've influenced me so much.  It was in part because of your passionate example that I've fallen in love with mission work.  When I was in Africa, I couldn't stop thinking about you and how I wished that you could see in person everything that the Lord was doing there.  I think about you all the time here too.  You've shown me Christ in so many ways.  You are one of the most giving and loving and passionate people I know.  I've missed you so much.  I love you and cannot WAIT to see you in October.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

My Confession.

Day 10: 1 Confession

Today is the last day of my ten day blogging challenge.  Did you take the challenge along with me?  Will you take the challenge later?  If you do, let me know in a comment so I can follow along.
I've been dreading this last topic because I'm not quite sure what my "one confession" would be.  I tend to share a lot of things about myself on this blog, so most of you know what I've been through and even quite a few of the struggles I'm going through right now.  I'm not sure if I have much of a confession to share.  But the day has come for me to write about "my one confession" here, so I should probably think of something, however lame my "confession" might be.
Okay, after puttering around a bit, I've decided on a confession.  Ready?

My name is Emily and I still doubt.

Jesus Christ has shown Himself in my life in so many ways.  He has worked through me despite my many faults and stubbornness.  He has forgiven me each time I messed up, held my hand as I cried, and brought me through circumstances I never could have overcome on my own.  And yet after a particularly difficult day, I sometimes find myself questioning Him.

"Why would You let this happen to me?  Why does life have to be so hard?  If You're here for me always, then why do I feel so alone?"

I have no right to question the Lord, and yet I confess, I still do.  Sometimes I still wonder if it was the right thing to let Him take control.  I still recklessly attempt to take control of my own life.  I still stumble, fall, and return to Jesus with bloody knees and scraped palms... and He always takes me back.  Every single time.

I cannot comprehend how powerful His love is.

I don't deserve to be loved by Him.  I don't deserve to be forgiven.  He gave everything so I could be saved... and I still pull away from Him.

After everything I've done, after every mistake I've made, after every unnecessary doubt that has passed through my mind, He still loves me.  He still carries me through every trial.  He still picks me up off the ground and kisses those scraped palms and knees.  I owe everything to Him.

My name is Emily and I am LOVED.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

2,002 Words

Day 9: 2 Words to Describe Your Life Right Now

The fewer topics there are on the list, the more I'm beginning to think that this may not make a very long blog.  Two words.  Really?

Hmm... how can I share my heart while only being able to write two words?

I know.  A picture is worth a thousand words.  I may only be able to describe my life in two words, but if I share two pictures as well, I'll really be sharing 2,002 words, which should be enough to get my point across.  Ready?  Here goes.

Two words to describe my life right now would be...

blessed i am.jpg
i am loved.jpg
What are two words to describe your life right now?  If you are a fellow blogger, I challenge you to make a blog post sharing two words and two pictures to describe your life right now.  You don't have to take the challenge to do this.  The post can simply be titled "My Life in Two Words."  Then when you're finished, comment with the link to your post so I can read what you had to say.

Friday, September 23, 2011

I'm slowly learning here.

Day 8: 3 Things You've Learned Recently

1.) I've learned the value of relationships.  I'm an introvert by nature.  Back at home, I was often happy to spend several days alone in my room (or in my house, if my parents went out of town) with only my writings and guitar to keep me company.  Here, I get alone-time all the time and after a while, it's not fun anymore.  It's just plain lonely.  Since the closest family I have is two hours away, I've had to rely on friend-relationships, which can be difficult when you haven't made any close friends yet!
I'm finally starting to make a few close relationships.  I've really connected with a friend from Impact named Stephanie.  She's sweet, positive, and has a huge heart for the Lord.  I'm growing closer to Rebecca, who has been my friend since middle school.  And I've made a few godly guy friends who have blessed me in so many ways.

I'll admit: it's still lonely being away from my family and most of my "usual" friends.  I don't like living hours apart from those I love.  However, without the relationships I'm making here, I don't know if I could make it through.  Close relationships are vital to happiness.  I can see now why Adam was so lonely in the Garden of Eden.

2.) I've learned that as a Christian, I'm a minority.  Never before have I heard so much cussing in casual conversations all around me.  Never before have I seen so many immodest outfits worn on a day-to-day basis.  Never before have I heard so many people mock God and the Bible and faith.  Honestly, it's broken my heart.

As I write this, I'm wearing a t-shirt that says, "If there is no God, nothing matters.  If there is a God... (flip to the back) Nothing else matters."

I've heard so many students say things like, "I hate church.  I don't believe in God.  The Bible is a joke."  With each angry word, they are spitting in His face.  And then I look all around me and see the pain and confusion in the faces of so many young people.  There's an emptiness in their lives that is so evident, but they just don't see it.

Where I came from, nearly everyone was a Christian.  I lived in the Bible Belt, attended a Christian school, had nearly all Christian friends, was surrounded by Christians.  And while some were Christians in name only and may have turned away from Him with their actions, they still believed in God.  They often still went to church and were part of a youth group of some sort.  Here, it's flat-out denial.  A big adjustment from where I've come from.  As a follower of Christ, I'm the minority here.  When I mention Him, I get weird (or even irritated) looks.  There is a lot of prejudice against my faith and stereotypes about who I must be.

But you know, I'm not sad that I'm here.  In fact, I'm glad.  I'm willing to be a city on a hill and do my best to shine for Him, even if I mess up sometimes (which I know I will).  Texas A&M is a huge mission field.  There are so many students who only need a seed to be planted.

3.) I've learned that I don't know nearly as much as I once thought I did.  A few years ago, everything was black and white to me.  I treasure knowledge and I like to know what I believe and why I believe it.  People would often come to me with questions about theology and controversial subjects and say, "What do you think about this?" because I nearly always had an opinion about it... and if I didn't, I was eager to research it and form an opinion.

After a year of confusion and emotional (and spiritual) struggles, I've finally come to realize how little I actually know.  I'm young, I'm naive, and while I might have knowledge about things, that doesn't mean I know.  I was just having a conversation with a friend the other night about how that during this difficult transition time of starting college and all that, the only thing that we can know with absolute certainty is God's unfailing love.  Life and death and earth and beauty and everything is His.  He loves us with an everlasting love... and right now, even if I'm exhausted or confused or in the midst of the struggle, I am content to let His love be enough.

I'll still research and learn things because I do like to know what and why I believe, but above all of that, I want to place His love as what matters most.  Sometimes I'm going to have to sit back and say, "I don't know why this has to happen" or "I don't know whether this is true," but ultimately, I can look to Him and He will love me through it all.
What are some things that you've learned recently?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I have tall friends.

Day 7: 4 Photographs that You Love

1.) Puppet
I actually didn't take this picture (obviously), but it brings a smile to my face every time I see it.  I actually have it hanging up in my room.  The location is Kenya, Africa.

There was a soccer (or futbol) tournament at the Ring Road school.  I was watching the tournament with a big group of children.  After a while, I could tell the kids were beginning to get restless.  As a child, you can only watch soccer games for so long.  We sang some songs, played some games, and then I pulled my journal out of my bag.

We began to play Hangman, although I renamed it "Puppet," because I wasn't sure if "hangman" would be a very good title for a children's game.  Even though the kids said they had never played before, they were great at that game.  They caught onto the words very quickly and would have played for hours if I had let them.

What I love about this picture is how many kids are swarmed around and totally focused on the game.  You can see it in their faces that they want to guess the answer.  They are so innocent and intelligent.

And I have my "teacher" face on too.  :)

2.) The Lion

This next picture was also taken in Kenya, although I was the photographer of this one.  I took it when I was at a wildlife park in Nairobi, I believe.  There were so many beautiful animals.  The lion happened to be asleep right up next to the wire fence.  I managed to poke my camera lens through the fence and capture the lion close up.  It was such a neat experience.

I love lions.  I think they're so beautiful and majestic... and of course they remind me of my experience in Africa.  Look at how wonderfully the Lord made this great cat.  She's so big.  You can tell by her giant paws and the muscles in her shoulders.  She was so big and strong and golden.  I just wanted to run up and throw my arms around her neck and hug her forever.  Her big nose is just so sweet.

I will always love this picture because when I was in Kenya, taking close up shots of the zebras and monkeys and rhinos and lions, I felt like a wildlife photographer.  Animals are so beautiful.  This was such a peaceful and gorgeous lion.

3.) My Tall, Tall Friend
This might seem like a silly picture to choose.  It's a bit blurry and taken from far away.  At first glance, there might not seem like anything remarkable about this picture, but if you look closely, you'll notice something odd... perhaps you'll notice someone doing something amazing!  This is a photograph I love, so I had to share.  The two people in this picture are two of my best guy friends, Zeek and Caleb/Muber.  This was during a service project at our school where we had to clean up a camp ground.  After we finished cleaning, we had a bit of free time to be silly and take some pictures and videos.
Now Zeek is an amazing, amazing dancer.  Because of that, he's extremely flexible... (and it helps that he's 6'6!)  He can kick very high and his legs are crazy-long, so we challenged him to touch the ceiling with one foot while keeping the other foot on the floor.  To our shock and amazement, he could do it!  Zeek loves pictures (like we all do), so he yelled, "Take a picture of me, Emily!" and tried it again.
About the same time, Muber decided he would try.  Since he's shorter than Zeek, he stood up on a ledge... and you can see how far he still had to go before his foot hit the ceiling.

Man, Zeek is just so TALL!

4.) The Cutest Puppy in the World
I am proud to say that I am the photographer of this image.  To my eyes, this seems slightly out of focus, but that doesn't even matter because of the sheer cuteness surrounding this picture.  Although I've shared it many times on this blog, I had to share it again and include it on the list of four photographs I love.

This would be Jack, my precious Yorkie, at about seven weeks old.  Wasn't he the cutest puppy ever?  It's like a cute explosion.  Don't look for too long or your eyes might fall out of your head.  His stubby little legs, his huge eyes, his ears, his round little nose, the blue blanket... everything just worked together in the moment to create one of the cutest pictures of Jack ever.  Some of my friends called him a Pokemon dog when I posted a few pictures with his giant puppy eyes.

I'm so proud of this picture.  Jack was the cutest ever.  I mean, come on.  How could anyone resist that fuzzy little face?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Here's the mail. It never fails. It makes me want to wag my tail...

Day 5: 6 Things That Make Your Day

At this point, lots of things make my day.  Even a simple Skype call from a best friend can bring a huge smile to my face.  But here are some big ones.

1.) Getting mail.  One of my favorite things ever is to get mail.  I check my mailbox in the front lobby probably four times a day.  The feeling that somebody took the time to write me a message or stick something in the mail for me brightens my entire day.  Plus, it's so good to hear from people I miss.  Lately, my family has been great about sending me things in the mail.  I've gotten several packages and cards from my mom and my sister.  My Naana has been wonderful about sending me things regularly that always make my day.  Other grandparents have also sent me some sweet things.  Just yesterday, I got a new beanbag in the mail.  Hooray!
I actually just went and bought a letter box today from a craft store.  In it, I will place all of the letters and notes and cards I get from my friends and family.  Right now, they're in the shelf where my blog schedules should be.  I'm a letter-hoarder.  Back at home, I would keep my letters in a big scrapbook, but I don't have the time to do that right now.  At the moment, they'll be just fine in my little letter box.

2.) When a favorite song comes on.  Isn't it one of the best feelings ever when you're on the bus or at the store and a song that you not only recognize but really like starts playing on the radio?  That always brings a smile to my face.

3.) Seeing other people smile.  Since I can get lonely over here, sometimes a mere smile from a stranger can brighten my day.

4.) When I catch a meaning in a song you've never quite understood.  I love when this happens.  You're listening to a song that you like, but then a lyric hits you and you think, "Ohhhhhhh...." and from that point on, you can't even listen to the song without a bit of awe.

5.) Inspiration.  This comes in so many different ways, but sometimes when I write for my blog, I'm not really inspired to write.  That's usually why I have blog challenges like this one.  They keep me focused.  After a time in the desert of writer's block, something will hit me and I'll find a source of inspiration that keeps me up for all hours of the night, scribbling in a notebook or typing on the computer.  Sometimes I'm inspired to write for this blog.  Other times I write a song or a poem or a story.  Whatever I'm inspired to create, writing gives me so much joy.

6.) Starting a new book.  I don't get the chance to read a whole lot these days, so when I find a book that interests me, I love the feeling of cracking open its brand new pages (or opening it for the first time on my Kindle).  Even better is when I find a book that I know will catch my attention enough for me to take the time to finish it.  Truly good books are so hard for me to find these days.

What are some things that make your day?  Make my day and leave your answers in the comments below. ;)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Puppy Blues

Day 4: 7 Things That Cross Your Mind a Lot

1.)  Poverty.  I feel like I constantly must remind myself about what breaks the heart of God.  It's so easy to become self-centered.  I like to be comfortable and have things, but there are people around the world (and in the town where I live) who don't have food.  Instead of spending four dollars on a drink at Starbucks, why not donate that to help the 2,000 families who lost their homes from wildfires in Texas recently?  Instead of spending twenty dollars on that new shirt, why not use it to help a starving child in Kenya?  Jesus didn't live as a wealthy man.  Why should I have that right?  I need to sacrifice more than I do.

2.) Being a witness.  Witnessing has come to my mind more often in the last month than it has in a while.  Since I attend a big state university, I am a minority.  Most of the students here don't know Christ.  So many people around me are lost and it breaks my heart.  Lately, I've been striving to be a witness in my actions and my words.  I also try to integrate my faith into every conversation I have, which can be tricky at times.  I know the Lord is calling me to be a witness for Him, just like He has called all of us, and it's scary.  However, it's been a huge blessing to begin to reach out to several of my peers.

3.) Homesickness.  I've been living on my own for about a month now and it's tough.  I miss my family so much and I think about them often.  They cross my mind multiple times each day.

4.) Homework.  Sadly, this is also something that crosses my mind a lot.  I've never really had homework or studying to do in the past, so I've had to learn how to work hard in school.  Even though I had a great high school, I feel that because I didn't struggle academically at all, I wasn't fully prepared with the difficulty of the schoolwork here.  So homework has been on my mind... constantly.

5.) Stories.  I constantly have little characters floating through my mind.  In some ways, I think being a writer is like a form of schitzophrenia or multiple personality disorder because there are people speaking in my head all the time.  Okay, not really, but they're there.  And they do have distinct personalities and voices.  And they do seem to write my stories for me... it just takes a little imagination on my part.  Even when I'm not currently writing fiction (like now because of my busy schedule), my characters still whisper to me and ask me when I'll turn back to writing them out onto paper.  Soon, my children, soon... (Okay, I added that part just to sound creepy.)

6.) Friends.  I've been so lonely here that wherever I go, I'm keeping an eye out for a new friend.  Sometimes when I'm walking by myself, I see someone and think, "I wonder how they would react if I ran up to them and gave them a big hug."  In my head, I imagine them either smiling and patting my shoulder awkwardly, jerking away from me, or hugging me back and willingly becoming friends with me.  I should probably stop admitting these things.  I bet I sound like a crazy person by now.  Anyways, what I mean to say is that I'm actively looking for friends because I don't have many right now.

7.) Puppies.  I miss Jack like crazy, my grandma's dog just sired some puppies, and there is a puppy store where I live that I visit frequently.  I have the puppy blues right now.  I think about them often.
(Don't you just love that picture of Jack?  I took this when I got home from school last year.  He really, really, really wanted to play.  That's him standing on the stairs in between me and my bedroom.)
What are some things that cross your mind a lot?  You can share big things like poverty or reaching out to the broken people around you... or little things like homework or job stress.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

I love Carmex

Day 3: 8 Things You Couldn't Live Without

1.) The Laptop.  My laptop has everything on it: the things I write, the pictures I take, access to the world... and if I was only allowed to have eight objects, then it would give me access to a lot of other important things, like the Bible and even other books I need, both for school and for fun reading.  Without my laptop, I would survive, I know, but my life would be much sadder than it is today.

100_5646-1.JPG2.) Phone.  Since I live ten hours away from my family, a phone is pretty essential to my life.  Unfortunately, I don't have phone access in my dorm room, which has been extremely difficult, but I still use my phone constantly.  My phone has a GPS, local restaurants, a flashlight, an alarm clock, and multiple apps to make my life easier.  I do talk on the phone to my parents every single day.  It just happens to be when I'm out and about, usually on my way home from class.
(The picture to your right is actually pretty old, now that I think about it--around four years old--and I'm not holding my iPhone in it, but it seemed to fit.)

3.) A comfortable pillow.  I'm an insomniac.  It takes me a long time to fall asleep and sometimes it's difficult to stay asleep.  I have strict rituals I follow in order to be able to sleep through the night.  I need a quiet and pitch-black room.  Even the light of my clock is turned off.  I need the room temperature to be cool, but not cold.  I like to be bundled up in at least three blankets.  Most importantly, I like my pillow to be comfortable.  It needs to be the perfect mixture of fluffy and not-too-fluffy.  Without my pillow, especially on this uncomfortable dorm room bed, I don't know if I could ever fall asleep.

4.) My camera.  I take pictures of everything.  Most days, I carry around a digital camera and a video camera in my purse.  Even though my digital camera actually takes great videos, I take so many videos that having a video camera with a huge SD card can help keep room in my camera for all the pictures I take.  Plus, having an HD video camera helps a lot.  I love capturing memories, editing videos and pictures, and sharing them with everything else.  Sometimes I wish I could be a family photographer and capture memories for other people all day long.

5.) Carmex.  When in was in middle school, I wore lip gloss all the time.  Now it's Carmex.  I take it everywhere.  Before I went to college, Mom and I went shopping for all of the toiletries I needed... and I came out of the store with a big bag filled with tubes of Carmex.  You may be a Chapstick person and if you are, I still love you, but Carmex is the way to go.  It's shiny, it's healthy, and I love it.

6.) My guitar.  Even though I don't write songs as much as I'd like, I love my guitar so much.  In my opinion, it's the most beautiful object in my entire bedroom.  If my room was burning down and I had the chance to grab two things, I think I'd grab my laptop and my guitar.

7.) Calendars.  People are always surprised when they walk into my room and see the number of calendars I have.  I usually have two wall calendars, a desk calendar, a day-by-day calendar, and several calendar pages spread over my desk that I use to plan out my blog schedule.  I use the calendar on my iPhone frequently as well, along with the planner in my backpack right now.  I'm a calendar addict.  They make me feel secure and scheduled.  I couldn't live easily without a calendar (or five) nearby.

8.) Blankets.  I'm usually cold.  Most of the time, I'm wrapped in some sort of a blanket.  Right now in my small dorm room, I have five blankets that I use frequently.  Without my blankets, I'm not sure how I could survive.  I would be cold and miserable most of the time, at least.  I love watching movies while wrapped up in a blanket.  Don't you?

What are some things you can't live without?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today is my mom's birthday.  I probably am not allowed to tell you how old she is, so I won't.  I love my mom so much.  She's been just like a mother to me. ;)


You have been such a rock in my life.  You are my nurturer and my friend and I can't imagine life without you.  You inspire me so much.  I've missed you like crazy and I'm so glad to spend this weekend with you.  I've missed our lunches and shopping with you and watching "Lost" or "Monk" with you.  I've missed you.  Maybe one day I can move a few blocks away from you, just like you did with your mom.  After college, I don't think I ever want to live so far away from you again.

I'm working on the CD, but it isn't finished yet.  But don't worry... I'll try to have it done by Christmas.
Thanks for your encouragement and your spiritual guidance and your hugs and your texts and for sticking up for me no matter what.  I don't know anyone who has a better mom than I do.  I brag about you all the time.  You are a huge blessing to me and I thank God for giving me a mother like you.
Thanks for everything you've done for me.  I love you always.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Six Year Old Animal Hoarder

Day 2: 9 Things I Remember from my Childhood

1.)  My stories.  I've always loved to write since before I could even write.  I've always made up interesting stories, usually full of crimes and murders and intensity.  One of my best friends from my childhood was Rebekah, who I've mentioned on here before.  We were actually next door Sweetie's Medicine Litter 047.jpgneighbors for several years.  During this time, I wrote a very "impressive" book series called "The Best Friend Mysteries."  In these books, we were kidnapped multiple times, fought off many bad guys, traveled all over the world, sold into slavery, befriended animals, and remained best friends forever every step of the way.  I bet you're jealous of that genious idea, right?

2.) I used to have rats as pets.  In fact, I didn't only keep them... I bred them.  I had quite a few interesting breeds of rats, including a couple of hairless.

3.) More than anything in the world, I wished I could fly.

4.) I was really, really, really bad at sports.  I've never been much of one for competition.  Dad often tells stories of when I was a member of an Upward basketball team as a third grader.  I would watch and make sure that everyone got to shoot the ball at least once, even the girls on the other team.  I'd often pass the ball to girls on the other team to make sure they got a chance.  My dad would be standing on the sidelines, yelling, "Emily, what are you doing?!?!"  I just wanted it to be fair.

5.) I always dreamed of making my own website.  I remember "designing" one when I was about eight years old on a piece of notebook paper.  I decided it would be a sponsorship organization of sorts and I would somehow find a lot of impoverished children and have people write letters to them.  On the page, I even drew a little picture of a child dressed in rags and gave her a name.  Unfortunately, the website never worked out.
I did make several relief organizations all growing up.  Their names usually consisted of an... interesting acronym, like:
Eager (kids)
Ready (to)
Of course, Rebekah was always excited about the idea.  We'd plan for hours about how to save the world.

6.) Another interesting game I would play with Rebekah.  We actually held spy lessons in our front yards for the other neighborhood kids on Wednesday nights right after dark.  We would dress in all black and teach them how to drop to the ground or duck behind bushes when cars drove by, how to spy on the parents during their Bible studies, and how to identify bad guys to turn them into the police.  We even had the "younger" kids run relays and do push-ups and things like that.  We thought we were some legit spies.
I even carried a notebook around and made little notes about suspicious-looking people.  About a month ago, my grandma gave me one of those notes she found in her house.  She made me promise never to throw it away.  I haven't.
In fact, once I got in trouble because my black pants were dirty so my mom caught me wearing my long black velvet dress skirt instead.  My response was, "But Mommmmm, I'm a spy and spies HAVE to wear all black!"

7.) I wanted to own a ranch one day and fill it with a bunch of abused animals who I could talk to all the time.  I remember making lists of all the animals I wanted, like:
37 ponies named Crystal, Sarah, Jasmine, Starlight, Firefly, Blaze, Twilight....
16 dogs named Cupcake, Pal, Rico.........
P1020829.JPG23 cats named Percy, Lucy.....
10 kittens.....
13 foals....
8 puppies.....
and the list goes on and on and on.  At age six, I already wanted to be an intense animal hoarder.

8.) I always thought it was gross to have a crush on a boy growing up.  My friends would whisper, "He's so cute.  I have a crush on him," and I would either say or think, "EWWWWW, he's a BOY!"  What's funny is that I was the first of my friends to actually make friends with a guy.  But I wasn't "interested" in guys for about two years after that.  Basically, my friends all "liked" guys but were afraid to talk to them.  I didn't "like" guys for quite a while, but I loved being friends with them.  So it all worked out.

9.)  In fifth grade, I was one of the tallest people in my class.  I just never grew after that.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Did you know?

Day 1: 10 Things Most People Wouldn't Know About You

1.) I recently discovered that my love language is quality time.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, you may want to check out this website and take the free quiz.  Love languages are big in my friend group and in my church.  Basically, your love language is how you best receive love.  Knowing the love language of your spouse is important, but it's also great to know the love languages of your friends, family, and even your co-workers.  For example, if your love language was physical touch and mine was words of affirmation, so I praised you all the time but never gave you a hug, you wouldn't feel connected to me.  When you learn someone's love language, you can better show them that you love them in a way they'll understand.

I always thought mine was words of affirmation.  Ali and I were having a long conversation the other night and I blurted out, "I must be unlovable because words of affirmation don't really affect me that much."  Sure, I enjoy compliments, but I usually don't care what people think or say about me and criticism doesn't bother me a whole lot either.  So how could words of affirmation be my love language?

"Well," Ali finally said, "what language do you use to show love to people?  Like your mom?"

It certainly wasn't words of affirmation.  Unless I know that someone's love language is words of affirmation, I tend to feel a little timid and even hold back my compliments.  I'm not a very vocal person.  We finally realized that I usually give love by spending time with someone.  I like my privacy and alone time, so when I reach out to spend time out of my day with someone, I'm showing love.  In the same way, it's very important to me for my friends and family to spend some quality time with me or else I'll start to feel a bit rejected.

Ali and I were quite proud that we figured out my actual love language after such a long discussion.  I suppose I'm not unlovable after all. ;)

2.) I once desperately believed that one day, Peter Pan (yes, I believed he was real), would come and take me to Neverland before I grew up.  I was certain that there was no way I would ever grow to be an adult.  I thought that imagination was the most important and wonderful thing in the world and that you certainly couldn't have an imagination if you were over the age of ten or eleven.  I had a little Peter Pan doll and I would carry him around and write stories about him, waiting and waiting for the real Peter Pan, the one from my favorite story, to come get me and fly me away.  Man, I couldn't wait until I could fly.  I know I was an odd child.

3.) I love to read, but I often don't bother to finish books.  If a book doesn't keep my attention, then I won't finish it.  I feel like I'm busy and don't have a lot of time to read these days.  If a book doesn't suck me into the story, then why should I waste my time?  I'm very picky.  If I don't like a book, I'll take it to Hastings and sell it.

4.) My dream career would be to have something like Buck Williams' job from the "Left Behind" series.  Interesting, right?  Being an international journalist who got to travel all over the world and write for an amazing magazine would be my dream.

My other dream job would be to blog professionally.  We'll see where these dreams go. :)

5.) I'm incredibly stubborn.  When I get into a debate, it's difficult for me to let my opinion go.  When I get angry, it can take a long time to let go of my grudge if I'm not careful.  I don't think most people realize this about me because I'm very laid back and noncontroversial.  I will nearly always let an issue go because I don't want to have to get into any sort of disagreement.  But once I do, I can be quite stubborn.  This can be both a very good and a very bad thing.

6.) I apparently pretend to be tougher than I am.  Ali decided this about me recently and I don't deny it, although it did surprise me a little when she said so.  When I say this, I don't mean I act like a tough guy who threatens to beat people up and be "tough," but instead I suppose I try to be someone who isn't easily hurt or is rarely upset.  For example, if someone says, "I cry all the time in movies," I might automatically say, "Oh yeah, I never cry in movies."  I don't know why, but I hate being considered typical or emotional.  So I don't know if I'm as tough as I seem sometimes.

Actually, I probably don't fool anyone.  When I act "tough," everyone is probably chuckling to themselves the entire time.

7.) I actually do love being short.  And pale-skinned instead of tan.  I know that sounds strange, but I've grown to like who I am and what I look like.  When I sit here and think about when God made me to be this way, I imagine Him lovingly deciding that I would have very white skin and be shorter than the average person.  He made me to look the way I do and loved who He made.  I'm thankful for the way I look, even if it isn't always considered "beautiful" by my society's standards.

8.) I hate change.  In fact, I will keep something until it breaks because I so desperately do not want to change it.  My mom got me a new alarm clock.  It has a fantastic stereo with an iPod dock included, but I still keep my familiar old iPod dock on my nightstand... because I love it.  And I've had it for years and years.  And it's perfectly fine.  I use both here and there, but I don't think I'll get rid of my old speakers until they finally break.  And when I do get rid of them, I'll be very sad.

Because I'm a creature of habit, I like things to remain where they are.  Always.  I felt bad for Ali when she shared my room.  She would simply move something from one end of the counter to the other and I would become a bit disoriented.  I like things to stay the same.  Can you imagine how it's been for me to have a brand new bedroom in a brand new city, starting a brand new church and a brand new school and making brand new friends?  Scary.

9.) Remember those clear plastic bracelets filled with glitter that spun when you moved?  You may have had one when you were a kid.  I still wear them.  Daily.  Usually just one at a time, but I find the bracelets incredibly entertaining.  When I'm bored in class or sitting in a traffic jam, I will spin the bracelet around and around in circles.

10.) I am always cold.  If you see me in a giant sweatshirt or jacket or blanket, it's not a fashion statement.  It's because I'm cold most of the time.  In fact, when I take my temperature, my body temp is usually a degree or two lower than 98.6.

What are some things about you that most people don't know?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

10 Random Days of Me

Over the next ten days (eleven actually, because I will be pausing the challenge for a day on the seventeenth), I will undertake a small blogging challenge.  My life has been very busy.  It's difficult to come up with everything I'd like to write about, let alone actually write it.  I figured a small blogging challenge to bring inspiration would help me out quite a bit.

I didn't write this particular blogging challenge.  I found it on a Facebook album and thought it was cute (and I really like making lists).  Feel free to join in and be sure to leave a link to your blog in the comments so the rest of us can follow along with you.

10 Random Days of Me
Day 1: Ten things about yourself that most people don't know.
Day 2: Nine things you remember from your childhood.
Day 3: Eight things you couldn't live without.
Day 4: Seven things that cross your mind a lot.
Day 5: Six things that make your day.
Day 6: Five people who mean a lot to you.
Day 7: Four photographs that you love.
Day 8: Three things you've learned recently.
Day 9: Two words to describe your life right now.
Day 10: One confession.

This should be fun.  It starts tomorrow.

I go to a big, big school.

Here are the last questions for the College Q&A.  If you ever have a specific question, you're always welcome to ask me in the comments or send me an email at and I'll respond within a day or two.  You don't have to wait for a Q&A day to ask me something.  However, I wish there would have been a college Q&A when I was in high school, which is why I typed this up. 
Thanks for all of your questions. :) I hope this helps you out.  If you're in college now as well or have already graduated college, feel free to add your own input or experiences.

1.) Is college easier or harder than you expected? In what ways?
College is a lot harder than I expected.  I tried to walk into it ahead of time knowing that I would be homesick and lonely at first and that the schoolwork would be different... but nothing can really prepare you for something so unknown until you're actually in the moment.  So college is harder than I expected.

I've struggled emotionally more than I ever thought I would.  To be honest, I'm not a very emotional person.  I don't get homesick very easily.  For example, I went to Europe for nearly a month when I was twelve and I never really got homesick while I was over there.  I've been gone for only three weeks and I'm extremely homesick.  I miss my family and pets and friends and house and bedroom like crazy.  And I'm lonelier than I thought I would be as well.  I tried to tell myself that it's impossible to make close friends right away, but that hasn't made it any easier when I feel like there is no one around to talk to.

Schoolwork is also a bit harder than I expected.  While I knew it would be hard, I didn't realize it would be this overwhelming.  School tends to be my thing.  I'm not athletic, but I do like to learn.  I've always done well in school and I've never had to study until now, which has probably been to my harm.  This is the first time I've really had to study... ever.  And I'm having to read, read, read more than I ever thought I would.

2.) What is your favorite part of college?
My favorite part of college would have to be the independence.  It's nice to be able to make my own decisions about issues my parents controlled before  For example, I bought a fish when my mom wouldn't let me have one at home.  I am deciding my own reading material, my own church, and when and where I will go out.  For the first time, my parents are standing back completely and letting me control my own life.  While they have given me quite a bit of independence throughout my high school years, it's neat to be able to sit back and think, "I can decide what to do with my life today" and know that it's true.

About my particular college, my favorite part would be the people.  I have never seen so many nice people in one town before.  I rarely walk into a building without someone opening the door for me.  I have had my chair pulled out for me in the cafeteria.  I've seen guys give up their seats on the bus so a lady could sit down instead.  Guys have given up their place in the lunch line so I could go first.  There are so many gentlemen who attend Texas A&M. 

But it's not only the guys who are nice.  Girls are too.  Just the other day, I was having trouble loading my groceries into my car without the cart rolling away, so a girl around my age came up and held it for me.  People are so friendly in Aggieland.  You won't go anywhere without hearing, "Howdy" or "Can I help you with anything?"  I've come to realize that Aggies will do anything for each other.  That's such a wonderful bond to see.  It warms my heart every time I go out.

3.) What is your least favorite part of college?
My least favorite part of college would be the loneliness.  I hate this part more than anything.  I'm ten hours away from most of my family.  I'm several hours away from most of my friends.  It's so lonely here.  I don't know hardly anyone yet, especially not enough to feel truly relaxed and at home around them.  I miss spending time with Rebekah and Zeek.  I miss Jack.  I miss my family.  I miss sitting in my room.

It's so hard to go to bed at night without hugging my family goodnight.  I simply go back to my dorm room, watch an episode of "Lost" or read a couple of chapters of a book, and then go to bed, alone.  I often eat in the cafeteria alone.  This weekend, I'll probably be going to church alone.  The loneliness that comes with starting college in a new place seems unbearable sometimes.  I'm hoping this will go away as I make closer friends.  I'm so tired of feeling lonely. 

4.) How did you choose the college you're going to out of so many to choose from?
I was horribly torn for the longest time about where I was going to go.  I was stuck between a tiny private university with only a few thousand students or a giant school like Texas A&M with fifty thousand students.  I was so afraid that I would pick the wrong school and not go where God wanted me to go.  For the longest time, I planned to go to Hardin-Simmons.  Interestingly enough, even though I felt fairly confident that that was where I was going to go, there was still a little part of me that was hesitant.  Something didn't feel quite right.  When people asked, I didn't feel very proud of the fact that I was going to HSU, even though it's a great school.  I felt almost a little embarrassed, like it wasn't the right one for me.  When I visited for the second time during spring of my senior year, I didn't feel at home at all. 

It was really all Texas A&M's fault, you know.  I never, never, never wanted to go there and when my dad finally asked me to visit once, I agreed just to satisfy him.  The second I stepped onto campus, a smile lit up my face.  It was the week of the big game between Texas A&M and Tech, so the whole town was full and bustling.  I got to attend a Midnight Yell.  I saw the Corps walking around with their loud spurs.  I heard everyone greet me with a friendly, "Howdy."  I fell in love.  After visiting Texas A&M in October, it took me several months to make an absolute decision, but in my heart, I knew it was where I wanted to go.

When picking a college, be sure to visit.  Take pictures, see how friendly everyone is, and try to envision yourself living there and walking around on campus.  If you can't imagine yourself living there happily, then it isn't the school for you.  If you're stuck between two or three schools like I was, make a list of pros and cons.  They'll help you out a lot. 

My cons for Texas A&M was that it was so huge and I am not used to going to a large school.  Also, Texas A&M was ten hours away from my hometown, which was much further than what I wanted.  Plus, I'd always expected I would attend a private Christian university.  After all, I was either home schooled or I attended a Christian school my entire life.  How would I fit in to a secular state school like Texas A&M? 

However, the pros outweighed the cons.  I loved the people in Aggieland.  They're all so nice and friendly and helpful.  There are a lot of Christian organizations like Impact and Campus Crusade for Christ and Breakaway and Baptist Student Ministries (and so many more) where I could plug in.  I felt proud to be an Aggie, like that's what I was supposed to be.  I saw a huge mission field in Aggieland.  Christians are a minority, even though it was a conservative school.  There were so many broken and hurting students, just like I once was.  I knew I could reach out to them and try to make a difference in their lives.  There are a lot of traveling abroad opportunities at Texas A&M.  There will be many interning opportunities as well.  And finally, I just felt like the Lord was tugging at my heart.  For some reason, He wants me at Texas A&M.  Even though I'm lonely and it's hard to be so far away from my family, I feel like I should be here.  I don't even want to be here a lot of the time--I want to be home.  But I can feel the Lord whispering to me.  This is where I need to be right now, even when it's hard. 

If you're going to college in a year or two, one of the biggest pieces of advice I have for you is to keep your mind open.  Don't just visit one kind of school, like only a private university or only a state school.  Visit a large variety and keep your heart wide open to what God might have in store for you.  I never wanted to attend a giant state school, but look where I am... and I love Texas A&M.  The Lord might want you to attend a school you never even considered until now.

5.) Is it weird going from a small school to a HUGE one?
It's been very weird.  It's the strangest feeling to have different people in every single classroom.  One weird thing is how big the campus is.  It's like a small town.  To take some classes, people have to ride bikes or take shuttles because it's too far to walk!  It's a fifteen minute walk from one of my classes to the other.  At my high school, everyone knew each other and it was only a few feet away from one class to the next.  Here, nobody knows anyone, you have to work hard to get connected, and it's probably best to bring a map everywhere you go at first. 

6a.) How is going to a secular school different from coming from a Christian high school?
At my Christian high school, there were definitely pretenders who weren't actually Christians and who probably didn't even believe in God.  There were kids who smoked and drank and slept around and even did drugs.  However, the vast majority of everyone around me was a Christian.  And the "bad" kids seemed more segregated in a little group.  I wasn't around them that much.

Here, I'm the minority.  Nearly everyone I meet cusses and drinks and sleeps around.  It's considered normal.  I'm the one who is considered weird and segregated a little from the rest.  To be honest, I think the cussing has been the worst part.  I can avoid places where people drink and party, but everyone seems to cuss, even the teachers.  And when I mention that I'm a Christian, I often get strange looks like, "...Why?"  Either that, or I get rolled eyes and grimaces.  Oh great, someone here to judge me.  I hope I can change that mindset.

I'm used to having Christian values taught in the classroom and here, they're not.  Before I dropped Psychology, the professor frequently talked about evolution and even wanted us to write a paper about it.  Most of my professors curse or talk about religion (and my political views) in derogatory ways.  I'm used to having teachers who will pray over me and minister to me.  That's been a bit of a change.

6b.) How do you like it?
In some ways, I don't like it.  It's a big change and it can be hard when I feel like one of the only Christians here.  However, I'm starting to not mind being the minority so much anymore.  What a huge mission opportunity this is!  So many people around me are lonely and hurting.  It's become a game of sorts to casually mention my faith in every conversation I have, whether or not it's talking about church or trying to find the right Bible study for me or a Christian song I listen to... I've been trying to invite some people to visit churches with me as well.  I think it's so important for Christians to keep attending state schools and not only private Christian schools.  So many people have a negative view of Christians.  We can change that.

6c.) How are you adjusting to the difference?
I'm trying to adjust myself more to the cussing.  It's not that I want to become deaf to it, but at this point, I feel myself physically cringe every time somebody swears around me.  When I was in high school, I retaught myself to hate the sound of swearing, but now I may hate it enough to let it physically affect me the more I hear it.  I need to let it go a little bit and be able to bear it more than I do now without participating in it myself, if that makes any sense.

The best way to adjust that I've found so far is to try to get involved in Christian activities.  I may be a minority in my faith here, but there are still thousands of Christians.  It isn't such a lonely feeling when I surround myself some of the time with those who believe like I do.  I'm trying hard to make some Christian friends so we can encourage each other.

7.) Overall, how do you feel about college so far?
At this moment, I'll be honest and say that I'm struggling a little.  I don't like feeling lonely and I don't like being away from my family, since we're very close.  I feel so far away from everyone I love and the schoolwork has been a little overwhelming.  I'm not making close friends as quickly as I hoped I would.  However, I keep reminding myself that even though I feel homesick, it's going to be okay.  God is in control and He's taking care of me through all of these hard feelings.  It's been hard, but I'm okay.  I'm surviving.  And I hope that after these first few weeks, I'll grow to love being on my own.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Oh, Africa

Oh, Africa,
You hold my heart.
Each whisper of wind,
Each pair of fragile hands.
Oh, Africa,
Sing to me in voices
Of hope and pain and joy,
Of beauty.
Of love.
Oh, Africa,
I long to step onto your soil,
Taste your air,
Hear your songs again.
Oh, Africa,
Your smiles surrounded me,
Broke my heart to pieces
And yet made it whole again.
Oh, Africa,
Bring me back to you.
Emily Whelchel
August 25, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011

Cafeteria Food, Dorms, and Church in College

This is day two of the College Q&A.  Tomorrow I'll be posting about college in general (how I chose it, what it's like, etc.), so if you have any more questions about that, you can ask them up until the end of tonight. 

Today's topics are about dorm life, friendships, and organizations.

food 1_2.jpgWhat is the food like?
As you're about to see, I got a lot of questions about food. 
College food isn't actually so bad.  I live in an off campus dorm, however, so I'm not sure how on-campus food is.  We have our own cafeteria.  There is a grill, where you can ask to have multiple foods made for you, like chicken quesadillas, grilled cheese sandwiches, Philly cheese steaks, hamburgers, and more.  There is a homecooked food bar, which usually has veggies, rolls, tilapia or chicken, and other main courses.  There is a sandwich bar and a salad bar.  There is an oriental bar which has pizza, Asian food, or a smoothie bar where you can pick out your favorite fruits and they'll blend them into a smoothie.  There is an ice cream bar with real ice cream, not the soft serve stuff, and a multitude of toppings.  There is even a dessert bar, filled with cakes and pies.  There are two slushie makers, about twenty different fountain drinks to choose from, different types of vitamin water (like watermelon, kiwi, strawberry, etc.), and the occasional chocolate fountain.  Crazy, right?  It's going to be tough to not gain those freshman fifteen!

I tend to take pictures of my meals with my phone and send them to my mom because she likes to know if I'm getting proper nutrition. ;)  I'll share a couple of those pictures throughout today's post. 

What kind of stuff are you eating?
I'm very picky.  I usually eat a salad along with a quesadilla or a grilled cheese sandwich (with a little plate of deli turkey on the side for protein) or a homecooked meal.  I'll occasionally bring a Lunchable along with me to school and eat that.  I have some canned soups and things in my suite, so if I don't feel like getting out, I'll have that for dinner instead.  My parents pay for a few groceries, so I have some fruit in the fridge and some cereal and snacks in my own little cabinet, which is nice.

food 3_2.jpgWhere do you prepare your food?
I don't prepare most of my food.  The cafeteria will prepare it for me.  I have a meal plan where I have fourteen meals a week paid for in the cafeteria.  (I usually eat breakfast in my own room.)  I'm not sure if this is how it is in all cafeterias, but I think they have this in several: they will even bag a lunch for me if I have to go off campus during lunch time. 

Occasionally if I don't feel like going to the cafeteria, I'll prepare a sandwich or soup in my suite.  We have some cabinets, a little countertop, a microwave, and a fridge that all came with the suite.  I don't know if your dorm will come with these things, but it would definitely be a worthwhile buy to get a fridge and a microwave if not.  I've used them both quite a bit.  One thing I wish my suite has would be a sink in the little mini-kitchen area.  It feels a little strange to have to go to the restroom down the hall to rinse out my dishes or add water to my soup.

Are you enjoying the food?
Mostly, yes.  Since I'm very picky (and a creature of habit), I've begun to feel a little tired of getting the same old things in the cafeteria every day, but I have to remind myself that I'm very blessed to have as high quality of a cafeteria as I do have.  Perhaps I need to start branching out and try different kinds of food.

For those of you who will be going to college in a year or two, just expect that you'll get tired of the cafeteria food, high quality or not.  It will never be as good as the food back home, but it will be enough.

What was moving in like? Like was it really crowded and stuff?
Moving in was prettttty crazy.  There was a specific move-in day, so everryyybody was carrying in furniture and suitcases and flat screen TVs and clothes and bedding...  We had to wait in a long line to sign in and prove that I was living in the dorm.  We paid for an early bird cafeteria special since the cafeteria's meal plan didn't "officially" start until a week later.  I was given a sticker to put in my car that allows it into my dorm's parking lot.  They also gave me three keys: a mail box key, a key to my room, and a key to my suite.  I also was given a card to swipe over a sensor so I could into the building through back doors and another card that I wave under a sensor to get my meals.  They gave me a t-shirt, I met a few people, and then my parents and grandma began to help me move into my room.
At first, I was a little overwhelmed by how small my room was.  I felt like I would hardly be able to move around at all.  We started moving furniture and it was amazing how much the little room opened up.  We placed my bed against the far wall next to the window and my desk against another wall.  We placed my cabinet underneath my bed instead of against another wall as well.  Now I have an open room, which is nice.

We'd packed all of my belongings into a lot of boxes and bags, so it was quite a hassle to pull everything out and put them in all the right places, but I suppose that's just a part of moving in.  We kept my clothes all on their hangers, so it was nice to be able to just place them right into the closet.  We made my bed last of all because we soon realized that I would want an egg crate of some sort to make it more comfortable and had to run to the store and get one.  (Dorm room mattresses are pretty basic and uncomfortable.)

I got to meet my suite mates for the first time.  I live in a suite with three other girls.  We all share a living room and "kitchen" area and I share a bathroom with one of the girls, but we all have our own private rooms.  It's a pretty neat living arrangement.  I've liked it so far.  My suite mates are all very nice and helpful.

Are you having trouble finding a church home?
So far, yes.  It's tough to change churches when you like your church back at home just fine.  Comparing your home church to every single church you visit is pretty much inevitable, but it can be harmful when you're trying to make a decision.  This isn't one of my best qualities, but I tend to be mistrustful of churches.  Because of some experiences I've had, I'm often afraid that I'm going to be hurt by the church and it's hard for me to relax and feel "at home."  It's been very difficult for me to fall in love with a church here so far.  That's a big prayer request for me right now.  I'm ready to get plugged in somewhere, but I'm not quite sure yet where I'd like to get plugged in.

Have you made any good friends in college yet?
I feel awkward answering this because I'm worried that some people I've met here might read my blog and be offended!  But to be honest, I haven't made close friends yet.  This is normal though, I think, since I've only been here for three weeks on my own.  Not that long to make close friends.  I've made some really nice friends, but we just aren't in the "oh my gosh best friends forever!" relationships like I keep seeing people around me somehow make.

I've started hanging out with a great group of guys at my dorm.  They're so nice to me and I hope they enjoy being friends with me as much as I enjoy being friends with them, even though I'm a girl!  It's been nice to spend some time with them recently.  I also am growing closer to a girl I met at Impact camp named Stephanie.  She is very sweet and has a heart for Christ that is so evident.  I really hope that we will grow closer and closer with each passing week.  I still have a few casual friends from Impact, but I wouldn't call us "good" friends.  I also have a couple of sweet friends who were already attending A&M before me.

And of course, Rebecca (one of my best friends from home) goes to the same university as me.  It's been so nice to have her nearby.  Whenever I see her, I'm flooded with relief.  A familiar face!  I hope going to the same school will bring us even closer together.

To sum things up, you simply cannot go into college expecting to make a lot of best friends right away.  That isn't how friendships work.  They take time.  Unfortunately, when you're feeling homesick and lonely and you don't know hardly anyone around you, you long for best friends more than usual.  I think this is one of the hardest parts of college: trying to make close friends in such a short amount of time. 

What do you think of people who act as if they're very close friends even though they've only met each other recently in college?
I don't want to judge these people, but I can't help but doubt that these friendships are all that real.  I'm seeing a lot of this, especially within sororities, and it just seems fake to me.  I don't understand it.  These girls have known each other for a week and a half and they're already posting Facebook pictures of them hugging with captions like, "MY BEST FRIEND FOREVER!!!!"  I personally can't imagine something like that happening in my life.  It takes time for me to trust someone enough to hug them and open up to them.  (But then again, I'm me.)

However, if "close" friendships, however shallow they might actually be at first, are being made, then I'm happy for those girls.  Being best friends with someone right away seems a little sketchy to me, but at least they are making friends right away.  Good for them.

What's the best way you keep in contact with friends and family?
Want to know something awful?  I don't have phone service in my dorm room.  That means the only way I can talk on the phone or text with my family and friends is when I'm either sitting outside by the pool or when I'm out and about.  That's a huge hassle.

My favorite way to communicate with friends and family would have to be Skype.  It's so nice to see someone's face when I speak to them, even if it makes me feel a little bit more homesick than usual.  Skype is basically talking on the phone, but better, so that would have to be what I use the most.  Facebook is also a key tool in keeping in touch with everyone.  I love looking at pictures and reading statuses to see what everybody is up to.

It's tough, being away from family and friends.  Very tough.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I remember.

I remember very clearly what I was doing, where I was, what I thought and felt when I first found out about what was happening on 9/11.  I remember watching the towers fall live on television, as I was home schooled back then and had been doing my schoolwork on the living room floor.  I remember seeing confusion and fear on my mother's face, even though she tried to hide it.  I remember seeing injured and dying people being carried away on the television, seeing reporters talk about those who were screaming for help beneath the rubble.

Actually, the thing I remember the most clearly from everything about 9/11 would have to be a video montage I saw a couple of days later.  The video consisted of photographs of people leaping from the buildings.  I remember asking my dad what they were doing and when he replied that they were committing suicide, I felt extremely confused and distressed.

At nearly nine years old, I didn't understand the concept of murder, suicide, hatred, grief.  I had never experienced death before.  And even though I lived across the nation from New York City, I felt unbearable grief after the towers were attacked.

9/11 changed my life in many ways.  I can't imagine how much it changed the lives of those who lost loved ones that day.

I can't believe it's been ten years.

My heart fills with strength when I log onto Facebook, Yahoo News, look outside and see the sea of flags...  America hasn't forgotten and I don't think it ever will.  An attack that was supposed to tear us apart has instead brought an entire nation together.  Today, I haven't seen articles about democrats or republicans or politics.  I've seen unity, strength, and reverence.

I admire that.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What is college like?

Today is part one of the three-part College Q&A.  On Monday, I'll be answering questions about college social life (finding churches, organizations, making friends, being homesick, etc.) and on Wednesday, I'm answering questions about "college" in general (adjusting to size difference, favorite part, hardest part, etc).  I will still take questions for those topics, so if you are just now discovering this Q&A day and you have some questions, you can go ahead and ask them in the comments below.
I hope this helps you get a glimpse of what college life is like. :)

What classes are you taking?
As of right now, I'm taking: College Algebra, Self Defense, English Literature, American Sign Language, and Texas Government.
I am taking fourteen hours.  I started out taking seventeen, but became too overwhelmed with the sheer amount of homework and dropped out of Psychology before the second week was finished.  It was one of the best decisions I have made about my scheduling so far.  I feel so much less overwhelmed now that I have a little more time.  My schedule has become a bit more relaxed and I'm finally able to participate in some social activities.

What is your daily class schedule like?
I got pretty lucky with my schedule, I think.  My first class on Mondays and Wednesdays is at noon.  My last class ends in the early evening.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have to be in the classroom at 9:10 and my last class ends at 1:15.  I don't have any classes on Friday.  Nice, right?  It is wonderful to have a three day weekend so I can study and also have fun with friends and get-togethers.

What's a normal day like for you?/On a typical day, what would your schedule look like?
I've gotten a few variations of this question, so I hope this isn't too confusing for me to describe.
Well, Mondays and Wednesdays are similar and Tuesdays and Thursdays are similar as well.  If it's a school day, I'll wake up somewhere between seven and eight in the morning and eat a bowl of cereal in my room.  On Mondays and Wednesdays, I'll study, do homework, etc. until it's time to leave for my first class around eleven.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I'll get ready for school and leave right away.  On Mondays and Wednesdays, I have an hour to return and eat lunch.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I wait until my last class is over.  (Occasionally I will stay and get tutoring for algebra and I might bring a sack lunch then.)

Whenever I get home from my classes, I usually rest for a little while, possibly take a nap, and then go eat dinner in the cafeteria.  The place where I'm staying has a great cafeteria, so I have several healthy food choices to choose from... and some not-so-healthy ones, like the occasional chocolate fountain, daily ice cream bar, and pie/cake bar.  Ahh! 

I spend the evening finishing up homework, studying, and I might watch an episode of a TV show like "Lost."   I usually go to bed around midnight or one in the morning.

On Fridays, I don't have class, so I'll possibly go in for more math tutoring, run some errands, grocery shop, and etc.  I plan some social activities with friends over the weekend as well.  I can sleep in on Fridays and Saturdays, which is verryyyy nice.  On Sunday mornings, I am visiting churches, although I hope to find one church I like very soon.  I also haven't joined any organizations yet, but now that I've cut down the number of hours I'm taking, I hope to join a couple of Christian Bible studies of some sort.
There are also other little activities I spread out through the week, like laundry on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, letter writing on Sundays, Skyping just about every day with various people, and cleaning Charlie's fish bowl on Sundays.  I keep a lot of lists and planners to help myself stay organized... otherwise, I'll forget everything I need to do because there is so much.

What are your classes like?
This is another question I got more than once and I remember wondering this same thing, so I'll be sure to elaborate. 

My classes are each very different.  I was actually a bit surprised at how similar the classroom structures were to my high school classes.  I'm not exactly sure what I expected them to be like, but they still feel like school.  And class.  And fairly normal.  The strangest parts (coming from someone who graduated from a class in the low forties) are: I have different people in every single class, I'll be switching out all my teachers in a few months, and most of the professors don't really care that much whether or not I try hard.

I would always hear people say that professors don't care whether or not their students do well, but it's a bit different than that.  The attitudes I'm getting are more like this: If you try hard, then I will do as much as I can to help you succeed.  If you are unmotivated, then I don't really care if you flunk out.  In fact, I hope you do.  In high school, my teachers were all very concerned that everyone passed, motivated or not.  In fact, they were willing to go to great lengths to make sure that everyone did well. 

My class that is the most like a stereotypical college class would have to be Texas Government.  There are about eighty people sitting in a refurbished movie theatre and it's my biggest class by far.  The professor has a very, "I'm going to make my tests hard, so if you don't study, you will fail and I don't care," attitude, and each day, he stands in front of the class and gives a lecture.  What is interesting is the fact that he is very attentive to our needs if we work hard.  He has reached out to me and helped me with a project in that class already, even seeing me outside of class hours and helping me with an idea, because I have shown that I care about doing well in his class.  For those who sit in the back and don't ask any questions, he doesn't seem to care much about how well they do at all.

Self defense is my easiest class.  One day of the week is working out (and so far, we aren't doing a whole lot in that area) and one day of the week is a lecture.  Like every professor I have so far, he uses a power point presentation where he gives us notes to write down.  My professor is more of a coach than an intellectual, so he enjoys showing us funny YouTube videos about self defense throughout the lecture.

Algebra is my hardest class by far.  My professor is very eccentric and she seems to expect us to know most of the material already.  I typically have several hours of homework each week, equaling out to around a hundred problems, which can be very overwhelming.  My professor will stand up and lecture and work a few problems before leaving us with quite a bit of written and online homework, but she doesn't explain them as well as I'd like.  I will probably have to get a lot of tutoring to do well in this class.

English Literature is a fairly small class and I also happen to be the only freshman, which shakes things up a bit.  We have to read... a lot, which I assumed would be the case.  The professor expects us to have the literature read before we come into class and then we will analyze each piece.  It's a bit more liberal than I thought it would be, even though I attend a very conservative school.  So far, the class discussed women's lib and the problems with religion quite a bit.  Kind of a disappointment, but I am learning a lot about how to analyze literature.  At times, the reading material can be a little overwhelming, but the class is manageable.

My very favorite class would have to be American Sign Language.  My professor is actually completely deaf.  He doesn't speak, so he only communicates with us through signs.  Surprisingly, even though this is only an introduction to ASL, he is very easy to understand and I have learned so much from him.  There is a lecture (yes, there really is!), we practice vocabulary, we have games where we mirror each other or make silly faces, and then we usually act out conversations or watch educational tapes that feature signing conversations.  The class is a little over two hours long since it also has a lab.  I suppose the "normal" class part would be the lecture and the "lab" part would be acting out what we've learned.  The professor is very, very nice and helpful and funny.  ASL would have to be the most enjoyable class I've ever attended.  I'm truly starting to gain a passion for sign language and I can't wait to learn more. 

Are you liking your classes so far?
So far, yes.  My least favorite is algebra because it is confusing and involves an overwhelming amount of homework, but overall, I enjoy attending my classes.  I honestly look forward to ASL each week because it's so much fun and I learn so much without even realizing it.  Classes like Texas Government, English Literature, and Self Defense are more like "ugh, school," but I don't dread them.  They just feel like... class.

How does your schoolwork differ from when you were in high school?
In high school, I never really had to do much homework or studying.  I could get just about everything done during class hours.  In college, things seem to be the opposite.  I don't get anything done but a lecture during class and I'm expected to do all of the work and studying on my own time.  It's a difficult switch to get used to... believe me, I have had class for a couple of weeks and I'm still not quite used to the way things work.

Also, you're not babied as much.  If you forget to do an assignment, there isn't any lenience.  You're given a zero without a second thought.  The professors don't remind you that an assignment is due the following week.  They give you a syllabus with an assignment sheet and that's how you know when everything is due. 

There are fewer grades in college as well.  In high school, I would often have a test about every two weeks and sometimes a couple of quizzes each week.  For my college classes, I have only about three exams per semester and five or six quizzes.  Some classes have more homework grades than others.  Some have hardly any homework grades.  For the ones that have only a few grades each semester, you have to study hard to make sure you do well on those exams. 

Are your classes harder than you thought they would be?
Yes.  People told me over and over that I would have to learn to study and be overwhelmed at first, but I have to admit that I didn't quite believe them.  I'm an academic person.  I tend to enjoy learning and schoolwork.  It comes easily to me and I've never had to study for things before.  As I've begun college, I've come to realize that I do have to study to do well, and since I never had to study before, I'm having to learn how for the first time.

The biggest change has been the immense level of homework I have each week: reading in every single class, multiple worksheets in math, projects in several classes, and vocabulary words for ASL.  I'm having to re-learn time management, which I had covered in high school. 

Are your classes different than you thought they would be?
I didn't expect them to be so small and intimate.  My biggest class has eighty people.  The second biggest has about forty people.  All of the others seem to have around thirty students each.  I always thought I would take freshman classes with several hundred classmates, but everything has been surprisingly cozy. 

I also didn't expect to form any sort of relationship with the professors and I have begun to get to know several of them. 

I didn't expect my classes to have the feel of normal school, which I think I mentioned above.  You walk into class with your backpack.  You set out your notes and text book and pencils.  No texting is allowed.  No whispering is allowed.  The students around you are your peers.  The teacher will occasionally give announcements or make corny jokes.  It feels like school has always felt and for some reason, I always thought college would have some sort of an overwhelming adult feel about it.  It's almost a relief that it doesn't. 
I hope this has answered some of your questions about college classes. 
If you're also a college student (or you've been there and done that a while back) and you have some more tips to add, go ahead and do so in the comments below.  I'm a new college student, so I may not have covered everything important.