Tiffa-Wiffa-Maniffa-Bodiffa (And Other Related Matters)

The first thing I did after I did after I got out of my last class on Friday was take a nap. (That wasn’t particularly exciting, but since I am a college student I often have to make sleep a priority whenever I can!) But AFTER I took my nap, I left Due West and headed out for my exciting weekend!

I started by having dinner with my lovely (graduated) roommate from my sophomore and junior years of college. The sweet and kind Victoria lives in Anderson with her husband, Michael. Victoria and I went grocery shopping, made dinner, and talked and talked and talked! It was a lovely dinner and I am pretty sure all three of laughed through the entire thing!

My sweet Victoria :)

My sweet Victoria 🙂

After I left these dear friends around 9 pm, I drove myself back to Due West and then met Tiffany in the Carnegie parking lot to begin our drive to Columbia. (Considering that we were only going for the weekend, I assume you will automatically know that we were going the city in South Carolina rather than the country!) Now, before you comment that us driving to Columbia at 9:30 pm at night is strange, let me tell you what my response is going to be: you have probably done some strange things in your life! Also, Tiffany had a concert on Friday night and I had dinner with the Green family, but we both really wanted to get to Columbia on Friday night so that we could be there bright and early on Saturday morning! 🙂

Several weekends ago, we went to Columbia and played with puppies!

We needed to get to Columbia to get back to these puppies!

What, you may ask, put us both in such a hurry to get to Columbia? Good question! This weekend I had the privilege of spending the weekend in Columbia with not only Tiffany, but also her parents AND grandparents! Now, in case you are one of those poor unfortunate souls who does not know Tiffany and her family or who has not read my blogs enough to become familiar with them, Tiffany has been my friend throughout my entire four years at Erskine.

Tiffany came to see my sister and I at my house back in January!

Tiffany came to see my sister and I at my house back in January!

Tiffany and I actually met on the very first day of freshman orientation, in the dorm, as we were getting dressed and ready to go to Soiree. I suppose what you might expect me to say next is that we instantly became friends and have been best friends ever since! While that would be rather cute to say, that is not actually quite what happened. After that first night we each went off and made new friends and hardly saw each other during the first few months at Erskine. But, as we were both math majors, and had several classes together second semester, we gradually started studying together and then gradually spending more and more time with each other. And then suddenly I had a new best friend! [For those who are literarily inclined – “Gradually and then suddenly!” 😉 ]

I actually wrote a blog which includes the story of how I met Tiffa… which you can read by clicking here! 🙂

Many lovely weekends in the past several years have been spent in the company of Tiffany and her family, especially this past semester. After Tiffany and I returned home from Scotland, we were used to spending every day with each other. Suddenly forced apart as she lived on campus as an SLA and I commute 30 minutes to school, we had to begin actually making efforts to spending time together. (That is, when we were in Scotland, we shared a room. So literally all I had to do was roll over and look at her to have a conversation. Now I have to drive half an hour- which MOST people would consider to be more effort than simply rolling over in bed.)

This weekend we had such nice weather! :)

This weekend we had such nice weather! 🙂

Weekends with Tiffany and her family are the absolute BEST! Not only do I get to spend time with Tiffany, I get to spend time with her entire family. First of all, Tiffany’s mom is hilarious! (Actually, when I told her that I was going to write a blog about her this weekend she cracked me up by offering up all sorts of wonderful descriptions I could use for her in my writing). While almost all of the terms that she came up with are mostly true, I really love spending time with her because she is so much fun to be around. As soon as Tiffany and I walk into the door she is running around, telling us stories, and (of course!) handing us lists of things to do!

While Tiffany’s father is not nearly as talkative, he is equally as kind. Tiffany’s dad is really good at planning and making sure every need is taken care of- from making sure that everyone has all of the ingredients to make dinner to checking that each person has their favorite drink at dinner. Before any of us even think of anything, he has already thought of it- and taken care of it! I suppose that might be described as foresight? Whatever it is, he has it!

Tiffany’s grandparents are such darlings, and they say the most hilarious things. For instance, Tiffany and I were hanging out with them today and talking about the recipes Tiffany wants to learn to make before she wants to get married. She listed them all – chicken and dumplings, chicken tacos, baked chicken, fried chicken, grilled chicken….. and Tiffany’s grandfather just looks at her and says, “Chicken, chicken, chicken, bawk, bawk, bawk!” Tiffany’s grandmother is so sweet! She and I both like to collect and send greeting cards- she has hundreds of them in her room! Spending time with them and Tiffany’s parents made this weekend, and many weekends in the past, a memory I will always cherish 🙂

We all went out to lunch at the Lizard's Thicket yesterday- but, don't be fooled! They don't actually serve lizards!

We all went out to lunch at the Lizard’s Thicket yesterday- but, don’t be fooled! They don’t actually serve lizards!

One of the reasons that I am so happy I chose to attend Erskine is that it has given me the chances to make friends with sweet girls like Tiffany, and get to know them over a period of time as we take many classes together. Yes, there are only several math majors at Erskine. But because there are only a few of us, we really have the opportunity to bond and get to know each other way better than we ever would have otherwise. Tiffany and I will both graduate from Erskine this May- only 40 days, 13 hours, and 20 minutes from now- but we plan to be best friends for the rest of our lives! 🙂

Tiffany is as cute as this puppy- and that's saying something!

Tiffany is as cute as this puppy- and that’s saying something!

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,

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?


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. [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,

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,

homecoming 2013

Erskine’s Homecoming, the last of my undergraduate career, was 26 October.  I do not think that finality sank in until just now, as I write this.   Does anyone know where the homecoming tradition came from?  I was on Skype with Aaron, my best friend from St Andrews, the morning of homecoming and in the process of telling him about the day’s events, he asked me what homecoming is. 

How do you describe such an American tradition to one who has never experienced it?  Apparently I did a sufficient job, but he still laughed at our odd ways here on the other side of the Pond.  That was an interesting cultural realisation for me: something which I have always sort of innately understood is an alien concept to most of the world.  But I digress.

This year, Erskine combined Homecoming with our Fall Fest–organised and sponsored by the Erskine Entertainment Board–and parent’s day.  Between the families, friends, students, faculty, and alumni present, it was the busiest I have ever seen the campus.  Breaking character for a day, this quiet little academic village was buzzing from dawn well past dusk.  Also a big deal this year: 2014 marks the 175th anniversary of Erskine College, in case you didn’t know.  On the 24th, we were lucky enough to get to hear about life as a member of the centennial class from Mrs. Dot Simpson Wise, Erskine class of 1939, in a special convocation ceremony.  After the interview, Erskine gave us free 175th anniversary t-shirts, which you will see in a few of the photos below.  Anyone who has been to college understands the excitement of a free t-shirt.  I think I could go a month wearing only Erskine shirts.  This is not a complaint.

classic car, classic shoes, classic Erskine. and the free t-shirt. I love my college. (and my mum-she let me borrow her old saddle shoes!)

this year’s homecoming theme was 1950s; classic car, classic shoes, classic Erskine. and a free t-shirt. I love my college. (and my mum–she let me borrow her old saddle shoes!)  [photo by Evan Gursky]

Traditionally, Erskine holds an event called Fleet-o-Rama the night before.  This involves music, food (often including fire for roasting marshmallows! s’mores, anyone?), float decorating, and other activities.  Despite the chilly weather, it was a fantastic time.

The day itself featured the homecoming parade, an auction, performances by the Choraleers and Gospel Choir, an athletic banquet, exhibition games by various athletic teams, the soccer games and homecoming court, and the concert that evening.  If you are anything like me, you get tired just reading that sentence.  I think we all slept well that night!  The concert featured a band called Air Dubai, preceded by Shane Sniteman, the talented son of one of our professors.

I love seeing the school spirit and pride that everyone shows on days like this.  As stressed out as we may get sometimes, and despite the frustrations that inevitably arise sometimes being in such a small community, I really do love this place and the people here.  I cannot think of another college that supports every student the way Erskine does.  Few outside of Due West know what in the world a “Flying Fleet” is, yet we are fiercely proud of it.

I took very few photos over the weekend, but my talented fellow student, Katie Putnam, took many for the school.  I share some of them below.  There are many more on the Erskine Flickr page.  Enjoy!

The Choraleers singing, directed by the wonderful Dr. Nabholz. It's never easy to sing outside but we were wonderful. Not that I am biased or anything. (I am the one on the front row who isn't wearing jeans like everyone else.)

The Choraleers singing, directed by the wonderful Dr. Nabholz. It’s never easy to sing outside but we were wonderful. Not that I am biased or anything. (I am the one on the front row who isn’t wearing jeans like everyone else.)

At the banquet, six Erskine alumni were inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame

At the banquet, six Erskine alumni were inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame

The freshmen court: Kristen Craft, Amanda Strickland, and Anna Raquel Robinson.

The freshmen court: Kristen Craft, Amanda Strickland, and Anna Raquel Robinson.

The sophomore court: Hayley Rogers, Miranda Guthrie, and Elinor Griffin.

The sophomore court: Hayley Rogers, Miranda Guthrie, and Elinor Griffin.

The junior court: Rachel Talbot, Mika Goyette, and Chelsea Ball.

The junior court: Rachel Talbot, Mika Goyette, and Chelsea Ball.

The senior court: Cate Cardinale, Corin Hallman, Leslie McGill, and April Horne.

The senior court: Cate Cardinale, Corin Hallman, Leslie McGill, and April Horne.

Cate Cardinale was crowned the 2013 homecoming queen. To her left and right are student body VP Hannah Collins and student body President Daniel Prohaska.

Cate Cardinale was crowned the 2013 homecoming queen. To her left and right are student body VP Hannah Collins and student body President Daniel Prohaska.

Shane Sniteman opening for Air Dubai

Shane Sniteman opening for Air Dubai

The lead singer of Air Dubai singing his heart out

The lead singer of Air Dubai singing his heart out

Easter travels, part VII: Herrnhut, Germany

Summer seems to be racing by, yet I continue returning to my spring holiday travel stories.  There are so many to tell though!
I spent the majority of our two-week holiday in Germany, mostly in a small village called Herrnhut close to the Czech and Polish borders.  This town is the centre of the Moravian church (Zinzendorf, anyone?) as well as where the 26-point Christmas star was created and is still produced.
My friend Scott lived here with the Novak family for several months last summer while volunteering with the Jesus-Haus.  Jan and Ulrike were kind enough to welcome us into their home for a week, including an extra six university students for the weekend.  The boys stayed in their attic room and us girls shared the beautiful guest apartment connected to their house.

A peek from the doorway into the guest apartment we stayed in for the week.  The bedroom (with a loft!) was straight ahead, bathroom to the right, and kitchen downstairs. Beautiful, peaceful, and cosy.

A peek from the doorway into the guest apartment we stayed in for the week. The bedroom (with a loft!) was straight ahead, bathroom to the right, and kitchen downstairs. Beautiful, peaceful, and cosy.

This was the view from our bedroom window. I never got tired of seeing this!

This was the view from our bedroom window. I never got tired of seeing this!

It was really nice to be a part of the daily life of the family:  helping with cooking, playing in the snow, going to church, and getting to know the family.  The four children–Natti, Hanni, Joshi, and Elli–were so wonderful!  Elli is Scott’s goddaughter and the three of us spent a lovely afternoon building a gigantic snowman in the courtyard of the Jesus-Haus.  Scott did most of the heavy lifting and hard work, while three-year-old Elli chatted away to me in German and built mini-snowmen to be the family of the daddy snowman.  We did help Scott some by making the head and throwing snowballs at him.  Little is cuter than hearing a ruddy-cheeked three-year old exclaim, “Bauten wir eine große Schneemann!” while she claps her hands.

Scott & his goddaughter working together--what a sweet photo!

Scott & his goddaughter working together–what a sweet photo!

Scott was, rightfully, so proud of the finished snowman! Elli and I left him with most of the work but he did a great job.

Scott was, rightfully, so proud of the finished snowman! Elli and I left him with most of the work but he did a great job.

Another afternoon Scott and I took four-year-old Joshi to the Ethnographic Museum in town which was quite interesting despite two-thirds of the descriptions being solely in German. And Hanni and I got along quite well; we spent some quality time together playing with each other’s hair, reading or playing games, and helping Ulri with preparing meals.  Ulri is an incredible cook!  Our first night she made traditional Czech dumplings which were beyond delicious.  We had so much amazing food that I cannot choose any one favourite.  We also gave the Herrnhut baker a fair bit of business.  Aside from France, I’ve never had such good-tasting bread.  It was the week before Easter so Scott and I went one evening and bought some sweet Osterbrot, or Easter bread.

Easter bread from the friendly baker in Hernnhut! Literally some of the best bread I've had in my life.

Easter bread from the friendly baker in Hernnhut! Literally some of the best bread I’ve had in my life.

Friday night the members of the Jesus-Haus celebrate [a slightly Christianised version of] Pesach, the Jewish Passover.  Our friends from St. Andrews had joined us by this point and the eight of us spent Friday afternoon cooking and baking dishes before celebrating a trilingual Pesach.  (If you have never made an apple pie from scratch, you are truly missing something in life.)

We had so much fun making all sorts of goodies. Who says college students don't know their way around a kitchen?

We had so much fun making all sorts of goodies. Who says college students don’t know their way around a kitchen?

We met everyone in the Jesus-Haus and talked a bit before it started.  Jan and Ulri had their turn leading the celebration that night and words cannot express how moving it was.  I felt connected to God and His people through thousands of years, through all of our history.  It wasn’t just living history, it was living part of the Bible.  It’s truly an experience that I will remember and treasure forever.

Jan and Ulri have a huge heart for the Jewish people, culture, language, and history.  Both of them study Hebrew (and know quite a few other languages) and have done a lot of work with Israel.  I learned so much from them! It is always inspiring to talk to people about the opportunities they have had in their lives and to hear about their passions.  It was also really interesting to hear stories and perspectives from a couple who grew up in eastern Europe during Soviet times.  Walking around parts of the former USSR made a huge impact on me: history became much more real.

One of the most exciting parts of our stay in Herrnhut was when I learned to ski! On the Saturday we were there, the eight of us university students, Ulri and her father, and the three oldest children spent the day in the Czech mountains skiing.  None of us girls from St. Andrews knew how to ski so after everyone got fitted for boots & skis, we made our way to the baby slope.  Scott, James, and Nick took turns coming over to give us pointers; none of us were too horrid, but let me just say that learning to ski in jeans means extremely cold, wet legs.  I absolutely love snow and the day was great bonding time for all of us.  We even managed to order ourselves food and drinks from the little café in Czech! Cultural experiences for the win!

Sarah and I were all bundled up for a day in the snowy Czech mountains!

Sarah and I all bundled up for a day in the snowy Czech mountains!

This is the longest icicle I've ever seen in my life!! Don't worry, no one was harmed in the taking of this photo. (pictured: Scott & James)

This is the longest icicle I’ve ever seen in my life!! Don’t worry, no one was harmed in the taking of this photo. (pictured: Scott & James)

We were so blessed to be able to live, work, pray, and fellowship with this wonderful family and other members of the Jesus-Haus.  They were perfect examples of hospitality and love and I will always be grateful for that week.  I dearly hope to return some day!

I took this in the kitchen while we were making food. Even though it was almost Easter, I felt like we needed to have Christmas carols on!

I took this in the kitchen while we were making food for Pesach. Even though it was almost Easter, I felt like we needed to have Christmas carols on!

A Night at the Ball

Rachel and I at the dinner

Last night, Erskine’s Student Government Association held the annual SGA ball on campus. The evening began with an elegant dinner served in the Bowie Arts Center, which was beautifully decorated with diaphanous, light blue hangings wrapped around lights and draped across the high ceilings. Everyone was elegantly appareled in a colorful variety of evening gowns, tea-length dresses, and suits. Shortly after arriving, J.P. Duncan, our student body president, said a prayer for the meal, after which each attendee was served a scrumptious plate of shrimp, beef tenderloin wrapped in bacon, asparagus, bread, and potatoes. Next, the animated dinner-table conversation was topped off by a delicious cheesecake dessert, and soon thereafter, people began heading to the dance floor.

A table of lovely ladies

For the dance, SGA had set up a white tent bedecked with lights in the middle of the Mall (the large grassy square in the middle of campus). Punch and more refreshments—in case you were still hungry after the fabulous meal—were set up on tables near the tent, and everyone began to mill around that area for a bit…until that is, a line-dance song came on, and the entire crowd raced as one to the dance floor. (There’s nothing like a line dance to get everyone involved—especially if, like me, one is singularly lacking in creative, “free-style” abilities.)

Schadell and Hannah, looking stunning as ever

At several points during the evening, swing dance and shag songs came on. That was especially fun for me since my brother offered to swing dance with me and show me some new moves he learned recently. (I’ve got to say, I wasn’t sure what it would be like to have a sibling at school with me…but it’s turned out to be great fun on all counts! And besides, he’s just amazing.) Later, a circle of clapping, dancing friends formed, and different people went (or were encouraged) into the middle to exhibit some dancing skills. One friend even did a flip in the air to thunderous applause. All in all, the evening turned out to be a great success, and my friend Laura Beth and I finished it off in true college fashion by heading off to the library to study a bit before bedtime. But don’t worry—we changed out of our ball gowns first.


Once again I’ve underestimated just how much actually goes on at Erskine because as you know, I haven’t blogged all semester!

Between trying to figure out the best way to revive a student newspaper, 21 hours of classes (yes, 21 because music stuff counts too!!), working on a business project, attending concerts, visiting friends, etc, I haven’t taken the time to sit down and write about it all. Which is a shame, considering the fact that I’ve done so much since I’ve been here. But, I’m back now (whether you’ve missed me or not) to fill you all in on my Erskine experience.

Today let me share with you some random thoughts as I sit in my room on this rather chilly Tuesday afternoon…

I am blessed.

Now, before you just stop reading and say to yourself, “Here she goes getting all spiritual!” I encourage you to pause right now wherever you are and think about how blessed you are.

***insert long pause here in which you reflect on the facts:

1. you most likely have on clothes now

2. you obtained those clothes with money

3. to make money you probably have a job

4. in order to work efficiently and effectively you must be healthy

5. if you’re healthy that means you’re getting nutrition from food

6. you probably have more than one option for what kind of meal you want to have

7. most people can eat at a dining table

8. which is in a house

9. that you live in with your family

…well, the list could continue on & on but I think you are getting the picture.

So, hopefully by now you’ve reflected on all these things and aren’t you thankful for everything you’re blessed with?! I know its Novemeber (already?!) but just because this is the season of thanksgiving don’t become apathetic about it. In this life, it’s so easy to take everything we have for granted but do me a favor and please try (I will be trying myself) to just thank God for ONE simple blessing every morning when you wake up.

There’s nothing wrong with reflection. In fact I think reflecting allows you to just be still and think about life in general. Maybe its just cause it finally hit me that I’m a Junior in college (yikes!) and that I still have no idea what step to take after this…

Grad school? Pursue music? Work for a news station? Or even (dun dun dun…) come back to Erskine to work? (I call it one of the Christian College Problems…where the alumni try to come back to work there if all else fails, though there’s nothing wrong with that…ha)

There’s nothing wrong with not knowing.  I think its just hard for us to truly be okay with uncertainty. And isn’t that unfortunate when we know that Christ already has it all figured out?  All we have to do is take the time to seek out His will and actually OBEY it.

I don’t know what you may be going through right now, but I pray that you realize just how blessed you truly are. Its so easy to gravitate toward all the wrongs in our lives but know that just like Joseph in the Bible, God can take all of your wrongs and turn them into good!

Instead of focusing on how things could have been, focus on making things the way they aught to be.

Growing through Disappointment

Fountain in el Parque (Park) de Canalejas, where I often go on walks

Have you ever been homesick? Although I love my home and family dearly, my honest answer to this question, before coming to Spain, would have been “no”. Even as a college freshman, when I was living on my own for the first time, I never really felt homesick–and Erskine quickly became a second home to me. Thus, I was a bit surprised to find, during my first few weeks in Spain, that I often struggled with homesickness. Not, of course, because I wasn’t loving Spain and the new experiences I was having—I was. Even so, to suddenly find myself in the midst of another culture, away from friends and family and out of cell-phone range, was very difficult at first. As incredible and unique as the study abroad experience is (I wouldn’t trade it for the world!), there’s something about living in another country that tends to isolate one. Assuredly, now that I’ve gotten to know my host mom better (she is such a sweetheart!), have been blessed with some wonderful new friends
hips and a church family, and am more used to Spain in general, Alicante really does feel like home. But I still have my moments.

The park even offers free exercise equipment which, as you can see, is enjoyed by people of all ages

Consequently, when I got the news a couple of weeks ago that my parents—who had been planning to come visit me—were going to be unable to make the trip overseas due to complications following my mom’s gallbladder surgery, I was bitterly disappointed. On the one hand, the pragmatic side of me protested, “but they were going to bring me winter clothes…and now what will I wear?” What really hurt, however, was the disappointed expectation of seeing my parents, traveling with them, and sharing Spain with them. I was so looking forward to showing them the streets I walk down each day, the city I’ve grown to love, and to introducing them to my wonderful host mom, Puri. And so, when I heard that their coming really was an impossibility, I was terribly upset. In light of eternity, I realized that not having my parents visit me in Spain was a small thing…but knowing this logically didn’t lesson the pain I felt at the time. So what did I do? The only thing I know to do w
hen something seems to shake me to the core—I pulled my Bible off the shelf, turned on a worship song, and began a conversation with my Heavenly Father.

The next day, I was listening to the fourth sermon in a series on the life of Joseph that the pastor at my home church has been preaching this month. One of his comments in particular caught my attention. Dr. Ferguson was talking about the way in which God used privation and disappointment to teach Joseph patience and to prepare him for future fruitfulness. Wait, what? Disappointment might be a tool that God might use to work in my life? I wasn’t sure I like this. And yet, as uncomfortable as the idea was (who likes to be disappointed?), it was incredibly comforting to hear. If God used years of adversity to prepare Joseph for a great work, to make him ready and able to bear the strain of great responsibility and leadership, might not God do something similar in my life? My ears perked up again when Dr. Ferguson said this: “You can’t learn character from textbooks, but only from privation, and hardship, and disappointment.” There is was again. Obviously, there was no
getting away from it: God not only works in our lives through hill-top experiences, seasons of spiritual fervor, and, on the other end of the spectrum, times of great tribulation. Sometimes, he also uses a form of adversity that is a great deal more homely and less dramatic—disappointment. And the Great Physician never makes mistakes.

With the sweet friends who recently threw me a fabulous twenty-first birthday party, replete with a delicious meal and a scrumptious chocolate cake

Playing Tourist in My Hometown

Once in a while I get the fun experience of bringing a friend from Erskine home with me for a break.  This is always enjoyable for the friend because first of all, I am from Charleston so there are many great places to visit, and second because I have an entertaining family!  Let’s just say that we all have a quirky sense of humor, and there are few dull moments in the Dumouchel household – especially when we are all together.

TJ with the pineapple fountain in Waterfront Park, downtown Charleston.

But since our friend TJ had never been to Charleston before, my sister Christine and I decided that we needed to show him what there is to be seen.  So, beginning with probably the most famous part of the area, on the first day we headed downtown to the Holy City.  We ate our picnic lunch in Waterfront Park, saw dolphins in the harbor, walked down East Bay Street in the famous Rainbow Row section, perused the historical Battery, shopped the newly-renovated market, stopped in a few centuries-old cemeteries, and made sure that we hit all of the necessary landmarks that a day in the city should include.

Christine and TJ swinging on the pier at Waterfront Park, downtown Charleston.

The next day, after church in the morning and our mid-day dinner, we headed back downtown to the Dock Street Theatre to see the matinee of Dracula.  We were thoroughly entertained by the eerie story and the talented actors who very effectively conveyed the horror of the legend.

Christine actually went all the way in the cold water!

On Monday, our last stop for the break was a trip to the beach.  We headed down mid-morning to Isle of Palms, and spent about half of the day.  Although the water was too cold for TJ and me, Christine actually got all the way in the water for a few minutes!  I spent much of the time working on homework, but reading is just so pleasant on the beach that it did not feel as much like work; it also reminded me of afternoons in the fall on the beach in Spain.

Besides these adventures to give TJ a taste of Charleston, we enjoyed delicious home-cooked dinners with my family, talking and joking, movies in the evening, and time to be home together.  My older sister’s fiancé also joined us for the weekend, so it was a pretty full house!  Although breaks always seem to be too short, no matter how much work I have to do at home or still have to do when I return, the time with family (and, in this case, friends) always helps me feel refreshed and ready to tackle more of the work and busyness of school.