Living Lent: World Down Syndrome Day

Today is 3/21, also known as World Down Syndrome Day!  Today’s post is dedicated to my little brother and every beautiful soul that got a little extra love from God–in the form of an extra 21st chromosome.  While in some ways the word “disability” makes sense to me, I find that it limits expectations all too often.  What individuals with Down syndrome may “lack” by the average person’s standards is far surpassed by everything they do have.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, my brother has taught me so much about determination, hard work, forgiveness, and unconditional love.  No one can bring a smile to my face like he can.

heartbeat international

Like this adorable poster reminds us, true love doesn’t count chromosomes.  It doesn’t count shortcomings or wrongs.  Every single child is formed by the loving hands of God, and God does not make mistakes.  Though I cannot pretend to understand what it is like to be the parent of a special needs child, I do understand how such a child has completed my life, my family, and so many other families I have had the joy of meeting over my lifetime.  From being involved in Luke’s therapy, classes, special olympics teams, and life in general; to working with Camp Joy and Joni & Friends campers at Bonclarken for several summers; to every story I read about lives transformed by an extra chromosome, I thank God for these individuals.

Speaking of heartwarming stories…read this one or this one, or take some time to watch this ESPN video or this video.  

From me to you, happy world Down syndrome day and God bless!

In Christ,
Christine

buddies! siblings

a precious moment between my mom & little brother ♥

a precious moment between my mom & little brother ♥

dancing with my dear brother at my sister's wedding-one of my favorite pictures ever! ©Marni Rothschild Pictures,LLC

dancing with my dear brother at my sister’s wedding-one of my favorite pictures ever!
©Marni Rothschild Pictures,LLC

Luke and I matched PJs..we're so cute.

Luke & I got dressed up for his Special Olympics prom last summer

Luke & I got dressed up for his Special Olympics prom last summer

isn't he a stud in his tux & bowtie?

isn’t he a stud in his tux & bowtie?

precious.

Living Lent: blessings abound

Where did today go?  Whether we are knee-deep in classes or on break, it seems that time skips gaily by while I am left in the dust wondering where it went so quickly.

Today I promised part II of my list of blessings, so without further ado, I shall continue. [Sidenote: yes, I have been reading poetry.  Why do you ask?]

my books don't quite fit on my bookshelf...

my books don’t quite fit on my bookshelf…

12. Literature 
Books, books, books.  What is the best book you have ready lately? What is the last book you read?  I have been an avid bibilophile since I was little and scared myself silly reading too many Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books.  I used to get in trouble for reading when I wasn’t supposed to.  (Yeah, figure that one out.)  Literature has provided me with entertainment, friends, profound emotional experiences, a greater understanding of the world, a better perspective of the human condition, and a basis for my understanding of God.  Though I am not the most talented writer in the world, I have a sincere respect and appreciation for those that are blessed with a such a talent.  And I am truly, deeply grateful for the gift of words.

13. Home

Charleston: home sweet home

Charleston: home sweet home

Home is where the heart is.  Home can be anywhere, and is anywhere.  Some once tried to tell me that I couldn’t be homesick for Scotland because it was never home–I respectfully disagree.  I believe that home is anywhere where there is a piece of your heart; though I only spent 4.5 months there, it was enough time for my heart to grow some and leave a piece behind.  Of course, home is definitely wherever my family is, too.
I am getting ready to graduate and go to grad school, though I’m still not sure where yet.  I literally have no idea where I will be in 6 months.  But I am so fortunate to have places to call home.  And I am excited to see where else God will let me call home!

14. Friends
I am blessed to have friends all over the world, even though I don’t get to see many of them very often.  Friends amuse, encourage, love, provide companionship, and help you learn valuable life lessons.  True friends are hard to come by, and quality is definitely more important than quantity.  Who cares how many Facebook friends or Twitter followers you have?  I am grateful for those who know the real me–good points and flaws together–and love me regardless.

Holly decided to surprise me...

Holly decided to surprise me…

my wonderful friend Sarah from St Andrews! she's working in DC now.

my wonderful friend Sarah from St Andrews! she’s working in DC now.

15. Health
Not much explanation is needed here.  Though I would/will praise God no matter what, I am grateful for the health that I have enjoyed thus far in my life.

16. Hope
Hope allows me to dream.  Hope gives me something to smile about on the worst days.  Hope has guided me through darkness.  The capacity for hope is something which separates us from the rest of God’s creation, something which beats pessimism and cynicism.  I hope for a lot of things, and it gives me direction and goals.  Hope shapes our lives in so many ways.

17. Forgiveness
Christ died for me on the cross.  What else needs to be said?  But there IS so much to say.  I mess up daily, hourly.  I am the queen of making mistakes.  God’s forgiveness is one of the single greatest blessings I have known; and I truly appreciate forgiveness from friends, family, and foes alike.  I am grateful for the capacity to forgive others, and how I learn and grow through that process.  I am sp blessed that forgiveness  affords me opportunities for new beginnings.

18. Oxygen
Breathing is, well, necessary for survival.  I am blessed to have every breath that God has allowed me in my life.

came across this gem while exploring St Andrews

I came across this gem while exploring St Andrews

19. Nature
Speaking of life…how incredible is the world in which we live?!  We get our food, the components of our clothes and houses, and so much of our inspiration from the natural world.  From the daffodils blooming everywhere right now to the mountains to the vast ocean, and everything in between, I consider the earth to be a blessing from God.  Though it’s easy to take it for granted,  I appreciate any opportunity to be out in the fresh air soaking up the sun.  Or being rained on.  Snow is great, too.  I’m not really picky.  And sunsets are often known to stop me in my tracks.  God is truly the greatest artist!

I took this outside of my dorm in St Andrews last spring

speaking of daffodils: I took this photo outside of my dorm in St Andrews last spring.

20. Peace
The more I hear about the war and unrest and fighting in other areas of the world, the more I feel blessed to live in such peace and stability.  (Governmental disagreements aside.)  Yes, crime happens.  Yes, We have been victim of terrorist attacks.  But compared to countless millions who live in constant fear for their lives, I am so blessed to sleep each night feeling safe.

21. Children
How can the sight or sound of a young child–especially a baby–not make you smile?  Children represent imagination, innocence, hope, joy, love.  I hope to be a mother some day, and for now I cherish any opportunity I have to spend with kids.  Every child is truly a gift from God!

22. Emotions–all of them

happiness.

happiness. [photo by Mayank Kapadia]

When I say all of them, I mean the bad ones as well.  Without sadness or anger, how can you understand true joy?  Without frustration, relief means little.  Emotions remind me that I am alive.

23. (one to grow on) YOU!
Whether I know you personally or not, I know that God made you with care and that He has a great purpose for your life.  I consider it an honor and a blessing to share this world with you, and to be able to share pieces of my life with you.

In Christ,
Christine

Living Lent: 22 years of gratitude and counting…

Wow!  Starting a blog series right before midterms week was poor timing on my apart.  I apologize for taking so long to start writing again!  I am not going to publicly admit how many days last week I napped in the Student Center rather than getting a proper night’s sleep.  This was one of my most overwhelming midterm weeks ever, especially considering that I had no midterms in St Andrews…

Speaking of St Andrews: I was in Paris, France, a year ago today! My, how the time has flown.  I miss so much about Europe and am looking forward to visiting again some day.

But on to my post for today.  A week ago I turned 22 (which feels sort of old when you live in a dorm full of 18- and 19-year-olds…) and despite my hectic and stressful week, so many little things along the way reminded me just how blessed I am.  Lent is a time of reflection, preparation, and gratitude, so today’s post is 22 things for which I am grateful.

1. Faith
I am grateful for my Faith in God, in His love and mercy.  I have faith and hope for forgiveness and salvation.  My faith has strengthened me and saved me in my darkest moments.  I have faith in people, in love, in goodness, in the future.  Faith is all-encompassing in life and the anchor for my soul.

One of my all-time favorite photos of the 3 of us! Me, Luke, and Aimee; photo taken by my other sister, Nicole

One of my all-time favorite photos of the 3 of us! Me, Luke, and Aimée; photo taken by my other sister, Nicole

family photo from Nicole's & Jeremy's wedding, June 2012

family photo from Nicole’s & Jeremy’s wedding, June 2012 (photo ©Marni Rothschild Pictures, LLC)

2. Family
We are by no means perfect, but my parents and siblings are my biggest support and encouragement.  I am so blessed to call my mom one of my best friends.  I appreciate [though I do not say it nearly enough] that I can sit and talk to my parents for hours about literally anything.  I am so grateful to have a little brother with Down syndrome.  Growing up with a special needs sibling has taught me countless valuable life lessons and given me a completely different outlook on life.  I know no one who embodies unconditional love the way that Luke does.

3. Erskine
Though originally I had no intention of going to Erskine (who wants to attend college where her sister goes?!), I am so glad that God led me here.  I have learned so much, been challenged in ways I never expected. made amazing friends, travelled so many fun places, gained valuable life lessons and mentors, and become more certain of the path which God desires me to follow.

4. St Andrews
St Andrews CastleJust as Erskine has shaped me and changed me for the better, my study abroad experience is probably the single experience of my life that has most helped me to realize who I am and gain confidence in myself.  I left last January knowing not a single person, and left 1 June with scores of great friends and countless life-changing experiences.  I have a stronger faith and a different perspective of the world from studying in Scotland and travelling around Europe.  Of course, I now have what feels like an insatiable desire for travel and adventure…I am so excited to see what my next opportunity will be!

5. Singing
I by no means have the best voice in the world, but I truly love singing and that voice that God DID give me has allowed me the opportunity to be involved in so many different choral ensembles, from my church choir to high school chorus and show choir to several groups at Erskine.  I am a veteran member of the Erskine Choraleers and have also sang with Bella Voce and the Chamber Singers.  I am grateful for the ministry that music provides in my personal life as well as the opportunity to use music as my ministry in church.

the finale pose from my sister's senior music project, "All That Jazz." (photo by Whitney Adkins)

the finale pose from my sister’s senior music project, “All That Jazz.” (photo by Whitney Adkins)

6. Dance

some of my SwingSoc family from St Andrews--such talented dancers from all across the UK & Europe! (photo by Henry Legg)

some of my SwingSoc family from St Andrews–such talented dancers from all across the UK & Europe! (photo by Henry Legg)

From the time I knew what one was, I wanted to be a ballerina.  When we played dress up as kids, 9 times out of 10 I wore the tutu.  When I was 6 or so years old, we hosted a French exchange student who taught me how to do a pirouette and I practiced until I was too dizzy to walk.  My family moved to SC when I was 8 years old, and within a year I started taking ballet lessons.  I continued for 6 or 7 years, even progressing to learning pointe (yes, dancing on your toes. yes, OUCH).  High school afforded me the opportunity to branch out and learn some different dance forms, as well as the art of singing AND dancing–a.k.a. show choir.  Since I’ve been in college, and especially since studying abroad, I have fallen in love with all things swing dance related: traditional, Charleston, lindy hop, blues…[Speaking of which, if you have never seen the I Charleston St Andrews that we in the St Andrews Swing Dance Society made last year, you should definitely watch it!]
Dance is a part of my heart, a part of who I am and how I relate to the world.  I am grateful for any and every opportunity to practice and share my love.

7. Theatre

with Tillary Blackman ('13) in Arsenic and Old Lace: possibly my favorite scene I've ever acted. (photo by Katie Putnam)

with Tillary Blackman (’13) in Arsenic and Old Lace: possibly my favorite scene I’ve ever acted. (photo by Katie Putnam)

No, I am not going to list every art form that I can possibly think of (though I am definitely grateful for all of them!).  Singing, dancing, and acting, though, are all art forms which I especially love.  I truly enjoy acting on stage, doing tech work or working back stage, and watching performances.  I love the challenge of learning a new character and bringing her/him/it to life, the challenge of improvisation, the chaos of tech week and opening night, the feeling of pride earned by a successful performance.  Long rehearsals test patience, energy, and relationships but ultimately strengthen all of these.  I know that my participation in theatre will only help me in my life.

8. Freedom
Sounds cheesy, or cliché, I know.  But how many countries actively persecute Christians? How many countries severely limit the rights of women?  Yes, we can sit here and debate the meaning and context of the word “freedom,” but I am grateful for the opportunities that growing up in the United States has afforded me.

9. Sleep
If college has taught me anything, it is the value of sleep.  I think back now to when I hated going to bed as a child, or when I used to wake up at 4AM and go to the basement to read or play by myself while everyone else slept.  The 22-year-old me wants to ask the 6-year-old me, “WHY?!”  It is so easy to make other things a higher priority than sleep, but it really is essential to proper functioning and good moods.  I truly am grateful for the times that I get a good/full night’s sleep.  Nap time, anyone…?

10. Food
Along the same lines, who doesn’t like food?  It’s delicious.  It’s satisfying.  It’s strengthening.  It makes you feel happy, body and soul.  Nothing says home and love like Mom’s home-cooked dinner.  Food is a common denominator of our social gatherings.  Food encompasses culture, tradition, seasons, memories, creativity (yeah, that art thing again…), nature, and love.  Though I cannot say that I love every food I have ever tried, food is definitely one of the ways I know for a fact that God loves us.

11. Social Media
“Aha! Another Facebook addict!”  I know you’re thinking it. Yes, you.  And perhaps I am slightly guilty as charged, though I’m working on it.  While realizing the importance of maintaining a healthy balance, I do believe that most of these platforms can be very useful.  My primary use for Facebook is staying in contact with all of my friends from abroad and all over the United States.  We are using Pinterest as a common space to plan my sister’s bridal shower, and I use it to collect articles and information relevant to psychology and therapy.  I get the majority of my world news from Twitter.  Everything in moderation, but I really am grateful for these connections.

Odd place to stop for the day, but I’m halfway and this is quite a long post.  So…stay tuned tomorrow for part II! [I seem to like multi-part posts.]  Until then, I’d love some feedback!  Do you agree with some of the points that I made? Do you disagree with any? What are you most grateful for today?  What am I forgetting? How cute is my little brother? [Correct answer: the cutest!]

In Christ,
Christine

Living Lent: Hope

“Blessed are they who hope in the Lord!”  As we repeated this between refrains during the responsorial psalm in Mass yesterday, I said it with practiced ease.  I have grown up hearing and believing these words for my entire life.  When I woke up this morning with them still on my mind, however, I realized that lately I haven’t believed them enough.

They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles’ wings;
They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.
[Isaiah 40:31]

If you have lived on this earth for any amount of time, you–like me–have no doubt experienced stress, heartache, worry, grief, exhaustion, or any combination thereof.  If you are an Erskine student, you have perhaps experienced one or some of these in the past week, and likely will in the next week and a half until Spring Break–otherwise known as MIDTERM TIME.

stress... As this particular verse from Isaiah reminds us, placing our hope in the Lord renews our strength! I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling pretty weary from my busy schedule and long “to do” list right about now.  As I started writing this post, I tried to think about the last time I thought about hope.  I certainly hope for many things in my own life: love, acceptance, forgiveness, an A on a test, being accepted to my ideal PhD program, healing, focus…that list could go on all day.  I have so many hopes for my family and friends, and for all of those hurting and suffering in the world.  But do I place my hope in the Lord?  God knows every intention and desire of my heart, yet (as I wrote about yesterday) He appreciates thoughtfulness.  Prayer is thoughtful. Prayer is thought-full.  Prayer is hopeful, hope-filled.  And my faith is the source of all of my hope.  I can’t remember the last time I actually pondered the idea; so today I have decided to reflect on how hope has helped me and sustained me, and why Lent is such a great time to refocus on it.

You changed my mourning into dancing;
you took off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness.
With my whole being I sing endless praise to you.
O Lord, my God, forever will I give you thanks.
[Psalm 30:12-13]

I have an internship at Patrick B. Harris Psychiatric Hospital in Anderson, SC, this semester.  Though I want to talk more about this experience at a later date, this experience is worth mentioning in this context as well.  Working at the hospital, I interact with and hear stories every day from patients who have suffered from major depression.  I have heard stories of despair, emptiness, isolation, and suicide attempts.  These stories are a daily reminder of my own struggle with depression and anxiety my sophomore year at Erskine.  As a Christian who desires to work in the mental health field I actually thank God now for that experience, miserable though it was.

Some Christians have this misconception that mental illnesses, particularly depression & anxiety, happen to people when their faith is not strong enough, when they are not praying hard enough, or something along those lines.  I would like to go on the record as saying that that is completely 110% untrue.  The most difficult part of my depression was that I did have strong faith, yet I could no longer feel God’s presence and guidance in my life as I used to.  My faith never left me, though; on the contrary, it was my faith in the Lord that kept me going and gave me hope.  Eventually, as the Psalm above says, God changed my mourning into dancing, my depression into joy.  And now I have an understanding and empathy for the patients and for friends of mine going through a similar dark time.  I thank God for my suffering AND my health.

My soul, be at rest in God alone, from whom comes my hope.
God alone is my rock and my salvation, my secure height; I shall not fall.
My safety and glory are with God, my strong rock and refuge.
[Psalm 62:6-8]

My biggest worry right now, I think, is where I will be going to graduate school next year.  I have been accepted to a Masters program but was rejected from 3 PhD programs and have yet to hear from 2 others.  I am trying to take this not-hearing as a good sign; yet I have been worrying and stressing and waking up at night since December 1st, wondering whether any of the programs will accept me.  Yesterday and today have been a welcome and much-needed reminder to myself to hope and trust in the Lord.  I hope for another offer of admission, but more than that I hope to be where God can use me and shape me best to do His work.  I may be stressed about my school work and busy schedule, but I choose this Lent season to actively place my hope in the Lord.

What is your greatest hope right now?  In what ways has God taught you the value of hope?  How do you remind yourself to have hope when life seems overwhelming?

This post was longer than I intended it to be when I began writing, but thank you for sticking with me and for taking the time to read it.  You are in my prayers and on God’s mind.  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit [Romans 15:13].

God bless you and keep you,
Christine

Living Lent: Ash Wednesday

+:-)     How cool is it that there is a ready-made emoticon for Ash Wednesday? (This twenty-first century student appreciates it at least.)

Today begins Lent, the season of preparation for Holy Week and the Easter season.  Erskine bonus: being surrounded by Christians means that I don’t often need to explain what Lent is, or why I currently have ashes on my forehead.  [Another Erskine bonus: being able to go to church with your professors!]  Many students here choose to give something up or make some sort of extra effort for the next 40 days, and I love hearing how creative they are.  It is a reminder of something my priest said in Mass this morning: God appreciates our thoughtfulness and our efforts, not perfection.  In my personal life, I can say that I seldom think about God from that perspective–I have a guilty conscience and ruminate on the countless ways I mess up and fail.  But God is our Father, our friend, our greatest supporter, and the truest and greatest giver of love.  As much as He does for us every second, He notices and appreciates gestures of kindness and thoughtfulness!

Though I am choosing to make sacrifices and/or changes in my personal life, I am not sharing the majority of those in the blog.  I am, however, undertaking a sort of project on the blog for Lent and I would love for you to follow along and be involved.  The series will be loosely based on Love Life Live Lent, and  I got the idea from a friend in St Andrews who is doing it this year for the second time.

I have discussed the idea with the communications department here (which supports this blog) and they are graciously providing me with support and guidance.  I will post updates daily (or as often as possible) about my projects, discussions, questions, and thoughts.  You will also get to read perspectives and thoughts from other members of the Erskine community, which may be a welcome change from my voice.  One of my intents of my Life Lent project is to encourage thought and discussion in our community, which includes you!  I welcome and ask for feedback, questions, and ideas.  I also want to preface by reiterating that I am Catholic, so many posts will likely include things about my personal faith perspective and traditions.  There will be many others, though.

This post may seem rather vague, but I want there to be some element of surprise regarding what I choose to do each day.  Though I may discuss personal projects I undertake or struggles I have, I have no intention of making this project about me.  I  hope to focus on community, faith, and perspective.  Please comment or contact me with any input, insight, or ideas you may have.

I will close today with a brief explanation of why Catholics (and others) receive ashes on this day each year.

The Christian tradition of the dies cinerum (day of ashes) began in the 800s AD but ashes have been used for repentance and penance for thousands of years in myriad cultures.  The ashes we use are the ashes of the palms we burn on Palm Sunday, sprinkled with holy water and blessed by four traditional prayers.  In the Old Testament, ashes are an outward sign of repentance (example: Daniel 9:3-6).  Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of a time of repentance, assessment, and a new beginning.  We have all heard something along the lines of, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19), or “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”  Ashes are a sign of physical death; our physical bodies may die, and we intend to die to our worldly desires, but we have the hope and faith of eternal life with God.

I am so grateful for a schedule that allowed me time to make it to Mass today!

I am so grateful for a schedule that allowed me time to make it to Mass today!

“A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me.”
[Psalm 51:10-11]

God bless you and keep you,
Christine

snowpocalypse: Erskine edition

In case you live under a rock, or on the opposite side of the world, or in the tropics, let me be the first to tell you that the southeastern United States got snow dumped on us this past week.   Actually, I think I read somewhere that 49 of the 50 states in the Union have snow on the ground.  How often does that happen??

We had classes cancelled Wednesday, Thursday, AND Friday this week.  Yes, that means I am currently just past halfway through an unexpected 5-day weekend.  Some of us have been grateful for the extra time to work on papers or study for postponed tests.  Some of us have spent our days [and nights] having snowball fights and building igloos (no, really. there’s a picture further on).  Some of us have discovered how difficult it is to walk gracefully–and walk without slipping–on icy snow.  Some of us experienced our first EVER snow day (poor Floridians!).  Some of us discovered the magic of snow cream.  And ALL of us have enjoyed the extra sleep and fun time with our friends!  Below are some photos I took this week.

outside of Moffatt Dining Hall

outside of Moffatt Dining Hall

someone built a snowman under the Towers! (Erskine Building and Philo Hall in the background)

someone built a snowman under the Towers! (Erskine Building and Philo Hall in the background)

looking out of Carnegie over the parking lot and softball field

looking out of Carnegie over the parking lot and softball field

looking out of my ice-covered car window

looking out of my ice-covered car window

obligatory snow selfie, because I adore snow.

obligatory snow selfie, because I adore snow.

frozen fountain!

frozen fountain!

the Engler house on Pedestrian Highway looking even prettier than usual

the Engler house on Pedestrian Highway looking even prettier than usual

Since many of you have probably not been at Erskine when there was snow on the ground (this is only my 2nd experience in my 4 years), and since I have a lot of friends who are talented photographers, I thought I would share Erskine snow days through the eyes of my fellow students.  There is a lot of scrolling, but I promise it’s worth it.  Thank you so much to all of my friends who have agreed to let me peruse their Facebook and Instagram accounts and include their photos in this post. [Click on any photo for a larger version.]

what a stylish snowman! photo from Autumn Horne '17

what a stylish snowman! photo from Autumn Horne ’17

roommates having fun in the snow! Cali Colbert & Jordan Joseph, both c/o '17

roommates having fun in the snow! Cali Colbert & Jordan Joseph, both c/o ’17

looking toward Belk Hall (background) with Bowie Arts Center to the right. photo by Ashley Strickland '17

looking toward Belk Hall (background) with Bowie Arts Center to the right. photo by Ashley Strickland ’17

friends in the snow! Danica Newton & Ross McEwan, both c/o '17

friends in the snow! Danica Newton & Ross McEwan, both c/o ’17

ready to go sledding! Norma Deluna & Clarissa Stiving, both c/o '17

ready to go sledding! Norma Deluna & Clarissa Stiving, both c/o ’17

I've always loved this tree; Belk Hall is to the right. photo by Sami Maree '14

I’ve always loved this tree; Belk Hall is to the right. photo by Sami Maree ’14

during and before the snow; photo by Sami Maree '14

during and before the snow; photo by Sami Maree ’14

Erskine Building, photo by Sarah Baroody '16

Erskine Building, photo by Sarah Baroody ’16

photo by Sarah Baroody '16

photo by Sarah Baroody ’16

Erskine bushes outside of the library, photo from Sarah Baroody '16

Erskine bushes outside of the library, photo from Sarah Baroody ’16

Someone gave the statue some hipster accessories a few weeks ago. photo from Tegan Van Rijn '17

Someone gave the statue some hipster accessories a few weeks ago. photo from Tegan Van Rijn ’17

photo from Tegan Van Rijn '17

photo from Tegan Van Rijn ’17

looking out of the dorm window; photo by Mika Goyette '15

looking out of the dorm window; photo by Mika Goyette ’15

Pete Savarese (’15) braved the snow in crutches (and shorts!) to spend some more time on the soccer field

Sally Caldwell & Clara Formby, both c/o '16

Sally Caldwell & Clara Formby, both c/o ’16

photo from Sally Caldwell,'16

photo from Sally Caldwell,’16

Galloway in the snow; photo by Corey Marks '16

Galloway in the snow; photo by Corey Marks ’16

photo by Corey Marks '16

photo by Corey Marks ’16

a group of "Erskimos" spent hours building an igloo on The Circle! Over 30 people, including the Due West police, helped out. photo from Jeanne Bell

a group of “Erskimos” spent hours building an igloo on The Circle! Over 30 people, including the Due West police, helped out. photo from Jeanne Bell

photo by Miranda Guthrie '16

photo by Miranda Guthrie ’16

the Erskine Building, photo from Tegan Van Rijn '17

the Erskine Building, photo from Tegan Van Rijn ’17

Alumni Gate, photo by Sami Maree '14

Alumni Gate, photo by Sami Maree ’14

Euphie Hall, photo by Sami Maree '14

Euphie Hall, photo by Sami Maree ’14

Anna Raquel  Robison & Danica Newton, both c/o '17

Anna Raquel Robison & Danica Newton, both c/o ’17

looking toward Memorial Hall; photo from Danica Newton '17

looking toward Memorial Hall; photo from Danica Newton ’17

Norma Deluna ('17) catching snowflakes

Norma Deluna (’17) catching snowflakes

looking across the mall toward Watkins Student Center, photo from Sarah Baroody '16

looking across the mall toward Watkins Student Center, photo from Sarah Baroody ’16

Erskine’s Renaissance man

[note: this and a previous post are articles written a couple of months ago for the Erskine Communications Office.]

When I was asked  to write about my professors and the impact they have made on me, many names flashed through my mind but the first and strongest was Dr. Elsner, one of my psychology professors.  I have had the honor of knowing him for almost 5 years now since I met him as a junior in high school when visiting my sister at Erskine.  Ijust completed my fourth class with him and I loved every minute (almost–his quizzes are never much fun, but they challenge us!).  I also work with him as the psychology lab manager and through the psychology society.  His classes and the work and research I have done as a result have prepared me for graduate school more than anything else.

Dr. Elsner is the truest living example of a Renaissance man that I have ever had the privilege to meet.  He has over a dozen advanced degrees, is a Cordon Bleu chef and a Scout Master, and is an artist of various mediums.  The walls of the psychology lobby in the Erskine building are dotted with about twenty of his paintings and drawings.  I have had stimulating conversations and discussions with Dr. Elsner about all sorts of topics—theology, literature, dance, cars, neuroscience, and beyond—which always leave me feeling impressed with his wealth of knowledge and woeful of mine.  Rather than making me feel ignorant and lacking, though, he encourages me in my capabilities and potential and truly encourages me to make the most of my talents and abilities.

Everyone associated with Erskine is familiar with our mission statement, and we frequently hear about engaging students and developing as whole persons in our Christ-centered environment.  One of the things that has always struck me most about Dr. Elsner, in addition to his intelligence and talent, is how he earnestly seeks to know his students, colleagues, and friends as whole persons.  Even meeting him as a junior in high school, his words to me showed an honest desire to know who I am past my academic and extracurricular achievements and how he could best help me fulfill God’s calling for my life.  I study and work in the psychology lab or lobby nearly every day, and I see this same quality in every conversation I have heard between him and his students and colleagues.  He will graciously take the time to talk to, and counsel, any soul that knocks on his door–and always with a smile.  He has attended more student sporting events and performances than probably any other student or faculty member at Erskine.  I think that if I succeeded in investing as much time as he does into people, I would never have time to sleep.  He is truly one of the most honest examples of how to live by true Christian standards that I know.

Dr. Elsner is my professor, my advisor, my boss, and my friend.  He has been a literal shoulder to cry on through some of the hardest struggles of my life and one of my biggest cheerleaders at performances.  I know that compliments from him are sincere and that critiques are encouragement to perform to my full potential.  He has helped me find and develop strengths that I didn’t know I have, encouraged me in making difficult moral decisions, and offered a safe haven when I was struggling with depression and anxiety.  Aside from my family, no one has had a greater or more positive impact on my life.  Words are truly insufficient to express my gratitude to him.