Who stole your enthusiasm?

6:10 PM

I've gotten into the habit of saying "get excited" sarcastically. As in "Spanish quiz tomorrow, get excited!"or "About to start that 20 page research paper... Get excited!" And recently, I've been struggling to be actually excited about things. Whenever I'm truly excited about something, I tend to play it down and my demeanor suddenly becomes "too cool for school" as I pretend to be mildly amused while suppressing the desire to jump up and down and laugh and giggle at something that sets my heart aflutter. Where did this reservation come from and why can't I shake it? What causes me to cover up an excitement that is bursting from within me? My theory is that somewhere along the line, high school probably, someone convinced me that my enthusiasm made me nerdy or childish and so I chose to reign it in and tone it down in order to please some standard I thought I had to meet.

There's a well known quote from John Green that says, "That's the thing about pain, it demands to be felt." But I think that could be said for most emotions. Enthusiasm demands to be felt, happiness demands to be felt, insecurity, fear, awe, they all need to be felt. In my Theatre and the Church class this morning, my professor was explaining aesthetic experiences and she said "We were created for intense emotion."If we don't allow ourselves to feel our emotions we stunt our growth as people and eventually we'll have to experiences those feelings. If we want to live as we were intended to, we have to let ourselves feel, we have to let ourselves get excited and sad and whatever else we need to. So maybe I'll work on showing my excitement and delight when I feel it, and stop hiding it lest I be judged by some faceless entity that has no real value and purpose in my life. 

Room to Change

8:28 PM

It's no secret that "Drops of Jupiter" is my favorite song. I can't really explain why, but I just really love it. One of the best lines is "[She] reminds me that there's room to change" yea ehhh ehh ehh ehh yeahh.... I've always liked the optimism of it, there is no point at which you cannot change your mind, yourself, your life. But where in life is there this room for change?

Today, in my Theatre and the Church class we were discussing how in acting, "what's true today doesn't have to be true tomorrow". Our choice for a character can change as we grow and learn more about that role. There is freedom to change and to mess up. This led to us talking about how society tells us not to make mistakes, that we have to do things perfectly the first time. Consequently, every time we mess up we throw ourselves into a trench of embarrassment and shame. Why is it so wrong to make a mistake? How do we learn? How do we change and grow as people if we can't make mistakes or change our minds about who we want to be? The people around us often stunt our growth. We stunt the growth of others as well. We place expectations on one another based on the past and we give them little room to change those notions we have of them. We expect our younger siblings to be immature and in need of guidance, but the truth is those siblings grow up and maybe don't need our advice constantly in their ears. We expect our friends to remain constant throughout a friendship, but people change, for the good and bad, and we need to accept that. If we're unwilling to lift our expectations off of people and let them change and be who they want to then we will drive a wedge into our relationship that endangers it's future. Perhaps that's the hardest part of changing yourself, convincing others to accept that change.  

Selfies and Pinterest

7:44 PM

I have tried to find the source of this quote, but I have searched in vain. Now I'm forced to admit that I saw it on Pinterest. But don't judge me for my resources, God can talk to you through any way He chooses to. He chose Pinterest for me. 
"Treat every person you meet today like they are the most important person in the world." 
This has been my challenge for the semester. For me this means being available, listening without distraction, putting the phone away at dinner and listening to people. A theme at TU this year is "Presence" and it correlates perfectly with this goal God has given me. I need to be present in my relationships, giving my undivided attention to whoever asks for it. I also need to be present in my classes. I need to learn to treat my professors like they are the most important people in the world. I'm paying to do so anyway, might as well embrace it. I have a terrible habit of checking out in class and day dreaming, or day stressing about all the things I need to get done and how much time I'm wasting siting in a boring lecture when the notes are posted online. 
I read a post today called "Spiritual Selfies" on A Deeper Story (source) where Jen Hatmaker talks about how often times in our spiritual journeys we become consumed with our own struggles and we focus too much on ourselves. We need to be focusing on others. We need to "prefer others". I want to hear the opinions of others and get to know their stories. There is nothing so fascinating to me as discovering what makes someone tick. What do you love? What do you hate? I want to dive into a friendship and never look back. I'm still learning how to do this, but I'm trying. 
That's my challenge. Figuring out what people need from me and then giving it to them to the best of my ability. It's so easy to be selfish in college. I mean my generation coined the term "selfie". We're continually labeled narcissistic by older generations. I want to break out of this. I want to stop focusing on myself and focus on those around me. Maybe that's why I became a communications major... to learn to communicate. Who knew?

15 Reasons Why Mindy Kaling and I are the Same Person

10:31 AM

I love The Mindy Project and Mindy Kaling in general. I recently finished reading her hilarious book:

I could hardly put it down and while I was glued to it I confirmed what has been a long time suspicion of mine. Mindy and I could be best friends in real life. Now I know that sounds creepy, but read what we have in common and then you'll understand.

15 Reasons Why Mindy Kaling and I Must be the Same Person

  1. We were both wallflowers in highschool, quietly pursuing a passion
  2. We both decided to go to college in the middle of nowhere (Taylor's not as fancy as Dartmouth, but I'll take what I can get)
  3. We are both bad/ awkward with children. We like children, we just don't always have the best instincts with them
  4. We both like dieting, but also like not dieting...
  5.  We take our best friendships very seriously, so we would be unstoppable as friends. 
  6. We enjoy sharing a bed with my friends (no matter the size)
  7. We hate "roast" style humor
  8. We love indian food
  9. We're fans of Amy Poehler, but then who isn't?
  10.  We understand how terribly unrealistic rom coms are, but we love them anyway
  11. We can't understand why it takes guys so long to put their shoes on!!
  12. We have albums that we're emotionally attched to 
  13. We love of Collin Firth, again, who doesn't?
  14. We have the Same ideas on what it takes for a guy to be cool (ie charcol grey peacot and minimal grooming products)
  15. Same favorite scene from Bridget Jones. That "just as you are" lines kills me every time :)


5:44 PM

Well life at TU is back in full swing and I'm still adjusting to the new major. I officially declared my communications major yesterday and it was strangely nerve-wracking. I felt silly being a junior, declaring my major for the first time. I had a lot of firsts this week; I had my first communications class, I signed up to audition for my first musical, I had my first spanish class of college and it is world's different from high school spanish- I might actually have to study! It's been a week of catching up, moving in, hugging, adjusting, and syllabus shock. But mostly this week has been awkward.
I realize now that I'm a junior I really have very little excuse to be awkward and shy. I have to just jump in there and do life. I have to stop worrying about the impression I'm making. I've already learned that life is better when I'm just myself, it's just hard to put that into practice. There's the awkward "introduce yourself to the class" situation where even if people are listening, they immediately forget. There's also the "meeting new people" kind of awkward where you're asking good questions and the conversation is flowing and then you just run out of things to say and a uncomfortable silence settles over the dinner table. Then there's the awkwardness of going into a class and realizing that you don't know a single person in the room and you might, in fact, be the oldest person (besides the prof) in the class.  Finally, there's the kind of awkward you feel when you see someone you haven't seen in months and you can't quite remember how to interact with them. 
So my week has been busy and awkward. The one thing that hasn't been awkward is my time with God. I drove off campus yesterday just so I could worship and be alone with Him in my car. It may have been the happiest half hour of this whole week. God is constant and steady and when life gets uncomfortable and stressful, He is there to completely wipe away the awkward. 
I went to a movie screening a few weeks ago for a film called "In a World" and there was a Q and A with the writer/ director/ main actress. It was discussed how genuine the movie felt and how real the characters were. My sister pointed out that the movie felt so authentic because there were many awkward moments. They didn't just "Hollywood" over the situations in this film, they let them be awkward like real life is. It was uncomfortable, but it make the movie so much more relatable. It made me think that maybe embracing one's awkward side might not be the worst thing. 
So hopefully this was some sort of encouragement if you've been having an awkward week. You aren't alone, haha. I have no advice, except to run to God because otherwise you'll get those sleepless nights where all you can think about is all the stupid things you've done and the awkward situations you've found yourself in. Let's move past the awkward and maybe even embrace that it is something we are going to encounter no matter how much we fine tune our social skills. 
-Also plug for that movie, I got to see it for free so I feel like I need to encourage you to go see it if you're interested. 

When Waiting on God Turned Out to be God Waiting on Me

9:37 PM

I have been obsessed with finding a major since I first stepped on campus for Freshman Orientation two years ago. I have considered every possible option and every career path, pouring over curriculum guides, accepting advice from anywhere I could get it, with the exception of my actual advisor... by the middle of sophomore year I was on my third change of major and hating it. I was running out of time and I still had no idea what I wanted to do. So what do you do when you have to move forward but there's no where left to go? You flee the country. I went to Ireland with the hopes of buying some time to make a decision. I knew several people who had gone on the same program and they all told me what a life changing experience it had been. The Irish Studies Program, where all of your dreams come true! That was how I imagined it. I thought I would spend a semester learning about leprechauns and pressing into God and by the time I got home I would be so assured on God's plan for me. I expected a big "ah- ha" moment with God and I was bound and determined to get one.
 I didn't get one.
My friend Val being a woodland fairy in Ireland with her pink running leggings.

 Ireland was amazing beyond belief, but not in the ways I was expecting. I made the best friends I've ever known, learned in the most unconventional environment, and discovered so much about my self. I did come back from Ireland as a different, more self- assured person, but I still had no clue what I wanted to major in. And that had kinda been the whole point. Or so I thought. I ended up just picking something broad that I could be flexible with when I had to pick a career. Christian Educational Ministries. I convinced myself that I was excited about it. The classes I'd signed up either sounded like they'd be terrifying, or obscenely boring. And yet I had resolved not to change my major for a fourth time. That would be ridiculous! 
 God likes to do ridiculous things sometimes, doesn't He? 

 Post- Ireland me likes to be busy and mildly stressed, I like challenges and trying new things. But most importantly I am insanely in love with God. I have been for many years now, but in Ireland I learned to rely on God in totally new ways. So I picked a major that I thought was reflective of my new intimacy with God, even if I wasn't really excited about it. I thought I had to sacrifice a little bit of my selfish goals for the greater good, to please Him, to follow His plan. But God didn't want me to be miserable serving Him. He wanted me to be joyful serving Him. I though that this meant doing something I didn't want to do, but being joyful about it. 

I'm the one dressed as Ke$ha in the front
 I was a theatre nerd in high school. From the ages of 12 to 18 I was convinced that I would be a theatre teacher. That was my goal, but senior year I realized that I had prioritized theatre over God. I loved going to rehearsal more than going to church. I would read scripts instead of the Bible. I knew this was messed up and God made it very clear that this was getting in the way of me fully experiencing Him. So when I went to college, I left theatre behind. I didn't get involved in the Theatre department at Taylor and it was hard. I was bored and angry. But eventually God found me. Crying on my dorm room floor, begging for a creative outlet and some friends, God gave me Gospel choir. A creative outlet, new friends, and 2 hours of weekly, worshipful rehearsal. I thought this was a fair compromise. Fast forward to Ireland where I was once again without my creative friend group. Being without my security blanket I was forced to make friends with people I never would have otherwise. I was forced to find ways to identify myself without music or theatre. It was uncomfortable and frustrating, but necessary. God knew what He was doing. 

 Going to see Eisely in concert has been my most exciting summer activity
 Now this summer I have been stripped bare once again. All those wonderful people from Ireland are on the other side of the country and I am left rely on God for companionship. I have a small handful of friends still here at home, but it's a big change to adjust to. This summer has found me working at a job I find tedious, exhausting, and, to be frank infuriating. (I'll post about how God is working there later) If anything this job is motivation to make sure I graduate and not get saddled with a job that I hate. Thus the inspiration for my degree change. 

 Several conversations this week have really solidified that God wants me to do what I love. He's giving me back theatre. I love him more than anything now and my priorities have been adjusted and readjusted. "Do what you love" is no longer advice I write off as meant for other, more self- actualized people. I was living under the idea that I will learn to love whatever I do, but God wants me to do what I love and serve Him through that. If I love what I do, the passion will be there and I will look forward to work and my life in a job that I have dreamed of. My schedule for next semester was miraculously easy to change and when I get back to campus in the fall I will be declaring a Communications major. I don't know how to explain it, other than I stopped obsessing and started focusing on God and He brought me the answer I though I already had.

Turning the Page

3:12 PM

Well, I'm back stateside! It was quite the little adventure trying to make my way home, but I finally made it. I'm happy to be home with all things familiar and a summer of infinite possibilities ahead of me, but I'm a little homesick for Ireland and all the people there.

But let's talk about France.

After I left Ireland I spent six glorious days in France with my family and it was a magical experience.

Paris is the most beautiful city I have ever been in. Everything about it so lovely and quaint. It's a place that titillates the senses. The sounds of the metro, though screeching and murmuring make you feel like you're being pulled into an adventure you never expected. I heard music in the rusty creaks of the underground escalators and the voices of arguing Frenchmen in the streets. Everywhere you turn there are more things to see and the most stimulating smells imaginable. On one corner you sniff the peonies from the florist and on the next your drooling over the scent of fresh bread from the Boulangerie.

Amelie is probably my favorite movie and it was such a joy to recognize places simply because I've memorized them from watching that film countless times. Montmartre was my favorite part of Paris. It has such character and I felt like I'd gone back in time to see and experience things in a way that seem to have never changed. The charm of the cathedral and the view of the city that it boasts made me almost wish that I were Catholic, just so I could walk up those steps every sunday and thank God for this beautiful place.

I could go on for hours about how much I loved France, but I will spare you. I will only say, don't be surprised if you find me living there in a few years.

Now it's time to figure out where to go from here. I've been away for almost four months and now I have to fit into yet another temporary situation while I wait for school to start again. I had an interview yesterday for a summer job, so we'll see how that goes. I'm trying to find useful ways to fill my time at home. You can probably look forward to a few recipes that I'm experimenting with and maybe even a little tour of my favorites parts of Houston. It seems I'm going to have to be resourceful for company this summer since most of my high school friends won't be home for summer, lucky ducks. For now, I'm going to keep myself busy by reading, catching up on New Girl, and just being thankful to be back in a sunny place with people that I've been missing. 

You Meet the Whole World Here

9:01 AM

How do I sum up an entire semester in a single post? I can't. If you've been reading you already know many of the things I've learned, but I feel like I need something to close us out since I leave the Emerald Isle tomorrow evening. I guess I shall simply follow suit of my good friends Leanna at between a shamrock and a good place and Arianne at unicorns and peaches.

The most significant thing I got out of this semester was friendships. I'm the type of person who can only be close to two or three people at a time, but here I lived with 31 people day in and day out for three months. We got pretty close as you can imagine. I learned to talk to people and open up to people that I otherwise would have never gotten to know. I'm not best friends with all 31 of these people, but I have more friends now that I think I've ever had in my life and it breaks my heart to think about leaving them tomorrow. I'll see many of them again in the fall, but some of them I may never see again. That is such a dismal thought.

I love these people and we really have become like a big family. I know I sometimes didn't fully appreciate what we've had here, but I have loved living here and I will always remember how beautiful life has been.

This chapter of life is closing and a new one is opening. I'm going back to the states with a fuller understanding of myself and God, a new major, new connections, and an entirely free summer to process all that's happened.

We had a reflection time today as a group and I found a few highlights of my time here that I don't want to forget. I need to remember to appreciate small interactions I have with people because those are often the most important. I also have to remember that even when I feel like an afterthought to everyone else, I am never an afterthought to God.

Yesterday Arianne and I visited our favorite coffee shop for the last time and we sat by the door. A man past us on his way out and he remarked, "Such a charming place isn't it? You meet the whole world here."That was just a beautiful moment. It was like he knew, haha. I felt like he was talking about Greystones. I came here and I met the world. I met all these wonderful people, I met God, and I met myself. I guess Ireland was more to me than I expected.
Oh and for one of our final projects a few of us made a little video. If you enjoy silliness, you should watch it :)

Last Minute Learning

2:31 PM

Labels are dangerous. I am a moderately quiet person and because of that I have been labeled introverted. This has never really bothered me since I believed it to be a fact of my personality. This semester has taught me a lot, but most recently I've discovered that I am in fact extroverted. I get my energy from being around people, talking to people, and sharing things with others. I hate being by myself. I've always thought that the anxiety I felt when I'm alone was just my lack of independence or some flaw in my character. I've always assumed that when I'm stressed that I should spend time alone, but it never helps. I need to talk things out, I need to share experiences with other people. For years I've been trying to fit myself into an introverted box and that has not been working out. 

It seems unfair to label people based on early impressions we have and yet we continue to do it. We're on our last week in Ireland and I'm still discovering new things about the people I've been living with these past three months. I'm so grateful to have met so many beautiful souls on this trip and to have learned so much from each of them. My perspectives on a multitude of things has been changed and I feel like I will be returning to the states as a very different Elyse. God has blessed me and let me feel Him and learn from Him in deeper ways that I thought I could and nothing could ever replace that. Happy has not always been a word that could easily be applied to me, but right now I it is the perfect word. I know it's getting late to be discovering these things since I'll be getting on a place next week, but I finally feel like I'm progressing in so many things that I've struggled with for years. I've been praying so hard for these things and I'm finally getting answers. 
"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." James 4:8

For the Road

11:27 AM

Today was a reminder that life is beautiful. I don't know why I forget that so very often. I went to Dublin today and went to The Hugh Lane Gallery and the National Gallery of Ireland. I love art museums; The calming atmosphere, the gentle whispers of admirers. I love how a single painting can bring tears to your eyes in a way you can't explain. I couldn't take pictures of most of the paintings, I only snagged one of a Renoir and I'm not even sure if I was supposed to. Looking at art has a special way of renewing the soul. All the stress and struggle of life just disappear and melt in to the canvas the longer you stare at it.
I saw for the first time today Jack Yeats' paintings. He's one of my new favorites. I might have been particularly inclined to like him since he is the brother of my favourite poet, William Butler Yeats.

I just found myself staring at these paintings for what seemed like ages. These's pictures don't do them justice. In person they were absolutely breath taking. After one insane week of emotional instability a day of art was just what I needed. Walking around Dublin was therapeutic in and of itself. People watching is my favorite activity and my friend Arianne is incredibly good at creating stories and I feel like she wrote a short story about every person we saw on the train and in the street. 

I also wanted to share this photography project by Haley Morris-Cafiero, a Memphis based photographer. She recently completed a project called Wait Watchers in shich she captures the looks she gets from onlookers. She has been aware of people's reactions to her size, but in this project she captures the essence of their sneers, stares, and laughs. It's a thought provoking piece that makes you wonder if you've ever made such an ugly face at another person.  http://haleymorriscafiero.com/
Hope today finds you in as optimistic a mood as I've had.

Hope in Humility

10:09 AM

One of my biggest insecurities growing up was uncertainty of my intelligence. Since elementary school my closest friends have also been those at the top of the class. I was convinced that I was never smart enough and the people I surrounded myself with only confirmed that my intelligence did not measure up to theirs. My obsession with being "smart" also made me very arrogant around people I thought were unintelligent. I projected my disappointment in myself onto them and instead of valuing their other talents and skill, I only ever looked at their grades. This was not a fun way to live life. I was either feeling shamed by other people's arrogance or inflicting my own arrogance on someone else. At some point in high school I decided that there really were more important qualities in people other than their ability to master calculus or successfully analyze poetry. I made friends in other places and became less concerned with academia. Somehow, though, I still measured my own value in the ability of my brain. Every less than stellar grade, every fumbled math equation instilled in me the belief that I was stupid and I would never really amount to much in this life. When I was a senior people loved to tell me how open my future was and how much potential I had; I didn't really feel that potential, I felt a bit hopeless. 

College has changed that. And God has changed that. The friends I have now are very intelligent people, but they never make me feel like I'm unworthy of their friendship or their time. These relationships are founded in love for one another, not for academics. These friends have done a beautiful job of demonstrating humility to me. They don't laugh at my love for musicals or trashy television, in fact many of them share these loves. They probably don't realize how well they are mirroring Christ. Jesus was the Son of God, he literally knew everything. Yet not once in the Bible do you see him flaunting his intelligence. I don't recall him correcting anyone's grammar. He was gentle when he corrected. Jesus taught out of love, not out of personal gratification. 
It gets to a point in life where you have to stop judging everyone just because they're having more fun than you are. I am so much happier now that I'm not stressing about my grades and keeping myself informed about every little thing going on in the world. I still make good grades and can generally hold a conversation about current events, but I know when to let go and have fun. The humility I've seen in the people around me has helped me stop measuring my worth by my GPA. I actually have hope for my future, and that's a lovely feeling. 

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