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

Erskine blessings

Merry Christmas everyone!  Today is born our Savior!  I pray that the holiday season finds you and your family healthy, happy, and enjoying the many blessings God has bestowed upon you.  I know that, personally, I am so grateful for surviving the last month of school, including a rather stressful exam week.

In honor of the Christmas season, I wanted to resume my blog posts by writing about some of the greatest blessings that God has given me through Erskine.  I do apologise in advance: I have no photos to do this post justice, so my ramblings will have to suffice.  I will make up for it in future posts.  So…(in no particular order) here we go!

I am grateful that, as a Christian college, Erskine brings us all together through our shared faith in so many ways: college chapel services; prayer before classes, meetings, and performances; various organizations and clubs; small-groups and Bible studies; impromptu gatherings in the residence halls; and so many others.

I am grateful for being able to live in Carnegie Hall for 3 of my 4 years at Erskine.  As a freshman, Ms Ruth and my SLAs were always supportive and helpful no matter the emergency (of both the small and large varieties).  I met so many great girls my first year that I still study, laugh, and cry with.  As an upperclassmen, I’ve had the ability to serve as a Student Life Assistant for 3 years (this is my second in Carnegie).  I have an even greater appreciation for my awesome freshman year now that I understand more fully what goes on behind the scenes, and I love being able to watch out for and get to know my girls.  And, lets’ be honest: Carnegie is probably the prettiest building on Erskine’s campus. Who wouldn’t love living in a beautiful hundred-year-old hall?

I am grateful for Ms Ruth, the RD in Carnegie for the past 20 years.  This woman wears a whole lot of hats, most of which she wears quietly.  She has the best stories, knows absolutely everything about Erskine, and has lived a terribly exciting life.  I have learned so much from her and she truly has the best advice.  As an added bonus, Ms Ruth makes sure that the halls of Carnegie are truly decked with boughs of holly, lights, trees, and bows.

I am grateful for every professor I have had the opportunity to learn from.  They challenge me academically and personally–often intertwining–and have truly helped me become a better, stronger, more well-rounded individual.  I am confident that they have prepared me fully for graduate school and beyond.  I know my professors not just as teachers, but as individuals.  I know their backgrounds, their families, and their hobbies.  I cannot think of another college where you would form this type of relationship with one professor, let alone most or all of them.  Erskine often talks about “thriving,” and my professors are the reason I thrive here.

I am grateful that Erskine gave me the opportunity to study abroad at the University of St Andrews.  All of my scholarships transferred, making it very affordable for me to spend this past spring there.  I was more than ready to get there and heartbroken to return home.  St Andrews was so much fun and a priceless experience that I will never forget.  It is hard to be so far away from all of the friends I made there; but on the plus side, I have friends to visit all over the world now!

I am grateful for the psychology department.  At many colleges and universities, psychology can be the “easy” major.  Not here.  I have definitely worked hard for my As and I am amazed sometimes at both the number of pages I have read over the past 3.5 years and how much I have learned.  I know that learning is the point of college, but we as students (and by “we,” I definitely refer at least to myself) tend to get caught up in grades and GPA.  Dr Elsner, for example, always laughs when we come to his office stressing about grades.  As he and the other professors have gradually gotten us to accept, it’s most important to focus on the work and the learning; the grades are secondary.  As a psychology major, I have gotten to write countless papers, learn statistics software,  conduct and present original research, collaborate with other students, participate in a summer research internship, be accepted to intern at a mental hospital this spring, and become the psychology lab manager.  Graduate school? Bring it on.

I am grateful for the music department.  Despite not majoring or minoring in music, I have a music scholarship and get to take voice lessons and sing with the Choraleers.  I’ve also been a member of the Chamber Choir and Bella Voce and performed in opera workshops and various other performances over the past several years.  It is definitely a blessing to practice and perform with such talented individuals, and the faculty … talented doesn’t even begin to describe it.  Some of my favorite college memories relate to Choraleers retreats and tours.  I have grown as a musician and as a Christian and I know my experiences with the department will serve me well in future ministry and life in general.

Continuing with the arts, I am grateful to be an active member of Erskine’s theatre department.  Actually, we technically aren’t even a department, but that certainly does not stop us from acting up a storm!  As a member of Alpha Psi Omega, I get to help make the magic happen both on the stage and behind the scenes.  I had to take a break from the improv this group this past semester, but I hope to finish out my time at Erskine as an active member again this spring.  My fellow Thespians are, quite frankly, talented. And did I mention funny?  They are definitely both.  In sum, if you have never seen any music or theatre performances at Erskine, you are missing out.  We’d love to see you in the audience!

I am grateful for my friends.  Late night studying, paper writing, rehearsing, procrastinating, finding amusement in Due West, 2AM excursions to IHOP, cooking together, and so much laughter …  I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

I could probably easily spend another thousand words  writing about how great Erskine is and how God has blessed me in my time there, but my mom is about to take the baked ziti out of the oven and I am too excited to eat a big chunk of it.  I hope your stomach is as happy as mine is about to be.

I pray that your heart may be content and that this season will bring you happiness and peace.  Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

Thanksgiving in the UK

As an American sojourning in a foreign land, I felt that it was my personal responsibility to introduce my fellow students to the happiness and joy that a genuine spirit of thankfulness can bring to a person (especially when that spirit of thankfulness is expressed in a large turkey!) In other words, I really wanted to cook a whole bunch of food for my friends over here, and let them know what a real American Thanksgiving is like!

It makes sense that they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving over here. After, Thanksgiving is a celebration of a first harvest in the new world, and Scotland is certainly part of the old world. It’s a little more surprising that none of them seem to know what Thanksgiving is about, and many seem to guess that is has something to do with Lincoln. (A fact that I find quite interesting, Lincoln was the first to declare Thanksgiving a national holidays, but US citizens are more likely to think of pilgrims.) What really got me, though, was my friend Rachel declaring that she had never even heard of Thanksgiving! I wondered to myself, what do they DO in Northern Ireland??

Every Thursday evening here in St. Andrews, I take part in a wonderful small group with some of the best people I have met here in Scotland. The group is diverse; we have two Americans, one person from Singapore, three Northern Irish, as well as a healthy blend of Scottish and English students! 🙂 And of course, because small group occurs every Thursday, the two Americans (Vannah and I) realized fairly early on in the term that we needed to introduce our small group to a proper Thanksgiving!

Our Thanksgiving actually happened the day before Thanksgiving, on Thanksgiving eve. Vannah was super amazing, she was the one who really made it happened and organized everyone! She invited all of the guests: all I had to do was show up and help prepare. She and I spent almost the entire day in the kitchen! We made homemade pies, chickens (since most people don’t like turkey 😦 ), green bean casserole, dressing, and sweet tea. The kitchen was exploding with ingredients! I think the best way to describe to you how messy our kitchen was is to tell you there was a point where we LOST an ENTIRE CASSEROLE! That’s when we knew we needed to think about straightening up! J

The most hilarious thing was watching all of the British students see all of our food for the first time. None of them had ever had green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, or even heard of dressing (stuffing!) They wondered at sweet tea and asked if they were supposed to add milk, or if it was alcoholic. They stared at their plates and made comments about how they had never had so many strange foods on their plate at the same time! It was basically hilarious! J  One of the best parts of the evening occurred at the end, when everyone around the table shared what they were most thankful for! It is always amazing to take time to give thanks to the Lord for all of His amazing blessings, and I certainly know I have MANY things to be grateful for!

A wonderful meal with wonderful friends! :)

A wonderful meal with wonderful friends! 🙂

Living Like Jonah

Hello Readers!

I am about to try something bold…very bold. You see, over the summer I was very blessed to be able to go to Wales on a missionary internship with World Witness (the ARP missions organization). My bold attempt is going to be to give a brief summary of an experience that took 42 blog posts over the course of the summer. But here it goes!

My trip to Wales was an amazing experience, and I was able to go abroad with my fiance, who worked with a church a few hills over from where I was. We left on the last day of May and returned to America on the last day of July. I was given the opportunity to do work with the churches and young people in the Pontypridd area in South Wales. The trip was rife with a lot of hard work, a lot of joy, and more new experiences than I care to try and count. This was not my first overseas mission trip, but it was the first time that I had been abroad for so long. It was also the first time that I was able to do ministry as a day-to-day occupation.

I met so many amazing people on my journey and was able to work alongside of so many Welsh brothers and sisters. They were a great encouragement to me in my faith and taught me so much about hospitality and evangelism. Being in Wales gave me such a different perspective on my view of what it means to be a Christian. The European Church culture is far different than that of American Christianity. It is humbling to see people who face such scrutiny and mockery holding on and working so hard for the sake of their Savior.

One of the coolest things about this trip, and a point of relevance, is the connectedness that it had to Erskine. At Erskine I have made connections with many people who have encouraged and supported me in my various endeavors, especially in Wales. Not only have my Erskine relationships been important for my trip to Wales, but Wales was an important step in my Erskine education as well. It served as my practical internship for my Christian Ed major and, aside from the fact that I was able to receive school credit for my trip, it provided a platform for me to use all of the things that I have learned in my time here. My time in Wales has been invaluable to my growth as a student of the Bible, and I am truly blessed to have spent time in such a special place.

If anyone would be at all interested to read more about my trip the link is: http://livinlikejonah.blogspot.com/

God bless!

-BD

 

The BEST WEEKEND of My Life

If you have ever met me before, you may know that I love to describe everything as “the best thing in the entire world!” or perhaps, for some variation, as “the best thing that has ever happened to me!” Most people roll their eyes at my obvious enthusiasm and tell me that I am exaggerating and that whatever has recently happened to me is actually not the best thing that ever happened. This then starts the frequently repeated discussion where I explain that it really is the best thing that ever happened, because it was happening at the same time as I remembered all of the other wonderful things that ever happened to me. And if something wonderful happens tomorrow it will be even better because tomorrow I will also have the memories of today and every other day!!

Most people think I am crazy.

On that note, this weekend was possibly the best weekend of my entire life! For one thing, I did not even have to solve even ONE math problem or attend ANY extremely long lectures. Instead I got to spend the weekend learning about the Word of the Lord and fellowshipping with Christian friends (and drinking lots of tea!) At this point you are probably wondering to yourself, how did Holly manage to have such an awesome weekend?? What a great question! Cornerstone St. Andrews (the church I have been attending here in Scotland) decided they would arrange a weekend away for the Uni students and I decided I would go along.

At first that may seem like an easy enough decision to you: to leave on a Friday afternoon and go for a weekend away in Comrie with your fellow Christian students. Sounds easy, but I was really scared. After all, I have only been in Scotland for one month (today is my one month anniversary in Scotland!) and have only known these girls for a couple of weeks. What if they did not like me? What if I had an awful time? What if they all thought my American accent was weird and decided not to talk to me for the entire weekend! I was quite scared about how the weekend would go.

Despite my somewhat ridiculous fears, the weekend turned out wonderfully! We left on Friday afternoon and drove for about two hours to a small house in a small town called Comrie. Let me tell you, Comrie has got to be one of the most beautiful places ever! It is surrounded by rolling hills, forests, and rivers with riverbeds of small stones. It was one of the most beautiful places in the entire world! One of my favourite parts of the weekend was going out to the river each morning to spend a half hour praying and reading the Word.

Honestly, I am not quite sure who WOULDN'T want to live here!!

Honestly, I am not quite sure who WOULDN’T want to live here!!

The theme of our weekend was ‘Facing Reality.’ We talked about how in our Christian lives surrounding our whole selves to God is more than an afternoon walk in the park and much more than occasional afternoon or evening entertainment. In our small groups we talked about how surrendering your life to God is something that is more about asking the Lord to change your heart and your thoughts than just trying to be a “better Christian” by just doing more “religious stuff.” It is about changing your entire outlook on life and living your entire life for God. We also had an amazing speaker (called Laurence) from the Netherlands who came with us for the weekend and shared his testimony about how he surrendered his life to the Lord at the age of 17 and the ways that the Lord has grown him in maturity and understanding since that time.

A favourite memory from the weekend occurred on Saturday afternoon. After lunch on Saturday we were given a free afternoon until dinner. I was sitting there thinking to myself, what am I going to do with myself all afternoon? Everybody here looks like they all are going to have fun things to do, but what if none of them wants to do anything with me?? But before I could worry anymore about how I would entertain myself, the girls from my Bible study group invited me to come the nearby town of Crief with them! And we had the most FANTASTIC time! We went to a coffee shop to have some tea/coffee and then we went to the park. Let me tell you, Scotland playgrounds have the funnest toys EVER! At first I was not sure if they would all think I was crazy if I threw my backpack on the ground and ran over to the swings and bouncy things, but then I decided that the opportunity was too good to miss!

You have got to admit it looks like a lot of fun! We were running around like crazy! :)

You have got to admit it looks like a lot of fun! We were running around like crazy! 🙂

After this wonderful weekend in Comrie, I am starting to realize that I really love being in Scotland. I love the scenery, and the weather, and the people I have met. I LOVE the girls in my small group and the time we spend studying the Word together every Thursday evening. I am really starting to feel like I am part of a community here in Scotland!

The 8 girls who went to Crief: 4 mums and their 4 academic daughters!

The 8 girls who went to Crief: 4 mums and their 4 academic daughters!

(P.S. Another sweet moment occurred on the first night we arrived in Comrie. My small group of 8 girls were all staying in one room together in a set of 4 bunk beds. That night everyone was getting ready for bed when I went to take a shower. I took quite a long time and expected everyone to have gone to bed when I got out. I came into our room to find that everyone HAD gone to bed, but that they had left the light on for me anyways! All seven of them were rolled up in their duvets like little burritos to keep the light out, but left it on for me so I would not have to search for my bed in a strange place in the dark. It was one of the sweetest things ever and made me feel really welcomed and loved ❤ )

We were excited to find a sweet shop in Crief! :)

We were quite excited to find a sweet shop in Crief! 🙂