Friday, January 29, 2016

This Year I Will Delight in Being...

This January, Blessed Is She issued a challenge to women via Instagram to inspire us live more intentional lives this coming year. The challenge was to finish the sentence, "This year I will delight in being a ________," with a word. A word that corresponded with one aspect of our lives that we want to work on + grow in this year, or one in which we feel God is calling us to more.

For myself, I chose the word student.


This year I will delight in being a  s t u d e n t.

That is my vocation right now, as a college student in her third year of undergrad. I'm studying literature and theology at a Catholic liberal arts university, and I love my school + those subjects with all my heart. However, I often (too often) find myself neglecting my studies, and not pursuing them with enough vigor, enthusiasm, dedication. I fall into procrastination, into lazy habits, into bad attitudes.

I want to love learning, I want to work hard, I want to soak up as much as I can from my studies. But my efforts are often feeble, and I often fall short.

So this year, 2016, I choose to delight in my vocation as a student, and to live it out to the fullest I can. This resolution goes hand-in-hand with my one word for 2016: focus. With these two words always in the forefront of my mind + heart ~ student and focus ~ I hope + pray that this year will be one of much growth.

Blessed Is She put together a video of the responses they received from women about what they will delight in being this year. It's a beautiful video:


What will you delight in being this year?

God bless,
~Stephanie

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

One Word for 2016

I know it's almost the end of January already, which means many people have already decided on + announced their word for 2016. It's taken me a little longer to think about, pray about, and decide on what my word should be. But I've finally chosen one, and so I'm sharing it with you today.


This one little word will be my "theme" for 2016. It is a word that I will keep in the forefront of my mind + heart to direct me throughout the year. It will be my track for pursuing my goals + dreams this year. It will help guide me to grow as a person this year, emotionally, mentally, socially, and, most importantly spiritually. It is a word that I hope will help me draw closer to God this year.

My one little word is...
f o c u s


I chose this word because my little heart + mind get so easily distracted. I worry about the future. I try to dictate what should happen in my life and struggle to let myself be open to God's plan ~ especially if it might be different from mine. I have a hard time surrendering my all to God, and just when I think I've succeeded in doing so, I find myself going back into worry-mode or control-mode again before I know it.

I struggle to keep my priorities in line. I procrastinate on my schoolwork and fail to give it my best effort. I don't make enough time for prayer + reflection. I don't always put God + my spiritual life first, and instead I choose school, friends, the internet, sleep over Him.

So this year, I need to focus. I need to put first things first. I need to make more time for the most important things in life, and relish them. I need to recenter my life around God + prayer. I need to stop letting myself get so distracted.

For me personally, I feel that "focus" is a good place to start. If I form a solid foundation for myself by learning to focus, then I can go from there. If my mind + heart are focused and not distracted, my actions will follow accordingly.

So this year is going to be about me regaining my focus. I will avert my eyes, ears, mind, + heart from anything that distracts me + keeps me from the important things in my life ~ namely family, friends, school, and God. My vocation as a daughter/sister/granddaughter/niece/cousin, as a friend, as a student, and as a child of God.

"My heart is restless until it rests in You." ~St. Augustine

What is your word for 2016?

God bless,
~Stephanie

Saturday, January 9, 2016

5 Tips to Help You Start Your Semester Right

It's that time of year again ~ almost time for a new semester of school! With a new semester come new classes, new professors, a new schedule, new routines... so many new things to keep track of. That said, it's important to start the semester off in an organized and diligent way, in order to avoid making things more chaotic and stressful for yourself down the road.

So allow me to share with you some of the things I do at the beginning of a new semester that I find most helpful, in hopes that it will help you get a great jump-start on your new semester too!


1. Buy your books on time.
Nothing makes for a more stressful start to the semester than not having your books on time ~ and therefore immediately getting behind. Always be sure to order your books well in advance (at least a week or two before classes start) to ensure that you have them on time. Then you'll be able to begin readings and assignments right off the bat, instead of starting off the semester behind. Your semester will be off to a much more promising start that way!

2. Organize your things from last semester.
All those papers you left strewn all over your desk after finals last semester? Or all the bulging folders you never went through at the end of the year? Go through all of that stuff and organize it. Throw away anything that is no longer necessary, and hang onto anything that might be helpful or interesting down the road. Organize all your graded papers and assignments into folders, binders, or whatever you like to use (I use an accordion file, with a slot allocated for each class). Then voila: your desk will be clear and your folders empty, ready for a new semester's worth of stuff!

3. Fill out your planner ahead of time.
While you can't necessarily anticipate exactly how your schedule for the semester will end up, what you can know right away is your basic daily schedule. At the start of a new semester, you most likely know the days and times of your classes, and maybe even your work schedule. Write out all of those things in your planner and/or your calendar, and then you'll have a basic outline of your schedule for the semester. Then you'll be able to schedule the rest of your time accordingly, with any new commitments, activities, or events that come up.

4. Highlight key information on your syllabi.
On the first day of classes, take some time after each class to read through the syllabus thoroughly. Highlight or mark all the most important information: when your professor's office hours are, the due dates for papers and assignments, exam dates, etc. (Then go write those important dates in your planner!) Then you'll have a basic grasp of the outline and direction of the course, which will allow you to better anticipate deadlines, and also give you a head start on making the most of the class.

5. Introduce yourself to your professors.
Take a minute after each first class to introduce yourself to your new professor. This will allow the professor to put a face to your name, as well as get a good first impression of you as his new student. It will also get you off on the right foot in terms of forming a good relationship with your professor. These things will only lead to a better experience in the class.

What are your tips for jump-starting the semester? What are you most looking forward to this semester?

Sincerely,
~Stephanie

Sunday, January 3, 2016

2015 In Review

Hello, friends! Happy New Year!

I've returned after an unplanned two-month blogging hiatus! I didn't intend to stay away from the blogging world for so long, but between trying to get through my last few weeks of school and coming home for Christmas, it just kind of happened that way. My last month or so of school was c r a z y  ~ and in the span of my last week (from one Wednesday to the next Wednesday), I had four papers and four final exams. (Two of those papers were long research papers. And one of those exams was a take-home that consisted of writing three essays. So in a way, you could say I had seven papers and three exams.)

Yah. I'm just glad I survived. And that it all paid off ~ 'cuz I made the Dean's List. Woot!

Now that I've made my excuses for temporarily abandoning the blogosphere, I'd like to get back into the swing of things by reviewing my 2015. As we begin this new year, it's good to reflect back on last year and all the memories, surprises, challenges, and growth that it brought. So, I present to you my 2015 in review...

January

My 2015 began with a mission trip to the Dominican Republic during the last week of my Christmas break. What a beautiful and memorable trip that was! You can read all about it in these posts:
{D.R. Mission Trip} Part 1: Surrendering
{D.R. Mission Trip} Part 2: Self-sacrifice
{D.R. Mission Trip} Part 3: Fun with the Kids


I also went on the March for Life with my school, and it was my third time attending the annual rally in Washington, D.C. We survived the long, long bus ride (about 27 hours there, 27 hours back), as well as sleeping two nights on the bus + one night on a gym floor. A few of my close friends and I stuck together during our free time and had the best afternoon + evening out on the town in D.C. And most importantly, we marched with thousands of others to stand up for life and unborn babies. It was a pretty great trip.


February

With February came the usual schoolwork grind, and a couple highlights which included me highlighting my hair for the first time, and my sister coming to visit me at school (which was great fun).

March

The highlight of March was my spring break, which I spent at home catching up with friends and family. You can read about the little things that made it special here. Oh, and I also got my braces in March. So fun.

April

The best part of April was coming home for Easter and spending it with my friends from my former college. I got to visit them there, and then bring two of them home with me to spend Easter at my house. It was wonderful to be reunited with these dear friends who I miss so much!


After that, April consisted of wrapping up my sophomore year of college: writing papers, performing in the cabaret, going to spring formal, taking finals, and all that jazz.

May

May was quite the month. For the first week of it, I was finishing final exams, packing up my stuff for storage, packing up the rest of my stuff to bring home, and taking a very relaxing trip to the beach with some good friends.

I finally went home, and not even 48 hours later, I got eight teeth yanked out of my mouth. Thankfully, my recovery was not as horrible as I feared it would be, and I was eating solid foods again within a week. But much to my family's disappointment, I didn't say or do anything strange when I came out of the anesthesia. Darn.


In mid-May, my little sister graduated high school. You can read all about that here.


At the end of May, I embarked on my trip to England with 26 friends + parents from my high school program. So many wonderful, exciting memories from that trip!


June

My England trip carried over into June, and we arrived back in the States on June 6 after the trip of a lifetime. I've documented the trip here on my blog, so you can read all about it in these posts:
{England Trip} Part 1: Oxford
{England Trip} Part 2: Shakespeare, Tolkien, + a Palace
{England Trip} Part 3: Highlights of London
{England Trip} Part 4: Ruins + Countryside
{England Trip} Part 5: Surrounded by Beauty


After I'd recovered from jet lag and settled back in at home, I began a biology class at my local community college. It was rather boring in comparison to the history + literature of England, but I managed.

July

July pretty much consisted of taking my bio class. It also included a fun Fourth of July celebration with family, as well as good times with friends.

August

In August, I sort of spontaneously took a trip to Minnesota to visit two of my college besties, one of whom is a friend from my former college, and one of whom is my friend + now roommate at my current school. I had lots of fun with both of them, and one of the highlights was definitely walking the entire Mall of America, top to bottom, in six hours. Yup. I also enjoyed getting to try Caribou (which both of these Minnesotan friends have always raved about), and I can officially say that I get the hype!


Shortly after my trip, I jetted off to school to help out with orientation and begin my junior year. Sadly, just days after I left and before classes had even started, my grandpa passed away back home. Even though my sister + I couldn't be there, we were able to say our goodbyes to him over the phone a few hours before he passed.


September

September began with my sister + I having to fly home on the second day of classes to attend my grandpa's funeral. It was heartbreaking, but also bittersweet in that we were blessed to see + spend time with so many dear friends + extended family. You can read my reflections about the loss of my grandpa in this post.


The rest of the month continued on as we got into the swing of school, extracurriculars, work, and friends.


October

On October 3, I exited my teen years and turned 20. I had one of the best birthdays ever, as over 30 friends came to the birthday party my roomie threw for me. I was truly touched by the outpouring of love everyone showed me that day, and not to mention my party an absolute blast. I really have the best friends ever!


Later in October, my sis + I went home for fall break, which was truly a treat, since it had been 2 years since I last saw a Michigan fall. And it did not disappoint! I also got to visit my friends at my old college, and it was a splendid time.




October ended with my sister's Halloween birthday, as well as our school's Halloween dance, at which she + I fulfilled our dream of dressing up as Anna + Elsa. It was great fun.


November

November was a whirlwind of performing in the cabaret; my parents + grandma coming to visit; celebrating two of my besties' 21st birthdays; writing paper after paper after paper; and going home for a lovely Thanksgiving break.


December

December was also a whirlwind which consisted of writing paper after paper after paper, finishing up extracurriculars (performances + such), going to our semi-formal dance, and taking final exams.


Then I came home after completing the semester, and Christmas break commenced. It's consisted of relaxing at home, attending + throwing Christmas parties, working a part-time seasonal job, and, of course, celebrating Christmas and New Year's.


So there you have it: my 2015 in review, complete with pictures. What a year! I'm so thankful for the many memories, opportunities, friendships and special moments that it brought, and also for its trials and struggles. I'm grateful for those because they pushed me, challenged me, and helped me to grow + learn more about myself. In 2015, I had my fair share of struggles with academics, with my spiritual life, with sin, with loneliness, with emotional matters. (Don't we all?) But because of these struggles, I have gained more independence and more confidence, I have grown closer to God, and I have become a better person. And that is why I am grateful even for the trials + hard times of 2015.

Here's to a happy, healthy 2016 ~ a brand new year full of possibilities. Here's to the new memories + opportunities + excitement it will bring, as well as the trials + struggles + challenges. May we all grow in our personal lives and our spiritual lives this year, and become more of who God has made us to be.

Happy New Year!

God bless,
~Stephanie
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