Letter #14: I Highly Recommend…

Dear blogging daily,

I knew you were going to be quite the commitment, but you are far more difficult than I ever dreamed especially because of the lifestyle I am leading. On the road for nearly two weeks, and I’m basically working or with people from 8 a.m. until at least midnight. As you can see, this leaves me a very small amount of time for you. Here I am complaining, and I’ve only done this for 13-14 days.

I admire you. I admire the people who have committed to you for a significant period of time. I admire the faithfulness shown through this commitment. Some of my dearest friends in the world committed to you about five months ago. They haven’t missed yet. They also decided to have a surprise wedding. On June 5th, I drove to Hennessey, OK to what I thought was going to be an engagement party. Turned out, my sweet friends had been engaged for six months, told nobody and got hitched that day with their closest family and friends to be part of it. Yes, you read me correctly…engaged for six months with no flaunting of a ring, no stressing out about bridesmaid dresses and no arguments about how much to spend on the wedding.

My friends chose to pursue Christ in their engagement rather than what the world tells us to focus on: the event of a wedding. Individually, Kyle and Jen exude Christ in ways I’ll never attain. They see the Lord clearly and in every aspect of their lives. Together, they make up ‘Our Marriage Project’, and they are able to seek Christ even better. They’ve done it right. They pursue Christ first, then they pursue their number two. I’m not saying everyone needs to have a surprise wedding. I am telling you this is an unbelievable story (many of you have heard me share my version at some point), and your heart will be warmed and challenged if you choose to be a part of it.

On their wedding day, they chose to commit to you and blog daily. Some days it’s Jen, others it’s Kyle. Some are hilarious, others will make you tear up. Most will make you question some aspect of your life and challenge you like no other. I haven’t mastered this whole daily thing yet, but they have. Check out their story (the whole wedding, engagement and reasons they did it secretly is at the beginning of the posts), their triumphs, their struggles. This is a blog you won’t regret checking out.

As for me, I’m still working on making you a habit in my life and finding the time to do it. A&M pictures and thoughts will come soon; for now, these guys are way better writers than me.

Sincerely,

Struggling blogger

Letter #13: 10 Reasons I Love Branson

Dear Branson,

Never in a thousand years did I dream you would be my home…twice, and never in a million years did I think I’d legitimately miss you. Confession: I really do miss you. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. My neighbors: Shoji, Yakov and Kirby.
  2. My office: working out of a canvas bag in random campus locations isn’t bad, but I miss all my friends from the office…Michelle Snowden, Vickie Long, Trish Helsel and so many more.
  3. Eating semi healthy: it’s so much easier to do when I’m grocery shopping and not eating out two meals a day (not complaining, I get to eat at all the local joints you here stories about).
  4. Jammin’ out in my car: I spend ALOT of time in a vehicle getting from school to school, but I can’t exactly belt it in a 15 passenger van like I do in my car.
  5. Jennifer “Reno’ Farley and our blog conversations: this girl was a big inspiration for me even starting this thing. She’s passionate about the Word and people knowing it. She’s committed to blogging her K-1 staff through the book of Matthew. Check it out here…it’s really good stuff.
  6. My apartment: having your own space is a huge blessing and my new bed and couch are calling my name!
  7. Meetings: I’m lame, I’ll admit it. I hate being unaware of what is happening in the office as I’m on the road. Disclaimer: Good communication allows me to operate well, and I currently live in a state where I’m lucky to get to check my Twitter let alone have a conversation.
  8. Running at the Branson Landing: really running in general…hardly any time to work out (this coupled with #3…scary).
  9. The community: I have been far too blessed by the community surrounding me in my new home. Between old Institute friends from last year, new Institute students in this class and the families that invite me to hang out with them, I genuinely miss the relationships I have in Shady B.
  10. The paparazzi: in case you’re wondering, no I haven’t gotten famous; however, this has become Melissa Houston’s, mom of where I live, nickname for her kids. Everyday when I come home from work, there are four little friends ready and waiting to play and hang out with me. Talk about fun doors to walk into each day.

Just a few reasons why I miss you. I head to Waco today (Sic “em excited), but I’ll see you on Friday! Thanks for teaching me to genuinely love living in your town and for the great community you’ve placed around me.

See ya in a couple days,

Long lost resident

 

Letter #12: Low Maintenance…Me?!

Dear Packing,

This was my question for you a week ago:

How do you expect me to pack for two weeks in a carry-on (had to fly) for a job I know very little about (first road trip for my new job) in the most fickle weather season of life (40 at night and 85 in the day)?

You know I’m a planner so I pack too much. What if it rains? What if it gets cold….but wait, what if I get hot? I might want to go on a run. What if we eat at a nice restaurant? What if I get asked out on a date while I’m away?! Completely kidding on that last one, but I like to be prepared.

The challenge was before me and one week in, I’d like you to know I owned you.

Two weeks. One carry-on (you know I wasn’t paying the $25 to check a bag). One work bag. One purse (or a Mountainsmith that is basically another suitcase).

Here are my tricks:

  1. Layers: the key to temperature issues. Always have a way to cool off or warm up by adding or removing a piece of clothing. Cardigans are perfect for this. Embrace wearing the same sweater multiple times.
  2. Choose a color: black wardrobe=black shoes. I brought two pairs of shoes-running shoes and black sandals. The sandals may be worn out before I return to Branson, but they served their purpose.
  3. Embrace the repeat: different locations; different people. Wear the outfits from week one again on week two…nobody will ever know…unless you have a blog and pictures blatantly rat you out!

Typically, the process of completing you before a trip stresses me out. It didn’t even phase me this time because I remembered clothes really aren’t that big of a deal. At the end of the day, who really remembers what someone wore the last time they saw one another? The compliments we get in the moment of dressing our best are fun, but we forget them quickly. Girls, think about this one…it’s true.

If I owned you round one, I can’t wait to see how good I get by week 12 of traveling. I just need to remember these three things:

  • Less is more.
  • Find confidence in self, not clothes.
  • When in doubt, borrow from a friend on the road.

 

See you soon for our next trip,

Low maintenance

 

Letter #11: Fried Capital of the World

Dear Dallas weekend and specifically the Texas State Fair,

You have proclaimed yourself “the largest fair in the world,” and after attending today, I can believe it. Growing up in Oklahoma I’ve heard about you my entire life, but yesterday I went for the first time at the age of 23.

In the process of my mere hours of being at the fair, I may have taken days, if not years, off of my life. Why on earth does salad, ice cream and PB&J need to be fried?! Who knows, but if I was going to the fair I was going to do it right. Fried pizza-good, fried cookie dough-unbelievably good (below), and a Lemon Chill later: my classic fair favorite, I had experienced enough of the fried sensations.

 

Nevertheless, your endless sea of booths didn’t stop me from finding the free samples while we were there. I know, I know, this is shocking. Yeah right, my friends love to make fun of me for how cheap I am, but I say maximize every opportunity to save a dime! Thanks for broadening my taste buds today.

You offered me two random blessings this weekend on top of a great time with friends and the fair:

  1. My sweet friend from OSU (this girl-below pic) was in town with her family for the Razorback game. In the process of figuring out when we could see each other, she invited me to dinner with her family at Texas de Brazil. I’d never been before, and my mind was blown. Maybe the best restaurant I’ve ever eaten especially after being on the road eating granola bars for the past week! Precious family. Priceless stories. Stellar catch up.
  2. A free ticket to the fair. Thanks for valuing education and offering teachers’ free tickets. Even more grateful for the teacher who wasn’t going and gave me hers because she knew I wasn’t making a ton of money. Allowed me to visit you for $14 including a ride on your public transit-The DART!

Lastly, thanks for this photo and what it made me think about while waiting for the DART. Check out this old, run down building literally neighboring this ridiculously large and exquisite sky scraper. This sums up America. Dirt poor living life this close to the filthy rich. You pulled my heartstrings. I’m not saying we need to enable people any more than we already have, but how can I do my part to alleviate that gap. How can I be the feet of Jesus while aiding and empowering the poor? After a fun day at the fair, this was my deep thought and conviction.

Loved seeing Big Tex, Cotton Bowl Stadium and finally gaining the Texas State Fair experience. Enjoyed my friends and down time even more. Dallas, I like you enough that I could live here one day.

For now: until next time,

Exhausted fair attender hoping the grease leaves my arteries quickly

Letter #10: Reunions-when did they become fun?!

Dear Kanakuk Staff Reunion,

When I was a kid, I hated any type of reunion. You had to dress up, remember people’s names and be on your best behavior. I can’t remember exactly what age, but there was a time when reunions transitioned from the dreaded event to a looked forward to event. It was probably when I realized that some of the best (and unfortunately worst) food you’d ever taste would be at them, and you got to hang out with some cool people. Let’s be honest, it was likely because I was most excited about the food.

I was really excited to fly to Dallas for you. Forget the food, your perk was definitely the people. Not many jobs in life do you get to fly from hanging out with your friends to hang out with more of your friends. There are people out there…specifically my dad…wondering, does she even work? I promise I really do work, but somehow part of my job is to hang out with really great people. You brought way fun people together for a night of fellowship, reminiscing and raffle giveaways and reminded me once again of how deep camp friendships run.

Upon arrival, I scoped out your table of goods being raffled off and found the sweetest orange shoes ever. Now, I would never buy these (we all know I’m way to cheap and practical for that), but getting these for free would be a clutch move. However, since I’m an employee I was ineligible to win them, but my sweet friend (this girl) ended up winning them (it wasn’t even rigged, it was fate) and gave them to me. Check out this awesome wardrobe addition…Go Pokes!

There was a point in time I learned to make the most of reunion opportunities, and I am grateful I learned to value you long ago. I’ll always enjoy the food and free stuff given away at events like this, but the reminiscing that gets to happen is priceless. Thanks for good times with great friends and for bringing me to Dallas early…my first ever Texas State Fair experience is happening today!

Appreciating reunions,

Proud owner of orange clown shoes

Letter #9: War **** Eagle!

Dear Auburn,

Man oh man, am I a fan of you?! I’ve been told for years you are similar to Stillwater and Oklahoma State, and I was not disappointed. Similar size. Similar looks. Similar people: friendly. I LOVE this place.

Your campus is beautiful. I enjoyed walking through it…especially because it reminds me so much of walking through OSU during my college days. One of your Student Recruiters is a good friend of mine. She took me to the top of Haley. From there I could see the entire campus (opening picture). My trip to visit you wouldn’t have been the same without this Eagle’s Nest experience.

I visited your famous Toomer’s corner and got the renowned lemonade…it was good, but a bit overpriced. I loved hearing the history of the corner. After an Auburn victory, everyone comes to toilet paper the entire corner. Apparently, it looks like it snowed. Fun fact: Auburn is the only city in AL (maybe the nation) to have toilet paper clean up built into their annual budget. Glad I got to experience the legendary corner, and now I’ll understand that Alabama didn’t toilet paper Auburn’s campus if I ever see the corner on TV.

Mamma Goldberg’s, Big Blue Bagel, Amsterdam’s and Chill all came highly recommended, and somehow I was able to eat at every single establishment (weight gain may be a bit of a concern on this journey?!). All were good; Big Blue was my fav…the tiger melt with bagel chips!

All the site-seeing and food tasting was great, but the highlight of my trip was definitely the company. You have some stellar students attending your campus by the way, and somehow I’ve been blessed to get to be friends with some of them. I hadn’t seen some of these girls in a year or two, and we were able to pick up right where we left off. This is simply evidence that friendships rooted in the Lord are genuine. Highlight of the trip: catching up and laughing with old friends. **P.S. Can you do me a favor? Let them get enrolled in the proper classes so they don’t have to take summer school and can come back to kamp. Thanks.**

I’d also like to point out that I’m two for two in my traveling goal challenge (check out my goal here). Never in a million years did I think I’d get to be a model, but this week I have become a college t-shirt model! I’m looking forward to shouting “War Eagle” at people when I wear my new shirt!

The only other anomaly was finally seeing these sorority dorms you people speak of all the time. I’m from Oklahoma where we have sorority houses, and this was and still is a foreign concept to me…so much so that I’m writing an entire letter to sorority dorms.

It’s still a bit surreal I experienced you and my friends in real life, but I enjoyed every second of it. Thanks for welcoming me with open arms, admitting my friends to your Alma mater when they were freshmen allowing us to be friends now and for having a cute mascot, Aubie, and an even cuter quarterback, Cam Newton!

I’ll miss ya,

WAR **** EAGLE’s newest fan

Letter #8: Truths of Traveling

Dear traveling,

You are WAY more tiring than I ever dreamed, but I think I like you even more than I thought I would. A normal day involves wake-ups between 6 or 7 a.m., interviewing for 5-6 hours, grabbing lunch with old staff, hitting the road for the next college, doing a show to tell another campus about camp, interviewing until about midnight, waking up and doing it all over again.**If I take a bit to get back to return a phone call, text or e-mail, this is why.** The schedule you’ve given me is taxing, but I truly have loved it thus far.

I love meeting and interviewing new people everyday. It’s amazing what can happen in a 30 minute conversation (ok, let’s be honest, I’m long-winded, and always go over). I have had the opportunity to challenge, care about, listen to and encourage college girls these past few days, but I’ve also been challenged and encouraged by them. Hearing people’s stories, struggles and joys is one of my favorite things to do, and you allow me to do it everyday.

I love seeing camp friends in real life. It baffles me daily that my job allows me to see and keep up with some of my favorite people in the world. The truth is, if it weren’t for your role in my life this year, I may never have seen some of these people again. Thanks for letting me catch up with old friends, have challenging conversations, sing camp songs at the top of our lungs, tell stories and laugh a ton!

I love getting to see new places on a daily basis (tune in tomorrow for my take on Auburn University). You are allowing me to see and experience places I would never see otherwise. I don’t think I could appreciate this opportunity more.

This is only the beginnings of our interactions this year. I look forward to many more adventures. I’d appreciate it if you could train my body to live like I’m in college again because that’s the lifestyle and sleep schedule I’m currently living.

Today, I’m experiencing the flight side of you. Dallas, here I come. I’ll be visiting the Kanakuk Staff Reunion, the Texas State Fair and Village Church.

Over and out,

Your biggest fan

Letter #7: Beeson, Bulldogs, Birmingham

Dear Samford,

You are the first school to fulfill my lofty traveling goal, and I have the pictures to prove it! Thanks to the K-West dream-maker, I’ll be reppin’ the Bulldogs!

For being such a small school, you sure do have a beautiful campus. I’m glad I got to meet the famous Mr. Beeson (above picture) and that you have been home to and produced some great friends over the years (see below).

I didn’t appreciate the traffic that Birmingham provided every time I drove through. However, I thoroughly enjoyed lunch at “The Caf,” and it really made me miss college food…really just food that is prepared for you. I never appreciated the convenience of that enough until I started having to feed myself.

You allowed my Kanakuk experience to come full circle. Yesterday, I interviewed my old camper from my very firstK-Westcabin. Wow. I always gave my friend and K-West legend, this girl, a hard time about her campers working at camp. Well, I’ve now reached that point. Still processing how I feel about this one.

Thanks for a good time, great interviews and friend reunions. I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again, but I wish you well.

Go Bulldogs!

Your newest fan

Letter #6: Writing a Biblical Author?!

Dear James,

I’m studying your letter this semester and our staff will study it this summer. Confession: I started studying it simply to prepare me to teach it well this summer, but little did I know that you and the Lord had different plans. I have learned lessons I never expected. I have been challenged beyond belief. The challenges are pushing me to life change. Thanks for writing your letter and for giving me a daily challenge.

I haven’t even made it through the first chapter, and I’m walking away with nuggets I’ll carry for life. James, I’d like to share two of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from your letter with you.

  • Lesson #1: Don’t talk about it, be about it (a phrase I’ll never forget from this girl)

“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” James 1:22 In the words of my friends Rodney and Nasa from the Kanakuk Institute: CONVICTION. How often do I hear a sermon, a verse or sit down to get my “quiet time” in and never change my lifestyle or way of thinking? Too often. Thanks for calling me out.

  • Lesson #2: Be bold.

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.” James 1:5-6 I need to and want to pray boldly. Where do I seek wisdom? Often, it’s from my friends, family, Internet sources, etc. Why don’t I turn to the Lord? Bold prayers…that’s what I’m learning to pray this week.

Thanks for writing boldly. Thanks for living out your faith and calling us to a higher  standard. Thanks for preparing me now to face trials in the future. I look forward to reading more of your letter. Oh, and I really love a good laugh, so it’s kind of funny that as I read, my life experiences line up with what I’m learning about… God seems to have a sense of humor!

Until next time,

The girl who decided to write you a letter for once

Letter #5 – Project Runway: College Style

Dear college campuses I’ll be visiting this year,

I’ll bleed orange until the day I die for my Oklahoma State Cowboys, but my years at camp have enlightened me to the plethora of great colleges out there.

Our staff is typically comprised of several Auburn and Baylor students, many of which have become some of my dear friends.

My co-counselors, both of whom were awesome, from LONG ago were from Vanderbilt and Westmont College.

The love that many Kanakuk directors have for both the University of Kansas and Arkansas sparked interest in me for these schools.

The list could go on and on, but on football Saturdays, I often find myself pulling for schools I hadn’t even heard of five years ago. I check scores outside of the Big XII just to see if friends are excited about their alma mater’s win or upset because they lost. Camp has broadened my perspective on a ton of things in life, but college is one I never expected.

So, as I travel from campus to campus, I’ve set a goal. I hope to obtain a piece of paraphernalia (big word that just means shirts, shorts, sweats, etc.) from as many campuses I visit as possible without purchasing any of them.

This is a lofty goal and might be a complete flop, but Lord knows I had enough OSU stuff to outfit an army when I was in college. I would have helped someone fulfill a goal like this in a heartbeat. So, I thought, why not give it a shot?!

I’ll cheer for the Tennessee Vols because Kyle Bisese goes there (Peyton Manning doesn’t hurt either); I’ll even attempt to figure out how War Eagle connects with the Tigers of Auburn (still a mystery to me?!); I’m afraid to admit this, but I even like to see the Sooners win IF AND ONLY IF it’s not Bedlam; but how much more exciting would it be if I could root for your team while wearing your school colors?!

How can YOU help make this happen?!

Sincerely,

Your newest “model” you must outfit