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.