December 31, 2011

Two Thousand Eleven.

This year has been absolutely incredible. Words fail me when I try and think of some cute and cliche way to sum up what 2011 has meant for me. This was the year that I took off and started the beginnings of a life full of adventure.
One year ago tonight I was sitting in a campground in New Mexico getting ready for my cousin's wedding, and my thoughts kept going back to the thought that that little trip to New Mexico was the last trip that I would make before I moved to Florida. All I could think about was the fact that after the ball dropped and the date turned into 2011, my life would begin to speed up and change faster than I could immagine. And oh man, it did. January flew by in a midst of packing and planning until before I knew it February found me driving south to figure out my place in the world.
My life was insane in Florida. Working for Disney was everything and nothing like I ever immagine it would be like. Some days were so crazy magical that I would have to pinch myself to believe that it was real life. Some days were hard, brutally hard, and it took every ounce of perseverance to keep myself from driving home. I met friends who stole my heart completely, friends who I still miss and think of every day. I met people who tested my character and I encountered situations that forced me to grow up. Even months after I've been home, there are days when the sky looks a certain way, or I smell a certain smell and in my head I'm instantly standing in front of Popcorn 2, staring Cinderella's castle down, and waiting for the fireworks to go off. There's something about being a Disney cast member that nothing else can compare to...it's magical. The days were slow but the weeks were fast, and in the 6 months that I lived in Orlando working for the mouse I've never had my cravings for adventure so satisfied and my faith so tested. It was good. Really good.
My turn around between Disney and SNU was so short, a small four days, that I didn't even unpack my car. I just transferred my life from my car to a new dorm room. I came into college feeling heartbroken, completely homesick for the life I left behind and the friends that I missed with everything that I was. Without a fair clean slate, I came into college thinking that it could never live up to the adventures that I'd been living. And while the adventures have been so very different, SNU slipped in and staked a claim on my heart with ease. The friends that I've met at SNU have been so amazing, supporting me, encouraging me, humoring my restless streak...and I couldn't immagine my life without them.
My first semester of college was an incredible semester, a lot like Disney when it comes down to it because it was filled with good days and hard days. There were days when I was homesick for the life I left behind in Florida. There were days when I was knocked down because I was so demoralized with running. And then there were days when I laughed until I cried with newfound friends. Days when I looked around and realized just how blessed I was by the people in my life.
Sometimes adventure is a little bit more subtle that the fireworks across the night sky in the Magic Kingdom, but that doesn't make it any less worthwhile. 2011 was a year that shook up my world. From jumping out of a plane over Cape Canaveral to walking through the Yukon lights with a group of friends that I can't wait to spend the next few years with... I can't even begin to say how thankful I am for the friends that have stolen my heart this year. From Japan to Washington to Wales to Louisiana, my love got scattered all over the world is 2011...and I have never been more blessed by the people who I can point to and say, "They made this year amazing."

This is me praying that this was the very first page
Not where the story line ends
My thoughts will echo your name until I see you again
These are the words I held back
As I was leaving too soon
I was enchanted to meet you

Au Revoir 2011
Hey there 2012 :)

December 22, 2011

A Legacy of Christmas

I'm catching myself tapping out letters on my keyboard 22 minutes after I told myself that I would be asleep. I never liked having a bedtime when I was little either.
It goes without saying that in just a few days it will be Christmas day, which is, if you don't know me very well, one of my favorite days of the year. Me and Cortney have been in the Christmas spirit since before Thanksgiving. We had late night excursions to find Christmas trees, along with peppermint hot coco dates, and decorating our dorm afternoons...all in all, it can be said of Suite 200 that we have keep the Christmas cheer alive. And now here Christmas is, just a few days away from showing up, slipping in and out with much ado, and then sneaking away to leave the whole world waiting another 364 days until we can say again, "Merry Christmas!"
My grandpa (on my dad's side) loved Christmas. He was notorious for plotting what gifts to give months ahead of time, and his generosity has become his legacy. I was too little to remember an awfully lot about him, but every year at Christmas I feel like I hear new stories about the gifts that he gave and the way that he loved Christmas with his whole heart.
 My grandpa grew up in a Jewish family. Actually, he started off not living with much of a family at all. When my great grandma died my grandpa and his brother were sent to live in an orphanage, which is where he remained until he was 12 years old. At that point in time his father remarried and took his children back into his household to raise. When my grandpa was around 18, he encountered Christ, and it forever changed his life. As a strict Orthodox Jew living with his Jewish family in New York, Christianity was never an option....so my Grandpa shook up his world when he chose to follow Christ. He was disowned. Kicked out of the family. It was many decades before anyone from his family ever spoke to him again.
After that, my grandpa became an ordained minister, loving the process of learning like the best of academics ever could. Then my Grandpa answered a call to return to the people who had disowned him, moving his family to Israel to be a missionary to the Jews. That's where my dad was born. That's the place where I can't wait to go someday to walk the streets that my dad grew up on and see the homeland of the Savior that I worship. My heritage. My history. My grandpa's choice to take up his cross and follow Jesus.
Christmas reminds me so much of him. Because when I think of my Grandpa and how much he loved Christmas, it reminds me that this holiday is worth so much more than just a commercial experience. People like my Grandpa sacrificed everything that they loved in pursuit of the Savior that the world denied. My grandpa never celebrated Christmas growing up, but as an adult he celebrated it with a passion that made up for lost years. He recognized that significance of Christmas and knew that it was a holiday that was so significant to the Christian faith that it deserved to be kept well.
 Giving. Loving. Sacrificing. Rejoicing.
I've grown up in a totally different way than my Grandpa did. I have a very tight knit family, I've grown up in a strong Christian household, and Christmas has always been celebrated properly...but it wouldn't be this way if it wasn't for the choices my Grandpa made in his life. And Christmas? Well, I'm not sure how the rest of my family feels, but I know that every year when Christmas comes around, I think about my Grandpa and the way that I want to live as generously as he lived. I want to leave a legacy like that. 

Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a 

conspiracy of love. - Hamilton Wright Mabie

December 19, 2011

100 Blog Posts Later - It Still Comes Down to Running

It's dark outside with clouds. 
For it being 2 o'clock in the afternoon it looks like the sun is setting.
 And it's raining, hard. 
Thunder and lightning. 
The sky is electric. 
But as soon as the lightning clears, I'm lacing up my running shoes. 
As soon as the road is safe, I'll be on it. 
I don't really want to run today. 
I don't want to do a long run in the pouring rain, but I'm lacing up my shoes anyway. 
Because today I'm determined that this is the day when I run through the pain. 
I'm tired of this injury. 
I'm not okay never feeling okay running anymore. 
So today I'm starting over. 
Clean slate. 
Pouring rain. 
I'm going to fight to make this run a good run. 
I'm going to fight to make today the day when I begin training hard. 
Forget hip flexors. 
Forget slow milage. 
Forget painful movements. 
I'm over it. 
I'm ready to run half marathons again. 
I'm ready to be at the top of my game again. 
So I'm going to do something crazy. 
I'm going to layer up in the cold. 
I'm going to leave the ipod and phone at home so that I don't fry their circuits. 
And I'm going to run my heart out through the rain. 
Today, I'm forgetting all of the things that have pushed me down this semester and I'm going to fight for the very thing that has always propelled me to go further and faster in my life. 
Running. 
Fearless. 
I may come back cold and wet and physically drained, but I need to fight for what I believe in again. 
I need this run. 

December 13, 2011

Finish Line - Finals Weeks

My first week as a college student going through the routines of finals. Study dates. Coffee. Sugar. Naps. Exhaustion. Laughing at a million things that any other week this semester, would not have been that funny. It's the combination of tired minds and the closeness of Christmas that have a way of exciting every college student on this campus. We're sleepy. We're tired of school. We're done with our classes. And we are so so close to the finish line.
That's the nice thing about college, there are mini goals in sight. It's not like I'm sitting here as a freshman thinking "I have three and a half long years ahead of me." I'm sitting here thinking, "One more day until I have finished my first semester as a full time college student. Man time flies." This semester has gone by so quickly.
It's been an awesome semester, but it's been hard. It's been good because it needed to be hard. Needs to be hard. I need to struggle. I need to feel the tension between where I am and where I am supposed to be. Discovering my in the moment purpose has been hard for me to uncover after a season of life where my purpose was so crystal clear. I have my long term goals, but I haven't figured out my short term goals yet.
Maybe that's what trips me up. I spent so long on short term goals to accomplish one really big long term goal, and now that I've finished the long term goal, now that I've climbed the mountain, I still haven't figured out how to get back down gracefully. I haven't learned how to move from one phase of life to the next.
But those thoughts will have to wait for another day. Right now, there is an Intro to Politics study guide to write and a final to study for. It's a good feeling knowing that the finish line is in sight. 

December 5, 2011

Running - I Have Never Lost


I may not be the fastest
I may never finish first
I may run for selfish reasons
Like sanity.
I may run just to see nature
I may never run to win a competition
I may never win.
But I have never lost.
I have never wasted my time.
I have never regretted my choices.
I have never thrown my shoes down and walked away.
There’s more at stake in running than physical action.
There’s mental strength.
There’s determination.
It’s putting on your shoes when your body is in pain.
It’s fighting through the way everybody else views your performance and running because you need to run.  
It’s getting up the nerve to face your fears.
I may never win a race.
But I have never lost. 

December 3, 2011

Panera Bread Date with Jesus

The first time I went to Panera Bread by myself was back in March, about one month after I moved to Florida. Bible and journal in hand I sat down, nibbled on a Fuji Apple salad, sipped a hot chocolate, and poured my heart out into words for two hours. My mom texted me during that time and asked what I was doing, I told her that I was having a date with God. It was true.
I'm on a date with God again today. The scenery is a little different. I'm watching NW Expressway speed by outside instead of the traffic from the Millennia Mall. I'm waiting for an old friend of mine to show up and work on homework with me. I'm minutes away from from the homes that I grew up in instead of the Vista Way, the place that I'll always be able to call my first apartment. But when it comes down to it, the situations are the same...I needed to talk to God today, I needed to talk to God back in March, and Panera Bread seems to be our favorite date spot.
This week has been so hard. I've had to watch two close friends of mine from Florida struggle with battles that seem larger than life. So large that they have been on the verge of giving up completely. And I'm not there to hug them. I'm not there to say, "Hey, you know that there is always hope, right? You know that this darkness, this pain, it's not the end?" But I'm not there.
When I lived in Florida I was constantly aware of the darkness that I was living in. The community that I was surrounded by lived lives that were very self gratifying for the moment, but in the long run, there was so much pain. So much brokenness. I remember feeling a pressure to be the salt and light into the world. The thought would cross my mind all the time, "You have to show them what it's like to have hope in Jesus, Mandy. Because no one else is here right now to do it. This is your calling right now. Be the light." I lived a sin saturated community and I loved people like I've never loved people before in my life. I had my heart stolen and broken by a broken generation. And it was so worth it. I learned more about my faith through the 6 months that I lived in Florida than I ever even knew was possible to learn. I fell in love with a hundred friends who in any other situation, I would never have fallen in love with. I learned what it means to look past social stigma's, to look past sexual orientations, to look past the fast judgements that Christians are known for making, and just...love people. It didn't mean that I agreed with their choices or lifestyles, but I loved them nonetheless. And it was so hard, but so, so, good. 
The problem with that comes when I'm gone and my heart still loves the people, but they are still living in the darkness. Still refusing to see hope. And I, I'm not there to do anything. I'm not there to be a friend. I'm loving people from a distance that is tearing me up inside. Their choices are tearing me up inside.
I went to Panera in March because my heart was hurting then too. The night before had been one of the worst nights that I had experienced since I'd moved to Florida. I was so worn thin. Emotionally played. Hurt. I drove to a Panera Bread thirty minutes away instead of the one across from my apartment because I wanted to go to a place where I knew that the chances of me running into somebody I knew where slim. I needed to escape. That's why I'm here today. I'm worn thin. I've been emotionally played. I need an escape. Even if it's just down the street to a Panera Bread where nobody knows my name. Knows my story. Nobody knows that sometimes, I fake being okay when I'm not. Sometimes all I need is a chance to be by myself and think problems through. Sometimes I just need to go on Panera Bread dates with God and remember that in the long run, it will work out.



"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

November 27, 2011

Finding Home


Flashing back to Disney in my mind. 
Parade vending. 
The hub. 
Brazilian tour groups. 
101. 
That'll be $2.50....oh it's no problem, I can break that $100 for you. (Oh shoot, the parade is right behind me and I have to make $97.50 in change.) 
Walking the tunnels. 
The awful Liberty Square dress that weighed 10 pounds and everyone thought was adorable. 
Fireworks. 
Late late nights. 
Perseverance. 
Orlando. 
Home. 


I called Bethany home tonight. My dad asked me about my car and I said, "When I get home I'll check on it..." 
I think that was the first time since I moved back that I've called Bethany my home. 
Even for the last few months, I feel like I have referred to Ponca City as "my parent's house".
My home, my 100%, on my own, where I figured out how to be independent, home...has been Orlando.
Except now. 

Now...
The more distance that I gather from Orlando. 
The more days that pass by between me and my last day to walk into the Magic Kingdom as a Disney cast member. 
Now...I am finding a new home. 
I don't get to watch fireworks every night. 
I watch shooting stars. 
I don't eat Mickey Mouse ice cream bars every week. 
I run to Braums to get the world's best frozen yogurt. 
I don't live in my own apartment. 
I live in dorm with 7 other girls. 
But somehow or another this has become my home again. 


Oklahoma. 
Country roads. 
Cowboys. 
Wranglers jeans. 
The towns that I grew up in. 
The churches that shaped my faith. 
The friends that I've known since I was 12. 
It's been 118 days since I took my last steps out of Disney World. 
And I think, after all that time...
I'm finally finding a new home. 

November 25, 2011

Adventure



 “Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.”
-Mark Jenkins




November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Day

Today, I am thankful for...
  • Family - I have never taken my close relationships with my mom, dad, and sister for granted at all, but moving away from them has given me a whole new perspective on just how blessed I am to have them in my life. My dad's leadership and sense of humor, my mom's prayers through every situation, and my sister's perspective on life that is so different from mine...I am so lucky to be loved by them and to get to learn from my family every day. 
  • My team - this has to be on of the most unexpected groups of people that has impacted my life so strongly this semester. From honest and encouraging talks with Sarah and Jennie to late night donut runs with Richard or Andrew...I never expected to be so strengthened and encouraged through a rough season like I have been by this team. 
  • My Disney family - this is a family that most people will never understand. There's something surreal about a family of parade vendors, balloon vendors, photo pass photographers, glow crew, and custodial that all know each other because we circled the hub every day, crossing paths during the castle shows and before the parades. Hundreds of people and friends who I will probably never see again, but for the time I knew them, they were the best of friends. I'll never forget them and I'll never forget the magic we made.
  • 5 Gum- Seriously...I think I've gone through 20 packs since school started. I don't think I'd have half as many friends if I didn't carry gum around with me most of the time. 
  • Katie, Kirsten, Jenni, & Cortney - These girls have been my apartment mates and my roommates throughout this whole year. Living with Katie, Kirsten, and Jenni in Orlando was one of the best things about my internship. Sitting in Katie's car eating cookie dough and talking in radio code, shopping with Kirsten, laughing with Jenni...these girls were there for me when I needed someone to tell me that it was okay to call-in. They were there for me when the going got tough. They were there for me every step of the way through our challenging internship, and I'll love them forever because of it. And Cortney, Cortney has to be the best roommate ever at SNU. We laugh until we cry every night, running off on road trips and adventures because we get too bored on campus. I'm so thankful for the way that we've gone from good acquaintances to good friends, I can trust her with anything and I know that she won't let me down. 
  • Florida & Oklahoma -  Two separate worlds. Two totally different homes. But two places that have stolen my heart over the course of this year. I'm so thankful for the way that Florida became my home overnight, and I can't wait until the day when I get to move back to that state. But I am so thankful that I have Oklahoma to come back to. Starry nights. Fields of wheat. Open spaces. My heart is a torn between a love for the coast and a love for the country. 
  • Jamba Juice - me and Jessika hunted all over Orlando to find a Jamba Juice, going so far as to circle an empty parking lot somewhere near Clearwater looking at the building that used to be a Jamba Juice. During pre-season week, after I'd been home less than 7 days, I drove a bunch of the girls on the team to Jamba Juice for an after workout meal. They have no idea that I had 6 months of hidden motives behind that trip. 
  • Forgiveness- Honest to goodness, letting go of the past, it's in God's hands now, forgiveness. Talk about freedom. 
Thanksgiving 2011:
I am thankful for a year that is dramatically split in two: Disney and College. The lessons are crazy different. The friends are worlds apart. The only common denominator...is me. But somehow or another, it's all worked out. And I am so so thankful for the friendship, the challenges, the opportunities, and the little moments that have shaped me into who I am right now. 
I am crazy thankful today. 

November 22, 2011

Northbound

The trains are whistling through the trees. As winter draws closer and closer it gets easier to hear the sounds coming from the trains rushing by on the tracks two miles west of my house. Every year, as the trees drop their leaves and the air grows colder, we begin to listen for the trains. 
Northbound. Rushing ahead to some other city far away from here. Every year I listen to the trains and I wonder where they are going. I wonder where I am going. A year ago I was sitting in this same room, and I remember thinking to myself, "Where will I be one year from now? What will I have seen in the next year? Who will I be thankful for? Will I live a crazy life in the next year?" 
Sitting here, in this familiar chair, listening to the trains rushing into Kansas, I am looking back at the events of this past year. I saw a broken generation this past year. I saw strong hearts and brave friends. I saw a church rise up with passion for serving Jesus. I heard stories that tore me up inside. I heard the cries of lost friends who refused to be found. I heard encouragement from new friends that will never know how thankful I am to have met them. 
Thankful. 
That seems like an appropriate word considering that it is almost Thanksgiving. 
Thankful for adventures. 
Thankful for good friendships. 
Thankful for hard friendships. 
Thankful for an adventure of a lifetime. 
Thankful for the leadership in my life. 
Thankful. 
The train has moved on now. Further north, covering more distance than I will be traveling any time soon. Winter is coming to Oklahoma, fall is beginning to fade away, and summer already seems like a lifetime ago. And I am thankful for the seasons in my life this year. Thankful for the easy days, the hard days, the beautiful days, and the sad days. Thankful for the crazy life I've been able to live in the past 365 days. 
Next year, I wonder who I will be? I wonder what I will see in the next year? Who will I be thankful for? What crazy adventures will I live in the next year? 
I wonder...I wonder if in one year from today, I'll be listening to northbound trains and thinking about a year of things that I am thankful for..


November 20, 2011

Autumn Words

I am a dreamer of really big dreams. 
I like the way that the sun looks when it sets beneath the horizon. 
I have a heart to feed the hungry and care for the poor. 
I don't know the right way to tie my shoes. 
I love feeling small when I stand next to somebody who is taller than me. 
I wish I were by the ocean on a daily basis. 
I like to argue with sarcastic people for fun...but when it comes to actually having a real argument, you'll most likely win, because I will start crying within two minutes. I'm sorry, I know that's lame. 
I love getting notes or letters. 
I am most proud of myself for a thousand words of poetry that most people will never know I've written or will never care to read. 
I like to laugh a lot. 
I want to learn how to sail someday. 
I wish it were easier for me to let down my guard. 
I could quote the Lord of the Rings movies for you backwards and forwards if you really wanted to see my inner nerd come out. 
I never thought that there was anything special about growing up in Oklahoma until I moved and found out that most of my city friends had never been out in the middle of the country at night to watch the stars...then I realized how lucky I am to have been raised where I was raised. 
I am a rebel to doing things the way that I'm told to them. 
I wish I could whistle on a daily basis. 
I really like the number 42 for no reason whatsoever. 
I have a heart that is hard to steal, but it breaks for a million kids who I've never met.
I am in a constant struggle to balance living in the moment and my love for the next big adventure.
I seem to be learning all of my lessons the hard way when it comes to accepting where God wants me to be, but learning the struggle of surrender has been a good lesson to learn. 
I am the type of girl who wants to take advantage of every opportunity I am given. I want to climb a mountain. I want to learn how to longboard. I want to make a difference. I want to look back at my life in 20 years and shake my head at all of the crazy adventures that I found my way into. That's the kind of life I want to live. 

November 16, 2011

Raw Running Emotion

I am so tired of being so beaten down. I used to be a runner. I used to walk out of my front door, start my watch, and run for two hours straight with maybe five minutes of walking thrown in there for good measure. I used to run half marathons. I used to be a runner.

Now I feel like an impostor. I feel like a girl who doesn't even deserve to walk onto the track with the rest of the team. I feel like my body is getting crushed every time my feet hit the pavement. I feel like a failure at the one thing in life that I've always claimed as mine.

Running used to be my escape. It was my saving hobby. The one place where I could think when my world fell apart. I ran when Papa was diagnosed with Parkinsons. I ran ten miles that day. I ran when Jenn moved off to college and I was left in a new town facing challenges alone. I ran through the loneliness of moving. I ran my way through being "just another girl" whose heart could be played. When things have gone wrong over the past three years, the only way I could handle them, the only was that my mind was ever at ease, was running.

I know the streets of Ponca City like the back of my hand. I know which trees start to change color first out by the lake. I know where the pavement ends and the gravel begins. I know where there is no pavement at all. I know the places where I always see deer on my runs. I can remember watching flocks of bluebirds flying across the fields. I've raced horses against fence lines. I've felt the freedom of the road.

And now...now I am breaking down after two laps around a track. Now I'm breaking down when my coach asks me how I feel. Now I am crying in the backseat of my friend's car after practice because my body hurts and my spirit feels crushed.

I've been fighting so hard through cross country. I knew that competing hurt, but even if I couldn't compete I was going to practice with everything that I had. I knew that sitting out the races was in my best interest, but I hated that feeling of watching my team mates cross the finish line and knowing that maybe I should have fought through the pain and just ran. But I knew, I was hoping, that I would get better as we went along. I've been hoping that my body would begin to feel strong again as the weeks went by and my strength training increased. Instead, I am left here, sitting in the second floor of the library on this cold November day, contemplating the reasons why I even run anymore.
I could have quit the team today. I started practice with high hopes. I wanted to push through and give it everything I had. That's what gets me down...I want to do my best. I want to try. But I just keep stumbling and cutting my reps short. I keep falling down over and over again and I don't know how to get back up.

I know why I used to run. I know why I love the sport so much. It's the freedom I feel when my back is to the sun and I am free from the worries and stresses that consume life. It's the exhilaration in my heart when I look back at the distance that I have covered and I can honestly say, "I ran that distance. I covered it with my own two feet. I crossed the finish line."

I know the reasons why my heart feels free on the open road. It's the gypsy in me. The wanderer. It's the part of my heart that is only satisfied when I'm running. Running through airports. Running through new towns and states and new countries. It's the part of my life that I feel like will never be fully satisfied this side of heaven. Running, moving my feet down a path when I do not know where it leads. That drive to explore and keep going pushes me forward in everything that I do. Running calms my restless heart for a few hours.

But today, today I am beaten down. I am tired of trying to run through pain. Today, today I could give up on everything. Just walk away from the pain it takes to keep going. But I won't. I never will. I don't think I ever really could. Even if I'm crawling, I'll still fight for this. Even when the tears come easier and easier, I can't abandon the movement that I am so loyal to. Even if it breaks me, I can never stop running.

November 12, 2011

College Thankfuls

4 reasons why today, I am so thankful for college. 

1) The homecoming bonfire that turned into a dance and sing off... which was followed by a road trip in a jam packed car to go check out a haunted street. Seriously, where else do you get to do that?
2) Nights like tonight, when plan A fell through so plan B was executed. We drove around listening to music before walking through a park and star gazing and talking. I am blessed beyond measure by good friends.
3) Our early morning volunteer work at the Homecoming Fun Run, which was really just a chance to talk to Sarah and enjoy the gorgeous autumn leaves on a quiet street.
4) God's ability to change my perspective from the lessons that I've learned to the lessons that I need to learn.

November 9, 2011

Worn Library Chair

The library is starting to fill up. Students are walking in carrying white to-go bags from Sedexo filled with their lunches. The headphones are in and there must be twenty different types of music being played in this room right now. As far as I go, it's a Valdosta album kind of day. 

It's an early afternoon on a perfect November day, the sky is blue outside, the air is crisp, and the bitter cold wind of yesterday has moved on to another part of the county. My heart is quiet right now, sitting here in the library watching my friends come in and out, studying for their different tests and quizzes. Calculus. Christian Faith and Life. Phycology. So many different dreams and ambitions recognized in this room. So many people who either know where they're going, think they know where they're going, or have no clue whatsoever what they're doing with their lives. So many stories.
As far as I go, the rest of my week has turned into a low-key week for me with just a few reading assignments, so I can afford to take time to be at ease here in the library.

Sometimes I forget what it's like to just breath deep. To take a moment and step back from all of the school and assignments that seem to pre-occupy my time. Sometimes I forget just how happy I am scribbling words out on paper to help myself think. Life sure seems to get in the way between the things that we have to do and the little unimportant things that increase the quality of life so dramatically.

Today, today I am content. I'm okay with where I am. I'm blessed by the friendships around me. And I'm excited to get my schedule for next semester. Contentment has always been a hard lesson for me to learn. Sometimes that has been really good for me, discontentment is what propelled me to achieve some crazy adventures. But sometimes, discontentment just leaves me with an unsatisfied heart that aches to be someplace else. Not today though. Today, in the worn out leather chair, listening to soft voices talk and notebook pages turn, I am satisfied.

November 6, 2011

XC 2011

Cross Country.
Those two words have provided one of the most challenging experiences for me this year. I've never run competitively before. I've run for a lot of reasons, but my biggest competition has always been myself and my goals were always more focused on distance then time. But jumping into the world of college running has shaken up everything that I ever thought I knew about running. I thought running half marathons made me a runner. I thought I knew what it meant to give running everything you had and then some. I thought I'd experienced the guts and the glamour. But over the course of this season I've discovered that I really don't know anything at all about this sport that I love.
It's been a tough season. I started it super exhausted and fighting what we think was mono, and then at the beginning of October I messed up my SI Joint, which has led to some crazy pain in my hip. 6 weeks later and it's still bothering me a lot. I haven't taken a break training, but I haven't done that great either. And I haven't been competing, at least not in the races.
Now I know what it's like to be demoralized.
I know what it's like to be so frustrated with your performance that you just want to stop.
I know what it's like to feel inadequate.
And for the first time in my life, I know what it's like to have a team come up behind you and say, "We've got your back no matter how good or bad you run. Just don't stop."
That's what cross country has taught me.
That's what I'm trying so hard to learn.
Don't quit.
I've been so frustrated because I feel like after investing all the time into practice and focusing on running, it would be great to hit a Saturday and say, "I'm ready to race."
But even today, on our last meet of the season, I came prepared to race and ran the warm-up mile in a lot of pain. I wasn't ready. Mentally, I was doing good. Physically, I knew that it was going to hurt a lot. My very smart runner friend told me, "I hate to say it, but this is a part of running Mandy. Knowing when to stop running today so that you can run tomorrow. By tomorrow I mean tomorrow and the day after that, and the day after that..."
I want to run tomorrow.
I want to run for the rest of my life.
So I stopped today.
If it wasn't for this team, these friends who are so passionate about running that they can't help but inspire me to want to try a million times harder, I wouldn't have been able to learn so well what it means to keep running. They have encouraged me in a million different ways, and if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be able to look forward to track season with high hopes.
Get healthy. Get healed. And get good.
That's my goal. I love this sport with all of my heart. It pushes you. It's raw. It's brutal. It's collapsing at the end of a run. It's pounding on dirt and grass and track until you can't breath but you still can't stop. Running is testing your mind as much as your body. Cross country isn't about how well you can catch or throw a ball, it isn't about a short sprint across the field, it's about the miles ahead of you.
It's my allegory for life.
If I didn't know the success of running, I wouldn't have joined this cross country team. If I hadn't had crossed the finish line after 13.1 miles, I would never have become a part of SNU athletics. But if I hadn't had known the defeat of cross country, the physical, the mental, the "is this what I really want?" defeat that I've faced this fall, I wouldn't love this sport as much as I do. Because only in the defeat have I realized that this is something that I really want to keep doing. I don't want to be in last place, but if last place is what it takes to reignite my passion for trying my hardest, then I'll crawl across the line at the end of the day. If failure is the only way that I'm going to learn perseverance, then I'll take it. If my teammates are the only people who can pound it into my head that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, then I want to learn the lesson.
That's what this season has been for me. A season of raw emotions and hard lessons. A season of rediscovering what it is that keeps me running. A season of learning how to be the friend that my friends have been for me when I've hit low points. This season wasn't anything like what I expected it to be like. I never expected to get so beaten down by circumstances that I didn't have any control over. And I most definitely never expected to meet a group of teammates that have totally stolen my heart and encouraged me each and every day. It's been hard, but it has been by far worth it.


Difficult things take a long time, impossible things a little longer.
- Author Unknown




November 5, 2011

October 16

Fall break.
Two words that I've been dreaming of for the past two weeks. And here they are, squished between cooler weather and bonfires. I've pulled out the sweaters that I packed away when I moved to Florida. I've slid into the hot tub on chilly nights for the first time in months. I've been picking away at the strings from my (dad's) collection of guitars (hehe).
Fall break.
It couldn't come fast enough this year. Despite the large amount of homework that I still need to do, escaping from two days of classes is a much needed relief. There may still be a hard midterm to come on Tuesday, but today is Friday, and Friday means rest for me.
Autumn is such a beautiful time of the year, one of my favorites. It's the one time of the year when everybody seems to get reflective together. We think about the things that we're thankful for, the people we love, and the food that we're looking forward to because for some reason or another, we only make it once a year (shout out to Thanksgiving on this one!) But for me, this year is so different.
This year is a fall break spent reflecting on things to come. I've had my share of looking back over the past year, because let's be honest, it was a doozy. I told my dad the other day that 2010 was a year of closure, 2010 was the year of finishing things up. I finished highschool, I finished my time in Ponca City, I finished up a stage in my life...but 2011, man 2011 was my year of jumping off of the high dive into a whole new life. It was a beginning year, beginning to live on my own, beginning new jobs in new cities, beginning college, beginning the next phase of my life. So if I'm to reflect on this year it keeps pulling me back to tomorrow, the "what comes next". That's where my reflections are taking me this weekend, into the next stages of my life, not into a past reflective mode.
This autumn I'm facing challenges that I haven't faced before, and some of them are knocking me off my feet, but just like the challenges that I learned to love in Florida, I like being pushed past my limit. I like running through the pain because I want to go the distance. I like looking at the next few months and knowing that I need to give the tasks at hand my all or nothing 



“There are two mistakes one can make along the road
to truth - not going all the way, and not starting.”

November 3, 2011

Good/Bad/Ugly

This will take less than five minutes to write.
Probably less than three to read.
I'm trying to get to bed before 1 am and I still need to brush my teeth, so I have nine minutes total to figure it out.
But basically, here's my spur of the moment update on life.
It's been real.
Raw.
Sometimes brutally honest.
Like a giant sign is taped to my back that says, "Bring it on, the good, the bad, and the ugly."
And I'm learning how to understand it.
I'm learning so much about what it means to adapt to new circumstances and new challenges and most importantly, new purposes.
I'm finding my purpose in a place that I never wanted to be in.
And it's good.
But I'm also fighting the urge to quit.
There are things in my life right now that are consuming me and I feel so completely inadequate...but for some reason or another, for this moment in time, I'm supposed to be doing them.
So I'm learning what it means to keep trucking on.
To keep being consistent even when it feels like a losing game.
And I'm being honest when I say that even with the the bad and the hard, the good is still winning.
Most definitely, the good is winning.

October 11, 2011

A Year of 18

Last October...
I was running 10 mile runs every other day for fun.
I was spinning and crashing on smiles and heartache in the course of a few weeks.
I was counting down days to go visit my sister in Europe.
I was 17 going on 18.
I was waiting to hear back from Disney.
I was a month away from graduation.
I was road tripping with Payton on perfect Autumn days just to get in the car and drive.
I was learning a lot about the consequences of sin.
I was loving the colored leaves.
I was listening to Mayday Parade nonstop.

Since last October...
I turned 18.
I graduated high school.
I moved halfway across the country to my own apartment to start a new job.
I spent Easter working a 12 hour day till 4 am.
I met hundreds of people from all over the world who changed my life.
I got a glimpse of my weaknesses and strengths.
I had my heart broken by a broken generation.
I ran from relationships like nothing else.
I laughed my way through parade vending and crazy days in the Magic Kingdom.
I ate way too many Mickey Premium bars.
I met the biggest Mayday Parade fan in the world...and she happened to live in my apartment.
I finished a 6 month long internship at the age of 18.
I moved back to Oklahoma to start college.
I met another group of friends who are so completely different from the people who changed my life in Florida...but I think that they'll steal my heart just as completely.

Today...
I'm 24 hours away from turning 19.
I'm looking back at a crazy year of life shaking, world re-arranging, heart altering, incredible memories.
I'm feeling so blessed by all of the people I've had the privilege of meeting in the past year.
I'm really wishing I was in Europe again right now, just because I still have the travel bug.
I'm trying to learn what it means to let down the guards around my heart just a little bit more.
I'm a little sad and a little reluctant to let go of this year, which isn't my typical reaction.
I'm most definitely listening to Mayday Parade as I write this.

This past year was huge for me. So many mile stones. My first paycheck. My first rent bill. Grocery shopping. Car wrecks. Real life. Adulthood. I'm so glad that my 17 going on 18 year old self couldn't see into the future, because I probably would have been crazy overwhelmed with the changes that would happen. As it is, taking this year one day at a time changed my life in the sneakiest of ways. It was an amazing year. A year of skydiving, adventures, non stop action, and the hardest faith but the most worthwhile relationship with God that I've ever had. I wonder where this next year will take me. I wonder what will happen in my life. There are so many things that I'm hoping for, track season, studying abroad, sophomore year, the new Mayday Parade CD, and a million memories to make with the new friends in my life. So here's to the lessons yet to be learned, the pictures yet to be taken, the memories yet to be made...here's to one another trip around the sun. :)



October 9, 2011

October 2011

This weekend was the best.
Friday afternoon, right after my Accounting class was over...
I booked it to the library.
I didn't even stop for lunch (which is a big deal for me.)
Instead, I played the student and I wrote a 4 page paper in 30 minutes...
I finished two Accounting assignments that weren't due till Monday...
J'ai fini mes devoirs de fran├žais pour lundi.
And after all of that hard work was complete, I packed up my backpack and began my weekend.
Best. Feeling. In. The. World.
No homework. No cross country meet. No obligations. Just me and my weekend.
Friday night we had our Powder Puff football game, which was pretty awesome.
If I'm being honest I have to say that the "cheerleaders" were the best part of the whole deal.
Then I got everybody lost after the game on our quest to find pancakes, but we survived and made it in time for midnight breakfast.
Saturday I got to sleep in (which is also a big deal for me, this is literally the first time in at least three weeks when I've had a day when I could sleep in past 8 am. Weekends are dominated by road trips and such.)
I thought that I would go stir crazy when all of my friends were doing their homework on Saturday afternoon, but I drove out and found a great new park to run at, so I had a great afternoon to pound out some pavement. By the way, I'm finally feeling better with the whole SI Joint thing. Now I just have to bump up my iron intake and I'll be as good as new. :)
Saturday night me and Sarah kicked around for awhile before hopping in the car with Andrew, Collin, and Trea to head out to Pops in Arcadia. After which we found an authentic, and I mean authentic, Mexican restaurant. All of this leads up to today, church in the morning with the gang, and afternoon with the family, then a wal-mart adventure that led to Hideaway Pizza with the crew. It's been a good weekend. Great actually.
I'm most definitely not ready for tomorrow, but I'm starting to beat out this restlessness that had me so discontent for the last few weeks. Maybe it's just learning to settle in. Maybe it's just me not wanting to settle down long term anywhere. But I'm beating it. I'm learning contentment again. And I love the friends who are making this such a great ride.
Oh and by the way, only three more full days as 18 year old for me. What a year this has been. What a year.

October 2, 2011

Running With Injuries

This week was rough, mentally.
I've been very demoralized.
My SI joint is out of place, and as a result...
running really hurts.
Really hurts.
And whether I'm fast or not...running keeps me sane.
So having a week when the one thing that relieves my stress all of a sudden has become a huge stress trigger...it hit me hard.
And then, I just got really down.
All of those questions sweeping in...
the,
"What is my purpose here?
"Is this really where I am supposed to be?"
"Does anyone need me here?"
"Did I make the right choice?"
questions.
It's hard sometimes, because I felt so perfectly in place in Florida. I had a purpose there. I knew that it was where I was supposed to be. I was needed. I knew I made the right choice. And to go from such a strong confidence into a place where I'm still battling my pride over the very fact that I'm at this school, I tore myself up inside.
It's not that I want to go back in time.
I don't.
I just want the assurance that I felt while I was in Florida.
But besides the cut and dry fact that this is where God has led me for now...
I don't know why I'm here.
Demoralized.

But this week we had an extra credit, student led chapel. I snuck into it at the last minute.
And I collapsed into the arms of Jesus.
Pure prayer.
Unadulterated worship.
My heart on the line.
My future thrown out of my hands.
My past pushed aside.
Just me and my Savior.
It was everything that I needed.
It was beyond what I expected.
It was God sweeping into my heart and dusting me off.
Picking me up from the floor.
Assuring me that I will never see the full picture.
I will never know if I made a difference in the lives of my friends in Florida.
I will never know if I'll ever make a difference here at SNU.
But the point is, I have to try.
I have to trust in God.
I have to run this race till I'm crawling.
I have to keep moving.

And then as if that wasn't enough, I've had some major time to connect with some of the girls on my team over the past few days.
Late nights talking.
Honesty.
Total open hearts.
And I don't know what he's doing in their lives, but God is taking my brokenness and leading me through it right now.
I've been so encouraged by the friends I have around me, every day I'm so thankful for this cross country team.
Having their support is getting me through these doubts and the discontentedness that I am battling.
They probably don't even realize how thankful I am for them.
Especially on weeks like this week, weeks when I have been so down and ready to just get in my car and drive till I can't see this state in the rearview mirror anyone.
Instead, I'm seeing friends sitting in my backseat, rocking out to Death Cab for Cutie and The Goo Goo Dolls on our way back from from an awesome night at Bricktown...
and I'm shushing up about the things that aren't what I expected.
This race is taking me to places that I never expected to go.
I booked it on the first leg, I've been running this year with a passion that I've never felt before, but now that I've hit a hill...I'm crawling.
I'm pushing up this hill like it's Mount Everest, but I'm still moving.
I'm not giving up.
And I'm learning over and over again that I'm not running this alone.



September 26, 2011

Almost October


Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee...
St. Augustine 

I have the travel bug right now...it always gets bad this time of year. Maybe it's because the sky starts getting a little bit blue-er, fresh washed with that almost Autumn feel. Or maybe it's because the days lose their blazing heat of summer, and it's easy to want to be outside. It could be the smell of bonfires permeating the air late at night. Maybe it's the way the roads look so inviting, maybe that's why I get so restless to jump in a car and drive until I lose all track of time.
Or maybe it's just me. 
Because without fail, this restlessness never goes away. I've been jumpy the last few days. On edge. Discontent. I'm ready to go skydiving again, or hiking, or jet skiing, or something that involves adrenaline/the outdoors/movement/ a road trip/ all of the above. Maybe pumpkin picking or a haunted corn maze. 
Movement. Travel. Adventure. 
Sometimes I like to think that this restlessness, this search for something more, is eternity crying out in my heart. Eternity has been placed inside of me, and sometimes, on nights like tonight, I feel it more than ever. There's more to this life than just homework assignments. There's more to this life than waking up and going through the motions before going to sleep at the end of the day. Eternity is calling me. And until that day when I can answer the call, I will live the life of Heaven as best as I can here on earth...
But I am restless. Seeking adventure. Searching for some unknown voyage to embark on. A road less traveled. An plane to jump out of. An autumn sky to twirl beneath. 

Oh, my ways are strange ways and new ways and old ways, 
And deep ways and steep ways and high ways and low,
 I'm at home and at ease on a track that I know not, 
And restless and lost on a road that I know. 
Henry Lawson 

September 23, 2011

Run In Such A Way


Tomorrow I’m running for a race greater than what I’ve run before.
Before, I have run to prove myself to the world.
Tomorrow, I run for humility.
Before, I have run for my own emotions.
Tomorrow, I run to rely on God.
Before, I have run to compete against myself.
Tomorrow, I run because I have a team that I need to give everything I am to.
Tomorrow I am running a race as a new runner.
I’m running it as a girl who has taken dead last, and who is determined to do better.
I am running tomorrow because I want to run for God.
He gave me two legs.
He gave my the ability to breath in through my nose and out through my mouth.
He gave me encouragement when I was faltering.
And I want to give everything that I am back to him.
So tomorrow I’m running a race differently.
I may still place last.
I may trip.
I may falter.
I may not win any prize.
But my attitude is changing.
Right here, right now, in this night before a run.
I am changing the way I view the shoes I lace up.
I am changing the way I view my training.
Because there is more to this life than just running.
There is a bigger race that I am a part of right now.
And for some reason or another, physically running is playing an important role in my testimony.
So tomorrow, I am running in such a way as to win the prize.
I am running with a passion that I’ve been lacking.
I am running for a cause that I’ve ignored.
I am running towards eternity.
Running for God.
Tomorrow I’m running for a race greater than what I’ve run before.